Women's Writing Before Woolf: A Social Reference/Lady Elizabeth Dowdall (fl. 1640–1642)

Lady Elizabeth Dowdall edit

Elizabeth Dowdall was an Irish noblewoman and writer, born in England during the 1590s. Despiter her maternal association with prominent literary circles in Ireland, Dowdall is primarily remembered for her military defence of Kilfinny Castle against rebels during the Irish Rebellion of 1641.[1]

Early Life, Family and Adulthood edit

Although Elizabeth was the daughter of Sir Thomas Southwell, and his well-acclaimed poet wife, Anne Southwell[2], little is known about her birth and upbringing. All that is certain is in relation to the movements of her father - Sir Thomas Southwell - was knighted in 1603. After receiving this merit, the family to the county of Cork in Ireland.

Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Southwell, was a poet whose commonplace book held a variety of works including sonnets, verse, political poems and letters. Her poems focused on contemplating theological concepts. One of her manuscripts is kept in Folger Shakespeare Library and another in the British Library. [3]

After her father died in 1626, Elizabeth's mother moved back to England, whilst she stayed in Ireland and wed Sir John Dowdall. Together Elizabeth and John had five daughters: Anne, Elizabeth, Jane, Bridget, and Honora.[4]

Literary Works edit

Elizabeth is most widely recognised for her recount of her defence of Kilfeney Castle in the Irish Rebellion of 1641. This is the only piece of work she is accredited to. She fought in defence of the castle and it is reputed that throughout this seige, she personally hung several of the opposing rebels.

Lady Elizabeth Dowdall authored two accounts of her castle. Her deposition was written down by a scribe and contained her autograph signature appended. A narration written three days later is in her handwriting and is a first-person account. The two narrations contain contrasting representations of Elizabeth. The first instalment showcased the siege in passive terms, naming those responsible and a list of the losses. The second text, her memoir, reflects its author, herself, as an effective and influential military leader.

It is unknown what happened to Elizabeth after 1642.

Descendants edit

All of Elizabeth and John’s five daughters were married. None of them continued their mother or grandmother’s footsteps by pursuing written literature.

Anne married John Southwell, and then George Piggott after John died in 1642.

Elizabeth married Sir Hardess Waller in 1629, the Governor of Cork in 1644.[5] They had a son and four daughters, who like their mother, married knighted men. Their daughter Elizabeth Waller, Baroness Shelburne married Sir William Petty. Another daughter, Bridget, had two sons called William Codagan, 1st Earl Codagan[6] and Charles Cadogan, 2nd Baron Cadogan.[7]

William Codagan went into service in the military during the Williamite War in Ireland 1689. He was a diplomat and politician who sat in the English and British House of Commons from 1705-1716.[8]

Lastly, Jane married Redmond Roche, fifth son of Viscount Fermoy; Bridget married Thomas Casey of Rathcannon; Honora married Lawrence Dowdall of Mountown in Meath.

Kilfinny Castle edit

Kilfinny Castle is located in Limerick county, Ireland. In 1642 the castle was under the command of Lady Dowdall, they resisted a siege of forty weeks by Confederate Irish forces. She organised the defence against four separate rebel attacks. Elizabeth surrendered when a canon entered the battle.

During this time Elizabeth’s husband, Sir John Dowdall died (1641) when he was ambushed on his way to defend Newcastlewest during the rebellion.[9]

Legacy/Reputation edit

Her work is mostly forgotten and there is nothing known about her whereabouts after 1642. There is no evidence of her being mentioned or talked about in the 20th Century. She is an example of a lost female writer.

Further Reading edit

Coolahan, Marie-Louise. “Ideal Communities and Planter Women’s Writing in Seventeenth- Century Ireland.” Parergon, vol. 29, no. 2, Australian & New Zealand Association of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 2012, pp. 69–91

Coolahan, Marie-Louise. Women, Writing, and Language in Early Modern Ireland, Oxford University Press, 2010. ProQuest Ebook Central. (Particularly Chapter 4: 1641 Depositions)

Eckerle, Julie A., and Naomi Mcareavey, editors. Women’s Life Writing and Early Modern Ireland. University of Nebraska Press, 2019. JSTOR, https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctvfxvbdk.

Gallagher, Donat. "Evelyn Waugh's Edmund Campion and "Lady Southwell's Letter"*." Connotations : A Journal for Critical Debate, vol. 20, no. 1, 2011, pp. 80-107. ProQuest.

References edit

  1. Lady Dowdall's narration of her defence of Kilfeney Castle, Co. Limerick, 1642, in John T. Gilbert, ed. (1882), History of the Irish Confederation and the war in Ireland, 1641-1643, vol.2, pp.69–73. via HathiTrust. – reprinted, with modernised spelling, in Angela Bourke, ed. (2002), The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing. NYU Press. Vol. 5, pp. 22–24.
  2. Gillian Wright (18 April 2013). Producing Women's Poetry, 1600-1730: Text and Paratext, Manuscript and Print. Cambridge University Press. pp. 27–55. ISBN 978-1-107-03792-2.
  3. Jean Klene, ‘Southwell , Anne, Lady Southwell (bap. 1574, d. 1636)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  4. Marie-Louise Coolahan (2019), Dowdall (née Southwell), Elizabeth, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Accessed 2020-02-14.
  5. "House of Lords Journal Volume 11: 4 June 1660." Journal of the House of Lords: Volume 11, 1660-1666. London: His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1767-1830. 51-53. British History Online. Web. 28 April 2021. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/lords-jrnl/vol11/pp51-53.
  6. Watson, J.N.P. Marlborough's Shadow: The Life of the First Earl Cadogan. Leo Cooper, 2003.
  7. Falkner, James. "Cadogan, William, Earl Cadogan (1671/2–1726), army officer and diplomat." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.  May 24, 2008. Oxford University Press. Date of access 28 Apr. 2021, <https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-4310>
  8. Webb, Stephen Saunders. Marlborough's America. Yale University Press, 2013.
  9. Lehane, Don. "Dowdalls Of Pilltown Manor". Kinsalebeg.Com, 2021, http://kinsalebeg.com/chapters/dowdall/dowdall.html.