This lecture was delivered on October 23, 2003, as part of a panel at the EC/ASECS October 2004 meeting at Cape May: "Lives, Lyrics and the Healing Arts." Henry Fulton, Chair. Panelists: Mary Margaret Stewart, Ellen Moody, Luanne T. Frank.
Anne Oldfield, 1683-1730, Artist Unknown
[An Essay in Praise of Anne Finch and Mary Wortley Montagu's Mordant Muse: Mostly Anne Finch's epilogue to Rowe's Jane Shore and Mary Wortley Montagu's epilogue to an intended play on Mary Queen of Scots, Intended to be Spoken by Anne Oldfield; and on Elizabeth Tollet's Ovidian Epistle, "Anne Boleyn to Henry VIII"
Many obstacles confront someone who wants to do justice to the angry depressed muse who presides over Anne Finch and Mary Wortley Montagu's poetry. To cite one influential text, there is Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own: Woolf registers dismay at Finch's "indignation," "hates and grievances," "fear," "sad chants," "resentment" and "the fire [that] was hot within her." Woolf laments: "it was a thousand pities that the woman who could write like that, whose mind was turned to nature and reflection, should have been forced to anger and bitterness." This famous text is but one among many that have provoked reserved defenses, assertions of Finch's balance, apologies for or reluctant agreement with an implied verdict: Anne Finch is morbid.1
Less than twenty years ago Patricia Meyer Spacks confronted in order to "rescue" Montagu's most characteristic content about women from the charge that she writes from a far too intimate, narrow, and malicious a standpoint.2 Since the earliest sympathetic treatments of Montagu's naïve celebrations of veiled women and life in a harem, ferocity towards imagined paper scapegoats, and abject declarations that she burns her work upon writing it down, the justification has been that Montagu's muddles and anonymous pleasures have analogous counterparts in the lives and gossip of many women. The cogent issue only rarely addressed is how do you persuade readers to treat with serious attention Montagu's writing, much of which does not conform to respected criteria and belongs to marginalized genres.3
I write this paper to do more than counter reticent explications of Finch and Montagu's writing. I want to call attention to their defiance of creditable norms hostile to women, as exemplified in popular punitive stories featuring sexually-transgressive heroines. In Finch's epilogue to Rowe's Jane Shore and Montagu's epilogue to an unfinished tragedy about Mary Queen of Scots, they castigated this stereotype on ironic hedonistic grounds while identifying with the scapegoats of their own texts.4 They did so in epilogues intended to be spoken on a public stage. In their translations and autobiographical fragments, they candidly portray their own sceptical yearnings after pleasure, power and retreat, and alienation from social norms.5
Pam Perkins recently demonstrated that in the later eighteenth century women readers seem content to see in the Catholic sexually transgressive Mary Stuart, who was a political failure and probably an accomplice to murder, a model of exemplary femininity. The Protestant chaste Elizabeth I, personally successful, and a powerful leader, is Mary's seething rival, a sexually-frustrated Machiavellian.6However, mythic stories of beautiful sexually-transgressive women coerced into resigning, or savagely punished for, wielding power, were popular well before and have have continued to be popular after this era: these sexually-transgressive examples occur in Elizabethan (Thomas Heywood's I and II Edward IV ), and dominate Restoration and early eighteenth-century she-tragedies, e.g., John Banks's Vertue Betray'd, or Anne Bullen (1682) and Nicholas Rowe's The Tragedy of Jane Shore (1714). Rowe's play was popularly produced on the commercial stage as late as 1880, when Genevieve Ward exploited the "power which this [kind of] part [still] has over audiences."7
I contextualize Finch and Montagu's epilogues with Pope and Nicholas Rowe's epilogues to Jane Shore and Elizabeth Tollet's Ovidian verse epistle, "Anne Boleyn to Henry VIII." Pope and Rowe's epilogues exploit the mythic archetype underlying these portraits of glamorized penitent punished heroines: in modern terms, the "gratifying and reassuring" "myth of the slut," whose contemporary sexual ideology Kristina Straub and Pat Gill have studied.8 Revealingly, all four epilogues were written for Anne Oldfield who was able to encompass roles on and offstage as diverse as "upper class toy and pet," conventional self-sacrificing mother, and sexually-transgressive victim and example. After having read a number of Oldfield's most famous roles, I've concluded she was a virtuoso at self-conscious playing with hostile configurations of female sexuality. She was able to project these roles as forms of masquerade she took a perverse pleasure in.9 Tollet's Ovidian epistle provides a rare if muted woman's text which shows this stereotype to derive from cruel and shallow analyses.10
Rowe and Pope center their epilogues on an assumption that the females in the audience are simply hypocrites when they condemn Jane Shore for having been sexually promiscuous. Rowe insists a prurient fascination compounded of fear and resentment shapes women's responses to Jane Shore. Although they demonstrate commendable self-control when they do not cuckold their "horrid" husbands to revenge themselves for their husbands' "drinking, gaming, [and] raking," they have not allowed their "consciences" to stop them from wandering where they please and extravagant spending. By contrast, although the "matter here was proved against poor Jane," "our wife" was of a "milder, meeker spirit." Oldfield was asked to mock herself both as Jane and Jane's accusers, and then take in the "lords and masters" of the audience by asking "Don't you allow it to be virtuous bearing/When we submit thus to your domineering?" She had thought obedience to a man would have brought Shore "some merit." Rowe's epilogue concludes defensively: Oldfield reminded the audience that this lover was "a king, she flesh and blood," and that Shore "paid dearly" for her sin. She asked for generosity: "Be kind at last, and pity poor Jane Shore."11
Pope took the offensive: Oldfield was to jeer at the audience.12 Like Rowe, Pope assumes women use Shore as a scapegoat: "I can't -- indeed now -- I so hate a whore." He imagined Oldfield echoing the kind of scornful embarrassment the vulnerable woman would confront were she openly to confess: "How strangely you expose your self, my dear!" Pope's irony is misogynist: "And did not wicked custom so contrive,/We'd be the best, good natur'd things alive." The difference between women audience members and Shore is Shore acted out what they secretively imagine:
There are, 'tis true, who tell another tale,
That virtuous ladies envy while they rail;
Such rage without betrays the fire within;
In some close corner of the soul, they sin…
At the close of Pope's epilogue when Oldfield was also to turn to include the men in the audience, Pope exposes the male impulse to vindicate his prowess and use his power ruthlessly:
Well, if our author in the Wife offends,
He has a Husband that will make amends.
