A Celebration of Women Writers

Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea (1661 - 1720)

Biography: Selected Poems: Bibliography

portrait of woman, head and shoulders, from miniature


Anne Kingsmill Finch is significant as one of the earliest published women poets in England. 1 She is also delightful! Her poetry sparkles with witty commentary and playful humour. She writes with clear conviction of what she sees and experiences. Her voice is direct, personal and immediate. It has been suggested that she may be the best woman poet in England prior to the nineteenth century (McGovern, 1992).

An Uncertain Childhood

Anne Kingsmill was born in April, 1661, the third child of Sir William Kingsmill and Anne Haslewood. Sir William died only 5 months after Anne's birth. Sir William Kingsmill's will was notable in the emphasis it placed on supporting and educating his daughters as well as his son. Rents from the estate were set aside for this purpose. He also left his daughters 2000 pounds (Bridget) and 1500 pounds (Anne), to be paid with interest to them personally on their marriage or at age 21.

Anne Haslewood remarried in 1662, to Sir Thomas Ogle, and bore Anne's half-sister Dorothy Ogle. In 1664, shortly before her death, Anne Haslewood wrote a will giving all control of the estate to Sir Thomas Ogle. Her will was challenged in a Court of Chancery law-suit, brought by the children's uncle, William Haslewood, and 3 other relatives, on behalf of the children. The court decided against Thomas Ogle. William Kingsmill went to live with his uncle William Haslewood, while Anne and Bridget went to live with their grandmother, Bridget, Lady Kingsmill.

Lady Kingsmill was, by all accounts, a shrewd and independent woman. In 1670-71, she brought a second Chancery suit against William Haslewood and the other executors, demanding a share in the education and support monies for Anne and Bridget. The court formally split custody of the children (and an allowance for their support) between William Haslewood and Lady Kingsmill. When she became ill and died in 1672, the girls rejoined their brother under William Haslewood's care, and remained with his family until his death in 1682.

There, the children lived as part of a large extended family, interacting with other families in the district. The family was well-educated and progessive about education for women, and the Kingsmill girls may have received formal as well as informal education. They were encouraged to be aware of a wide range of topics and issues. Anne Kingsmill grew up familiar with the classics, Greek and Roman mythology, the Bible, French (sufficient for translation), Italian (at least to a speaking level), history, poetry and drama.

The Stuart Court

The Kingsmills and Haslewoods were strong Anglicans and devoted supporters of the Stuart royalty. In 1682, Anne Kingsmill went to St. James Palace to become a Maid of Honour to Mary of Modena (wife of James, Duke of York, who later became King James II.) Anne Kingsmill enjoyed the intellectual stimulation of the 'Court of Wits', in spite of the Wits' frequent antipathy towards women. Seeing the hostile treatment accorded to Anne Killigrew, the 'Versifying Maid of Honour', who she may have known, Anne Kingsmill kept her own early attempts at poetry a secret. She became close to Mary of Modena, reflecting on their relationship and her time at Court years later in the memorial poem "On the Death of the Queen".

Anne Kingsmill also met her future husband, Heneage Finch, at Court. He was a courtier and soldier, appointed Groom of the Bedchamber to James, Duke of York, in 1683. Four years older than Anne, he had, like her, been raised in a family with strong Royalist connections. It was also a family with a tradition of strong women: Heneage's grandmother Elizabeth was created Countess of Winchilsea in her own right in 1628, a title that was remaindered to her male heirs. (As the second son of the second earl, Heneage was not in the direct line for inheritance of the title.)

Although she initially resisted the idea, Anne married Heneage Finch on May 15th, 1684. It was to be a lasting and very happy marriage. In "A Letter to Dafnis: April 2d 1685" and other love poems to her husband, Anne Finch celebrated their passionate and playful intimacy, and the joy and comfort that she found in their relationship. In doing so, she significantly departed from the usual attitudes and conventions of the time, as her later poem "To Mr. F. Now Earl of W." attests. She also criticized the misogyny prevalent at the time: satirical criticism of social roles and restrictions appears often in her work. Luckily, Heneage encouraged and actively supported Anne's writing. It was a rewarding marriage for them both. Thirty-nine years later, Heneage still noted the anniversary of their wedding in his private journal as "Most blessed day."

Anne resigned her position at court on her marriage. Heneage retained his appointment there, and the Finches continued to be closely involved with court life. Heneage Finch was one of those who carried the Queen's canopy during the 1685 Coronation of James II and Mary of Modena, at the Queen's special request.

The Bloodless Revolution

England was a country still in turmoil over deeply felt political and religious issues. There had been years of contention between 'Royalists' and 'Roundheads', during the English Civil War and the subsequent Interregnum. Oliver Cromwell had died in 1658, and Parliament had restored Charles II to the throne in 1660. However, Roman Catholics were still politically and religiously disempowered. James II's conversion to Roman Catholicism was viewed with great dismay. His promotion of the church led to active opposition from Tory and Whig Parliamentary leaders.

