‘A Mirror of Womanhood’: Katherine and Philip Stubbes

This short biography was an early modern best-seller, and this 1612 edition was just one of at least thirty printings of the text between 1591 and 1690. Written by the pamphleteer Philip Stubbes, it is an account of the godly life and death of his wife, Katherine, who had died aged just nineteen. There is little doubt that the primary purpose of this text is to hold Katherine up as an inspiration for others. Its depiction of her good and godly death, including a final battle against Satan, has overtones of the ars moriendi, or ‘art of dying’, a medieval genre that was frequently adapted and adopted for Protestant audiences. It includes a lengthy confession of faith given by ‘this blessed seruant of God’, further driving home the evangelical purpose of the text. Accordingly, this depiction of a ‘Myrrour of womanhood’ is necessarily idealised. Yet the framing and impact of this text relies upon the impression of intimacy; this very public rehearsal of a private life and death is a reminder that in commemoration the generic and specific can happily co-mingle. Established forms of ‘good’ lives and deaths could provide patterns for remembering and reshaping the narratives of individuals. CL

Philip Stubbes, A christall glasse for christian women : Containing a most excellent discourse, of the godly life and christian death of Mistresse Katherine Stubbes (London: E. Allde, 1612), title page.

CUL: Bb*.11.22(E), item 8

Further Reading

Ian Green, Print and Protestantism in Early Modern England (Oxford, 2000), pp. 415-16.

Alexandra Walsham, ‘Stubbes , Philip (b. c.1555, d. in or after 1610)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2004), http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/26737.

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