Anne Locke. A Meditation of a Penitent Sinner: Anne Locke's Sonnet Sequence with Locke's Epistle. Edited and with an Introduction by Kel Morin-Parsons. Waterloo, Ontario: North Waterloo Academic Press, 1997. 94pp. ISBN 0 921075 19 7.
Anne Vaughan Lock. The Collected Works of Anne Vaughan Lock. Ed. Susan Felch. Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, v. 185. Tempe, Arizona: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies; Renaissance English Text Society, 1999. xc+273pp. ISBN 0 86698 227 2.
Robert C. Evans
Auburn University at Montgomery
Evans, Robert C. "Review of Anne Locke, A Meditation of a Penitent Sinner, and The Collected Works of Anne Vaughan Lock." Early Modern Literary Studies 6.2 (September, 2000): 8.1-5 <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/06-2/evansrev.htm]>.
In the space of a few years, Anne Vaughan Lock(e) has gone from being an almost totally ignored writer to seeming one of the most intriguing women authors of sixteenth-century England. Some cynics might contend that Lock is now receiving attention merely because of her gender, but those cynics would be mostly wrong. Lock has benefitted, to be sure, from our recent and generally healthy interest in practically anything written by Renaissance women. Thanks to the efforts of such scholarship, we now know (or at least have the prospect of knowing) much more about a huge segment of the early modern population than was true even a few decades ago. However, whereas many women writers (like most male writers) are of greater interest as historical persons than as accomplished authors, Lock is a different case altogether: it seems fair to claim that she composed some of the best religious poetry of her time and some of the finest sonnets to appear during the English Renaissance. Our previous neglect of her powerful verse therefore seems both astonishing and even somewhat embarrassing, and we should all be very grateful for the work of such scholars as Kel Morin-Parsons and Susan Felch for making Lock's writings more accessible in every sense of that word.
Of the two editions presented here, the one by Kel Morin-Parsons is the simpler and shorter. It prints Lock's sonnets in old-spelling and very lightly annotated texts. These are preceded by a clear, sensible introduction to the poet's life and times. A particularly useful feature of this edition is its annotated bibliography of secondary studies. One hopes that this edition will soon be reissued as a cheap paperback for students or, even better, placed on the Internet once its initial print run sells out. Morin-Parsons' book is the sort that is likely to prove inviting and unintimidating to readers whose main interest is the poetry itself rather than detailed textual scholarship. It performs a highly useful service and is the pioneering product of one of the first academics to appreciate the full significance of Lock's achievement.
The edition offered by Susan Felch, on the other hand, is likely to remain the standard scholarly edition for the foreseeable future. It is a book that any serious collection of Renaissance verse will need to possess. Felch's volume exemplifies the extremely high scholarly standards that have come to typify the works produced by MRTS under the auspices of the Renaissance English Text Society. Thus, Felch offers meticulously edited texts, an exceptionally thorough and lengthy introduction, copious textual and explanatory notes, and a very helpful index and bibliography. This is the sort of nuts-and-bolts scholarship which can sometimes seem far less glamorous than theoretical speculation or iconoclastic interpretation, but which will probably prove of far more permanent value.
Felch first offers a thorough and well-documented survey of Lock's life and times. She seems familiar with all the relevant primary and secondary materials, and her style is as clear as her procedures are painstaking and patient. It would be hard to ask for a better introduction to the poet than the one Felch provides. Similarly, her discussions of the prose works and poems are also careful and extremely competent, and one especially welcomes her explicit attention to the syntactical skill of Lock's prose. Also of special value are her discussions of the links between the prose and the poetry, while her comments on technical matters (such as textual variants and issues of printing) are both lucid and detailed. Finally, the book is also punctuated with a series of illuminating photographs, charts, and tables. Obviously, much labour and love went into the production of this volume; both traits are apparent on every page.
- It would be helpful if Professor Felch might now turn her attentions to producing modernized versions of the old-spelling texts she has so carefully edited. Lock is a writer whose topics and skill (especially in her poetry) make her works of great potential interest to a non-academic audience, and one can easily imagine a modern-spelling paperback selling well to non-specialist readers. Anything that can be done to call Lock's wonderful verse to the attention of a broad readership seems worth doing, and Professor Felch is obviously the person best qualified to do it. For what she has done already, however, she merits our great gratitude and praise.
Responses to this piece intended for the Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editor at L.M.Hopkins@shu.ac.uk.
© 2000-, Lisa Hopkins (Editor, EMLS).