When Parliament offered William of Orange the crown of England in the "Bloodless Revolution" of 1688, oaths of allegiance were required of both clergy and lay persons. Heneage Finch refused to take oath to the new Monarchs. He and Anne were prominent among the "Nonjurors" 2 who considered their previous oaths morally binding and unchangeable. They risked harassment, fines and imprisonment for their loyalty to the Stuart kings. Safer away from London, they stayed in the country, dependent on the hospitality of friends and relatives. In April 1690, Heneage was arrested on charges of Jacobitism for attempting to join James II in France. Jacobites and Nonjurors were being severely treated and harshly punished in many cases. The period from April until November, when the case was finally discharged, was a time of separation and great anxiety for the Finches. Heneage, in London, prepared his defense. Anne, in Kent, continued to write, in part to combat recurrent and sometimes severe bouts of depression (cf. "Ardelia to Melancholy"). Poems written at this time reflect on both political and personal themes, and are generally sadder and more ironic than her previous work (cf. "The Consolation").

Near the end of 1690, the Finches were invited to live at Eastwell, the home of Charles Finch, Earl of Winchilsea (Heneage's elder brother's son). Eastwell was beautiful, peaceful, and secure. The Earl was young, not yet married, 3 and already noted as a patron of the arts. Anne received encouragement and support from both her husband and the Earl for her writing. Heneage's support for Anne was practical as well as emotional: he began compiling an octavo manuscript of 56 of her poems, writing them out by hand. (Anne's handwriting was apparently difficult to read.) He also made manuscript corrections for her: for example, changing Anne's literary name from 'Areta' to 'Ardelia' 4 in all the poems. Later, around 1694-5, he transcribed her work into a larger Folio manuscript. The years at Eastwell, and later at Wye Cottage nearby, were peaceful and productive, albeit secluded. Many of Anne's poems from this time celebrate the friendship and support of her patrons and female friends, such as the Countess of Thanet ('Arminda' in "The Petition for an Absolute Retreat"). They also reflect her enjoyment of and sensitivity to the beauty of the environment in which she lived (cf. "A Nocturnal Reverie").

Returning from Exile

While their time in the country had been productive for Anne, the Finches also found it lonely and isolated at times. In the shifting political climate of the early 1700's, they began to hope for a return to the capital. James II's death in 1701 was followed in 1702 by the death of William III, and the succession of Queen Anne, daughter of James II, to the throne. The general political climate had improved; and Queen Anne was more acceptable as a sovereign than William, to the Finches. In 1701, 1705, and 1710, Heneage Finch stood for parliament. (He did not win a seat.) By 1710-11, they had acquired a house in London.

There, Anne Finch received increasing encouragement to publish her work openly under her own name. Her admirers and friends included Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope, both of whom encouraged her to write and publish. As early as 1691, some of her work had been published anonymously in the form of songs. "The Spleen" had been published anonymously in 1701 and was also well-received. (It was to be the most popular of her poems during her lifetime: a description of and reflection upon depression.) Anne was hesitant about publishing her work, with reason, given the social and political climate of the day. "The Introduction" privately circulated with her octavo manuscript, discusses attitudes towards women poets that that time. However, in 1713, Miscellany Poems, on Several Occasions appeared in print. It contained 86 poems, and her second play, Aristomenes: Or, The Royal Shepherd. While the first printing of the cover page stated it simply to be "Written by a Lady", Anne, Countess of Winchilsea was credited as the author on further printings.

The Countess of Winchilsea

On August 4, 1712, Charles Finch, Earl of Winchilsea, had died unexpectedly, and without children. His uncle Heneage Finch became the Earl of Winchilsea, and Anne Finch, the Countess of Winchilsea. Unfortunately, the Finches inherited financial problems and legal battles along with the title. These were to be a source of strain and anxiety for years: from the opening of the first Chancery Court trial of July 9, 1713, to the final settlement of February 19th, 1720 in Heneage's favour.

Court politics continued to be a source of distress and possible danger. In 1714, Queen Anne died and was succeeded by George I. A Whig government, hostile to the Jacobite cause, was reinstated. In 1715, the Jacobite rebellion in Scotland further increased political tensions. Matthew Prior, a friend of the Finches, was imprisoned. The Finches, well known "Nonjuror" 2 members of the Church of England, worried about their own safety.

In 1715, Anne Finch became severely ill. She had battled depression for years and was now in failing health. Increasingly, her poetry reflected her religious beliefs and concerns, as in "A Suplication for the joys of Heaven". One of her last poems "A Contemplation" speaks movingly about her life and beliefs. She died in London on August 5, 1720, and was taken to Eastwell to be buried, by her own request. Her husband transcribed an eloquent obituary to her which read, in part,

"To draw her Ladyship's just Character, requires a masterly Pen like her own (She being a fine Writer, and an excellent Poet); we shall only presume to say, she was the most faithful Servant to her Royal Mistress, the best Wife to her Noble Lord, and in every other Relation, publick and private, so illustrious an Example of such extraordinary Endowments, both of Body and Mind, that the Court of England never bred a more accomplished Lady, nor the Church of England a better Christian. "

Selected Poems:

Miscellany Poems, on Several Occasions was the only major collection of Anne Finch's work to appear in her lifetime. The Poems of Anne, Countess of Winchilsea edited by Myra Reynolds in 1903, contained both the poems of 1713, and various others from manuscript sources, and has been the recognized collection of her work for many years. Only recently has The Wellesley Manuscript come to light, with 53 previously unpublished poems, many written in the last two decades of Anne Finch's life.

From: Winchilsea, Anne (Kingsmill) Finch, Countess of. The Poems of Anne, Countess of Winchilsea From the original edition of 1713 and from unpublished ms., edited with an introduction and notes, by Myra Reynolds. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1903. Notes by Myra Reynolds (1903) follow the individual poem and are credited with the notation [MR] and the page number of MR's note.

