Lucy Hutchinson is best known for her Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson, a lengthy biography of her husband, the roundhead governor of Nottingham during the English Civil War. A fuller account of her life will be found in the chronology section of this website.
The Queen’s House and the Bloody Tower
‘It was on the 29th day of January, in the yeare of our Lord 1619/20, that in the Tower of London, the principall citie of the English Isle; I was about 4 of the clock in the morning brought forth to behold the ensuing light’. Lucy Hutchinson’s father was Lieutenant of the Tower, and had a residence in the Queen’s House. She remembered it as a place where ‘very profitable serious discourses’ were ‘frequent at my father's table and in my mother's drawing roome’. In 1663, under very different circumstances, her husband Colonel John Hutchinson was imprisoned for alleged treason in ‘a roome where tis sayd the two young princes King Edward the fifth and his brother were murthered in former dayes and the roome that led to it was a darke greate roome that had no windore in it where the Portcullis to one of the inward Towergates was drawne vp and lett downe . . . there is a tradition that in this roome the Duke of Clarence was drownd in a but of Malmsey from which murthers this roome and that ioyning it where Mr Hutchinson lay was called the bloody Tower’. The Queen's House (above right) is at the lower left inside the walls; behind it can be seen the garden Lucy Hutchinson mentions, and just to its right is the Bloody Tower where John Hutchinson was imprisoned.
Lucy Hutchinson’s mother, Lucy St. John, was one of six sisters who were brought up by their eldest brother. The St. John house at Lydiard Tregoz can still be visited and on certain days the remarkable triptych at the church is opened: on it can be seen Lucy St John with her family, a secularized version of a traditional altarpiece, demonstrating the family pride that helped to underwrite Lucy Hutchinson’s confidence as a woman writer.
After her marriage to John Hutchinson in 1638, Lucy Hutchinson was reluctant to leave friends and family in the south, and not until the eve of Civil War in 1641 did the couple and their young children move to the Hutchinson estate at Owthorpe, near Nottingham. Lucy Hutchinson sold the estate to her husband’s half-brother Charles in 1672. We know very little of her later life but she died at Owthorpe in 1681. The house no longer stands.
Owthorpe Church, 1997
Parts of the church date from the twelfth century; it contains Lucy Hutchinson’s monument to her husband, though none to her. The house stood to the right of the church.
John Hutchinson’s Memorial:
in Owthorpe Church, with inscription by Lucy Hutchinson boldly criticizing his ‘harsh strict imprisonment without crime or accusation’ and including a verse epitaph:
||This Monument doth not comemorate
Vaine ayrie glories Titles Birth, & State
But sacred is to free Illustrious Grace
Conducting happily a mortalls race
To end in triumph ouer death & hell
When (like the Prophetts roa[b]e) the fraile flesh fell
Forsaken as a dull impediment
Whilst loues swift fiery chariot climbd th'ascent
Nor are the reliqes lost but only torne
To be new made & in more lustre worne
Full of this joy he mounted he lay downe
Threw of his ashes & tooke up his crowne
Those who lost all their splendor in his graue
Eun there yet noe Inglorious period haue.
Lucy Hutchinson's poem on retirement
Poem on retirement (printed in 1806 from a manuscript now lost). There are interesting parallels here, in the condemnation of ambition and ethics of limited desire, with her Lucretius translation: probably both were written during the 1650s when John Hutchinson had retired from active politics in his opposition to the Cromwellian Protectorate. See The Works of Lucy Hutchinson, Volume 1: Translation of Lucretius, ed. Barbour and Norbrook, pp. lxxxvi-lxxxix.
All sorts of men through various labours presse
To the same end, contented quietnesse;
Great princes vex their labouring thoughts to be
Possest of an unbounded soveraignetie;
The hardie souldier doth all toyles susteine
That he may conquer first, and after raigne;
Th' industrious merchant ploughs the angrie seas
That he may bring home wealth, and live at ease,
Which none of them attaine; for sweete repose
But seldome to the splendid pallace goes;
A troope of restlesse passions wander there,
And private lives are only free from care.
Sleep to the cottage bringeth happie nights,
But to the court, hung round with flaring lights,
Which th’office of the vanisht day supplie,
His image only comes to close the eie,
But gives the troubled mind no ease of care;
While countrie slumbers undisturbed are;
Where, if the active fancie dreames present,
They bring no horrors to the innocent.
Ambition doth incessantly aspire,
And each advance leads on to new desire;
Nor yet can riches av’rice satisfie,
For want and wealth together multiplie:
Nor can voluptuous men more fullnesse find,
For enjoy’d pleasures leave their stings behind.
He's only rich who knows no want; he raignes
Whose will no severe tiranny constreins;
And he alone possesseth true delight
Whose spotlesse soule no guiltie feares affright.
This freedome in the countrie life is found,
Where innocence and safe delights abound:
Here man’s a prince; his subiects ne’er repine
When on his back their wealthy fleeces shine:
If for his appetite the fattest die,
Those who survive will rayse no mutinie:
His table is with home‑gott dainties crown’d,
With friends, not flatterers, encompast round;
No spies nor traitors on his trencher waite,
Nor is his mirth confin’d to rules of state;
An armed guard he neither hath nor needs,
Nor fears a poyson’d morsell when he feeds;
Bright constellations hang above his head,
Beneath his feete are flourie carpetts spred;
The merrie birds delight him with their songs,
And healthfull ayre his happie life prolongs.
Att harvest merrily his flocks he sheares,
And in cold weather their warme fleeces weares;
Unto his ease he fashions all his clothes;
His cup with uninfected liquor flows
The vulgar breath doth not his thoughts elate,
Nor can he be o’erwhelmed by their hate;
Yet, if ambitiously he seeks for fame,
One village feast shall gaine a greater name
Then his who weares th’imperiall diadem,
Whom the rude multitude doe still condemne.
Sweete peace and ioy his blest companions are;
Feare, sorrow, envie, lust, revenge, and care,
And all that troope which breeds the world's offence,
With pomp and maiestie, are banisht thence.
What court then can such libertie afford?
Or where is man soe uncontroul’d a lord?