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“What I write I do not see”: The Place of Invisible Ink in English Civil War Correspondence
April 21, 2014 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Resident Fellow (2013-2014)
Abraham Cowley’s poem, “Written in juice of lemon,” draws attention to the dangers of writing’s reception, likening a love poem written in secret ink to a beast that’s “burnt in sacrifice.” Taking Cowley’s poem as its starting point, this paper will discuss the use of secret ink in royalist correspondence during the English civil wars, investigating the very real dangers that necessitated the use of such chemical subterfuge and the places in which such letters were written, intercepted, and read. Written between the lines, or on the back of, other documents, secret letters hid like dangerous passengers in the more mundane correspondence of the everyday.
Karen Britland is a resident fellow at the Institute for Research in the Humanities and a professor in the English Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She researches and teaches on early modern literature, especially Shakespeare and women’s writing. She is the author of Drama at the Courts of Queen Henrietta Maria (Cambridge, 2006), and has also edited Elizabeth Cary’s play The Tragedy of Mariam (New Mermaids, 2010) and James Shirley’s The Imposture (Oxford, forthcoming).