Weston, Elizabeth Jane (1582–1612)

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Weston, Elizabeth Jane (1582–1612)

British scholar and writer who was ranked with the best Latin poets of her day . Born in London, England, on November 2, 1582; died in Prague, Czechoslovakia, on November 23, 1612; married Johann Leon (a lawyer), around 1602; children: three daughters and four sons.

A prodigy in languages, Elizabeth Jane Weston was greatly admired in her day as a scholar and Latin poet. Although born in England in 1582, she spent most of her life on the Continent, eventually settling in Prague. It is unclear why the Weston family moved from London to Brux in Bohemia, but it is likely to have been because the family property had been confiscated as a result of its Catholicism or politics. While in Brux, Weston began writing verse and corresponding with the leading scholars of her day. Although her primary spoken language was German, she did all of her writing, both poetry and prose, in Latin. She also spoke and wrote Greek, Italian, and Czech. English scholars thought so highly of her work that she was ranked with Sir Thomas More among the best Latin poets of her day, and her reputation on the Continent was even higher.

Weston's father enjoyed high living, and when he died suddenly in Prague in 1597, the debts he had accumulated left the family not only destitute but badly served by his creditors. Weston, then in her 15th year, traveled with her mother to Prague to sort out the situation, appealing to the emperor, Rudolph II, for his sympathy. The combination of her beauty and her scholarly accomplishments won Weston many powerful friends and supporters to advocate for her, among them England's James I who is thought to have assisted her in her suit. The lawsuit was successful, and Weston stayed in Prague, marrying about 1602. Her husband Johann Leon was a lawyer and agent at the imperial court for the duke of Brunswick and the prince of Anhalt.

A Silesian noble, Georg Martin van Baldhoven, so much admired her poems that he collected them and had them published in several volumes as Parthenicon Elisabethae Joannae Westoniae, virginis nobilissimae, poetriae florentissimae, linguarum plurimarum peritissimae. Many of these poems were addressed to princes, including her advocate, James I. The third volume contained a list of learned women, ending with Weston herself. The first edition was printed in Frankfurt an der Oder; succeeding editions were published in Prague (1605–06), Leipzig (1609), Amsterdam (1712), and Frankfurt (1723). Weston died in Prague in 1612 and was buried there.

sources:

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

Shattock, Joanne. The Oxford Guide to British Women Writers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Malinda Mayer , writer and editor, Falmouth, Massachusetts

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Weston, Elizabeth Jane (1582–1612)

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