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Title: Household words : textualising social relations in the correspondence of Bess of Hardwick's servants, c. 1550-1590
Author: Maxwell, Felicity Lyn
ISNI:       0000 0004 5347 1981
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: University of Glasgow
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis collects, transcribes, and, with reference to household documents and contemporary literature, annotates and interprets the surviving correspondence of a constellation of seven upper servants who at various points in the second half of the sixteenth century were stationed at or moved between several country houses and estates of which Bess of Hardwick was mistress. The thesis finds that the extant correspondence of Bess’s servants falls into two categories: (1) letters of management exchanged between Bess and five of her household and estate officers (Francis Whitfield, James Crompe, William Marchington, and Edward Foxe at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire and nearby estates in the 1550s-1560s, and Nicholas Kynnersley at Wingfield Manor, Derbyshire in the late 1580s) and (2) letters seeking practical and political patronage, written in the early 1580s by two of Bess’s gentle-born personal attendants, William Marmyon and Frances Battell, to contacts outside Bess’s itinerant (and at that time politically vulnerable) household. Close literary, linguistic (historical pragmatic), and material readings reveal that all these letters adapt and surpass conventional expressions as they engage in practical problem-solving, complex interpersonal exchanges, and domestic politics. The thesis argues that the manuscript letters materialise dynamic verbal performances of their writers’ specific social roles and relationships — the mistress-servant relationship foremost among them. Each writer simultaneously registers and renegotiates his or her own experience of the mistress-servant relationship through the combination of diverse epistolary features, which include verbal etiquette and page layout, degrees of directness or circumlocution, complexity of syntax, tone, use of emotive language, discourses of pleasure and displeasure, personalised content (which ranges from in-jokes to empathy to distinctive pen flourishes), and explicit expressions of authority or loyalty, as well as job-specific terminology and subject matter. Frequency of correspondence, modes of delivery, and the afterlives of letters are shown to carry further social significance. The correspondence of Bess of Hardwick’s servants acts as a touchstone for the complex role of letter-writing in the formation of social selves and the performance of domestic duties in sixteenth-century England. By accurately transcribing these letters, interpreting them using a unique combination of literary, linguistic, and visual analysis, and reconstructing from these letters and additional archival sources the careers of several servants of one mistress, this thesis opens up new material, perspectives, questions, and methods for early modern cultural studies.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: DA Great Britain ; P Philology. Linguistics ; PR English literature