Russell, Lucy (DNB00)

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RUSSELL, LUCY, Countess of Bedford (d. 1627), patroness of poets, was the daughter of John Harington, first lord Harington of Exton [q. v.], Rutland, by Anne (d. 1620), daughter and heir of Robert Kelway, esq. She married, on 12 Dec. 1594, at Stepney, Edward Russell, third earl of Bedford (1574–1627), grandson of Francis Russell, second earl of Bedford [q. v.] Her name is rendered of interest by the honourable mention repeatedly made of her by the chief men of letters of the day, including Ben Jonson, Donne, Daniel, Drayton, and Chapman. Probably the most characteristic and remarkable of all Donne's verse are his five poems addressed to her (Poems of Donne, in Grosart's Fuller Worthies Library, 2 vols. 8vo). Similarly, ‘rare Ben’ concentrated in epigrams addressed to her his most consummate praise in his most gracious manner. George Chapman prefixed to his translation of the ‘Iliad,’ published in 1598, a sonnet ‘to the right noble patroness and grace of virtue, the Countess of Bedford.’ John Davies of Hereford, in his ‘Sonnets to Worthy Persons’ (added to his ‘Scourge of Folly’), addressed a sonnet ‘To honor, wit, and beauties excellency, Lucy, Countesse of Bedford’ (Works, in Chertsey Worthies' Library, vol. ii.) The same poet, when dedicating his ‘Muses' Sacrifice’ (1612) to her, termed her a darling as well as a patroness of the Muses.

Drayton was less whole-hearted in his admiration. He was introduced to the countess by Sir Henry Goodeere of Powlesworth, and received some attention from her. But he was apparently jealous of the notice that the countess was bestowing on some other poet (possibly Jonson), and in the 8th Eclogue of his ‘Idea, the Shepherd's Garland,’ of 1593, and republished in ‘Poems Lyrick and Heroick’ (circa 1605), he ungallantly reproached her with neglect, addressing her as Selena under his poetic name of Rowland:—

    So once Selena seemed to reguard
    That faithfull Rowland her so highly praysed,
    And did his travell for a while reward.
    As his estate she purpos'd to have rays'd:
    But soone she fled him, and the swaine defies:
    Ill is his sted that on such faith relies.

Drayton dedicated to her and scattered complimentary references to her up and down his ‘Mortimeriados’ (1596); but when he republished the work in 1603 under the new title of the ‘Barron's Warres,’ he not only withdrew the dedication to her, but carefully cancelled every allusion.

From allusions made by her panegyrists, it seems certain that the countess wrote verse, but none of it is known to be extant. Sir Thomas Roe praises her as wonderfully informed on ‘ancient medals,’ while Sir William Temple extols her for having ‘projected the most perfect figure of a garden that ever he saw’ (Correspondence).

The countess was coheiress to her brother, John Harington, second lord Harington of Exton [q. v.], who died in 1614. Her husband died at Moor Park, Hertfordshire, on 3 May 1627, and was buried at Chenies on 11 May. She herself died at Moor Park on the following 26 May, and was buried, with her own family, at Exton. She had no issue.

[Doyle's Official Baronage; G. E. C[okayne]'s Complete Peerage; Wiffen's Memoirs of the House of Russell.]