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Isabella Whitney is the earliest identified woman to have published secular poetry in the English language. Little is known about her life. She is noted briefly in the Dictionary of National Biography, where two sentences are devoted to her in the entry on her brother, Geoffrey, also a writer. As his sister, Isabella Whitney can be identified as a member of a family of minor gentry from Cheshire. Her established works consist of two short anthologies of poems: The Copy of a Letter (1567?) and A Sweet Nosegay (1573), which combined verse and prose in what appears to be an autobiographical narrative. In it, she explained that she was single and had turned to writing to support herself. She described living in the London, perhaps as a domestic servant. She may also have been the author of a few otherwise unassigned poems printed in two popular miscellanies, "The Lady Beloved Exclaimeth of the Great Untruth of Her Lover" and "The Lamentation of a Gentlewoman upon the Death of Her Late Deceased Friend William Gruffith, Gentleman," and "The Complaint of a Woman Lover."
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