He draws him gentle, tender, and forgiving,
And sure such kind good creatures may be living…
Plu -- Plutarch, what's his name that writes his life?
Tells us, that Cato dearly lovd his wife:
Yet if a friend a night, or so, should need her,
He'd recommend her, as a special breeder.
Oldfield was to ask, "pray which of you would take her back?"13 Pope impugns the common depiction of Shore's husband as not complicit but generous.
Tollet's Ovidian epistle is accompanied by notes which show Tollet read different sources about Anne Boleyn and used them critically. She rejects those which presented Boleyn as a deformed witch-like woman with gross sexual habits whom everyone thought corrupt.14 A learned influential historian is characterized as motivated by "bitter [Catholic] malice" and as having filled his book with "scurrilous and improbable Reflections." It is highly unlikely "a Woman of a public bad Character, and withal so indifferent a Person as he represents her, would captivate a Prince." Tollet takes details from a non-fictional letter from Boleyn to Henry and argues dynastic and familial politics led to Boleyn's isolation and powerlessness.15
In the verse epistle itself Tollet's Boleyn is a learned young woman whose "eloquence" attracted Henry. A quiet sober tone characterizes poetry which recalls the reasoned woman's point of view Hilda Smith analyzed in later seventeenth-century English feminist poets. Tollet's Boleyn, for example, argues that ambition and male boredom have motivated Henry's decision to divorce her:
He looks abroad, and struggles to be freed;
Disgusts and Jealousies, alas! succeed.
He wishes for the Hour that shall divide
The weary Husband from the suff'ring Bride;
Or else prevents it, by some useful Flaw,
Some lucky Turn of misconstructed Law.
Tollet concludes her poem with a reference to the young Elizabeth Tudor as Boleyn's worthy legacy. Tollet's Boleyn is guilty and ashamed of her sexual trespass, but the prison scene in which the soliloquy takes place and the conclusion of the epistle insist that we remember that the real Boleyn's head was sliced off. The failure of imagination and lack of genuine empathy which it takes to enjoy such a "example" is brought home to the reader by reference to the horror of the woman's death.16
In contrast to all their predecessors, Finch and Montagu attack the sexually-transgressive heroine on hedonistic as well as prudential grounds. They expose the common stereotype as a delusive compensatory and envious iconography of victimhood. Finch imagined Oldfield beginning with a quiet warning that unusual candour is on the way: "The audience seems tonight so very kind,/I fancy I may speak my mind." Oldfield was then to pretend that what she, as a woman, had been looking forward to seeing was another woman revel in her sexuality and power:
.. . when the author nam'd Jane Shore,
I all her glorious history run o'er,
And thought he would have shewn her on the stage,
In the first triumphs of her blooming age;
Edward in public at her feet a slave,
The jealous Queen in private left to rave;
Yet Jane superior in all the strife…
Now using the voice of a woman poet Oldfield was to say she assumed Rowe's "right design" was "To make [the heroine] lavish, careless, gay and fine/Not bring her here to mortify and whine." She had been unprepared for such a display of self-abasement, and become "puzzled" and "discontented" when "the husband" is "at last" "brought" "To hear her own and aggravate her fault," and was then to remark sharply: "I hate such parts as we have plaid today" [emphasis added].
Oldfield hates such parts not merely because "were I to transgress, for all the Poet,/I'll swear no friend of mine should ever know it." In her epilogue to Jane Shore Finch unashamedly expresses her desire for sexual satisfaction and power not only as a young but as an old woman too:
. . . you perhaps are pleas'd to see her mended,
And so should I, had all her charms been ended.
But whilst another lover might be had,
The woman or the Poet must be mad.
There is a season, which too fast approaches,
And every list'ning beauty nearly touches;
When handsome Ladies, falling to decay
Pass through new epithets to smooth the way:
From fair and young transportedly confess'd,
Dwindle to fine, well-fashioned, and well- dress'd
Thence as their fortitudes extremest proof,
To well as yet; from well to well enough;
Till having in such weak foundations stood,
Deplorably at last, they sink to good.
Abandon'd then, 'tis time to be retir'd,
And seen no more, when not alas! admired.
By men indeed, a better fate is known…
Men are not pressured into self-effacement. Unlike Rowe or Pope, but like Tollet, Finch ends by referring to reality. It is Rowe whose work reinforces women's submission and wretchedness, yet, as Oldfield was to conclude wryly, she hopes that "the house [will] be throng'd the Poets' Day," for "Whate'er he makes us women do or say/You'll not believe he'll go fast and pray."17
Mary Wortley Montagu's scathing epilogue rejects punitive and shamefaced depictions of sexually-transgressive women. Most unusually, Montagu makes Elizabeth I her model. Oldfield was imagined opening subversively:
What could Luxurious Woman wish for more
To fix her Joys, or to extend her Power?
Their every Wish was in this Mary seen,
Gay, Witty, Youthful, Beauteous and a Queen!
Mary Stuart's "ill conduct" was to have relied on physical beauty. Oldfield was to preach to women readers an iconoclastic lesson. They must "learn hence" "to prize" "more solid charms" like power and law. The voice here is again that of a woman poet: Oldfield is imagined offering her listeners the passive covert weapons of the powerless, insincerity, manipulation and performative silences. Montagu's verse is heavy with intense emotion, and she resorts to fable imagery to express an aggressive paranoia:
The traveller by Desert Wolves persu'd,
If by his Art the savage Foe's subdu'd,
The World will still the noble Act applaud,
Tho' Victory was gain'd by needfull fraud.
Such is, my tender sex, our helpless case;
And such the barbarous Heart, hid by the begging face;
By Passion fir'd, and not withheld by Shame,
They cruel Hunters are, we trembling Game.
The corrosive perspective is the result of the speaker's real experience:
Trust me, Dear Ladys (for I know 'em well),
Cruel to them that yeild, Cullys to them that sell.
