This edition of The Dunciad Variorum is a work in progress. It has yet to be copyedited, and notes are yet to be added.
The Topography of The Dunciad Variorum
The Dunciad presents Pope’s symbolic topography of London society, in particular, the topographies of booksellers and printers, of power and imprisonment, and of social and intellectual decay. The places mentioned or alluded to in the poem were real, and extended to all corners of London and Westminster, but Pope’s topography was also an imagined one: the dulness of “all the Grubstreet race.” Figuratively, “Grubstreet” has no particular topography or temporality: it is a fog of dulness inhabited by dunces. In this sense, the term characterizes the tension between the idealized classical city and culture of the Augustans, with London imagined as a new Athens or Augustan Rome, and the inversion of all such principles in a world of ill-educated literary hacks and unscrupulous money-grubbing printers and booksellers. “Grubstreet” signified inferior hack writing, crass commercialism, and the degradation of literary values. Famously described by Samuel Johnson in his Dictionary as “a street near Moorfields in London, much inhabited by writers of small histories, dictionaries, and temporary poems; whence any mean production is called grubstreet” (1755), it represents the cross-currents of dialogue between “low” (gossip and scandal in newspapers and pamphlets, titillating or sensationalistic novels) and “high” (poetry, sermons, new scientific and literary journals, etc.) culture in print.
For more on Pope’s topography of Dulness, see the Tour of The Dunciad Variorum.
Note on the Book
The Dunciad in three books was first published in 1728.
This digital version is based on the 1729 variorum edition printed for Lawton Gilliver (see Foxon, P780; Griffith no. 219; Gilliver variant d). The original book is copy 1 (call number B-10 04886) at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto, ex libris Henry Scadding (1813–1901).
Physical description: 24, -221, ccxxii-ccxxxii,  p.,  leaves of plates: ill. The recto of the plate owl (between p. 86 and 87) is blank.