Historical Sociolinguistics and Sociohistorical Linguistics

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Brilliana, Lady Harley (1598-1643)


(Source: http://www.earlymodernweb.org.uk/warlives/wlseparations.htm)



  • The British Library holds many unpublished letters from Brilliana Harley, as well as from other members of her family.

  • The Corpus of Early English Correspondence, compiled by the Research Unit for Variation and Change in English of the University of Helsinki, contains many of Brilliana Harley's letters, taken from the Lewis edition.

  • Hudson, Roger. 1993. The Grand Quarrel. From the Civil War Diaries of Mrs Lucy Hutchinson; Mrs Alice Thornton; Ann, Lady Fanshawe; Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle; Anne, Lady Halkett and the letters of Brilliana, Lady Harley. 8 Vols. London: The Folio Society. 1993.

  • The ICAMET project’s seventeenth-century sub-corpus contains some of Brilliana’s letters

  • Lewis, Thomas Taylor. 1854. Letters of the Lady Brilliana Harley, Wife of Sir Robert Harley, of Brampton Bryan, Knight of the Bath. Camden Society first series.

  • It is announced that a selection from some of Brilliana’s letters will appear in Vol. 1 of Hilda Smith, Mihoko Suzuki and Susan Wiseman (eds.), Women’s Political Writings, 1610-1740. 4 Vols. Pickering and Chatto, 2007.

History, Biography, Related Background

  • Brilliana Harley's commonplace book is held by the Hallward Library, Nottingham University, Department of Special Collections.

The following studies either discuss Brilliana and her letters directly, or make referential use of her and her letters:

  • Atherton, Ian. 1991. “Viscount Scudamore's 'Laudianism': The Religious Practices of the First Viscount Scudamore”. The Historical Journal 34/3. 567-596.

  • Charlton, Kenneth. 1999. Women, Religion & Education in Early Modern England. London: Routledge.

  • Clifton, Robert. 1971. “The Popular Fear of Catholics during the English Revolution”. Past and Present 52. 23-55.

  • Eales, Jacqueline. 2002. The Puritans and Roundheads: The Harleys of Brampton Bryan and the Outbreak of the English Civil War. Aylesbeare: Hardinge Simpole.

  • Eales, Jacqueline. 2001. Patriarchy, Puritanism and Politics: The Letters of Lady Brilliana Harley (1598-  1643). In: James Dabell (ed.), Early Modern Women's Letter Writing, 1450-1700. Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Eales, Jacqueline. 1998. Women in Early Modern England 1500-1700. London: UCL Press.

  • Charles H. George, Katherine George. 1961. The Protestant Mind of the English Reformation: 1570-1640. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

  • George, Margaret. 1988. Women in the First Capitalist Society: Experiences in Seventeenth-Century England. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

    • One of the chapters in this book is an essay about Brilliana.

  • Greaves, Richard L. 1985. Saints and Rebels: Seven Nonconformists in Stuart England. Macon, Ga: Mercer University Press.

  • Fletcher, A. 1999. Manhood, the Male Body, Courtship and the Household in Early Modern England”. History 84/275. 419-436(18)

  • Hackett, Helen. 2000. Women and Romance Fiction in the English Renaissance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Holmes, Clive. 1980. “The County Community in Stuart Historiography”, The Journal of British Studies 19/2. 54-73.

  • Laycock, Kelly. 2003. "I have sent you a Glas of Eye Watter: Maternal advice and Political Voice in the Early letters of Lady Brilliana Harley”. Paper presented in a Conference on Culture and the State, University of Alberta, May 2003.

  • Looser, Devoney. 2000. British Women Writers and the Writing of History 1670-1820. Johns Hopkins University Press.

    • Just three references to Brilliana.

  • Notestein, Wallace. 1938. English Folk. A Book of Characters. London: Jonathan Cape.

    • An old-fashioned and unflattering entry on Brilliana appears in this book, pp. 273-308.

  • Plowden, Alison. 1998. Women all on Fire: The Women of the English Civil War. Stroud: Sutton Publishing.

  • Russell, Conrad. 1990. The Causes of the English Civil War. Oxford, Clarendon Press.

  • Spurr, John. 1998. English Puritanism 1603–1689. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Macmillan.

  • Todd, Margo. 1987. Christian Humanism and the Puritan Social Order. New York: Cambridge University Press.

