Thomas Heywood and the Portrayal of Female Benefactors in Post-Reformation England

  • Robert Tittler Concordia University


A scene in Thomas Heywood’s If You Know Not Me, You Know Nobody (1606) has Alexander Nowell, Dean of St. Paul’s, showing his guests through his picture gallery. Amongst the ‘charitable citizens’ therin portrayed is Lady Mary Ramsay, a substantial benefactor herself, who asks why she should not be similarly depicted. That scene opens several windows onto Heywood’s time and also onto several themes repeatedly raised in Heywood’s oeuvre. They include the role of women in charitable benefactions, women as ‘urban heroes’, the positive benefits of urban society (often disparaged in that era), and the uses of portraiture itself in contemporary civic discourse.