The Autobiography of Anne Halkett

Opening Fragment and Preface

Anne Halkett's and Simon Couper's prefaces1

[On the second leaf on the mutilated manuscript]: his word. And since wee have an advocate with the Father of Christ the righteous, hee will plead for mee wherin I am inocentt and pardon wherin I have beene guiltty; for God sentt nott his Son into the world to condemne the world, butt that the world through him might bee saved, in whom we have boldnese and adrese with confidence by the faith of him. And that is the reason why I faint nott under tribulation, for there is noe sin that ever I have been guilty of in my whole life butt I repent with as much sincearity as I seeke pardon. And I suplicate for grace and live uprightly here with the same fervor that I seeke for heaven here affter. And if the Lord sees fitt to continue mee still in the furnace of affliction, his blesed will bee done so that I may bee one of his chosen.2

'This Manuscript'

written by Anne, Daughter of Mr. Thomas Murray, Provost of Eton and Preceptor of Charles Ist. She was Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Henrietta Maria, and married Sir James Halkett, Knight of Pitfirren.3


Couper, 1701 Life, from The Preface:

[unpaginated 7th page of book] It's reasonable to expect that the Publisher should give account, what warrant he can avouch for his Narrative: It will abundantly, he thinks, Satisfie the Reader to know that it is a short Extract, drawn out of large memoires or Diaries, Written by the Worthy Lady . . . she was reviewing the several Periods of her Life, observing and recording, what ever might be of after-use, to preserve . . .

Couper, 1701 Life, from the very last lines of the catalogue of her writings:

[p. 64] There are besides the forementioned, about thirty stitched Books, some in Folio, some in Quarto, most of them 10 or 12 sheets, all containing occasional Meditations.4

[1 From Loftis, John, ed. Memoirs of Anne, Lady Halkett, and Ann, Lady Fanshawe (Oxford University Press, 1979), p. 11, hereinfater referred to as Loftis, Memoirs. Loftis describes: "The first leaf of the manuscript, on which only one page of text was written, is missing; the second -- and first surviving leaf -- is mutilated, and a portion of it cannot be read consecutively or completely. However, enough of the leaf survives to reveal the topics Lady Halkett wrote about and to convey important information. The introductory section of the Memoirs was devotional in nature. The following is the surviving portion of it." EM]

[2 Loftis writes: "This is followed by an extra space before the next paragraph." The statement is written in "an early hand but not Lady Halkett's." EM]

[3I add: not only has the opening section of Anne's memoir been destroyed; so too is the ending missing. We cannot be sure the beginning was wholly in devotional at all. It does not seem probable that it was. Something specific and historical about Anne Murray was revealed as well as why she wrote the memoir; ptherwise, why destroy it? We also cannot know how long the original manuscript was or how much was destroyed from its last part. Nor why except that some relative or friend felt it endangered the reputation of someone.

It's often implied or said that the opening framing of Anne's autobiography (two pages) was wholly devotional (Loftis 9), but the Halkett family preserved the vast sea of Anne's exemplary meditations on religious texts; what was spared from the first two pages was only one single devotional paragraph. All else was destroyed, and while we cannot invent arguments or stories from what is not there, the strong probability in this case is that if something was destroyed, it was destroyed because the destroyer found it offensive or thought it presented a risk to the financial future or would hurt the respectability of the family or someone connected to it. Sara Mendellson argues that it's "no accident that three-quarters of the [texts that survive are] devotional in nature: families saved piety and did not publish something "liable" to be "embarrassing." See Sara Heller Mendelson, "Stuart women's diaries and occasional memoirs," Women in English Society, 1500-1880, ed. Mary Prior (London & NY: Metheun, 1985):184-86.

What interests me is the continual note of pain and distress the paragraph ends on: "if the Lord sees fitt to continue mee still in the furnace of affliction". EM]

[4 Couper, 1701 Life, unpaginated 7th and 8th leaves and p. 64. Couper used these meditations and the diaries to fill out the last quarter of his 1701 Life. EM]

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