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Library Catalog No. HUTCH1675

Letter to Lord Anglesey, written in 1675. Epistle dedicatory to a presentation copy of Hutchinson’s MS. translation of Lucretius. Transcribed in Lucy Hutchinson’s translation of Lucretius: De rerum natura. Edited by Hugh de Quehen. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996. 23–27.

by Lucy Hutchinson

e-Copyright © 2013–2017 < http://she-philosopher.com/library.html >

First Issued:  21 March 2013
Revised (substantive):  22 August 2014

Part II: Lucy Hutchinson’s Text

BELOW: Portrait of Lucy Hutchinson (1620–1681) with her son. Engraved by Victor Focillon (1849–1918), after the painting by Robert Walker (1595x1610–1658).

facsimile of late-19th-century engraving

Walker’s mid-17th-century oil painting emphasized Hutchinson’s complementary roles as mother and author-scholar. With her child at her side, she holds a laurel-wreath in her lap, symbolizing her literary aspirations. Laurel was also a symbol of marital chastity in the emblem literature (evoking the myth of Daphne and her metamorphosis in escaping the lust of Apollo, as recounted in Ovid). Walker’s bookend painting, Colonel John Hutchinson and his Son, likewise emphasized her husband’s domestic and public roles.
  This valuation of Hutchinson’s learning and scholarship — and her daughters’, as well, who were educated in “languages, sciences, musick, dancing, and all other quallities befitting their father’s house” (Hutchinson, Memoirs, ed. Child, 1904, 349) — was shared by both husband and wife. Before her marriage, Lucy Hutchinson was known for “the negligence of her dresse and habitt, and all womanish ornaments, giving herselfe wholly up to studie and writing.” (Hutchinson, Memoirs, ed. Child, 1904, 76) That she was “reserv’d and studious” had first “inflam’d Mr. Hutchinson’s desire of seeing her” (Hutchinson, Memoirs, ed. Child, 1904, 70). That he then discovered in her “rationallity ... beyond the customary reach of a she-witt” (Hutchinson, Memoirs, ed. Child, 1904, 71) inflamed him even more. In the end, “’Twas not her face he lov’d, her honor and her vertue were his mistresses” (Hutchinson, Memoirs, ed. Child, 1904, 77). This is the Lucy Hutchinson Walker’s painting memorializes.
  Robert Walker mainly painted the portraits of the great parliamentarians of the period; Cromwell sat to Walker so many times that Walker was known as “Cromwell’s portrait painter.” Horace Walpole describes Walker’s practice during the Interregnum years, noting that Walker charged £10 each in 1652 “for two half-lengths of philosophers.” Walker also “received ten pounds for the portrait of Mr. Thomas Knight’s wife, to the knees;” and Mrs. Knight “sat thrice to him, four or five hours at a time” (H. Walpole, Anecdotes of Painting in England, 2nd edn., 4 vols., 1765, 2.180). Presumably, Walker’s arrangement with Lucy Hutchinson would have been similar.

E P I S T LE   D E D I C A T O R Y

To the right honorable
Arthur Earle of Anglesey

Lord Keeper of his Majesties Privie Seale
and one of his Majesties most honorable Privie Councell

