British academy

WARTON LECTURE ON ENGLISH POETRY

'The Reason of this Preference':
Sleeping, Flowing and Freezing in Pope's Dunciad

Dr Valerie Rumbold

Tuesday 4 May 2010, 5.30pm
The British Academy, 10 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1

This lecture begins by concentrating on a small building block from one of Pope's major poems, and then moves outward to explore what it might tell us more generally about his work. When Samuel Johnson was collecting material for his life of Pope, one of his informants claimed to be able to identify for him 'the couplet by which he [i.e. Pope] declared his own ear to be most gratified'. The couplet, from The Dunciad, depicts the Sea of Azov, and the river that flows into it. Johnson quoted it, and noted 'But the reason of this preference I cannot discover'. By focusing on the process through which Pope shaped this couplet we can not only sharpen our appreciation of this one small unit, but also develop insights into the wider significance of its structure and themes for Pope's work more generally.

About the speaker
Dr Valerie Rumbold held posts at Jesus College, Cambridge; St Hilda's College, Oxford, and the University of Wales, Bangor, before coming to the University of Birmingham in 1998. Her 1989 study Women's Place in Pope's World was awarded the Rose Mary Crawshay Prize. In 1999 she published an edition of The Dunciad in Longman's Annotated Texts and since then has collaborated on Longman's multi-volume The Poems of Alexander Pope, publishing Volume 3 in 2007. She is currently working on a volume in The Cambridge Edition of the works of Jonathan Swift.