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Why does the term "girl" in early modern discourse designate both female children and fallen women, emblems of sexual innocence and emblems of promiscuity? This article investigates girlish sexuality in the love lyrics of Andrew Marvell and Edmund Waller. Extending the trope of the young and unattainable woman backward in time to her childhood, these poets play with the slippage between "girl" as a father's term of affection and "girl" as a lover's endearment. If the mistresses of Petrarchan convention were unattainable because they consciously withheld sexual favors, the little mistresses of Marvell and Waller were even more so. I argue that it is precisely because these poets constructed female children as innocent and pure that they became objects of erotic attraction for adult men.

In Childhood and Cultural Despair, Leah Sinanoglou Marcus identifies what she calls a "minor seventeenth-century genre of love poems addressed to little girls."1 Extending the Petrarchan trope of the unattainable woman backward in time to her childhood, poets such as Edmund Waller and Andrew Marvell conflate two common lyric addressees: daughters and mistresses. These seemingly incompatible roles come together through the ambiguities of the early modern term "girl," which could designate both female children and fallen women, simultaneously describing emblems of sexual innocence and emblems of promiscuity. This article seeks to make sense of the duality of female sexuality that structures the representation of young girls in seventeenth-century love lyrics. If the ladies of Petrarchan convention are unattainable, the little mistresses of Marvell and Waller are even more so because they are not yet active participants in the economy of heterosexual love. I argue that it is precisely because these poets construct female children as innocent that they become objects of erotic attraction for adult men. Paradoxically, the presexual female child is a highly sexualized figure because she has neither her own desire nor the power of refusal or consent. Despite her virginal status, or in fact because of it, she is inextricably located within an early modern poetic imagination that marks all female sexuality as potentially whorish. [End Page 153]

In representing girls as both presexual and sexually desirable, Marvell and Waller draw upon a discourse of girlhood inflected by the social upheavals of the Reformation. After the dissolution of the monasteries, the dominant Protestant ideology constructed all women as "married or to be married," leaving young women with only one socially sanctioned option for moving into adulthood.2 As John Donne writes in "Paradox XII," "Virginity is a vertue, and hath her Throne in the middle: The extreams are, in Excesse; to violate it before marriage; in defect, not to marry."3 The middle way of virtuous sexuality involves preserving virginity until marriage, but not the "perpetuall keeping [of] it."4 Donne advises women to marry so that "the name of Virgin shal be exchanged for a farre more honorable name, A Wife."5 Men too have an obligation to marry, but Donne tellingly does not exhort men to exchange the name of virgin for the more honorable name of husband.

Protestant ideology focused anxiety about celibacy more on female than male sexual behavior. One reason was, as Anthony Fletcher has outlined, "The Reformation … was a revolt against an alternative tradition in Christianity to the patriarchal one, a tradition that distrusted sex and enjoined its members not to marry."6 Fletcher paints with a broad brush, perhaps overstating the feminist potential of the Virgin Mary, but his observation about the interdependence of marriage and patriarchy applies across a range of early modern texts, from Puritan conduct manuals to satirical poems like Samuel Rowlands's The Bride (1617). With virginity no longer available as a profession, female youth took on new meaning as a temporary state of sexual innocence, and the English language developed multiple synonyms for a young female human being. The word "girl" as a gendered term was relatively new, having emerged in the sixteenth century to compete for prominence with others such as "maid" and "wench."7 Falling between the virginal connotations of the one and the sexual implications of the other, "girl" designated female youth but was equivocal in its suggestions of sexual continence. As a female child, a girl was expected to be a virgin, but to be a "girl" rather than a "maid" left room for a certain amount of ambiguity. "Girl" could designate both virgins and whores, as Giovanni Torriano makes explicit in his 1659 dictionary, Vocabulario Italiano & Inglese. In one entry, Torriano defines "fanciúlla" as "a girle, a lasse, a young maiden-child, a virgin, sometimes also taken for a whore."8 Juxtaposing virginity and whoredom, this Italian word united two conflicting female roles in the same way as English love lyrics. [End Page 154]

"Girl" in seventeenth-century poetry, like the word "fanciúlla" in Italian, was often used interchangeably for both "virgin" and "whore." This flexibility can be seen in the poetry of Robert Her-rick, whose poem "How Primroses Came Green" describes virgins as "Sickly Girles":

Virgins, time-past, known were these,Troubled with Green-sicknesses,Turn'd to flowers: Stil the hieu,Sickly Girles, they beare of you.9

Herrick personifies the primroses by equating their complexions with girls whose virginity has produced greensickness.10 Routinely associating girls with botanical environments, early modern poets echo premodern medical theory in imagining them, as what Hillary M. Nunn calls "Vegetating Virgins," made ill from the overly long delay of sexual activity.11 But if Herrick associates girls with virgins in one poem, he associates them with whores in another:

Jone is a wench that's painted;Jone is a Girle that's tainted;        Yet Jone she goes        Like one of thoseWhom purity had Sainted:

Jane is a Girle that's prittie;Jane is a wench that's wittie;        Yet, who wo'd think,        Her breath do's stinke,As so it doth? that's pittie.12

Using "girl" and "wench" interchangeably, Herrick links girl-hood with false appearances and sexual taint rather than youth. Female children in lyric poems existed side by side with girls in this other genre, where the mention of a "girl" suggested illicit sexual activity. By placing these contradictory visions of female sexuality next to each other, Herrick gives voice to the anxiety not only that masculine viewers might be unable to tell the difference between them, but also that there might be no difference at all. The connection between girlhood and purity is fraught with a suspicion of false purity, as the poem paradoxically associates [End Page 155] girlhood with the taint of hidden corruption symbolized by the prostitute's stinking breath.13

To some extent, the girls of love lyrics offered an alternative to the tainted wenches of epigrams and the unyielding mistresses of Petrarchan tradition. Unlike Sir Philip Sidney's Stella, the little ladies of Waller's "To My Young Lady Lucy Sidney" and Marvell's "Picture of Little T. C. in a Prospect of Flowers" can only be wooed in futurity. The speaker in Waller's poem laments that he was born too early to be the girl's lover, looking forward to "the flowry prime" for which all potential lovers must wait before she can be an acceptable object of desire.14 Marvell's speaker also celebrates a preadolescent and presexual girl: "The wanton Love shall one day fear" her chaste laws, but not yet, since she is still in a virginal Garden of Eden.15

In Waller's poem, the appeal of an underage mistress is that the poet can ascribe her unavailability to her youth rather than haughty reticence. Moreover, rather than invoking the specter of inevitable bodily decay, Waller anticipates the blossoming of sexual maturity. He opens his poem by lamenting that his birth was so untimely that he preceded "that which [he] was borne to love," rendering her beyond his reach.16 He sees his birth, rather than hers, as untimely, and he acknowledges the generation gap at the same time that he seeks to bridge it. The second stanza looks forward to a time when the girl's physical maturation will close the gap between the speaker's age and the girl's, a time the speaker refers to as "That age which [she] must know so soon" when her "dawning beauty" will warm the world.17 Waller uses an organic metaphor to portray the inevitability of growing up, which brings youth closer to old age in the double sense of moving the young girl toward her own adulthood and making her an acceptable love object.

