Mary of Modena, by Wissing
The second is long and explicitly autobiographical, copied out into the closing pages of the folger Eastwell book, was printed as two separate poems, with lines omitted, in such as way as to obscure the direct autobiographical context. Myra Reynolds cobbled a third poem together from the omitted opening ten lines of this poem plus lines 30- 6, calling it "The Bird and the Arras;" lines 11-29 appear as "Glass" which is placed directly before Reynolds's concoction (1903 Reynolds 50- 2). Lines 37-76 were printed in Ann's 1713 volume as "A Fragment" and they reappear as a separate autobiographical piece at the beginning of Reynolds volume (1903 Reynolds 13-4). Its full title is "Some occasional Reflections Digested (tho' not with great regularity) into a Poeme." As it was written sometime between 1706 and 1709, many years and a profound expression of depression after Ann's early years at court, some of it must wait for later. But in the opening words we hear in her own words how she saw herself and the court when she first arrived from the country.
The inspiration for the poem was a bird with whom Ann identified. The bird has misunderstood and taken a tapestry for reality, and is hurling itself against a wall:
By neer resemblance see that Bird betray'd
Who takes the well wrought Arras for a shade.
There hopes to pearch and with a chearfull Tune
O're-passe the scortchings of the sultry Noon
But soon repuls'd by the obdurate Scean
How swift she turns but turns alas in vain
That piece a Grove this shews an ambient sky
Where immitated Fowl their pinnions ply
Seeming to mount in flight and aiming still moe high.
All she outstrip's and with a moment's pride
Thier understation silent does deride.
Till the dash'd cealing strikes her to the ground
No intercepting shrub to brek the fall is found
Recovering breth the window next she gaines
(MS Folger 292)
Ann's eye is then caught by this window. It is of a type very new to Ann, thin glass through which light can easily pass, set in a sash frame; she is fascinated by this product of man's art, and her mind turns to the process by which glass is blown, then to how it has replaced the old-fashioned pottery bowl ("gloomy"), and how the drinker can now see in its reflections the colors of the wine and light interacting with motion; but, like wine or a mirror (which is also implied by the text) the more dangerous because the more alluring. But then her eye turns to note "th'imprison'd wretch/Now sinking low now on a loftyer stretch/Flutt'ring in endlesse cercles of dismay," and she sees in it herself as a young girl come to the Stuart court and London. At court "the soft breeze of Pleasure's tempting air/Made her believe Felicity was there,"
And backing in the warmth of early time
To vain Amusements dedicate her Prime
Ambition then alur'd her tow'ring Eye
For Paradice she heard was plac'd on high
Then thought the Court with all itts glorious show
Was sure above the rest and Paradice below
(MS Folger 292).
She tells us she was wrong. The poem turns bitter and bleak when Ann looks back upon her foolish and failed ambitions in "Wreck" and "Ruin" of James II and Mary d'Este:
Now by the Wheels inevitable round
With them thrown prostrate to the humble ground
No more she take's (insturcted by that fall)
for fixt or worth her thought this rowling Ball
(MS Folger 293).
What happened was an inner shipwreck of Ann herself, and a complete retirement after 1692. But we get ahead of ourselves. Here we should rather stress the intense resentment and dislike of the outer "glorious shows" of worldly ambition and power. This too is another central theme of Ann's poetry.
The third poem, "On the Death of the Queen," written by Ann in 1718, has been known since 1929 when Helen Sard Hughes printed most of it in such a way as not to distort either its content or technique (Hughes, "LW & Her Friends," 624-5). It comes from the manuscript now housed at the Wellesley library, some of which may have been copied out after Ann's death [n13]. While it is a eulogy written shortly after Mary of Modena's death on May 7, 1718, and is colored by Ann's nostalgia for her lost physical beauty, she again shows us herself as a naive girl who was at first eager to come to court, and then deeply disillusioned.
Her attitude towards Mary d'Este, her former mistress, is one of intense gratitude. It would appear that if, as all who have written upon her agree, Mary was narrow, utterly conventional, openly arrogant, and dull--and where English politics were concerned as dense as her husband--she was a comfort to Ann because she was at least not devious, and in her presence overt immorality of any kind (including satire which she understood sufficiently to dislike) was simply not tolerated (Strickland 36-78, 90-101). Ann also felt comfortable because Mary was constant to her values. Among the sometimes vapid honeyed lines those that have some strength of content are those which praise Mary for thirty years of loyalty to a man who, without having any original interest in her, married her despite her frantic attempts not to marry him, and who then proceeded at least in the first years of their marriage to be anything but faithful to her. Ann's love of Italian also began when she stood performing her duties and listened to Mary's dialect of Italian, the Florentine Tuscan:
The Roman Accent which such grace affords
To Tuscan language harmonized her words
All eyes all listning sense upon her hung
When from her lovely mouth th'inchantment sprung ...
