*London. Capital and largest city of Great Britain. With a population of nearly seven hundred thousand people in the eighteenth century, London is the setting of the final campaign of “The War of the Dunces,” which culminates in the obliteration of high cultural standards. At the core of its East End is the old walled section, known as “the City,” center for the lower and middle classes, business, the trades, markets, counting houses, the Royal (stock) Exchange, jails, shanties, butcheries, shipping, coal wharves, and tanning factories. The East End was noted for its mobs, crime, jails, poverty, ugliness, dirt, sooty air, open sewers, and foul odors. London’s West End is associated with the royal court and aristocratic elegance, leisure, gardens, lovely parks, large squares, and beautiful houses. The mock-heroic journey of the dunces from the East End to the West End and back symbolizes the conquest of high culture by low standards.
*Smithfield. Lower-class section of East London, site of a bazaar and the occasional dramatic entertainment “agreeable only to the Taste of the Rabble.” The mock-heroic invocation to the muse in the poem’s opening lines announces the theme of cultural degeneration: the bringing of “The Smithfield Muses to the Ear of Kings.”
*Rag-Fair. Located near the Tower of London, a place where old clothes were sold to the poor. It is the site of the cave of Poverty and Poetry, mythical source of low standards...
(The entire section is 635 words.)