Beleive me tis by far the wiser Course,
Superior Art should meet superior force.
Hear; but be faithfull to your Interest still,
Secure your Hearts, then Fool with who you will.18
In the two epilogues we have looked at, Finch and Montagu dismiss as unworthy their notice, the pathetic and termagent heroines' mélange of sentimentality and sexuality. Nonetheless, Finch and Montagu write from a continuously emotional sexualized point of view. To anyone who knows something about their personal lives or who has read other writings by them, they continually risk embarrassing themselves and us.19
In Finch and Montagu's translation as well as autobiographical work, they attempted to construct an identity they imagined they could live with. In the epitomizing texts I have chosen to discuss Finch and Montagu demonstrate how the identities they desire to have fail to keep at bay the stereotypical norms they feel are so falsifying. These stereotypes have been so deeply instilled in them that they emerge instinctively as urges the poets cannot get beyond or repress.
Finch's "The Jester and the Little Fishes," a translation of a non- Aesopic fable by La Fontaine, and her "Thirsis persuades Amintor not to dispair," a fragment from an unfinished translation of an erotic pastoral play by Tasso, have not been paid much attention to. But the affinities between Finch, her chosen authors and source texts are revealing and run deep.20 Like La Fontaine and Tasso, Finch is personally involved; she immerses herself in the sensual beauty of the court society she scathingly criticizes and writes to escape from. La Fontaine's fables are "mirrors in which we see ourselves" as well as "the follies of others;" the poet is "a victim" and yet invents "a small, intimate space for" dreaming.21 Tasso's erotic pastoral is a vehicle for personal retreat, where all elements are structured into a bitter contrast between idyllic life and court societies.22
Finch transforms her texts. Instead of La Fontaine's suave light ironies, her "The Jester and the Little Fishes" is composed of anxiety, dread, and bitterness over the shifting natural unknowability of a vast watery world. She includes a central allusion to Thomas Killigrew known for his jesting and later immense wealth; she draws upon details of Scots smuggling, and recent exploration and colonizing far from England. She explicitly includes herself among the guests by adding an opening where she remembers how she writhed at having had to be silent at such an occasion as her jester manipulates:
Far, from Societies where I haue place
Be all half Witts, and Acters of grimace;
Buffoons, and Mimmicks, quoters of old saws,
The easy purchasers of dull Applause;
Still, plagues to men of true, but modest sence,
Who, must not take, though Jesters give offence:
Nor, yett, oppose the Laughers, and the cry,
And but by Silence, their assent deny.23
The whole effect is harsh and the tone has the sardonic coarseness of Roger L'Estrange, and of Finch's surviving non-translated satire.24
Finch models Thirsis' exhortation against despair in her Aminta on Milton's Comus. Tasso's language is tonally heavy, plangent and noctural, languid with sensuality, filled with imagery of magic, and his Thirsis tells a plain-spoken paranoic story of how rumors and scandal render court life hallucinatory and dangerous. Finch alters her original to become a story of irresistible temptation.
Borges has remarked that Pope's translation of Homer's Odyssey epitomizes the Baroque style. Finch anticipates and out-baroques Pope when she uses dream imagery to suggest the elusive and threatening nature of luxury:
The very Walls by Magick Art are wrought,
And Repetition to all Speakers taught…
There downy couches to false Rest invite,
The Lawn is charm'd, that faintly bars the Light,
No gilded Seat, no iv'ry Board is there,
But what thou may'st for some Delusion fear:
Whilst, farther to abuse thy wond'ring Eyes,
Strange antick Shapes before themselves shall arise;
Fantastick Fiends, that will about thee flock,
And all they see, with Imitation mock…
………… . Thyself may'st be
Transform'd into a Flame, a Stream, a Tree;
A Tear, congeal'd by Art, thou may'st remain
Till by a burning Sigh dissolv'd again.
Thirsis flees "Musick! beyond th'enticing Syrene's Throat" through a gate to listen to "humble, rural music" in Apollo and the muses' golden dawn. But memories of a twilight where "some Evening-Wolf" had crossed his path linger in his mind; and, reversing Milton's plot- design, Finch has her Thirsis's mind re-invoke the tempter. Her Thirsis can't resist gazing at him. The weapons her Thirsis offers Aminta recall Montagu's epilogue: distrust and suspicion.25
Anxiety and reluctant resistence to the mind's delusions plays a central role in Finch's nature and romantic poetry.26 Finch succumbs to these illusions, because, as she says, there seems no other way available for her to be herself. In, for example, "The Bird," the bird she praises is also her song and her. In the poem her song seduces the creature to enter her "bosom" for a "safer retreat" than the night and "wild freedom" offer. The bird will "watch" over her heart "shou'd I sleep." Finch knows the bird as "guard" will let love in "unseen," "sooth" love when love does wrong by "grac[ing] the mischief with a song." But it seems she can't resist this pleasure and ends in "league" with the bird as it insinuates itself into her embrace. In her early poem "The Grove," Finch is caught by what is within her, betrayed by what she finds irresistible all the while knowing the basis for her acts and feelings are a series of delusive thoughts.27
Parallel trajectories can be traced in Montagu's personal and translated texts. Montagu's Italian Memoir is written out of an oblique "endorsement of the self against or through considerable forces arrayed against it." Cynthia Lowenthal argues that Montagu exposed women who had been publicly defamed due to rape or sexual seduction, and were at risk of being treated as an outcast or prey because Montagu felt her own and other aristocratic women's public liberty threatened.28 I doubt whether anyone could have persuaded the women who were the victims of Montagu's verse that she meant to protect them; nonetheless, in her verse, translation and little-known romance novels, Montagu identifies with such women, is justifiably angry or distressed on their behalf, and moves to use social masks for protective barriers.
