Information Update - Fall 1997

Alexander Pope Volume Donated by Murrays

Brian and Diane Murray have added to their Louis D. Mitchell memorial Alexander Pope first edition collection, The Murrays have donated a first edition of Pope's Dunciad Variorum, originally published in 1729 by A. Dodd of London. The volume contains the first complete edition of the first three books of the Dunciad. This copy is inscribed by Pope at the top of the title page "Ex Dono Authoris." The Dunciad is a comic poem about the decline of an Empire of Dulness led by Dunces. The poem portrays a topsy-turvy society of anarchic imagination inhabited by madmen under the guidance of the goddess Dulness. It refers to themes in Virgil's Aeneid and Milton's Paradise Lost. The poem satirizes contemporary English politics, city life, and England's eighteenth century cultural malaise. The poem attacks many of Pope's contemporaries without giving their names. The form of the book (written anonymously and full of misleading bibliographical elements) has been seen as a satire on scholarly bibliographical techniques. These techniques lead to commentaries upon the text which lead to commentaries upon the commentaries.
Pope first anonymously published the Dunciad as a pamphlet in 1728. Within days a key to the pamphlet appeared (published by one of the people Pope satirized) identifying many of the individuals Pope attacked. Pope responded with a slightly altered new edition which, in turn, prompted a new key. This pamphlet war continued until Pope published the Dunciad Variorium in 1729. The Dunciad Variorium assembled and critiqued the previous editions of the poem as well as the resulting keys and commentaries. This elaborate satire on the evaluation of texts took on a life of its own and continued after Pope's death. In 1743 Pope published a revised version of the Dunciad with a newly written fourth book, creating more confusion and controversy for Popes commentators. Some scholars have argued that the Dunciad shows Pope's concern over the potentially negative impact that the rapid spread of printing was having on the consciousness of people and on their relationship with literature, a concern similar to that raised now as the literacy of print migrates into cyberspace.
Brian Murray earned a bachelor's in English in 1967 from the University of Scranton and has served as a member of the University Board of Trustees. Louis Mitchell was a member of the University's English faculty for 28 years until his death in 1989. The Murrays have previously donated two other Pope first editions. The first donation contains a collection of six Pope writings including First Satire of the Second Book of Horace (1733); the second is an autographed Rape of the Lock published in 1714.
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