- Purchase/rental options available:
A sometime friend, sometime adversary of Alexander Pope, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu largely resisted publication, sharing her work privately and denying authorship of some of her poems that made their way into print. Nevertheless, today she is considered a prominent literary figure of the first half of the century. Tracing Lady Mary’s publication in miscellanies over the course of the eighteenth century offers the opportunity to compare a poet’s current reputation with her reputation among her peers. This article follows the miscellany publication of some of Lady Mary’s poems, focusing on poems that were misattributed to her. Lady Mary stands as an example of an author who was vigorously engaged with defending and promoting her literary reputation, sometimes manipulating the manuscript/print gap for her own ends, but sometimes falling victim to unscrupulous or ignorant editors. Thirty-three of Lady Mary’s poems appear in the Digital Miscellanies Index (DMI), and she is a dedicatee of four miscellanies. Three further poems are misattributed to her, according to the DMI, and it is those poems that offer interesting insights into her public reputation and her reasons for avoiding print. For a poet who avoided print so assiduously, every erroneous attribution is significant; these poems offer a picture of who she was to her contemporaries, and reveal the risks that appearing in print represented to women.