Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea (1661–1720)
Anne Kingsmill was born in April, 1661, the third child of Sir William Kingsmill and Anne Haslewood. Sir William died only 5 months after Anne's birth. At the age of twenty-three, she went to the court of Charles II as a maid of honor (attendant) to the duchess of York. She married one of the Gentlemen of the Bedchamber, but both she and her husband were forcibly retired when James II was deposed. After two years, her husband inherited a title and an estate in the Kentish countryside. From the safety of a private country house, Finch bravely published a volume of her poetry, despite the mockery that she received as an aristocratic woman writer.
One of the earliest published women poets in England. Her poetry sparkles with witty commentary and playful humour. She writes with clear conviction of what she sees and experiences. Her voice is direct, personal and immediate. It has been suggested that she may be the best woman poet in England prior to the nineteenth century.
Miscellany Poems, on Several Occasions was the only major collection of Anne Finch's work to appear in her lifetime. The Poems of Anne, Countess of Winchilsea edited by Myra Reynolds in 1903, contained both the poems of 1713, and various others from manuscript sources, and has been the recognized collection of her work for many years. Only recently has The Wellesley Manuscript come to light, with 53 previously unpublished poems, many written in the last two decades of Anne Finch's life.