Marvell's "Picture of Little T. C." also anticipates T. C.'s sexual maturation but, unlike Waller, Marvell is much less positive about the benefits of growing up. Widely believed to have been written to Theophila Cornewell while she was between the ages of six and eight, Marvell's poem celebrates little T. C.'s innocent delights in an Edenic garden of flowers.18 She is, according to the speaker, the "darling of the gods," and he hopes to have "parley with those conq'ring eyes; / Ere they have tried their force to wound" (lines 10 and 18–9). Capturing little T. C. at a moment between childhood and womanhood, the speaker portrays her as innocuous, desirable, but not yet tainted with the dangers of mature female sexuality. The speaker anticipates her future status as a chaste [End Page 156] enemy of "wanton Love," but she has not yet entered into the battle (line 12).

T. C.'s attraction lies in her suspension outside of sexuality, and Marvell urges her to remain there as long as possible. The poem concludes with a warning not to succumb to adult sexuality too soon, its final stanza a caution about the repercussions of prematurely plucking the bud of youth:

Gather the flowers, but spare the buds;Lest Flora angry at thy crime,To kill her infants in their prime,Do quickly make th'example yours;            And, ere we see,Nip in the blossom all our hopes and thee.

(lines 35–40)

With a single line, Marvell reverses Herrick's famous command that young women gather their rosebuds while they may, telling little T. C. not to rush past the golden days of youthful innocence, lest she incur the displeasure of the goddess Flora.19 One way to make sense of this distinction between flowers and buds is to see gathering flowers as sexual activity within chaste marriage versus picking the bud of her virginity outside the lawful bounds of matrimony.20 The young girl may gather the flowers and fruit that nature offers her, but not the buds that she might desire on her own. T. C. is both the bud and the hand that threatens to pluck, simultaneously in danger of being killed and of killing. By extension, Marvell's metaphor of plucking likens the entrance into adult sexuality to death, representing premature sexual experiences as nipping youthful hope in the bud. Her desire rather than the desire for her is represented as dangerous.

Literary critics have been divided in their interpretations of these poems. Some label them pedophilic; however, more recently, the trend has been to insist that the speakers celebrate the sexual innocence of youth.21 Marcus, for example, reads Marvell as seeking out the love of a young girl to imagine "freedom from adult sexuality," while Victoria Silver describes "the love of little girls or sexual neuters in Marvell" as "prophylactic."22 Warren L. Chernaik likewise contrasts Waller's poem with its classical antecedents, showing that unlike his sources, Waller anticipates the girl's desirability rather than sexualizing the prepubescent girl as prepubescent girl. As Chernaik points out, the trope of the older man in love with a very young girl was not a new one.23 [End Page 157] Seventeenth-century poets were drawing upon a classical tradition typified by the following passage from Horace's The Odes and Epodes: "Away with desire for the unripe grape! Soon for thee shall many-coloured Autumn paint the darkening clusters purple. Soon shall she follow thee. For Time courses madly on, and shall add to her the years it takes from thee. Soon with eager forwardness shall Lalage herself make quest of thee to be her mate."24 With its future tense and anticipation of ripe fruit, this ode suggests that the older man only needs to wait for Lalage to mature, and then she will experience sexual desire and seek him out.

In his introduction to Marvell's "Young Love," Nigel Smith also draws attention to a Greek epigram by Philodemius in which the adult poet longs for the realization of future sexual union: "Your summer is not yet bare of its sheathes, nor darkening is the grape-cluster now first out-shooting maiden graces; but already young Loves are sharpening swift arrows, Lysidice, and fire is smouldering concealed. Let us fly, we wretched lovers, while as yet the shaft is not upon the string: I prophesy a mighty conflagration soon."25 Here again, the poet places sexual desire in futurity, but unlike Horace's speaker, who anticipates the ripening with delight, Philodemius suggests that future lovers flee so as to escape the "sharpening swift arrows" of her love. Whereas Horace's ode suggests that Lalage will eagerly participate in her future sexuality, Philodemius's epigram displaces agency on to the allegorical figures of "young Loves."

The difference between these classical texts and seventeenth-century love lyrics is that the latter typically posit their young girls as emblems of innocence as opposed to positioning them in the established—largely unapologetic—tradition of sexualizing them. A seventeenth-century example that follows the classical tradition of celebrating a young love object's desire is Thomas Carew's "The Second Rapture," in which the speaker declares:

Give me a wench about thirteene,Already voted to the QueeneOf lust and lovers, whose soft haire,Fann'd with the breath of gentle aireO'er spreads her shoulders like a tent,And is her vaile and ornament;Whose tender touch, will make the bloodWild in the aged, and the good.Whose kisses, fastned to the mouth,Of threescore yeares and longer slouth,Renew the age.26 [End Page 158]

Instead of imagining a future eroticism, Carew combines the sexual presence in Philodemius's epigram with the temporal immediacy of a carpe diem poem. Although clearly the most problematic example of the genre from a modern perspective, Carew's poem offers the most potential for female sexual agency. The imperative tense of the first line does not undo the implication of the second, which notes that the thirteen-year-old wench has already dedicated herself to love and lust, imagined as a female commonwealth ruled over by a female monarch. Moreover, the poem's syntactical ambiguity leaves open the possibility that the "touch" in line 13 indicates that the girl is the one doing the touching, and the speaker the one being touched: a construction that would harmonize with the kisses in line 15, which belong grammatically to the girl. Her erotic power, of course, benefits the older, male body, but the poem grants her a physical agency that pulls against the speaker's verbal control of her body. In modern terms, a thirteen-year-old girl cannot legally consent to sex with an adult man, and the situation that Carew describes would rightly be labeled statutory rape. In the seventeenth century, however, such terms did not apply. Children in early modern culture were not generally believed to be sexually ignorant. As described by Philippe Ariès, what took place over the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Europe was a shift from the construction of the child as naturally immodest to the pre-Victorian belief in the child as naturally sexually innocent.27

