Scholarly Breakthrough

A DISCOVERY BY JUNE SCHLUETER, Charles A. Dana Professor Emerita of English and former provost, and her husband, Paul Schlueter, is a breakthrough in literary scholarship.

The Schlueters discovered five unpublished poems by Mary Sidney Herbert (1561-1621), Countess of Pembroke, in a manuscript of English poems previously unnoticed by scholars. In effect, the discovery substantially enlarges the canon of extant original works by the most esteemed female poet of Elizabethan England.

The manuscript is a verse miscellany, created about 1641, which the Schlueters found in the Landesbibliothek und Murhardsche Bibliothek in Kassel, Germany.

In an essay in The Times Literary Supplement (July 23), the Schlueters discuss their reasons for believing they have found previously unknown works. The canon of extant original poems by Mary Sidney consists only of three or four poems, they note, none written later than around 1599. However, they write, citing remarks made by Sidney’s editors, “There is little doubt that the Countess wrote more than these few poems.” Comments by contemporaries of Sidney suggest that she produced a substantial body of work during the last two decades of her life. But, whatever the reason for the loss of these additional writings, no other poems by Sidney had surfaced until the Schlueters’ discovery.

“If we are correct in attributing five poems in that miscellany to Mary Sidney,” they write, “these would be the only extant examples of the later work of Elizabethan England’s most highly-regarded female poet.”

June Schlueter is the author of a new book, Shakespeare’s London in Continental Albums, which has been accepted for publication by the British Library. As Lafayette’s provost from 1993 to 2006, she oversaw many advancements in the College’s academic program. In 2005, the College dedicated a superb Tiffany stained-glass window in honor of her and Arthur J. Rothkopf ’55, who served as Lafayette’s 15th president from 1993 to 2005. The window depicts the death in 1586 of Sir Philip Sidney, Mary Sidney’s brother, at the Battle of Zutphen. Manufactured for Lafayette in 1899, it is installed in the Rothkopf Reading Room in Skillman Library.