An Essay on Woman  

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An Essay on Woman (1763) is a poem attributed to Thomas Potter and British radical politician John Wilkes, (pseud. Pego Borewell). It is a parody of Alexander Pope's An Essay on Man.

As a parody the composition largely consists of altering every other line of Pope's work to refer to a something graphically sexual. What Alexander Pope wrote as;

O blindness to the future! kindly given,
That each may fill the circle marked by Heaven:
Who sees with equal eye, as God of all,
A hero perish, or a sparrow fall,
Atoms or systems into ruin hurled,
And now a bubble burst, and now a world

Thomas Potter rewrote as;

O blindness to the future! kindly given,
That each may enjoy what fucks are marked in Heaven:
Who sees with equal eye, as God of all,
The man just mounting, and the virgin's fall,
Pricks, cunt, and ballocks in convulsions hurled,
And now a hymen burst, and now a world

Wilkes and Thomas Potter supposedly wrote the pornographic poem entitled "An Essay on Woman". Wilkes's political enemies obtained it via via and the John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, who was also a member of the Hellfire Club, among those introducing it in the House of Lords. Sandwich had a personal vendetta against Wilkes that stemmed in large part from embarrassment caused by a prank of Wilkes involving the Earl at one of the Hellfire Club's meetings; he was delighted at the chance for revenge. Sandwich read the poem to the House of Lords in an effort to denounce Wilkes's moral behavior, despite the hypocrisy of his action. The Lords declared the poem obscene and blasphemous, and it caused a great scandal. The House of Lords moved to expel Wilkes again; he fled to Paris before any expulsion or trial. He was tried and found guilty in absentia of obscene libel and seditious libel, and was declared an outlaw on 19 January 1764.

Wilkes hoped for a change in power to remove the charges, but this did not come to pass. As his French creditors began to pressure him, in 1768 he had little choice but to return to England. He returned intending to stand as a Member of Parliament on an anti-government ticket; the government did not issue warrants for his immediate arrest as it did not want to inflame popular support.

Wilkes stood in London and came in bottom of the poll of seven candidates, possibly due to his late entry into the race for the position. He was quickly elected MP for Middlesex, where most of his support was located. He surrendered to the King's Bench in April. On waiving his parliamentary privilege to immunity, he was sentenced to two years and fined £1,000. The charge of outlawry was overturned.

When Wilkes was imprisoned in the King's Bench Prison on 10 May 1768, his supporters appeared before King's Bench, London, chanting "No justice, no peace." Troops opened fire on the unarmed men, killing seven and wounding 15.

"An Essay on Woman" was accompanied by "Cunno Opt. Min.," "The Dying Lover to His Prick" and "The Veni Creator, or the Maid's Prayer."

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "An Essay on Woman" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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