Lady Margaret Hoby

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Margaret, Lady Hoby née Dakins (1571–1633) was an English diarist of the Elizabethan period. Hers is the earliest known diary written by a woman in English. She had a Puritan upbringing. Her diary reflects much religious observance, but gives little insight into the writer's private feelings.[1]


Margaret Dakins was born before 10 February 1571 (the date of her baptism),[1] the only child of a landed gentleman, Arthur Dakins (c. 1517–1592) of Linton, East Riding of Yorkshire,[2] and his wife, Thomasine Gye (died 1613).

Margaret was educated in the household of Katherine Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon, a devout Protestant with Puritan leanings, who ran a school for young gentlewomen. Penelope and Dorothy Devereux, the daughters of Margaret's future father-in-law, Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex, also attended the school. As an heiress, Margaret was a valuable commodity on the Elizabethan marriage market.[3] Her first husband was Walter Devereux, the younger son of Essex, and a court favourite of Queen Elizabeth I. The manor and parsonage of Hackness near Scarborough in the North Riding were purchased for the couple, and remained Margaret's property after the death of Devereux at the siege of Rouen in 1591.

Three months later, Margaret was courted unsuccessfully by Sir Thomas Posthumous Hoby, son of the translator and English ambassador to France Sir Thomas Hoby (p. 75).[3] She married at that juncture Sir Thomas Sidney, the younger brother of Philip Sidney and Robert Sidney, but after Sidney died in 1595, she next married Hoby after all, on 9 August 1596. They lived at Hackness near Scarborough, but had no children. Margaret spent much of her time there in the company of a confessor, Richard Rhodes. She went round tending the sick and infirm in her own community, while running her household and recording detailed household accounts. The activities reported in her diary reflect profound religious beliefs.[4]

The diary[edit]

Margaret Hoby's diary – the earliest known by an Englishwoman (1599–1605) – gives a notable account of the domestic disciplines of Elizabethan puritanism, along with the religious exercises and prayers for the whole household and the private prayers and reading, in which she was guided by her chaplain, Richard Rhodes. It was written as a pious exercise, and as such, presaged a school of religious soul-searching in diary form that continued into the 18th century.[5]

The diary also shed light on the management of the estate in her husband's frequent absences: supervising and paying servants, sorting linen, playing music, gardening, giving medical advice and treating neighbours and tenants. It tells little about the writer's private feelings. References to Sir Thomas Hoby are formal, though Margaret was strong-minded enough to resist until 1632 his request that she make over her Hackness and other properties to him and his heirs. She had no children herself.[1] As with the diary of Samuel Pepys later in the 17th century, the day's entry often ends with the phrase, "And so to bed."[6]


Margaret Hoby visited York and London several times during the years covered by her diary, but it makes little reference to public events. Margaret died on 4 September 1633 and was buried on 6 September in the chancel of St Peter's Church, Hackness, where her husband erected an alabaster monument to her. It survives, but St Margaret's Chapel in Harwood Dale, which Hoby also built to her memory, is in ruins.[1] Her husband died in 1640 leaving his manor at Hackness to the son of his first cousin named John Syndenham, whose son, Sir John Posthumous Syndenham, erected a monument to Hoby in Hackness Church. There is also a memorial window to him in All Saints' Church, Bisham, Berkshire.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d Paul Slack, "Hoby , Margaret, Lady Hoby (bap. 1571, d. 1633)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, UK: OUP, 2004) Retrieved 23 August 2016, pay-walled.
  2. ^ This may have been the vanished village of Linton in the SE of the parish of Wintringham, represented on modern maps only by Linton Wold Farm, but still described in 1835 as "Linton, a hamlet in the parish of Wintringham, wapentake of Buckrose, East Riding of the county of York, 7 miles E. from New Malton." Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England, 1835. Quoted on Genuki site: Retrieved 2 October 2011. However, it was described only as a farm in the seventh, 1848 edition: Retrieved 2 October 2011.
  3. ^ a b Freedman, Sylvia: Poor Penelope: Lady Penelope Rich. An Elizabethan Woman (Abbotsbrook, Bucks: Kensal Press, 1983, p. 31. ISBN 0-946041-20-2; ODNB entry.
  4. ^ University of Victoria, Internet Shakespeare site: Retrieved 24 September 2011; ODNB entry.
  5. ^ Diaries (journals). In: The Cambridge Guide.
  6. ^ Hoby [née Dakins], Margaret 1571–1633. In: The Cambridge Guide.
  7. ^ Historic England. "Church of All Saints  (Grade II*) (1303618)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 30 September 2018.