Russell, Lucy (c. 1581–1627)

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Russell, Lucy (c. 1581–1627)

English patron of poets. Name variations: Lucy, Countess of Bedford; Lucy Harington. Born around 1581; died in 1627; daughter of John Harington, 1st Baron Harington of Exton, and Anne Harington ; married Edward Russell, 3rd earl of Bedford, in 1594.

Born around 1581, Lucy Russell was a patron of some of the foremost English poets of her day. Ben Jonson and John Donne praised her in their work. Jonson wrote three of his epigrams—the 76th, 84th, and 94th—for her, in which he called her his muse, thanked her for her financial gifts, and delighted in her friendship. In the 94th epigram, he refers to her as "Lucy, you brightness of our sphere, who are / Life of the muses' day, their morning star." Donne also wrote several poems addressed to her, including an elegy after her death. Some

critics, particularly in the following centuries, implied that these writers' financial dependence on Russell sparked their unflagging admiration far more than did the actual quality of her character, but this seems at least much exaggerated if not completely spurious. Donne's poem "To the Countess of Bedford," which discusses how virtue is usually tinged with some sort of vice and vice with some bit of virtue, seems explicitly to deny any who would malign her name, stating that while his poem "do / Stand on two truths, neither is true to you." Her generosity, at any rate, is unquestionable. She received a large inheritance from her father John Harington, 1st Baron Harington of Exton, and spent most of it financing writers; in addition to Jonson and Donne, she helped support poet Michael Drayton, poet and playwright Samuel Daniel, and poet, playwright and translator George Chapman. Although Russell is known primarily for her financial support of various literary figures, she apparently wrote verse herself, as evidenced by allusions to her work in the writing of others. None of her writings survive, however.


The Concise Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Lodge, Edmund. Portraits of Illustrious Personages of Great Britain. Vol. 3. London: William Smith, n.d.

Kelly Winters , freelance writer, Bayville, New York

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Russell, Lucy (c. 1581–1627)

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