The Revelation of Jesus Christ by Anne Wentworth, an electronic edition. Edited with an introduction by Vickie Taft
Preface to The Revelation of Jesus Christ. by Anne Wentworth.
I edited The Revelation of Jesus Christ with the goal of bringing the prophetic writings and activities of Anne Wentworth to the attention of literary, historical, theological, and feminist scholars. Though scholars of many disciplines have recently begun to analyze all facets of the seventeenth-century prophetic outpouring in England, few of them discuss Wentworth directly. Those critics who do mention Wentworth's writings (such as Charlotte Otten in English Women's Voices, 1540-1700, Elaine Hobby in Virtue of Necessity: English Women's Writing 1646-1688, and Dorothy P. Ludlow in "Shaking Patriarchy's Foundations: Sectarian Women in England, 1641-1700") predominantly discuss her text A Vindication in order to illustrate the abuse women prophets often suffered at the hands of their husbands. To encourage scholars to conduct more wide-ranging and in depth analyses of Wentworth's prophetic activities and writings, I chose to edit The Revelation which, unlike her tracts A Vindication and A true Account, is primarily prophetic rather than simply vindicatory.
Because Wentworth is virtually unknown even among the scholarly community and because her writings contain many autobiographical elements, I have provided in the introduction to this edition as much biographical material on Wentworth as is currently available. Also in the introduction, I have attempted to situate Wentworth's writings within seventeenth-century prophetic discourses, especially those discourses employed by women. Finally, I have offered my own stylistic analysis of the text's structure, imagery, and themes. I hope that my analysis of Anne Wentworth's The Revelation of Jesus Christ will be followed by many more, and that the voice of this seventeenth-century prophet will be recovered.
Anne Wentworth's Life and Works
The only biographical material thus far available concerning Anne Wentworth is contained in her own writings, especially within her two vindicatory, autobiographical tracts entitled A true Account of Anne Wentworths Being cruelly, unjustly, and unchristianly dealt with by some of those people called Anabaptists... (1676) and A Vindication of Anne Wentworth...(1677), and within several of her letters collected in the Calendar of State Papers Domestic. In these texts, Wentworth focuses on the events of her prophetic life, which begins at the age of forty, and relates little about her prior life. For instance, she never mentions her childhood, her maiden name, her husband's occupation, or her social status. Nor does she narrate any particular events which occurred in her life before her reception of a prophetic voice. However, Wentworth does not leave readers without the means to outline the key events of her earlier life. For instance, in the course of discussing her prophetic life, Wentworth indirectly provides several clues about her birth date, marriage date, and the date she gave birth to her daughter. In A true Account , Wentworth says that she was forty-years-old at the time God first visited her in 1670, which would indicate that she was born in approximately 1630 (A true Account 16, C1 verso). In this same tract, two of Wentworth's statements indicate that she married Mr. Wentworth either in 1652 or in 1653: first, she says that she was married for 18 years at the time of God's visitation in 1670, which suggests that she married her husband in 1652 (A true Account, 9-10, B2 recto & verso); second, she says that she has been married for twenty-three years at the time of the publication of the tract in 1676, which suggests that she married him in 1653 (A true Account, 7, B1 recto). Finally, Wentworth indirectly suggests that she gave birth sometime after the mid-1660s by referring to her daughter as a "child" in a letter dated 1677 (CSPD 435). She makes no mention of having given birth to other children in any of her extant writings.
Though Wentworth generally only gives sparing and indirect information about her pre-prophetic life in her texts, she provides a detailed description of her relationship with her husband during these earlier years. Specifically, in A true Account, she describes her husband as a tyrant to whom she constantly deferred and her marriage as an 18-year-long punishment which God inflicted upon her:
By the end of this 18-year-long "scourge," presumably meted out by God because of her lack of true faith in Him (A true Account 14, B4 verso), she lay at the point of death, suffering from acute sorrow and depression:
At this point, the Lord came and "restored" her, filled her with pure faith in Him, and chose her to be his prophet (A true Account 9, B2 recto). Wentworth, then, describes her marriage prior to her conversion and the acquisition of her prophetic powers as nearly fatal.
As aforementioned, Wentworth dates her healing and her reception of a prophetic voice as occurring on January 3, 1670 (A true Account 10, B2 verso). However, she did not publish her first tract of vindicatory, prophetic writing until 1676. Wentworth explains that the cause of this delay was her need to practice her writing skills: "And he [Christ] afterwards revealed to me, that it must be seven years before I could perfect that writing, and the Lord would bring forth his end in all this" (A Vindication 12, B2 verso-brackets added). Having learned the craft of writing six or seven years after her healing, Wentworth began to release her work for publication. In 1676 and 1677, A true Account and A Vindication of Anne Wentworth were published respectively; in both of these tracts, she tries to justify her prophetic voice as genuine, narrates the persecution inflicted upon her because of her prophetic activity, and predicts the imminent coming of the Apocalypse. Her tract entitled England's spiritual pill may have appeared in 1678, but its publication date is uncertain, and, because copies of it are only located at the University of Edinburgh, this critic has not yet been able to determine its contents. In 1679, The Revelation of Jesus Christ was published, a text in which Wentworth records the actual words Christ supposedly spoke to her during the course of the years 1677 to 1679.
