The dunciad

A mighty contest from trivial things — the quarrel between Alexander Pope and Edmund Curll

Rapid technological advance, a dark underworld of uncensored publishing, a threatened rupture with Scotland, even fears of a new outbreak of plague. Close scrutiny of the first few decades of the 18th century reveals some startling (and oddly reassuring) parallels with our own trying times. In his new book, Pat Rogers, an expert on the writings of Alexander Pope and much else, resurrects what you might think was an obscure battle over copyright between Pope and the Grub Street bookseller and printer Edmund Curll. Their quarrel, though, becomes a prism through which Rogers captures the upheavals, hubbub and stench but, above all, the wit of that period, when words could