The Dunciad is a landmark mock-heroic narrative poem by Alexander Pope published in three different versions at different times from 1728 to 1743. The poem celebrates a goddess Dulness and the progress of her chosen agents as they bring decay, imbecility, and tastelessness to the Kingdom of Great Britain.
Alexander Pope early grew acquainted with former members of John Dryden’s circle, notably William Wycherley, William Walsh, and Henry Cromwell. By 1705 his “Pastorals” were in draft and were circulating among the best literary judges of the day. In 1706 Jacob Tonson, the leading publisher of poetry, had solicited their publication, and they took the place of honour in his Poetical Miscellanies in 1709.
This early emergence of a man of letters may have been assisted by Pope’s poor physique. As a result of too much study, so he thought, he acquired a curvature of the spine and some tubercular infection, probably Pott’s disease, that limited his growth and seriously impaired his health. His full-grown height was 4 feet 6 inches (1.4 metres), but the grace of his profile and fullness of his eye gave him an attractive appearance. He was a lifelong sufferer from headaches, and his deformity made him abnormally sensitive to physical and mental pain. Though he was able to ride a horse and delighted in travel, he was inevitably precluded from much normal physical activity, and his energetic, fastidious mind was largely directed to reading and writing.