'Friend! if I'm late, excuse the failing


The Free-Thinkers. A Poem in Dialogue.

Primary Text:

1711 anonymous pamphlet. London, Printed and Sold by the Booksellers of London and Westmisnter. 1711.

Secondary Eds:



In NN-B, Berg Collection in NYPL, ascription reads: "By Lady Whinchesea." This copy was owned and the ascription first pointed out by W. Rees-Mogg. The poem is possibly Finch's: the rhymes may be in her other Hudibrastic verse (e.g., "A Miser and A Poet"); references are those she makes elsewhere (Nathan is a favorite with her); it includes her dislike of drinking which in her "Solomon" and paraphrase from Ecclesiastes she associates with libertinism; she did contribute poetry to Tate's 1696 volume whose purpose (Nate says) is to confute the idea that "reason" might lead us to think there is no afterlife; the simplicity, naturalism or doggerel of the dialogue is also everywhere in the MS Wellesley; but I am not persuaded because in all her other poems, no matter how lightly and impersonally intended, there is always a depth of inwardness and intensity conveyed which is lacking here. But I think in the absence of solid or external evidence, contemporary ascriptions should not be dismissed.


1711; in a footnote the author tells us it was written in response to Shaftesbury's 1708 Letter Concerning Enthusiasm.
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