Wentworth's failure to publish from 1670 to 1676, however, did not cause her prophetic activity to go unnoticed during these years. Wentworth claims that her husband and his fellow Anabaptist brethren began to persecute her at the time of her healing and only intensified their abusive behavior towards her as the years passed. Moreover, Wentworth, who was once an Anabaptist, probably exacerbated the Anabaptists' animosity towards her by leaving their Church sometime after receiving her prophetic voice (The Revelation 19). The first instance of persecution by the Anabaptists which Wentworth narrates occurred on February 13, 1673, when her husband brought three other Anabaptists home to intimidate her into ceasing to prophesy (A true Account 16, C1 verso & 17, C2 recto). At some point thereafter, presumably because the Anabaptists' threats were ineffective, two of her husband's brethren named Thomas Hicks and William Dix drew up a "bill of charge" against her in which they accused Wentworth of "misbehaviour in life and conversation" and "neglect of duty to their brother, in not obeying him" (A true Account, 16, C1 verso). Though Wentworth does not specifically note the consequences of these charges, they may have contributed to her being declared a "Heathen" and a "Publican" by the Anabaptist Church (A Vindication 1, A1 recto).
The height of Wentworth's persecution occurred in 1677 and corresponded with the height of her publicity as a prophet. Besides having published A true Account in 1676, Wentworth wrote letters in July 1677 to King Charles II and to the Lord Mayor of London informing them of the coming of the Apocalypse before New Year's Day, 1678 (CSPD 1677, 279-80). Wentworth's relation of her prophecies to such highly public, powerful figures may have been the event that caused her husband to engage three of Wentworth's cousins to remove her forcibly from her house in Midsummer 1677 (The Revelation 26). Letters written from October to December 1677 by Thomas Barnes, who was probably an informant for the King, to an unknown addressee in the government suggest that Wentworth's prophecies spread throughout London at least throughout the Fall of 1677, but may have suffered a decline in popularity by December of that year. In a letter dated October 21, 1677, Barnes writes, "The predictions of Mrs. A. W[entworth] are to be heard next week by some in town. Several papers are dispersed about it, which, as soon as I can get, I may send. There is much talk of it" (CSPD 1677, 411). In a letter dated November 30, 1677, Barnes indicates that former supporters of Wentworth were becoming skeptical of her apocalyptic predictions: "Our friend Mrs. A. Wen[tworth1/4s] friends begin to decline her predictions and her too; because she cannot or will not be positive when and what the great things she wrote about to the King will be. Some considerable and otherwise ingenious persons were much affected with it at the first" (CSPD 1677, 478). Nevertheless, Barnes indicates that Wentworth's prophecies were still being taken seriously by at least some of the London populous when he says in a letter dated December 26, 1677, "Some printed papers are out about Anne Wentworth's predictions and more to come. If you please to have any of them, I can send them. But 300 of the first are printed" (CSPD 1677, 529).
As Wentworth's prophecies were spreading throughout London in the Fall of 1677, her husband's wrath seems to have been growing. In a letter dated October 1677 and addressed to "dear Christian friends," Wentworth claims that mortal fear of her husband and her wish to write a vindication of her prophetic activities had driven her into hiding with her daughter:
Besides suffering possible physical and definite emotional abuse by her husband in the latter half of 1677, Wentworth indicates in the same letter that she also suffered the loss of "two books" which she had written during "six years' labour" and which had been seized by her "enemies" (CSPD 1677, 434-35). These "enemies" included her husband to whom Wentworth's friends petitioned in October 1677 for a return of her writings; specifically, her friends requested that the following items be returned:
2. A little book with a painted red cover having 8 or 9 titles with a prayer of faith to show my wrestling with God till I prevailed.
3. A paper of verses dated 22 Sept. (CSPD 1677, 436).
No evidence exists that suggests the length of Wentworth's period of actual hiding. However, the author of the conclusion to The Revelation claims that Wentworth was finally able to return to her house in Midsummer 1679, which indicates that she had ceased to fear her husband's wrath by then (The Revelation 26). Wentworth's return, though, did not signal a reconciliation with her husband; as she indicates in The Revelation: "...he [her husband] takes no care of me, nor once looks after me these almost two years" (The Revelation 25). The author of the conclusion to The Revelation claims that the Lord, rather than her husband, provided for Wentworth:
Other than Wentworth's readmission to her house in 1679, little can be discerned about the events of her life after 1677. Her name no longer appears in any letters in the Calendar of State Papers Domestic. Most of the autobiographical references she makes in her 1679 tract The Revelation concern the events of 1677. One can only speculate that, when Wentworth's prophecy that the Apocalypse would arrive before New Year's Day, 1678, failed to be fulfilled, her popularity as a prophet declined. As Barnes' November 30, 1677, letter indicates, her supporters were becoming skeptical of her prophetic powers even before the New Year arrived and it became obvious that her prediction was erroneous. However, it seems as though Wentworth maintained at least some support for her prophetic activities until at least 1679. Someone, for instance, had to finance Wentworth's domestic costs after her husband ceased to support her in 1677. Someone, who is named only as a "Friend in love to Souls" on the title page, also financed the printing of The Revelation in 1679. No trace of Wentworth or her prophetic activities after 1679 has been uncovered, however. Though the author to the concluding material of The Revelation says that a larger version of this tract "is making ready to be published," there is no indication that it ever was. Whether Wentworth's voice fell silent after 1679 because of her lack of support or whether she died before she could finish her larger version of The Revelation is unknown.
