Me, dear Ephelia, me, in vain you court


Ardelia's answer to Ephelia, who had invited Her to come to her in Town--reflecting on the Coquetterie & detracting humour of the Age.

Primary Text:

MS Folger, 6-11*.

Here is a small excerpt:

When, my last visit, I to London made,
Me, to Almeria, wretched chance, betrayed;
The fair Almeria, in this art so known,
That she discerns all failings but her own.
With a loud welcome, and a strict embrace,
Kisses on kisses, in a public place,
Sh'extorts a promise, that next day I dine
With her, who for my sight, did hourly pine . . .

My word I keep, we dine, then rising late,
Take coach, which long had waited at the gate.
About the streets, a tedious ramble do,
To see this monster, or that waxwork show,
When by a church we pass, I ask to stay,
Go in, and my devotions, humbly pay . . .
While the gay thing, light as her feather'd dress,
Flies round the coach, and does each cushion press,
Through ev'ry glass, her several graces shows,
This, does her face, and that, her shape expose,
To envying beauties, and admiring beaux.
One stops, and as expected, all extolls,
Clings to the door, and on his elbow lolls,
Thrusts in his head, at once to view the fair,
And keep his curls, from discomposing air,
Then thus proceeds --

My wonder it is grown
To find Almeria here, and here alone.
Where are the nymphs, that round you used to crowd,
Of your long courted approbation proud,
Learning from you, how to erect their hair,
And in perfection, all their habit wear,
To place a patch, in some peculiar way,
That may an unmarked smile, to sight betray.
And the vast genius of the sex, display?

Pity me then (she cries) and learn the fate
That makes me porter to a temple gate;
Ardelia came to town, some weeks ago,
Who does on books, her rural hours bestow . . .

(MS Folger, pp. 6-10)

Secondary Eds:

1903 Reynolds prints Folger text, 38-46; rpts of 1903 Reynolds: 1928 Murray, 48-55; 1930 Fausset, 21-7; 1979 Rogers AF, 47-54; 1987 Thompson, 45-52.


rpts of 1713/1903: 1974 Bernikow, 85-91; 1979 Rogers, Six Women, 9-16.


Although Finch shows some knowledge of Boileau's Satire III (itself an imitation of Horace's Satire I, ix), her basic sources are Rochester's "Timon" (an adaptation of Boileau) and his "A Letter from Artemisia in the Town to Chloe in the Country (which also has the coach scene, and more points of identity and a closer plot than that of "Timon"); the poem from the city-dweller to the person in the country was a frequent type in the later 17th century (e.g. Charles Cotton's satiric "Epistle to Sir Clifford Clifton, then sitting in Parliament." Finch uses the type more light-heartedly in her 1718 ballads to Catherine Fleming (Nos 247-8 below). She also alludes to Roscommon's translation of Virgil's Sixth Eclogue ("Sylvenus").


The recipient is a trusted female friend (see below "Freindship between Ephelia and Ardelia") who would sympathize and understand Anne Finch's impulse to write poetry. I am persuaded Ephelia was Finch's pseudonym for her sister-in- law Frances Finch Thynne, Lady Weymouth who had a palace in the country (Longleat) and a house in town. Despite Reynolds's assertion that Ephelia is Lady Worseley, there is no evidence anywhere to suggest that Ephelia and Utresia are the same person. Finch writes a very different kind of poem to Utresia than she does to Ephelia. Teresa is Finch's stepsister, Dorothy Ogle; Ephelia is Finch's sister-in-law, Frances Finch Thynne, wife to Heneage's close friend, companion and support, Thomas Thynne, Lord Weymouth; Utresia is Anne's niece, Lady Worseley, daughter to Ephelia.


Although Finch says in her preface this poem must be allowed into her works since it "appears to have been long written, by the mention made of my Lord Roscommon, under the name of Piso, given to him first, in a Panegyrick, of Mr. Wallers," she cannot have written at least this version of her poem during the time she wrote her juvenilia to Prior and "The Grove" (1683-5, the time of Roscommon's poem and Waller's poem in praise of Roscommon's). It is simply too superior and not at all in the vein she was writing until the early 1710s. This version of "Ardelia's Answer" was probably written after the MS F-H 283 was abandoned as a copybook, and folllwing her work for 1701 Gilden -- which includes many classical imitations. I suggest this extant version was written around the time of Melinda on an insipped Beauty. In immitation of a fragment of Sapho's.

If Finch did originally write a version of this poem much earlier, then it is possible "Ephelia" as originally conceived was the Ephelia of the 1679 Female Poems Upon Occasion. Maureen Mulvihill has recently argued this Ephelia was Lady Mary Villiers (her full name was Mary Villiers Herbert Stuart Howard, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox (1622 - 1685). Anne Finch can be linked to a Lady Villiers, but this Lady Villiers (if the poem is by Anne) is probably Lady Mary Villiers, daughter to Edward Villiers, Earl of Jersey, a Tory, who was complimented in verse by Matthew Prior, and first bethrothed (or possibly married to) Henry Thynne in 1710 (he died) and then married to Lord Lansdowne. There is a reference to this Lady Villiers in the marginal annotations to Ye Lads and ye Lasses that live at Long-Leat. As the poem now stands, Ephelia is Frances Finch Thynne who lives in a large "Pallace" in the country; there she and Ardelia can meet to exchange "thoughts, and words, and endearments free." An example of such exchanges is found in the poem which begins "Absence in love effects the same . . .". Ardelia talks ambiguously to protect herself against accusation she is hitting out at some particular individual; she rightly did not want to destroy this brilliant venomous satire.

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