     My Lord

When I present this unworthy Translation to your Lordship, I sacrifice my shame to my obedience, for (though a masculine Witt hath thought it worth printing his head in a lawrell crowne for the version of one of these bookes) I am so farre from gloriing in my six, that had they not by misfortune bene gone out of my hands in one lost copie, even your Lordships command, which hath more authority with me, then any humane thing I pay reverence to, should not have redeemd it from the fire. Had it bene a worke that had merited glory, or could my sex (whose more becoming vertue is silence) derive honor from writing, my aspiring Muse would not have sought any other Patrone then your Lordship, the justly celebrated Mecenas of our dayes, where Learning and ingenuitie finds its most honorable, I had allmost sayd, its only refuge in this drolling degenerate age, that hath hissd out all sober and serious studies; which your Lordship not only cherisheth in others, but are your selfe so illustriously eminent in that most honorable acquisition of Learning, that tis the noblest crowne of any worke, to gaine your Lordships approbation. And therefore, since I did attempt things out of my owne Sphaere, I am sorry I had not the capacity of making a worke, nor the good fortune of chusing a subject, worthy of being presented to your Lordship, whose dedication, might gratefully have renderd some of the honor it receives in its acceptance. As your Lordships command will vindicate me from arrogance in offering so unworthy a peice, to such a hand; So I beseech your Lordship to reward my obedience, by indulging me the further honor to preserve, wherever your Lordship shall dispose this booke, this record with it, that I abhorre all the Atheismes and impieties in it, and translated it only out of youthfull curiositie, to understand things I heard so much discourse of at second hand, but without the least inclination to propagate any of the wicked pernitious doctrines in it. Afterward being convincd of the sin of amusing my selfe with such vaine Philosophy (which even at the first I did not employ any serious studie in, for I turnd it into English in a roome where my children practizd the severall quallities they were taught with their Tutors, and I numbred the sillables of my translation by the threds of the canvas I wrought in, and sett them downe with a pen and inke that stood by me; How superficially it must needs be done in this manner, the thing it selfe will shew) but I say afterward as my judgement grew riper, and my mind was fixt in more profitable contemplations, I thought this booke not worthy either of review or correction, the whole worke being one fault. But when I have throwne all the contempt that is due upon my author, who yet wants not admirers, among those whose religion little exceeds his, I must say I am not much better satisfied with the other fardle of Philosophers, who in some pulpitts are quoted with devine epithetes. They that make the incorruptible God part of a corruptible world, and chaine up his absolute freedome of will to a fatall Necessity; That make nature, which only is the Order God hath sett in his workes, to be God himselfe, That feigne a God liable to Passion, impotence and mutabillity, and not exempt from the vilest lusts; That believe a multiplicitie of Gods, adore the Sun and Moone and all the Host of Heaven, and bandy their severall deities in faction one against another; All these, and all the other poore deluded instructors of the Gentiles, are guilty of no lesse impiety, ignorance and folly then this Lunatick, who not able to dive into the true Originall and Cause of Beings and Accidents, admires them who devizd this Casuall, Irrationall dance of Attomes. So farre yett wee may usefully be permitted to consider the productions of degenerate nature, as they represent to us the deplorable wretchednesse of all mankind, who are not translated from darknesse to light by supernaturall illumination, and teach us that their wisedome is folly, their most vertuous and pure morallity fowle defilement, their knowledge ignorance, their glorie shame, their renowne contemptible, their industry vaine, all their attainments cheates and delusions, their felicities unsubstantiall dreames and apparitions, and their lives only a varied scene of perpetuall woe and misery. This is the best account I can give of the best of them, who toyld themselves in vaine to search out Truth, but wandred in a Maze of Error, and could never discover her by Natures dimne candle, which proovd only an Ignis fatui to lead them into quagmires and precipices, and to this day is no better to their admirers, who manifest they are still in their naturall blindnesse, and never saw the Sun, that can soe extoll corrupt gloworms. I am perswaded, that the Encomiums given to these Pagan Poets and Philosophers, wherewith Tutors put them into the hands of their pupills, yet unsetled in the Principles of Devine Truth, is one greate means of debauching the learned world, at least of confirming them in that debauchery of soule, which their first sin led them into, and of hindring their recovery, while they puddle all the streames of Truth, that flow downe to them from devine Grace, with this Pagan mud; for all the Heresies that are sprung up in Christian religion, are but the severall foolish and impious inventions of the old contemplative Heathen revivd, and brought forth in new dresses, while men wreck their witts, striving to wrest and pervert the sacred Scriptures from their genuine meaning, to complie with the false and foolish opinions of men. Some of them indeed acknowledge Providence, A devine Originall and Regiment of all things, an internall Law, which oblieges us to eternall Punishment if wee transgresse it, and shall be rewarded with present peace of conscience, and future Blessednes if wee obey it; But though they have generall notions, wanting a revelation and guide to lead them into a true and distinct knowledge, of the Nature of God, of the Originall and Remedie of Sin, of the Spring and nature of Blessednes, they set up their vaine imaginations in the roome of God, and devize superstitions foolish services to avert his wrath, and propitiate his favour, suitable to their devized God, inventing such fables of their Elizium and Hell, and the joyes and tortures of those places, as made this Author and others