The Introduction

Did I, my lines intend for publick view,
How many censures, wou'd their faults persue,
Some wou'd, because such words they do affect,
Cry they're insipid, empty, uncorrect.
And many, have attain'd, dull and untaught
The name of Witt, only by finding fault.
True judges, might condemn their want of witt,
And all might say, they're by a Woman writt.
Alas! a woman that attempts the pen,
Such an intruder on the rights of men,
Such a presumptuous Creature, is esteem'd,
The fault, can by no vertue be redeem'd.
They tell us, we mistake our sex and way;
Good breeding, fassion, dancing, dressing, play
Are the accomplishments we shou'd desire;
To write, or read, or think, or to enquire
Wou'd cloud our beauty, and exaust our time;
And interrupt the Conquests of our prime;
Whilst the dull mannage, of a servile house
Is held by some, our outmost art, and use.
  Sure 'twas not ever thus, nor are we told
Fables, of Women that excell'd of old;
To whom, by the diffusive hand of Heaven
Some share of witt, and poetry was given.
On that glad day, on which the Ark return'd, 5
The holy pledge, for which the Land had mourn'd,
The joyfull Tribes, attend itt on the way,
The Levites do the sacred Charge convey,
Whilst various Instruments, before itt play;
Here, holy Virgins in the Concert joyn,
The louder notes, to soften, and refine,
And with alternate verse, compleat the Hymn Devine.
Loe! the yong Poet, after Gods own heart, 6
By Him inspired, and taught the Muses Art,
Return'd from Conquest, a bright Chorus meets,
That sing his slayn ten thousand in the streets.
In such loud numbers they his acts declare,
Proclaim the wonders, of his early war,
That Saul upon the vast applause does frown,
And feels, itts mighty thunder shake the Crown.
What, can the threat'n'd Judgment now prolong?
Half of the Kingdom is already gone;
The fairest half, whose influence guides the rest,
Have David's Empire, o're their hearts confess't.
  A Woman here, leads fainting Israel on, 7
She fights, she wins, she tryumphs with a song,
Devout, Majestick, for the subject fitt,
And far above her arms, exalts her witt,
Then, to the peacefull, shady Palm withdraws,
And rules the rescu'd Nation with her Laws.
How are we fal'n, fal'n by mistaken rules?
And Education's, more than Nature's fools,
Debarr'd from all improve-ments of the mind,
And to be dull, expected and dessigned;
And if some one, would Soar above the rest,
With warmer fancy, and ambition press't,
So strong, th' opposing faction still appears,
The hopes to thrive, can ne're outweigh the fears,
Be caution'd then my Muse, and still retir'd;
Nor be dispis'd, aiming to be admir'd;
Conscious of wants, still with contracted wing,
To some few freinds, and to thy sorrows sing;
For groves of Lawrell, thou wert never meant; 8
Be dark enough thy shades, and be thou there content.

The Appology9

'Tis true I write and tell me by what Rule
I am alone forbid to play the fool
To follow through the Groves a wand'ring Muse
And fain'd Idea's for my pleasures chuse
Why shou'd it in my Pen be held a fault
Whilst Mira paints her face, to paint a thought
Whilst Lamia to the manly Bumper flys
And borrow'd Spiritts sparkle in her Eyes
Why shou'd itt be in me a thing so vain
To heat with Poetry my colder Brain?
But I write ill and there-fore shou'd forbear
Does Flavia cease now at her fortieth year
In ev'ry Place to lett that face be seen
Which all the Town rejected at fifteen
Each Woman has her weaknesse; mind [sic] indeed
Is still to write tho' hopelesse to succeed
Nor to the Men is this so easy found
Ev'n in most Works with which the Witts abound
(So weak are all since our first breach with Heav'n)
Ther's lesse to be Applauded than forgiven.

On Myselfe

Good Heav'n, I thank thee, since it was design'd
I shou'd be fram'd, but of the weaker kinde,
That yet, my Soul, is rescu'd from the Love
Of all those Trifles, which their Passions move.
Pleasures, and Praise, and Plenty haue with me
But their just value. If allow'd they be,
Freely, and thankfully as much I tast,
As will not reason, or Religion wast.
If they're deny'd, I on my selfe can Liue,
And slight those aids, unequal chance does give.
When in the Sun, my wings can be display'd,
And in retirement, I can bless the shade.

Ardelia10 to Melancholy11

At last, my old inveterate foe,
No opposition shalt thou know.
Since I by struggling, can obtain
Nothing, but encrease of pain,
I will att last, no more do soe,
Tho' I confesse, I have apply'd
Sweet mirth, and musick, and have try'd
A thousand other arts beside,
To drive thee from my darken'd breast,
Thou, who hast banish'd all my rest.
But, though sometimes, a short repreive they gave,
Unable they, and far too weak, to save;
All arts to quell, did but augment thy force,
As rivers check'd, break with a wilder course.

Freindship, I to my heart have laid,
Freindship, th' applauded sov'rain aid,
And thought that charm so strong wou'd prove,
As to compell thee, to remove;
And to myself, I boasting said,
Now I a conqu'rer sure shall be,
The end of all my conflicts, see,
And noble tryumph, wait on me;
My dusky, sullen foe, will sure
N'er this united charge endure.
But leaning on this reed, ev'n whilst I spoke
It peirc'd my hand, and into peices broke.
Still, some new object, or new int'rest came
And loos'd the bonds, and quite disolv'd the claim.

