Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea


To be spoken by Mrs. Oldfield the night before the Poet's Day

The audience seems tonight so very kind,
I fancy I may freely speak my mind,
And tell you, when the author nam'd Jane Shore,
I all her glorious history run o'er,
And thought he would have shewn her on the stage,
In the first triumphs of her blooming age;
Edward in public at her feet a slave,
The jealous Queen in private left to rave;
Yet Jane superior still in all the strife,
For sure that mistress leads a wretched life,
Who can't insult the Keeper and the wife.
This I concluded was his right design,
To make her lavish, careless, gay and fine;
Nor bring her here to mortify and whine.
I hate such parts as we have plaid today,
Before I promis'd, had I read the play,
I wou'd have staid at home, and drank my Tea.
Then why the husband shou'd at last be brought
To hear her own and aggravate her fault,
Puzzled as much my discontented thought.
For were I to transgress, for all the Poet,
I'll swear no friend of mine should ever know it.
But you perhaps are pleas'd to see her mended,
And so should I; had all her charms been ended.
But whilst another lover might be had,
The woman or the Poet must be mad.
There is a season, which too fast approaches,
And every list'ning beauty nearly touches;
When handsome Ladies, falling to decay,
Pass thro' new epithets to smooth the way:
From fair and young transportedly confess'd,
Dwindle to fine, well-fashioned, and well-dressed.
Thence as their fortitude's extremest proof,
To well as yet; from well to well enough;
Till having on such weak foundation stood,
Deplorably at last they sink to good.
Abandon'd then, 'tis time to be retir'd,
And seen no more, when not alas! admir'd.
By men indeed a better fate is known,
The pretty fellow, that has youth outgrown,
Who nothing knew, but how his cloaths did sit,
Transforms to a Free-thinker and a Wit;
At Operas becomes a skill'd Musician;
Ends in a partyman and politician;
Maintains some figure, while he keeps his breath,
And is a fop of consequence till death.
And so would I have had our mistress Shore
To make a figure, till she pleas'd no more.
But if you better like her present sorrow,
Pray let me see you here again to-morrow,
And should the house be throng'd the Poet's day,
Whate'er he makes us women do or say,
You'll not believe, that he'll go fast and pray.

*[AJ Notes:
The Tragedy of Jane Shore by Nicholas Rowe
premiered in London on February 2, 1714
with Mrs. Anne Oldfield in the title role.
Mock-epilogues satirizing the conventions of
tragedy were popular, and the poem fulfills
that function.

Jane Shore was the famous mistress to Yorkist
King Edward IV. After the King's death, she was
made to perform humiliating public penance
through the streets of London by Richard III
in 1485.  Richard's plan of punishment was
somewhat foiled in that the citizens sympathized
with Mistress Shore. Her public penance was still
fresh in memory at the time of Sir Thomas More,
who met the aged 'Shore's Wife' himself and
wrote about her in History of King Richard the Third.]






The Poems of Anne, Countess of Winchilsea. Myra Reynolds, ed.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1903. 100-1.

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