Heneage Finch (1657-1726)
Portrait of Colonel Heneage Finch (later Fifth Earl of Winchilsea) by Peter Cross,
painted circa 1688 (private collection; sold to the present owner by Judy and Brian
Most of Anne Finch’s literary compositions cannot be separated from the labors of
her husband, Heneage Finch, who transcribed so many of her surviving works. Heneage’s
hand in Finch’s poems and plays reminds us of the complications of assuming individual
authorial control over any text, especially in an era when literary compositions
developed in a more collaborative environment than is common today. For Finch the
ties between writer and reader were truly collaborative: Heneage and others suggested
topics for some of her poems, and she engaged in epistolary dialogues with several
poets. In Finch’s era, work circulating in manuscript lent itself to discussion
and revision by a coterie of writers-readers: authorship was often understood as
a more social phenomenon with sympathetic readers sharing and altering texts.
Without further evidence, such as an undiscovered trove of Finch’s letters recounting
her editorial relationship with Heneage, we cannot know the degree to which he strictly
followed her texts and instructions or shaped the texts in an editorial role. If
he did edit her work, then, given her era’s norms for gender decorum, particularly
in marriage, we cannot know with certainty how much Finch desired or submitted to
her husband’s participation. We do know, however, that for a husband in late seventeenth-
and early eighteenth-century England to devote so much time to transcribing his
wife’s work remarkably overturns conventional gender roles in that era. References
in the poems to her happy marriage and to Heneage’s encouragement of her writing
suggest Finch’s satisfaction with his roles as amanuensis and editor; see, for example,
on this site Finch’s “A Letter to Dafnis
April: 2d: 1685.” The corrections in her hand seen in the Folger folio manuscript,
which was transcribed by Heneage, imply that she approved his role while retaining
her authorial prerogative to correct his transcriptions. Manuscript revisions and
corrections demonstrate repeatedly Heneage’s devotion to ensuring that copies of
Finch’s work were accurate: we see in his hand painstaking alterations in every
manuscript volume he transcribed.
When Finch’s work was finally collected in the print volume Miscellany Poems, on
Several Occasions (1713), when she was in her early fifties, Heneage entered
in his own hand additional errata lists to some of the print volumes and even transcribed some of these corrections to pages within the volumes.
Heneage continued to concern himself with the accuracy of his wife’s work even after
her death in 1720: we find him listing errata, not printed in the 1713 volume, in
his diary in 1723. Because of his role in the transmission of Finch’s work, the
closer we try to approach a traditional notion of the authorized text the more that
text becomes a social one, especially informed by her relation with Heneage.
Soldier and Courtier
Heneage Finch was the eldest surviving son of Sir Heneage Finch, third earl of Winchilsea
(1628-1689), a formidable courtier and diplomat who served as ambassador to Turkey
from October 1660 to March 1669. The third earl’s eldest son and heir, William,
Viscount Maidstone, had died in 1672 fighting aboard the Royal Charles during the
naval battle of Solebay, leaving a widow and two young children, one of whom would
inherit the family’s title and estate in Kent.
Portrait of James, Duke of York, as Lord High Admiral, by Henri Gascar (1635-1701), painted circa 1675.
The younger Heneage had been trained
to be a courtier and soldier. A captain of the Coldstream Guards, he was appointed
a groom of the bedchamber to James, Duke of York (future James II), in 1683 after
serving in various military and political posts in Kent. Finch indirectly commemorated
Heneage’s military service and support of James in her translation of the French
epitaph of Marshall Turenne, under whom James fought before the Restoration; see
on this site Finch’s “Under the Picture
of Marshall Turenne” . Awarded an honorary degree of doctor of civil laws
by Oxford when he visited with James and Mary in May 1683, Heneage seemed destined
for a distinguished career.
