A copy of a paper written by the late Dutchess of York, &c.

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A copy of a paper written by the late Dutchess of York, &c.

Date:1686?

Rights: Folger Bd.w. C2942. Used by permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

 

This is the one of the print editions of Anne Hyde's declaration of conversion. As the title indicates, this paper was published posthumously. The Folger Shakespeare Library's approximate date for this copy places the appearance of this edition some 15 years after Anne's death. This was just a year after Charles II's death and James II's coronation. However, an alternate print edition with changes to capitalization in the title ('L' in "late") also appears. Early English Books Online cites Wing's date of this alternate edition of 1670, the year of Anne's conversion. The Huntington Library, which holds the document that is the source of the EEBO microfiche scan, now dates the alternate edition to circa 1686. Either the Huntington revised their dating of the document since Wing's original survey, or EEBO has mistakenly dated the alternate print edition. It seems likely that Wing's date used by EEBO is informed by dating that closes the paper, but does not actually reflect the year of print publication.

Why produce a print edition of a paper Anne intended for circulation among friends? A Catholic himself, James' faith drew notice from the public. While historian Steve Pincus describes James' faith as relatively immaterial in regards to his initial public acceptance as king, it would later play a large role in the outcomes of the Glorious Revolution. A print edition of Anne's paper would remind the public of James' Catholicism, but it would also allow Anne's reasoning to speak from beyond the grave. Anne's conversion narrative is complex in that it does not depend solely on a moment of epiphany, but rather documents a process of conversion. This process is intellectual: she reads books and conducts interviews with the clergy. She even admits (in what may only be a humble gesture) to not fully comprehending the Bible she consults. It is only after "these discourses" that Anne experiences "the most terrible Agonies of the World within my self" and reveals to a priest her designs to convert to Catholicism. In other words, Anne's conversion narrative is informed not just by the pangs of the soul, but by the nourishment of the mind. She seeks out theological information from a variety of sources, develops a conclusion, and this inspires her conversion. It is a rather logical process for a genre defined by emotion.

This printed edition highlights the almost academic nature of Anne's conversion by providing marginal notes that identify the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Worcester whom Anne interviews. Whether these men appreciate being paratextually identified is another matter. By Anne's account these Bishops fail to keep Anne within the Church of England and one confesses that had he been born a Catholic, he would have remained so because turning your back upon the Church in which one is baptised invited "scandal." By 1686, Archbishop of Canterbury Gilbert Sheldon was already dead, as was Bishop of Worcester Walter Blanford (d. 1675). If the approximate dating of the print edition is to be believed, both Bishops were free from facing any mortal reprisals for their inability to stop Anne's conversion. However, the editor of this print edition still believed they should be identified. Whether this was out of condemnation or mere historical curiosity is not revealed in this edition, which refrains from any commentary, instead presenting Anne's writing in what can only be assumed is an accurate transcription.

See a scribal copy most likely adapted from this print edition.

Click here for the source image of this document.