The Seventeenth-Century Outpouring of Apocalyptic Prophecy. [Relating to Anne Wentworth's The Revelation of Jesus Christ.
Apocalyptic prophecies such as those of Anne Wentworth were not anomalous in seventeenth-century England. In fact, when Wentworth predicted the date of the arrival of the Apocalypse, she participated in a tradition that stretched back at least into the 1300s of men and women who tried to calculate or prophesy the arrival of Doomsday (Thomas 141). According to Keith Thomas in Religion and the Decline of Magic, the Reformation only heightened interest in predicting the Apocalypse, because the new availability of Scripture made the Biblical books of Daniel and Revelation accessible to the layperson who then interpreted the apocalyptic predictions contained therein literally; medieval schoolmen, on the other hand, had often read them allegorically (Thomas 141). Throughout the reign of Elizabeth, the belief that the Apocalypse's arrival was imminent became a popular one and was supported by the testimony of many prophets (Thomas 141). It was not until the Civil War, however, that the belief in the imminent arrival of the Apocalypse reached its zenith in popularity. Christopher Hill notes in The World Turned Upside Down that the social turbulence of this period contributed to the spread of apocalyptic thought: "In the highly-charged atmosphere of the 1640s, many people expected it [the Apocalypse] in the near future" (Hill 95-brackets added). A belief not only in the coming of the Apocalypse but in the coming of the 1000-year reign of Christ on earth (the millennium) as predicted in Revelation 20:4 became particularly popular among the lower classes and the radical Parliamentarians:
This millenarian anticipation of Christ supplanting earthly government with His own was heightened by a large number of prophets who predicted both the date of Christ's Second Coming and the nature of His millennial rule (Capp 42-43).
But while millenarian prophecy dominated in the 1640s and 1650s, apocalyptic prophecy in general dwindled after the 1660s, according to Keith Thomas:
Thomas notes that Anne Wentworth was one of these uncommon, post-1660 utterers of doom (Thomas note 2, 144). It is possible that Wentworth's apocalyptic fervor was the result of her retention of the millenarian sentiment that permeated the culture in the 1640s and 50s; in fact, millennial tracts did not entirely disappear until 1746 (Thomas 145). However, Wentworth never clearly posits herself as a millenarian in her writings. She does perhaps allude to the millennium when she says in The Revelation, "But Jesus hath purchased Redemption for all / His own Elect; and reign with him he shall" (The Revelation 17, C3 recto). But unlike millenarians who often dwell on the future events of Christ's one-thousand-year reign on earth, Wentworth does not describe Christ's future kingdom as lasting for one-thousand years or as being an earthly rather than a heavenly reign. Wentworth's apocalyptic beliefs and prophetic activity, then, may not have had close historical precedents; rather, her prophesying may have hearkened back to the prophetic activity of previous centuries in which the coming of the Apocalypse alone was predicted, not the coming of the millennium.
The lateness of Wentworth's advent as a prophet in the seventeenth-century may account for some of the hostile reaction she received. Wentworth was still prophesying the coming of the Apocalypse as late as 1679, by which time prophecy had become largely unpopular, according to Thomas:
Wentworth, then, may have appeared on the prophetic scene thirty years too late to become truly popular. As aforementioned, her prophecies only seemed to have received serious attention during the Fall of 1677, and evoked a quite hostile reaction from both her husband and his fellow Anabaptists. The unpopularity of Wentworth's prophetic activity, however, may have had less to do with its historical belatedness than with Wentworth's gender.
The (Un)Popularity of Seventeenth-Century Women Prophets. [Relating to Anne Wentworth's The Revelation of Jesus Christ.
Though women prophets were common in seventeenth-century England, their prophetic activities were often scorned because they challenged traditional gender hierarchies. As Christine Berg and Philippa Berry note in "'Spiritual Whoredom': An Essay on Female Prophets in the Seventeenth Century," women who prophesied, especially for the public, subverted the idea that men alone should control the logos:
Women prophets, then, doubly encroached on the patriarchal control of language by first positing themselves as meaning-bearers and then disseminating this meaning among the public. The subversiveness of this encroachment was heightened by the fact that women's speech in general, because it was associated with that of Eve, the witch, and the harlot, was considered to be dangerous to those who listened to it. The voice of the woman was thought to be damning, not divine, in the seventeenth-century (Mack 30-33).