At court, he met Anne Kingsmill, the woman he would marry, who arrived there in
1682 to serve as Maid of Honor to Mary of Modena, James’s second wife. Although
in “A Letter to Dafnis,” Finch claims that Heneage had to overcome her reluctance,
their marriage license is dated May 14, 1684, and their wedding took place the next
day. As a widower forty years later, Heneage would
write in his Riders (1723) British Merlin diary next to the date of May 14,
“A blessed day.” After their marriage Finch resigned
from her position as Maid of Honor, but the couple remained at court, residing in
Westminster Palace after Heneage took part in the coronation of James II in April
1685 as one of the Queen’s canopy-bearers, at her request.
Finch’s marriage created a new web of kinship ties and associations reflected in
her verse. Most important were Heneage’s immediate family. His father resided at
the family’s seat at Eastwell in Kent with his fourth wife, Elizabeth Ayres, several
children, his two grandchildren, and his late son’s widow, Elizabeth Wyndham. Her
son Charles (1672-1712), Heneage’s nephew, would inherit the family’s title. Heneage’s
sister Frances had married Thomas Thynne, viscount Weymouth, and resided at his
magnificent estate, Longleat, in Somerset, which the Finches knew well.
A View of Longleat by Jan Siberechts (1627-c. 1703), painted 1675.
Such buoyant times in their early marriage ended with the revolution of 1688/89
and James II’s flight from England. Heneage had held a prominent position in James’s
court as Groom of the Bedchamber, lieutenant-colonel, and in 1685, as member of
Parliament from Hythe, and his continuing loyalty to the Stuart king placed Heneage
and Anne at great risk. In spring 1689 the Finches arrived at Eastwell, probably
because of Heneage’s father’s declining health. At the third earl’s death in August,
sixteen-year-old Charles Finch became the fourth earl of Winchilsea. The months
immediately following the revolution were harrowing for the Finches. Their prospects
had been completely reversed, and they suffered the equivalent of internal exile
after James’s flight. Matters worsened for Finch when Heneage was arrested at Hythe
in April, 1690, while attempting to join James in France. For the rest of the year
he was detained in London preparing his defense before his case was dismissed for
lack of evidence in late November.
Heneage’s return, late in 1690, reunited the couple at the Finch family manor of
Eastwell, now presided over by the young Charles Finch, the fourth Earl of Winchilsea.
Significantly, Heneage’s surviving transcriptions of his wife’s compositions all
date from after the revolution of 1688/89, thus framing the contexts and suggesting
possible motives for the hours, days, and years he dedicated to her poems and plays.
Had he not been deprived of his office and livelihood, that is, had he capitulated
like so many other members of James’s court and sworn fealty to King William, Heneage
would not have had the time to transcribe his wife’s work. Perhaps his political
marginalization spurred him to transmit his wife’s literary productions, especially
as a way to participate in the social, cultural, and political forces of Stuart
The earliest of three manuscript volumes that survive with Heneage’s transcription
is the octavo manuscript titled “Poems On Several Subjects, Written By Ardelia”
(begun circa 1690), now at the Northamptonshire Record Office, U.K. Although
Finch’s informal hand is unusual, prompting scholars to assume this was the reason
Heneage became her amanuensis, W. J. Cameron and Alexander Lindsay have argued that
pages 1 to 87 of the octavo are in Finch’s fair copy hand. The regularity of spacing within the
letters on each line and the elegance of the hand, especially in comparison with
known examples of Finch’s hand, suggest that these first pages in the volume are
the work of a professional scribe, however. Heneage
took over transcription of the octavo manuscript, beginning half way through page
87. Although the octavo manuscript was used later for drafting her ode “Upon the
Hurricane” (completed 1704), Heneage stopped transcribing poems in the octavo (probably
deemed too small to include all of her poems and her two plays) and began transcribing
c. 1700 the works in the folio manuscript “Miscellany Poems With
Two Plays by Ardelia” (now housed at the Folger Shakespeare Library) where we find
corrections in Finch’s hand.
The early eighteenth century witnessed significant changes in the Finches’ circumstances.
