Pope's Poems and Prose

Of the Characteristics of Pope

In Pope's "Epistle: To a Lady of the Characteristics of Women", he condemns the "wise wretch" of a woman who is not only too wise, but has "too much spirit", "too much quickness" and does "too much thinking". He bitterly exposes what "Nature conceals" (Pope ln 190) in women by purposefully selecting "the exactest traits of body or of mind" (Pope ln 191) and finding faults in such specimens as Narcissa, Flavia, Atossa, and Chloe only to make apparent the high standards that his own model of perfection, the lady for whom he is writing the epistle, achieves. And yet even the Lady's reputation is falsely inflated, for it is only after listening to his tirade on women that she is honored by Pope. The Lady claims "women have no characters at all" (Pope ln 2) in attempts of consoling him for being the "nothing so true" that a woman has "once let fall" (Pope ln 1). She convinces him that the rejection he has faced is unworthy of the dejection he experiences, observable through his bitter, angry tone throughout the poem. His rejection is a "matter too soft a lasting mark to bear" (Pope ln 3) and yet in the first fifteen...

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