In these texts Montagu breaks with established expectations, risking opprobium as well as resentment. Her "anger" at and "resistance" to her society's exploitative and disabling mores not only "tracks [a] hapless heroine through a world of male power" and female complicity and malice; the motives which her characters profess are not prudential or self-justifying. For example, in the second of her court tales, "Louisa," after a jealous friend has exposed one heroine's adultery and she flees to a convent to avoid her husband's violence, she tells Louisa that her husband had supported her and had not been cruel; his flaw had been that he had not been as complaisant as her lover and had failed to arouse her in bed. The intriguing text moves well outside prescriptively-controlled analyses of emotions and makes us want to read on because the reader discovers that the usual has been replaced by uncompromising uncomfortable truths about repressed women.29
The autobiography and agendas in Montagu's poetry have been explicated numerous times, but little has been written about Montagu's translation of Marivaux's Le Jeu de l'amour et du hasard as Simplicity, a comedy. She enacts a fantasy of power and fulfillment when her heroine (like Marivaux's) learns the truth about who is disguised well before the hero. Thus at least before marriage, she can control their masquerade's emotional temperature and manipulate the hero.30 Montagu's choice of play is unusual: it's one which enables her to escape the contemporary masculinist English stage.31 Through Marivaux, Montagu dramatizes her disillusionment and unhappiness in masquerades that (like Richard Steele's) expose women's vulnerability; she choses a playwright whose benevolent plot-design enacts an axiom Marivaux's father voices: "Yes, in this world one must be too kind in order to be kind enough."
Montagu's alterations include insertions into her translation of concrete examples of male power and duplicity not in Marivaux. As Bellinda, she turns Marivaux's coolly suggestive epigrammatic general language into plangent specific appeals and distrustful questions whose investigative thrust highlight the heroine's suspicion of the hero's motives. There is no equivalent in Marivaux for lines like "Where shall I pass the uneasy moments of your Absence?"; no nuances like those in Bellinda's request: "Do not be too inquisitive into my wishes. I may think what is not proper to be told, and why should you be so curious as to what passes in my heart?" At the beginning of the play to justify her reluctance to marry a man who seems to have desirable characteristics (e.g., money, rank, intelligence, kindness, good manners, and courtesy), Montagu's Bellinda registers how acceptable hidden male violence controls a wife whose life in public appears splendid and enviable:
Lucy. … I think [of] my Lady Gentle who has such a fine equipage --
Bellinda. Yes, she has a fine Equipage, and a pretty Gentleman as people say. I went tother day to visit this happy Lady, and her pretty Gentleman met me in the Court, with so open a Countenance, so engageing a smile I durst have sworn that man had never said a shocking thing in his Life, such a settle'd content on his pretty Features! Ah, the cheat! I find his poor Lady with her face pale as ashes, her Eyes halfe swell'd out of her Head, and not able to conceal a trembling concern when he came into the room… 32
In an essay on Marivaux, Jack Undank writes
every assault upon established precincts turns out, paradoxically, to be an assault on himself; and parody comes to define itself as an ambiguous instrument of attack, self-defense, and self-recrimination, a device that draws its energies from … unappeased longing[s].33
In Montagu's verse satire she assaults to defend herself.34 Like Marivaux, she seems to think that the mask we don is different from our deepest feelings, and that these feelings include innate "moral scruples." Sometimes she presents herself as unable to act outside the masquerade, as in her "An Answer to a Lady Advising me to Retirement,"
You little know the Heart that you advise,
I view this various Scene with equal Eyes,
In crouded Court I find my selfe alone…
Long since the value of this World I know…
Well as I can, my tedious part I bear
And wait Dismission without painfull Fear.
In her "Epistle to Lord Bathurst," she asserts her mask has left her untouched:
Thus on the Sands of Affric's burning plains
However deeply made no long Impress remains,
The lightest Leaf can leave its figure there,
The strongest Form is scatter'd by the Air …
Unseen, unheard, the Throng around me move,
Not wishing Praise, insensible of Love,
No Whispers soften, nor no Beautys Fire,
Careless I see the Dance, and coldly hear the Lyre.35
I am not alone in thinking women's poetry in its deepest reaches is different from men's poetry.36 Women's poetry from the later seventeenth through the early nineteenth centuries frequently targets the social morality which it is often suggested individuals could not risk rebelling against or understand themselves outside of. Finch and Montagu's epilogues reveal the contradictory and cruel perversions human nature working through the social group is capable of. I regret that Oldfield never got to speak these epilogues on stage.
Peggy Ashcroft (1907-91) as the Duchess of Malfi 1940s Photo
Mrs Abington as Rozolana in The Sultan by Joshua Reynolds (1732-92)
1 Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own(New York: HBJ, 1957), 61-64. This way of deprecating Finch's verse became more widespread with the publication of Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic (New Haven: Yale UP, 1980), where precisely a similar dismayed embarrassed approach to Finch features centrally numerous times, e.g., 7-9, 60-63, 210, 219.
2 Patricia Meyer Spacks, Gossip (Chicago: Chicago Univ. Pr, 1986), 65-91. See also Cynthia Lowenthal, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and the Eighteenth Century Familiar Letter (Athens: Georgia UP, 1994), 114-52. For the response of one of the women Montagu wrote about see Robert Halsband, "Virtue in Danger: The Case of Griselda Murray," History Today, 17 (1967): 693-700.
3 e.g., e.g., Simplicity, a Comedy, Montagu's translation of Marivaux and her Italian memoir. See Emily Morse Symonds (pseudonym George Paston), Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and Her Times(London: Methuen, 1907). For a recent attempt to engage directly with classical "male" critera for autobiogtaphy, see Isobel Grundy, "Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's 'Italian Memoir,'" The Age of Johnson, 6 (1994): 322-24, 339- 43. For an adversarial critique of Montagu's "Turkish Embassy Letters," see Meyda Yegenoglu, "Supplementing the Orientalist Lack: European Ladies in the Harem," Orientalism and Cultural Difference, Inscription 6, ed. Mahmut Mutman and Meyda Yegenoglu (Santa Cruz: California UP, 1992), 45-80. For a defense, see Srinivas Aramvamudan, "Lady Mary Wortley Montagu in the hammam: masquerade, womanliness, and Levantinization, ELH 62 (1995): 69-104.
4 See James E. Gill, "Pharmakon, Pharmakos, and Aporetic Structure in Gulliver's "Voyage to… . the Houyhnhnms," Cutting Edges: Postmodern Critical Essays on Eighteenth Century Satire, ed. James E. Gill (Knoxville: Tennessee UP, 1995), 181-205.
