|This article does not cite any sources. (September 2009)|
Betty Foy is a character appearing in William Wordsworth's poem "The Idiot Boy" and is the mother of the title character. In the poem, Betty is caring for a sick neighbor; in desperation, she sends her mentally handicapped son Johnny on horseback to fetch a doctor from the nearby town. When he has not returned after several hours, she grows frantic and sets out to find him. Eventually, she discovers him near a waterfall, his pony feeding. She leads him home and on the way they are met by the sick neighbor, who has, as it were, worried herself back to wellness and found the strength to help look for the boy.
Betty Foy is one of a number of female figures in the 1798 Lyrical Ballads; she is, perhaps, a foil to the grieving and guilty mother of The Thorn. But, certainly, she is one of the figures in the volume who best exemplifies the "romantic" qualities of Wordsworth's first mature lyrics. Her simple and strong emotions, strong sense of duty and especially of responsibility to the people in her life, are clear instances of traditional country life as Wordsworth imagined it. The last name, "Foy," may be a reference to faith; this is an old romance name, as for example Edmund Spenser's pagan knight Sansfoy in The Faerie Queene.