Moore, Dorothy (née King; other married name Dury) (1612/13–1664), woman of letters, was born into the New English ruling class in Ireland, one of nine children of Sir John King (qv), administrator and landowner, a planter from Yorkshire who held many high offices and lands in counties Roscommon, Mayo, Antrim and Kildare. Her mother Catherine (née Drury) was a great-niece of Sir William Drury (qv), lord justice of Ireland. Dorothy’s elder brother Sir Robert King (qv) inherited their father’s offices and estates, and her brother Edward’s death by drowning in the Irish Sea was the subject of John Milton’s elegy ‘Lycidas’.
Dorothy married twice. Her first husband was Arthur Moore, fifth son of Sir Garret Moore (qv), first Viscount Moore of Drogheda, and Mary (née Colley). Arthur’s lands were in Drumbanagher, Co. Armagh, and he and Robert King were MPs for Armagh in the Irish Parliament of 1634. Dorothy was likely in her late teens at the time of her wedding. She gave birth to two sons, Charles and John; when Arthur died on 9 April 1635 the children were still minors but remained in her custody.
‘Of the education of girles’
Dorothy Moore sought the best international education for her sons and was equally eager to expand the education of girls, ‘to render [them] servicable members’ of society (University of Sheffield Library, Hartlib Papers 21/7/1A). Little is known of her own education in Ireland beyond dancing, fine needlework, fashionable dressing and hair styling, which she later criticised as detrimental to the formation of godly character and useful habits. In the introductory letter to her essay ‘Of the education of girles’, apparently written at the request of her close friend and niece-in-law Katherine Jones (qv), Lady Ranelagh, Moore stated that she had taken pains to unlearn these things. As there are no known copies of the essay itself, Moore’s proposals for improving education for girls are lost to history, but they might have mirrored her self-improvements. Moore’s extant correspondence demonstrates that in adulthood she was able to read and write in French, the language considered most appropriate for cultured women, and also – unusually for a woman – to read Latin, the Hebrew Bible and the Greek New Testament. She seems to have studied these ancient and biblical languages on her own initiative during her widowhood, a time of intellectual and spiritual awakening for her.
By the early 1640s, Moore was personally acquainted with several prominent protestant intellectuals in Ireland, Britain and the Dutch Republic, including James Ussher (qv), Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh; Lady Ranelagh and her brother Robert Boyle (qv), who dedicated a moral essay to her; the Dutch humanist scholar and artist Anna Maria van Schurman, who initiated a covenant of special friendship; the Dutch physician Gerard Boate (qv); and John Dury, a Scottish minister, ecumenical negotiator and educational reformer, who proposed marriage to Moore in July 1641 after a period of covenanted friendship. Moore did not accept this initial proposal, but they remained close friends.
By the summer of 1641, Moore had left Ireland in search of a tutor for her sons, lodging in the London home of Gerard Boate and his wife, Katherine. When the Irish rebellion broke out in October, Moore lost access to her lands and annual landed income of more than £400. To compensate, Boate invested £150 on her behalf under the Adventurers’ Act, 1642, a scheme devised to finance the army to defeat the rebels, with subscribers to be rewarded with confiscated land. Moore’s subscription indicates that she initially intended to return to Ireland with her sons, although it appears she could not afford to pay for her own shares. When Boate died, Moore gave her shares to his destitute widow.
The Hartlib circle
While Moore was living in London, Dury introduced to her Samuel Hartlib, his close collaborator in proposals for reforms of many kinds. Moore then introduced Hartlib to Lady Ranelagh, who had moved to London with her children to flee both the war and her husband, Arthur Jones (qv). Hartlib and Lady Ranelagh became Moore’s close friends, confidantes and colleagues in patronage suits. The two Irish ladies also became the most active women in Hartlib’s – predominantly male – transnational correspondence network. Lady Ranelagh mediated Moore’s ideas and reputation amongst their Irish and Puritan circles in London.
Meanwhile, Dury, Ussher and Van Schurman were instrumental in expanding Moore’s network and reputation for piety and learning in the Dutch Republic. Ussher wrote letters of introduction for Moore to his fellow clergymen scholars Gisbert Voët and André Rivet, both of whom had mentored Van Schurman. Dury and Ussher persuaded Voët to accept Moore’s sons as boarding students in his Utrecht household, and Van Schurman urged Rivet to invite Moore into his inner circle of friends. He did not, but Moore had already been praised in Johan van Beverwijck’s catalogue of learned women, Van de wtnementheyt des vrouwelicken geslachts, dedicated to Van Schurman. In the spring of 1642, Dury was appointed as chaplain to the princess Mary Stuart, eldest daughter of Charles I and Henrietta Maria, and child bride of the future William II of Orange. Accompanying Dury to The Hague brought Moore into contact with Henrietta Maria, Elizabeth of Bohemia, the princess of Orange, and their respective courts – in addition to Moore’s aristocratic and parliamentary relatives and acquaintances.
