Blind with vile Types, with nightly sweats of brain
Worn pale, my labours long advanced thy reign.
---- 1736 Marginalia, page 96

Monday, May 21, 2007

So, what is this Dunciad and where can I find it?

Last week I announced that I was returning to a project I have been engaged in for almost half a century – my paper on Alexander Pope’s Dunciad. I have not yet figured out exactly how to publish my paper on the web, but for a start I have made a separate blog – The Dunciad.

A blog is not the ideal medium for this kind of publication – primarily because, to quote Wikipedia, a blog is a website where entries are written in chronological order and displayed in reverse chronological order. But a blog provides an easy way for readers to give feedback, so for now that’s what I will use.

Alexander Pope was born May 21, 1688. His family was Roman Catholic, and the anti-Catholic regulations of the time had an effect on his education and upbringing. He suffered from poor health as a child and a childhood disease left his growth stunted and deformed his spine. By his own account he began writing poetry by the age of thirteen. His first published work was the Pastorals in 1709, when he was 21. Two years later came An Essay on Criticism, and then The Rape of the Lock as well as several less well known poems. In this period Pope became acquainted with Jonathan Swift, John Gay, and others who formed the Scriblerus Club, with (according to the Columbia Encyclopedia) the purpose of “satiriz[ing] all false taste in learning.”
In 1713 Pope began a thirteen year period in which he translated the Iliad and part of the Odyssey (the rest of the translation of the Odyssey was done by two associates.) In 1725 Pope published an edition of Shakespeare. Pope’s Shakespeare was ridiculed by Lewis Theobald in a book that came out in 1726 called Shakespeare restored, or, A specimen of the many errors, as well committed, as unamended, by Mr. Pope : in his late edition of this poet. Designed not only to correct the said edition, but to restore the true reading of Shakespeare in all the editions ever yet. publish’d.

It appears that Theobald’s attack on Pope n 1726 was one reason that Pope revived an old Scriblerus project, a mock epic to be called The Progress of Dulness. Before the work first appeared in 1728, Pope had changed the title to The Dunciad and decided to publish it anonymously at first.

Many manuscripts of Pope’s poetry have survived, but there is no surviving manuscript of The Dunciad. We do have, however, what scholar Maynard Mack has called “collations” of manuscripts against the published text that a friend made for Pope in copies of two editions of The Dunciad. My Master’s Essay is about these "collations." At the time I wrote it my essay no complete transcription of the “collations” had been published.

In order to understand my essay, the reader should have at hand a copy of the text of The Dunciad as 1728. Since this is not readily at hand, one of the things I am going to do is publish this text on the web, along with my essay.

1 comment:

SueM said...

I have to guiltily admit to never having read The Dunciad. I do like Pope though and "The Rape of the Lock" is a fantastic poem and Eloisa to Abelard rates, in my view, as one of the most moving and evocative poems ever.

I post regularly on both literature ( poetry mainly) and issues of faith from a liberal perspective on my blog. I've had lots of comments on the faith issues, but none on the poetry analysis. So, if you're interested...but no pressure if you're not.


About Me

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New York, United States
I'm a retired math teacher with a keen interest in English Literature. I have been active at my local Episcopal church for more than 50 years. My current project is to complete a history of St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Manhattanville, which will have its 200th anniversary in 2023. I'm also working on a family history for my first and second cousins and I hope to publish on the web a version of my Masters Essay on The Dunciad.