Mary Oxlie

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Mary Oxlie (fl. 1616) would seem to have been an early 17th-century Scottish or Northumbrian coterie poet, though little is known of her beyond one attribution.

"Mary Oxlie of Morpet" is credited as the author of a commendatory poem of fifty-two lines, "To William Drummond of Hawthornden," which prefaced Edward Phillips' 1656 edition of his brother-in-law's poems. In 1675 in a section of his Theatrum poetarum called "Women among the moderns eminent for poetry," Phillips describes "Mary Morpeth" as a "Scotch Poetess" who wrote "many other things in Poetry" (259) apart from the dedication, though none of these other poems are now known and the 1656 ascription identifies her as Northumbrian. The original date of the poem is conjectural though from internal evidence it would seem to have been 1616. There is stronger indication that Oxlie, along with other women such as Anna Hume, was part of the Hawthornden literary circle: Phillip's terms her "a friend of the Poet Drummond" (259).

The poem opens with formulaic humility:

I Never rested on the Muses bed,
Nor dipt my Quill in the Thessalian Fountaine,
My rustick Muse was rudely fostered,
And flies too low to reach the double mountaine. (1-4)

The second verse clarifies that this "rusticity" is due in large part to the particular situation of the woman writer:

Perfection in a Woman's worke is rare
From an untroubled mind should Verses flow;
My discontents makes mine too muddy show;
And hoarse encumbrances of household care
Where these remaine,[clarification needed] the muses ne're repaire. (6-10)

Despite these caveats, the poem itself is generally agreed to be an accomplished pastoral that offers insight into the coterie culture of the period.

Works[edit]

  • "To William Drummond of Hawthornden." Poems by that most famous wit William Drummond of Hawthornden. Ed. Edward Phillips (1656).

Resources[edit]

  • Dunnigan, S. M. "Oxlie, Mary (fl. 1616)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. 20 Jan. 2007.
  • Greer, Germaine, et al., eds. "Mary Oxlie of Morpeth." Kissing the Rod: an anthology of seventeenth-century women's verse. Farrar Straus Giroux, 1988. 79-82.