16 July 1659
|Died||29 October 1685
East Adderbury, Oxfordshire, England
|Occupation||poet & verse dramatist|
Anne was the posthumous younger daughter of Sir Henry Lee, and a member of a wealthy family. Her mother died not long after her birth. She and her sister Eleanor were brought up at Adderbury House, where they lived with the mistress, mother and grandmother of its owner, the poet and libertine John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, who was Anne Wharton's uncle.
In 1673 she married Thomas Wharton (1648–1715). She paid visits to Paris for her health in 1678 and 1680, as she suffered from eye troubles and convulsions, possibly linked to syphilis. Her husband soon neglected her and they had no children.
After her death, Anne Wharton's brother-in-law, Goodwin Wharton claimed in his autobiography that he had had an affair with her, and that she had had three other affairs – with Charles Mordaunt, 3rd Earl of Peterborough before her marriage (he bribed a servant to let him into the girl's room at night) and with "Jack Howe" (probably the Whig politician John Grubham Howe, 1657–1722) in the 1680s – as well as being "lain with long by her uncle, my Lord Rochester." Her letters to her husband from Paris seem devoted, but when visited her again in Paris, to obtain her signature on some documents to do with her £8000 estate, her ardour seems to have cooled.
Anne Wharton's death, in her sister Eleanor's house at Adderbury in 1685, was very painful. The poet Robert Gould in an eclogue to the memory of Eleanor, who died in 1691, observes that hers was peaceful one by comparison:
"Think how her sister, dear 'Urania' [i. e. Anne], fell,
When ev'ry Arte'ry, Fibre, Nerve and Vein
Were by Convulsions torn, and fill'd with Pain..."
Wharton is remembered today for the verse drama Love's Martyr; or, Witt above Crowns, and for a number of lyrical poems and biblical paraphrases, but all that was published in her lifetime was a heartfelt elegy on Rochester's death, under the pseudonym Urania. This brought appreciative poetic responses from Edmund Waller and Aphra Behn. Behn's was a verse-letter addressed to Anne, included in her 1684 Poems on Several Occasions, in which she took the opportunity of defending herself from a charge of bawdiness brought by the future bishop Gilbert Burnet, who had attended Rochester on his deathbed. Anne may also have prompted Behn to provide a prologue for Rochester's play Valentinian, which was first performed in 1684.
A modern critical edition of 34 known works by Anne Wharton was published in 1997 but at least eleven other poems have been discovered in manuscript since then. Her "Elegy on the Earl of Rochester" appears in the New Oxford Book of Seventeenth-Century Verse (1991) and "A Paraphrase on the Last Speech of Dido in Virgil's Aeneis" in Seventeenth-Century Poetry: An Annotated Anthology.
How hardly I concealed my Tears?
How oft did I complain?
When many tedious Days, my Fears
Told me I Loved in vain.
But now my Joys as wild are grown,
And hard to be concealed:
Sorrow may make a silent Moan,
But Joy will be revealed.
I tell it to the Bleating Flocks,
To every Stream and Tree,
And Bless the Hollow Murmuring Rocks
For Echoing back to me.
Thus you may see with how much Joy
We Want, we Wish, Believe;
'Tis hard such Passion to Destroy,
But easy to Deceive.
- Greer, Germaine, ed. (1988). Kissing the Rod: An Anthology of 17th-Century Women's Verse. London: Virago Press. p. not cited. ISBN 0-86068-999-9.
- Entry in The Concise Dictionary of National Biography (London: Oxford University Press, 1939 ).
- Clark, J. Kent (2004). Whig's Progress: Tom Wharton between Two Revolutions. Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses. pp. 144 ff. ISBN 0-8386-3997-6.
- Clark, J. Kent (1984). Goodwin Wharton. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. p. 144. ISBN 0-19-212234-7.
- "Anne Wharton". Orlando project (subscription required). Retrieved 26 April 2010.
- Cummings, Robert (ed.). Seventeenth-century Poetry: The Annotated Anthology. Oxford; Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. p. not cited. ISBN 0-631-21066-0.
- "Aphra Benn". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (subscription required). Oxford University Press.
- Greer, Germaine; Hastings, Susan, eds. (1997). The Surviving Works of Anne Wharton. Saffron Walden: Stump Cross Books. p. not cited. ISBN 1-872029-25-6.
- "Selected Recent Acquisitions". Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Yale University. 2004. Retrieved 20 May 2010.
- New Oxford Book of Seventeenth-Century Verse. 1991. p. not cited. ISBN 0-19-284087-8.
- Cummings, Robert (ed.). Seventeenth-Century Poetry: An Annotated Anthology. Malden, MA/Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers Ltd. p. 569. ISBN 0-631-21066-0.