She had been very worried about her sick father and it was Bridget Freemantle who ensured that her work was passed on to supporters who included Elizabeth Montagu, Mary Delany (1700-1788) and the novelist Sarah Scott (1720-1795). The sale of the poems was intended to provide income for her father. Mary Leapor’s writings were enjoyed by well educated people because they thought that she represented a natural and unspoiled poetic style, and this was refreshing after some of the highly artificial works of some poets in that period.
The form of the poem looks very similar to the work of the major male writers of the time such as Alexander Pope. This can be seen in the title, which sets the scene as a letter communication between one person and another. Usually an “Epistle to A Lady” would be from a man to a woman, declaring some aspect of his romantic love, but in this case it is from one woman to another. The subject matter is the sad knowledge that the author is sick and likely to die very soon. There is a fixed rhyme scheme called the “heroic couplet” and many words are written with capital letters which gives the poem a solemn and scholarly tone.
The poem appears to be operating on two levels: a formal style based on classical and historical figures, astronomy and religious texts and a much more informal style through homely references to everyday things. The author calls herself “your luckless Mira” which suggests a close friendship with the “Lady” mentioned in the title, who is probably her mentor Bridget Freemantle. The use of names like Tycho and Copernicus, famous astronomers, is ironic, because in fact the poem goes on to talk about how pointless all their learning is, when someone is facing death. The movement of the planets in the heavens cannot influence the author: “I find no comfort from their Systems flow”.
Parts of the poem seem to criticize poetry itself which is depicted as “painted parlours” or “soft