The Birds and the Poet: Fable, Self-Representation and the Early Editing of Anne Finch's Poetry

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Anne Finch has long been recognized as one of the most significant English fable-writers of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Both Finch and her husband Heneage are also known for their careful editorial work on the texts of her poems, which they collected and re-collected several times within her own lifetime. In this article I reproduce the text of a fable, ‘The Nightingale, & the Cuckoo’, which does not survive in any of the major Finch collections and has not previously been attributed to her. The manuscript in which it survives— Northamptonshire Record Office F.H. 258—also preserves previously unknown copies of four more Finch poems, one of which (‘The Prevalence of Custom’) includes a significant textual variant. The omission of ‘The Nightingale, & the
Cuckoo’ from the two collections of her work which it is likely to predate provides important if conjectural evidence about the Finches’ editorial practices, especially in the one contemporary printed volume of her poetry, Miscellany Poems (1713). It also provides further confirmation of both spouses’ concern to construct and protect Finch’s literary reputation as she moved from manuscript circulation into print-publication
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)246-266
Number of pages21
JournalThe Review of English Studies
Issue number264
Early online date20 Aug 2012
Publication statusPublished - 25 Apr 2013


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