5 The centrality of Finch's regret that much that she desires is illusory to much of her poetry is pointed out repeatedly in Charles Hinnant, The Poetry of Anne Finch (London: Associated UP, 1994), e.g., 117, 123, 149, 200, 222; Grundy sees an analogous perception as central to Montagu's Town Eclogues, "Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and the Theatrical Eclogue," Lumen, 17 (1998): 65.
6 Pam Perkins, "Sixteenth-Century Queens in Eighteenth-Century Literature," Eighteenth-Century Women: Studies in Their Lives, Work, and Culture, ed. Linda V. Troost. Volume 1. New York: AMS Pr, 2002: 109-35. See also my review in The East-Central Intelligencer: The Newsletter of the East-central/American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies, N. S. 17/2 (2003), 25.
7 There was 12 printings of Anne Bullen and it was a stock play in the eighteenth century. See John Banks, Vertue Betray'd: or, Anne Bullen, introd. Diane Dreher, Augustan Reprint Society Nos. 205-6 (LA: William Clark Memorial Library, 1981), vii (Anna Bullen continued to be performed and reprinted until the end of the 18th century), and Nicholas Rowe, The Tragedy of Jane Shore, ed., introd. Harry William Pedicord (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Pr, 1974), xiii; Annibel Jenkins, Nicholas Rowe (New York: Twayne, 1977), 116 and 156n. An early success of the type which provided Rowe with one of his sources is Thomas Heywood's I and II Edward IV (1599): Jane Shore's execution becomes as central, noble and admirably pathetic as Bank's Anne Bullen and Mary, Queen of Scots in John Banks's The Albion Queens. Although Elizabeth is rendered sympathetically in Bullen's play, she is also motivated by the intense sexual jealousy and frustration and is condemned and punished for behaving aggressively and politically in ways closely analogous to late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century texts where she is excoriated and plays the role of an archetypal dreaded ugly witch, e.g., Sophia Lee's The Recess (1782) and Austen's History of England (1791); Friedrich Schiller's Mary Stuart: A Tragedy (1800); and Scott's The Abbot (1820) and Kenilworth (1821). For a recent assessment of the type see Laura Brown, "The Defenseless Woman and the Development of English Tragedy," Studies in English Literature, 1590-1900, 22:3 (1982), 429-33.
8 See Emily White, Fast Girls: Teenage Tribes and the Myth of the Slut (New York: Scribner, 2002), 54-78 ("The Slut Archetype"); Kristina Straub, Eighteenth-Century Players and Sexual Ideology(Princeton: Princeton UP, 1992), 108-110 and passim; Pat Gill, Interpreting Ladies: Women, Wit and Morality in the Restoration Comedy of Manners (Athens: Georgia UP, 1994) and "Gender, Sexuality and Marriage," The Cambridge Companion to English Restoration Theatre, ed. Deborah Payne Fisk (Cambridge UP, 2000), 195. I've noticed that in contexts where modern writers will use everyday abusive language like "slut" or "whore," eighteenth and nineteenth century writers (e.g., Colley Cibber, The Careless Husband, John Vanbrugh and Colley Cibber, The Provok'd Husband; Anthony Trollope, He Knew He Was Right, Can You Forgive Her? and a little known play, The Noble Jilt) resort to "jilt" and "harlot" and (in the nineteenth century particularly) "outcast" and "castaway." Anne Boleyn and Jane Shore have long pseudohistories fitting them into this archetype; in this they are typical of the sexually-transgressive woman who becomes fodder for such myths. For a list of all Rowe's sources except Heywood's plays, see Annibel Jenkins, Nicolas Rowe (Boston: Twayne, 1977), 99-103; I find J. Douglas Canfield's Christianizing appoach untenable, but he does provide more bibliography for "one of the most famous concubines" (as he calls Jane Shore) "in English history," Nicholas Rowe and Christian Tragedy (Gainesville: Georgia UP, 1977), 146. For a more adequate approach to the subtexts of the historical documents behind these stereotypes see Retha M. Warnicke, The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Politics at the Court of Henry VIII (Cambridge UP, 1989), 163-233 ("Harem Politics" and "Sexual Heresy"), 243-47 (appendix on sources).
9 See Straub 93-96. Straub does not perhaps sufficiently take into account the contemporary praise for Oldfield's performance as Lady Towneley (George Etheredge's The Man of Mode; or, Sir Fopling Flutter) and Lady Betty Modish (Colley Cibber's The Careless Husband, 1705), depictions of strong sophisticated yet genteel heroines. See also Katharine Eisaman Maus, "'Playhouse Flesh and Blood:' Sexual Ideology and the Restoration Actress," ELH, 46 (1797): 609-15. For a revealing discussion of slightly later attitudes towards the complicated iedologies Oldfield intuitively navigated, see John Doran, "Anne Oldfield," Annals of the Stage, 2 vols. (New York: 1880), I:288-300. She is quoted as saying that she put such "tragedy-faces" with reluctance; Doran also asserts it was known that she "never troubled the peace of any lady at the head of a household." For a list of the roles Oldfield played or created, see "Anne Oldfield," in A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians… & Other Stage Personnel in London, 1660 1800, edd. Highfill, Philip H. Jr., Kalman A.Burnim, and Edward A. Langhans, 16 vols (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1973-93), 11:101-11. These include Mary Stuart and Anne Boleyn (from Banks's plays cited above), Jane Shore and Lady Jane Grey (Rowe's tragedies); the epilogues mocking the role she had embodied were often written for her. One of the most striking is the epilogue to Ambrose Philips's The Distrest Mother (an adaptation of Racine's Andromache), where as an Andromache with her mask off, Oldfield explained her coldness to her "kind protector" with the brief playful salacious innuendo: "Ah, ladies had you known the good man, Hector!" See also Sandra Richards, The Rise of the English Actress (New York: St Martin's Press, 1993), 32, 34-35, 39.