  • Wiseman, Sue. 1999. 'No Thanks': Politics, Networks and Civil War in the letters of Brilliana Harley and Margaret Cavendish's Sociable Letters”. Paper presented to the Margaret Cavendish Society, June 1999, Paris Conference.

  • Worden, Blair. 1985.Providence and Politics in Cromwellian England”. Past and Present 109. 55-99.

  • Zaret, David. 1996.Petitions and the "Invention" of Public Opinion in the English Revolution”. The American Journal of Sociology 101/6. 1487-1555.


Brilliana’s letters are either discussed directly or used as data in the following studies:

  • Allen, Cynthia L. 2002. “The Early English 'his Genitives' from a Germanic Perspective". Proceedings of the 2002 Conference of the Australian Linguistic Society.

  • Allen, Cynthia L. 2002. On the development of a friend of mine. In: Fanego, Teresa, Maria Jose Lopez-Couso and Javier Perez-Guerra (eds.). English Historical Syntax and Morphology, Selected Papers from 11 ICEHL, Santiago de Compostela, 7-11 September 2000. Vol. 1. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 23-41.

  • Anselment, Raymond A. 2004. Katherine Paston and Brilliana Harley: Maternal letters and the genre of mother's advice”. Studies in Philology 101/4. 431-453.

  • Brorström, Sverker. 1989. Periphrastric do v. the do-less form in the letters of Lady Brilliana Harley. In: B. Odenstedt and G. Persson (eds.). Instead of Flowers: Papers in Honour of Mats Rydén. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell.

  • Burnley, David. 1992. The History of the English Language: A Source Book. London: Longman.

    • Three of Brilliana's letters are reproduced as part of a discussion on seventeenth-century language.

  • Kytö, Merja. 1999 . “Collocational and idiomatic aspects of verbs in Early Modern English, A corpus-based study of MAKE, HAVE, GIVE, TAKE, and DO”. In Brinton, Laurel J. (ed). Collocational and Idiomatic Aspects of Composite Predicates in the History of English. Philadelphia, PA, USA: John Benjamins Publishing Company. 167-206.

  • Nevala M. 2004. “Inside and out: Forms of address in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century letters” Journal of Historical Pragmatics 5/2. 271-296.

  • Markus, Manfred. 2002. “Towards an analysis of pragmatic and stylistic features in 15th and 17th century English letters. In Peters, Pam, Peter Collins and Adam Smith (Eds.) Language and Computers, New Frontiers of Corpus Research. Papers from the Twenty First International Conference on English Language Research on Computerized Corpora Sydney 2000. Amsterdam: Rodopi. 179-198.

  • Nevalainen, Terttu. 2002. Women’s writings as evidence for continuity and change in Early Modern English”. in Watts, Richard and Peter Trudgill (eds.), Alternative Histories of English Language. Florence, KY, USA: Routledge. 191-209.

  • Nevalainen, Terttu. 2004. “Three perspectives on grammaticalization, lexico-grammar, corpora and historical sociolinguistics”. In: Lindquist, Hans (ed.), Corpus Approaches to Grammaticalization in English. Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

  • Palander-Collin, Minna. 1999.Male and female styles in 17th century correspondence: I THINK”. Language Variation and Change 11/2. 123-141.

  • Sönmez, Margaret J.-M. 2000. Perceived and real differences between men's and women's spellings of the early to mid-seventeenth century. In: Dieter Kastovsky and Arthur Mettinger (eds.), The History of English in a Social Context. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 405-439.

  • Sonmez, Margaret J-M. 2005. A study of request markers in English family letters from 1623 to 1660”. European Journal of English Studies 9/1. 9-19.


  • David Loewenstein and Janel Mueller (eds). 2003. Cambridge History of Early Modern English Literature. New York: Cambridge University Press.There are a few references to Brilliana’s letters in Chapter 5 (on the Civil War).

  • This Channel 4 website contains an account of how Brilliana held the family castle against Royalist forces in 1642 (The Siege of Brampton Bryan Castle).

  • Rachel Grace. 2001. Desperate Distractions. Microsoft Reader eBook. This is a bodice-ripper e-novel based on Brilliana and her marriage. Brilliana's (explicitly presented, purely fictional) sex life seems to be the main focus of this book (see summary).




Many sources give Brilliana's date of birth as 1600. I have here adopted the dating of Eales (2002).


(for additions, contact Margaret Sönmez)