Ep. 13. Alexander Pope v. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu: Part II

05.19.2016 - By Inviolable Voices: Stories of Writers and Literature

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This is Part 2 of 2 episodes on one of the greatest literary battles in history. This week, hear all about the showdown between Alexander Pope, the greatest poet of his age, and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, a gifted poet and adventurer. Pope, a man with a genius for friendship, never turned his back on a close friend - except for Lady Mary. The reasons that she ended up being served this singular fate are shrouded in mystery (something that hasn't stopped people from speculating, at times quite wildly), but they spawned a feud that led Pope to accuse Lady Mary of being a carrier of venereal disease and an all-around loose woman, in very public poems, and that led Lady Mary to respond with poems that accused the hunchbacked Pope of having been cursed by a just God with an appearance that matched his personality. Through this feud, each author fell victim to the spirit of an age so conflicted that bickering became second nature. This episode also covers these conflicts, between persecuted English Catholic and fearful English Protestant, and between the two political parties in England, one of which (Lady Mary's) consolidated power during the first decades of the eighteenth century, and one of which (Pope's) lost it almost entirely. Pope and Lady Mary were both caught up in these problems, in ways that caused each a lot of heartbreak and sorrow.

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