John Donne describes an accomplished woman with a wide-ranging capacity to converse intelligently.  I like the spectrum he chose: predestination to slea-silk and, it seems, everything in between.

‘She knew well how to discourse of all things, from predestination to slea-silk.’

(Slea-silk is the silk used in embroidery.)

I will contact her through my time machine and see if she will deign to entertain me for tea.

Her name was Anne Clifford, Countess of Pembroke (1590-1670), and she seems to have been equally gifted in fighting her corner, eventually winning an inheritance that had been denied her on account of her gender. She also had a clear capability in what might now be described as Public Relations or image management, witness the careful construction of a triptych showing her at an early and later stage of life, and sandwiched in between, a family montage.


Source: John Donne, quoted in John Drury, Music at Midnight: The Life and Poetry of George Herbert (London: Penguin Books, 2014), p. 219

Image credits: Lady Anne Clifford, portrait by William Larkin (National Portrait Gallery, London); The Great Picture, commissioned in 1646 by Anne Clifford, attributed to Jan van Belcamp

Lady Anne Clifford - The Great Picture - attributed to Jan van Belcamp -


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