Martha Moulsworth


Martha Moulsworth (née Dorset) is known as a writer from a single autobiographical poem, one of the earliest of its kind by a woman. This was effectively ‘discovered’ in a manuscript commonplace book (MhM 1) and brought to public attention in the 1990s. It has since prompted a flurry of scholarly articles and discussions.

Robert C. Evans, in ‘The Muses Females Are’: Martha Moulsworth and Other Women Writers of the English Renaissance, ed. Robert C. Evans and Anne C. Little (West Cornwall, CT, 1995), pp. 263-5, speculates whether other poems by Moulsworth survive, such as in British Library, Add. MS 18044, which includes poems and writings by members of her circle, but as he admits, it may be an ‘impossible task’ to determine authorship. She may, he suggests, also be responsible for the verses on the gravestone of her third husband and final son: six lines beginning ‘Now seaunty seaun yeares past (myne only Sonne)’.

The only other known document by Martha Moulsworth is her will, a registered copy of which survives (MhM 2).

Peter Beal