Anne Finch (1661–1720)
Note: the 19th-century biography below preserves a historical record. A new biography that reflects 21st-century approaches to the subjects in question is forthcoming.
Dictionary of National Biography (1885–1900)
FINCH, ANNE, Countess of Winchilsea (d. 1720), poetess, was the daughter of Sir William Kingsmill of Sidmonton, near Southampton, and the wife of Heneage Finch, second son of Heneage, second earl of Winchilsea [q. v.] Her husband succeeded to the title as fourth earl on the death of his nephew Charles in 1712. Finch was gentleman of the bedchamber to James II when Duke of York, and his wife maid of honour to the second duchess. Anne Finch was a friend of Pope, of Rowe, and other men of letters. Her most considerable work, a poem on 'Spleen,' written in stanzas after Cowley's manner, and published in Gildon's 'Miscellany,' 1701, inspired Howe to compose some verses in her honour, entitled 'An Epistle to Flavia.' Pope addressed 'an impromptu to Lady Winchilsea' (Miscellanies, 1727), in which he declared that 'Fate doomed the fall of every female wit' before 'Ardelia's' talent. She replied by comparing 'Alexander' to Orpheus, who she said would have written like him had he lived in London. The only collected edition of her poems was printed in 1713, containing a tragedy never acted, called 'Aristomenes, or the Royal Shepherd,' and dedicated to the Countess of Hertford, with 'an Epilogue to [Rowe's] Jane Shore, to be spoken by Mrs. Oldfield the night before the poet's day' (printed in the General Dictionary, x. 178, from a manuscript in the countess's possession). Another poem, entitled 'The Prodigy,' written at Tunbridge Wells, called forth Cibber's regret that the countess's rank made her only write occasionally as a pastime. Wordsworth sent a selection of her poems with a commendatory sonnet of his own to Lady Mary Lowther, and remarked in a prefatory essay to his volume of 1815 that Lady Winchilsea's 'nocturnal reverie' was almost unique in its own day, because it employed new images 'of external nature.' On her death, 5 Aug. 1720, she left a number of unpublished manuscripts to her friends, the Countess of Hertford and a clergyman named Creake, and by their permission some of these poems were printed by Birch in the 'General Dictionary.' She left no children. Her husband died 30 Sept, 1726. Her published works were : 1. The poem on 'Spleen,' in 'A New Miscellany of Original Poems,' published by Charles Gildon, London, 1701, 8vo; republished under the title of 'The Spleen, a Pindarique Ode; with a Prospect of Death, a Pindarique Essay,' London, 1709, 8vo. 2. 'Miscellany Poems, written by a Lady,' 1713, 8vo.
[General Dict. x. 178; Biog. Brit. vii. Suppl. p. 204; Cibber's Lives of the Poets, iii. 321; Walpole's Royal and Noble Authors, ed. Park, iv. 87; Collins's Peerage, ed. 1779, iii. 282; Cat. of Printed Books, Brit. Mus.]
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