“HOUSE AND CHILDREN”: LADY BRILLIANA HARLEY AND THE EXPANSION OF DOMESTIC AGENCY

Open Access
Author:
Covelli, Julia Kristin
Area of Honors:
English (University College)
Degree:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Laura Lunger Knoppers, Thesis Supervisor
  • Janet Wynne Lyon, Honors Advisor
  • Marcy Lynne North, Faculty Reader
Keywords:
  • domestic agency
  • English Revolution
  • women's letter writing
Abstract:
The letters of Lady Brilliana Harley remain the most detailed account of life in the home during the English Revolution. Harley used these letters to work within a domestic role while still gaining a great deal of agency. Harley’s letters contain what one might consider “traditional” content when writing to her son, but it is this domestic role that allowed Harley to take radical actions once the Civil War began to threaten Harley’s house and children. In order to carry out these radical actions, Harley relies on the language of the family and household. By tracing the development of Harley’s letters, we see the progression of agency, with Harley becoming a leader of the local Parliamentarian cause. Although we see drastic changes in the subject matter of the letters, Harley never wavers in her commitment to protecting the home and her family.