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This report is taken from PN Review 139, Volume 27 Number 5, May - June 2001.

The Restoration of Lucy Hutchinson Alison Brackenbury

'I have not studied to utter anything that I have not really taken in'. In this new century, I urge you to read a newly-published poem. It is not a collection, translation or anthology. It is Order and Disorder, a version of Genesis by Lucy Hutchinson, who died in 1681. My own enthusiasm demonstrates that a reader need not be a Christian or a seventeenth- century scholar to be deeply impressed by this poem, which has just been published by Blackwell in full for the first time.

Why is there no biography of Lucy Hutchinson? The summary in David Norbrook's excellent introduction outlines an eventful life, wrenched by the moral and political passions of her time. Lucy was already a writer, of admired love songs, before she married John Hutchinson, at eighteen. John Hutchinson was one of the signatories of Charles I's death warrant, but left national politics when Cromwell dissolved Parliament. The Hutchinsons prospered under Cromwell, and Lucy continued to write translations and poems. But, as Lucy wrote later in Order and Disorder, 'perfect bliss in any mortal state / Is not be to acquired.' After the Restoration, John Hutchinson was arrested, a year after Lucy, at the age of 42, had borne their eighth child. He was not tried, but died in prison. Order and Disorder may have been started at this time.

Lucy lived for another seventeen years, beset by debts and lawsuits, but still writing. The strangest story Norbrook relates was ...


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