Anne Finch: an Influential, but Minor Woman Poet

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  • Topic: Poetry, Anne of Great Britain, Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea
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  • Published : December 15, 2012
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Anne Finch: An Influential, but Minor Woman Poet
Anne Kingsmills Finch is one the most significant published women poets prior to the Romantic Period. Her poetry clearly reflects her experiences and struggles along her witty personality and her candidness; her diverse work in poetry not only documents her personal struggles, but the social and political turmoil during that era. Undoubtedly, Finch’s greatness is due to the encouragement that she received from her family, husband, friends, and colleagues. Although education for women was neither common nor encouraged in the 17th century, her family placed great importance on her and her sister’s education of a wide range of topics even after their death. In addition, her husband, Heneage Finch, supported her writing. Even her friends and colleagues, both male and female, advocated for her to write and publish; they include Sarah Churchill, Anne Killigrew, Jonathan Swift, and Alexander Pope.

Her writings began when she was in the Court; her family was strong Anglicans and loyal supporters of the Stuart royalty. She became a Maid of Honor to Mary of Modena, wife of King James II, in 1682. She reflected on her relationship with Mary of Moderna in the poem “On the Death of the Queen” (Ockerbloom). During her loving and happy marriage with Heneage Finch, she wrote many love poems to her husband such as “A Letter to Dafnis: April 2d 1685” and “To Mr. F. Now Earl of W.”. These poems are only the beginning of her evident individuality; she ensures that her poems deviate from the normal conventions and mental outlook during that era (Ockerbloom).

Since all Finch’s writings are reflections of her experiences, understanding the major life events that occurred can help a person better understand her works. One of the most influential events during that era was the non-violent Glorious Revolution also known as the Bloodless Revolution where the Stuart King was removed from the throne, and William of the House of Orange was offered the crown (“Glorious”). During this difficult time of political and religious turmoil, Anne Kingmills Finch and Heneage Finch risked the harassment and danger in order to stay loyal to the Stuart Kings (Ockerbloom). They refused to swear their allegiance to William of Orange because of their involvement in the Court. They believed their previous oaths to the Stuart Kings were morally binding and inflexible. Heneage was arrested for attempting to join James II in France in April 1690. His arrest caused a lot of anxiety for the Finches. To deal with this anxiety and her depression, Anne wrote “Ardelia to Melancholy” and “The Consolation” (Ockerbloom).

Fortunately, matters were improving for the Finches near the end of 1960. Charles Finch, Heneage’s nephew, invited Heneage and Anne Finch to live with him in Eastwell. Many of Anne’s poems from this time in her life, such as “The Petition for an Absolute Retreat” and “A Nocturnal Reverie” were a celebration of the new friendships, supporters, and the beautiful environment of Eastwell (Ockerbloom).

The Finches acquire a house in London in the early 1700’s when the political climate of England shifted and improved. In London, Anne Finch began openly publishing her works under her own name rather than anonymously although she was hesitant initially because of the social and political climate during that era. It began with anonymously publishing “The Spleen” which was one of the most popular poems during this era (Ockerbloom). It then led to the private circulation of her manuscript along with “The Introduction” which discusses about the attitude towards women poets during that period of time. In 1713, Miscellany Poems, on Several Occasions, a collection of 86 poems and her second play, was published in print, and she was recognized as the author (Ockerbloom).

When Charles Finch, Earl of Winchilsea, passed away on August 4, 1712, Heneage and Anne became the Earl and Countess of Winchilsea. Unfortunately, they...
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