I On Myself Can Live

Moving About

Landscape Wiltshire from Moule's English Counties (1836)

Between 1704 when Ann and Heneage left Wye College and 1712 when Charles Finch died and Heneage became the fourth Earl of Winchilsea, Ann and Heneage's lives slowly changed, in the phrase of the the mocking refrain from a fable on quacks, "for the better" [n1, App A]. Shortly after the still famous hurricane of November 1703 (Blunden 18), perhaps in February 1704 when Ann completed her pindaric upon it, they left Wye College and travelled west to Longleat and Lewston in Wiltshire; then back again east to Chilton Candover in the Mainsborough Hundred of Hampshire where lay the estates of Sir Robert Worsley, Frances Thynne, Lady Worsley's husband; and finally north to Kirby Hall, Northamptonshire. Back in Kent by 1705 Heneage again stood for Parliament, this time for Maidstone, but was, alas, again unsuccessful. This may not seem very different from the previous fourteen years, but, laugh though she might, Ann was better, at least less often attacked by melancholy.

In 1706 they re-enter society. They seem to emerge from their reluctant if ostentacious "retirement" in small stages: first there is drinking the waters at Tunbridge Wells and mingling with old and new friends; in this year Heneage's reputation as an antiquarian, collector, and "learned" and "curious gentlemen" begins to spread (Cameron 139-40). Then in 1708 they are living in London and perhaps by 1709, with a very human kind of stubbornness, they retrace their old steps near their original haunts (McGovern 91-2; Reynolds Poems xliv; Hughes, "LW & Her Friends," 635): they took a townhouse in Cleveland Row which runs along by St. James' Palace, and picked up where they left off, only now their associates and friends include Swift, Steele, Tonson, and Ann's poetry is affected by and affects that of Alexander Pope.

And so back to Kent. After they returned from their travels of 1704-5, Ann and Heneage seem to have gained the position of semi- permanent residents at Eastwell, the house forming a kind of home-base for them in the county. And, as it were, in commemoration, they began a new manuscript book known today as the Folger volume, since "soon after the death of Edmund Gosse" on May 13, 1929, the manuscript volume was sold at Sotheby's to the Folger Shakespeare Library where it still resides; a better name would be the Eastwell book (Cameron 19). It registers other changes in Ann and Heneage, among which, an ambivalent desire to publish it. At first, like the Finch-Hatton, they meant simply to preserve Ann's poems and placed her "Introduction" first; later they placed before this poem a "Preface" (in imitation of Cowley's before his 1656 volume of poetry) with poems of tribute, and a concluding section of two original plays (with the strong proviso that the plays are not to be played), a conventional ordering which suggests they were thinking of printing this manuscript book; but later again one of them or both decide, no, and they pulled the book apart, and between the non-dramatic and dramatic verse added for preservation very private verses, and began a new second section of first religious and then miscellaneous poems, some put in from Ann's previous work, others because they have been found or returned, still others because they are just written [n2]. This may have happened around 1709, for from 1710 we have a new series of poems from Ann, the apparently impersonal fables which make up the bulk of the 1713 Miscellany, a third book which would not see the light until after Mrs. Finch became Lady Winchilsea.

