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Lady Mary Wortley Montagu replies in kind

March 1733

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Verses Address’d to the Imitator of the First

Satire of the Second Book of Horace. By a Lady (1733). Pope’s couplet on

Sappho (ll. 83–4)—

From furious Sappho scarce a milder fate,

P——x’d by her love, or libell’d by her hate.

—was aimed at Lady Mary, with whom Pope had earlier been on intimate

terms (see No. 31). By 1728 relations between them were at an end, and Pope

(mistakenly) considered that she had a hand in one or two attacks upon him.

When Lady Mary persuaded the Earl of Peterborough to ask Pope if she was

indeed intended by Sappho, Pope’s reply was to claim that the couplet was

general satire, and referred with greater aptness to women writers like Mrs

Centlivre, Mrs Haywood, Mrs Manley or Aphra Behn. Undeterred, Lady Mary

wrote the Verses, with the help of Lord Hervey, and promptly published them.

The cuts at Pope are bitter and angry, but they are also shrewd. The poem is

perhaps the best written of the many vicious attacks upon Pope’s personality and

physique. It was published 9 March 1733. There was a reissue, a piracy, and at

least two further editions in 1733.

IN two large Columns, on thy motly Page,

Where Roman Wit is striped with English Rage;

Where Ribaldry to Satire makes pretence,

And modern Scandal rolls with ancient Sense:

Whilst on one side we see how Horace thought;

And on the other, how he never wrote:

Who can believe, who views the bad and good,

That the dull Cop[y]ist better understood

That Spirit, he pretends to imitate,

Than heretofore that Greek he did translate?

Thine is just such an Image of his Pen,

As thou thy self art of the Sons of Men:


Where our own Species in Burlesque we trace,

A Sign-post Likeness of the noble Race;

That is at once Resemblance and Disgrace.

Horace can laugh, is delicate, is clear;

You, only coarsely rail, or darkly sneer:

His Style is elegant, his Diction pure,

Whilst none thy crabbed Numbers can endure;

Hard as thy Heart, and as thy Birth obscure.

If He has Thorns, they all on Roses grow;

Thine like rude Thistles, and mean Brambles show;

With this Exception, that tho’ rank the Soil,

Weeds, as they are, they seem produc’d by Toil.

Satire shou’d, like a polish’d Razor keen,

Wound with a Touch, that’s scarcely felt or seen.

Thine is an Oyster-Knife, that hacks and hews;

The Rage, but not the Talent of Abuse;

And is in Hate, what Love is in the Stews.

’Tis the gross Lust of Hate, that still annoys,

Without Distinction, as gross Love enjoys:

Neither to Folly, nor to Vice confin’d;

The Object of thy Spleen is Human Kind:

It preys on all, who yield, or who resist;

To Thee ’tis Provocation to exist.

But if thou see’st a great and gcn’rous Heart,1

Thy Bow is doubly bent to force a Dart.

Nor only Justice vainly we demand,

But even Benefits can’t rein thy Hand:

To this or that alike in vain we trust,

Nor find Thee less Ungrateful than Unjust.

Not even Youth and Beauty can controul

The universal Rancour of thy Soul;

Charms that might soften Superstition’s Rage,

Might humble Pride, or thaw the Ice of Age——

But how should’st thou by Beauty’s Force be mov’d,

No more for loving made, than to be lov’d?

It was the Equity of right’ous Heav’n,

That such a Soul to such a Form was giv’n;

And shews the Uniformity of Fate,

That one so odious, should be born to hate.


See TASTE, an Epistle [i.e. Epistle to Burlington].

282 POPE

When God created Thee, one would believe,

He’d said the same, as to the Snake of Eve;

To Human Race Antipathy declare,

’Twixt them and thee be everlasting War.

But, Oh! the Sequel of the Sentence dread,

And whilst you bruise their Heel, beware your Head.

Nor think thy Weakness shall be thy Defence;

The Female-Scold’s Protection in Offence.

Sure ’tis as fair to beat who cannot fight,

As ’tis to libel those who cannot write.

And if thou drawst thy Pen to aid the Law,

Others a Cudgel, or a Rod, may draw.

