Cary, Mary (b. 1620/21), millenarian, is known only through her publications, which reveal little of her background. At first she identified herself by initials alone, styling herself a 'minister or servant of the Gospel' (The Resurrection of the Witnesses, 1648), and she did not indicate her gender or give her full name until 1651. She explained then that her surname had changed to Rande, presumably by marriage, but she continued to write under her maiden name. Her husband has not been identified. Christopher Feake described her as a gentlewoman, and her fluent and confident style points in the same direction. She tells us that she had studied scripture from childhood, and had been drawn to the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation at the age of fifteen, in 1636. Dedications in an early work to the puritan MPs Francis Rous and Thomas Boon may indicate a west-country origin, though she was living in London during her years as a writer.
In her first published work, in 1645, Cary defended free grace while condemning the 'licentious' antinomianism with which it was often associated (Cohen, 5). In A Word in Season (1647) she championed lay preaching, and urged that godliness was to be found in many forms. She always condemned the use of force against religious nonconformists, and prayed that the presbyterians and Independents would never be in a position to impose their own brands of orthodoxy.
Cary's major interest was in the establishment of Christ's kingdom on earth. Her prophetic framework was based largely on the writings of Thomas Brightman and John Archer; she expected the conversion and restoration of the Jews in 1656, and the full establishment of Christ's kingdom by 1701. Her own contribution lay in revealing the apocalyptic significance of the English civil war. In The Resurrection of the Witnesses (1648) she interpreted the outbreak of the Irish rising in 1641 as the killing of the two witnesses ( Revelation 11), and the creation of the New Model Army in April 1645 as their resurrection. The Little Horns Doom & Downfall (first drafted in 1644, published in 1651) interpreted Daniel's prophecies in a similar manner, identifying Charles I as the little horn of the beast. It was dedicated to Oliver Cromwell's wife and his daughter Bridget, and appeared with testimonials from three leading radical preachers, Hugh Peter, Henry Jessey, and Christopher Feake. In a sketch of the New Jerusalem, Cary insisted that Christ would appear to reign in person. She spoke mostly of the spiritual blessings to come, but she promised material joys too, predicting that infant mortality would cease and that poor men would no longer work 'to maintain others that live vitiously, in idleness' (Cary, Little Horns Doom, 308).
Like many radicals Cary became disillusioned with the Rump Parliament and welcomed its fall. In July 1653 she published a set of reform proposals addressed to Barebone's Parliament. Many were concerned with the propagation of the gospel and with ways of maintaining the clergy by means other than tithes. She wanted university endowments to be used to fund poor preachers and scholars from humble backgrounds. She also suggested raising a fund to relieve the poor and unemployed by a levy on all letters or contracts, and called for drastic simplification of the laws and the establishment of local courts.
Cary's final work, an enlarged edition of The Resurrection (1653), was addressed to the saints' meeting at Blackfriars and Christ Church, showing that she was now closely associated with the Fifth Monarchists. Within a few years, she predicted, Christ's kingdom would spread through Europe, and she warned the Dutch and Danes that in fighting England (in the First Anglo-Dutch War) they were fighting God. Readers were told to beat their ploughshares into swords.
Cary then disappears from view. Whether she had died or lapsed into silence as the millennial dream faded is not known.
- C. Hill, The world turned upside down: radical ideas during the English revolution (1972)
- B. S. Capp, The Fifth Monarchy Men: a study in seventeenth-century English millenarianism (1972)
- A. Cohen, ‘Mary Cary's The glorious excellencie discovered’, British Studies Monitor, 10/1–2 (1980), 4–7