We can follow this process of getting better, of slow coming out from their "retirement" by looking at Ann's determined shift of focus in poems of this period away from an intensely personal towards wider-ranging familial, social, and literary perspectives. Of the six poems from Heneage and Ann's third trip to Longleat and Lewston, all but one focus on others, on various external events, myths, tapestries, seemingly anything but Ann: of the two to Mrs Grace Strode Thynne ("Cleone"), daughter-in-law to Heneage's brother-in-law and sister, Lord and Lady Weymouth, the first demurs at the changes recorded by an "ill- drawn Picture" (says Ann) of this woman since her marriage (in 1695) and the birth of her two daughters, Frances and Mary Thynne (1713 Misc, 176- 8); while the second is an apology for having preferred the beauty of one child, its center, a proposal for a bust of Mary (1717 Pope's Own 123-5). A third celebrates celebrates Mrs Thynne's husband, Henry ("Theanor"), also Lord Weymouth's heir and Heneage's nephew, Henry Thynne. It can fascinate the reader already interested in Ann: the beauty of the colored wools in Longleat's tapestries, and the eloquence of Raphael's silent pictorial portrayal of tense psychological interplay entrance Ann; she also identifies tapesty as a woman's art, and the myth of Arachne as about a woman's imagination (1713 Misc. 66-71; Salvaggio 114-7). But as with Ann's poems to Cleone no-one not already willing to read on can easily get beyond the overburdened specificity and labored opening (1713 Misc. 66-71; Salvaggio 114-7). The same sort of comment goes for Ann's elegy upon the death of James Thynne, a young son of Lord and Lady Weymouth; for those interested in Ann's growing technical prowess, pastoral and or Lady Dorothy Coventry Packington's possible authorship of The Whole Duty of Man it's a find, as poetry it's obscure, and in too many passages dull (1713 Misc. 156-62).

The fifth and sixth poems during this trip were written from Leweston, the home of the Strodes, near Sherborn, just across the border of Wiltshire in Dorsetshire (Cameron 135; Hughes Gentle Hertford, 6, "LW & Her Friends" 630). The sixth, dated August 10 1704, breaks off suddenly, perhaps bowed under the weight of the heavy reference to Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered which Ann would have had to keep up. As extant, it's a fragment of a pindaric addressed to a woman we have met before, Frances Thynne, Lady Worseley (Lord and Lady Weymouth's daughter, Heneage's niece), still "Utresia," but this time also likened to Tasso's dangerous sorceress heroine, Armida.

The interest here is wholly autobiographical, and begins where the poem stops to conclude in a prose. Ann tells Lady Worseley how sad she is to have missed her, and hopes to return to Longleat where Lady Worseley has gone; but if again this unlucky "accident" occurs, she assures herself she will "pass by" Chilton on their way back to Kent and see Lady Worseley then. Given the implication in Ann's deeply depressed pindaric to Lady Worseley (upon her strikingly short visit to Eastwell several years later) that Lady Worseley did not want to stay, had not really wanted to come (MS Portland XIX, 304-7), when Ann here speaks of her melancholy "under the uneasiness of seperation" because she fully expected to find Lady Worseley and her husband at Leweston, it is apparent that Ann had leaned too heavily on the kindness Lady Worseley extended to her in 1696 when Lady Worseley asked her for letters; by 1704 Lady Worseley was trying to escape someone whose demands she had found oppressive (MS Wellesley 87-8).

Ann also apologizes for the fragmentary nature of her offering in a way which points to Lady Worseley's mother's kindness to Ann:

the fantasticalness of my muse not allowing me to finish anything out of the proper season for which it was designed I must depend upon the same good nature in you for a pardon to this fragment as I found from my Lady Weymouth who so easily excused those trivial verses with which I troubled her Ladiship before I was well awake after a journey which had very much discompos'd my thoughts (MS Wellesley 88)

The "trivial verses," the fifth poem of Ann's visit, which Ann says, arose spontaneously before she was quite awake reveal that Frances Finch Thynne (also Ann's sister-in-law), had, unlike her daughter, fully reciprocated Ann's affection. The poem, a brief, spare, touching lyric, reads like a spasm from her heart despite its clear artifice. It has, for example, a source: the first stanza beginning, "Absence in love effects the same" is probably familiar to some readers because Reynolds printed it from the Folger as a "translation" of an epigram from Bussy- Rabutin, "On parle diversement [de l'amour]" (MS Folger 38; Reynolds Poems 121 [n3]); in this version of Ann's text she elaborates on Bussy's idea so as to liken herself to one "Sisiphus, a poor changling so call'd from his employment of rowling the walks at Long Leat, alluding to the Poets:"

The parting speech the last embrace
For ever fix't remains
But thro' short pleasures still we trace
Our long succeeding pains.