Thence in a foreign clime her Consort died
Whom death cou'd never from her thoughts divide
Then Sable weeds & cyrpus walks she chose
And from within produc't her own repose
Yet only pray'd for those she cou'd not calm
As fragrant trees tho' wounded shed but balm ...
That Gallia too might see she cou'd support
Monastick rules and Britains worst effort
Now peacefull is the spirit which possest
That never blemish'd that afflicted breast ...
It is common for people to read their own psychology into those they believe they admire; it was Ann who learned to "from within produce her own repose."
In this poem Ann includes some descriptive details that cohere with one miniature by Lawrence Crosse we have of her and explain in part why the young Heneage Finch was attracted to her:
Recall'd be days when ebon locks o'erspread
My youthfull neck my cheeks a bashfull red
When early joys my glowing bosom warm'd
When trifles pleas'd & every pleasure charm'd
Then eager from the rural seat I came
Of long traced Ancestors of worthy name
(MS Wellesley 69).
Its opening explains the poem's immediate occasion. "Lamina," Ann Tufton Cecil, Lady Salisbury, had asked Ann to explain to her why she has retreated to what is a wild landscape from which they can see a dangerous body of water and why she cries so despairingly and has withdrawn from where other people are:
Lamira near her sat and caught the sound
Too weak for ecchoing rocks which fix't the bound
For Clifts that overlook't the dangerous wave
Th'unhappy Vessels or the Sailors grave
The pittying Nymph whom sympathy constrain'd
Askt why Her friend thus heavily complain'd
Why she retired to that ill omen'd spot
By men forsaken and the World forgot
Why thus from light and company she fled ...
The reply this time is that only here can Ann express what she feels. Elsewhere she would be stifled.
But although Ann's memory of her time at court is dominated by the figure of Mary of Modena, she was not in Mary d'Este's inner circle. That was reserved for the "Ladies of the Bedchamber." These were the women who slept (in rotating order) in Mary's room, who got up at dawn to help her, and were there to help her to bed. In fact, a maid of honor was a minor functionary at the court, and Ann and Dorothy should be seen occupying places of less social importance, and therefore were socially speaking at a distance from these women. They were not inside the Duchess's or Princess's intimate circles, but rather on their an outer rim. The only evidence of any friendship between Ann and any of ladies of the bedchamber listed for Mary is a Christmas Eve ode written by Ann thirty one years later to Lady Catherine Jones, if it was she who held the title of chamber-keeper (MS Wellesley 134; Cameron 230n2). Those most important and close to the Duchess were the four who spoke Italian and came from Italy with her: Madame Anna Vittoria de Montecuculi, the companion of Mary d'Este's childhood who stayed with Mary until she died; her daughter; Madame Molza; and Pelegrina Turinine (Strickland IX:119n2; 200n3).
As for the three Englishwomen her husband placed among her Italian friends in her bed-chamber, Mary was sometimes barely able to tolerate them: she inflicted her temper tantrums on her English ladies, and once went so far as to "box the ears" of Penelope Obrien, Countess of Peterborough (Turner 302), who held her position by virtue of her husband, Henry Mordaunt, Earl of Peterborough who had acted as the (successful) matrimonial agent between James and the d'Este family. Susanna Armine, Lady Bellasys, was an object of intense jealousy: Lady Bellasys had been the one mistress the Duke of York had genuinely loved, and wanted to marry; but, alas, worthless to Charles II, and James gave her the place to show his regard for her. James also placed Lady Frances, Countess of Roscommon, among Mary's bedchamber women: she was the wife of a politically powerful wit, Wentworth Dillon, Count of Roscommon who, for his politicking against the bill to exclude James from the throne, was himself awarded the position of Master of Horse to the Duchess. All these positions carried salaries which--when they were paid--were substantial; Peterborough's wife, for example, is listed at "1600 crowns" (Poems on Affairs of State II: 409-10; Cameron 230n2; Turner 110, 168; Strickland IX: 119; Johnson, Lives I;123).
