Explore the boundaries between public and private spheres in Order and Disorder.

Dena Goodman claims that the public sphere is a dimension of the private [and that] the false opposition between them can be collapsed 1. She observes these apparent opposing binaries possess a great deal of overlap. Most aspects of the public life court, religion, law are sub-textually present but inevitably only as

comments by Hutchinson, acquiring a private inclination. Defining the private and public spheres is not a straightforward dissection. We can extract their meaning as home vs external life, individual vs societal values, or religion vs court. But Hutchinson does not provide such polemic implementations of these spherical constructions; rather she creates a chaotic interaction of the two. Focused on truth, she endeavours not to embellish with human inventions 2, but permits fragments of truth from her private life to seep through the explicit public sphere, manifesting most visibly in her family life, religious belief, derision of court, and ambiguity over the female role in society.

Greer observes that the last 11 cantos continue in the Virgilian/Biblical epic mode and are less doctrinal than psychological 3. From this point, with the Hebrew family begun 4, the text becomes more family-centric, focusing on the private struggles and endeavours of Abraham s blood line rather than of mankind as a whole. Through this public face of the poem, elements of her private life appear. For example, the passage when Rebecca meets Isaac runs very true to Genesis 24; read side by side the only prominent difference is Rebecca s emotions, feeling sorrow

at first, then chillness

begot by virgin fears


as she approaches Isaac.

Hutchinson was put in a similar situation by her mother and possibly here she displaces onto Rebecca her own distress towards a series of arranged matches 7. This is not the only time when Hutchinson uses Rebecca to enact passages outside of Genesis; when Jacob is exiled, his dearest mother s farewell is another addition by Hutchinson, perhaps drawing upon her experience of losing a child in 1647, relating her unspoken goodbye. However it is Rebecca who dies, inverting the parting perhaps representing how Hutchinson felt.
D.Goodman, Public Sphere and Private Life , p2 L.Hutchinson, Order and Disorder (Preface), p3 (subsequent reference: OD, [canto].[line]) 3 G.Greer, Horror like Thunder , p7 4 OD, 10.116 5 OD, 16.203 6 OD, 16.240 7 D.Norbrook, Oxford DNB, p1
2 1

Page 1 of 6

When Hagar and Ishmael are outcast, again Hutchinson s private life enters the text. In 1674-5 Norbrook claims she had family worries, with one son mortally ill and great [financial] difficulties 8. Hagar s thirst is also Hutchinson s dry finances, and the question could I prolong his day 9, is pleading for both their sons. Moreover Hutchinson herself experienced exile when her mother s second marriage ended in separation and she was shuttled between different, and frequently discordant, branches of the family complaint of Sarah's marriage-privilege dispute
11 10

. Hagar s earlier

may have been directed at Hutchinson s mother. By saying

her glowing portrait of [Colonel Hutchinson s] life is better understood as an autobiographical account of her feelings than as a realistic portrayal of him

, Porterfield illuminates techniques which Order and Disorder

similarly uses. Narrow gaps appear in the public narrative of Genesis, into which Hutchinson inserts small glimpses of her private struggles, expounding not on the events but the emotions. Private and public are not cordoned off from each other, but interlinked and codependent.

In Order and Disorder, religion is presented with a strong Calvinist inclination. God s word is final and dissension results in harsh consequences: a venomous speech declares the Earth dwellers drownd

I will with its wicked

, causing with chokéd carcasses the sea [to grow] black


. Neither does he allow second

chances, for when Lot s wife disobeys God she is immediately turned into a salt monument of her own fault

. Hutchinson believed the purity of religion was not to be tainted by anything. Norbrook summarizes

her motive was to seek better impressions from only true and pure devine fountaine

. Porterfield sees

that Puritanism was not only [Hutchinson s] context and subject but [her] medium as well , as she writes with the humility and self-control that Puritans followed

. Both critics see Hutchinson s close reproduction

of Genesis, which offers augmentation with few embellishments, marginal references throughout proving her

