The Sociality of Margaret Hoby's Reading Practices and the Representation of Reformation Interiority

in Critical Survey
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  • 1 Southern Illinois University maryelamb@aol.com
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Addressing the question, ‘Am I saved?’, the diary of Margaret Hoby is primarily an exercise in the Puritan discipline of selfexamination, a pre-condition for ‘assurance’ or certain knowledge of election. Covering the years 1599–1605, Hoby’s entries represent a life saturated by print – the reading of Scripture and contemporary devotional authors, as well as of copying reading material into her commonplace and testament books. Hoby’s religious discipline was not unusual for devout women of the gentry class, whose piety came to resemble ‘a kind of self-imposed career’. As Diane Willen has aptly noted for Protestant women, ‘Denied the status of the Puritan divine, women might seek the greater status of Puritan saint’. There is a sense in which Margaret Hoby, as well as other Reformation women, may have found in private religious exercises a focus upon the states of their souls which in fact freed them momentarily from gender roles. Yet Reformation women incorporated their religious experiences into lives which were inevitably affected by gender.

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