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Of The Characters of Women: An Epistle to a Lady.

Gallery of 20 pages.


Of The Characters of Women: An Epistle to a Lady.


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The full title reads as follows:

"Of the Characters of Women: An Epistle to a Lady. / By Mr. Pope. / London: / Printed by J. Wright, for Lawton Gilliver at Homer’s Head against St. Dunstan’s Church in Fleetstreet, MDCCXXXV / (Price One Shilling)."

Issue Points

The first edition.

This is the variant with 'Fleetstreet' spelled correctly in the title.

Historical Importance

Written in praise of Martha Blount, this has often (and particularly in recent decades) been considered amongst Pope's most ambivalent works. As Susan Drodge writes in 'The Sexual Politics of the Eye: Women in Pope's Poetry' (Lumen; vol. 13; 1994):

More précis information…

“The virtues of Martha Blount which Pope praises in this Epistle correspond to those passive female ideals promoted by conduct books: she 'Charms by accepting, by submitting sways,/Yet has her humour most, when she obeys' (11. 263-64). This paragon of virtue is, despite the poet's commendation, without true character and essentially sexless. Little delight is evidenced in the poet's rather dispassionate and aloof accolade. Judging by his poetic tone, he is far more captivated and charmed by the sexual women he depicts, such as Eloisa and the alluring coquettes of Epistle to a Lady. There is certainly admiration and respect in Pope's poetic treatment of the passionate, yet unfortunate lady of his earlier Elegy. His ambiguous stance on female sexuality is reflected in his respectful handling of both the passion of the unfortunate lady and the antithetical lack of intensity of Martha Blount.”

Economic History

Sold originally for one shilling in 1735.

Early Modern18th centuryLiteraturePoetryEnglish LiteratureEnglish PoetryHanoverianAugustanEthic EpistlesWomenSubjection of WomenMartha BlountFirst Editions

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