DNB, p2 OD, 14.368 10 DNB, p1 11 OD, 14.359 12 A.Porterfield, Women's Attraction to Puritanism , p201 13 OD, 7.249-50 14 OD, 7.486 15 OD, 13.166 16 Norbrook, A Devine Original, quoting LH 17 Porterfield, p202


Page 2 of 6

foundation in scripture. When she does stray she provides extremely dense references to other areas of the bible, particularly in the first five cantos, as equal proof that she is not playing with the foolish and impious inventions of Pagan Poets and Philosophers

(e.g. 5.69-104). Whilst Puritanism is very much a part of the

public world, it is also a private belief of Hutchinson's, so it seems true that "private people come together as a public"19 and conveying a public notion intimates her inner beliefs. Even when voicing no opinion, her strict adherence to scripture imparts her Calvinist approach: here boundaries between public and private religion merge.

The public sphere includes the court and monarchy. Greer observes occasional political asides


, and

Norbrook devotes an entire section of his introduction to them. He notes Hutchinson s focus on Cain, who exiled by God establishes the Worldly State

which is in endless struggle


with the Holy State. Her

private anti-royalist opinion, permeating the public sphere, predicts that Monarchy s restoréd glory shall expire

. She shows princes were with vulgar prisoners chained


in the Great Flood, expressing that stature

does not abate God s judgement. Then in the post flood world Noah sets a precedent for succeeding rulers: the world s monarch, here lies drunk

. This passage berates monarchy for mak[ing] themselves cheap and

later, shows Monarchy s egotistical, rash condemnation of Canaan26. Hutchinson intrinsically connects the spheres through her attempt to contain her private attack on public monarchy within the context of Genesis: boundaries here dissolve as the public sphere is assailed by her dissentient private commentary. The source of antagonism between Holy and Worldly states can also be defined as king-craft religion



. Perhaps then the courtly sphere rules public life and the religious sphere, the private. *



Norbrook, A Devine Original, TLS, p13 (quoting Hutchinson) Habermas, Structural Transformation, p27 (quoted Goodman, p5) 20 Horror like thunder, p8 21 Norbrook, The poem and its Contexts , OD, p xxxviii 22 OD, Intro, p xlvii 23 OD, 8.15 24 OD, 15.199 25 OD, 9.187 26 OD, 9.211 27 Memoirs, p64

Page 3 of 6

Public doctrine dictates thy husband shall thy ruler be absence of any self-consciousness about gender


. Scott-Baumann describes Hutchinson with an

. Spending her own life devoted to John, Hutchinson

believed in female subordination: not only does she show Eve made from and for Adam, but when she strays from him she is first and easily overthrown

. Additionally, God s chosen prophets are all male, women

featuring as little more than child-bearers. When a greater role is given, such as with Rebecca or Leah, they are shown to pervert men s will. Or as Greer sees it, women are frequently presented as prime movers of evil


However, female subordination existent in the public sphere is implicitly questioned by Hutchinson s private opinion. Poole argues that Hutchinson from apologizing for Eve s weakness her firm protection
33 32

subdues herself to convention

but is actually


. She excuses Eve and supports women by blaming Adam s failure as

, comparing the devil then [to] lewd men now

, showing that Adam can no full joy

without a second find

, and illustrating mankind s dependency . Furthermore, women are not tested or

punished by God as men are: Abraham s faith [is] sufficiently tried brand[ed] to all succeeding time because Ham scoff[s]

with sacrifice


; and Canaanites are

. This double standard within the text for the

genders can be understood in two ways: firstly that men are the important figures and so God tests them; secondly, Hutchinson s private statement: women are already Godly and do not require testing. Thus Abraham is tested instead of Sarah, a virtuous wife [is] desired

by men, and female manipulators go unpunished.

