Pope's Poems and Prose

An Exploration of 'Dulness' In Pope's Dunciad

One of Pope's most fundamental premises in The Dunciad is the idea that the demise of the word cannot be blamed solely on the Grub Street hacks but also on academicians at large. Not only does the 'uncreating word' of Chaos (IV 653) pose as a religious and moral Armageddon - this allusion to the reinstatement of conditions that existed before creation being perhaps the most sinister image in the poem's entirety - but also as a semantic and creative apocalypse. The textual critics such as the Tibbaldian hero of the previous editions of The Dunciad, clearly contribute to this dissolution, and their effect on the author's 'wits' whom they study is violent and brutal:

When Dulness, smiling - 'Thus revive the Wits!

But murder first, and mince them all to bits...

...Let standard authors, thus, like trophies born,

Appear more glorious as more hack'd and torn,

And you, my Critics! in the chequer'd shade,

Admire new light through holes yourselves have made. (IV 119-126)

Among the vast army of personae attacked by Pope in The Dunciad, two characters, Dr Busby and Richard Bentley are satirised at some length and as such, are held as the arch propagators of academic Dulness. Being projected very...

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