Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

Monday, March 9, 2015

Jane Lumley: A Literary First

Jane Fitzalan, Lady Lumley (buried 9 March 1576/77)

Jane Lumley,
portrait dated 1563
Jane Fitzalan Lumley's translation of Euripides' tragedy, Iphigenia at Aulis, which she probably completed in 1555, was presented to her father as a gift--notably, it is the earliest translation into English of a Greek play.

There are few specific dates for Lumley's life--she was probably born in 1537, and the year of her death is variously given as 1576 or 1577.

Although the date of her death is not clear, the parish register of Cheam notes that Jane Lumley was buried on 9 March 1576/77: "Johanne Lumley, sepult. 9 Mar. 1576–7."

In 1596, her husband erected a tomb for her in the Lumley chapel, constructed in the churchyard of St. Dunstan's parish church (Cheam). There Jane Lumley and her three children, all of whom died in infancy, were interred. Since her burial seems to be the one certain date in her life, I'm posting about her accomplishments today.   

The daughter of Henry Fitzalan, earl of Arundel, an important Tudor statesman, diplomat, scholar, and patron, Jane and her sister Mary received an excellent humanist education. Jane Fitzalan's marriage to John Lumley, c. 1551/2, provided her with access to the extraordinary Lumley library and paired her with a partner who shared her interest in classical literature. 
A detail from Lumley's tomb,
Lumley Chapel

Today Lumley's translation is available (along with plays by Mary Sidney and Elizabeth Carey) in a Penguin edition, which is, unfortunately, out of print, though used copies are available. Lumley's Iphigenia is also available in volume 2 of Donald W. Foster's Women's Works, which covers literature written between 1550 and 1603. For an excellent analysis of Lumley's work as translation, see Marta Straznicky's Privacy, Playreading, and Women's Closet Drama, 1550-1700.

Lumley Chapel,
photo by Stephen Craven