In the poems, "Impromptu to Lady Winchilsea" and "Epsitel 2 -To a Lady,"  how does Pope view women?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It is important to understand the satirical nature of these two poems and the way in which Pope deliberately seeks to present a picture of women that will cause offence and challenge those around him. This was of course his delight as a writer who could be considered as the 18th century equivalent of a famous stand up comic. He wrote to get a response, and the more outrageous that response, the better.

For example, if we have a look at "Impromptu to Lady Winchilsea," this poem was actually penned as a response to criticism that Pope received based on his description of female writers in his classic poem, "The Rape of the Lock." Lady Winchilsea, a female author herself, took great offence at his depiction of women writers as "Parent of Vapours." Pope wrote this poem as a response to this criticism, and his sarcastic reference to female writers, whom he suggests it is impossible to praise, is made clear through the final last four stanzas. Basically, he argues that it is impossible for female writers to be identified as good because it is such a vain struggle as the quality is so bad, as "Fate doom'd the Fall of every Female Wit." Note the following lines:

To write their Praise you but in vain essay;
Ev'n while you write, you take that Praise away:   
Light to the Stars the Sun does thus restore,
But shines himself till they are seen no more.

 

Trying to give praise to female writers, in Poe's opinion, is like trying to give light to the stars, which will only end up making the sun brighter and ensuring the disappearance of the stars. Poe therefore has a very low view of women and what they have to offer in terms of their skill and intellect. 

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