If none with Vengeance yet thy Crimes pursue,

Or give thy manifold Affronts their due;

If Limbs unbroken, Skin without a Stain,

Unwhipt, unblanketed, unkick’d, unslain;

That wretched little Carcase you retain:

The Reason is, not, that the World wants Eyes;

But thou’rt so mean, they see, and they despise.

When fretful Porcupines, with rancorous Will,

From mounted Backs shoot forth a harmless Quill,

Cool the Spectators stand; and all the while,

Upon the angry little Monster smile:

Thus ’tis with thee:—whilst impotently safe,

You strike unwounding, we unhurt can laugh.

Who but must laugh, this Bully when he sees,

A little Insect shiv’ring at a Breeze.1

One over-match’d by ev’ry Blast of Wind,

Insulting and provoking all Mankind.

Is this the Thing to keep Mankind in awe,

To make those tremble who escape the Law?1

Is this the Ridicule to live so long,

The deathless Satire, and immortal Song?

No; like thy self-blown Praise, thy Scandal flies,

And, as we’re told of Wasps, it stings and dies.

If none then yet return th’intended Blow;

You all your Safety, to you Dulness owe:

But whilst that Armour thy poor Corps defends,

‘Twill make thy Readers few, as are thy Friends;


[An adaptation of the Epistle to Burlington, ll. 107–8


Those, who thy Nature loath’d, yet lov’d thy Art,

Who lik’d thy Head, and yet abhor’d thy Heart;

Chose thee, to read, but never to converse,

And scorn’d in Prose, him whom they priz’d in Verse.

Even they shall now their partial Error see,

Shall shun thy Writing like thy Company;

And to thy Books shall ope their Eyes no more,

Than to thy Person they wou’d do their Door.

Nor thou the Justice of the World disown,

That leaves Thee thus an Out-cast, and alone;

For tho’ in Law, to murder be to kill,

In Equity the Murder’s in the Will:

Then whilst with Coward Hand you stab a Name,

And try at least t’assassinate our Fame;

Like the first bold Assassin’s be thy Lot,

Ne’er be thy Guilt forgiven, or forgot;

But as thou hate’st, be hated by Mankind,

And with the Emblem of thy crooked Mind,

Mark’d on thy Back, like Cain, by God’s own Hand;

Wander like him, accursed through the Land.


[An adaptation of Imitations of Horace, Sat. II. i. 79]


Satire as Pope’s vice

March 1733

Anonymous, extract from An Epistle to the Little Satyrist of

Twickenham (1733), pp. 5–10. This letter of advice to Pope, which was

published 30 March 1733, takes the common position that the move

to satire betrayed Pope’s early genius.

You were your Country’s Pride and Pleasure born,

Excell’d when e’en your Life was in its Morn,

And young the Gift of Numbers was to you,

Which still encreas’d with Age and as you grew,

’Till to Perfection you at last arriv’d,

Which none have e’er excell’d that ever liv’d;

But let me ask with what you are endu’d?

A Pow’r, that as you use it’s bad or good;

Because for Poetry your Taste is nice,

D’ye think that you are free from ev’ry Vice?

There’s nothing moves a Man’s Compassion more,

Than Man reduc’d who had been Great before;

For you I feel that gen’rous Passion mov’d,

So hated now, who once was so belov’d.

Who’ere unprejudic’d Opinion gives,

Will own, you are excell’d by none that lives.

Whence shou’d this universal Scorn abound,

But from the Scandal that you scatter round?

By Name uninjur’d to detract in Satire,

I own gives shrewd Suspicion of ill Nature.

There’s few at Home, if candidly they’d look,

But wou’d find something worthy of Rebuke.

Satire your Weapon;1 if you will attack,

Be careful that the Scandal don’t fly back;

For, as the Boy that shoots the hast’ning Ball,


Thoughtless, against th’ impenetrable Wall,

In painful Anguish the Rebound may rue;

In tainting Reputations, so may you.

You wear it only in a Land of Hectors,

Thieves, Super-Cargoes, Sharpers, and Directors:1

Then how cou’d Timon tingle in your Rhyme,

Who no one ever charg’d with any Crime;

Your Benefactor too, who all Men know

Is Virtue’s strictest Friend, and Vice’s Foe;

A Pattern to the Great, to all a Friend,

Who all Men love, and All, but You, commend.