Mary's maids of honor were far less exalted, and were, most of them, a younger group of women who were under the supervision of a Lady Harrison ("mother of the maids"). All but one were paid 20l. a year all found. Much has been made of Ann's proximity to Anne Killigrew among Mary of Modena's maids of honor; Anne Killigrew was clearly well-read, and even friends with another early antiquarian, Henry Hare, Lord Colrane, with whom she exchanged poems (Killigrew 49-50,[n14]). If she was at all like her poems, court life was as distasteful and corrupt to her as it was to Ann; one of her best poems, a pindaric ode, shows she was anything but naive towards why people took and kept positions in court: Again what is't, but always to abide A gazing Crowd? upon a Stage to spend A Life that's vain, or Evil witout End? And which is yet nor safely held, nor laid aside? So much for the power of a court underling. As for his prestige, it's worthless. The man who fears not to accept a name "accept[s] for Pay/ Of what he does, what others say... [the] Praise of Fools. She scorns those who desire "the Admiring Crowd:" "O famisht soul, which such Thin Food can Feed" (Killigrew, The Discontent, 54).
She tells Lord Colrane she is amazed to find a learned or honorable man at court: And can it be? said said, and can it be? That 'mong' the Great Ones I a Poet see? The Great Ones? who their Ill-spent time devide, 'Twixt dang'rous Politicks, and formal Pride, Destructive Vice, expensive Vanity, In worse Ways yet, if Worse there any be: Leave to Inferiours the despised Arts, Let their Retainers be the Men of Parts (Killigrew 49-50).
She writes in the same forms Ann Kingsmill took up later: pastoral dialogues, disillusioned "moral songs, many pindarics, occasional epistles; she recoils from the world terms with recalls Ann's "Verses" to Lady Thanet" which have come to be called "An Enquiry After Peace" (MS Folger 65-6):
Oh, thither let me fly!
Where from the World at such a distance set,
All that's past, present, and to come I may forget:
The Lovers Sighs, and the Afflicteds Tears,
What 'ere may wound my Eyes or Ears.
The grating Noise of Privare Jars,
The horrid sound of Publick Wars,
Of babling Fame the Idle Stories,
The short-liv'd Triumphs Noysy-Glories,
The Curious Nets the subtile weave,
The Word, the Look that may deceive.
No Mundan Care shall more affect my Breats,
My profound Peace shake or molest...
We shall return to some other of the remarkable parallels between the poetry of these two women. One wishes we had one letter, one piece of written gossip to confirm that another of those inferiors to these "great" numinous ones to whom despised arts were left was another Maid of Honor, Ann Kingsmill. Who else could she mean but the woman standing next to her? One wishes to know if Colrane shared his interest with Captain Finch. But alas, Ann Killigrew died in 1685 and never mentioned Ann Kingsmill and our Ann never mentioned her.
Here we should recall what the nature of waiting on the numinous is, and it's not one that encourages sincere friendship. The duties of the maids of honor were ceremonial and repetitive; they were basically supposed to be there every day, more or less silently, a presence during day-time official ceremonies--which included meals. The function is to be a symbol, someone who rigidly enacts a species of time-consuming subservience. Of the three of the other four English maids beyond Anne Killigrew and our Ann, Francis Walsingham, Catherine Fraser, Catharine Walters, little is recorded, except that these latter three were not above taking the small bribes that came their way (Reynolds xxiii-iv; Strickland 146; Chamberlayne I, 154-5, 205-6).
The "maid of honor" who does come vividly down to us in all the histories is, of course, Catherine Sedley, later Countess of Dorchester, by this time James II's extravagant maitresse-en-titre, whom Mary of Modena loathed. Mistress Sedley was placed among the bevy of maids of honor because it was somewhat apart from the Duchess; her salary was 800 crowns a year. She was also daughter of another wit, Sir Charles Sedley, whose reputation was that of the most debauched of the court poets; his name was a "by word among the rakes--'worse than Sir Charles Sedley' is the worst that Pepys can say of another member of the fraternity." James II's biographer, F. C. Turner, has described Catherine at the time as a kind of
Nell Gwynne in high life: like Nell Gwynne, her greatest asset was an impudent wit; especially was she prone, as Nell was, to describe her own status in a coarse monsyllable ... Catherine is best remembered by ... the sayings that have been imputed to her: of James's attachment to her she said, 'It cannot be my beauty because I haven't any, and it cannot be my wit because he hasn't enough of it himself to know that I have any;' [to his daughter Mary after she betrayed him she is said to have] retorted, 'If I broke one of the Commandments with your father, you have broke another against him.'
