Elizabeth Jane Weston
Elizabeth Jane Weston (Latin: Elisabetha Ioanna Westonia; Czech: Alžběta Johana Vestonie) (November 2, 1582 in London – November 23, 1612 in Prague) was an English-Czech poet, mostly known for her Neo-Latin poetry. She had the unusual distinction for a woman of the time of having her poetry published. The full works, published in two volumes in 1608, were entitled Parthenica (meaning Maidenly Writings). The subject matter varied between idyllic reveries, odes to Emperor Rudolf II (originally sent to him with the intention of convincing him to lend money), odes to herself, and anti-Semitic diatribes.
She was born to Joanna Cooper (June 23, 1563 in Chipping Norton - 1606) and her first husband, John Weston, about whom almost nothing is known. The father died when Elizabeth was six months old. Her stepfather, Edward Kelley, was a well-known alchemist. Kelley, along with John Dee, was employed in the court of Rudolf II, which resulted in the family moving to Bohemia: to Třeboň (until 1588), Jílové (since 1591) and when Kelley was imprisoned to Most due to financial difficulties (see debtor's prison). After Kelley's death, the family moved to Prague.
Her command of languages was remarkable, being fluent in at least five: Czech, English, German, Italian, and Latin.
In 1603, she married a lawyer, Johnnes Leo. Together, they had seven children, before she died in childbirth in 1612. She is buried in St. Thomas' Church in Malá Strana, the so-called Lesser Town of Prague.
A collection of her poetry, edited and translated by Donald Cheney and Brenda M. Hosington, was published by the University of Toronto Press in 2000.
Works about her
- Susan Bassnett: "Revising a Biography: A New Interpretation of the Life of Elizabeth Jane Weston (Westonia), Based on Her Autobiographical Poem on the Occasion of the Death of Her Mother." Cahiers Elisabethains 37 (1990): 1-8.
- John Dee: Interdisciplinary Studies in English Renaissance Thought (International Archives of the History of Ideas), Stephen Clucas (Editor), 2006, chapter 13 by Susan Bassnett: "Edward Kelley’s Family in the Writings of John Dee", p. 285 - 294.
- Louise Schleiner: "Tudor and Stuart Women Writers", Indiana University Press, 1994, p. 96 - 106.
- Engraving on her tomb states she was born in London in 1582. Later biographer suggests birth year 1581 and Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire as birthplace (Schleiner, footnote 27 on page 263, Clucas, p. 291).
- Clucas, p. 288
- Schleiner, p. 97
- Radio Praha interview with Susan Bassnett on the poetess
- Collected Writings of Elizabeth Jane Weston
- Parthenica (at CAMENA)