If then sad thought be all we gain
Who are with reasoning deck't
Let Sisiphus the prize obtain
Who never rowl'd a walk in vain
Or ever cou'd reflect

(MS Wellesley 100)

Ann's point is perhaps Sisiphus is better off, an idea she would not have let stand had she had time to revise. She never published this poem.

Since from Leweston on August 14, 1704, Heneage wrote back to Longleat and his sister and brother-in-law that he and Ann were anticipating their journey to Kirby Hall next (McGovern 238n1), one must assume that about ten days after arriving at Leweston Heneage and Ann were on their way. Before leaving Ann sent her Pindaric on the hurricane (on which more later) and probably a book of Milton's writings to Elizabeth Rowe who lived in nearby Frome; in a postscript to a 1704 letter to Mrs Thynne, Elizabeth Rowe writes:

p.s. my service to Mrs. Finch I thank her for letting me have the Copy of the Storm 'twas impossible for her to have obliged me more I have sent to beg the favour of Milton.

While there is no poem from Chilton, which would have been a natural stopover during the northeasterly trip from Leweston into Northamptonshire, but there is a long poem in two versions from Kirby Hall, a comparative reading of which shows that while Ann's poetry is finer when it is simpler and more private, she is nonetheless consistently revising in the direction of self-censure, generalization, and impersonality.

Since it has only been printed once in a facsimile limited edition (Ellis d'Alessandro Poems 146-7), and is therefore not well known, quotation as well as discussion is necessary. The heading is as follows:

To the Right Hon: ble the Lord Viscount Hatton by way of excuse for my having not in sometime replied to his last copy of verses in which he gives himself the name of Corydon not approved by me who in this Poem offer at an imitation of Madame Deshouliers in her way of Badinage (MS Wellesley 115).

Since both both texts of the poem were copied into the Wellesley well after the original inscription, it is not easy to tell who exactly are the people alluded to. If it was originally gotten down during or directly after the visit, the Lord Hatton would be Christopher Viscount Hatton, husband to Elizabeth Haslewood Hatton, Ann's cousin. Cameron suggests it was written sometime later, after the death of Christopher in 1706, and that it is to Christopher and Elizabeth's eldest son, William Seton, the 2nd Viscount, born in 1690; I doubt this; Cameron may be thinking of the Eliza and Anna in the poem as the two daughters of Christopher by Elizabeth Haslewood with those names and thus William's sisters, but Christopher also had a much younger sister named Anna and his sister-in-law was an Eliza too (Cameron 60, 236ns, Table 11). More to the point, tone, badinage, and long-time, close peer relationship outlined in the poem between Ann and her interlocutor would not make sense were she addressing her cousin's teenage boy.

Be that as it may, the poem has many charming passages as Ann proceeds to describe Kirby Hall and Burleigh (the nearby estate of Daniel Finch, which Ann and Heneage also visited at this time) sometimes in the semi-pastoral terms which "Corydon" had preferred, and sometimes in a gayly mocking yet sentimental and touching tone very like that of Madame Deshouliers [n4]. In the two versions much personal matter remains. In both, for example, Ann says she has "been the Muses drudge/E'er since that I cou'd write or judge" (MS Wellesley 106, 115). In both she pretends jealousy because Heneage was much taken with Anna, Christopher's much younger sister then aged around the ever attractive 15 (William's sister, Cameron's candidate was then seven and not a likely rival for Ann.) She opens with a protest against that idea that "verse with me" is "as ready and as free" as someone who will tell how Hatton flirted with Eliza

Or who from Anna's ripning bloom
Foretells what conquests are to come
Whilst I can tell him younger yet
She cou'd the heart I chalenged get
For which I owe her in exchange
When time shall serve a smart revenge

(MS Wellesley 105-6, 115).