According to Phyllis Mack in Visionary Women: Ecstatic Prophecy in Seventeenth-Century England, women prophets could only succeed in prophesying publicly if their activities were authorized and supervised by men:
Wentworth, who disseminated her apocalyptic prophecies publicly by both publishing them and sending them to the King and the Lord Mayor of London, had no significant male patronage. Male members of the Anabaptist Church persecuted her rather than supported her as a prophet. Her texts were neither edited nor affirmed by men, though it is possible that men financed their publication. Wentworth's husband, moreover, proved to be the greatest hindrance of all to her prophetic career. Besides abusing and withdrawing financial support from her, he literally seized and probably destroyed a significant amount of her writing. Devoid of significant male support, Wentworth never became more than a minor Renaissance prophet.
Wentworth's Goal in The Revelation
By employing validatory discourses like "holy violence" and "personal weakness,"Wentworth hoped to convince her audience of the validity of her apocalyptic prophesying. However, the question remains as to why she wanted her audience to believe that the Second Coming was imminent. Did she hope to save "Babylon" from God's destructive wrath by convincing its sinners to repent? Did she hope to hasten Christ's Second Coming by encouraging His followers to engage in some sort of militant action, as Fifth Monarchist prophets did? Or, did she write The Revelation simply to vindicate her prophetic activities and to vilify her persecutors? Clearly, The Revelation is vindicatory and vilificatory rather than militant or reformative. Wentworth never calls for any specific social action therein or suggests that the Apocalypse can either be halted or hastened.
Unlike Wentworth, seventeenth-century male prophets usually called for some sort of specific action in their writings (Matchinske 357-58). According to Megan Matchinske in "Holy Hatred: Formations of the Gendered Subject in English Apocalyptic Writing, 1625-51," this action was often targeted against "highly visible opponents" such as the Pope, King, or Anglican Church (Matchinske 363). Using the example of Lady Eleanor Davies, Matchinske suggests that there may have been gender-specific reasons why a seventeenth-century woman prophet would have inundated her text with vindicatory statements about herself and vilificatory statements about her personal enemies to the exclusion of any specific social calls for action:
In other words, according to Matchinske, Lady Eleanor Davies felt that she had to spend so much time justifying herself personally as a prophet that she never formulated any specific social program in her prophetic texts as did many of her male counterparts. Like Davies, Wentworth never moves beyond the language of personal vindication to engage in social discourse in The Revelation. In fact, Wentworth suggests that all that true Christians can do is await the Apocalypse when she narrates Christ saying, "And all those, that long to see this thing done, / Must patiently wait till I the Lord do come" (The Revelation 10, B3 verso).
Editorial Practice for Anne Wentworth's The Revelation of Jesus Christ.
Because of the Biblical nature of much of Wentworth's language, the notes to this text consist primarily of Scriptural citations. Since Wentworth often paraphrases Scripture and rarely quotes it directly, I have chosen to include relevant Biblical passages along with their citations in the footnotes. To indicate the specific similarities between Scriptural language and Wentworth's language, I have boldfaced the words in the Biblical passages that appear in Wentworth's text. Moreover, I have often included explanations of Wentworth's appropriation of Biblical language. Because Wentworth herself lists passages from the King James Version of the Bible on page A1 verso of her text, and because her language so often parallels that of this version, I have quoted the King James Bible throughout the footnotes.
Besides citing and explaining Wentworth's Biblical allusions, I have also defined several obsolete word usages in the footnotes. Finally, in an attempt to note similarities of imagery and phraseology among Wentworth's texts, I have also included several relevant textual references to Wentworth's A true Account and A Vindication.
I derived this text from a copy of The Revelation of Jesus Christ located in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, England. Besides changing the long "s" to a regular "s," I have maintained all of the original punctuation and spelling.
Textual analysis of "The Revelation of Jesus Christ"by Anne Wentworth
Any stylistic examination of "The Revelation of Jesus Christ" must begin with a discussion of how one can analyze prophetic writing that the author posits as the Word of God and not her own. To attribute authorial strategy to Wentworth may appear to imply that she fraudulently assigns God's authority to her text. As is discussed later in this textual analysis, Wentworth may, indeed, employ a validatory strategy in" The Revelation when she claims that she does not contribute to the text's composition. However, one cannot doubt the sincerity of Wentworth's belief that God inspired her words, even if she did not really believe that He directly authored her texts. In her earlier tract "A Vindication, she admits that her writing ability is the result of seven years' practice, but insists that God is still ultimately responsible for both her mastery of writing and for her texts' prophetic content:
And he [God] afterwards revealed to me, (what I did not then know) that my oppressions and deliverance had a Publick Ministry and meaning wrapt up in them, that it must be seven years before I could perfect that writing, and the Lord would bring forth his end in all this ("A "Vindication 12, B2 verso-original italics, brackets added).
It is possible, then, to structurally analyze "The Revelation" and to attribute authorial strategy to Wentworth without questioning the sincerity of her belief that she was delivering the word of God in her writings even if she was not delivering them by rote.
