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Keywords:

  • Anthony Cooke;
  • Elizabeth Dacre;
  • newly discovered female-authored Latin love poem

This article brings to light a previously unknown Latin epistolary love poem, written by Lady Elizabeth Dacre-Howard, third wife of the fourth Duke of Norfolk, and addressed to Sir Anthony Cooke, tutor to Edward VI, and father of the Cooke sisters. Its physical context contained within Elizabeth Dacre's 1561 Thynne edition of Chaucer demonstrates a Catholic woman's ownership of Chaucer's works, but also indicates the private nature of the verse. The poem references Ovid's Heroides, Valerius Maximus, and contains an explicit Martial epigram, highlighting Dacre's classical education; it is thus no surprise that she writes in Latin, even though contemporary women seem rarely to do so. The rhetorical skill and tenderness of tone suggest a woman lamenting an absent lover, here, unusually, named as Anthony Cooke. Whether this poem represents a real love affair or an exercise in composition, it heralds a new author in the history of English women's literature – a female author who knew her own mind and was herself the mother of remarkable Catholic noblewomen and thence a major aristocratic dynasty.