10 Another contemporary playright who spoke against the attitude of mind underlying the type is Catherine Trotter. See her moralistic "Callipe's direction how to deserve and distinguish the Muse's inspiration," in Poems on Several Occasions reprinted in The Works of Mrs Catherine Cockburn, Theological, Moral, Dramatic, and Poetical, with an Account of the Life of the Author, ed. Thomas Birch, 2 vols. (London, 1751), II:560:
If you attempt the comic ridicule,
Lash not alone the grosser knave, or fool;
But all the gallant vices of the age,
Of which men boast, should blush upon the stage;
The more approv'd, the more diffus'd they are,
Less your impartial pen the dang'rous ill should spare,
Let the nice well-bred beau himself perceive
The most accomplish'd, useless hting alive:
Expose the bottle sparks, that range the won,'
Shaming themselvse with follies not their own;
But chief those foes to virgin innocence,
Who, whilst they make to honour vain pretence,
With all theat's base and impious can dispense.
To gain, or quit, some fond deluded she,
Deceit's a jest, false vows are gallantry;
Let ev'ry Dorimant appear a knave,
And no false wife her falser honour save.
11 Rowe 74-75. In Cibber and Vanbrugh's The Provok'd Husbandupbraids his wife, Lady Townly (one of Anne Oldfield's roles) for thinking that because she is chaste she is not vicious; her vices are analogous to those Rowe cites (shopping, gambling, backbiting other women, and risking liaisons either through flirting or going into debt where a sexual bargain would pay off the money owed).
12 For what we know of the circumstances surrounding Pope's composition of his epilogue, see Maynard Mack, Alexander Pope: A Life(New Haven: Yale, 1985), 847n152. Pope's careless reference to Jane Shore as Jane Gray in a sentence meant to present himself as a successful rake makes visible the slut archetype underlying even apparently unsexualized pathetic heroines: But alas! what have I to do with Jane Gray… Shall I write of Beauties murderd long ago, when there are those at this instant that murder me?" See Mack's quotation of a letter by Pope to his friend, Henry Cromwell, 151-52. Pope's epilogue, like those by Anne Finch and Mary Wortley Montagu, has apparently never been spoken on professional stages in any recorded performance.
13 See Alexander Pope, The Poems of Alexander Pope: A One-Volume Edition of the Twickenham Edition, ed. John Butt (London: Methuen, 1968), 213-14.
14 This is not to say that historical accuracy and realism are necessarily virtues in themselves when it comes to women's literature. In a recent defense of Mary Pix's historical tragedy, Queen Catherine, or The Ruins of Love, Zenón Luis-Martinez defends Pix's radical remixing of documentary evidence as the only way she could present a heroic female figure who seeks self-fulfillment and power; see Zenón Luis-Martinez, "Mary Pix's Queen Catharine and the Interpretation of History," Re-Shaping the Genres: Restoration Women Writers (Bern: Peter Lang, 2003), 175-209.
15 I take my text from the second printing, Mrs. Elizabeth Tollett, Poems on Several Occasions. With Anne Boleyn to Henry VIII(London, 1756), 85-99. For Tollet's note on Sanders, see p. 92. For the note on her source, p. 98. Tollet annotates the lines: "No weeping Servant must my Hearse attend,/No pious Kinsman, no afflicted Friend./ They fly me all! how barb'rous! how ingrate!/All but the faithful Few who share my Fate!": "Her Brother the Lord Rochford, Henry Norris, Esq; and others who suffered on her Account." In yet another note Tollet writes: "no Writer seems to have treated [Boleyn's general character with Impartiality, except my Lord Herbert," pp. 97- 99.
16 Tollet, 87-88, 94. Tollet's volume was printed twice and both times the title of this epistle appeared on its title page as a selling point. On the printing history of Elizabeth Tollet's Poems on Several Occasions. With Anne Boleyn to Henry VIII. An Epistle, see Roger Lonsdale's introductory note Eighteenth Century Women Poets, ed. Roger Lonsdale (Oxford UP, 1990), 96. For a convenient brief biography, see "Elizabeth Tollett," A Dictionary of British and American Women Writers 1660-1800, ed. Janet Todd (London: Methuen, 1987), 304. See Hilda Smith, Reason's Disciples: Seventeenth-Century Feminists (Urbana: Illinois UP, 1982), passim.
17 See The Poems of Anne Countess of Winchilsea, ed. Myra Reynolds (Chicago: Chicago UP, 1903), 100-101. This striking and heterodox poem was not included in the 1713 Miscellany nor does it occur in the three major manuscripts (Finch-Hatton 283, MS Folger, MS Wellesley); we would not have it but for Thomas Birch's printing of it in A General Dictionary historical and critical, comp. John Peter Bernard, Thomas Birch, John Lockman, and other hands. 10 vols. (London 1739-41), X:179. My speculation is the poem was originally copied out onto one of the manuscripts of smaller numbers of poems given to Francis Thynne Seymour, Lady Hertford, Heneage Finch's niece (his eldest sister, Francis Finch Thynne, Lady Weymouth's daughter). There is a letter in MS Additional 2457, where we find another poem to Lady Hertford than the one Birch copied out, a poem which seems to be part of the Hertford Circle (from Anne Finch, perhaps to Elizabeth Rowe), and one which Birch reprints in the dictionary. There is also a letter in which "Mrs Lucas sends Compliments to Dr Birch, along with the Verses he desired… the Epilogue [Jane Shore?]. From "Broad Street Buildings, May 15th 1755 (p63r). This does not help with the dating of the poem; it does suggest one of the places Birch could have gotten his texts from.
18 Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Essays and Poems and Simplicity, A Comedy, edd. Robert Halsband and Isobel Grundy (Oxford: Clarendon Pr, 1977), 240-41.
19 Katharine Rogers, "Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea," Shakespeare's Sisters, edd. Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1979), 35 and passim. See also Ann Messenger's analysis of censorship that led to the choice of poem in Finch's published book, "Publishing Without Perishing: Lady Winchilsea's Miscellany Poems of 1713, Restoration: Studies in English Literary Culture, 46 (1980-82), 27-37, and Jean Mallinson, "Anne Finch: A Woman Poet and the Tradition," Four Women Writers of the Eighteenth Century, ed. introd. Ann Messenger (Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1990), 34-76, 151-52. Beyond the essays by Grundy, Snyder and Messenger cited above, see Isobel Grundy, "The Politics of Female Authorship," The Book Collector, 1 (1982), 19-37. Arthur Miller once said that the "best work that anybody ever writes is the work that is on the verge of embarrassing him:" "He has to be endangered by it." See Miller as quoted in Richard I. Evan, Psychology and Arthur Miller (New York: Dutton, 1969), 73.
