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Image of Sir John Finch F.R.S., F.R.C.P.

Carlo Dolci
Sir John Finch F.R.S., F.R.C.P.
Italy, 1665 to 1670
The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Image of Sir Thomas Baines, F.R.S., F.R.C.P.

Carlo Dolci
Sir Thomas Baines, F.R.S., F.R.C.P.
Italy, 1665 to 1670
The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge


Baines His Dissection is the longest poem I have written to date and came out of a visit to Cambridge while Donny O’Rourke was teaching there on a summer school. Donny suggested that I might be interested to take a look at a pair of portraits in the Fitzwilliam Museum and it transpired that these were of Sir John Finch and his lifelong companion, Sir Thomas Baines. A little research revealed that these men had met as students at Christ’s College, Cambridge, graduated as doctors and thereafter lived together for the next thirty-five years. Their profession took them to the continent, to Padua and Pisa and gradually they seem to have evolved into diplomats, working latterly for Charles II after the Restoration.

Finch was from a well-connected aristocratic family while Baines seems to have been of much humbler origins. It is possible to visit their joint tomb – a lavish baroque affair – in Christ’s. This was designed by Finch before his death and displays a poem by him recording his great affection for Baines. While it is somewhat anachronistic to describe them as an early modern ‘gay couple’, that is more or less how my poem treats their relationship and it does seem possible, as the middle section of my poem suggests, that a more recognisably modern understanding of homosexual relationships was beginning to form in the late 17th century towards the end of their lives.

The poem is not simply concerned with this aspect of their lives, however. Both men were educated by a group of scholars who have become known as the Cambridge Platonists (Henry More, Thomas Cudworth) and I wanted to suggest how that highly idealistic education fitted with their training as doctors, how that great divide which sometimes separates spirituality and the sciences was largely absent in their case. Finch’s cousin was William Harvey, often credited with discovering the circulation of the blood, while one of Harvey’s best friends was the great poet and Divine, John Donne.

Towards the end of his life, Finch was appointed Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in Constantinople and this is the setting for much of the poem. Finding out about 17th century Constantinople was one of the most enjoyable aspects of researching it and the temptation I had to fight hardest against was filling the poem with quaint exotic detail! Sadly, Baines died while they were living there and my poem is conceived as a dramatic monologue spoken by Finch, an elegy for his partner before he accompanies his body back to Cambridge for burial. As a whole, the poem forms the second part of my most recent collection of poems, In My Father’s House (Carcanet, 2005).

© David Kinloch, 2007


Image of David Kinloch

David Kinloch

Image of In My Father’s House

courtesy Carcanet Books

David Kinloch (b. 1959)

Born in Glasgow in 1959, David Kinloch was educated at the universities of Glasgow and Oxford. For many years a lecturer in French language and literature, with a special interest in Jospeh Joubert and Mallarmé, he now teaches creative writing and Scottish literature at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

A poet since his student days, Kinloch was part of a group of Scottish writers when at Oxford and was for many years one of the editors of the influential magazine Verse. The author of four volumes of poetry to date, Dustie-Fute (1992), Paris-Forfar (1994), Un Tour d’Ecosse (2001) and In My Father’s House (2005), Kinloch has also contributed to numerous anthologies, including Dream State: The New Scottish Poets, edited by D. O’Rourke in 1994, Scottish Creative Writing: Working with Words, edited by V. Thornton in 1995, Gay Love Poetry, edited by N. Powell in 1997, and 20th Century Scottish Poems, edited by D. Dunn in 2000. A recipient of a Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial Award in 2004, Kinloch currently holds a Scottish Arts Council Writer’s Bursary. He is also known for his critical essays, reviews and translations.

David Kinloch lives and writes in Glasgow.

To read David Kinloch's poem Baines His Dissection click here.

UCP 2008

Related Links

David Kinloch page on Carcanet website

Selected Bibliography

Academic Publications

D. Kinloch, The Thought and Art of Joseph Joubert, 1754-1824, Clarendon Press, 1992

D. Kinloch (ed. with R. Crawford, H. Hart and R. Price), Talking Verse: Interviews with Poets, Verse, 1994

D. Kinloch (ed. with R. Price), Une Nouvelle Alliance: Influences francophones sur la literature ecossaise moderne, Ellug Université Stendhal, 2000)

D. Kinloch (ed. with G. Millan), Situating Mallarmé, Peter Lang, 2000


D. Kinloch, Dustie-Fute, Vennel Press, 1992

D. Kinloch, Paris-Forfar, Polygon, 1994

D. Kinloch, Un Tour d’Ecosse, Carcanet, 2001

D. Kinloch, In My Father’s House, Carcanet, 2005

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