Anne Wharton


Greer & Hastings

The Surviving Works of Anne Wharton, ed. G. Greer and S. Hastings (Stump Cross, 1997)


Anne Wharton (née Lee) wrote a number of religious, meditative, and other poems, as well as a play. Most of these works remained unpublished in her lifetime, but a considerable number, including verses that elicited contemporary admiration, evidently had limited circulation in manuscripts among her social and literary circle. This circle included both her uncle, John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, and Edmund Waller (whose family papers contain several poems by her; see comments on their relationship in Edmund Waller, Introduction below), as well as the egregious Gilbert Burnet. Manuscript copies of some poems evidently circulated widely enough to be picked up by publishers for inclusion in various printed miscellanies, which appeared from the year of her death, 1685, until at least the third decade of the eighteenth century. No attempt, however, was made to gather and publish a collected edition until the 1990s.


The early random publications, as well as copies of particular poems in scattered manuscript miscellanies, can, however, be supplemented by two notable manuscript anthologies of verse by Anne Wharton, which go some way to extending and consolidating her canon. At least one of these (The Earl of Leicester, Holkham Hall, MS 691) may well have been a presentation copy, as was certainly the formal manuscript of her play Love's Martyr (WhA 68), which, as she said in her dedication, ‘never deserved nor was ever designed to be publick’. The other manuscript volume of verse by her (Yale, Osborn MS b. 408), which includes a number of her poems otherwise unknown, did not effectively come to light until 2004, postdating the publication of the Greer & Hastings edition. From watermark evidence it seems possible that this was a slightly later production, in a neat but probably non-professional hand (possibly a woman), who perhaps had access to Wharton's papers but failed to copy them in full (sometimes supplying only titles), either because the copying task was abandoned or because the sources themselves were deficient.

Letters and Documents

Other surviving manuscripts by Wharton take the form of autograph letters by her, nine of which are currently recorded (WhA 69-73). These may be supplemented by the existing texts of a series of thirteen letters written to Wharton in 1682-83 (where dated) by Gilbert Burnet, some of them on literary matters. These are edited from printed sources in Greer & Hastings (1997), pp. 339-63.

Greer & Hastings also provide, in their lengthy prefatory biography of Wharton's unhappy life (pp. 1-109), references to a wealth of documentation relating to her, her family, and that of her louche, unfaithful husband. Not given entries below, these miscellaneous documents, in various libraries and record offices, include a number of letters by the Dowager Lady Rochester, mother of the poet John Wilmot, and by her agent, as well as other papers relating to the interminable family lawsuits and disputes which could do little to lift the frequently sick Anne Wharton's depressed spirits.

Peter Beal