Besides being potentially complicated by Wentworth's assertion that this text was authored by God, a textual analysis of "The Revelation" is also complicated by the fact that, structurally and formally, it does not readily fall into any particular genre. It lacks a plot structure and consists of a seemingly random mixture of unusual prose and poetic forms. Thematically, however, it is clearly apocalyptic. Throughout the text, Wentworth, as Christ's amanuensis, relates His prophecy that the Apocalypse is coming when all sinners, especially Wentworth's own persecutors, will be punished. Wentworth, moreover, engages in several modes of discourse employed by other seventeenth-century prophetic writers. Specifically, she uses the discourse of "holy violence" adopted by both men and women prophetic writers, and a discourse of "holy weakness" adopted by women prophetic writers in particular. Though "The Revelation" may appear singular to the modern reader, it shares many structural and authorial features with other apocalyptic and prophetic writings from the same era, especially those written by women, and is thus generically classifiable as seventeenth-century apocalyptic writing.
Structurally, Wentworth's "The Revelation of Jesus Christ" consists of seventeen separate "revelations," which are diary-like entries in which she narrates Christ's different appearances and the prophetic, usually versified words He speaks to her about the imminent arrival of the Apocalypse. "The Revelation" lacks a plot structure in any traditional sense because no particular events, in fact, occur. Nor is there any sense of emotional or attitudinal progression to replace plot progression; both Christ and Wentworth appear equally denunciatory of sinners and admonitory about the coming of the Apocalypse in every revelation.
Though "The Revelation" may lack plot in a traditional sense, the dates of the entries indicate that the revelations may, in fact, have some correspondence with events in Wentworth's personal life. The dates of the entries, spanning September 6, 1677, to August 18, 1679, superficially appear to be erratic, with twelve out of the seventeen falling in the small time frame between March and August 1679. However, the anonymous author of the concluding material to "The Revelation" supplies information as to a rationale for the dates and their relationship to the events of Wentworth's life when he/she concludes the text by relating Wentworth's eviction from her house in Midsummer 1677, God's prophecy to Wentworth that she would be readmitted to it by Midsummer 1679, and her actual readmission to the house by the time of "The Revelation"'s publication after August 1679 ("The Revelation" 22, D1 verso). Though the anonymous author does not causally link the appearance of the revelations with Wentworth's period of eviction, he does implicitly say as much by concluding the text in this vein. The dates of the revelations do indeed correspond with Wentworth's period of eviction, as well as with her period of hiding from her husband after he threatened her and seized her writings. Moreover, the majority of these "revelations" occur during the climactic Summer of 1679 when she was expecting a vindicatory readmission to her home as Christ foretold. Though the anonymous author may want the reader to recognize the relationship between Wentworth's personal trauma and the appearance of the revelations as the consequent expression of Christ's anger over the abuse of His messenger, the more skeptical reader may simply read it as the consequent expression of Wentworth's personal distress. Whichever way one interprets this correspondence, it is clear that, though" The Revelation may lack plot in any traditional sense, its structure certainly bears some relationship to the events of Wentworth's life.
If the lack of plot makes "The Revelation" difficult to classify generically, so does its mixture of prose and poetic forms. Typically, each revelation begins with a short prose introduction, perhaps only a single sentence or two in length, in which Wentworth posits the poem following it as the received word of Christ. However," The Revelation cannot adequately be described as a long prophetic poem (in which God/Christ is the speaking subject) interspersed with brief prose remarks by the amanuensis. First of all, four of Wentworth's revelations (I, XI, XII, and XVI) are completely written in prose and contain both herself and Christ as speaking subjects. Secondly, within the revelations that do consist of a prose introduction followed by verse, Wentworth's voice is not limited to expression within the prose and Christ's voice is not limited to expression within the poetry. For example, in many of the revelations, Wentworth relates Christ's admonitory, Scripturally imitative words to her in the introduction, prior to their expression in the poetry. Moreover, Wentworth's voice often slips into the verses, resulting in much confusion over the identity of the poem's speaker. For example, in "Revelation VIII," she says in her prose introduction, "And then the Lord spake thus in verses," as though she were going to abandon her own subjectivity for God's in the following poem. She proceeds, however, to posit herself as the speaking subject of the verses: "Full eighteen years in sorrow did I lye, / Then the Lord Jesus came to hear my cry." Several lines later, Christ becomes the speaking subject, and Wentworth becomes the object of his speech: "They do know how I the Lord did make thee whole, / But they see not the spirit of God in thee burn like a Coal."
