The most captivating detail concerning a Victorian woman is her ability to be alluring modest, and mysterious. Women of the eighteenth century pride themselves on being presentable, and respectable to themselves and their appearance. Jonathan Swift uses Victorian women's modesty as a mechanism to humiliate publicly, as he wrote The Lady's Dressing Room. This piece of work would offend any woman living in this era, not to mention most women writers, which is why Lady Mary Worley Montagu wrote The Reasons that Induced Dr. Swift to Write a Poem Called "The Lady's Dressing Room." Montagu included tantalizing details of experiences in Swifts life, as evidence to prove what she believes, is the reason for his cynicism against the female race. In Swift's poem he takes the narrators position, using characters for the basis of his reasoning.
Strephon, who is mesmerized by Celia's beauty, believes her to be a "Goddess" (3). As he unlawfully explores her chamber he is amazed at the findings. He finds that Celia is just an angel in disguise. Strephon's eyes could no longer view her as the "sweet and cleanly" (18) lady that all have perceived her to be. The idiom applies "When you go searching, you might find what you are looking for," meaning that Strephon was undoubtedly looking for something that he did not want to find.
Swift makes use of vivid descriptions, as proof for the rubble found. Strephon found her brush full of hair and "dirt" (21) and the pot, which she "spits" (42) in is full of "The Scraping of her Teeth and Gums" (40). Her exposed panty hose are soiled as a result of "stinking toes" (52), and the "Coifs and Pinner's" (53) smelt as though they have been in use for more than a week. The tainted smells of the room "turn'd poor Strephon's bowels" (43).
Strephon continues to explore, as he looks into her "Chest" (70) only to find a horrid sight her excrement's, this disgusted him so that he pondered why she could not keep "Those Secrets of the hoary deep!" (98). The use of vivid descriptions in this poem explains how Swift depicts the female race as phony, and inhuman. Montagu disputes Swift's writing as she writes a contradiction to his point of view. In Swift's poem he tries to portray misconceptions concerning women, beauty, and respect. Montagu retaliates using her own writing and a vivid description to prove Swift is bitter and vindictive because of his shortcomings. Montagu mocks Swifts appearance and philosophy as having "little reason" (46) meaning that he has no merits about himself (he is what he is).
She points out his pessimistic tone toward women, as the direct result of his rejections. Montagu describes Swift as a hunter, a hunter of delinquency comparing him to a "hound" (55). He approaches a prostitute to be faced with his own inconsistency. Swift's excuse is the "dirty smock, and stinking toes" (70) being so close that the smell has interrupted him in performing. The prostitute proceeds to blame him for his age of "sixty-odd" (74). Swift threatens to write about her "dressing room" (94), the prostitute strikes back as she tells him his threat means nothing, it will just be extra paper to use when she "shits" (97).
Montagu writes in a sarcastic tone, seeking revenge on Swift ideas of beauty and the female race. Swift uses a vindictive tone to be vicious, as his bitterness towards women is portrayed throughout his poem. He uses Strephon's character to dictate his own ideas upon the reader, placing negativity upon women of the Victorian age, as a result of his own insecurities. Montagu's poem specifies frustration, the frustration she feels when faced with Swifts poem. Montagu accuses Swift of using his impotency as an ulterior motive to his writings.
Swift publicly chastises and humiliates women as a form of revenge for his insecurities. Both Montagu and Swift express revenge, Swift revenges against women and Montagu revenges against Swift's ideal of a modest woman. Swift and Montagu are obviously battling over the sexes, for reasons indicated throughout both of their poems. Swift negatively strikes at women and their grooming habits, as he publicly reveals them in his poem, and Montagu portrays revenge as she focuses on Swift being a cynical and bitter man who places blame on others as a result of his own shortcomings..