Born 1661 Died 1720
Anne Finch, daughter of Sir William Kingsmill of Sidmonton, near Southampton, was born in April 1661. Five months later her father died, and her mother married in 1662 Sir Thomas Ogle. Lady Ogle died in 1664, and nothing is heard of her daughter Anne until 1683, when she is mentioned as one of the maids of honour of Mary of Modena, Duchess of York. She married in May 1684 Colonel Heneage Finch, who was attached to the Duke of York's household. To him she addressed poems and versified epistles, in which he figures as Daphnis and she as Ardelia.
At the Revolution Heneage Finch refused the oath of allegiance to William and Mary, and he and his wife had no fixed home until they were invited in 1690 to Eastwell Park, Kent, by Finch's nephew Charles, 4th Earl of Winchelsea, on whose death in 1712 Heneage Finch succeeded to the earldom. The countess of Winchelsea died in London on the 5th of August 1720, leaving no issue, her husband surviving until 1726.
Lady Winchelsea's poems contain many copies of verse addressed to her friends and contemporaries. She was to some extent a follower of the "matchless Orinda" in the fervour of her friendships. During her lifetime she published her poem The Spleen in Gildon's Miscellany (1701) and a volume of Poems in 1713 which included a tragedy called Aristomenes. With Alexander Pope she was on friendly terms, and one of the seven commendatory poems printed with the 1717 edition of his works was by her. But in the farce Three Hours after Marriage (1717) attributed to Gay, but really the work of Pope, Arbuthnot and Gay, she is ridiculed as 'the learned lady', Phoebe Clinket, a character assigned to Pope's hand.
Lady Winchelsea's poems were almost forgotten when Wordsworth in the Essay, supplementary to the Preface of his Poems (1815), drew attention to her nature-poetry, asserting that with the exception of Pope's Windsor Forest and her Nocturnal Reverie, English poetry between Paradise Lost and Thomson's Seasons did not present "a single new image of external nature". Wordsworth sent at Christmas 1819 a MS. of extracts from Lady Winchelsea and other writers to Lady Mary Lowther, and his correspondence with Alexander Dyce contains some minute criticism and appreciation of her poetry.
Mr Edmund Gosse wrote a notice of her poems for T. H. Ward's English Poets( vol. in., 1880), and in 1884 came into possession of a MS. volume of her poems. A complete edition of her verse, The Poems of Anne, Countess of Winchelsea, was edited by Myra Reynolds (Chicago, 1903) with an exhaustive essay. See also E. Gosse, Gossip in a Library (1891), and E. Dowden, Essays, Modern and Elizabethan. Wordsworth's anthology for Lady Mary Lowther was first printed in 1905 (Oxford). Some of her work remains in MS. in the possession of Professor Dowden.
Being the entry for WINCHELSEA, ANNE FINCH, COUNTESS OF in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.