Vienna Mores

I am extremely rejoiced, but not at all surprised, at the long, delightful letter, you have had the goodness to send me. I know that you can think of an absent friend even in the midst of a court, and you love to oblige, where you can have no view of a return; and I expect from you that you should love me, and think of me, when you don’t see me. I have compassion for the mortifications that you tell me befel our little old friend, and I pity her much more, since I know, that they are only owing to the barbarous customs of our country. Upon my word, if she were here, she would have no other fault but that of being something too young for the fashion, and she has nothing to do but to transplant herself hither about seven years hence, to be again a young and blooming beauty. I can assure you, that wrinkles, or a small stoop in the shoulders, nay, even gray-hairs, are no objection to the making new conquests. I know you cannot easily figure to yourself, a young fellow of five and twenty, ogling my lady S—ff—k with passion, or pressing to hand the countess of O——d from an opera. But such are the sights I see every day, and I don’t perceive any body surprized at them but myself. A woman, till five and thirty, is only looked upon as a raw girl, and can possibly make no noise in the world, till about forty. I don’t know what your ladyship may think of this matter; but ’tis a considerable comfort to me, to know there is upon earth such a paradise for old women; and I am content to be insignificant at present, in the design of returning when I am fit to appear no where else. I cannot help, lamenting, on this occasion, the pitiful case of too many English ladies, long since retired to prudery and ratafia, who, if their stars had luckily conducted hither, would shine in the first rank of beauties. Besides, that perplexing word reputation, has quite another meaning here than what you give it at London; and getting a lover is so far from losing, that ’tis properly getting reputation; ladies being much more respected in regard to the rank of their lovers, than that of their husbands.

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Alexander Pope: Rondeau

YOU know where you did despise
(Tother day) my little Eyes,
Little Legs, and little Thighs,
And some things, of little Size,
You know where.

You, tis true, have fine black eyes,
Taper legs, and tempting Thighs,
Yet what more than all we prize
Is a Thing of little Size,
You know where.


From a to Henry Cromwell, June 24, 1710. First published 1726.

Alexander Pope: Imitation of Martial

AT length, my Friend (while Time, with still career,
Wafts on his gentle wing his eightieth year),
Sees his past days safe out of Fortune’s power,
Nor dreads approaching Fate’s uncertain hour;
Reviews his life, and in the strict survey,
Finds not one moment he could wish away,
Pleased with the series of each happy day.
Such, such a man extends his life’s short space,
And from the goal again renews the race;
For he lives twice, who can at once employ
The present well, and ev’n the past enjoy.


Referred to in a letter from Trumbull to Pope dated January, 1716. The epigram imitated is X, 23.

Jean-Baptiste Santerre: Adam et Eve au milieu du paradis terrestre

When this painting was first exhibited in 1717, it caused a great scandal, not because it was the regent, Philippe d’Orléans, and his mistress Marie-Madeleine de la Vieuville who had sat for Adam and Eve, but because Jean-Baptiste Santerre had originally painted them without navels. He was an ardent supporter of the so-called dogme de l’anomphalie or anomphalisme, which seems to be restricted to France. The navels that you see now were probably added by another painter, Santerre died soon afterwards.

In January 2005, the painting was sold in an auction for $276,800 by Doyle New York, who still keep a description page with many details.

From Alexander Pope’s Rape of the Lock, Canto III

CLOSE by those Meads for ever crown’d with Flow’rs,
Where Thames with Pride surveys his rising Tow’rs,
There stands a Structure of Majestick Frame,
Which from the neighb’ring Hampton takes its Name.
Here Britain’s Statesmen oft the Fall foredoom
Of Foreign Tyrants, and of Nymphs at home;
Here Thou, great Anna! whom three Realms obey,
Dost sometimes Counsel take—and sometimes Tea.

Hither the Heroes and the Nymphs resort,
To taste awhile the Pleasures of a Court;
In various Talk th’ instructive hours they past,
Who gave the Ball, or paid the Visit last:
One speaks the Glory of the British Queen,
And one describes a charming Indian Screen.
A third interprets Motions, Looks, and Eyes;
At ev’ry Word a Reputation dies.
Snuff, or the Fan, supply each Pause of Chat,
With singing, laughing, ogling, and all that.

Mean while declining from the Noon of Day,
The Sun obliquely shoots his burning Ray;
The hungry Judges soon the Sentence sign,
And Wretches hang that Jury-men may Dine;
The Merchant from th’exchange returns in Peace,
And the long Labours of the Toilette cease.

Antoine Watteau: Gilles

The so-called Gilles (1718/19) is maybe the best known painting by Jean-Antoine Watteau. It shows an Italian actor in the costume of Pierrot, a sad clown in love with Columbine, who usually breaks his heart and leaves him for Harlequin. Interesting enough, the character of Pierrot is of French origin, going back to the character of the same name in Molière’s Don Juan. The name Gilles, under which the painting was long known, comes from a French burlesque character, Gilles le Niais.

From Alexander Pope’s Rape of the Lock, Canto IV

She said; then raging to Sir Plume repairs,
And bids her Beau demand the precious Hairs:
(Sir Plume, of Amber Snuff-box justly vain,
And the nice Conduct of a clouded Cane)
With earnest Eyes, and round unthinking Face,
He first the Snuff-box open’d, then the Case,
And thus broke out— “My Lord, why, what the Devil?
“Z—ds! damn the Lock! ‘fore Gad, you must be civil!
“Plague on’t! ’tis past a Jest—nay prithee, Pox!
“Give her the Hair”—he spoke, and rapp’d his Box.

It grieves me much (reply’d the Peer again)
Who speaks so well shou’d ever speak in vain.
But by this Lock, this sacred Lock I swear,
(Which never more shall join its parted Hair,
Which never more its Honours shall renew,
Clipt from the lovely Head where late it grew)
That while my Nostrils draw the vital Air,
This Hand, which won it, shall for ever wear.
He spoke, and speaking, in proud Triumph spread
The long-contended Honours of her Head.

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