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The Life and Writings of Luisa de Carvajal y Mendoza

Rejecting marriage and the convent, the Spanish noblewoman, poet, and religious activist Luisa de Carvajal y Mendoza ( Jaraicejo 1566–London 1614) led an uncommon life of adventure and spiritual devotion. Orphaned as a child, she lived first at Philip II’s court, and then with an uncle, the Viceroy of Navarra, who enforced harsh discipline on his ward. Through her contacts with the English Jesuits, Carvajal traveled secretly to London as a self-appointed missionary, where she was jailed twice for preaching against Anglicanism. A tireless writer, Carvajal left a small but impressive collection of spiritual poetry, an autobiography, and over two hundred letters. This volume provides a scholarly introduction and translations of selections from her writings.

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"Luisa de Carvajal’s writings offer compelling accounts of the persecution of English recusants and insights into the political and diplomatic background to the pax hispanica. Her religious poetry and autobiographical writings, at once disturbing and powerful, vividly document a particular strand of women’s penitential piety. Without pathologizing Carvajal, Anne Cruz’s masterful introduction provides the essential literary and historical context for approaching this controversial would-be martyr."

Alison Weber, University of Virginia

Table of Contents

Illustrations xi
Acknowledgments xiii
The Other Voice 1
Luisa de Carvajal’s Life Writings 6
The World of the Spanish Nobility 13
Early Childhood Reminiscences 17
Adolescence and Penitential Discipline 25
Spiritual Poetry 36
The Sacred and the Profane in Carvajal’s Spiritual Poetry 41
Correspondence 48
Desire for Martyrdom in England 54
Missionary Life in London 66
A Roman Priest in Women’s Clothing 71
The Traffic in Relics 78
Circulating Her Life Story 91
Luisa de Carvajal’s Afterlife 98
Autobiography 111
Selected Spiritual Poems 153
Selected Correspondence 201
Bibliography 351
Index 365

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