Disarm'd with so genteel an air


To Mr Pope In Answer to a coppy of verses occasion'd by a little dispute, upon four lines in the Rape of the Lock (Canto IV, lines 59-60).

Primary Texts:

MS Wellesley, 96-8*; MS Additional 4457, 57-8; MS Additional 4807 (the drafts of Pope's Iliad), ff 209v-210r (with accompanying letter from Richard Basingfeld dated May 26, 1712).
Disarm'd with so genteel an air,
The contest I give o'er,
Yet Alexander have a care
And shock the sex no more.

We rule the World, our Lives whole race,
Men but assume that right,
First slaves to every tempting Face,
Then Martrys to our spight.

You of one Orpheus, sure have read,
Who would like you have writ,
Had he in London town been bred,
And Polish'd to his wit

But he (poor soul) thought all was well,
And great shou'd be his Fame,
When he had left his Wife in Hell,
And Birds and Beasts cou'd tame.

Yet vent'ring then with scoffing rhimes
The Women to incense,
Resenting Heroines of those Times,
Soon punish'd the offence;

And as thro' Hebrus, rowl'd his Scull,
And Harp besmear'd with Blood,
They clashing, as the Waves grew full,
Still harmonized the Flood.

But you our Follies, gently treat,
And spin so fine the thread,
You need not fear his awkward fate,
The Lock won't cost the Head.

Our Admiration you command,
For all that's gone before;
What next we look for at your Hands
Can only raise it more.

Yet, sooth the Ladies, I advise,
(As me, to Pride you've wrought,)
We're born to Wit, but to be wise
By Admonitions Taught.

Secondary Eds:

Rpt of 1741 Birch: 1903 Reynolds, 102-3; rpts of 1903 Reynolds: 1930 Fausset, 53; 1979 Rogers AF, 82-3; McGovern & Hinnant, 69-70.


1717 Pope's Own (rpt 1935 Ault), 79-81 (omitting 6th stanza); 1741 Birch, 179 (together with Pope's lines of apology: "In vain you boast Poetic Names of yore,"); rpt of 1741 Birch: 1752 Ballard, 371-3; 1753 Cibber, III, 324; 1757 Colman, 262-4.


Rpt of 1741 Birch (or 1752 Ballard): 1853 Rowton, 105-6; 1880 Ward, 34.


Although Finch is not following any specific text, this poem is another very much in the manner of Madame Deshouliers, see the series of epistles which begins "Lettre en Chansons, a Monsieur Deshoulieres, 1677," "Lettres en chansons sont a la mode;/Ce badinage m'accommode," Deshouliers, I, 36-44, also the description of the savagery of nature in her "La Solitude: Idylle," II, 101-3.


Rpt of 1741/1903: 1905 Tutin, 28-9; 1974 Bernikow, 84; 1905 Gilbert/Gubar, 105-6; 1990 Fullard, 23-4.


Very good, magical intent deadly. Finch does imitations of Madame Deshouliers best when she writes out of harder anger. The omitted stanza shows Pope did not read it as light humor; always she is indirect; she was angry at what she took to be a public pointing to and slur on her melancholy (or "Spleen").

Anne Finch and Alexander Pope do not seem to have known each other as friends, only acquaintances. In his apology (written 1714), a response to some unwritten complaint about lines in The Rape of the Lock, which she had had conveyed to him through a mutual acquaintance, he tells her she is mistaken, that he didn't have her poetry in mind at all when he hit at splenatic women poets:

Impromptu, To Lady Winchelsea

Occasion'd by Four Satyrical Verses on Women-Wits,
in the Rape of the Lock

In vain you boast Poetic Names of yore,
And cite those Sapho's we admire no more:
Fate doom'd the Fall of ev'ry Female Wit,
But doom'd it then when first Ardelia writ.
Of all Examples by the World confest,
I knew Ardelia could not quote the best;
Who, like her Mistress on Britannia's Throne;
Fights and subdues in Quarrels not her own.
To write their Praise you but in vain essay;
Ev'n while you write, you take that Praise away:
Light to the Stars the Sun does thus restore,
But shines himself till they are seen no more.

