Pamphilia To Amphilanthus Lady

Mary Wroth (1621) Lady Mary Wroth produced the extraordinary prose romance titled The Countess of Montgomery's Urania while in great need of income. "Pamphilia to Amphilanthus" was a sonnet sequence within the work. Her husband, Robert Wroth, had died, and she inherited many debts but little of his estate, leaving her to wonder how she might meet her creditors' demands. While enjoying time at court through her family connections, she had begun to write and to record details about various individuals there. Some of those details she thinly disguised in The Countess of Montgomery's Urania and "Pamphilia to Amphilanthus," much to the chagrin of many readers, especially certain courtiers who recognized themselves in the unflattering depictions. They and their supporters criticized Wroth for the improper sexual bent of her work, which included content of a lascivious nature.

Ironically Wroth's romance focused on the lack of fidelity in men, as contrasted with women, and her heroine and narrator proved the height of virtue. Although her name means a lover of all, Pamphilia represented constancy and chastity, virtues that she insisted her male lover, Amphilanthus, also practice before she would agree to a long-term commitment to him. Despite her casting women in such a pure role, or perhaps because of it, the London community insisted Wroth recall the romance. Although she fought against the charges in print, through the publication of "Rail ing Rimes," Wroth finally submitted to the pressure and withdrew her publication; little is known of her life after that act.

In addition to the prose, Wroth's remarkable sonnet sequence represented an accomplishment unequaled in her age by any other woman. The well-known "In This STRANGE LABYRINTH HOW SHALL I TURN?" well represents Pamphilia's confusion and the conflict shared by many women as they had to determine whether to fall victim to male demands or heed the demands of their culture to remain pure. Additional commonly published sonnets from "Pamphilia to Amphilanthus" include "My Muse, Now Happy, Lay thyself to rest," "When night's


breast," and the songs "Love a child is ever crying" and "Sweetest Love, return again."

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