This tension between immodesty and innocence plays out in seventeenth-century love lyrics through the contradictory distinction between children as presexual innocents and as erotic objects, a tension produced in Marvell's poem "Young Love." The opening stanza depends upon the father's assumption of the child's sexual ignorance, while the speaker's success depends upon the father's assumption being false:

Come little infant, love me now,    While thine unsuspected yearsClear thine agèd father's brow    From cold jealousy and fears.28

The speaker engages in willful hyperbole with the phrase "little infant," a rhetorical move that emphasizes the youth of the beloved, as does the next stanza's description of their sexual "sportings," which are "as free / As the nurse's with the child" (lines 7–8). By using a metaphor of innocence to describe experience, the poem [End Page 159] blurs the distinction between them, just as it does for the difference between love and lust in its insistence that "Love" values "the snowy lamb"—innocence—or "the wanton kid"—lust—as much as "the lusty bull or ram" (lines 13–5). In general, the poem is unclear about whether the speaker seeks to incite the youth to love or lust, since the middle stanza could be read either way:

Common beauties stay fifteen;    Such as yours should swifter move;Whose fair blossoms are too green    Yet for Lust, but not for Love.

(lines 9–12)

Does the speaker predicate his demand for love on his knowledge of the child's readiness for love, or is he urging the child to hurry up and ripen so that they can enjoy lust? Either way, the celebration of the child's active sexuality stands in marked contrast to T. C.'s sexual prohibition, and the speaker revealingly only portrays sexual maturity as positive when portraying a gender-ambiguous child, making the poem "latently homoerotic," as Smith suggests.29 Not only does "Young Love" imagine the youth as an immediately realizable sexual partner, but also the terms of that engagement produce that partner as an active agent. In the last stanza, the speaker declares, "Now I crown thee with my love: / Crown me with thy love again" (lines 30–1). The imperative of the latter line encompasses a demand for reciprocity and a desire for the beloved to participate in the exchange.

In contrast, Marvell's "Picture of Little T. C." and Waller's "To My Young Lady Lucy Sidney" acknowledge that time is necessary to reach sexual maturity. The final stanza of "Little T. C." in particular marks a turning point in a poem that otherwise celebrates a young girl in a rather erotic fashion. Diane Purkiss has suggested that instead of reading Marvell's representation of girls as pedophilic, we should see nostalgic desire for lost boyhoods. She points out that Marvell celebrates girls because of their separation from the corrupt adult world of sexuality and politics. Girlhood, therefore, would offer Marvell a way to express the loss that men experienced when forced from the feminine domestic space of childhood into the masculine realm of Civil War politics.30 Purkiss makes a compelling case, especially in light of Heather Dubrow's argument that "in the early modern period lyric is repeatedly connected to childhood and childishness," most often boyhood and boyishness.31 With its "predilection for circularity [End Page 160] over linearity," the lyric offered "a formal analogue to the blocked chronological progression involved in remaining a boy or returning to boyhood."32

Such an emphasis on circularity and the return to boyhood can be seen in the mutual sensuality that Thomas Traherne associates with boyish eroticism. Traherne deploys the trope of the child as innocent, arguing that the Christian soul should become like a child again before God. Though Traherne does not explicitly gender childhood in his poem "Innocence," the lyric "I" implies a conflation between the masculinized speaker's voice and the child. With lines like "I was an Adam there," the poem implies that when the speaker says, "I must become a child again," he imagines himself as returning to boyhood.33 And even if the child remains ungendered in "Innocence," Traherne explicitly genders the child in his poem "Love." Early in the poem, Traherne longs passionately for an eroticized spiritual union with God, offering a rapturous series of phrases followed by exclamation points. The unconnected ejaculations zig and zag between genders resulting in a jumble of confusion about whom the speaker is addressing:

    O Nectar! O delicious stream!O ravishing and only pleasure! Where        Shall such another themeInspire my tongue with joys or please mine ear!        Abridgment of delights!            And queen of sights!O mine of rarities! O Kingdom wide!O more! O cause of all! O glorious Bride!    O God! O Bride of God! O King!        O soul and crown of everything!34

"Queen," "Kingdom," "Bride," "God," "Bride of God," "King": the first stanza throws out phrases without making it clear how to attach them. But the poem moves on to imagine the relationship between the speaker and God as a male homoerotic one, with the speaker wishing to be:

    His Ganimede! His life! His Joy!Or He comes down to me, or takes me up        That I might be His boy,And fill, and taste, and give, and drink the cup.35 [End Page 161]

Traherne imagines his relationship with the lord in strikingly reciprocal terms. Ganymede as the cupbearer to the gods occupies a lower social position, but the speaker nonetheless imagines he and the Lord will derive mutual pleasure and meaning from their relationship. God can come down to earth or take him up to heaven, but either way the speaker hopes to be "His boy." The final line does not even bother to attach a subject to the verbs. Who fills, tastes, gives, and drinks remains unstated. When eroticized, Traherne's child fully participates in erotic activities. The same cannot be said of Waller's and Marvell's innocent girls.

The nostalgia for childhood in Marvell's and Waller's poems takes on a particular charge as a result of their use of a female child. The figures of T. C. and Lucy are undeniably eroticized, even if the poems construct them as presexual. What I would like to suggest is that though the eroticization of girlhood is by no means contrary to the representation of girlhood as innocent, it emerges as a function of the virgin/whore dichotomy that underpins larger constructions of female sexuality. In a cultural system where the only acceptable form of female sexuality is its absence, virgins are by definition the only acceptable objects of erotic desire. What is surprising from a modern perspective about Marvell's and Waller's poems is not that they eroticize preadolescent girls, our culture does that all the time, but that the process of eroticization involves the construction of girls as innocent. The two girls have not yet experienced sexual desire, and that is precisely why they can be seen as innocent and pure. They function chiefly as loci of male desire, whether inciting it or repelling it, and the representation of them as virginal only heightens their appeal. In fact, the chief difference between the classical tradition and Waller's and Marvell's erotic poetics is that Horace anticipates that the girl herself will experience sexual desire. Waller and Marvell, on the other hand, represent their girls chiefly as objects of desire, rather than as potentially desiring subjects. Such love lyrics demonstrate the mutually enabling possibilities of lyric and narrative modes by counterbalancing the narrative potential of the girl's growing up with a lyric vision of girlhood as a place outside temporality and its attendant heterosexual imperatives.

