"The Lady's Dressing-Room"
By Jonathan Swift

Transcription, correction, editorial commentary, and markup by The Text Creation Partnership and Students and Staff of The University of Virginia


London : J. Roberts, 1732


This poem was incredibly popular from the moment it was published in June 1732. It was first issued as a pamphlet by the London publisher J. Roberts, who printed up 750 copies, a lot for a first run of a poem even now. He had to go back to press almost immediately because it sold so well. The poem was also reprinted immediately in newspapers and periodicals, and then printed in various editions of Swift's works and in anthologies ever since. Our edition follows that first edition, and was keyed for the purposes of the Literature in Context project. We include Swift's notes, which identify where he is quoting from texts such as John Milton's Paradise Lost.

Editorial Statements

Research informing these annotations draws on publicly-accessible resources, with links provided where possible. Annotations have also included common knowledge, defined as information that can be found in multiple reliable sources. If you notice an error in these annotations, please contact lic.open.anthology@gmail.com.

Original spelling and capitalization is retained, though the long s has been silently modernized and ligatured forms are not encoded.

Hyphenation has not been retained, except where necessary for the sense of the word.

Page breaks have been retained. Catchwords, signatures, and running headers have not.

Materials have been transcribed from and checked against first editions, where possible. See the Sources section for more information.


Swift, Jonathan. "The Lady's Dressing-Room". "The Lady's Dressing-Room", J. Roberts, 1732 . Literature in Context: An Open Anthology. http://anthology.lib.virginia.edu/work/Swift/swift-dressing. Accessed: 2024-04-18T01:32:48.224Z

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To which is added, A
Cutting down the Old Thorn at Market Hill.

By the Rev. Dr. S____T.
Printed for J. Roberts at the Oxford Arms in Warwick Lane
(Price Six Pence.)
Five Hours (and who can do it less in?) By haughty Caelia spent in Dressing; The Goddess from her Chamber issues Array'd in Lace, Brocade and Tissues: Strephon, who found the Room was void, And Bettyotherwise employ'd Stole in, and took a strict Survey, Of all the Litter, as it lay. Whereof, to make the Matter clear, An Inventory follows here. And first, a dirty Smock appear'd Beneath the Armpits well besmear'd Strephon, the Rogue, display'd it wide, And turn'd it round on ev'ry Side: In such a Case, few Words are best, And Strephon bids us guess the rest; But swears how damnably the Men lye, In calling Caelia sweet and cleanly. Now listen, while he next produces The various Combs for various Uses, Fill'd up with Dirt so closely fixt, No Brush cou'd force a Way betwixt. A Paste of Composition rare, Sweat, Dandriff, Powder, Lead and Hair A Forehead-Cloath with Oyl upon't To smooth the Wrinkles on her Front: Here, Alum Flower to stop the Steams, Exhal'd from sour unsavoury Streams; There, Night-Gloves made of Tripsey's Hide, Bequeath'd by Tripsey when she dy'd With Puppy-Water, Beauty's Help, Distill'd from Tripsey's darling Whelp Here gally-pots and Vials plac't, Some filld' with Washes, some with Paste; Some with Pomatums, Paints, and Slops, And Ointments good for scabby Chops. Hard by, a filty Bason stands Foul'd with the scou'ring of her Hands; The Bason takes whatever comes, The Scrapings from her Teeth and Gums, A nasty Compound of all Hues, For here she spits, and here she spues. But O! it turn'd poor Strephon's Bowels, When he beheld and smelt the Towels; Begumm'd besmatter'd, and beslim'd; With Dirt, and Sweat and Ear-wax grim'd. No Object Strephon's Eye escapes; Here, Pettycoats in frowsy Heaps; Nor be the Handkerchiefs forgot, All varnish'd o'er with Snuff and Snot. The Stockings why should I expose Stain'd with the Moisture of her Toes;, Or greasy Coifs, and Pinners reeking, Which Caelia slept at least a Week in A Pair of Tweezers next he found To pluck her Brows in Arches found; Or Hairs that sink the Forehead low, Or on her Chin like Bristles grow. The Virtues we must not let pass, Of Caelia's magnifying Glass; When frighted Strephon cast his Eye on't, It shew'd the Visage of a Gyant: A Glass that can to Sight disclose The smallest Worm in Caelia's Nose, And faithfully direct her Nail To squeeze it out from Head to Tail; For, catch it nicely by the Head, It must come out, alive or dead. Why Strephon, will you tell the rest? And must you needs describe the Chest? That careless Wench! No Creature warn her, To move it out from yonder Corner But leave it standing full in Sight, For you to exercise your Spite! In vain the Workman shew'd his Wit, With Rings and Hinges counterfeit To make it seem in this Disguise, A Cabinet to vulger Eyes; Which Strephon ventured to look in, Resolv'd to go thro' thick and thin, He lifts the Lid: There need no more, He smelt it all the Time before. As, from within Pandora's Box, When Epimetheus op'd the Locks A sudden universal Crew Of human Evils, upward flew; He still was comforted to find, That Hope at last remain'd behind. So, Strephon, lifting up the Lid, To view what in the Chest was hid, Teh Vapours flew from out the Vent; But Strephon, cautious, never meant The Bottom of the Pan to grope And foul his Hands in search of Hope. O! NE'ER may such a vile Machine Be once in Caelia's Chamber seen! O! may she better learn to keep "Those Secrets of the hoary Deep!Secrets_of_the_hoary_deepSecrets_of_the_hoary_deepMilton [Swift's note.] As Mutton-Cutlets, prime of Meat, Which tho' with Art you salt and beat, As Laws of Cookery Require, And roast them at the clearest Fire; If from a-down the hopeful Chops, The Fat upon a Cinder drops, To stinking Smoke it turns the Flame, Pois'ning the Flesh from whence it came, And up exhales a greazy Stench, For which you curse the careless Wench: So, Things which must not be exprest, When plumpt into the reeking Chest Send up an excremental Smell, To taint the Parts from whence they fell; The Pettycoats and Gown perfume, And waft a Stink round ev'ry Room. THUS finishing his grand Survey, The Swain disgusted slunk away. Repeating in his amorous Fits, Oh! Caelia, Caelia, Caelia, shits! But Vengeance, Goddess, never sleeping, Soon punish'd Strephon for his peeping. His foul Imagination links Each Dame he sees with all her Stinks; And, if unsavoury Odours Fly, Conceives a Lady standing by. All Women his Description fits, And both Ideas jump like Wits, by vicious Fancy coupled fast, And still appearing in Contrast. I PITY wretched Strephon, blind To all the Charms of Woman-Kind. Should I the Queen of Love refuse, Because she rose from stinking Ooze? To him that looks behind the Scene, Statira's but some pocky Quean. When Caelia all her Glory shows, If Strephon would but stop his Nose, who now so impiously blasphemes Her Ointments, Daubs, and Paints, and Creams; With which he makes so foul a Rout; He soon would learn to think like me, And bless his ravish'd Eyes to see Such Order from Confusion sprung, Such gaudy Tulips rais'd from Dung.