Mary Carleton

(2128 words)
  • Mary Jo Kietzman (University of Michigan, Flint)

Mary Carleton was a low-born but exceptionally literate woman who initiated a public career when she impersonated a fictional German gentlewoman, Maria von Wolway, in London in 1663. Her performance won her a husband, the upwardly mobile law student John Carleton, who prosecuted her for bigamy when the fortune she implied failed to materialize. Her acquittal at the Old Bailey was cheered by the crowds, and she became a heroine of Restoration popular culture because her successful performance of a fictional identity democratized self-fashioning. She would continue to serialize herself in a sequence of personages that enabled her to claim economic independence through work as an author, actress, self-sufficient trader on the market for s…

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Kietzman, Mary Jo. "Mary Carleton". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 12 September 2008
[, accessed 01 October 2016.]