Select poems by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

The Reasons that Induced Dr S to write a Poem call'd the Lady's Dressing room
Epistle from Mrs. Yonge to Her Husband
The Reasons that Induced Dr S to write a Poem call'd the Lady's Dressing room
The Doctor in a clean starch'd band,
His Golden Snuff box in his hand,
With care his Di'mond Ring displays
And Artfull shews its various Rays,
While Grave he stalks down -- -- Street 5
His dearest Betty -- to meet.
Long had he waited for this Hour,
Nor gain'd Admittance to the Bower,
Had jok'd and punn'd, and swore and writ,
Try'd all his Galantry and Wit, 10
Had told her oft what part he bore
In Oxford's Schemes in days of yore,
But Bawdy, Politicks nor Satyr
Could move this dull hard hearted Creature.
Jenny her Maid could taste a Rhyme 15
And greiv'd to see him lose his Time,
Had kindly whisper'd in his Ear,
For twice two pound you enter here,
My lady vows without that Summ
It is in vain you write or come. 20
The Destin'd Offering now he brought
And in a paradise of thought
With a low Bow approach'd the Dame
Who smileing heard him preach his Flame.
His Gold she takes (such proofes as these 25
Convince most unbeleiving shees)
And in her trunk rose up to lock it
(Too wise to trust it in her pocket)
And then return'd with Blushing Grace
Expects the Doctor's warm Embrace. 30
But now this is the proper place
Where morals Stare me in the Face
And for the sake of fine Expression
I'm forc'd to make a small digression.
Alas for wretched Humankind, 35
With Learning Mad, with wisdom blink!
The Ox thinks he's for Saddle fit
(As long ago Freind Horace writ)
And Men their Talents still mistakeing,
The stutterer fancys his is speaking. 40
With Admiration oft we see
Hard Features heighten'd by Toupée,
The Beau affects the Politician,
Wit is the citizen's Ambition,
Poor Pope Philosophy displays on 45
With so much Rhime and little reason,
And thô he argues ne'er so long
That, all is right, his Head is wrong.
None strive to know their proper merit
But strain for Wisdom, Beauty, Spirit, 50
And lose the Praise that is their due
While they've th'impossible in view.
So have I seen the Injudicious Heir
To add one Window the whole House impair.
Instinct the Hound does better teach 55
Who never undertook to preach,
The frighted Hare from Dogs does run
But not attempts to bear a Gun.
Here many Noble thoughts occur
But I prolixity abhor, 60
And will persue th'instructive Tale
To shew the Wise in some things fail.
The Reverend Lover with surprize
Peeps in her Bubbys, and her Eyes,
And kisses both, and trys--and trys. 65
The Evening in this Hellish Play,
Beside his Guineas thrown away,
Provok'd the Preist to that degree
he swore, the Fault is not in me.
Your damn'd Close stool so near my Nose, 70
Your Dirty Smock, and Stinking Toes
Would make a Hercules as tame
As any Beau that you can name.
The nymph grown Furious roar'd by God
The blame lyes all in Sixty odd 75
And scornfull pointing to the door
Cry'd, Fumbler see my Face no more.
With all my Heart I'll go away
But nothing done, I'll nothing pay.
Give back the Money--How, cry'd she, 80
[I lock'd it in the Trunk stands there
And break it open if you dare.]
Would you palm such a cheat on me!
For poor 4 pound to roar and bellow,
Why sure you want some new Prunella? 85
[What if your Verses have not sold,
Must therefore I return your Gold?
Perhaps your have no better Luck in
The Knack of Rhyming than of --
I won't give back one single Crown, 90
To wash your Band, or turn your Gown.]
I'll be reveng'd you saucy Quean
(Replys the disapointed Dean)
I'll so describe your dressing room
The very Irish shall not come. 95
She answer'd short, I'm glad you'l write,
You'l furnish paper when I shite.



Epistle from Mrs. Yonge to Her Husband

Think not this paper comes with vain pretense
To move your pity, or to mourn th'offense.
Too well I know that hard obdurate heart;
No softening mercy there will take my part,
Nor can a woman's arguments prevail,
When even your patron's wise example fails.
But this last privilege I still retain;
Th'oppressed and injured always may complain.
Too, too severely laws of honor bind
The weak submissive sex of womankind. 10
If sighs have gained or force compelled our hand,
Deceived by art, or urged by stern command,
Whatever motive binds the fatal tie,
The judging world expects our constancy.
Just heaven! (for sure in heaven does justice reign,
Though tricks below that sacred name profane)
To you appealing I submit my cause,
Nor fear a judgment from impartial laws.
All bargains but conditional are made;
The purchase void, the creditor unpaid; 20
Defrauded servants are from service free;
A wounded slave regains his liberty.
For wives ill used no remedy remains,
To daily racks condemned, and to eternal chains.
From whence is this unjust distinction grown?
Are we not formed with passions like your own?
Nature with equal fire our souls endued,
Our minds as haughty, and as warm our blood;
O'er the wide world your pleasures you pursue,
The change is justified by something new; 30
But we must sigh in silence -- and be true.
Our sex's weakness you expose and blame
(Of every prattling fop the common theme).
Yet from this weakness you suppose is due
Sublimer virtue than your Cato knew.
Had heaven designed us trials so severe,
It would have formed our tempers then to bear.
And I have borne (oh what have I not borne!)
The pang of jealousy, the insults of scorn.
Wearied at length, I from your sight remove, 40
And place my future hopes in secret love.
In the gay bloom of glowing youth retired,
I quit the woman's joy to be admired,
With that small pension your hard heart allows,
Renounce your fortune, and release your vows.
To custom (though unjust) so much is due;
I hide my frailty from the public view.
My conscience clear, yet sensible of shame,
My life I hazard, to preserve my fame.
And I prefer this low inglorious state 50
To vile dependence on the thing I hate --
But you pursue me to this last retreat.
Dragged into light, my tender crime is shown
And every circumstance of fondness known.
Beneath the shelter of the law you stand,
And urge my ruin with a cruel hand,
While to my fault thus rigidly severe,
Tamely submissive to the man you fear.
This wretched outcast, this abandoned wife,
Has yet this joy to sweeten shameful life: 60
By your mean conduct, infamously loose,
You are at once my accuser and excuse.
Let me be damned by the censorious prude
(stupidly dull, or spiritually lewd),
My hapless case will surely pity find
From every just and reasonable mind.
When to the final sentence I submit,
The lips condemn me, but their souls acquit.
No more my husband, to your pleasures go,
The sweets of your recovered freedom know. 70
Go: court the brittle friendship of the great,
Smile at his board, or at his levee wait;
And when dismissed, to madam's toilet fly,
More than her chambermaids, or glasses, lie,
Tell her how young she looks, how heavenly fair,
Admire the lilies and the roses there.
Your high ambition may be gratified,
Some cousin of her own be made your bride,
And you the father of a glorious race
Endowed with Ch------l's strength and Low---r's face. 80

1724


From the Norton Anthology of Poetry, 4th ed. Ed. Margaret Ferguson, Mary Jo Salter, and Jon Stallworthy (New York and London: W.W. Norton and Company, 1996), pp. 580-581.