Professor Valerie Rumbold MA, PhD

Photograph of Professor Valerie Rumbold

Department of English Literature
Professor Emeritus

Contact details

My main enthusiasm is for eighteenth-century poetry and satire, particularly the work of Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift, and I have a special interest in textual editing, having produced, over the last few years, editions of Pope’s Dunciad and of hoaxes and parodies by Swift.


  • MA (Oxford)
  • PGCE (Oxford)
  • PhD (Cambridge)


Educated at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and Jesus College, Cambridge, I held posts at Jesus College, Cambridge; St Hilda’s College, Oxford; the University of Wales, Bangor before coming to the University of Birmingham in 1998.


My research originally took its rise from my enthusiasm for the poetry of Alexander Pope. Having written a PhD dissertation on attitudes to the medieval inheritance in Pope’s work, in 1989 I contributed to the growing interest in women and literature with my study Women’s Place in Pope’s World (Cambridge University Press), which was awarded the Rose Mary Crawshay Prize by the British Academy.

My focus then turned to issues of textual editing, and in 1999 I published an edition of the climactic work of Pope’s career, the complex and challenging Dunciad in Four Books of 1743 (Longman Annotated Texts). Since then I have collaborated on the multi-volume The Poems of Alexander Pope for the Longman Annotated English Poets series, and in 2007 I published Volume 3, containing The Dunciad. A Heroic Poem (1728) and The Dunciad Variorum (1729).

In 2013 I published volume II of The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jonathan Swift, and I am now one of the General Editors of the Edition. My volume, Parodies, Hoaxes, Mock Treatises: Polite Conversation, Directions to Servants and Other Works, also includes the Bickerstaff Papers and writings on language and manners.  The inaugural lecture posted here introduces some of the background to the monograph that followed the edition. Entitled Swift in Print: Published Texts in Dublin and London, 1691-1765, it was published by Cambridge University Press in 2020. There is more about it at the publisher's website, and this blog post.

I am also renewing my engagement with Pope as one of the General Editors of the Oxford Edition of the Writings of Alexander Pope, which has recently been commissioned by OUP. In this series I shall also be part of the team working on the poems that Pope published in his Works of 1717, which will include The Rape of the Lock and some of the other poems featured in Women’s Place in Pope’s World.

I have also published articles on women writers of the eighteenth century such as Judith Cowper and Mary Leapor, and on wider issues arising from Pope’s career, including the relations between literature and music and between Pope and his poetic predecessors.

Research groups

From 2013 to 2016 I was founding Director of the Centre for Literary Editing and the Materiality of the Text.

Other activities

  • I am one of the General Editors of the Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jonathan Swift, and also one of the General Editors of the new Oxford Edition of the Writings of Alexander Pope.
  • I am a member of the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, and of the editorial boards of Eighteenth-Century Fiction, and Eighteenth-Century Life.


  • 2017: 'Printing Swift: Early and Late', 'Swift 350' conference to mark Swift's 350th anniversary, Trinity College Dublin
  • 2017: 'What could he more, but decently retire? Swift and 1714', The Bangor Conference on the Restoration, 'Turning Points in Britain and Ireland, 1658-171'
  • 2017: 'Ignoring Swift in Dublin? The Dublin reception of Swift's Bickerstaff Hoax', by invitation, University of Leicester Early Modern and Eighteenth Century Seminar
  • 2017: 'How far can you go? Swift and the limits of material parody', 46th Annual Conference of the British Society for Eighteenth Century Studies
  • 2016, ‘Swift, Satire and Subversion in the Early Eighteenth-Century Dublin Print Trade: Cornelius Carter, John Whalley and the Bickerstaff Paradigm’, Print Networks Conference, National University of Ireland, Galway
  • 2016, ‘Joining and Dividing: Pope’s Grotto, Pope’s Couplet’, at a fundraising event run by the Pope’s Grotto Preservation Trust, Twickenham
  • 2015, ‘“To the hon. Simon Wagstaff, Esq., on the Publication of his polite Conversation” ’, 2015 Conference of the Eighteenth Century Ireland Society at University College, Cork
  • 2015, ‘Annotating Pope’s Dunciads: A Cautionary Tale?’, invited presentation at the DAAD-funded Workshop ‘Theory and Practice of Literary Annotation in the Context of Digital Humanities’, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
  • 2015, ‘What the editor learns (and why it might matter). Inaugural lecture; audience of c. 70; 159 views on Youtube since posting on 1 May 2015. (Recording posted under Research above)
  • 2015, Invited closing plenary at the symposium ‘The Life of Books: A Celebration of Geoffrey Day’ on the occasion of Dr Day’s retirement as Fellows’ Librarian, Winchester College
  • 2014, ‘Textual Apparatus and Reader Engagement, at the conference ‘The Edition as Argument, 1550-1750’, 16-17 July, Queen Mary, University of London
  • 2014, ‘The Use of Art in Alexander Pope’s To Mr Addison, Occasioned by his Dialogues on Medals’, at the symposium ‘Originals, Translations and Imitations: The Images and Texts of Alexander Pope’, 12 July, Waddesdon Manor (the Rothschild Foundation) in collaboration with the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
  • 2014, ‘Jonathan Swift’s The Accomplishment of the First of Mr. Bickerstaff’s Predictions (1708): The Armagh Public Library Copy’, at the annual conference of the Eighteenth-Century Ireland Society, 6-8 June, Armagh Public Library
  • 2013, 'Niche Books', in a panel on the editing of Swift at the annual conference of the British Society for Eighteenth Century Studies'
  • 2010 ‘The Reason of this Preference’: Sleeping, Flowing and Freezing in Pope’s Dunciad , Warton Lecture at the British Academy
  • 2009 Annotating Polite Conversation , at the University of Glasgow conference ‘Editing the Eighteenth Century’
  • 2008 ‘Burying the Fanatic Partridge’, at “Politics and Letters in Eighteenth-Century England and Ireland’, a symposium at the Huntington Library, California
  • 2007 ‘Roger Lonsdale's Anthologies', in a panel in celebration of the career of Roger Lonsdale at the annual conference of the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies
  • 2007 ‘”Two Nymphs in One Couplet”: Pope and the Blount Sisters' at a public celebration of 40 years' opening to the public of the sisters' former home at Mapledurham.
  • 2006 In our Time discussion on Alexander Pope , Radio 4
  • 2006 ‘The Title of Polite Conversation' , at the Muenster Swift Symposium
  • 2005 ‘Rethinking Warburton’, in a panel on Warburton at the annual conference of the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies
  • 2003  Hand in Hand to Posterity’, a paper on Swift and Pope read by invitation at the symposium ‘Swift’s Politics’, held at St Patrick’s Deanery, Dublin, to mark the anniversary of his death
  • 2003 ‘“Some more able Hand”: Folly (1727) and Pope’s Dunciad s’, read by invitation to the English Research Seminar at University College, London
  • 2001 ‘Reading the Tatler in 1710: Periodicals and Sociability in the Early Eighteenth Century’, read by invitation to the Spalding Gentlemen’s Society
  • 2000 ‘Scriblerus and Bentley in The Dunciad in Four Books’ , read at ‘Martinus Revived: Scriblerian Satire and its Significance’, at the Institute for English Studies, University of London