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

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Progress of Dulness - One

Well, it took me longer than I expected, but I have finally posted Book I of the 1728 Dunciad, complete with notes, at my Geocities site on a new Dunciad page.

I’m still working on an introduction – at this stage, it will be brief because my main aim is to post my MA Essay (slightly revised) and posting the second and third books of the 1728 poem has to precede posting the essay. But an introduction is necessary, as are the notes, since the Dunciad is a topical poem nearly three hundred years old.

The Dunciad, especially in its full form, satirizes literary scholarship in general and textual criticism in particular. That lends an inescapable irony to any editing of the poem. (I know I’ve written that thought before and I’ll say it again in my introduction.)

I made one editorial decision that deserves particular comment. When Pope published The Dunciad anonymously in 1728, he did not spell out most of the names of the dunces – they were signified by initials. To a large extent, this was simply a device to provoke curiosity and controversy. I have decided to fill in the names, as Pope himself did in the 1729 Dunciad Variorum, for two reasons. First, the original reason for leaving the names blank no longer applies and in any case, Pope filled in the names in subsequent versions of the poem. Second, and perhaps more important, the actual names make the poem more readable. My notes to the poem show the form in which the initials were presented in the original.


Pope’s working title for the Dunciad was “The Progress of Dulness.” That title provided my address for this blog, “” as well as the title of these posts that report on the progress of my Dunciad project.

In the Dunciad, Dulness is personified as a goddess who presides over bad poetry, misguided scholarship, and the general decline of civilization. I’ll have more to say about that as I go along.

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.