Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea - Biography and Works

Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea was an English poet and a courtier in the court of King James II. She was born in the family of Sir William Kingsmill his wife Anne Haslewood as the third child. She was given a good and equal education by her parents who believed that girls too have the right to education.

Anne Finch (1661-1720)

In her father's will who died after five months of her birth, he stated that his daughters should obtain monetary support equal to that of her brother for her education.

She became a maid of honor to Mary Modena, wife of James II. She met with Courtier Heneage Finch, with whom she married in 1684. Her married life was happy, but she showed some sign of depression in her works mourning on the difficult literary career for a woman. She dedicated a poem to her husband, which is hugely popular later: A Letter to Daphnis.

In 1690, her husband was arrested for joining the exiled King James II in France. Because of this, Anne and her husband Heneage had to live separately for eight months. During his imprisonment, she stayed with her friends and at that time she wrote ‘Ardelia to Melancholy’ that clearly projected her disturbed mental state. Her poems written in this period were more political in themes than playful and jolly. After his release, they moved to Eastwell Park, Kent and lived for more than 25 years.

Her stay in the estate of Kent was very productive in a literary career. She was encouraged to write by her husband who also changed her pen name from ‘Areta’ to ‘Ardelia’. She started following the literary trend of her contemporary themes like dealing with the metaphysical, the praise to nature and its beauty, value of the friendship. Her major works are A Nocturnal Reverie, The Petition for an Absolute Retreat, The Introduction, and The Spleen. Her many poems and plays are published in a collection Miscellany Poems, on Several Occasions in 1713, but her identity was not disclosed. But, later in the next printing, she received all the credits as the real author of the collection. Before it, she was not comfortable with the social trend of criticizing a female writer, so she published most of her poems as anonymous writer and later used pen name and finally with the encouragement of her husband and renowned writer Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope, she wrote under her own name.

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