Though the slipping identity of speakers in "The Revelation" may simply appear to be sloppy literary craftsmanship on the part of Wentworth, it may also stem from a cultural dilemma that women prophets like Wentworth faced. Like Fifth Monarchist prophet Anna Trapnel, Wentworth may have consciously posited herself as both the speaker and as the object of speech in her prophetic writings to represent the "problematic position of women in language" (Purkiss 142). According to Diane Purkiss in her article, "Producing the voice, consuming the body: Women prophets of the seventeenth century," Anna Trapnel in her prophetic writings often awards herself full subjectivity as the first-person speaker "I" in one part of a sentence, and then revokes it in the next part by referring to herself as the third-person object "her," thereby "becoming the object and not the subject of her own speaking" (Purkiss 142). Because Trapnel often quickly exchanges her subject position for an object position in her writing, Purkiss says that Trapnel "is using the conventions of prophecy to represent th[e] marginal position" of women in language, a position in which women are forced to relinquish their own speaking abilities in order to be the silent objects of male expression (Purkiss 142). Though Wentworth never exchanges her position of subjectivity for one of objectivity within single sentences, she does do so within single poems. In the aforementioned "Revelation VIII," for example, she begins the poem by speaking about herself, but then quickly relinquishes the subject position to God and becomes the object of His discourse. Like Anna Trapnel, Wentworth may have represented the seventeenth-century woman's "fractured speaking voice" (Purkiss 142) when she posited herself as the speaker of the poems one moment, only to posit herself as the object of God's speech the next. Even if Trapnel and Wentworth did not actively try to represent this speaking voice, their unconscious use of it in and of itself evidences its existence as a woman's mode of speech within seventeenth-century culture. "Fractures" in the subjectivity of women's prophetic texts, therefore, should be understood as an authorial strategy, not as sloppy literary craftsmanship.
Whereas the cultural "fracturing" of Wentworth's speaking voice may account for the slipping identity of the speakers in "The Revelation", there is no particular cultural or gender-specific reason why Wentworth's poetic lines in this text possess little formal regularity other than falling into couplets ending in masculine rhymes. In fact, women prophet-poets in the seventeenth-century, including Wentworth herself, wrote both loose and highly-wrought poetic lines. According to Nigel Smith in his book "Perfection Proclaimed: Language and Literature in English Radical Religion 1640-1660, "the simplicity, the crudeness, the lack of metre, and the obvious rhymes" characterize the verse of Baptist prophet Katherine Sutton in her tract "A Christian Womans Experiences of the glorious working of Gods free grace. Smith also notes, however, that the Baptist prophet Susanna Bateman wrote her prophetic tract" I matter not how I appear to Man in iambic pentameter (Smith 332-note 55). Anna Trapnel also wrote highly-wrought poetry; for instance, she composed her prophetic tract" A lively voice for the King of Saints and Nations, etc.; in alternating lines of iambic trimeter and iambic tetrameter. Like Trapnel, Wentworth herself employed this highly regular metrical form in the poetic addendum to "A Vindication . There is no obvious reason, cultural or otherwise, why Wentworth composed the poetry of" The Revelation with little formal regularity.
Apocalyptic Imagery and Themes and the Discourse of "Holy Violence"
Though "The Revelation" possesses no traditional plot structure and little metrical regularity, its imagery and themes are consistently apocalyptic. Like many other sixteenth and seventeenth-century apocalyptic writers, Wentworth derives much of this imagery from the Biblical "Book of Revelation. In Wentworth's text, Christ assigns the name "Babylon" to England, thereby comparing it to the corrupt kingdom that suffers God's destructive wrath during the Apocalypse. Just like God in the Biblical Revelation, Christ in Wentworth's text also personifies Babylon as a "whore" who spreads her contamination throughout the land. Also as in its Biblical analogue, the exact date of the arrival of the Apocalypse in "The Revelation" remains ambiguous, though there is a repeated emphasis on its imminence.
Besides borrowing its imagery, Wentworth also appropriates "The Book of Revelation's punitive language for her own "Revelation. For example, in both texts, the Lord says He will send plagues, burn the land, command the angels to slay the faithless people, and condemn sinners to the bottomless pit. Wentworth also borrows the metaphors and language of violence from elsewhere in the" Bible to describe the wrath of God and Christ upon Babylon and its inhabitants. For instance, in "The Revelation" Wentworth alludes to Christ's admonitory parable of the barren fig tree ("Luke 13:10-17) when she narrates Him saying that He will destroy sinners who are spiritually barren and who therefore merely "cumber the ground" ("The Revelation" 15, C2 recto); she alludes several times to Christ's graphic assertion in "Matthew 18:6 that it would be better for sinners to drown themselves than to incur His wrath ("The Revelation" 13, C1 recto & 15, C2 recto); moreover, she often appropriates descriptive phrases of God's wrath from the Old Testament, phrases such as His "anger [was] kindled against" sinners and He will "cut them off."
