The Correspondence of Anne Bacon

Primary Contributors:

Gemma Allen with the WEMLO project (co-directors: James Daybell and Kim McLean-Fiander)

Lady Anne Bacon, by Isaac Oliver. c. 1600, opaque watercolour and gilding on vellum, 6.2 by 5.9 cm. (Image courtesy of The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore)

Lady Anne Bacon (c.1528–1610)

Lady Anne Bacon (née Cooke) (c.1528–1610), gentlewoman and scholar, was the daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke (c.1505–1576), one of the humanist tutors of Edward VI; she was named after her mother Anne (d.1553), daughter of Sir William FitzWilliam. She was one of the renowned Cooke sisters who were classically educated by their father and who, according to Thomas Fuller, were ‘all most eminent scholars, (the honour of their own and the shame of our sex)’ (Fuller, Worthies, vol. 1, p. 509),  and Anne herself published translations from Italian of the sermons of Bernadino Ochino (1548, 1551), as well as a translation from Latin of John Jewel’s Apologie of the Churche of Englande (1564). In 1553, she married Sir Nicholas Bacon (1510–1579), later Lord Keeper, and was the mother of Anthony Bacon (1558–1601) and his younger brother, the philosopher, Sir Francis Bacon (1561–1626). Anne sought to advance her sons in the world, particularly after the death of her husband, as is clear from the maternal advice that fills her correspondence. She was a staunch reformist in matters of religion, and as a widow she actively advanced ‘right reformation’, pressing her brother-in-law William Cecil to secure a fairer hearing for those nonconformist preachers deprived under Whitgift’s articles of 1583.

Partners and Additional Contributors

The WEMLO project is led by co-directors Professor James Daybell (Plymouth University) and Dr Kim McLean-Fiander (University of Victoria). When WEMLO began, much of the metadata for a number of individual women’s correspondence catalogues had been collated independently by James Daybell after years of research in archives around the world. Subsequently, Kim McLean-Fiander oversaw the curation of this metadata.

In the case of this catalogue, the WEMLO directors reached out to the historian Gemma Allen, who had edited The Letters of Lady Anne Bacon, which was published by Cambridge University Press in 2014. Thus, the Bacon catalogue metadata that had been collated previously by James Daybell was updated and much enhanced from cross-checks to Allen’s edition by Sophie Gee, with final metadata curation by Kim McLean-Fiander. Thanks are due in addition to EMLO Digital Fellows Owen Hubbard and Charlotte Marique for their help with the preparation of this metadata for upload to the union catalogue. Gemma Allen wrote the material for this Anne Bacon catalogue introduction page.

The WEMLO project has benefitted from the research and editorial expertise of Dr Ian Cooper and Dr Bruna Gushurst-Moore and the design expertise of Dr J. Matthew Huculak. Finally, all WEMLO-related catalogues have relied upon the skill and expertise of EMLO Digital Editor, Miranda Lewis. WEMLO would like to thank the entire team at Cultures of Knowledge and EMLO for their assistance and ongoing support.

Key Bibliographic Source(s)

Bacon, Lady Anne, The Letters of Lady Anne Bacon, ed. Gemma Allen, Camden Fifth Series, 44 (Cambridge: CUP, 2014).


The letters of the learned and indomitable Lady Anne Bacon, mother of the philosopher, Francis Bacon, number nearly two hundred items of correspondence, which are scattered in repositories throughout the world. Her correspondence sheds fresh light not only on the activities of early modern elite women, but also on well-known Elizabethan figures, including her children, her privy councillor relatives, such as William Cecil, Lord Burghley, and controversial figures, including the earl of Essex. The impact of Anne’s humanist education is revealed in her correspondence through her frequent use of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. The letters have been edited and published by Gemma Allen for the Royal Historical Society’s Camden Series.

Further resources


Primary Editions

The Letters of Lady Anne Bacon, ed. Gemma Allen, Camden Fifth Series, 44 (Cambridge: CUP, 2014).

The Letters and Life of Francis Bacon, ed. James Spedding, 7 vols (1861–74).

Letters From Redgrave Hall: The Bacon Family, 1340–1744, ed. Diarmaid MacCulloch, Suffolk Records Society, 50 (2007).

Birch, Thomas, Memoirs of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, 2 vols (1754).

The Papers of Nathaniel Bacon of Stiffkey, ed. A. H. Smith, G. M. Baker, and R. W. Kenny, vols 1–4, Norfolk Record Society Publications, 46, 49, 53, and 64 (1979–2000).

Secondary Works
Allen, Gemma, The Cooke Sisters: Education, Piety and Politics in Early Modern England (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013).

Allen, Gemma, ‘“a briefe and plaine declaration”: Lady Anne Bacon’s 1564 Translation of the Apologia Ecclesiae Anglicanae’, in Philippa Hardman and Anne Lawrence–Mathers, eds, Women and Writing, c. 1340–c. 1650: The Domestication of Print Culture (Suffolk: Boydell and Brewer, 2010), pp. 62–76.

Daybell, James, Women Letter–Writers in Tudor England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).

Demers, P., ‘“Neither bitterly nor brablingly”: Lady Anne Cooke Bacon’s translation of Bishop Jewel’s Apologia Ecclesiae Anglicanae’, in M. White, ed., English Women, Religion, and Textual Production, 1500–1625 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2011), pp. 205–18.

Jardine, Lisa, and Alan Stewart, Hostage to Fortune: The Troubled Life of Francis Bacon, 1561–1626 (London: Victor Gollanz, 1998).

Magnusson, Lynne, ‘Bacon [Cooke], Anne, Lady Bacon (c.1528–1610)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Magnusson, Lynne, ‘Widowhood and Linguistic Capital: The Rhetoric and Reception of Anne Bacon’s Epistolary Advice’, English Literary Renaissance, 31, 1 (2001), pp. 3–33.

Magnusson, Lynne, ‘Imagining a national church: election and education in the works of Anne Cooke Bacon’, in Johanna Harris and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, eds, The Intellectual Culture of Puritan Women, 1558–1680 (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2010), pp. 42–56.

Mair, Katy, ‘Material Lies: Parental Anxiety and Epistolary Practice in the Correspondence of Anne, Lady Bacon and Anthony Bacon’, Lives and Letters, 4, 1 (2012).

Mair, Katy, ‘Anne, Lady Bacon: A Life in Letters’ (PhD, Queen Mary, University of London, 2009).

McIntosh, M. K., ‘Sir Anthony Cooke: Tudor humanist, educator, and religious reformer’, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 119 (1975), pp. 233–50.

Stewart, Alan, ‘The Voices of Anne Cooke, Lady Anne and Lady Bacon’ in Danielle Clarke and Elizabeth Clarke, eds, This Double Voice: Gendered Writing in Early Modern England (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2000), pp. 88–102.


Additional resources

Women’s Early Modern Letters Online [WEMLO] project page

WEMLO network and resources hub



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