These failing, I invok'd a Muse,
And Poetry wou'd often use,
To guard me from thy Tyrant pow'r;
And to oppose thee ev'ry hour
New troops of fancy's, did I chuse.
Alas! in vain, for all agree
To yeild me Captive up to thee,
And heav'n, alone, can sett me free.
Thou, through my life, wilt with me goe,
And make ye passage, sad, and slow.
All, that cou'd ere thy ill gott rule, invade,
Their uselesse arms, before thy feet have laid;
The Fort is thine, now ruin'd, all within,
Whilst by decays without, thy Conquest too, is seen.

The Consolation

See, Phoebus breaking from the willing skies, 12
See, how the soaring Lark, does with him rise,
And through the air, is such a journy borne
As if she never thought of a return.
Now, to his noon, behold him proudly goe,
And look with scorn, on all that's great below.
A Monark he, and ruler of the day,
A fav'rite She, that in his beams does play.
Glorious, and high, but shall they ever bee,
Glorious, and high, and fixt where now we see?
No, both must fall, nor can their stations keep,
She to the Earth, and he below the Deep,
At night both fall, but the swift hand of time
Renews the morning, and again they climb,
Then lett no cloudy change, create my sorrow,
I'll think 'tis night, and I may rise to-morrow.

A Letter to Dafnis April: 2d 1685

This to the Crown, and blessing of my life,
The much lov'd husband, of a happy wife.
To him, whose constant passion found the art
To win a stubborn, and ungratefull heart;
And to the World, by tend'rest proof discovers
They err, who say that husbands can't be lovers.
With such return of passion, as is due,
Daphnis I love, Daphnis my thoughts persue,
Daphnis, my hopes, my joys, are bounded all in you:
Ev'n I, for Daphnis, and my promise sake,
What I in women censure, undertake.
But this from love, not vanity, proceeds;
You know who writes; and I who 'tis that reads.
Judge not my passion, by my want of skill,
Many love well, though they express itt ill;
And I your censure cou'd with pleasure bear,
Wou'd you but soon return, and speak itt here.

[MR, p. 417].

The title in the octavo MS. is, A Letter to Daphnis from Westminster, Ap: the 2d, 1685. The "Daphnis" is a substitution for "Mr. Finch," partially erased.

An Invitation to Dafnis

To leave his study and usual Employments, - Mathematicks Paintings, etc. and to take the Pleasures of the feilds with Ardelia.

When such a day, blesst the Arcadian plaine,
Warm without Sun, and shady without rain,
Fann'd by an air, that scarsly bent the flowers,
Or wav'd the woodbines, on the summer bowers,
The Nymphs disorder'd beauty cou'd not fear,
Nor ruffling winds uncurl'd the Shepheards hair,
On the fresh grasse, they trod their measures light,
And a long Evening made, from noon, to night.
Come then my Dafnis, from those cares descend
Which better may the winter season spend.
  Come, and the pleasures of the feilds, survey,
  And throo' the groves, with your Ardelia stray.

Reading the softest Poetry, refuse,
To veiw the subjects of each rural muse;
Nor lett the busy compasses go round,
When faery Cercles better mark the ground.
Rich Colours on the Vellum cease to lay,
When ev'ry lawne much nobler can display,
When on the daz'ling poppy may be seen
A glowing red, exceeding your carmine;
And for the blew that o're the Sea is borne,
A brighter rises in our standing corn.
  Come then, my Dafnis, and the feilds survey,
  And throo' the groves, with your Ardelia stray.

Come, and lett Sansons World, no more engage, [MR]
Altho' he gives a Kingdom in a page;
O're all the Vniverse his lines may goe,
And not a clime, like temp'rate brittan show,
  Come then, my Dafnis, and her feilds survey,
  And throo' the groves, with your Ardelia stray.

Nor plead that you're immur'd, and cannot yield,
That mighty Bastions keep you from the feild,
Think not tho' lodg'd in Mons, or in Namur,
You're from my dangerous attacks secure.
No, Louis shall his falling Conquests fear,
When by succeeding Courriers he shall hear
Appollo, and the Muses, are drawn down,
To storm each fort, and take in ev'ry Town.
Vauban, the Orphean Lyre, to mind shall call,
That drew the stones to the old Theban Wall,
And make no doubt, if itt against him play,
They, from his works, will fly as fast away,
Which to prevent, he shall to peace persuade,
Of strong, confederate Syllables, affraid.
  Come then, my Dafnis, and the fields survey,
  And throo' the Groves, with your Ardelia stray.

Come, and attend, how as we walk along,
Each chearfull bird, shall treat us with a song,
Nott such as Fopps compose, where witt, nor art,
Nor plainer Nature, ever bear a part;
The Cristall springs, shall murmure as we passe,
But not like Courtiers, sinking to disgrace;
Nor, shall the louder Rivers, in their fall,
Like unpaid Saylers, or hoarse Pleaders brawle;
But all shall form a concert to delight,
And all to peace, and all to love envite.
  Come then, my Dafnis, and the feilds survey,
  And throo' the Groves, with your Ardelia stray.

As Baucis and Philemon spent their lives,
Of husbands he, the happyest she, of wives,
When throo' the painted meads, their way they sought,
Harmlesse in act, and unperplext in thought,
Lett us my Dafnis, rural joys persue,
And Courts, or Camps, not ev'n in fancy view.
  So, lett us throo' the Groves, my Dafnis stray,
  And so, the pleasures of the feilds, survey.