Turner says that Catherine "exercised a fascination" on James, from which "he vainly attempted to free himself" (Turner 143-3; 297-300; Strckland IX: 119). James's open promiscuity is brought up by Ann in a censured portion of her ode upon his death (MS Folger 302, lines 115- 124, omitted by Reynolds) and is clearly pointed to in her portrait of him as the dying Hephestion in a hectic epistle which drawns upon La Calprenede's enormous romance, Cassandra for its allegorical names (Parisatis is Mary of Modena) [n15]. Ann's memory of this phase of her existence was strongly colored by Mary of Modena's uneasiness at (Strickland IX 118-9) and the behavior of people like Mistress Sedley and whichever other more transient women James choose for his "amours"-- who would arrive somewhat regularly in "his closet at Whitehall and at St. James's" (Turner 300-1). She (and Ann Killigrew in her poetry too) consistently see erotic life as treacherous.
So if the official routine of court life was tedious to Ann Kingsmill--Ann Killigrew uses the word "shackles" for her state of mind (Killigrew 61)--the sensual life and all-encompassing politics of the court was even worse for Ann. Tone and inferences are intricate, ever-changing and hard for the neophyte to grasp. There is a passage in an early work by Ann part of which she thought to destroy and then instead revised, her early translation of Tasso's Aminta through the French. In the last and longest of the five pieces which opens with Thirsis asking Amintor, "Why dost thou give way to such dispair," Ann present the court as a scene of continual metmorphoses, with things changing as swiftly as ephemerally as the dreams of Pope's only slightly later Rape of the Lock (the text also shows Ann had been studying Pope's early pastorals):
... that new world, of painted mischeifs, shun;
Whose gay Inhabitants, thou shalt behold
Plum'd like our Birds, and sparkling all in gold;
Courtiers, that will thy rustick garb dispise,
And mock thy plainesse, with disdainfull eyes,
But above all that structure, see thou fly
Where hoarded Vanities, and Witchcraft lye;
To shun that path, be thy peculiar care ...
... ... ... there, shalt thou meet
Of soft Enchantresses, the'enchantments sweet,
Whoo subtly, will thy sollid sense bereave,
And a false glosse, to ev'ry object give,
Brass, to thy sight, as polish'd Gold shall seem,
And Glass, thou as the Diamond shalt esteem;
Huge heaps of silver, to thee shall appear,
Which if approach'd, will prove but shining air.
The very Wall, by magick Art are wrought,
And repetition to all speakers taught,
Not such, as from our Ecchoe's we obtain,
Which only our last words, return again,
But speech, for speech, intirely, there they give,
And often add, beyond what they receive;
Thre, downy Couches, to false rest invite,
The Lawne is charm'd, that faintly bars the light:
No guilded 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 them shall arise,
Fantastick Fiends, that will about thee flock,
And all they see, with immitation mock ...
(MS Folger, 63)
The continual maneuvring of various court factions at court to gain power, its emphasis on luxury as a measurement of life's happiness is presented as a kind of feverish nightmare, eyes which one can't escape. Certainly there's no time to read or study or be oneself. Let us recall the much older Fanny Burney's desperation when her father tells her she must wait upon George III's queen; her rigid daily routine demanded complete self-abnegation, and a repression of every individual gift she had; for Fanny Burney the experience resulted in breakdown (Doody 150- 98; Hemlow 200-22).
Unlike Fanny Burney, Ann did not have to wait for a father's permission to quit; on May 15, 1684, she married Heneage Finch, and promptly freed herself of at least that daily routine of service. She went immediately to live him in his rooms at Westminster Palace (McGovern 30). As his wife and now living somewhat apart from the court, her identity, as perceived by her society and herself, changed. As Elizabeth Fox-Genovese has written, "The history of women cannot be written without attention to women's relations with men in general and with 'their' men in particular." She argues--and I agree--that a women's "innermost identitities, their ideals for themselves, and their views of the world all derive fromt heir sense of themselves as a woman in relation to men" as well as to other women. (Fox-Genovese, 30, 40- 2). I would go further and say that for some women a well-educated enlightened man with a decent character who comes from a privileged, wealthy, and powerful upper-class family can provide a privilege and an advantage which more than offsets a woman's social disadvantages as a woman. This was partly Ann's case. Her circumstances, in accordance with the reality and ideals of her society, were from the day she married inextricably linked to those of this second son of the 2nd Earl of Winchelsa; and her character, her ideals, and her views all evolved in relation to his--as his did in relation to hers. Thus we turn to discover who was this "Collonell Heneage Finch of Eastwell in ye County of Kent, Batchelor, aged ab. 27 years" who "appeared personally"--that is, not by proxy and not with a phalanx of relatives)--and married "Madam Anne Kingsmill of ye Parish of St. Martins in ye fields in ye county of Midd'l a spinster aged ab. 18 years [she was 23] at her own disposal" (Reynolds xxv).
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