She didn't believe him, and perhaps the mutual acquaintance who showed her the lines well before they were printed in the 1714 Rape of the Lock (lines 57-62) didn't either:
. . . Hail wayward Queen [Spleen]!
Who rule the Sex to Fifty from Fifteen,
Parent of Vapours and of Female Wit,
Who give th'Hysteric or Poetic Fit,
On Various Tempers act by various ways,
Make some take Physick, others scribble Plays;

What is the evidence for their acquaintance? On December 15, 1713, Pope was invited to Lady Winchilsea's house in London and despite attempts to suggest the contrary, the natural sense of his apology to John Caryll why he did not come to see Caryll on the last day Caryll was on a London visit is that the by then Countess took advantage of the visit to have one of her plays read aloud to him:

" The truth was this: I was invited that day to dinner with my Lady Winchelsea, and after dinner to hear a play read, at both which I sat in great disorder with sickness at my head and stomach. As soon as I got home which was about the hour I should have met you, I was obliged to goe directly to bed" (Pope's Correspondence 1;203-4).
If his response appeared as reluctant as Finch's nephew had been (see her An Epilogue, after a tedious play), as his headache afterwards so strong, the evening did not solidify any friendship between them. We cannot know if the 1714 lines in the Rape of the Lock were meant to include Finch, but her supposition that they were is natural. He was not her friend, but he paid attention to her so it was not far-fetched to think Pope was mocking "the" authority on the spleen and a potential female rival, nor that he was laughing again at her again in the later lines in "To a Lady" (written 1732-34, published 1735): "Arcadia Countess, here, in ermin'd pride,/Is there, Pastora by a fountain side." And again in the reference in "To Arbuthnot" (written 1731-34, published 1735) to "A maudlin Poetess.

The relationship was complicated. On the one hand, Anne Finch was one of the three women poets satirized in Pope, Gay and Arbuthnot's Phoebe Clinkett the learned lady poet, in Three Hours after Marriage (1717, Pope, Gay, Arbuthnot) -- which contemporaries linked primarily to Lady Winchilsea. Pope presented a caricature which damns her for self-importance, ignorance, and a lack of critical distance which leads to overheated stilted lines. While Pope ridicules other female poets through Phoebe Clinket, he also uses the character to level some mockery at Anne. He had little taste and less patience for both the unguarded melancholy and natural imagery of her Pindaric Odes (e.g., 'a Pindarick Poem upon the late Hurrycane', MS F-H, pp. 147-54). In a hilarious scene in which all the characters in the room know that Phoebe is reading her own poetry while pretending to read the poetry of a male author, a player objects to too much rain: 'the shower is absurd'. Phoebe then defends herself thus:

Why should not this gentleman rain, as well as other authors snow and thunder? [Reads.] Enter Deucalion in a sort of waterman's habit, leading his wife Pyrrha to a boat. -- His first distress is about her going back to fetch a casket of jewels. Mind, how he imitates your great authors. The first speech has all the fire of Lee:

Though heaven wrings down all the sponges of the sky,
And pours down clouds, at once each cloud a sea.
Not the spring tides . . .

Sir Tremendous [the critic, John Dennis]: [But] there were no spring tides int he Mediterranean, and consequently Deucalion could not make that simile . . . (Act II, p. 110)

At the same time, from his earliest period we can see Pope learning from Finch, e.g., from her "A Nocturnal Reverie" ("When in some River, overhung with Green,/The waving Moon and trembling Leaves are seen") in "Windsor Forest" ("In the clear azure Gleam the Flocks are seen/And floating Forests paint the Waves with Green"). In 1717, the same year as the success of Three Hours after Marriage Pope printed a number of her poems (5 of them known only from this act of his) in his 1717 anonymous miscellany and a reluctant panegyric by Finch herself in his 1717 Mr Pope's Works.

I see a link between his distaste for Mary Wortley Montagu and Anne Finch. They were the only women poets around in his era who wrote as strongly and felicitiously as he did. Perhaps it hurt his self-image to see women as rivals; the source of the anger in the Dunciad is the same; that is, it dismays and angers Pope to see the degradation of his profession in the low status and socially unacceptable behavior of his rivals.


From Richard Basingfeld's letter.
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Page Last Updated 8 January 2003