Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Brooke, Elizabeth

BROOKE, Lady ELIZABETH (1601–1683), religious writer, was born at Wigsale, Surrey, in January 1601. Her father was Thomas Colepeper; her mother was a daughter of Sir Stephen Slaney (Parkhurst, Faithful and Diligent Christian, p. 41); her only brother was John, afterwards created Lord Colepeper of Thoresway (ib. 42). Both parents died in Elizabeth's early youth, and she was brought up by Lady Slaney, her maternal grandmother (ib. 43). In 1620 she married Sir Robert Brooke, knight, of the Cobham family, by whom she had seven children, two of whom died in infancy. For two years the young couple resided in London as boarders with Elizabeth's aunt, Lady Weld (ib. 45). In 1622 they moved to Langley, Hertfordshire, where Sir Robert bought a seat; and in 1630, on the Brooke estates falling to him, they went to the family mansion, Cockfield Hall, Yoxford, Suffolk. Lady Brooke was an indefatigable reader of the Scriptures, of 'commentaries,' and of the ancient philosophers (in English translations); she took notes of all sermons she heard; she would question her family and servants about them; she engaged a divine to visit the hall once a fortnight as catechist, by whom she was herself catechised; and in 1631 she began a large volume (ib. 81) of 'Collections, Observations, Experiences, Rules,' together with 'What a Christian must believe and practise.' On 10 July 1646 her husband died (ib. 43), and for two years she absented herself from Cockfield Hall. She afterwards lost two daughters and a son; was harassed by lawsuits (though all these were eventually decided in her favour); and in 1669 her only surviving son, Sir Robert, was drowned in France, leaving her with only one child, Mary, her eldest daughter. She recovered from her griefs sufficiently to resume her charities, but became deaf in 1675, and after a long decay died on 22 July 1683. Nathaniel Parkhurst, her chaplain, and the vicar of the church, preached her 'Funeral Sermon,' and published it (with a portrait) in the following year, together with an account of her life and death. The book was dedicated to Miss Mary Brooke, the sole surviving member of the family. Parkhurst printed with the sermon some of Lady Brooke's 'Observations' and 'Rules for Practice.' A selection from the writings of Lady Brooke was published as late as 1828 in the 'Lady's Monitor,' pp. 61-79.

[Parkhurst's Faithful and Diligent Christian, &c., 1684; Wilford's Memorials of Eminent Persons, art. 'Lady Brooke' and appendix, p. 17; Lady's Monitor, 1828.]

J. H.