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Short biography
Elizabeth Cary, née Tanfield, was the author of the first original play in English known to have been written by a woman. She was self-educated and had a particular aptitude for languages, becoming fluent in Spanish, French, Italin, Latin, Hebrew and others. She translated works from Latin and French while still a teenager. In about 1602, she married Sir Henry Cary, later 1st Viscount Falkland, with whom she had 11 children. Elizabeth Cary, Lady Falkland became a member of the prominent literary circle led by the celebrated Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke. The Tragedy of Mariam, the Fair Queen of Jewry, the first English play by a woman, appeared in 1613. In 1625, Elizabeth Cary converted to the Roman Catholic faith and as a result her husband abandoned her, taking their children with him. She was saved from penury by Queen Henrietta Maria, and eventually King Charles I forced Lord Falkland to make financial provisions for his wife. Elizabeth Cary also wrote poems (many now lost), a biography of King Edward II that blended history, drama, and political commentary, and the lives of and some Catholic female saints. Several other contemporary writers dedicated their works to her, a testament to her literary reputation in her own day. Elizabeth Cary also was the first English female author to be the subject of a literary biography — The Lady Falkland: Her Life was written by one of her daughters, though not published until 1861.
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