turne them into allegories, and thinke they treated more reverently of Gods, when they placd them above the cares and disturbances of humane affaires, and set them in an unperturbed rest and felicity, leaving all things here, to Accident and Chance, deniing that determinate wise Councell and Order of things they could not dive into, and deriding Heaven and Hell, Eternall Rewards and Punishments, as fictions in the whole, because the instances of them in particular were so ridiculous, as seemd rather stories invented to fright children, then to perswade reasonable men; therefore they fancied another kind of heaven and hell, in the internall peace or horror of the conscience, upon which account they urgd the persuite of vertue and the avoyding of vice, as the spring of joy or sorrow, and defind vertue to be all those things that are just equall and profitable to humane Society, wherein this Poet makes true religion to consist, and not in superstitious cerimonies, which he makes to have had their originall from the vaine dread of men, imputing those events to the wrath of Gods, which proceeded from naturall Causes whereof they were ignorant, and therefore sings high applause to his owne wisedome, for having explord such deepe misteries of Nature, though even these discoveries of his are so silly, foolish and false, that nothing but his Lunacy can extenuate the crime of his arrogant ignorance. But ’tis a lamentation and horror, that in these dayes of the Gospell, Men should be found so presumptuously wicked, to studie and adhere to his and his masters [i.e., Epicurus] ridiculous, impious, execrable doctrines, reviving the foppish casuall dance of attoms, and deniing the Soveraigne Wisedome of God in the greate Designe of the whole Universe and every creature in it, and his eternall Omnipotence, exerting it selfe in the production of all things, according to his most wise and fixed purpose, and his most gratious, ever active Providence, upholding, ordering and governing the whole Creation, and conducting all that appeares most casuall to us and our narrow comprehensions, to the accomplishment of those just ends for which they were made. As by the study of these I grew in Light and Love, the little glory I had among some few of my intimate friends, for understanding this crabbed poet, became my shame, and I found I never understood him till I learnt to abhorre him, and dread a wanton dalliance with impious bookes. Then I reapd some profitt by it, for it shewd me that sencelesse superstitions drive carnall reason into Atheisme, which though Policy restreins some from avowing so impudently as this Dog, yet vast is their number, who make it a specious pretext within themselves, to thinke religion is nothing at all but an invention to reduce the ignorant vulgar into order and Government. My Philosophers taught me, by their owne instance, that unregenerate, unsanctified reason makes men more monstrous by their learning, then the most sottish bruitish idiots; while they employ the most excellent guifts of humane understanding, witt, and all the other noble endowments of the soule, as weapons against him that gave them. This gave me a dreadfull prospect of the misery of lapsed nature, whereby I saw, with sad compassion, the uncomfortable shadow of death wherein they consume their lives, that are allienated from the knowledge of God. I saw the insufficiency of humane reason (how greate an Idoll soever it is now become among the gowne-men) to arrive to any pure and simple Truth, with all its helps of Art and Studie. I learnt to hate all unsanctified excellence, if that impropriety of expression may be admitted, and to run out of my monstrous selfe, to seeke Light, Life, knowledge, tranquillity, rest, and whatever elce is requisite to make up a compleate blessednesse, and lasting felicity, in its only true and pure devine fountains. As one that, walking in the darke, had miraculously scapd a horrible precipice, by daylight coming back and discovering his late danger, startles and reviews it with affright, so did I, when I, in the mirrour of opposed truth and holinesse and blessednes, saw the ugly deformitie, and the desperate tendency of corrupted nature, in its greatest pretences, and having by rich grace scapd the shipwreck of my soule among those vaine Philosophers, who by wisedome knew not God, I could not but in charity sett up this seamarke, to warne incautious travellers, and leave a testimony, that those walkes of witt which poore vaineglorious schollars call the Muses groves, are enchanted thicketts, and while they tipple att their celebrated Helicon, they loose their lives, and fill themselves with poyson, drowning their spiritts in those pudled waters, and neglecting that healing spring of Truth, which only hath the vertue to restore and refresh sick humane life. To conclude, let none, that aspire to eternall happines, gaze too long, or too fixedly on that Monster, into which man by the sorcerie of the devill is converted, least he draw infection in att his eies, and be himselfe either metamorphosed into the most ugly shape, or stupified and hardned against all better impressions, as dayly examples too sadly instance.

But I say not this to your Lordship, though I leave it in your books, as an antidote against the poyson of it, for any novice who by chance might prie into it. Your Lordship hath skill to render that which in it selfe is poysonous, many wayes usefull and medicinall, and are not liable to danger by an ill booke, which I beseech your Lordship to conceale, as a shame I did never intend to boast, but now resigne to your Lordships comand, whose wisedome to make the defects and errors of my vainly curious youth pardonable, I relie on much more then my owne skill in searching out an apologie for them, and your Lordships benigne favour to me, I have so many wayes experiencd, that it would be greate ingratitude to doubt your Lordships protection against all the censures a booke might expose me to. And while I am assurd of that, I bid defiance to aniething that can be sayd against.

My Lord,

Your Lordships
most devoted obedient
humble servant


FINIS tail-piece from William Derham's 1726 edn., _Philosophical Experiments and Observations of the Late Eminent Dr. Robert Hooke_

Part I: Editor’s Introduction for Library Cat. No. HUTCH1675 pointer

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