‘A Life by Stealth’: Autobiographical Satire in Manley, Swift, and Pope

  • Melinda Alliker Rabb


From the sidelines of the attacks and counterattacks on Alexander Pope during the eighteenth century, friend and collaborator William Broome astutely observed, “A person of real merit will build himself a monument with the very stones that are thrown at him by the hands of the malicious” (Corr 2:163). What has an attack on or by others to do with the constitution of a self? Discussions of satire rarely challenge Alvin Kernan’s belief: “we never find characters in satire, only caricature … in no art form is the complexity of human existence so obviously scanted as in satire” (1965:23). Yet readers must be struck by the degree of authorial self-involvement practiced by writers like Manley, Swift, and Pope. Each imagined himself or herself as a satiric fiction. The idea of injurious language and its role in the process of interpellation—speech acts of naming, renaming, and name-calling “by which a subject is constituted in language”—pertains readily autobiographical satire: “by being called a name, one is also, paradoxically, given a certain possibility of social existence” (Butler, 2).1


Eighteenth Century Innocent Victim Moral Legacy Hide Charm Feminine Quality 
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© Melinda Alliker Rabb 2007

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  • Melinda Alliker Rabb

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