To Althea, from Prison

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Richard Lovelace.

To Althea, from Prison is a poem written by Richard Lovelace in 1642. The poem is one of Lovelace's best-known works, and its final stanza's first line ("Stone walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars a cage") is often quoted. Lovelace wrote the poem while imprisoned in Gatehouse Prison for petitioning to have the Clergy Act 1640 annulled.[1]

Althea's identity is unknown. "She may even have been a product of Lovelace's imagination. However, evidence suggests she was a woman named Lucy Sacheverell."[1]

The poem is quoted in the sixth chapter of Charlotte Brontë's novel Villette, and may have inspired the scenario of Emily Brontë's much-admired poem The Prisoner.


The poem has been set to music by the British folk group Fairport Convention with music by Dave Swarbrick and features on their album Nine. It has also been recorded by the folk group Three Pressed Men on their first album Daddy Fox as well as by the Churchfitters on their album New Tales for Old.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b To Althea, From Prison - A Study Guide