Women's Writing Before Woolf: A Social Reference/Anne Cooke Bacon (1527–1610)

Anne Cooke Bacon (1527-1610) edit

Biography edit

Anne Cooke Bacon, or Lady Bacon, was an English Lady of the British Court, scholar and translator. Her exact birthdate is unknown, but estimated to be 1527-8. Many of the details about her life are unknown. Bacon contributed to English religious literature with her English translation of John Jewel's Latin Apologie of the Anglican Church in 1564.[1]

Bacon was born in Essex, England, as one of nine siblings. Her father, Anthony Cooke, was a tutor to Henry VIII's son Edward Tudor. He was renowned for his progressive attitudes towards women's education, and as a result, ensured that all his children were well-educated in the humanist tradition. Bacon studied languages such as Latin, French, Italian, and Greek as well as literature. All of her sisters had success from Anthony’s teachings, such as Lady Elizabeth Hoby who is also know for translating texts, as well as her poetic and musical talents. The Cooke sisters—Anne, Elizabeth, Mildred, and Katherine—are arguably more famous than the brothers, despite the patriarchal culture of the time that would see them buried[2]. The high status of the Tudor family bought wealth and social status to the Bacon family mostly due to her father working with the royal Tudor family.

In a letter dated the 27 of August 1610, Francis wrote to Lady Bacon's close friend Sir Michael Hicks, inviting him to her funeral, so although her exact death date is unknown, it is clearly in the days surrounding this letter[3]. She was about 82 when she died, and was entombed in St Michael's Church, St Albans, where her second son, Sir Francis Bacon was also buried.[4].

Marriage edit

Lady Anne Cooke was the second wife of Sir Nicholas Bacon (28 December 1510–20 February 1579), “Queen Elizabeth's Keeper of the Great Seal”[3]. The couple had two sons, Anthony (1558–1601) and Francis (22 January 1561 – 9 April 1626). Anthony was a spy and diplomat in the Elizabethan era, while Francis Bacon became a widely known English philosopher and a pioneer of the scientific revolution. Lady Bacon oversaw their education herself.

Religion edit

Lady Bacon for a time was a leading Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Elizabeth. Her religious views remained strongly Puritan, and she called for the eradication of all Popery in the Church of England. Most of the letters she exchanged with friends, clergymen and even her husband, are "fervent with her passion for her Protestant beliefs."[3]

Little is known about the later years of Lady Bacon's life, especially following the death of her husband. It seems a mystery, as she wrote very few letters and was not present at many court events, although she did illegally shelter Puritan preachers who lost in licenses in their defiance of the religious politics at the time[4].

Works edit

  • Sermons of Barnardine Ochyne, (to the number of 25.) concerning the predestination and election of god: very expedient to the setting forth of his glory among his creature.
  • An apologie or answere in defence of the Churche of Englande, with a briefe and plaine declaration of the true religion professed and used in the same.

Lady Bacon was a very religious woman, and her main works and letters that are now famously known convey this. In her later years, she mostly wrote letters to her sons, where she is said to express “the jealousy with which she regarded her authority over them long after they had reached manhood,”[3] although it seems that her main concern was their spiritual welfare and their religious lives.

In her early twenties, she translated and published several volumes of sermons from Bernardino Ochino, an Italian preacher who was very popular with the Italian 'foreigners' Church in England[5]. Lady Bacon dedicated one such volume to her mother, because of her mother's staunch disapproval of Anne learning Italian and of Roman Catholicism generally[6].

Her translation from the Latin into English of Bishop John Jewel's work of 1564 “Apology for the Church of England” was a significant step in the intellectual justification of Protestantism in England. The work was a clarification of the differences between Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism, and was critical to the support of Elizabeth I's religious policies.[7]

Reputation and legacy edit

Bacon's translation of Jewel's Apology is, to this day, "indispensable to any historical understanding of the Elizabethan Settlement... commissioned by officials who perceived a need for a more definitive rendering of a text that could explain the Elizabethan Settlement to an English readership... [it] was subsequently chained to pulpits throughout England, ensuring long-lasting public access to this crucial treatise."[8] Alongside her letters, it also provides a perfect and crucial example of women's writing of this era, and of the fraught, dynamic relationships between varying religious groups and the treatment of those who refused to conform or succumb.

Her legacy can also be found in the achievements of her son, Francis, known as the father of empiricism and a later founder of the scientific method.

References edit

  1. York, Laura. “Bacon, Anne Cooke 1528 – 1610”. Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. encyclopedia.com. 2021.
  2. Ridgway, Claire. "Lady Anne Bacon (née Cooke) 1527/8-1610." The Tudor Society, 2019.  
  3. a b c d “Anne Cooke Bacon.” Wikipedia. 2021.
  4. a b Wayne, Valerie. Anne Cooke Bacon: Printed Writings 1500–1640: Series I, Part Two, Volume 1. pp. ix. Routledge, 2016.
  5. Wayne, Valerie. Anne Cooke Bacon: Printed Writings 1500–1640: Series I, Part Two, Volume 1. pp. x. Routledge, 2016.
  6. Wayne, Valerie. Anne Cooke Bacon: Printed Writings 1500–1640: Series I, Part Two, Volume 1. pp. xi-xii. Routledge, 2016.
  7. Magnusson, Lynne. "Imagining a National Church: Election and Education in the Works of Anne Cooke Bacon." Literature Compass, vol. 9, no. 3, 2012, p. 242-251.
  8. Goodrich, Jaime. “An Apology or Answer in Defence of the Church of England: Lady Anne Bacon’s Translation of Bishop John Jewel’s.” Church History & Religious Culture, vol. 97, no. 2, 2017, p. 280–302.

Further reading edit

Wayne, Valerie. Anne Cooke Bacon: Printed Writings 1500–1640: Series I, Part Two, Volume 1. Routledge, 2016.

Coles, Kimberly Anne. Religion, Reform, and Women's Writing in Early Modern England. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2008. Print.

Magnusson, Lynne. "The Rhetoric and Reception of Anne Bacon." English Literary Renaissance 31.1 (2001): 3–33. Print.

Sir Francis Bacon, James Spedding, The Letter and Life of Francis Bacon – a book about Francis Bacon's life in which letters from Anne to her son are printed.