There are also some improvements in the second version. The words are more exact: in first version Ann speaks vaguely of Hatton having "crost" her rhymes, while in the second Ann clearly says Hatton "lately checkt my rhime" (MS Wellesley 106, 115). Sometimes the description is more clearer and less cliched in the second version: in the first the Corydon's shepherd has "North beaten," in the second "weather-beaten cheeks;" in the first his face has "beauteous streaks," in the second "ruddy wildings streaks" (MS Wellesley, 107, 116).

But the gain is outweighed by a loss in simplicity, genuineness, and vivid detail. Omitted entirely from the second version is the description of the place Ann kept her verses in and a sharp criticism of Hatton's verse and attitude towards Ann, as in the following lines:

My cabinet of Indian wood
Which drops the gum call'd Dragons blood
Shou'd not as for the lines you sent
Its safest private drawer have lent
Then let me hear no more of Swains
Those dagled strolers on the plains
Who ne'er had Pastoral or Reed
But what from Poets did proceed
And let your next to be sign'd
With what's expressive of your mind

(MS Wellesley 107).

Instead we have a Thomsonian panegryic on the family circle, and are told how all men, if they had any sense, "wou'd croud" to Kirby and Burleigh Hill." Now Ann wants something "high" and "proportion'd" to Hatton's mind, not something simply expressive of it (MS Wellesley 116- 7). The bite or real intent of the first which is to criticize the pastoral as false and artificial, and in particular, Hatton's verses as phony or shallow, is lost when Hatton is praised for his verse instead of teasingly disdained.

So too is the original personal context somewhat lost: as opposed to Longleat and Leweston, at Kirby Hall Ann's now open, free, and perhaps constant verse writing was distrusted; the sense is her relatives felt uncomfortable at the thought she could be writing about them. The first version of this poem was perhaps completed upon Heneage and Ann's return to Kent soon afterward where she was free to write this poem, for return they did, and to the 1705 election.

It is at this juncture we find Ann begin to write something the French call vers de societe, light poems on society and politics of all sorts couched in witty impersonal terms. Like Rochester, Maidstone was a borough franchise, and hence most people could not vote (it was in the counties that the 40-shilling freeholder could vote). Paul Monod describes the conflicts and tensions between the Nonjurors and the Whiggish Jacobites in these years (Monod 25-7), which we find reflected in a meandering fable by Ann, "Moderation or the Sheep and the wolves [n5]" which may come from this (or Heneage's next stand). It is, however, highly unlikely Ann accompanied her husband on his rounds; she went to nearby Tunbridge Wells where he joined her when he lost.

We know of three poems from Ann's times (she may have gone more than once) at Tunbridge Wells, two were never published by her; the one that made it into the 1713 Miscellany did so only in a scanty censored fragment.

But the poem is quite different from those she had been writing, and we should dwell upon the change a bit. As in the other two unpublished Tunbridge satires, and numbers of other similar poems, Ann had begun to write in a rough, hard, verse, somewhat Hudibrastic, but less regular, not light, and filled with specific references to real people and real political events. It is a lampoon of what we may call a chaste variety (most lampoons were far rawer than Ann ever allowed herself to be caught being). Lampoons were what was being written at Tunbridge Wells and many have been preserved for the "uses" of the social historian as it is solemnly intoned (Poems on Affairs of State, V:346-85). It is not sufficiently realized that after 1705 Ann continued to write this way frequently because the pieces of this type that she did publish, she de-emphasized or neutralized, as in the 1713 Miscellany where we find the style in her fables, which causes it to be dismissed by critics. She also did not publish much of this material, and she destroyed, or thought she destroyed the rest. At any rate, she took no care to preserve her less conventional satires, and in those published books where these poems appear sandwiched in between other (barely) acknowledged poems, as in the 1714 miscellany volume publshed by Sir Richards Steele, she obscures the attribution. Other poems by her which are not attributed to her, of which one recently retrieved by Norman Ault now makes the anthologies, lie unread in miscellaneous manuscript volumes housed in various libraries [n6].