The love lyric offered a formal vehicle to connect seventeenth-century poetics to the past and future, while also capturing the historically specific relationship between the rise of English Protestantism and patriarchy's dual attraction to and repulsion from female sexuality. As Sasha Roberts notes, the genre has affordances that enable the articulation of the contradictory nature of [End Page 162] desire, particularly in the English Petrarchan inheritance in which complaint poems by fallen women routinely appear at the end of sonnet cycles rhetorically aimed at seducing women, combining the contradictory dialogue taking place intergenerically between love lyrics and epigrams.36 Keeping in mind Dubrow's examples of the complex ways lyric and narrative interact, it is still worth noting that the lyric mode "is frequently figured and configured in the early modern period through the etymological root of verse, versus, whose principal meanings include 'turning.'"37 Lyric's propensity for recursion, for change that still somehow enacts stasis, produces a way to express and repress female coming-of-age narratives.

Marvell and Waller do not seem to have made the leap to re-imagining chaste marital relations as superior to virginity. Licit adult female sexuality seems unimaginable because active female desire transforms too easily into whoredom. To explain why, it is worth looking at Donne's equivocal valuation of virginity in The Anniversaries. Although functioning as elegies rather than love lyrics, the series of poems written upon the death of his patron's fourteen-year-old daughter Elizabeth Drury plays out the ideological dilemma produced by the Reformation's stigmatization of permanent virginity.38 Despite his aforementioned espousal of the superiority of marriage in "Paradox XII," Donne adheres less clearly to Protestantism's official line in his poetry. In 1610–11, the span during which Donne wrote The Anniversaries, he was in the process of publicly declaring his conversion to Anglicanism through polemics such as Pseudo-Martyr.39 As Maureen Sabine argues, Donne consoles Drury's parents with assurances that being a wife was not the ideal state, using The Anniversaries as "an outlet for his involuntary Catholic reflex to honour the Virgin Mary while declaring his formal determination to refrain from invoking her once and for all."40 Ben Jonson's contemporary response confirms that in historical context readers would be inclined to associate Donne's description of Drury with language conventionally used to praise the Madonna. Jonson, a Catholic, disparaged The Anniversaries as "profane and full of Blasphemies," declaring, "if it had been written of ye Virgin Marie it had been something."41 Jonson's contribution to another minor genre of seventeenth-century poems on children, the elegy, shows no ambivalence about his six-month-old daughter dying with the "safety of her innocence," since her secure position among the "virgin train" of "soul heaven's queen" offers comfort to her mother.42 [End Page 163]

No doubt influenced by his need to prove his Protestant bona fides, Donne's poems on Drury work through pervasive anxieties about the meaning of female youth in a society with unstable definitions of the proper relationship between age and female sexuality. H. L. Meakin has argued that "Donne's figuration of the feminine … masterfully manipulates a Catholic valorization of virginity so as to capitulate to a Protestant ideal of womanhood as wife and mother."43 I would add that he enacts that transition through the infusion of Petrarchan love language into his lament for the death of a young lady, bringing into focus the eroticization of girlhood innocence. As Andrew Fleck has shown, Donne intensifies the imagery of Petrarch's "Sonnet 338" in which Laura's death leaves the world as a ring without its gem.44 In The First Anniversary, Petrarch's ring without a gem becomes a ring without a "stone" that has also lost its "just proportiön" or circularity.45 Donne mourns for Drury's death even as he implies that her retention of sexual purity depends upon dying. The virtue of Drury's youthful death is that she remains a virgin without being subject to perpetual virginity's stigmatization. Her adolescence allows Donne to have his Catholic cake and eat his Protestant one too.

In his dialectical mixing of the epideictic and elegiac modes, Donne captures what Elizabeth M. A. Hodgson calls "a deep cultural confusion" over the value of femininity.46 The poems praise Drury for maintaining sexual purity but yoke metaphors that cannot hold together under the Christian doctrine of original sin. Drury's death causes the world to decay in a typological reenactment of the fall, mapping prelapsarian and postlapsarian time onto the life and death of a young girl.47 As such, Donne's poetic attempt to portray her as prelapsarian runs up against an inherent contradiction in the Christian construction of childhood innocence, which can never perfectly stand for original innocence.48 Paradoxically, then, Donne celebrates Drury's "Virgin white integrity" precisely because, to quote Hodgson again, "only a non-woman can be a perfect example of femininity" because her status as an unmarried maiden symbolizes her virtue, "at least partly because it means she has not partaken of the curse on all women."49

In The First Anniversary, Donne problematizes the viability of his own conceit, since

        though she could not transubstantiateAll states to gold, yet gilded every state:So that some Princes have some temperance; [End Page 164] Some Counsaylors some purpose to advanceThe common profite;… … … … … … … … … … . … .Some women have some taciturnity;Some Nunneries, some graines of chastity.50

Donne recognizes that Drury has a limited ability to purify the world, particularly with regard to her female sexual restraint. Her virgin death produces "graines of chastity," but her subjects resist her potentially transformative effects. As Patrick J. Mahoney has shown, the poem evokes the association of the word "Nunneries" with brothels.51 The logic of such a linguistic move depends upon an inversion of meaning through which signs come to stand for their opposite; the virgin enclave of the convent codes the promiscuous space of prostitution, implying that the "purest are almost entirely corrupt."52

In "Upon Appleton House, To My Lord Fairfax," Marvell registers a similar ambivalence about the complicated value placed on female virginity by Protestant marital ideology. His representation of the "subtle" nuns of Appleton Priory specifically thematizes the cultural tension between fetishizing maidenheads and stigmatizing celibacy.53 To lure Isabel Thwaites to join their "holy leisure," one of the nuns promises the ancestress of Marvell's patron Thomas Fairfax a nightly succession of virgin sexual partners (line 97):

Each night among us to your sideAppoint a fresh and virgin bride;Whom if Our Lord at midnight find,Yet neither should be left behind.Where you may lie as chaste in bed,As pearls together billeted.All night embracing arm in arm,Like crystal pure with cotton warm.

