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Ann Chitting & Mary Barber

"At this point — early in the seventeenth century — women step into the picture. The earliest example I know of two women being buried side by side in this way is the monument to Ann Chitting and her friend Mary Barber (from 1606) in the church of St James in Bury in Suffolk." Alan Bray

Both Ann Chitting and Mary Barber were married, and Roger Barber, the husband of Mary Barber, was also buried by her. The friendship between Ann Chitting and Mary Barber evidently had a sufficiently formal and objective character for them to be buried together: "Henry her sonn her body here did place / next to her friend whose soules in heave' imbrace." We know of the monument (now lost) because of the manuscripts of the Suffolk antiquary Henry Chitting. Mary Barber was the niece of Francis Boldero, the servant and official of the lord keeper Sir Nicholas Bacon, the Chipping's family patron.

September 6, 1600 marks the death of Mary Barber of Suffolk, whose tombstone, as Alan Bray proposes, may be the first public inscription in modern Europe explicitly to proclaim an intimate female friendship as eternally significant. After Barber's beloved friend the widow Ann Chitting did in 1606, followed soon thereafter by Mary's husband Roger, Ann's son Henry buried the three together in the church of St. James. Mary lies between Ann and Roger, the inscription declaring that the two women "whole soules in heave' imbrace" had "lived and loved like two most vertuous wights" and thus that "whose bodyes death would sever" the son "unites". In so doing, Henry Chitting joins two politically connected families specifically through the heavenly "imbrace" of female friends.


"At this point — early in the seventeenth century — women step into the picture. The earliest example I know of two women being buried side by side in this way is the monument to Ann Chitting and her friend Mary Barber (from 1606) in the church of St James in Bury in Suffolk." Alan Bray. Both Ann Chitting and Mary Barber were married, and Roger Barber, the husband of Mary Barber, was also buried by her. The friendship between Ann Chitting and Mary Barber evidently had a sufficiently formal and objective character for them to be buried together.

Further Readings:

The Friend by Alan Bray
Paperback: 392 pages
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (December 31, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0226071812
ISBN-13: 978-0226071817
Amazon: The Friend

In the chapel of Christ's College, Cambridge, some twenty years ago, historian Alan Bray made an astonishing discovery: a tomb shared by two men, John Finch and Thomas Baines. The monument featured eloquent imagery dedicated to their friendship: portraits of the two friends linked by a knotted cloth. And Bray would soon learn that Finch commonly described his friendship with Baines as a connubium or marriage.

There was a time, as made clear by this monument, when the English church not only revered such relations between men, but also blessed them. Taking this remarkable idea as its cue, The Friend explores the long and storied relationship between friendship and the traditional family of the church in England. This magisterial work extends from the year 1000, when Europe acquired a shape that became its enduring form, and pursues its account up to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Spanning a vast array of fascinating examples, which range from memorial plaques and burial brasses to religious rites and theological imagery to classic works of philosophy and English literature, Bray shows how public uses of private affection were very common in premodern times. He debunks the now-familiar readings of friendship by historians of sexuality who project homoerotic desires onto their subjects when there were none. And perhaps most notably, he evaluates how the ethics of friendship have evolved over the centuries, from traditional emphases on loyalty to the Kantian idea of moral benevolence to the more private and sexualized idea of friendship that emerged during the modern era.

Finely nuanced and elegantly conceived, The Friend is a book rich in suggestive propositions as well as eye-opening details. It will be essential reading for anyone interested in the history of England and the importance of friendship in everyday life.

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Tags: days of love tb
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