British Women Poetry
Elizabeth Hands, as a poetess, is very much acclaimed for her conversational tone and the use of simple and effective dialogues in her poems and the poem under consideration is one of the best examples for the poetess’s effective employment of dialogues. All throughout the poem a conversational tone is maintained and each conversation made by the various characters throws light on their snobbish nature and acts as tools of satire in the poem. The poem has an anapest double rhyme scheme with a hypermetrical light stress and the diction used by the poetess is quite simple and colloquial.
Satire is employed as a powerful weapon in the poem to bring out the follies and the snobbish nature of all the aristocratic ladies who express themselves in the poem. Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1) defines satire as "the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc" ("Satire." Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1), 2008). The poem begins under the setting where the ladies are assembled together to have their tea. As it was the custom, one of the ladies had to begin one discourse or other, and it was the turn of Mrs. Consequence to initiate the conversation. The formal and reserved affectations of the ladies are very well ridiculed by the poetess when she remarks: "And thus the discourse in an instant began: / (All affected reserve, and formality scorning,)"(lines 6-7). All the other ladies are shocked to hear that a servant girl has written a poem and this leads to speculations regarding the subject matter of her poetry. Their aristocratic superior sense do not permit them to admit the fact that a working class woman is capable of composing a sensible poem and they easily conclude that it must have been a feeble story on a broom, or a tool for cleaning floors or a dishcloth. (The term ‘dishclout’ is wrongly spelt by the poetess and the O.E.D defines the term dishcloth as "a cloth for washing dishes"). The poetess makes one of the Aristocratic ladies go to the extend of admitting that she did not have a taste for poetry as she realized that "the study of heraldry was more in fashion"(line 55).( The O.E.D defines ‘heraldry’ as " the study of the coats of arms and the history of old families"). Thus, the poetess’ focus is to throw light on the snobbish nature of the upper-class people and she "portrays her working-class figures with dignity and questions many of the standard middle-and upper class conceptions of the labouring class" (Fieldman, p. 257). Even the names of the group of women seem to be ironic as names like Mrs. Consequence, Old lady Marr Joy, Mrs. Noworthy, Mrs. Prudella etc are suggestive of their aristocratic follies whereas Mrs. Rhymmer as her name suggests displays some poetic sense. It is as a consequence of Mrs. Consequence’s remark on the servant writer that the poem begins. the names like Old lady Marr Joy (who spoils or damages joy), Mrs. Noworthy (who is devoid of worthiness), Mrs. Prudella (who actually lacks prudence), Mrs. Candour (who does not display openness), and Miss Prim (who is too formal) etc are suggestive of their personal characteristics. Within no time, one finds the ladies engaging themselves in cards playing and it is evident from their conversations that none of them took writing seriously and