20 Thirty-two of Finch's fables are derived from La Fontaine's fables. Two more are strongly indebted to the French fable tropes of the era. See my site. Finch tells us one of her earliest performances as a poet was an attempt at translating the Aminta of Tasso; although a sense of shame over the strong sensuality of the texts led to her not completing her translations, she could not get herself to part with them. She had them copied out into a later (or second) manuscript (MS Folger) and then published in 1713. She does protest her right to write out of sexual passion in her unprinted "Preface:"
I know not why itt shou'd be ore faulty, to treat of that passion [love], then of an other violent excursion, or transport of mind. Tho' I must confesse, the great reservednesse of Mrs. Philips in this particular, and the prayses I have heard given her upon that account, together with my desire not to give scandal to the most severe, has often discourag'd me from making use of itt, and given me some regreett for what I had writt of that kind, and wholy prevented me from putting the Aminta of Tasso into English verse, from the verbal translation that I procured out of the Italian, after I had finish'd the first act extreamly to my satisfaction; and was convinc'd, that in the original, itt must be as soft and full of beautys, as ever anything of that nature was; but there being nothing mixt with itt, of a serious morality [religion], or usefullnesse, I sacrafis'd the pleasure I took in itt, to the more sollid reasonings of my mind; and hope by doing so to have made an atonement… (Reynolds 10)
21 For a discussion of La Fontaine's particular contribution to the tradition, see H. J. Blackham, The Fable as Literature (London: Athlone, 1985), 121-23; Thomas Noel, Theories of the Fable in the Seventeenth Century (New York: Columbia, UP, 1975), 9-17 are useful for immediate context too. On La Fontaine's use of pastoral (which is strong in the fables) see Paul Valery, The Art of Poetry, trans. Denise Folliot, introd. T. S. Eliot (New York: Pantheon, 1958), 8-34. Finch's "The Jester and the Little Fishes" is adapted from La Fontaine's La Fontaine, "Le Rieur et les Poissons," VIII:8, see Jean La Fontaine, Fables choisies mises en vers, ed. G. Couton. (Paris: Garnier, 1962), 214-5. For a close English translation see La Fontaine, Selected Fables, trans. James Michie, introd. Geoffrey Grigson (New York: Penguin, 1979), VIII:8:103-4. A useful modern survey of La Fontaine's work is by Marie-Odele Sweetser, La Fontaine (Boston: Twayne, 1987).
22 The classic account of Italian early modern pastoral and how Sannazaro transformed the classical tradtion is W. W. Gregg, Pastoral Poetry and Pastora Drama (New York: Russell, 1959), 46-57, 176- 210. A fine account of Tasso is by Francesco Flora, Storia della lettterature italiana, 5 vols. (Rome: Mondadori, 1942), III:58-103. On Tasso as understood in England, see C. P. Brand, Torquato Tasso: A Study of the Poet and of his Contribution to English Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1965); see also Mario Praz, "Tasso in England," The Flaming Heart (New York: Anchor, 1956), 308-17. The text I work with is the one Finch used: Abbé de Torches. L'Aminte du Tasse. Pastorale. Traduite de l'Italien en Vers Francois. Edition nouvelle, revue & enrichie des Tailles douces [translation by Abbé de Torches, bilingual texts with Italian facing French]. (Suivant la Copie de Paris, A la Haye. Chez Levyn van Dyk. 1681). See also Chandler B. Beall, La Fortune du Tasse en France (Eugene: Oregon UP, 1945), 6-7, 12-20, 30ff.
23 See Alfred Harbage, Thomas Killigrew, Cavalier Dramatist, 1612-83 (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania UP, 1930), 111-36. Cf Reynolds 168-69 with Couton 214-15 and Grigson 103-4.
24 L'Estrange is another of Finch's favored chosen authors for imitation and translation. Four of Finch's fables are derived directly from Roger L'Estrange, Fables of Aesop, and Other Eminent Mythologists with Morals and Reflections. London, 1692. See my website. The verse satire which resembles "The Jester and the Little Fishes" includes these L'Estrange-derived pieces (e.g., "The Dog and the Master" and "For the Better"), "To a Fellow Scribbler", "Jealousie is the Rage of Man", "To Edward Jenkinson", "La Passion Vaincue", "Fragment at Tunbridge Wells", "Jealousie is the Rage of Man", in Reynolds 105-6, 108, 125, 142, 206-7; and "Sir Plausible" in Barbara McGovern and Charles Hinnant, ed. The Anne Finch Wellesley Manuscript Poems (Athens: Georgia UP, 1998), 53
25 Jorge Luis Borges, A Universal History of Infamy, trans. Norman Thomas di giovanni (New York: Dutton, 1970), 11. See Reynolds, 115-18; Torches 45-51. For a particularly perceptive discussion of Tasso's poetic techniques and the relationship of his life to the Aminta, see the introductory essays to Tasso, Aminta e Rime, ed. Francesco Flora, 2 vols. (1952; rpt. Einaudi, 1976); and Tasso, Aminta, ed. M. Fubini, notes B. Maier (Milano: Rizzoli, 1976). See also my website whydoest.html. Finch was strongly influenced by Milton's poetry, and many affinities can be found beyond the obvious in her Philips-like parody, "Fanscomb Barn" (Reynolds 210-13).
26 Hinnant, e.g. 48-49, 135-36, 149. He remarks how suspicion and distrust play a central role in Finch's court songs.
27 Reynolds 265-66; "The Grove" has never been printed to my knowledge; I have attempted a reconstruction and placed the text on my website. For the autobiographical long poem in which Finch most closely identifies with a bird (it has only been printed in three separate fragments which obscures the significance of each), see "Some occasional Reflections Digested (Tho not with great regularity) into a Poeme." Ann Messenger has demonstrated "The Nightingale" is built through a sequence of thoughts showing the same combination of identification and disillusionment, see Ann P. Messenger, "Selected Nightingales and an 'Augustan' Sensibility," English Studies in Canada, 6:2 (1980): 145-53.