To enhance the imagery of Christ's wrath during the Apocalypse, Wentworth, then, invokes a discourse of "holy violence," a type of language which Nigel Smith argues was common to radical religious writings of the seventeenth-century (321). Smith argues that, by denouncing an enemy with Biblical language, the radical religious writer could maintain "the sense of direct inspiration from the divine" in his/her text even as he/she vilified his/her enemies (Smith 321). In other words, a vindicatory, prophetic writer like Wentworth could use the discourse of "holy violence" to avoid having the vilification of her enemies compromise the sense of her text as God's word. Smith also claims that radical religious writers often did not contextualize the violent Scriptural phrases they appropriated, and relied instead upon the reader's Biblical knowledge to complete his/her understanding of the meaning and force of the writer's derogatory, Scripturally-based phraseology (Smith 322). Wentworth falls into this particular category of writers of "holy violence" in that, most often, she appropriates violent Biblical language without contextualizing it within its Scriptural framework or citing its Scriptural location. As the footnotes to the text indicate, comparing her use of violent Biblical terminology to its actual Biblical analogue generally reveals allusive meaning in her denunciations. For instance, when Christ says that Babylon will "sink like a Mill-stone" in "The Revelation" ("The Revelation" 15, C2 recto), Wentworth is, in fact, denouncing her enemies in particular for persecuting her, a powerless, innocent servant of the Lord, for, in "Matthew 18:6, Christ suggests that persecutors of his "little ones" would be better off drowning with a Mill-stone tied about their necks than suffering His wrath. Wentworth, then, freely appropriating one phrase of "holy violence" after another without ever stopping to explain the full semantic import of her Scriptural allusions, expects her audience to be able to fill these semantic gaps with Biblical knowledge. Modern readers unfamiliar with Scripture can easily overlook the full affective power of her denunciations and the violent nature of her Apocalyptic vision.
The Woman Prophet's Discourse of Personal Weakness
As noted previously in this introduction, the activities of seventeenth-century women prophets challenged gender hierarchies and were thus met with much anxiety and resistance. Since women prophets faced such hostility and skepticism, it is not surprising that they generated and extensively employed various techniques within their writings to authenticate their prophesying. Specifically, they posited themselves as mere amanuenses of God who lacked voices of their own that might interfere with or contaminate God's word. They further emphasized their lack of agency by portraying themselves as physically weak or ill. Finally, to lend Scriptural authority to their acquired prophetic capabilities, they often cited Biblical passages in which the weak are empowered by God. In doing so, seventeenth-century women prophets engaged in what could be entitled a "discourse of weakness" to validate their prophetic writings. In "Virtue of Necessity: English Women's Writing 1646-1688, Elaine Hobby claims that Quaker women prophets paradoxically gained the power to prophesy by acting weak. This assertion applies to seventeenth-century women prophets in general:
...the achievements of all these women were made possible by the power they obtained through being identified as the weak recipients of God's word. Within the confines of femininity, they were able to negotiate a space that allowed for decidedly unfeminine activities (Hobby 38).
To posit themselves as mere recipients of God's word, women prophets like Wentworth continually emphasized their lack of volition in the prophetic writing process. In "The Revelation", the anonymous author of the "Advertisement" narrates the procedural aspects of Wentworth's passive reception and forced transmission of God's message:
...in the Night, when others are asleep; then doth she hear the Voice of God, which is very sweet and pleasant to her, but having no opportunity then, to write down what is spoken to her, as soon as she is risen, she begs of God, that if it be his will, that the words, he spake to her, should be made known, that he would be pleased to bring it fresh again to her memory, if any thing be forgot by her: and upon her request the Lord is used to pour it down upon her, as a mighty Stream, that she cannot rest, nor mind any thing in the World, nor speak to any, nor understand what others say to her, until she have put all in writing, and so answered the mind of God ("The Revelation" A2 verso).
From the outset of "The Revelation", Wentworth is described as having no real voice of her own in the text. She herself is a dumb instrument through which God speaks. Indeed, Wentworth herself emphasizes her instrumentality throughout the text proper of "The Revelation". For example, in "Revelation I" she asks, "...why do ye then me so hate...What cause do I give, but that Gods commands I keep?" ("The Revelation" 2, A3 verso). In "Revelation VI" she says, "But the Lord sent me forth, and he brought me home. / To go on such an Errand, it was no pleasing thing, / And be so much abused, but I must obey my King" ("The Revelation" 6, B1 verso). Finally, in "Revelation XVI," she reminds her enemies that "That Spirit [Christ]...hath dictated the Verses in this Book," she has not composed them herself ("The Revelation" 19, C4 recto). Such assertions of personal voicelessness and lack of authorial control prevail in writings by seventeenth-century prophetic women (Ludlow 105): Jane Lead, for example, calls herself an "earthen and empty vessel" through which God speaks (quoted in Purkiss 141); Fifth Monarchist Mary Cary says, " I am a very weak, and unworthy instrument, and have not done this work by any strength of my own...that I could do no more herein...of my self, than a pencil or pen can do, when no hand guides it" (quoted in Mack 111); and Anna Trapnel asserts that her prophetic voice is under the complete control of God when she tells Bridewell prison officials that she cannot silence her prophesying because "what the Lord utters in me, I must speak" (quoted in Otten 72). Phyllis Mack asserts that the cultural distrust of women's speech required the constant description of women prophets as personally mute. Specifically, she argues that, because the talking woman became associated with female temptresses, the female prophet needed to be perceived as personally silent for her prophecies to appear to have divine authority:
Given these perceptions of the actual physical power and potential danger of women's speech, it is not surprising that the successful female prophet was invariably described, paradoxically, as dumb; 'dumb' meaning both stupid and mute, empty of everything but God (Mack 32).
