To the extent that she is popularly known, Katherine Parr (1512–48) is the woman who survived King Henry VIII as his sixth and last wife. She merits far greater recognition, however, on several other fronts. Fluent in French, Italian, and Latin, Parr also began, out of necessity, to learn Spanish when she ascended to the throne in 1543. As Henry’s wife and queen of England, she was a noted patron of the arts and music and took a personal interest in the education of her stepchildren, Princesses Mary and Elizabeth and Prince Edward. Above all, Parr commands interest for her literary labors: she was the first woman to publish under her own name in English in England.
For this new edition, Janel Mueller has assembled the four publications attributed to Parr—Psalms or Prayers, Prayers or Meditations, The Lamentation of a Sinner, and a compilation of prayers and Biblical excerpts written in her hand—as well as her extensive correspondence, which is collected here for the first time. Mueller brings to this volume a wealth of knowledge of sixteenth-century English culture. She marshals the impeccable skills of a textual scholar in rendering Parr’s sixteenth-century English for modern readers and provides useful background on the circumstances of and references in Parr’s letters and compositions. Given its scope and ambition, Katherine Parr: Complete Works and Correspondence will be an event for the English publishing world and will make an immediate contribution to the fields of sixteenth-century literature, reformation studies, women’s writing, and Tudor politics.
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Janel Mueller is the William Rainey Harper Distinguished Service Professor Emerita in the Department of English Language and Literature and the College at the University of Chicago. She is coeditor of four volumes of the writings of Elizabeth I: Collected Works; Autograph Compositions and Foreign Language Originals; Translations, 1544–1589; and Translations, 1592–1598, all published by the University of Chicago Press.Review:
“One of the difficulties of studying Tudor and medieval women is the silence they have left. Medieval people did not write nearly as much as historians would wish, and medieval women hardly wrote at all. This is why a scholarly edition of Katherine Parr’s ‘Complete Works and Correspondence,’ edited by Janel Mueller, is such a joy. Here we have one of Henry VIII’s queens—the one who survived him—in her own words, making laws as regent of England, writing confessional prayers or short childish notes as a little girl. . . . Katherine Parr is one of the lesser known of Henry’s wives, far from the dramatic triangle of Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, but this collection of her writings will remind historians that Parr was an extraordinary woman of letters and passions.” (Philippa Gregory Los Angeles Times)
“Janel Mueller’s edition of Katherine Parr’s work is a major contribution to sixteenth-century studies and will be an indispensable source for anyone interested in Tudor politics and religious ideas. Above all, it is a testament to a remarkable woman, whose learning and character speak powerfully to us across the centuries.” (Linda Porter Literary Review)
"[T]his meticulous volume will prove vital to historians, literary scholars, and others interested in early modern women writers. It is unlikely to be superseded. Highly recommended."
(C. Baker Choice)
“[T]horough and compelling. . . . Mueller has added an exceptionally valuable book to the growing body of literature surrounding the life and works of Henry VIII’s sixth queen. Parr’s personal contributions to the working congruities of the English Reformation and Renaissance were undervalued for centuries but have finally found a growing list of historians who in reexamining those contributions have reset the historical record of the Tudor era.” (Susan E. James Renaissance Quarterly)
“Early modernists will be long indebted to Janel Mueller for her sumptuous edition of Katherine Parr’s Complete Works and Correspondence.” (Studies in English Literature 1500–1900)
“Scholars and researchers of the Tudor period will find a rich resource in Katherine Parr.” (Anglican and Episcopal History)
“In this much-needed and meticulously annotated edition of the devotional writings and correspondence of Katherine Parr, Janel Mueller recovers the voice of an important Tudor author whose writings have received little attention from readers over the centuries. The first woman to publish books in English under her own name, she engaged in self-revelatory reflection that offers unique insight into the mentality of an English queen. Learned in multiple languages, she appears to have molded the character of her stepdaughter who later reigned as Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen of England. Of particular interest within this exemplary edition are two documents written in Katherine Parr’s own hand, for which Professor Mueller provides old-spelling transcriptions that supplement the modernized texts of her complete oeuvre.”
(John N. King, The Ohio State University)
“There has been no full annotated edition of Katherine Parr’s works before and it is high time that we had one. This new edition is a huge accomplishment, and many scholars, from those interested in women’s studies to those exploring Tudor politics to religious historians, will want to consult it.”
(Anne Lake Prescott, Barnard College, Columbia University)
“Janel Mueller’s edition of the writings of Queen Katherine Parr makes a perfect bookend to the earlier edition of the writings of Queen Elizabeth I, who owed much, as this superbly collected volume shows, to the complicated example of her brave and prudent stepmother.”
(Maureen Quilligan, Duke University)
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