(lines 185–92)

Instead of bringing her maidenhead as a dowry to her husband, as described in Herrick's poem, Thwaites in this fantasy takes for herself a new virgin bride each evening. The nuns' spiritual marriage to Christ as "the great Bridegroom" enables a succession of homoerotic sexual consummations between women (line 108). In her reading of this passage, Melissa E. Sanchez points out that [End Page 165] "Marvell envisions a realm of eroticism beyond the conventional dyad of the heterosexual couple" by imagining an alternative to procreative marriage.54 The nun redefines "chaste" behavior not as procreative sex within the bounds of marriage but as nonprocreative, same-sex erotic pleasures (line 107). Though the poem ironizes the nun's claim to chastity here, as it does in the previous stanza where the nun claims they "Live innocently" (line 98), the nun's rhetoric appropriates language used positively in both the Protestant and Catholic religions. That double valence calls attention to the shifting value of virginity over the course of English history. There is a historical disconnect between the Protestant moment inhabited by the speaker and the Catholic moment inhabited by Thwaites and the nuns, and there is a temporal disconnect between the moments in a Protestant girl's life when her virginity remains a positive asset and when it becomes a liability.55 When Helen in Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well asks Parolles how a woman might come to lose her virginity "to her own liking," he famously tells her: "Off with't while 'tis / vendible."56

Parolles's commodification of female sexuality disregards the important part of Helen's question—the part where she invokes female desire and pleasure. For all the negative language describing the nuns in "Upon Appleton House," the poem implicitly acknowledges their erotic offer as attractive. Thwaites does not initiate her departure from the nuns, instead young William Fairfax storms the convent: "But the glad youth away her bears, / And to the nuns bequeaths her tears" (lines 265–6). The syntax of these lines makes it unclear who does the bequeathing, but whether Thwaites or William Fairfax gives away her tears, their presence opens up a space of female sexual subjectivity. This moment in the poem represents a woman's consent as immaterial at the same time that it admits the possibility that women can give and withhold consent. William Fairfax treats his future wife as an object of conquest, but not before the poem hints that she might rather have stayed with the nuns.

Where then does that leave these objects of conquest? What happens if they respond to their own desirability? In the familiar carpe diem trope, the speaker of Herrick's "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time" urges the object of his affection to "Gather ye Rose-buds" of youth before old age renders the body unfit for amorous delights.57 The seizing of sexual pleasures, however, could have negative consequences that were equally represented in seventeenth-century poetry, albeit usually in short comic [End Page 166] verses like epigrams. Sir John Harington's poem about Lelia, for example, makes the young woman's sexual indiscretions into a lesson for girls. The poem exists in two versions: one in the 1618 published edition of Harington's epigrams and one in an authorial manuscript in the Folger Shakespeare Library. According to Gerard Kilroy, both "almost certainly" refer to the story of Anne Vavasour, whose affair with the Earl of Oxford resulted in both their imprisonments and exiles from Court.58 The 1618 version "Of Lelia" goes as follows:

When louely Lelia was a tender girle,    She hapt to be deflowred by an Earle;Alas, poore wench, she was to be excused,Such kindnesse oft is offered, seld refused.But be not proud; for she that is no Countesse,And yet lies with a Count, must make account this,    All Countesses in honour her surmount,    They haue, she had, an honourable Count.59

That Harington calls Lelia not just a "girle" but a "tender girle" plays up her youthful status and connects it with her defloration. She is a sexual target at the same time that she does not yet have the worldly knowledge necessary to hold out to become a countess rather than a mistress. As the pun in the last line makes clear, she has lost her "honourable Count" and her honorable cunt. In this version, Harington expresses a certain amount of superficial sympathy for Lelia's plight, calling her "poore wench" and recognizing the commonness of her mistake, but he nonetheless represents her as being punished for gathering her rosebuds before marriage. The speaker's choice of the word "hapt" to describe Lelia's deflowering also mitigates the culpability of the earl by making it sound like an accident. The 1605 manuscript version of the poem takes this even further, referring to the earl's sexual offer as "curtesies" rather than a "kindnesse."60 The language of courtesy, invoking the courtly exchange of compliments, suggests that Lelia may have misread what a more experienced woman would have recognized as merely conventional, potentially Petrarchan, praise. The manuscript likewise offers less sympathy for Lelia, calling her a "good wenche" rather than a "poore wench."61 The poem admits the existence of a sexual double standard but still endorses its social enforcement, insisting that Lelia "must make account" however much she is to be excused.62 The result is that the women who held out to be countesses surmount her in [End Page 167] honor, though neither position seems particularly enviable. If the alternative to being abandoned by the "honourable Count" is to be married to him, it is not entirely clear how meaningful honor can be in such a system. In neither case does the poem recognize an acceptable social space for female sexuality as opposed to female sexualization. The lovely Lelia of Harington's epigram offers a glimpse into what could happen to T. C. if she were to anger Flora by plucking buds. Although Marvell imagines T. C.'s entry into courtship as dangerous for her suitors, it is clear that courtship could be dangerous for her, too.

It is worth noting, however, that Harington's misogynist perception of Lelia's ruined honor did not prevent the historical woman, to whom he referred, from either marrying or having another affair. As Josephine A. Roberts has pointed out, the poems presenting Vavasour as a "fallen" and pathetic "abandoned woman" offer a very different picture from the historical record.63 Roberts focuses on "the Oxford-Vavasour echo poem," written in Vavasour's voice, but the same distinction between the deflowered girl's fate in the poem and in history applies to Harington's epigram.64 Vavasour later married a sea captain named John Finch before going on to have an affair, apparently with Queen Elizabeth's approval, with Sir Henry Lee, with whom she lived openly until his death in 1611. Though she did get fined when she bigamously tried to marry John Richardson in 1618, Vavasour's illicit sexual relationships were not in and of themselves enough to alienate her permanently from aristocratic society.65 The sense that the loss of female chastity destroyed all of a woman's future hopes and left her with nothing but a dishonorable "Count"/cunt was a poetic fantasy of men such as Harington.

The figure of young Maria Fairfax in "Upon Appleton House" also calls into question the Protestant timeline by which maids become wives and then widows. Her association with youth pulls back from a sense of straightforward—and straight—temporality.66 Unlike Lucy and T. C., Maria's future is now—the now of the future, past, and present all together and in no particular order. She "already is the law / Of all her sex, her age's awe" (lines 655–6). By embodying stasis, Maria collapses temporal differences and "hush[es] / The world" (lines 681–2). In the process, she causes nature to be "wholly vitrified" (line 688). Yet Maria's stasis queers her gender as much as her sexuality, which may account for her difference from T. C. and Lucy. The poem describes her role in the Fairfaxian genealogical line as "beyond her sex": [End Page 168]

Hence she with graces more divineSupplies beyond her sex the line;And, like a sprig of mistletoe,On the Fairfacian oak does grow;Whence, for some universal good,The priest shall cut the sacred bud;While her glad parents most rejoice,And make their destiny their choice.

(lines 737–44)

Maria's bud will one day be uncoupled from its host plant like T. C.'s, but hers is not the hand that will do the plucking. The omission of the groom from the ceremony defers the description of her heterosexual union, linking her erotically with the priest in a way that recalls the homoerotic nuns from earlier in the poem. The priest cuts rather than plucks her bud, and this cutting evokes destruction but not possession. The image of Maria as mistletoe also undermines the patrilineal fantasy. Mistletoe is parasitic and not part of the trees around which it grows, and the cutting of the bud evokes the cutting off of the male line more than the harvesting of virginity. Furthermore, the speaker's description of Maria as "the law / Of all her sex" sounds dangerously similar to the nun's promise to Thwaites that "if our rule seem strictly penned, / The rule itself to you shall bend" (lines 155–6). In her way, Maria poses just as much of a threat to masculinity as a sexually mature little T. C.

