Montagu: Surrogately Meant
LIKE BEHN, LADY MARY WORTLEY MONTAGU IS A FINE AND UNDERrated poet. In her own right. That is, she is often studied in conjunction with her nemeses, Swift and Pope. And indeed, her “The Reasons that Induc’d Dr S to write a Poem call’d the Ladey’s Dressing room” (written between 1732 and 1734) and “Verses Address’d to the Imitator of… Horace” (1733) are excellent, witty rejoinders. Like Finch, she is best when she deploys the baroque wit of ventriloquizing, damning her subjects out of their own mouths. Here is Swift in dialogue with, not a lady in whose dressing room he wanders alone and curious, but Betty, milady’s lady-in-waiting, into whose dressing room he has bribed admittance for sexual favors. The dean has failed to perform:
He swore, the Fault is not [in] me.
Your damn’d Close stool so near my Nose,
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
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,
Would you palm such a cheat on me!
For poor 4 pound to roar and bellow,
Why sure you want some new Prunella.
Part of the baroque wit here is that Montagu1 turns Swift’s poetic metier of Hudibrastics, often with brilliant interlocution, upon