[MR, p. 418]

An edition of the Description de tout l'Univers, etc., by Nicholas and Guillame Sanson, appeared in 1700. That this is the volume to which Lady Winchilsea refers is indicated by line 27. This reference helps to date the poem and so the MS. in which it occurs.

The Bird and the Arras

By neer resemblance see that Bird betray'd
Who takes the well wrought Arras for a shade
There hopes to pearch and with a chearfull Tune
O're-passe the scortchings of the sultry Noon.
But soon repuls'd by the obdurate scean
How swift she turns but turns alas in vain
That piece a Grove, this shews an ambient sky
Where immitated Fowl their pinnions ply
Seeming to mount in flight and aiming still more high.
All she outstrip's and with a moments pride
Their understation silent does deride
Till the dash'd Cealing strikes her to the ground
No intercepting shrub to break the fall is found
Recovering breath the window next she gaines
Nor fears a stop from the transparent Panes.

But we degresse and leaue th' imprison'd wretch
Now sinking low now on a loftyer stretch
Flutt'ring in endless cercles of dismay
Till some kind hand directs the certain way
Which through the casement an escape affoards
And leads to ample space the only Heav'n of Birds.

The Unequal Fetters

Cou'd we stop the time that's flying
  Or recall itt when 'tis past
Put far off the day of Dying
  Or make Youth for ever last
To Love wou'd then be worth our cost.

But since we must loose those Graces
  Which at first your hearts have wonne
And you seek for in new Faces
  When our Spring of Life is done
It wou'd but urdge our ruine on

Free as Nature's first intention
  Was to make us, I'll be found
Nor by subtle Man's invention
  Yeild to be in Fetters bound
By one that walks a freer round.

Mariage does but slightly tye Men
  Whil'st close Pris'ners we remain
They the larger Slaves of Hymen
  Still are begging Love again
At the full length of all their chain.

From: Anne Finch and Her Poetry: A Critical Biography by Barbara McGovern. Athens & London: University of Georgia Press, 1992.

An Apology for my fearfull temper

in a letter in Burlesque upon the firing
of my chimney At Wye College March 25th I702.

Tis true of courage I'm no mistress
No Boadicia nor Thalestriss
Nor shall I e'er be famed hereafter
For such a Soul as Cato's Daughter
Nor active valour nor enduring
Nor leading troops nor forts securing
Like Teckley's wife or Pucell valiant
Will e'er be reckonded for my talent
Who all things fear whilst day is shining
And my own shadow light declining
And from the Spleen's prolifick fountain
Can of a mole hill make a mountain
And if a Coach that was invented
Since Bess on Palfrey rode contented
Threatens to tumble topsy turvy
With screeches loud and faces scurvey
I break discourse whilst some are laughing
Some fall to chear me some to chaffing
As secretly the driver curses
And whips my fault upon the horses
These and ten thousand are the errours
Arising from tumultuous terrours
Yet can't I understand the merit
In Female's of a daring spirit
Since to them never was imparted
In manly strengh tho' manly hearted
Nor need that sex be self defending
Who charm the most when most depending
And by sweet plaints and soft distresses
First gain asistance then adresses
As our fourth Edward (beauty suing)
From but releiving fell to wooing
Who by Heroick speech or ranting
Had ne'er been melted to galanting
Nor had th'Egyptian Queen defying
Drawn off that fleet she led by flying
Whilst Cesar and his ships crew hollow'd
To see how Tony row'd and follow'd
Oh Action triumph of the Ladies
And plea for her who most afraid is
Then let my conduct work no wonder
When fame who cleaves the air asunder
And every thing in time discovers
Nor council keeps for Kings or Lovers
Yet stoops when tired with States and battles
To Gossips chats and idler tattles
When she I say has given no knowledge
Of what has happen'd at Wye College
Think it not strange to save my Person
I gave the family diversion
'Twas at an hour when most were sleeping
Some chimnies clean some wanted sweeping
Mine thro' good fires maintain'd this winter
(Of which no FINCH was e'er a stinter)
Pour'd down such flakes not Etna bigger
Throws up as did my fancy figure
Nor does a Cannon ram'd with Powder
To others seem to Bellow louder
All that I thought or spoke or acted
Can't in a letter be compacted
Nor how I threatn'd those with burning
Who thoughtless on their beds were turning
As Shakespear says they serv'd old Prium
When that the Greeks were got too nigh'em
And such th'effect in spite of weather
Our Hecuba's all rose together
I at their head half cloath'd and shaking
Was instantly the house forsaking
And told them 'twas no time for talking
But who'd be safe had best be walking
This hasty councel and conclusion
Seem'd harsh to those who had no shoes on
And saw no flames and heard no clatter
But as I had rehears'd the matter
And wildly talk't of fire and water
For sooner then 'thas took to tell it
Right applications did repell it
And now my fear our mirth creating
Affords still subject for repeating
Whilst some deplore th'unusual folly
Some (kinder) call it melancholy
Tho' certainly the spirits sinking
Comes not from want of wit or thinking
Since Rochester all dangers hated
And left to those were harder pated.

On the Death of the Queen.

