Definitely use the fan patch that PetrusOctavianus linked to. It's a much better solution than lowering cycles. The original link to it is dead, so it's best to grab it from this post: http://www.gog.com/en/forum/might_and_magic_series/mm1_read_this_if_you_think_the_text_appears_too_fast/post38
Just rename that file so it has an .exe extension instead of .jpg (make sure file extensions are not hidden in your Windows settings).
If you have that patch and you set the combat delay to 9 (when in battle, hit "D" then select 9) you will have no trouble reading pretty much all text messages in the game. The only ones that will still go by quickly are things like monsters skipping their turns in combat, or the quick "ambush!" message you get before some battles.
Note that you have to set combat delay to 9 every time you start the game. Also, if you're not interested in some messages but you want the speed slow in case an important one pops up, I'm pretty sure you can skip past any text message by simply hitting a key. Although maybe it has to be the enter key, I don't remember.
MM1 is the only game with this speed problem, by the way. MM2 and all the rest will work fine without any patches or any need to mess with cycles in DOSBox.
Oh and I think the MM pack comes with an older version of DOSBox so once you've installed the games you can upgrade to the newest one if you like. I heard this can help with the speed issues too.