In his analysis of contemporary modes of sexualizing children, David Archard argues that the construction of childhood as innocent goes hand in hand with children's vulnerability to sexual abuse. He writes, "innocence itself can be a sexualised notion as applied to children. It connotes a purity, virginity, freshness and immaculateness which excites by the possibilities of possession and defilement. The child as innocent is in danger of being the idealised woman of a certain male sexual desire—hairless, vulnerable, weak, dependent, and uncorrupted."67 Archard's description of the vulnerable child is startlingly pertinent to seventeenth-century lyric poetry. These poems may advocate waiting for maturity, but the eroticization exposes the girls' vulnerability as erotic objects, since the budding of their own sexual desires would transform them into whores. Moreover, defined by their virginity and youth, female children in love lyrics are vulnerable to defilement because virginity itself is an object of sexual desire and makes them potential objects of conquest. The fetishization of [End Page 169] the virgin paradoxically also fetishizes the destruction of virginity through sexual possession.

The discourse within seventeenth-century love lyrics makes the juxtaposition of virgins and whores under the dictionary definitions of "girl" intelligible within the context of seventeenth-century poets adapting Petrarchan conventions in specific historical circumstances across the English Reformation and Civil Wars. In many ways, this virgin/whore dichotomy functions transhistorically. Cultures as varied as ancient Rome, Renaissance England, and the twentieth-century United States produce poetry about the desire for young girls, with Marvell's and Waller's poems sharing clear generic affinities with twentieth-century pop songs such as Bruce Springsteen's "I'm on Fire." It is important to remain mindful, though, of Dubrow's caution that "[u]nnuanced transhistorical generalizations" can misrepresent "as normative a characteristic that dominates in a given period or author."68 Even to read across the Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Caroline eras risks flattening out the way "the cultural coding of form varies from period to period and within a given era or a given text."69 Listeners in the 1980s likely registered Springsteen's line, "Hey little girl is your daddy home?" as being spoken by a teenage boy to a teenage girl, even if it was being sung by an adult man in what seems in retrospect a shockingly blatant troping of pedophilic desires.70 Following the methodology of Dubrow, I would acknowledge that the duality of female sexuality is not unique to seventeenth-century poetry, but limiting my investigation historically creates "the opportunity to be capacious in the choice of poems from within [the] period and country."71 By reading these lyric representations of female children, we can see that girlish sexuality tended to invoke the possibility of its transformation. Seventeenth-century constructions of female children as innocent encoded a particular kind of sexuality, positioning them as objects of erotic attraction while resisting the ascription of desire to the girls. There is a temptation when studying the history of childhood to view the invention of the innocent child as an unequivocally positive step toward better treatment for children, but sometimes it might be better to recognize children in all their humanity.

Jennifer Higginbotham

Jennifer Higginbotham is Associate Professor of English at Ohio State University and author of The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Sisters: Gender, Transgression, Adolescence (2013). Her articles have appeared in Modern Philology, Reformation, Literature Compass, and the Sixteenth Century Journal, and she is coeditor of Queering Childhood in Early Modern English Drama and Culture (2018).


1. Leah Sinanoglou Marcus, Childhood and Cultural Despair: A Theme and Variations in Seventeenth-Century Literature (Pittsburgh PA: Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 1978), p. 203.

2. Thomas Edgar, The Lawes Resolutions of Women's Rights (London: Iohn More, 1632), p. 6; EEBO STC (2d edn.) 7437.

3. John Donne, Paradoxes, Problemes, Essayes, Characters, trans. J. Maine (London: T. N., 1652), p. 82; EEBO Wing D1867.

4. Donne, Paradoxes, p. 81.

5. Donne, Paradoxes, p. 87.

6. Anthony Fletcher, "The Protestant Idea of Marriage in Early Modern English," in Religion, Culture, and Society in Early Modern Britain: Essays in Honour of Patrick Collinson, ed. Fletcher and Peter Roberts (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1994), pp. 161–81, 162.

7. Prior to the early sixteenth century, "girl" designated a child of either sex; it was only later that it became exclusively gendered female. See Jennifer Higginbotham, The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Sisters: Gender, Transgression, Adolescence (Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press, 2013), pp. 20–42. See also Deanne Williams, Shakespeare and the Performance of Girlhood (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), p. 4.

8. Giovanni Torriano, Vocabulario Italiano & Inglese, a Dictionary Italian & English Formerly Compiled by John Florio (London: T. Warren, 1659), Bbv; EEBO Wing F1368.

9. Robert Herrick, "How Primroses Came Green," in Hesperides or, the Works of Both Humane & Divine (London, 1648), p. 69; EEBO Wing (2d edn.) H1595.

10. On the association between symptoms such as paleness and anemia with virginity, see Helen King, "Green Sickness: Hippocrates, Galen, and the Origins of the 'Disease of Virgins,'" International Journal of the Classical Tradition 2, 3 (Winter 1996): 372–87.

11. Hillary M. Nunn, "On Vegetating Virgins: Greensickness and the Plant Realm in Early Modern Literature," in The Indistinct Human in Renaissance Literature, ed. Jean E. Feerick and Vin Nardizzi (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), pp. 159–77.

12. Herrick, "Upon Jone and Jane," in Hesperides, p. 269.

13. Children could be associated with both corruption and purity in early modern religious ideology, with both Puritans and Anglicans insisting on the doctrine of original sin while using the child as a trope for the future of the nation or an idealized royalist past. See Marcus, pp. 44–58; Jane Couchman, "'Our little darlings': Huguenot Children and Child-rearing in the Letters of Louise de Coligny," in Gender and Early Modern Constructions of Childhood, ed. Naomi J. Miller and Naomi Yavneh (Surrey UK: Ashgate, 2011), pp. 101–16; and Carole Collier Frick, "Boys to Men: Codpieces and Masculinity in Sixteenth-Century Europe," in Gender and Early Modern Constructions of Childhood, pp. 157–80.

14. Edmund Waller, "To My Young Lady Lucy Sidney," in The Workes of Edmond Waller (London, 1645), pp. 24–5; EEBO Wing W495.

15. Andrew Marvell, "The Picture of Little T. C. in a Prospect of Flowers," in The Poems of Andrew Marvell, ed. Nigel Smith (Harlow UK: Longman, 2007), pp. 114–5, line 12. Subsequent references to "The Picture of Little T. C. in a Prospect of Flowers" are to this edition and will be cited parenthetically in the text by line number.