Mary of Modena d. 1718 13

Dark was the shade where only cou'd be seen
Disasterous Yew that ever balefull green
Distructive in the field of old when strung
Gloomy o'er graves of sleeping warriours hung
Deep was the wild recess that not an ear
Which grudged her praises might the accents hear
Where sad ARDELIA 14 mourn'd URANIA's15 Death
In sighs which seem'd her own expireing breath
In moving Sylables so often broke
That more then Eloquence the anguish spoke
Urging the tears which cou'd not give relief
But seem'd to propagate renewing grief
Lamira16 near her sat and caught the sound
Too weak for ecchoing rocks which fixt the bound
For Clifts that overlook't the dangerous wave
Th'unhappy Vessels or the Sailors grave
The pittying Nymph whom sympathy constrain'd
Ask't why her friend thus heavily complain'd
Why she retired to that ill omen'd spot
By men forsaken and the World forgot
Why thus from light and company she fled
And living sought the mansions of the Dead
Her head reclined on the obdurate stone
Still uttering low but interrupted moan
In which URANIA she to all prefer'd
And with her seem'd unactive or interr'd
As if all virtues of the polish't mind
All excellencies of the female kind
All wining graces in Urania join'd
As if perfection but in her was seen
And Her least dignity was England's Queen.

Thou hast discrib'd her pleas'd ARDELIA cry'd
As thou hadst known her awfull without pride
As thou in Her Domestick train hadst stood
And seen her great and found her warmly good
Duely maintaining her exalted place
Yet condescending with attractive grace
Recall'd be days when ebon locks o'erspread
My youthfull neck my cheeks a bashfull red
When early joys my glowing bosom warm'd
When trifles pleas'd & every pleasure charm'd
Then eager from the rural seat I came
Of long traced Ancestors of worthy name
To seek the Court of many woes the source
Compleated by this last this sad divorce
From her to whom my self I had resign'd
The Sovereign Mistress of my vanquish't mind
Who now survive but to attend her hearse
With dutious tribute of recording verse
In which may truth with energy be found
And soft as her compassion be the sound
Bless't were the hours when thro' attendance due
Her numerous charms were present to my view
When lowly to her radiant eyes I bowed
Suns to my sight but Suns without a cloud
Towards me their beneficial aspect turn'd
Imprest my duty and my conduct warn'd
For who that saw the modest airs they cast
But from that pattern must be nicely chast
Peculiar Souls have their peculiar sighs
And thro' the eye the inward beauty shines
Then who can wonder if in hers appear'd
Superior sense to be reveer'd & fear'd
Endearing sweetness to her happy friends
And Holy fire which towards the alter tends
Bles't my attention was when drawing near
(My places claim) her crouded audience chair
I heard her by admiring States addrest
With embasies in different tongues exprest
To all that Europe sent she gave replies
In their own speech most eloquent & wise
Soft was her talk and soothing to the heart
By nature solid perfected by art
The Roman Accent which such grace affords
To Tuscan language harmonized her words
All eyes all listning sense upon her hung
When from her lovely mouth th'inchantment sprung
What Livia was when Rome Augustus sway'de 17
And thro' a woman's wit the world obey'd
What Portia was when fortitude and love 18
Inflected wounds which did her firmness prove
And forcing Brutus to applaud her worth
Drew with the steel th'important secret forth
Such was URANIA where they most excell'd
And where they fail'd by nobler zeal upheld
What Italy produc't of glorious names
Her native Country & her kindred Dames
All virtues which Antiquity cou'd boast
She equal'd but on Stormy Britain tost
They lost their value on a northern Coast
Yet who can wonder if to her we grant
What Poets feign when they Diana paint 19
What Legends write when they enthrone a Saint
What now ARDELIA speaks with conscious sense
Of Real Worth & matchless excellence
Never such lustre strove against the light
Never such beauty satisfied the sight
Never such Majesty on earth was found
As when URANIA worthyly was crown'd
As when superior airs declared her birth
From Conquerors o'er the Monarchs of the Earth
And large excuse did for their Maxim bring
That Roman Ladies stoop'd to wed a King
If Royalty had then arose from choice
And merit had compell'd the publick voice
All had allow'd URANIA claimed the most
In view of whom all other charms were lost
Her's in Meridian strong in their decay
But sweetly sinking like declining day
In grief but veil'd as when a rainy cloud
The glorious Sun does yet transparent Shroud
And whilst it softens each resplendent beam
Weeps o'er the land from whence the vapour came
O'er Brittain so her Pious sorrows fell
Less for her Woes then that it cou'd rebell
Yet thence arose the shades her life o'ercast
And worldly greatness seldom made to last
Thence in a foreign clime her Consort died
Whom death cou'd never from her thoughts divide
Thence Sable weeds & cyprus walks she chose
And from within produc't her own repose
Yet only pray'd for those she cou'd not calm
As fragrant trees tho' wounded shed but balm
Nor ceas't to live till vindicated Heaven
Shew'd that in vain were such examples given
Who held her light to three great Kingdoms forth
And gave her Sufferings to dilate her worth
That Gallia too might see she cou'd support
Monastick rules and Britains worst effort
Now peacefull is the spirit which possest
That never blemish't that afflicted breast
Closed are such eyes as paradise might boast
Seen but in Eve e'er innocence she lost
The solemn grave with reverence takes her down
And lasting wreaths succeed th'unstable crown
For rude Huzza's in mercenary streets
All Hail in her triumphant way she meets
Who shall in silent Majesty repose
Till every tomb shall every guest disclose
Till Heaven which does all human loss repair
Distinguishing the attoms of the fair
Shall give URANIA's form transcendant beauty there
And from the beams Iradiating her face
(Which here but wanted that suspended grace)
Shall shew the Britains how they strove in vain
To strip that brow which was consign'd to reign
Tho' Polititians strove to guide the round
Of miscall'd fortune & prescribe its bound
Till the contested Earth shou'd be no longer found.

