Early Modern Studies, Vol. 16
Mary Parish wasn’t your ordinary seventeenth-century woman. She was a “cunning woman,” who spent her time in the realm of magic, interacting with fairies, hunting for buried treasures, and communicating with the spirit world, along with her partner, the young aristocrat Goodwin Wharton. Drawing largely from Goodwin’s personal journals, Frances Timbers reconstructs Mary’s life in this microhistory and explores themes of class, gender, and relationships in seventeenth-century England. Mary’s story provides insight into magical beliefs and practices of early modern history and sheds light on how class and gender affected everyday life.
The Magical Adventures of Mary Parish is a gripping read that I found hard to put down. Mary Parish’s remarkable story provides a fascinating window into the rough and tumble world of love and life, healers and treasure hunters, alchemy and the world of fairies in seventeenth-century London. As she weaves together the many strands of Mary’s life, Frances Timbers displays an evenhanded compassion for her subjects that helps the reader view even the most fantastical elements of Mary’s story within the context of her world. In Timbers’s hands, the mixture of Mary’s often gritty and difficult life and her adventures in the occult and supernatural realms creates a tale that rivals even the finest magical realism novels of our day.
—Eric W. Nelson, author of
The Legacy of Iconoclasm