Perdita woman: Mary Evelyn (1635-1709)


Mary Evelyn (1635-1709) was the only child of Sir Richard Browne and his wife Elizabeth Pretyman. She received a good education, which included instruction in French, Italian, mathematics and drawing. In July 1641, Charles I appointed Richard Browne to the position of English resident in Paris, where he was to remain until 1660, serving the young Charles II after his father's death. During the Civil Wars and interregnum, Browne's house in Paris became a focal point for exiled royalists and adherents of the Church of England. One such royalist was John Evelyn, who first visited the Browne household in the mid-1650s. Evelyn and Mary Browne were married on 22 June 1647; the bride was twelve or thirteen years old, her husband some fourteen years older. Mary Evelyn remained with her parents for the next few years, but returned to England in 1652 and went to live with her husband at Sayes Court in Kent, a property belonging to the Browne family.

The Evelyns had eight children, of whom only four - John, Mary, Elizabeth and Susanna - survived infancy, and only one - Susanna - outlived her parents. Despite visits to London, Mary Evelyn seems to have had comparatively little share in her husband's life at court after the Restoration, but maintained a busy correspondence with friends and relatives such as Samuel Tuke (her cousin), William Glanville (her brother-in-law), Ralph Bohun (her son's tutor) and Mary Evelyn of Wotton (her husband's cousin). She was also active in the management of the family house and still-room.

In the 1690s, John and Mary Evelyn left Deptford and took up residence in the Evelyn family home at Wotton, Surrey. John Evelyn died in 1706, and Mary herself died on 9 February 1709, in London. She was buried at Wotton.


Harris, Frances, "Living in the neighbourhood of science: Mary Evelyn, Margaret Cavendish and the Greshamites", Women, Science and Medicine, 1500-1700, L. Hunter and S. Hutton, Stroud, Sutton, 1997 , pp.198-217
Perkins, Joan, "Mary Evelyn", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004

British Library: Add. MS 78440
Sermon Notes (1679-1683)
(Compiler, Scribe) Mary Evelyn (1665-1685)

British Library: Add. MS 78437, fols 1-20
Calligraphic Exercise Book (1649)
(Scribe) Mary Evelyn (1635-1709)

British Library: Add. MS 78438
Letterbook (c.1665-1709)
(Author, Scribe) Mary Evelyn (1635-1709)

British Library: Add. MS 78439
Letterbooks of outgoing correspondence (c.1660-1730)
(Author) Mary Evelyn (1635-1709)