These descriptions of female prophets as "dumb" often came from the prophets themselves, and eventually became conventional parts of their texts. To emphasize their passivity in the prophetic process, seventeenth-century women prophets often described themselves as physically weak or ill. In her article "Producing the voice, consuming the body: Women prophets of the seventeenth century," Diane Purkiss notes that female prophets like Anna Trapnel validated their prophesying by positing themselves as stereotypically weak or dying women who lacked the physical strength to contaminate God's word with their own:
In the seventeenth century, illness and bodily weakness were feminized. Women were thought to be particularly prone to illness, and illness and weakness were in turn negative signs of femininity, underwriting women's subordination. In Trapnel's writings, this gender difference is at once reinforced and undermined: the attributes used in the dominant discourse to signify feminine inadequacy are privileged as factors of verbal empowerment. Illness and physical incapacity stage the body as the passive prey of external forces, hence an authentic site of divine intervention (Purkiss 144).
Unlike Trapnel and other women prophets such as Sarah Wight and Martha Hatfield, Wentworth does not claim in" The Revelation to receive her prophecies during periods of sickness. However, she does assert that she initially became prophetic as the result of Christ's healing of her 18-year-long illness. Specifically, in "A true Account, Wentworth likens herself to the woman from "Luke 13:11 who is healed after God exorcises the evil spirit from her:
...having an Hectiff Fever, which came by so great oppression, and sorrow of heart; and wanting vent, and smothering it so long in my own brest, grew so hot, and burnt so strong, that I was past all cure of man, and given over by them, and lay at the point of death, being bowed together with my infirmity of 18 years, and could in no wise lift up my self: then at that inch and nick of time the great Physitian of value came, the good Samaritan passing by, and seeing me lye wounded, and bleeding to death, even as it were at the last gasp: then he spake as he did to the woman, "Luke 13.11. and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity; and he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God: and I was as immediately restored as she ("A true account 9, B2 recto).
Wentworth, then, prophesies from a healed rather than an ailing state. Nevertheless, as in the case of other women prophets, her sickness plays a crucial part in the illustration of her purity as a vessel for God's word. Whereas other prophets use their sickness to underscore their lack of female agency and thus their inability to contaminate God's voice, Wentworth uses her ailment and subsequent cure to posit herself as purged by God of all evil and faithlessness and, therefore, as a purified mouthpiece for His word. Wentworth continues to rely on this validatory discourse of physical weakness in "The Revelation" when she alludes again to herself as the woman from "Luke 13:11 in "Revelation IX":
Full eighteen years in sorrow I did lye,
Then the Lord "Jesus came to hear my cry;
In one nights time he did me heal,
From head to foot he made me well.
With Ointment sweet he did me anoint,
And this work he then did me appoint ("The Revelation" 9, B3 recto).
By citing a Biblical precedent for God choosing her, a weak, sick woman, to glorify Him, Wentworth Scripturally validates her prophetic power. Seventeenth-century women prophets, in fact, commonly justified their prophetic capabilities by alluding to God's special protection and empowerment of the weak in Scripture. According to Phyllis Mack, these women appealed to the "ancient Christian notion of paradox, which held that the last--the poor, the ignorant, the diseased and despised--shall ultimately be first" (Mack 172). Besides comparing herself to the woman in "Luke 13:11, for example, Wentworth quotes "Psalm 8:2 and 1 "Corinthians 1:27-28 at the very beginning of" The Revelation, thus positing herself as one of the "babes and sucklings" and one of the "foolish things of the world" who will be given strength to outwit and overcome the mighty ("The Revelation" A1 verso) . Wentworth also refers to herself throughout the text as one of Christ's "little ones," a common Biblical phrase that Christ uses to describe the helpless and innocent who fall under His special protection and who will be exalted by Him. In her chapter of "Visionary Women entitled "Female Symbolism and Female Prophecy," Phyllis Mack provides examples of other women prophets, including Mary Pope, Antonia Bourignon, and Elizabeth Avery, whose prophetic empowerment is justified by themselves or others as having Scriptural precedent. Mary Pope, for instance, Scripturally justified her prophetic activity when she reminds her readers that "...David held it no disparagement, though a king, to take the advice of a woman, (I "Sam. 25.33) and seeing that God himself, hath in many great acts honored women as well as men, and above men" (quoted in Mack 108-original parentheses). Antonia Bourignon reminds her readers that "they ought to let God speak by a woman, if it be his pleasure, since he spoke in former times to a prophet by a beast" (quoted in Mack 111). Finally, an editor of a treatise written by Elizabeth Avery argues
...the power of God doth appear in [this work] in respect of the weakness and contemptibleness of the instrument whom he doth here employ; as formerly it hath been his course in doing great things by weakest means, and so by such foolishness he doth bring to nought the wisdom of the wise (quoted in Mack 118--Mack's brackets).
When, to validate her prophesying, Wentworth alludes to many Biblical illustrations of the empowerment of the weak, she clearly employs a conventional justificatory technique used by women prophets who wrote using a "discourse of weakness."