Life at best


The misanthrope

Primary Text:

MS Wellesley, 96*
Life at best
Is but a jest
A face a glass a fiddle,
A shew a noise
Makes all its joys,
Till worn beyond the middle

Age is worse,
The doatards curse,
Consumed in endless story
In tales of tubs
Intreagues and drubs,
Retold by Grandsires hoary,

Who wou'd then
Converse with men
More then his needs enforce him,
Since tedious fools
Or boys from Schools
Are most that do discourse him.

These to fly
Retired I lye
Unknown and all unknowing,
And think't enough
Not nonsense proof,
My own I am not shewing

(Ms Wellesley, p. 96)

Secondary Ed:

1988 Ellis d'Alessandro prints Wellesley, 126-7; McGovern & Hinnant, 67.


Lightness of prosody strengthens bitter sting of Anne Finch'sstatement; it is another defense of retreat.


The title alludes to Swift as do some of the details (e.g. "tales of tubs/Intreagues and drubs). Swift's 1714 retirement to Ireland is part of the motive for the final stanza. Once again Finch asserts her reluctance to appear in public or print ("My own I am not shewing").
Contact Ellen Moody.
Pagemaster: Jim Moody.
Page Last Updated 8 January 2003