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play, feminism, English literature, English culture


As the first woman to write and publish an original play in English, Elizabeth Tanfield Cary, Viscountess Falkland, has become the subject of increased attention and appreciation over the last few decades. Since a major reason for studying Cary has been the feminist motivation to document women's contributions to the English language and its literature and culture, biographically informed criticism has naturally drawn much attention. With Cary, biographically informed criticism has been fostered by the existence of the Life of Cary, a biography written within a couple of decades of her death primarily by one of her four conventual daughters, possibly Anne, Dame Clementia, in collaboration with one of Cary's two youngest children, Patrick. The Life was printed in book form twice in the nineteenth century and has recently been freshly edited and printed expressly for the purpose of enabling biographically informed criticism of Cary's work, especially of her play, Miriam. As the editors of the recent edition explain, they "suspect that for most it [the Life] will be an ancillary text to Miriam," which, coupled with the feeling that "stylistic nuance seems less crucial to its value," accounts for why they do not provide "a full commentary on editorial procedure" for the Life.