An Epistolary Account of the Irish Rising of 1641 by the Wife of the Mayor of Waterford [with text]



This essay introduces to a new audience a challenging, remarkable, and virtually unknown series of letters written by the wife of the Mayor of Waterford during the Irish rising of 1641. As she charts the dramatic course of the conflict in that city, Mayoress Briver attempts to explain to her doubting audience—the men leading the defense against the Irish Catholics—why her supposedly loyal husband was unable to prevent Waterford's fall. In their ambivalences, complexities, and strange silences, the letters open a window into the ethnic and religious tensions of mid-seventeenth century Ireland. But they also offer a fresh understanding of female authorship and gendered agency in the early modern period by suggesting how women's writing might be shaped by the author's national affiliation and geographical location. As an example of Irish women's writing, the letters represent an important addition to the canon of early modern women's writing. (N. M.)