The women of eighteenth-century England tended to agree that they were oppressed and marginalized. Because of this, many women avoided male companionship as a means of dealing with this oppression. Although this method of coping with the realities of life as an eighteenth-century woman seemed desirable to many, some did not agree and sought male companionship.
The reasons for this disagreement varied. At the beginning of the century, for example, many women were influenced by the writings of Mary Astell and thus believed that marriage itself was a problem to be avoided. Other women rejected the notions of Astell and longed for companionship, although their reasoning differed.
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Furthermore, Chudleigh attempts to find self-fulfillment in self-denial. She speaks of balance, telling the reader of “A soul which cannot be depressed by grief nor too much raised by sublimest joy” (Chudleigh 4).
Chudleigh goes on to speak of being “happy in her humble state” as well as her mind triumphing over “vice and fate” (Chudleigh 4).
Chudleigh believes there to be virtue in not allowing herself to succumb to either extreme of emotion, and through humility. Through these virtues, she finds self-fulfillment, without companionship.
On the other hand, Anne Finch’s poem “Petition for an Absolute Retreat” provides the reader with a completely different view entirely. Finch, a happily married woman, expresses desire for “a partner suited to my mind” (Finch 17). Additionally, where Chudleigh believed extreme emotion a vice, Finch regarded love as “that only passion given to perfect man, whilst friends with heaven” (Chudleigh 17). Clearly Anne Finch not only desires love and companionship but feels a sense of completeness from it.
Anne Finch’s happily married state perhaps caused her opinions on companionship. Where Mary Chudleigh lived a lonely existence despite her husband, Anne Finch experienced the profound fulfilment that companionship can bring.
Furthermore, the desire expressed in “Petition for an Absolute Retreat” suggests that she already has a “partner suited to her mind” with whom she wished to embark on this...