Here she concludes Lamira thinks it just
Such pious tears shou'd wait such Royal Dust.

A Suplication for the joys of Heaven

To the Superior World to Solemn Peace
To Regions where Delights shall never cease
To Living Springs and to Celestial shade
For change of pleasure not Protection made
To Blissfull Harmonys o'erflowing source
Which Strings or stops can neither bind or Force
But wafting Air for ever bears along
Perpetual Motion with perpetual Song
On which the Blest in Symphonies ascend
And towards the Throne with Vocal ardours bend
To Radial light o'erspreading Boundless space
To the safe Goal of our well ended race
To shelter where the weary shall have rest
And where the wicked never shall molest
To that Jerusalem which ours below
Did but in type and faint resemblance shew
To the first born and ransom'd Church above
To Seraphims whose whole composures love
To active Cherubins whom wings surround
Not made to rest tho' on imortal ground
But still suspended wait with flaming joy
In swift commands their vigour to employ
Ambrosial dews distilling from their plumes
Scattering where e'er they pass innate perfumes
To Angells of innumerable sorts
Subordinate in the etherial Courts
To Men refin'd from every gross allay
Who taught the Flesh the Spirit to obey
And keeping late futurity in view
Do now possess what long they did persue
To Jesus founder of the Christian race
And kind dispenser of the Gospell grace
Bring me my God in my accomplish't time
From weakness freed and from degrading crime
Fast by the Tree of life be my retreat
Whose leaves are Med'cin and whose fruit is meat
Heal'd by the first and by the last renew'd
With all perfections be my Soul endued
My form that has the earthly figure borne
Take the Celestial in its Glorious turn
My temper frail and subject to dismay
Be stedfast there spiritualiz'd and gay
My low Poetick tendency be rais'd
Till the bestower worthily is prais'd
Till Dryden's numbers for Cecilia's feast
Which sooth depress inflame and shake the breast
Vary the passions with each varying line
Allow'd below all others to outshine
Shall yeild to those above shall yeild to mine
In sound in sense in emphasis Divine
Stupendious are the heights to which they rise
Whose anthems match the musick of the skies
Whilst that which art we call when studied here
Is nature there in its sublimest sphere
And the pathetick now so hard to find
Flows from the gratefull transports of the mind
With Poets who supernal voices raise
And here begin their never ending layes
With those who to the brethren of their Lord
In all distress a warm relief afford
With the Heroick Spirits of the brave
Who durst be true when threatn'd with the Grave
And when from evil in triumphant sway
Who e'er departed made himself a prey
To sanguine perils to penurious care
To scanty cloathing and precarious fare
To lingring solitude exhausting thoughts
Unsuccour'd losses and imputed faults
With these let me be join'd when Heaven reveals
The judgment which admits of no appeals
And having heard from the deciding throne
Well have ye suffer'd wisely have ye Done
Henceforth the Kingdom of the blest is yours
For you unfolds its everlasting doors
With joyfull Allelujahs let me hail
The strength that o'er my weakness cou'd prevail
Upheld me here and raised my feeble clay
To this felicity for which I pray
Thro' him whose intercession I implore
And Heaven once enter'd prayer shall be no more
Loud acclamations shall its place supply
And praise the breath of Angells in the sky.

Finisht February 6th I717/18

A Contemplation

Indulg'd by ev'ry active thought
    When upwards they wou'd fly
Nor can Ambition be a fault
    If plac'd above the sky

When humbld first we meekly crave
    Remission for the past
We from the fore-tasts which we have
    May guesse our Joys at last

Then let my Contemplation soar
    And Heav'n my Subject be
Though low on Earth in nature poor
    Some prospect we may see

And now that scene before me stands
    And large Possessions there
Where none usurps anothers Lands 20
    And Theives we do not fear

All Care all Sorrow all Surprise
    Fly from that World of peace
Where tears are wip'd from clouded Eyes
    And Sighs for ever cease

Decay or Sicknesse find no place
    In that untainted Air
But still th'incorruptable Face 21
    Shall as at first be fair

Agility in pace or flight
    The Blessed shall convey
Where e're the Lamb more fair then light 22
    Shall lead the radiant way

Whilst Praises in Seraphick Sounds 23
    The blisful road shall trace
And musick seem to passe the bounds
    Even of unbounded Space

Such balmy Odours shall disperse
    As from the Bridegroom's pores 24
The holy Canticles rehearse 25
    Fell on the Bolts and Doors

When to his Spouse the well belov'd
    More white then Jordans Flocks 26
Spake whilest her hand the Barrs remov'd
    And dew-drops fill'd his locks

The Crosse shall there triumphant rise
    And ev'ry Eye shall scan
That promis'd Ensign in the skies
    Close by the Son of Man

With Christ there Charles's Crown shall meet 27
    Which Martirdom adorns
And prostrate lye beneath his feet
    My Coronet of Thorns

The Lord to whom my life is joyn'd
    For Conscience here opprest
Shall there full retribution find
    And none his Claimes molest