16. Waller, "To My Young Lady Lucy Sidney," p. 25.

17. Waller, "To My Young Lady Lucy Sidney," p. 25.

18. See Elsie Duncan-Jones, "Benlowes, Marvell, and the Divine Casimire: A Note," HLQ 20, 2 (February 1957): 183–4.

19. The tradition of reading this line as an inversion of Herrick dates back at least to J. L. Simmons, "Marvell's 'The Picture of Little T. C. in a Prospect of Flowers,'" Explicator 22, 8 (April 1964): n.p.

20. See Joseph Summers, "Marvell's 'Nature,'" ELH 20, 2 (June 1953): 121–35, 132. John Rogers, on the other hand, sees the poem as urging T. C. to avoid sexual consummation all together, see "The Enclosure of Virginity: The Poetics of Sexual Abstinence in the English Revolution," in Enclosure Acts: Sexuality, Property, and Culture in Early Modern England, ed. Richard Burt and John Michael Archer (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1994), pp. 229–50, 245.

21. William Kerrigan has the most sustained treatment of Marvell's pedophilic desire in his article "Marvell and Nymphets," Greyfriar 27 (1986): 3–21.

22. See Marcus, p. 200; and Victoria Silver, "The Obscure Script of Regicide: Ambivalence and Little Girls in Marvell's Pastorals," ELH 68, 1 (Spring 2001): 29–55, 35.

23. Warren L. Chernaik, The Poetry of Limitation: A Study of Edmund Waller (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1968), p. 100. There was also a tradition of mocking adult men for pursuing young girls, particularly in Martial. In R. Fletcher's 1656 translation, he includes "An Old Man Courting a Young Girle," which features a dialogue between a man and a nymph identified as a "Girle." See Martial, "An Old Man Courting a Young Girle," in Ex Otio Negotium. Or Martiall His Epigrams Translated, with Sundry Poems and Fancies, trans. Fletcher (London: T. Mabb, 1656), pp. 177–82; EEBO Wing (2d edn.) M831.

24. Horace, The Odes and Epodes, trans. Charles E. Bennett (London: W. Heinemann, 1918), 2.5.9–16, qtd. in Chernaik, pp. 100–1.

25. Philodemius, untitled epigram, in The Art of Marvell's Poetry, by J. B. Leishman (London: Hutchinson, 1966), p. 167, qtd. in Smith, introduction to "Young Love," in The Poems of Andrew Marvell, pp. 72–3, 72.

26. Thomas Carew, "The Second Rapture," in Poems (London: I. D., 1640), pp. 182–3, lines 7–17; EEBO STC (2d edn.) 4620.

27. See Philippe Ariès, Centuries of Childhood: A Second History of Family Life, trans. Robert Baldick (New York: Alfred K. Knopf, 1962), pp. 100–27. Although Ariès's narrative needs to be qualified by the recognition that this shift did not happen in a linear fashion, this particular aspect of his work has not come in for the same condemnation as his argument that the Middle Ages had no idea of childhood. Margaret Louise Reeves, however, nuances the supposed cultural shift from immodest to modest child in "'A Prospect of Flowers': Concepts of Childhood and Female Youth in Seventeenth-Century British Culture," in The Youth of Early Modern Women, ed. Elizabeth S. Cohen and Reeves (Amsterdam: Amsterdam Univ. Press, 2018). Reeves demonstrates that Puritan associations of children with original sin coexisted with seventeenth-century poetic representations of what she calls the "proto-Romantic child," one associated with divine innocence.

28. Marvell, "Young Love," in The Poems of Andrew Marvell, pp. 73–4, lines 1–4. Subsequent references to "Young Love" are to this edition and will be cited parenthetically in the text by line number.

29. Smith, introduction to "Young Love," p. 73.

30. Diane Purkiss, "Marvell, Boys, Girls, and Men: Should We Worry?," in Gender and Early Modern Constructions of Childhood, pp. 181–92.

31. Heather Dubrow, The Challenges of Orpheus: Lyric Poetry and Early Modern England (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2008), pp. 35 and 50.

32. Dubrow, p. 50.

33. Thomas Traherne, "Innocence," in The Poetical Works of Thomas Traherne, ed. Bertram Dobell (London: Bertram Dobell, 1906), pp. 11–4, 13–4.

34. Traherne, "Love," in The Poetical Works of Thomas Traherne, pp. 101–3, 101.

35. Traherne, "Love," p. 102. On the homoerotic associations with Ganymede, see Stephen Orgel, Impersonations: The Performance of Gender in Shakespeare's England (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996), pp. 53–82.

36. See Sasha Roberts, "Shakespeare's Sonnets and English Sonnet Sequences," in Early Modern English Poetry: A Critical Companion, ed. Patrick Cheney, Andrew Hadfield, and Garrett A. Sullivan Jr. (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2007), pp. 172–83, 175.

37. Dubrow, p. 27.

38. For a comprehensive survey of Donne's representation of Elizabeth Drury and whether the poem has any relationship to the historical child or serves as a catalyst for an abstract idea of womanhood, see "The Anniversaries" and "The Epicedes and Obsequies," ed. Paul A. Parrish, Ted-Larry Pebworth, John T. Shawcross, Gary A. Stringer, and Ernest W. Sullivan II, vol. 6 of The Variorum Edition of the Poetry of John Donne, gen. ed. Stringer, 8 vols. (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1995), pp. 293–325.

39. On Donne's conversion to Anglicanism, see Jonathan F. S. Post, "Donne's Life: A Sketch," in The Cambridge Companion to John Donne, ed. Achsah Guibbory (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006), pp. 1–22.

40. Maureen Sabine, Feminine Engendered Faith: The Poetry of John Donne and Richard Crashaw (New York: Palgrave, 1992), p. xii. Another example of Catholic imagery can be found in Elizabeth D. Harvey and Timothy M. Harrison's reading of lines 207–10 of The Second Anniversary as making the planets into a metaphor for the beads of a rosary in "Embodied Resonances: Early Modern Science and Tropologies of Connection in Donne's Anniversaries," ELH 80, 4 (Winter 2013): 981–1008, 981.

41. Ben Jonson, "Ben Jonson's Conversations with William Drummond of Hawthornden," in The Man and His Work, vol. 1 of Ben Jonson, ed. C. H. Herford and Percy Simpson, 11 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954), pp. 128–78, 133.

42. Jonson, "On My First Daughter," in Ben Jonson: The Complete Poems, ed. George Parfitt (London: Penguin, 1975), p. 41, lines 6–9.

43. H. L. Meakin, John Donne's Articulations of the Feminine (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), p. 204.