A kind Compassion prompts me to conclude,

That Timon’s Study you had never view’d;2

Not LOCK, nor MILTON, nor a modern Book,

Has Truth your Tongue, or Sight your Eyes forsook?

And English’d Homer there you might have found,

Not b’ Aldus printed, nor du Suëil bound,

Which cost, a I have heard, Five Hundred Pound.

What can the Motive be that eggs you on?

If Pride, won’t Panegyrick fill a Song;

But Pride’s a Passion of so ill Effect,

That Virtue ne’er can see but will correct.

If ’tis in Search of Happiness you’r bent,

Why don’t you seek it in a calm Content;

’Tis there, and only there it will be found,

Altho’ you search the Universe around:

But as the Sun’s obscur’d by gloomy Clouds,

So Passions hide it from the tainted Crowds.

Ambition hurries Kings in Arms to roam,

Whilst Reason whispers, they’ve enough at Home.

The Miser’s rich, and yet, for want of more,

He starves, ’cause he himself imagines poor.

The Mind that’s ting’d with Envy, soon or late,

Is tempted to detract the Good and Great:

And he, where Malice guides the yielding Mind,

Wou’d ruin and undo all human Kind.

Malice and Hatred are of one Degree,


[Imitations of Horace, Sat. II. i. 69]


[Imitations of Horace, Sat. II. i. 79]

See, The Taste [i.e., Epistle to Burlington, ll. 99ff.]


286 POPE

And join to terminate Society.

The angry Man’s unguarded in his Deeds,

And, causeless, often wounds his Friend, or bleeds.

Malice and Anger do Revenge compose,

And blindly wou’d destroy both Friends and Foes.

To these add Pride, for she too needs must fall,

That haughty Dame’s the Mother of ‘em all.

Upon these Passions I have more enlarg’d,

Because with these you are so loudly charg’d;

Wou’d I cou’d vouch you absolutely free;

But Virtue raises few to that Degree.

On th’ imitated Satire ’twill suffice,

To send you my Opinion and Advice.

Abstract the Vice from Virtue it contains,

And judge ye by the Virtue that remains.

First, let Ambition be th’ impartial Theme,

What Share that Vice may in the Satire claim;

The Virtuous are what others wou’d be thought,

What few Men are, but all Men know they ought.

To Virtue only, and her Friends, a Friend;1

But him so bless’d, to hear, it wou’d offend.

For when that Virtue is indeed possess’d,

It is in Silence, and the Owner’s bless’d.

If thou’rt ambitious to be thought a Poet,

Write Panegyrick, and the World will know it.

The next, in Turn, will Avarice remain;

And ’t has been urg’d, you write for odious Gain,

And know that nothing but the rankest Satire

Will sell, the Town’s so poison’d with ill Nature.

From this sad Crime, pray Heav’n you may be free,

For what’s so vile as Scandal for a Fee?

The envious Man can Virtue ne’er behold,

But with Distaste and Spleen that cannot hold:

Old Ỉsop tells us of a Toad that swell’d,

And burst with Envy, ‘cause he was excell’d;

So you, th’ impartial World contemptuous cry,

At your Superiours swell, and burst, and die.

Malicious you’re accounted, ’cause a Rage,

They say, appears unjust in ev’ry Page;


[Imitations of Horace, Sat. II. i. 121]


Tho’ some first prove the Subject of your Spite,

The World conceives you hate ‘em all alike.

To Anger prone you’ve own’d yourself before;

But touch me, and no Minister so sore:1

’Tis natural, the Proverb does evince,

The Horse that’s gaul’d when touch’d will surely wince.

Be always careful that your Anger be

From Pride, from Malice, and Ill-Nature free;

From them Men fancy was the Dunciad born,

A Mixture of Ill-Nature, Spleen, and Scorn.

From whence shou’d all these Passions flow but Pride?

And that I must accuse you of and chide.

You say, impartially your Muse intends

Fair to expose yourself, your Foes, and Friends.2

And Leaf by Leaf your Writings I have turn’d

To find the Page wherein your Faults are mourn’d

Still self-blown Praise presents itself to View,

As if Vice heard ye, trembled, and withdrew.

‘With Eyes that pry not, Tongue that ne’er repeats,

Fond to spread Friendships, but to cover Heats,

To help who wants, to forward who excell,

This all who know me, know, who love me, tell.’3

Thus vainly your Opinion you belye,

Lay Claim to Virtue, and your Vice deny.

For he that’s good shou’d start at ev’ry Wind,

Of Vice be conscious, to his Virtue blind;

Not think that all the Din the World can keep

Rolls o’er his Grotto and but sooths his Sleep:1

For he so lost will live, in endless Fame,

An everlasting Monument of Shame;

For if such horrid Spots as these appear,

How does it prove the Medium must be clear?2


[Imitations of Horace, Sat. II. i. 76]

[Imitations of Horace, Sat. II. i. 57–8]

3 [Ibid., ll. 135–8]




[Ibid., ll. 123–4]

[Ibid., 1. 56]


20 February 1733–24 January 1734


Pope describes the poem’s reception


Pope, extract from letter to John Caryll, 8 March 1733, Corresp., iii.


Since An Essay on Man was published anonymously, Pope was

able to write to Caryll keeping up the pretence.

The town is now very full of a new poem intitled an Essay on Man, attributed, I

think with reason, to a divine. It has merit in my opinion but not so much as they

give it; at least it is incorrect and has some inaccuracies in the expressions; one

or two of an unhappy kind, for they may cause the author’s sense to be turned,

contrary to what I think his intention a little unorthodoxically. Nothing is so plain

as that he quits his proper subject, this present world, to insert his belief of a

future state and yet there is an If instead of a Since that would overthrow his

meaning and at the end he uses the Words God, the Soul of the World, which at

first glance may be taken for heathenism, while his whole paragraph proves him

quite Christian in his system, from Man up to Seraphim. I want to know your

opinion of it after twice or thrice reading. I give you my thoughts very candidly

of it, tho’ I find there is a sort of faction to set up the author and his piece in

opposition to me and my little things, which I confess are not of so much

importance as to the subject, but I hope they conduce to morality in their way,

which way is at least more generally to be understood and the seasoning of satire

renders it more palatable to the generality.


Initial reactions


(a) Leonard Welsted, extract from a letter to Pope printed among the

‘Testimonies of Authors’ prefixed to The Dunciad (1743), Corresp., iii. 355–6.

Pope commented, ‘Mr. LEONARD WELSTED thus wrote to the unknown

author, on the first publication of the said Essay [on Man].’ Welsted’s letter dates

from 12 March 1733. His praise would have been tempered had he known the

author (see Nos 4, 75).

I must own, after the reception which the vilest and most immoral ribaldry

hath lately met with, I was surprised to see what I had long despaired, a

performance deserving the name of a poet. Such, Sir, is your work. It is, indeed,

above all commendation, and ought to have been published in an age and country

more worthy of it. If my testi-mony be of weight any where, you are sure to have

it in the amplest manner, &c. &c. &c.

(b) Dr Alured Clarke, extract from a letter to Mrs Charlotte Clayton (later

Lady Sundon), 10 April 1733, Memoirs of Viscountess Sundon, ed. Mrs

Thomson (1847), ii. 195. Pope was later to satirize Clarke; see Epilogue to the

Satires, ii. 194, and Spence, Anecdotes, i. 148.

…I fancied for some time after I had read [the first epistle of An Essay on

Man], that the poet had enabled me to be a perfect hero in affliction, if it had

come soon in my way to be put to the trial. I hope the author (when he is known)

will be found to be a very good man, or else his scholars—that is, his readers—must

be very much mortified. I think, upon the whole, it is the most extraordinary

performance I have met with; and if the man and his work are of a piece, I wish

he may meet with as good a friend as Vespasian, the Roman Emperor, was said

to be, who, though otherwise very penurious, gave annual pensions of 800l. per

annum to good orators and poets, and not above half as much to a ragged lord. I

have seen the Second Essay, which in many places is too hard to be understood;

and taken altogether, is, I think, not comparable to the first, though it has many

beauties. But I did not intend to say a word of books, and do not know how I got

into the feast.

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