Anne Finch

Anne Finch, by Peter Cross, watercolour on vellum, circa 1690 (National Portrait Gallery)

James, the Duke of York, became King James II in 1685 when his brother Charles II died, and the Finches followed along with the rest of his circle as he took over the monarchy. But when James was deposed in 1688, and fled to France in exile, they shared his disgrace. Heneage was arrested as a “Jacobite,” a supporter of James, and spent months in jail before the charges were dropped. Rather than joining the rest of the deposed Stuart court in France, Anne and her husband went into a kind of internal exile in the English countryside. They ended up living on the family’s country estate in Kent, which had descended to Heneage’s nephew Charles. They seemed to have no hopes now of returning to the center of power in London. But this created an opening for Heneage, who loved his wife dearly, to become a collaborator with Anne on her poetry. He was her amanuensis, copying out her poetry and helping her revise it. From time to time, a poem or two of hers reached print, most notably “The Spleen,” which was first published anonymously in 1701 in a collection of poems by a number of writers.