Fate and the Narrative of 'The Rape of the Lock'

Robert W. Williams


Students of the period well know that the journals of the first years of the eighteenth century had as part of their purpose the reformation of manners and morals of the English public. Richard Steele, with his colleague Joseph Addison, in The Tatler, The Spectator and to some extent the later Guardian, made this purpose into a mission. Many of Steele's papers, in The Spectator especially, were directed towards women, admonishing their foibles and vanities with good-humoured satire. Others of his papers, however, are much more serious in tone and content.2 Some deal with the evils of prostitution and the sexual exploitation of women, setting forth Steele's belief that modesty and virtue (which he tends to see as part of the moral law of God) are the only real preservers of women's innocence. Many of these serious papers appeared in 1711, in the summer of which year Richard Steele and Alexander Pope first became acquainted; and it was during this same summer that Pope apparently composed the first (two-canto) version of The Rape of the Locke.

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