44. See Andrew Fleck, "The Ring of the World: Donne's Appropriation of Petrarch's 'Sonnet 338' in The First Anniversary," N&Q 49, 3 (September 2002): 327–9, 327. Critical awareness of the Petrarchan resonances of the poem go back as far as Louis L. Martz's foundational essay "John Donne in Meditation: The Anniversaries," ELH 14, 4 (December 1947): 247–73, esp. 247, 249, and 252. Positioned against Martz is Barbara Kiefer Lewalski, who plays down the Petrarchan aspects in favor of emphasizing symbolic religious imagery in her influential Donne's "Anniversaries" and the Poetry of Praise: The Creation of a Symbolic Mode (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1973).

45. Donne, The First Anniversary, An Anatomie of the World, in John Donne, ed. Janel Mueller, 21st-Century Oxford Authors (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2015), pp. 86–97, lines 341–2.

46. Elizabeth M. A. Hodgson, Gender and the Sacred Self in John Donne (Newark: Univ. of Delaware Press), p. 167.

47. Lindsay A. Mann reads Elizabeth Drury across both Anniversaries as "a type or figura," foreshadowing the eventual fulfillment of the perfect embodiment of Christ in the human. See her "The Typology of Woman in Donne's Anniversaries," Ren&R 11, 4 (Fall 1987): 337–50, 340.

48. As Mueller observes, "it is curiously difficult to represent primal innocence: what is lost forever seems to be much dimmer to our imaginations than we can look forward to possessing" at the Resurrection ("Review: Death and the Maiden: The Metaphysics of Christian Symbolism in Donne's Anniversaries," MP 72, 3 [February 1975]: 280–6, 285).

49. Donne, "A Funerall, Elegie," in John Donne, pp. 98–100, line 75; and Hodgson, pp. 168 and 171.

50. Donne, The First Anniversary, lines 417–24.

51. Patrick J. Mahoney, "The Heroic Couplet in Donne's Anniversaries," Style 4, 2 (Spring 1970): 107–17, 112.

52. Carol M. Sicherman, "Donne's Timeless Anniversaries," UTQ 39, 2 (January 1970): 127–43, 133.

53. Marvell, "Upon Appleton House, To My Lord Fairfax," in The Poems of Andrew Marvell, pp. 216–41, line 94. Subsequent references to "Upon Appleton House, To My Lord Fairfax" are to this edition and will be cited parenthetically in the text by line number. On the homoerotics of Nun Appleton, see James Holstun, "'Will You Rent Our Ancient Love Asunder?': Lesbian Elegy in Donne, Marvell, and Milton," ELH 54, 4 (Winter 1987): 835–67; Valerie Traub, The Renaissance of Lesbianism in Early Modern England (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002), pp. 63–4; and Elena Levy-Navarro, "History Straight and Narrow: Marvell, Mary Fairfax, and the Critique of Sexual and Historical Sequence," in "Postmodern Medievalisms," ed. Richard Utz and Jesse G. Swan, special issue, SiM 13 (2005): 181–92.

54. Melissa E. Sanchez, "'She Straightness on the Woods Bestows': Protestant Sexuality and English Empire in Marvell's 'Upon Appleton House,'" in Atlantic Worlds in the Long Eighteenth Century: Seduction and Sentiment, ed. Toni Bowers and Tita Chico (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), pp. 81–96, 87.

55. As Sanchez puts it, "the ambiguity of Marvell's 'now' troubles these providential histories. Is 'now' the 1636 dissolution? If so, then Nun Appleton can be both a Catholic house and a religious house, for under Henry most Catholic doctrine was repeatedly affirmed … Or is 'now' the Edwardian Reformation, which ushered in Protestant doctrine and allowed clergy to marry … Or is 'now' the Commonwealth present in which Marvell is writing his poem?" (pp. 88–9). Levy-Navarro also stresses the way the poem distorts time to argue that it does not relegate lesbian erotics to the medieval past (see pp. 184–5).

56. Shakespeare, All's Well That Ends Well, ed. G. K. Hunter, Arden Shakespeare: Second Series (London: W. W. Norton, 2006), I.ii.147 and 150–1.

57. Herrick, "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time," in Hesperides, p. 93, line 1.

58. John Harington, The Epigrams of John Harington, ed. Gerard Kilroy (Surrey UK: Ashgate, 2009), p. 61.

59. Harington, "Of Lelia," in The Most Elegant and Witty Epigrams of Sir Iohn Harrington (London: George Purslowe, 1618), L6r; EEBO STC (2d edn.) 12776.

60. Harington, "Of Lælias Count=es Ship," in The Epigrams of John Harington, p. 215, line 4.

61. Harington, "Of Lælias Count=es Ship," line 3.

62. Harington, "Of Lælias Count=es Ship," line 6.

63. Josephine A. Roberts, "The Phallacies of Authorship: Reconstructing the Texts of Early Modern Women Writers," in Attending to Early Modern Women, ed. Susan D. Amussen and Adele Seeff (Newark: Univ. of Delaware Press, 1998), pp. 38–53, 41.

64. Roberts, p. 41.

65. See Roberts, pp. 40–1. For an account of Vavasour's life, see E. K. Chambers, Sir Henry Lee: An Elizabethan Portrait (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1936), pp. 150–62. See also Ilona Bell's chapter "Anne Vavasour and Henry Lee" on the two Elizabethan manuscript poems written in Vavasour's and Lee's voices, in Elizabethan Women and the Poetry of Courtship (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998), pp. 75–99.

66. In some ways, Maria Fairfax brings together the arguments of Jonathan Goldberg and Madhavi Menon on the need to recognize queer temporalities with Jonathan Gil Harris's about the way objects move through time. The body, like one of Harris's objects, is polytemporal. See Goldberg and Menon, "Queering History," PMLA 120, 5 (October 2005): 1608–17; and Harris, Untimely Matter in the Time of Shakespeare (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2009). As Levy-Navarro points out, the line through which Maria's father came to own the house was through Isabel Thwaites, so the unbroken chain of patrilineal descent never existed (see pp. 184–5).

67. David Archard, Children: Rights and Childhood, 3d edn. (New York: Routledge, 2015), p. 53. For this reference, I am indebted to Pascale Aebischer, whose paper at the 2003 conference "Shakespeare's Children/Children's Shakespeare" at Roehampton University called my attention to Archard's work.

68. Dubrow, p. 4.

69. Dubrow, p. 3.

70. Bruce Springsteen, "I'm on Fire," recorded February 1982, track 6 on Born in the U.S.A., Columbia, 1984.

71. Dubrow, p. 7.

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