Hypocrisy and feign'd pretence
    To cover foul Dissigns
Shall blusshing fly as far from thence
    As to the deepest Mines

We there shall know the use of Foes
    Whom here we have forgiven
When we shall thank them for those woes
    Which pav'd our way to Heaven

There all good things that we have mist
    With Int'rest shall return
Whilst those who have each wish possest
    Shall for that fullnesse mourn

There Coventry of Tufton's Line 28
    For piety renown'd
Shall in transcending virtues Shine
    And Equally be Crown'd

Around her shall the Chains be spread
    Of Captives she has freed
And ev'ry Mouth that she has fed
    Shall testify the deed

Whilst Scools supplied to mend our youth
    Shall on the List be shown
A Daughter and a Mother both
    In Her the Church shall own

The Gospell crosse the seas rehearst
    By her diffusive aid
And fifty-thousand pounds dispers'd
    Shall there be largely paid

My Heart by her supporting Love
    In all its Cares upheld
For that, to see her Crown improve
    With transports shall be fill'd

From Gratitude what graces flow
    What endlesse pleasures spring
From Prayers whilst we remain below
    Above whilst Praise we Sing

And Mammon wert thou well employ'd 29
    What Mansions might be wonne
Whilst Woolsey's Pallace lyes destroy'd 30
    And Marlbrough's is not done. 31

Whilst to this Heav'n my Soul Aspires
    All Suff'rings here are light
He travells pleas'd who but desires
    A Sweet Repose at Night



1 Very few collections of poetry were published by women in England before Anne Finch (1661-1720)'s volume in 1713. Amelia Bassano Lanyer (1569-1645) published the poetical Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum (Hail, God, King of the Jews) in 1611. Mary, Lady Chudleigh (1656-1710) published The Ladies Defence: or the Bride-Woman's Counsellor answered: A Poem. In a Dialogue Between Sir John Brute, Sir William Loveall, Melissa, and a Parson (1701) and Poems on Several Occasions (1703). Sarah Egerton (1670-1723) published her collected Poems (1703, 1706). Some might also include Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672), although she is generally regarded as an American poet, since she emigrated there from England at the age of eighteen. Her brother-in-law surreptitiously took her manuscript to England and had it printed without her knowledge as The Tenth Muse (London: Stephen Bowtell, 1650).

2 While "Jacobite" and "Nonjuror" were not synonymous, the refusal to take oath to a new king, because one considered one's previous oath to be inviolable, had profound political implications. There was also a serious division in the Anglican church between Nonjurors and those who changed their oaths. Between 300 and 400 Anglican clergy, and an unknown number of laity, were suspended from office and excluded from public life for nonjuring.

3 In 1692, Charles Finch, Earl of Winchilsea, married Sarah Nourse.

5 1 Chronicles 15.

6 1 Samuel 17-18.

7 Judges 4-5. The judge Deborah.

8 Lawrell: Laurel crowns were awarded as honours to famous poets.

9 "Apology," in its older sense, means "pleading off from a charge or imputation, whether expressed, implied, or only conceived as possible; defence of a person, or vindication of an institution, etc., from accusation or aspersion" (OED).

10 Ardelia: Poetic name of Anne Finch.

11 Melancholy: Anne Finch suffered from recurrent bouts of depression, or 'melancholy'.

12 Phoebus: Phoebus Apollo, Greek god whose chariot was the sun.

13 Handwritten note beside manuscript title.

14 Ardelia: Poetic name of Anne Finch.

15 Urania: Poetic name of Mary of Modena, wife of King James II, and Queen of England.

16 Lamira: Poetic Name of the Lady Anne Tufton, daughter of Catherine, Countess of Thanet. Lady Anne Tufton became Countess of Salisbury on her marriage to James Cecil in 1709.

17 Livia: (56 B.C.- 29 A.D.) Third wife of Octavian (Augustus Caesar), Livia was involved in ruling Rome for 70 years.

18 Portia: (1st Century B.C.) Porcia,[sic.] the wife of Brutus, inflicted wounds on herself to determine how much pain she could endure without betraying knowledge of the plot to kill Caesar.

19 Diana: Roman goddess.

20 Usurps anothers Lands: The Hanover line of William and Mary were considered by the Jacobites to have usurped the Stuart line, in claiming England's throne.

21 Incorruptable Face: Bodies after the resurrection were believed to be incorruptable.

22 Lamb: Christ, referred to as the Lamb of God.

23 Seraphick: The Seraphim were an order of six-winged angels allowed to stand in the presence of God.

24 Bridegroom: God, in the person of Christ, is the Bridegroom; his Spouse is the Church.

25 Canticles: Liturgical songs.

26 Jordan: Physically speaking, the Jordan river was an area where shepherds herded flocks of sheep. It was also significant as a site of Christian baptism, and metaphorically as a crossing from death to heavenly rebirth.

27 Charles: Charles I, King of England, martyred.

28 Coventry: Margaret Tufton, wife of George, third baron of Coventry, was known for her work for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel.

29 Mammon: Material wealth or possessions.

30 Woolsey's Pallace: Cardinal Wolsey built Hampton Court Palace, but later offered it to Henry VIII, in an attempt to retain kingly favour. When Christopher Wren remodelled Hampton Court for William and Mary, he tore down portions of the original palace.

31 Marlbrough's: The Duke of Marlborough, considered a Whig profiteer by many Tories, began building Blenheim in 1705. It was still unfinished 15 years later.