After Heneage’s arrest for Jacobitism in 1690, the pair was confined to England,
which must have encouraged their discretion as well as their desire to avoid surveillance. In a letter to antiquarian William Charlton in 1701, Heneage
refers cryptically to “my confinement to a country life.” In
many works in the octavo and folio volumes the pro-Stuart and Jacobite allusions
are discreet but persistent, and topics such as betrayal, the loss of principle,
and the inevitability of failure, reveal Finch’s preoccupation with James’s fate
(see, for example, on this site Finch’s
paraphrase of psalm 135, which suggests a correspondence between exiled
Jews and the internal exile of James’s supporters. Heneage’s support of the Nonjuring
bishops, who had refused the oaths of allegiance to William and Mary and renunciation
of James, further identified the couple as Stuart adherents. James died on September
5, 1701, however, releasing Heneage from suspected loyalty to the exiled king if
not to his heir, James Francis Edward. William’s illness and unpopularity influenced
Heneage’s decision to stand for Parliament in December 1701, as Jacobites hoped
to support a Stuart restoration after William’s death. Although unsuccessful in
this and two later attempts (in 1705 and 1710), Heneage evidently felt free to attempt
a return to public affairs. By 1708, the Finches resumed
living in London and by the end of the decade, they settled in Cleveland Row, bordering
St. James’s Palace, where they lived for most of
their remaining life.
Earl of Winchilsea
The Finches experienced another personal revolution on August 4, 1712, when Charles
Finch died suddenly, leaving Heneage to succeed him as fifth earl of Winchilsea.
(Heneage is sometimes counted as the fourth and sometimes as the fifth Earl of Winchilsea
because the first person to hold this peerage was a woman; the Dictionary of National Biography refers to Finch’s husband as the fifth
earl.) Heneage refused the oaths of allegiance required to take his seat in the
House of Lords, but otherwise the Finches gained assured social status as earl and
countess. The one print volume of her work supervised by Finch and her husband appeared
shortly after Heneage inherited his title: Finch’s Miscellany Poems, on Several Occasions,
was printed by John Barber in 1713.
Heneage’s accession, however, placed the Finches in grave financial straits. Charles’s
sister, Marianne Herbert, and her husband sued the Finches in the Court of Chancery,
contesting the late earl’s estate. Litigation dragged on from July 1713 until February
1720, as Heneage worked first through the Herberts’ case and then through creditors’
claims that kept Eastwell in receivership from November 1716 until August 1718. In spite of these financial and legal difficulties,
the Finches continued their support for fellow Nonjurors: in 1713, Heneage witnessed
the consecration of two Nonjuring bishops, one of whom, Samuel Hawes, became their
permanent guest at Eastwell after he was deprived of his living. They also befriended
the Reverend Hilkiah Bedford (1663-1724), a Nonjuring clergyman imprisoned from
1714-1718 on the false charge of writing a Jacobite treatise (George Harbin’s The
Hereditary Right of the Crown of England Asserted ). On his release, Bedford
became Heneage’s chaplain.
Heneage lived for six years following his wife’s death in 1720. In the blank page
facing the month of August in his Riders (1723) British Merlin diary, HF
wrote the following:
5 - 1720. - At 9. of the clock at night my most dear Wife of blessed memmory went
Shortly before or after her death, Heneage had turned to preserving fifty-seven
poems composed by his wife that were not collected in previous volumes. This final
manuscript, now known as the Wellesley manuscript (housed in the Special Collections
of the Wellesley College Library), appears to be written in two hands: the first
unidentified and the second Heneage’s. In his last years, Heneage remained close
to his many relatives and friends, corresponding with Lord Hertford and his family
and pursuing archaeological research with his then-chaplain, the Rev. John Creyk. Before and after Finch’s death, Heneage pursued antiquarian
studies and absorbed himself in Kentish antiquarian lore, becoming involved in local
archaeology and collecting ancient medals. Heneage’s manuscript volume titled “A
Description of My Athenian Medals with Observations upon Them” (dated 1702) is preserved
in The Bodleian Library. He joined the Society of Antiquaries, serving as vice-president
from 1724 until his death. He corresponded with the
scholar Dr. William Stukeley, “the central figure of early eighteenth-century archaeology,”
and such fellow antiquarians as his brother-in-law Lord Weymouth and great-nephew-in-law
Lord Hertford about their shared interests. Heneage
and Stukeley were members of an antiquarian club called the “Society of Roman Knights,”
focused on the study of Roman Britain, and by 1721 he and Stukeley began research
on British coins for Metallographia Britannica.