28 Grundy, "Montagu's 'Italian Memoir'" 323; Lowenthal 143, 150- 52. See also her "A Moon of Literature," New Rambler, Spring (1972): 21 (a commentary on Montagu's adaptation of "The 5th Ode of Horace Imitated").
29 Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Romance Writings, ed. Isobel Grundy (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), xii-xviii, 42-80; see particularly, pp. xxiv, 44-47. Grundy suggests that the peculiar satiric mood and psychological clarity of Montagu's novella anticipate Les Liaisons Dangereuses. I add that Montagu's "Louisa" anticipates Stéphanie- Félicité de Genlis's gothic tale, "Histoire de la Duchesse de C… ", Adèle et Théordore ou Lettres sur l'Éducation, 3 vols (Paris, 1785), II:329-485.
30 See Robert Halsband, "The First English Version of Marivaux's Le Jeu de l'amour et du hasard," Modern Philology, 79:1 (1981): 16-23; Grundy, Romance Writings xxv. In Marivaux's, Montagu's, Isaac Bickerstaffe's Love in a Village (1762) and Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer (1773), all versions of Marivaux's plot-design, the heroine is told the truth well before the male. This enables the heroine to manipulate the hero into promising to marry her while he still thinks she is of lower rank than he is and poor. In Marivaux, the masquerade is the daughter's scheme, in Montagu's, it is the father's; in Bickerstaffe's the various young characters disguise themselves; in Goldsmith's, the tricks are played by the son and daughter. All but Goldsmith allow the father to learn of the disguise well before the ending of the play; Goldsmith's father however does learn about the masquerade before his prospective son-in-law does.
31 It's sometimes said that Montagu's close resembles that of Steele in his The Conscious Lovers (1722): I take Steele's much- discussed "sentimentality" to be in part an attempt to present an alternative to the perspective found in the period's prevailing misogynist plays which punish and scapegoat women. The reassertion of the view that Steele's sentimentality is inane because "unrealistic" in terms of contemporary and today's mores is simply a re-assertion of a masculinist view. For epitomizing statements of the argument see Shirley Strum Kenny, "Humane Comedy," Modern Philology, 75:1 (1977): 29-43, and Maximilian E. Novak, "The Sentimentality of The Conscious Lovers Revisited and Reasserted," Modern Language Studies, 9:3 (1979): 48-59.
32 Montagu substitutes the scene in Marivaux where the daughter proposes the strategem for one where the father does and omits the remarkable significant line: "Va, dans ce monde, il faut être un peu trop bon pour l'être assez" [Yes, in this world one must be too kind in order to be kind enough], but her whole play (as well as the sentimental or "humane" tradition to which it belongs) explicates this hard truth. Cf. Lady Wortley Montagu, Essays and Poems and Simplicity, a Comedy, 320, 322-23; 370, 379 and Marivaux Le Jeu de l'Amour et du Hasard, ed., introd. M. Shackleton (London: Harrap, 1954), 5, 8, 57- 58, 60. See Shirley Strum Kenny, "Humane Comedy" (above) and "Richard Steele and the 'Pattern of Genteel Comedy," Modern Philology, 70:1 (1972): 22-37. All unattributed modern English translations are mine.
33 Jack Undank, "Portrait of the Philosophe as a Tramp," A New History of French Literature, gen. ed. Dennis Hollier (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1994), 422-25. I also found useful Oscar A. Haac, Marivaux (Boston: Twayne, 1973); even more so, Robert Niklaus's discussion of French theatre in his A Literary History of France, The Eighteenth Century, 1715-1789 (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1970), 78-108
34 Elizabeth Snyder has analyzed the legal discourse in Montagu's "Epistle to Mrs Yong" in order to argue that an ironic reversal of censorship in the poem works to exonerate Mrs Yong. See "Female Heroism and Legal Discourse in Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's 'Epistle from Mrs. Y[onge] to Her Husband,' English Language Notes, (1997): 10-22. See Marivaux, e.g., "Voyons si leur coeur ne les avertirait pas de ce qu'ils valent" (10) [See if their hearts does not tell them what each is worth]; "Dis-moi, qui es-tu, toi qui me parles ainsi" (16) [Tell me, who are you, you who can speak to me thus], the often-quoted line, "Ah! je vois clair dans mon coeur" (40) [I now see clearly into my heart]; and "Encore une fois, Monsieur, je me connais" (51) [Once again, sir, I know who I am]; See also Undank 424-25; Niklaus 101.
35 Essays and Poems and Simplicity, 258- 59, 243-44; Henri Coulet, Le Roman jusqu'á la Révolution (Paris: Armand Colin, 1967), 372,
36 Very recently there has been a sharp retreat from studying women's poetry from a women-centered point of view, e.g., the commercial outlook of Claudia Thomas Klairoff, "Eighteenth Century Women Poets and Readers," The Cambridge Companion to Eighteenth Century Poetry, ed. John Sitter (Cambridge UP, 2001), 157-76; see also David Fairer, English Poetry of the Eighteenth Century (London: Longmans, 2003). For approaches which stays with the perspective of the content of women's poetry, see Margaret Anne Doody, "Gender, Literature, and Gendering Literature in the Restoration," The Cambridge Companion to English Literature, 1650-1740 (Cambridge UP, 1998), 58-81, and Romanticism and Women Poets: Opening the Doors to Reception, edd. Harriet Kramer Linkin and Stephen C. Behrendt (Lexington: Kentucky UP, 1999), 101-24. For me the value of Hélène Cixous's now notorious article is she celebrates women's space in literature and what women can write out of their own points of view; read through her "The Laugh of the Medusa," trans. Keith and Paula Cohen, Signs, 1:4 (1976), 875-94, Oldfield's vein of mockery becomes an eighteenth- century version of such a laugh. It is again being silenced -- this time as asocial, imprudent, uncommercial.
The Tragic Muse: Sarah Siddons (1775-1831) by Joshua Reynolds
Page Last Updated 29 October 2004