In the essay written by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu to her daughter, Lady Montagu advocates her personal believes on her granddaughter should be educated. She discusses how knowledge affects a woman’s life in their time period while explaining how she feels a woman should be educated. Because giving advice about parenting can often be taken offensively, Lady Montagu used a delicate balance of rhetorical strategies in order to be effective. These devices include contrasting, personal reference, and allusions.
One of the rhetorical and stylistic devices Lady Montagu uses is contrast. Through out the entire letter she is contrasting traditional views with non-traditional views. The very first line is a very unconventional statement explaining, “True knowledge consists of knowing things, not words”. Again she breaks conventional wisdom in her attitude towards reading. Reading books in the original language allowed a more accurate interpretation of the meaning but were a more non-traditional way compared to reading books that had been translated with distorted meaning, which was the traditional way. When she says, “English poetry is a more important part of a woman’s education than it is generally supposed” she is also stating a more non-traditional view. She indirectly mentions that many women do not know poetry very well. By including these contrasts she is able to show that her views on knowledge and learning are more superior to traditional teachings. This is an effective strategy because these fresh insights provided naturally entice her daughter to subscribe to her wisdom. Directing this strategy to her daughter is particularly effective because she had been raised by these very principles.
Another rhetorical device Lady Montagu uses is including a personal reference. She describes an experience when one of her friends had a lover who wrote her a very lengthy letter. The letter was full of thought and spirit, which her friend thought she had inspired. Lady Montagu was able to point out that the verses had been plagiarized from Randolph’s poems. If it had been another women reading the letter the man would have been safe. Because Lady Montagu was so well educated in poetry, she was immediately able to pick out that the verses were not original. By relating to her personal life she can gain ground as a speaker without compromising her larger argument with a concession. Montagu’s daughter would appreciate knowing that this advice had been applied in her mother’s life rather than imposed on her own. She includes this personal reference to prove her idea on knowledge is the finest and also practical.
Allusions to famous authors as a rhetorical device are also included. Lady Montagu makes references to Waller when explaining many verses have been stolen from him and claimed to be original love poems. Arguing that girls are not educated in poetry and could be taken advantage of. She makes reference to the Prior and Pope when saying, “she observed the lines were not as smooth as Prior’s or Pope’s”. She also make a reference to Randolph when one man stole lines from his work and sent them to her friend claiming they were his own. Lady Montagu makes these allusions to these very important people to emphasize the significance of poetry. Her arguments are well received when being applied to very influential figures. Referencing hallmark people of the time assures her daughter that this advice is current rather than old and inapplicable. This is important because Montagu is essentially parenting a future generation, which will likely forget her. Contrast, personal experience, and allusion were some of the rhetorical techniques used in this letter. They convey the importance and practicality of her ideas of how women should be educated and how they should use their knowledge in the real world. Poetry, in Lady Montagu’s opinion, was a very important aspect of a woman’s knowledge. By using the strategies to gently advise her daughter, she had overcome a large obstacle of parenting.