chapter  4
24 Pages

Mock-Heroic and Luxury: The Heroi-Comical Poem

I The sylphs in Pope's Rape of the Lock bear responsibility for protecting society belles from their giddy susceptibility to male attention. What characterizes these impressionable young ladies is that

The word Toyshop' here does not (as might be thought) refer to an outlet catering for the interests of the young, for 'toyshop' as denoting an emporium specifically aimed at children is a nineteenth-century term, its earliest recorded usage dating to 1818. A 'toyshop' in Pope's day instead meant a set of premises vending curiosities and commodities of fashion; OED 1 defines the term as 'A shop for the sale of trinkets, knick-knacks, or small ornamental articles; a fancy shop'. What was actually stocked by such outlets can be ascertained from numerous literary sources of the day. Pope's own lines seem to be modelled on a passage in an earlier Guardian essay in which an observer scrutinizes the heart of a society belle: 'The first Images I discovered in it were Fans, Silks, Ribbonds, Laces, and many other Gewgaws, which lay so thick together, that the whole Heart was nothing else but a Toy-shop'.1 'Toy' here resolves itself into two categories, one composed of the fripperies of female dress and the other of nondefined 'Gewgaws'. For illustration of what the latter might encompass, we can consult Robert Dodsley's play The Toy-shop (1735) which runs through the following stock-list: tea, snuff-box, thimble, gold watch-chain, looking glass, perspective glass, stuffed dog, ivory pocket-book, gold ring, mask, spectacles and a pair of scales.2 The list consists of items whose

usage made for fashionable diversion (perspective glass, scales), ones whose value inhered in the quality of their ornamentation (gold watch, ivory pocket-book), a 'curiosity' (stuffed animal), and a fashionable beverage (tea).