With all respect and humble duty
Title: The white mouses petition to Lamira the Right Hon: ble the Lady Ann Tufton now Countess of Salisbury
Primary Text: MS Wellesley, 92-3.
Secondary Ed: 1988 Ellis d'Alessandro prints Wellesley text, 122-3; McGovern & Hinnant, 62.
Source: This is written very much in the manner of Madame Deshouliers, whose poetry in the last modern edition begins with a series of (coy) poems from a cat to a cat, a dog to a cat, a rooster to a cat; in several of these various mice are discussed; see, e.g, "Epitre de Tata, Chat de Mme de la Marquise de Montglas, a Grissette, Chatte de Mme Deshouliers, in the 1801 Paris Oeuvres (3 vols), I, 58. Mme Deshouliers' poetry was first published in one volume in 1688; a second volume was added in 1695; this pair was reprinted in London 1707-11, and in Paris in 1747. There followed many reprints and expansions until about the middle of the 19th century when interest in Mme Deshouliers waned.
20C: 1910 Dowden prints from Wellesley text, 240, lines 5-14; 1992 McGovern 209-10.
Comment: Ann Tufton (Lamira) was the second surviving daughter of Thomas and Catherine Cavendish Tufton (Arminda), Lord and Lady Thanet, born August 9, 1693, married at age 15-16 in 1708-9. This poem is meant to be playful and coquettish; but to this reader it seems rather coy and clinging, uncomfortably creeping. There is something uncomfortable going on here. Finch is not yet a Countess, not sure of herself; and she is a much older woman. Yet her status is lower as the young girl has the title. This poem though began a deep friendship which brought forth two of Ann's best poems ("A Nocturnal Reverie" and "On the death of the Queen" [Mary of Modena]). It may also be that the female world of "love and ritual" so famously described by Carroll Smith-Rosenberg does not come out well through the animal metaphor.
Date: Written between 1707 and 1709, as poem supposes a young lady who has not yet captured any man's attention but is expected to do so soon, and by the heading was written before Ann Tufton married.
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