Of Ann's two unpublished Tunbridge Wells poems, "The prodigy" was found by Reynolds in the tenth volume of Thomas Birch's 1741 multi- volumed general dictionary (1741 Birch, X, 179). Reynolds was not aware of an 18th century miscellaneous manuscript volume of poetry in the British Library (MS Additional 4457) which includes an earlier manuscript text of this poem, along with five other poems by Ann, two of which are still unprinted and not mentioned by anyone in print but Cameron. But at least the Birch-Reynolds text is known. "On my being charged with writing a lampoon at Tunbridge Wells" lies basically unread in the Wellesley volume (it has been published once in a facsimile copy with little annotation, Ellis-d'Alessandro Poems 131-2). Both, despite Ann's disclaimer, belong very much to the tradition of lampoon which was all the rage at Tunbridge.

"The prodigy" is the livelier of the two. Its date, "Anno 1706," is found in its heading. At age 45 Ann declares, as so many of the same age have before her, that times have changed. When she was a girl, gentlemen loved in the manner of "Spencer, Sydney [and] Waller/Who with soft numbers wing'd successful darts." Now if a man makes the first move, shows himself vulnerable and anxious, he is a freak, a prodigy, and Ann wryly blames the modern gentlewoman for this. Her poem is a piece of dry invective. She seems lightly to offer ironic advice to the the modern lady, "to maintain" her "natural prerogative," not openly to chase or coquet, but to imitate Venus' behavior when Paris came to choose between herself, Juno, and Athene, to remain apart demure and graceful and mysterious. In fact it is a sharp portrait of female stupidity, as Ann defines it here, of women selling cheap and easy and thus condemning themselves to contempt at the very start of a relationship:

And if to Fashions past you can't submit
Pretend at least to some Degree of Wit
The Men who fear now with it to accost
[word blotted] love the name tho' you've the Habit lost
Assert your pow'r in early days begun
Born to undo be not your selves undone
Contemn'd and Cheap as easy to be Won

(MS Additional 4457 f.55).

In Ann's other poem she denies having written a lampoon with a vigor and urgency that makes one suspect she did write one; her subject, the praise of "four Tunbridge Belles" suggests the subject of her lampoon, a critique of four others. The poem may also be dated 1706 from Ann's description of one of the women she praises as "a FINCH" who is for the first time receiving male attentions: again we have a 15 or 16 year old girl, and the two candidates, Cecilly and Ann, the daughters of Elizabeth Aylesford Finch, the fourth dowager Countess, who were born shortly before the Earl's death in 1689, would have been 16 to 18 in 1706. As in her fragment Ann argues that to write satire is useless; she identifies a line of serious satire (not lampoons, unworthy anyone) from Juvenal to Donne, which, she says, changed no-one. Woven into the charge are all sorts of references to her own sort of poetry which she insists is a thing of her "ear:"

From Romes great Juvenal to England's Donne
The errours of the times have still prevail'd
The laughing and the weeping sages fail'd
Then let it not be thought my weaker lines
Are bent on harm or burthen'd with designs ...
Wou'd I have made this Publick stage my scene
And here unurged used my Poetick vein
All whose sweet voices have enticed my ear
For complaisance shou'd be recorded here
And have such verse upon their notes attend
As nothing but their Harmony cou'd mend

(MS Wellesley 101).

The poem's mood shifts after her praise of her four friends; their strengths, it would seem, will she nill she, lead her to herself, and specifically to her own inadequacies, and by the close of the poem she has identified with a "lonely shepherd ... whom failing day

Compells to borrow Vulcan's lightsome ray
When some rude flint has kindled up the flame
Returns it to the heap from whence it came
Where in oblivion ever it remains
Amongst th'unheeded things that strews the plains [sic]

(MS Wellesley 101-2).

The deep sad note and the vigorous defense of the opening again suggest that when Ann writes with her focus on herself she is at her most penetrating.


Page Last Updated: 4 January 2003