FINCH, Hon. John (?1692-1763), of Bushey, Herts.
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Family and Education
b. ?1692, 3rd s. of Daniel Finch, 2nd Earl of Nottingham and 7th Earl of Winchilsea, and bro. of Daniel, Lord Finch, and Hon. Edward, Henry and William Finch. educ. Eton 1706-7; Ch. Ch. Oxf. 26 Jan. 1708, aged 15; I. Temple 1711, called 1719. m. Elizabeth Younger, actress, 1da. (born before marriage).
Solicitor gen. to Prince of Wales 1726-7; K.C. 1727.
On the night of 18 Dec. 1722 John Finch, a practising barrister, was stabbed by Sally Salisbury, a well known courtesan, at the Three Tuns tavern in Chandos Street, where she had been drinking with Lord Scarsdale. An attempt by his eldest brother, Lord Finch, to keep the news from their father was foiled by an anonymous letter informing Lord Nottingham that
the expectations of the town at this time are great what will be done with that creature in Newgate that stab[bed] your son, Mr. Finch. It is thought by all people your Lordship may punish her as you please and if you dont make an example of her you are highly to blame. Should she ever have her liberty again your son had better have died, for she will certainly ruin him, which may be prevented by your Lordship’s known wise conduct, and will not only be a good to your own family but of infinite service to the public, for there is hardly a person but has suffered by her in son or husband. No one ever went there more than Mr. Finch and ’scaped death narrower than he, and from the hands of the highest monster in nature; one only permitted here to seduce and ruin mankind and to do the work of the devil.
Lord Finch reassured his father as to the steps which were being taken to deal with Sally:
She is destroyed beyond the power of her friends ever to support her and the next sessions I conceive we shall have a sentence of imprisonment for a time certain, with a fine which being large amounts to perpetual imprisonment, since scarce anyone will be ready to pay the fine for her.
John Finch also wrote to his father:
My intentions ... were more than once determined to acquaint you with the whole truth. But my resolutions were vain for the nearer I approached you the consciousness of my guilt and your virtue always turned me back silent ... Your tenderness to me in not confounding me face to face is so amiable that (were there no other inducements) it would always serve to animate me in the ways of virtue. On Thursday next the wretch will be upon her trial (I should tell your Lordship I am subpoenaed which I am not sorry for) and will I dare say meet with her just reward.
The defence was that the blow had been the result of ‘a sudden heat of passion’ occasioned by an opera ticket given by Finch to her blind sister, which she resented as an attempt to seduce her sister. Found guilty of assaulting and wounding, without intent to kill, she was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment, to pay a fine of £100, and thereafter to give surety for two years good behaviour.1 She died in Newgate 11 Feb. 1724, before her sentence had been completed.2 For the rest of John Finch’s life he was known as ‘him who was stabbed by Sally Salisbury’.3
A month after the trial John Finch stood unsuccessfully for Maidstone on the interest of his cousin, the 2nd Lord Aylesford. Next year he was returned for Higham Ferrers by his brother-in-law, Thomas Watson Wentworth. Shortly after his return his elder brother, Lord Finch, wrote to Lord Nottingham:
My fears for him arise from ... his inadvisable modesty and bashfulness, which prevent his putting himself forward in the world and perhaps will continue to do it, and is the natural result of his education and his retired studious life, and it was for that very reason I spent my money at Maidstone and am glad he is chose at Higham that by bringing him into a higher form of acquaintance he by seeing more of the world, may know how to live in it before it is too late. For at present his happiness consists in the acquaintance of only two or three that have been bred up with him, nor can I get him even in the idle hours (if I may be allowed without an offence to say that the hardest student of law may have some) to see even those friends that might be of use to him.4
In Parliament he followed Lord Finch, seconding the Address in 1729 and accompanying him into opposition in 1730. After Walpole’s fall, with the rest of his brothers, he supported the Government and was classed in 1746 as one of Granville’s followers. In 1747 his elder brother, now Lord Winchilsea, intended to put him up again for Rutland, for which he had been returned in 1741, but desisted on finding that there was no prospect of success.5 He never stood again. He died 12 Feb. 1763, leaving a natural daughter, whose presentation at court in 1747 led to lively dissensions in the family.6
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: Romney R. Sedgwick
- 1. Her real name was Pridden but on being told that she looked like Lady Salisbury, she took that name. Ld. Finch to Ld. Nottingham, 22 Mar., 25 and 30 Apr. 1723, John Finch to Ld. Nottingham, 9 and 22 Mar., 21 Apr. 1723, Finch mss at HMC.
- 2. J. Caulfield, Portraits of Remarkable Persons, ii. 151-4.
- 3. Walpole to Mann, 10 Apr. 1747.
- 4. 4 Feb. 1724, Finch mss.
- 5. HMC Rutland, ii. 200.
- 6. Walpole to Mann, 10 Apr. 1747.