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Short biography
Aemilia Lanyer (or Lanier) was the first Englishwoman to assert herself as a professional poet. She was the daughter of a Venetian musician, Baptist Bassano, and an English musician, Margaret Johnson. Her parents, who were not married, performed at the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Her father died during her childhood, and after the death of her mother in 1587, Aemilia became the mistress of Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon, the queen’s first cousin and Lord Chamberlain. The couple had at least one child. In 1592, Aemilia married Alfonso Lanyer or Lanier, a musician and soldier, but the marriage is said to have been unhappy. Aemilia Lanyer mixed in the social circle of William Shakespeare and may have had a romantic liasion with the popular astrologer Simon Forman, which has led to speculation that she was the "Dark Lady" of Shakespeare's sonnets. She wrote and published the lengthy religious poem Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum (1611), which included a prose address dedicated to Margaret, Countess of Cumberland, who had commissioned the work. In the work, she lectures women who are not loyal to other women and calls for the rights of women. With the death of her husband in 1613, Aemilia set up a school in London, but was arrested for non-payment of debts in 1619. Not much else is known about her life.
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