However, opportunities for employment or distinction were extremely limited for seventeenth-century gentlewomen. Moore did not have a career nor any paid employment. Relatives and supporters, including Ussher, recommended her in 1642 for a position in the retinue of Princess Mary (to serve as a protestant role model), then in 1643 to serve as assistant governess to the younger Stuart children in England. Moore was not appointed either time, probably due to gossip spread by Rivet’s son that she and Dury were secretly married. Against this suspicion, Moore’s godly reputation, extraordinary knowledge of the Bible in the original languages, political and scholarly connections, and Ussher’s excellent reference were of no avail. Moore denied the rumours and any interest in serving at court, stating that she would prefer to remain single and teach girls for a living since this would be more beneficial to Christian society as a whole. There is no evidence that Moore ever had the opportunity to put her educational ideas into practice, unless with her own children. A later scheme to support her family by producing and selling medicinal distillations was aborted due to criticism. With no income of her own, Moore struggled financially.
Her correspondence from the 1640s gives the impression that she also endured a prolonged state of vocational crisis as she sought a means of putting her knowledge and spiritual gifts to active use, as a matter of Christian duty, when social conventions forbade women from contributing to the public spheres of church and state. This conundrum lies at the heart of her French correspondence with Rivet in autumn 1643, in which she asked whether a set of distinct roles or ways could be identified to enable women to serve the wider Christian community effectively without immodesty or encroaching on male prerogatives. Rivet defended the status quo. Moore’s surviving letters to two female relatives, Lady Margaret Clotworthy and Lady Ranelagh, discuss related questions about the duties of single versus married women, the purposes of marriage, and how to discern God’s ‘call’ (in response to having been ‘uncalled’ from another prospective employment), as well as physical and spiritual health. Moore’s letters to Hartlib are candid about religious politics, Dury’s career, and the antipathy between herself and Dury’s dependent sister.
Moore’s whereabouts and the major changes in her life can be discerned from her correspondence. From The Hague, she travelled to Delft, Hamburg and Utrecht in 1643, visited Delft again in 1644, and lived in London from April to September 1644. Back in the Dutch Republic, Moore suffered ill health in the autumn and winter of 1644–5. Dury tended her and sought Lady Ranelagh’s intervention to convince Moore to accept his proposal. Ranelagh obliged him, and Moore ultimately consented. They were married in February 1645, probably in Rotterdam, where Dury was then a minister. Moore returned to England that August, followed by Dury and her sons. They settled in 1646 in Winchester, where Dury worked in the cathedral church while also writing prolifically, tutoring the younger Stuart children, cataloguing the former royal library at St James’s, and serving in the Westminster Assembly. These posts were more prestigious than profitable, and the family remained in debt.
Dorothy and John Dury had two children, a son who died young (1649–c. 1656) and a daughter, Dora Katherina (1654–77). Dorothy conducted medical experiments – recorded by Hartlib – to try to cure her young son and her own ill health. Dury was abroad for much of the 1650s, travelling across Europe for diplomatic and ecumenical negotiations under Cromwell’s patronage. He also wrote Commonwealth propaganda. Consequently, the Restoration of the monarchy in 1661 necessitated that he again leave Britain, though Dorothy and their daughter remained in England. Dorothy’s final extant letters to Hartlib convey her financial and emotional distress and attempts to be resigned. Dorothy Moore died in June 1664, with Dora Katherina passing to the care of Henry Oldenburg, a friend of Dury’s and secretary of the Royal Society, who married her on 13 August 1668. The Oldenburgs had a daughter and son before both died suddenly, two weeks apart, in September 1677. Dorothy’s orphaned grandchildren were entrusted to Robert Boyle and likely raised under the supervision of her old friend, Lady Ranelagh.
Dorothy Moore’s papers are amongst the Hartlib Papers in the University of Sheffield Library (MS 61, comprising sixty-two boxes), which have been digitised. ‘Of the education of girles’ is in the British Library (Sloane MS 649, fols 203r–205v), and her earliest two letters are in the Huntington Library (Loudoun Papers, MSS LO 10378 and LO 10377). There are no likenesses of her, and her burial place is unknown.