The Poetry Of Anne Finch An Essay In Interpretation

Tess Somervell is Research and Teaching Fellow at the University of Leeds, and Research Assistant on the AHRC-funded project British Romantic Writing and Environmental Catastrophe: romanticcatastrophe.uk.The very first lines of a poem Finch called ‘The Introduction’ deny that she is introducing her work to the world: ‘Did I, my lines intend for publick view,/How many censures, wou’d their faults persue’.to interpret them, not allegorically, but actually in their relation to human life.” In the twentieth century, as more and more scholars began to read and study Finch, they discussed her merit in these terms, arguing that she anticipated Wordsworth’s own interest in the ‘ennobling interchange’ between the poet’s mind and the natural world.

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The best way to understand and appreciate Finch is to try to view her from every direction: as a poet who looked back, forward, and around her all at once.

She looked back to the forms, genres, and conventions of the Restoration poetry that she grew up reading and hearing.

It was at court that she met her great love, Heneage Finch, and married him in 1684. Wordsworth’s words changed Finch’s posthumous fortunes. Her reputation declined through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but in 1903 the critic Myra Reynolds published a new edition of Finch’s works.

When his nephew Charles died in 1712, Heneage became the fifth earl of Winchilsea and Anne the Countess of Winchilsea. Though she was praised as a poet by Swift and her friend Pope, Finch and her husband kept away from London society for the most part; they were Jacobites and non-jurors, having remained loyal to James II and Mary after the revolution of 1688. In her introduction, Reynolds interpreted Finch’s poetry in the light of Wordsworth’s commentary, portraying Finch as a ‘pre-Romantic’ poet possessed of Wordsworth’s own “power of fixing an exquisite regard on the commonest facts of nature, and his ability…

The translations of Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea (1661-1720), far exceed the commonplace function of importing the foreign into the domestic; instead, Finch draws on the power of translation as a vehicle of social and political critique, in order to articulate values usually marginalized within her culture.

Translation granted her a literary authority--an authority born in part of precedent--to assert cultural values that many in her nation would have found bold or perhaps seditious.But of the forty-eight pieces chosen, exactly one third were by one poet: Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea.Ten years later Wordsworth was corresponding with Alexander Dyce, who had published included several poems by Finch, but Wordsworth implied that more could be added for a second edition: “There is one poetess to whose writings I am especially partial, the Countess of Winchelsea.(“She was unlucky in her models”, sighed Wordsworth.) From this angle, Finch looks less like a visionary pre-Romantic and more like a talented but typical Augustan poet.Even ‘A Nocturnal Reverie’, the Romantic favourite, is a poem of its time.Finch seems not only to have been Wordsworth’s favourite female poet, but one of his favourite poets altogether.His most important and influential endorsement was published in no less than the of Pope”.The natural world is the ‘inferior world’, even when the poet’s soul ‘thinks it like her own’ – a joyful delusion, but a delusion nonetheless.This resembles but is importantly different from Wordsworth’s own “ennobling interchange / Of action from within and from without: / The excellence, pure spirit, and best power, / Both of the object seen, and eye that sees.” For Finch, power lies not in nature but in heaven, and in what God imparts to the human soul.Anne Finch was born Anne Kingsmill, daughter of Sir William Kingsmill, in 1661, the year that Charles II was crowned.In 1682 she became maid of honour to Princess Mary of Modena, wife of the Duke of York, later James II.

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