Heneage continued to suffer periodic attacks of gout, an early appearance of which
had been recorded in Finch’s “The Goute and Spider,” included in the Folger folio.
His death on September 30, 1726 resulted from what was described as an inflammation
of the bowels. In 1758, his books were offered for
sale in a catalog issued by Thomas Osborne. Although mingled with several other
libraries, the list suggests a man of wide-ranging interests, piety, and modern
as well as ancient learning (The Second Volume of T. Osborne’s Catalogue of Books,
Containing the Libraries of The Right Hon. Heneage Finch, Earl of Winchelsea . .
. And many other Persons . . . [London, 1758]).
Much of the biographical information about Heneage Finch is found in Barbara McGovern,
Anne Finch and Her Poetry: A Critical Biography (Athens, GA: University of Georgia
Press, 1992); Barbara McGovern, “Anne Finch,” the Oxford DNB Online; and Sonia P.
Anderson’s entry for Heneage’s father, “Heneage Finch, third earl of Winchilsea,”
the Oxford DNB Online. On Heneage’s antiquarian activities, see Stuart Piggott,
William Stukeley: An Eighteenth-Century Antiquary, rev. ed. (1950; repr., New York:
Thames and Hudson, 1985); and on Heneage’s circle, see Basil D. Henning, The House
of Commons 1660-1690 (London: Secker and Warburg, 1983).
We thank Deborah Kennedy for her help with locating the reproduction of Heneage
Rachel Bowman, Claudia Kairoff, Jennifer Keith
1 McGovern, Anne Finch and Her Poetry, 29.
2 MS F.H. 282 in the Northamptonshire Record Office.
3 McGovern, Anne Finch and Her Poetry, 30.
4 McGovern, Anne Finch and Her Poetry, 58-60.
5 Cameron, “Anne, Countess of Winchilsea: A Guide for the Future Biographer,”
unpublished thesis (Victoria University of Wellington, NZ, 1951), 69, 73; Lindsay,
Index of English Literary Manuscripts, volume III, part 4 (London, 1997), 536.
6 Professor Alan Nelson, pers. comm.
7 Paul Monod, Jacobitism and the English People, 1688-1788 (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1989), 284.
8 McGovern, Anne Finch and Her Poetry, 73; BL Sloane MS 3962, 284-287.
9 McGovern, Anne Finch and Her Poetry, 89-91; Basil D. Henning, The House
of Commons 1660-1690 (London: Secker and Warburg, 1983), 2:324.
10 McGovern, Anne Finch and Her Poetry, 91.
11 See McGovern, Anne Finch and Her Poetry, 27.
12 McGovern, Anne Finch and Her Poetry, 99.
13 McGovern, Anne Finch and Her Poetry, 184-185.
14 Deborah Kennedy, Poetic Sisters: Early Eighteenth-Century Women Poets
(Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2013), 30-31; Heneage’s letters to Dr.
John Stukeley in John Nichols, ed., Illustrations of the Literary History of the
Eighteenth Century, 2 vols. (London, 1817), 2:769-785.
15 Henning, The House of Commons, 2: 234.
16 Stuart Piggott, William Stukeley: An Eighteenth-Century Antiquary,
rev. ed. (1950; repr., New York: Thames and Hudson, 1985), 13; McGovern, Anne Finch
and Her Poetry, 73; Henning, The House of Commons, 2:324.
17 Piggott, William Stukeley, 53, 71.
18 Henning, The House of Commons, 3: 324.