Developing this, we look to Rebecca: engineering her sons she encourages the preordained reverseprimogeniture ( the eldest must the younger s servant be the angels that [Gods] work performed
41 40

) and she fulfills God s will. Perhaps more notably,

, called Divine Justice , are females. Hutchinson believes women

are culpable for original sin and thus are punished with subservience, but she insinuates that this consequence
OD, 5.125 Scott-Baumann, 665 30 OD, 4.170 31 Horror like thunder, p8 32 W.Poole, Milton and the Idea of the Fall, p101 33 OD, 4.171-2 34 OD, 4.173 35 OD, 3.336 36 OD, 15.153 37 OD, 15.115 38 OD, 10.283-4 39 OD, 16.12 40 OD, 17.140 41 OD, 13.185-7
29 28

Page 4 of 6

does not mean they are lesser. By foregrounding their passionate desires superiority and importance of men, Hutchinson tries to mask


and continually reaffirming the

her re-workings

: that subordination is

choice, not reality. She practices subordination privately in marriage, but as Hirst perceives, insistence on her own wifely submissiveness was strenuous

. So although she never makes any bold, distinguishable

statements about gender, her ambiguous arguments question public treatment of women and cultivate the intangible private notion that whilst deserving punishment, women are worthy as an equal mate


Overall, it seems that Hutchinson s apparent focus on the public sphere cleverly gives voice to her private views and experiences of life s narrative. There is much overlap between the spectrums: handling the public subject of monarchy, Hutchinson cannot contain her private disdain; detailing the families in Genesis, she adds her own emotions; and whilst condoning the accepted belief of female subordination, she ambiguously defends their equal societal value. Her dogged adherence to public scripture, highlights areas of unfounded digression in the private sphere. Thus unlike contemporaries such as Milton, her text is not dismissible as untruth or wholly fictional. When we inquire why she dresses her private view in a public disguise, we can speculate that it is to avoid mordacious offense, for protection from societal scrutiny, or because this was her Puritanical learning. But her narrative s circumnavigation around gender draws our attention. It is here she illuminates the biggest clash of public and private, for in putting both forward, her poem itself is in conflict. Hutchinson so successfully suffuses her text with putative female subordination that her hint of women being closer to God is received with disbelief. She entangles her biblical epic with strands of the public and private spheres, merging their boundaries, to provide not only textual validity, but to disguise her true belief; so that her private opinion, without offending the unsuspecting public world, will only converse with subtler readers.

Word Count: 1618
42 43

OD, 5.126 Scott-Baumann, 665 44 Hirst, p682 45 OD, 3.233

Page 5 of 6

Bibliography: GOODMAN, Dena. Public Sphere and Private Life: Toward a Synthesis of Current Historiographical approaches to the Old Regime , History and Theory, Vol. 31.1, pp. 1-20. Blackwell: 1992 [accessed via JSTOR] GREER, Germaine. Horror like Thunder , London Review of Books, Vol. 23.12. 2001. [downloaded .PDF file via website: <www.lrb.co.uk/v23/n12/gree01_.html>, accessed 12th March 2010] HIRST, Derek. Remembering a Hero: Lucy Hutchinson s Memoirs of her Husband , English Historical Review, Vol. 119, No. 482, pp. 682-691. 2004 [accessed via The Portal] HUTCHINSON, Lucy; Ed Norbrook, David. Order and Disorder. Blackwell: 2001 NORBROOK, David. A Devine Original , TLS, p13-15. 19th March 1999 NORBROOK, David. Hutchinson [Née Apsley], Lucy (1620 1681),Poet And Biographer , Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press: 2004 [accessed via The Portal] POOLE, William. Milton and the Idea of the Fall. Cambridge: 2005 PORTERFIELD, Amanda. Women's Attraction to Puritanism , Church History, Vol.60.2, pp. 196-209. Cambridge University Press: 1991 [accessed via JSTOR] SCOTT-BAUMANN, Elizabeth. Paper Frames : Lucy Hutchinson s Elegies and the Seventeenth-Century Country House Poem , Literature Compass, pp. 664 676. Blackwells: 2007 [accessed via The Portal]

Page 6 of 6

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful