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[The lady to whom this Epistle is addressed, was the poet's cherished friend, Martha Blount, who had then arrived at the sober age of forty-five. Her poet was two years older. Prefixed to the first edition of the poem in 1735 was the following


"The author being very sensible how particular a tenderness is due to the female sex, and, at the same time, how little they show to each other, declares, upon his honour, that no one character is drawn from the life in this Epistle. It would otherwise be most improperly inscribed to a lady who, of all the women he knows, is the last that would be entertained at the expense of another."

The Epistle was rather coldly received by the public-probably because the author had thus disclaimed all personal allusions. Parts of it had also been published before in the Miscellanies by Pope and Swift, a circumstance which his censors of the Dunciad did not fail to notice. The author of A Letter to Mr. Pope, &c., 1735, asks, "How dare you impose upon the public at this rate? 'Tis sly, if not dishonest; 'tis a sign of an avaricious temper, and shows want of invention. You have sold them already three or four times." In another edition, published the same year, Pope inserted a note calculated to pique the curiosity of his readers, in which it was stated, that the want of connexion in the piece was caused by "the omission of certain examples and illustrations of the maxims laid down, which may put the reader in mind of what the author has said in his Imitation of Horace :

"Publish the present age; but, where the text

Is vice too high, reserve it for the next!'"

Accordingly the characters of Philomedé, Atossa, and Chloe, were addedthough not published till after Pope's death-in the edition which, with the assistance of Warburton, he had prepared for the press. The Epistle was thus extended from 200 to 292 lines, the additions forming the most striking and brilliant passages in the poem.]

NOTHING so true as what you once let fall:

"Most women have no characters at all."

Matter too soft a lasting mark to bear,

And best distinguish'd by black, brown, or fair. '
How many pictures of one nymph we view,
All how unlike each other, all how true
Arcadia's Countess, here, in ermin'd pride,
Is there, Pastora by a fountain side.
Here Fannia, leering on her own good man,
And there, a naked Leda with a swan.
Let then the fair one beautifully cry
In Magdalen's loose hair and lifted eye,



Or dress'd in smiles of sweet Cecilia shine,

With simpering angels, palms, and harps divine;1
Whether the charmer sinner it, or saint it,
If folly grow romantic, I must paint it.


Come, then, the colours and the ground prepare!
Dip in the rainbow, trick her off in air;2
Choose a firm cloud, before it fall, and in it

Catch, ere she change, the Cynthia of this minute.
Rufa, whose eye quick glancing o'er the park,3
Attracts each light gay meteor of a spark,
Agrees as ill with Rufa studying Locke,
As Sappho's diamonds with her dirty smock;
Or Sappho at her toilet's greasy task,

With Sappho fragrant at an evening mask:1 4

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1 Attitudes in which several ladies affected to be drawn, and sometimes one lady in them all. The poet's politeness and complaisance to the sex is observable in this instance, amongst others, that whereas in the characters of men he has sometimes made use of real names, in the characters of women, always fictitious.

2 [This passage may have been suggested or heightened by recollection of the following lines-pointed out by Wakefield-in Cowley's Davideis:

"This he with starry vapours spangles all,

Took in their prime, ere they grow ripe and fall:

Of a new rainbow ere it fret or fade,

The choicest part took out, the scarf is made."]

3 Instances of contrarieties, given even from such characters as are most strongly marked, and seemingly therefore most consistent: as, I., in the affected, ver. 21, &c.

4 [In the first edition :

"As Flavia's diamonds with her dirty smock;

Or Flavia's self in glue (her rising task)

And issuing flagrant to an evening mask."

The word flagrant, though it occurs in all the early editions, must be a mis

So morning insects, that in muck begun,
Shine, buzz, and fly-blow in the setting sun.
How soft is Silia! fearful to offend;5

The frail one's advocate, the weak one's friend.
To her, Calista proved her conduct nice;
And good Simplicius asks of her advice.

Sudden, she storms! she raves! You tip the wink,
But spare your censure-Silia does not drink.
All eyes may see from what the change arose,
All eyes may see-a pimple on her nose.

Papillia, wedded to her amorous spark,

Sighs for the shades-"How charming is a park!”
A park is purchased, but the fair he sees

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All bathed in tears-"Oh odious, odious trees!"
Ladies, like variegated tulips, show,


'Tis to their changes half their charms we owe;
Fine by defect, and delicately weak,
Their happy spots the nice admirer take.
'Twas thus Calypso once each heart alarm'd,6
Awed without virtue, without beauty charm'd;
Her tongue bewitch'd as oddly as her eyes,
Less wit than mimic, more a wit than wise;
Strange graces still, and stranger flights she had,
Was just not ugly, and was just not mad;
Yet ne'er so sure our passion to create,



As when she touch'd the brink of all we hate.
Narcissa's nature, tolerably mild, 7

To make a wash, would hardly stew a child;
Has e'en been proved to grant a lover's prayer,
And paid a tradesman once, to make him stare;
Gave alms at Easter, in a Christian trim,
And made a widow happy, for a whim.


Why then declare good-nature is her scorn,
When 'tis by that alone she can be borne ?


print for fragrant. The substitution of Sappho for Flavia, is supposed to glance at Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (whose negligence in dress is often coarsely alluded to by Pope and Walpole), but it may have arisen simply from a desire on the part of Pope to avoid the repetition of the name of Flavia, applied to two different characters in the same poem. See verse 87.] 5 Contrarieties in the soft-natured.

6 Contrarieties in the cunning and artful.

7 In the whimsical.

Why pique all mortals, yet affect a name?
A fool to pleasure, yet a slave to fame:
Now deep in Taylor and the Book of Martyrs,
Now drinking citron with his grace and Chartres :
Now conscience chills her, and now passion burns;
And atheism and religion take their turns;
A very heathen in the carnal part,

Yet still a sad, good Christian at her heart.
See Sin in state, majestically drunk;8
Proud as a peeress, prouder as a punk;
Chaste to her husband, frank to all beside,
A teeming mistress, but a barren bride.

What then? let blood and body bear the fault,
Her head's untouch'd, that noble seat of thought:
Such this day's doctrine-in another fit
She sins with poets through pure love of wit.
What has not fired her bosom or her brain?
Cæsar and Tall-boy, Charles and Charlemagne.9
As Helluo, late dictator of the feast,
The nose of haut-goût and the tip of taste,
Critiqued your wine, and analysed your meat,
Yet on plain pudding deign'd at home to eat:
So Philomedé, lecturing all mankind

On the soft passion, and the taste refined,
The address, the delicacy-stoops at once,
And makes her hearty meal upon a dunce.

Flavia's a wit, has too much sense to pray;10
To toast our wants and wishes is her way;
Nor asks of God, but of her stars, to give
The mighty blessing, "while we live, to live.”
Then all for death, that opiate of the soul!
Lucretia's dagger, Rosamonda's bowl.
Say, what can cause such impotence of mind?
A spark too fickle, or a spouse too kind.

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8 In the lewd and vicious.

9 In the MS.:

"In whose mad brain the mix'd ideas roll,

Of Tall-boy's breeches, and of Cæsar's soul."

[Tall-boy was a character in a comedy called The Jovial Crew.] 10 Contrarieties in the witty and refined.

Wise wretch! with pleasures too refined to please;
With too much spirit to be e'er at ease;
With too much quickness ever to be taught;
With too much thinking to have common thought;
You purchase pain with all that joy can give,
And die of nothing, but a rage to live.

Turn then from wits; and look on Simo's mate,

No ass so meek, no ass so obstinate.

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Or her, that owns her faults, but never mends,
Because she's honest, and the best of friends.
Or her, whose life the church and scandal share,
For ever in a passion, or a prayer.


Or her, who laughs at hell, but (like her grace) 11

Cries, "Ah! how charming if there's no such place!"
Or who in sweet vicissitude appears

Of mirth and opium, ratifia and tears,


The daily anodyne, and nightly draught,

To kill those foes to fair ones, time and thought.
Woman and fool are two hard things to hit;
For true no-meaning puzzles more than wit.

But what are these to great Atossa's mind ?12
Scarce once herself, by turns all womankind!
Who, with herself, or others, from her birth
Finds all her life one warfare upon earth:
Shines, in exposing knaves, and painting fools,
Yet is, whate'er she hates and ridicules.
No thought advances, but her eddy brain
Whisks it about, and down it goes again. 13



11 [The Duchess of Montagu, Lady Mary Churchill, youngest daughter of the Duke of Marlborough, is said to have been the person here satirized by Pope.]

12 ["Atossa is a name mentioned in Herodotus, and said to be a follower of Sappho. She was daughter of Cyrus, and sister of Cambyses, and married Darius. She is also named in the Persae of Æschylus. She is said to be the first that wrote epistles. See Bentley on Phalaris, p. 385, and Dodwell against Bentley."-WARTON. Pope's Atossa was Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, and the choice of the name was certainly felicitous; for Sarah was a great friend of the poet's Sappho, Lady Mary-was married to a great man -and was a great writer of epistles.]

13 In the MS. were these lines:


'Oppress'd with wealth, and wit, abundance sad!

One makes her poor, the other makes her mad."

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