Finch wrote several poems to her husband expressing her happiness in their marriage. Several seventeenth-century women poets wrote tenderly to their spouses as well: see, for example, Katherine Philips's "To my dear Antenor on his parting," Anne Bradstreet's "To my dear and loving husband," and other tributes by Lady Jane Cavendish, Mary Scurlock Steele, and Elizabeth Rowe.
Revisions in the Northamptonshire octavo MS and in the Folger folio MS show fluctuations in Finch's choice of name for her husband. In the Northamptonshire MS, the verse letter was titled to "Mr. Finch," which is canceled and "Daphnis" inserted. In the Folger MS, the verse letter contains two heavily canceled names before Dafnis was finally inserted, perhaps indicating the care Finch gave her search for the right pastoral name for her husband. In Greek mythology, Daphnis was the shepherd and flutist who invented pastoral poetry. According to the second-century, C.E., Greek poet Longus, Daphnis grew up with, developed an abiding love for, and eventually married Chloe after the two endured many adventures, which would make the name Finch's tribute to her husband. She might have seen Longus's story in a 1657 version by George Thornley
(Daphnis and Chloe. A most sweet, and pleasant pastorall romance for young ladies. London, 1657).
Finch's poem has been discussed at length by Barbara McGovern, who observes that the composition date is less than a year after the Finches' marriage on May 15, 1684 and that the title in the Northamptonshire octavo MS suggests that the poem was addressed to Heneage when he was away from Westminster Palace, where the couple resided at this time (Anne Finch and Her Poetry: A Critical Biography [Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1992], pp. 29-30, 38-42). McGovern also describes the significance of the reference to the crown (line 1) as especially meaningful to the Finches as courtiers, particularly when James's coronation was imminent, and detects in Finch's reference to her "return of passion, as is due" an echo of the contractual nature of contemporary marriage, perhaps a clue to the reluctance to marry and join her identity to Heneage's described in lines 3-4 (pp. 39-40).
Contemporary engravings titled "The Happy Marriage" and "The Unhappy Marriage" illustrate dramatically the best and worst examples of marital bonds in Finch's era
show image (The Happy Marriage and The Unhappy Marriage (c. 1690). Etching broadside (single sheet with letterpress). Artist unknown.; British Museum: British XVIIc Mounted Roy. Digitized version from the British Museum website.; Inscription Content: Lettered with title, text within image, verses below image and publication line: "Printed, Colour'd and Sold by John King at the Globe in the Poultry". ;© The Trustees of the British Museum).
Dates and Sources
No evidence thus far counters the date of composition claimed by the poem's title: April 2, 1685. Two source copies, supervised by Anne Finch and her husband Heneage Finch, are known to have survived: the poem was copied into the octavo MS "Poems on Several Subjects Written by Ardelia" (Northamptonshire Record Office, call number FH 283) as "A Letter to Daphnis from Westminster April the 2d: 1685" and later into the folio MS "Miscellany Poems with Two Plays by Ardelia" (Folger Shakespeare Library, call number Nb3).
Substantive variants, including those that could affect pronunciation, are listed below from the only other source of the poem known to be supervised by Finch and her husband, Heneage: the octavo MS “Poems on Several Subjects Written by Ardelia” (NR283).
Title Dafnis . . . 1685] Daphnis from Westminster April the 2d: 1685. NR283
5 proof] proofs NR283