Published online by Cambridge University Press: 31 March 2022
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s bold attack on Pope’s satire in “Verses Addressed to the Imitator of the First Satire of the Second Book of Horace” (1733) positions her in a place of literary and cultural authority. Montagu critiques Pope’s satire – “an Oyster-Knife, that hacks and hews” – on the grounds that his indiscriminate personal attacks violate the benevolent spirit of Horatian satire and fail to produce sufficient moral effects. Satire should aim judiciously at targets, she explains, and the satirist must always wield the pen with precision and self-restraint. Like a surgeon’s knife, satire will cut and wound, but it is ultimately meant to heal and should never be used to bludgeon literary, political, or personal opponents.