Published on November 23rd, 2012 | by Key Reads0
Anne Finch and Women’s Causes
Be More Like Anne Finch
By Alexandra Rosen
In the 18th century, women were forced to act within certain gender constructs that are now clearly, obviously false. The two that I would like to address are coinciding constructs: one is that women are weak, needy creatures who cannot get by without a man. Anne Finch thought that was silly. She also thought that the idea of women’s competitive nature was forced upon them from the necessity of a husband. In “On Myself” and “The Circuit of Apollo” Finch presents the argument that women should depend upon themselves to get rid of feminine competition.
For Finch, most women were too involved in “the love/ of all those trifles which their passions move” which included a love of money to buy them (Myself ll. 3-4). She feels that they have not been as lucky as she had been, she who has been “rescued” from the desires of her contemporaries’ fancy (Myself ll. 3). She does not have to deal with want or try to find a way into the heart of a man; she was in a happy and surely well provided for marriage. While she is wise about shying away from materials wants, I fear that Finch may have been a bit out of the loop from her contemporaries because she married young and to a lover. She did not need to search for anything she might want in a man’s purse because she has already bagged her man. Therefore, she did not have to vie for a man’s heart against her fellow women.
A little bit of competition may be healthy because it motivates one to act, to keep going. However, Anne Finch clearly thinks that competition for a man’s praise is foolish on the part of women. Though in “The Circuit of Apollo” she is writing of a poetry competition judged by a god, it could be seen as a metaphor for all of women’s competitive schemes. Invited by a man to compete for a prize, all four women tender their entry to the competition; they tried to win the prize by their preferred medium. Finch uses this poetry competition as a metaphor for the arts women use to entice men into their corners. She also shows how flighty and uncertain men are, when even wise Apollo can be wooed by four women in succession quickly forgetting each in their turn, for the next (Apollo ll. 25-30). Like Delarivier Manley, Finch uses a man to get across the point of her poem: that women should not allow men to judge them, when “t’were injustice, one brow to adorn/ With a wreath, which so fitly by each might be worn” (ll. 64-65). A man should not “be so imprudent, so dull, or so blind” as to think that he might choose without incurring, like Paris, the wrath of “three parts in four” (ll. 76-77)—although men were apt to, like Paris, make such a mistake.
Finch knew that though she “should be framed, but of the weaker kind” (Myself ll. 2), Woman needed to have an independence from men as Virginia Woolf would later echo. She has to recognize that she is enough for herself, that she “can live” without all the trifles she would like to have (ll. 9). Woman’s desire for “Pleasures, and praise, and plenty” should not hinder her enjoyment of life (ll. 5), nor should “seeking for fame, which so little does last” (Apollo ll.48).
Only when one has gained the situation of enough freedoms can she begin to propose that other women should feel the same way. I feel that she was so happy to have a husband who encouraged her to think and write that she feels compelled to get women to think not of what she has as a necessity. However, I do believe that while possibly blinded by her conjugal happiness, she was on the right track in saying that other women should be guided by themselves and not by the gender constructs that have been forced upon ‘em.