Perdita woman: Anne Ley


Anne, or Anna, Norman (d.1641) was the daughter of London leatherseller, Thomas Norman and his wife, Anne. Little is known of this family prior to Anne's marriage, after a prolonged engagement, to Roger Ley, curate of St. Leonard, Shoreditch, at St. Botolph's Church, Bishopsgate, on 25 February 1621/2. Her husband is the author of two published Paul's Cross sermons: The Scepter of Righteousness, (1619) and The Bruising of the Serpent's Head, (1622). The manuscript preserving both their writings includes a number of his theological treatises. In addition, he authored a history of the English church in Latin ("Gesta Britannica", BL, Stowe MS 76). The couple set up a parish school, where Anne taught Greek and Latin.

Her surviving writings are the letters, poems and commonplace book preserved by her husband after her death. Two letters in Latin illustrate her proficiency in that language. Her writing reveals an extensive involvement in her local community: there are letters to young scholars, letters to her father and husband, poems commemorating local clergy, and polemical verse. Both she and her husband were royalists and religious conformists. They were close to the parish minister, John Squire, who defended himself in parliament against accusations of papistry in 1640, and was eventually ejected in 1642.

A number of Anne's letters are written from Northchurch, Hertfordshire. Her stay in the country was likely an attempt to escape the plague which broke out in 1636, when she wrote a will, or the earlier plague of 1625. It was clearly a reluctant exile, as she repeatedly expresses a desire to return to her beloved London. The couple do not appear to have had children; Anne's will mentions no offspring, and her husband's 1667 will names his nephew, Timothy Ley, and friend, Isaac Saunderson, as executors.

Anne became ill some time before her death at the end of 1641. She was buried with her parents in her husband's parish at Shoreditch on 22 October 1641.

William Andrews Clark Memorial Library: MS L6815 M3 C734
Miscellany of works by Anne and Roger Ley, including Anne Ley's commonplace book (1623-1668)
Anne Ley (Compiler, Author, Scribe)