"Pope or Gay is said to have satirized her 'as a blue-stocking with an itch for scribbling'"


Scene from 'The Beggar's Opera' by Hogarth
Public DomainScene from 'The Beggar's Opera' by Hogarth - Credit: William Hogarth

JOHN GAY (1685-1732) was an English poet and dramatist. He is best known for his good humoured satire The Beggar's Opera (1728), which included a number of digs at Robert Walpole, the Prime Minister of the time.

John Gay was a friend of both Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift, and the three of them were members of the all-male club the Scriblerians.

The reference to 'his Trivia' a few lines later refers to Gay's 1716 work Trivia, or the Art of Walking the Streets of London.


Benjamin Stillingfleet who may or may not be wearing blue stockings!
Public DomainBenjamin Stillingfleet who may or may not be wearing blue stockings! - Credit: Johann Zoffany (1733-1810)

'A BLUE STOCKING' is a term for a bookish, educated, intellectual woman, with  strong connotations of frumpiness or dowdiness.

The term is thought to derive from the mid-eighteenth century when Benjamin Stillingfleet attended the almost all-female literary meetings of Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu wearing grey (known as 'blue' at the time) worsted stockings instead of the more fashionable black stockings. As a result, the group became known as the 'Blue Stocking Society' and its members as 'blue stockings'.