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A mock‐heroic satire by Pope, of which three books were published anonymously in 1728. In 1729, again anonymously, Pope published The Dunciad Variorum, which added notes and other ‘scholarly material’ to the poem. The New Dunciad was published in 1742, and forms the fourth book of the complete work as it appeared in 1743. The poem had been under preparation for some years and its issue was determined by the criticisms of Pope's edition of Shakespeare contained in Theobald's Shakespeare Restored. Theobald was made the hero of the poem in its earlier form, but in the final edition of 1743 C. Cibber was enthroned in his stead. The satire is directed against ‘Dulness’ in general, and in the course of it all the authors who have earned Pope's condemnation are held up to ridicule. But the work is not confined to personal abuse, for literary vices receive their share of exposure. The argument of the poem is as follows.

Bk I. The reign of Dulness is described. Bayes (i.e. Cibber) is carried off by the goddess and anointed king in the place of Eusden, the poet laureate, who has died.

Bk II. This solemnity is graced by games, in which poets, critics, and booksellers contend.

Bk III. The king is transported to the Elysian shades, where, under the guidance of Settle, he sees visions of the past and future triumphs of the empire of Dulness, how this shall extend to the theatres and the court, the arts and the sciences.

Bk IV. The realization of these prophecies is described, and the subjugation of the sciences and universities to Dulness, the growth of indolence, the corruption of education, and the consummation of all in the restoration of night and chaos.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Alexander Pope (1688—1744) poet

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