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Tho' many a passenger he rightly call,
duction equals the propriety of its matter ; for the Epistle being addressed to a noble person, distinguished for his knowledge of the world, it opens, as it were, in the midst of a familiar conversation, which lets us at once into his character; where the Poet, by politely affecting only to ridicule the useless knowledge of men confined to books, and only to extol that acquired by the world, artfully insinuates how alike defective the latter may be, when conducted on the same narrow principle : which is too often the case ; as men of the world are more than ordinarily prejudiced in favour of their own observations for the sake of the observer ; and, for the same reason, less indulgent to the discoveries of others.
most interesting relation. So that this part would have treated of Civil and Religious Society in their full extent.
The Fourth and last book concerned private ethics, or practical morality; considered in all the circumstances, orders, profeffions, and stations of human life.
The scheme of all this had been maturely digelted, and communicated to L. Bolingbroke, Dr. Swift, and one or two more ; and was intended for the only work of his riper years ; but was, partly through ill health, partly through discouragements from the depravity of the times, and partly on prudential and other confiderations, interrupted, postponed, and, lastly, in a manner laid aside.
But as this was the Author's favourite Work, which more exactly reflected the image of his own strong and capacious mind, and as we can have but a very imperfect idea of it from the disje&ta membra Poete, which now remain ; it may not be amiss to be a little more particular concerning each of these projected books.
The First, as it treats of Man in the abstract, and confiders him in general, under every one of his relations, becomes the foundation, and furnishes out the subjects, of the three following ; so that
The Second Book was to take up again the first and second epiftles of the forft book; and to treat of Man in his intellectual
the fate of all extremes is such, Men
may be read, as well as Books, too much.
capacity at large, as has been explained above. Of this, only a fmall part of the conclusion (which, as we said, was to have contained a satire against the misapplication of wit and learning) may be found in the fourth book of the Dunciad; and up and down, occasionally, in the other three.
The Third Book, in like manner, was to re-assume the subject of the third epistle of the first, which treats of Man in his social, political, and religious capacity. But this part the Poet afterwards conceived might be best executed in an Eric Poem, as the Action would make it more arimated, and the Fable less invidious ; in which all the great principles of true and false Governments and Religions should be chiefly delivered in feigned examples.
The Fourth and last book was to pursue the fabject of the fourth epistle of the first, and to treat of Ethics, or practical morality ; and would have consisted of many members ; of which, the four following epistles are detached portions : the two first, on the Characters of Men and Women, being the introductory part of this concluding book.
WARBURTON. VER. I. Yes, you despise] The patrons and admirers of French literature usually extol those authors of that nation who have treated of life and manners ; and five of them, particularly, are esteemed to be unrivalled, namely, Montagne, Charron, La Rochefoucault, Boileau, La Bruyere, and Pascal. These are supposed to have deeply penetrated into the most secret receffes of the human heart, and to have discovered the various vices and vanities that lurk in it. I know not why the English should in this respect yield to their polite neighbours more than in any other. Bacon in his Essays and Advancement of Learning, Hobbes and Hume in their treatises, Prior in his elegant and witty Alma, Richardson in his Clariffa, and Fielding in his Tom Jones (comic writers are not here included), have shewn a profound knowledge of Man; and many portraits of Addison may be compared with the most finished touches of La Bruyere. But the Epistles we are now entering upon will place the matter beyond a dispute ; for the French can boast of no author who has so much exhausted the
To observations which ourselves we make;
2. 15. There's some Peculiar, &c.] The Poet enters on the first division of his subject, the difficulties of coming at the Knowledge and true Charakters of Men. The first cause of this difficulty, which he prosecutes (from ver. 14 to 19.), is the great diversity of characters, of which, to abate our wonder, and not discourage our inquiry, he only desires we would grant him
but as many sorts of Mind as Moss." Hereby artfully infinuating, that if Nature hath varied the most worthless vegetable into above three hundred species, we need not wonder at a greater diversity in her highest work, the human mind : And if the variety in that vegetable has been thought of importance enough to employ the leisure of a serious inquirer, much more will the same circumstance in this master-piece of the sublunary world deserve our study and attention. “ Shall only Man be taken in the gross ?”
science of morals as Pope has in his five Epistles. They indeed contain all that is solid and valuable in the above-inentioned French writers, of whom our Author was remarkably fond. But whatever obfervations he has borrowed from them he has made his own by the dexterity of his application.
WÁRTON: VER. 10. Men may be read,] “Say what they will of the great Book of the World, we must read others to know how to read that.” M. De Sevigne to R. Rabutin.
That each from other differs, first confess;
Our depths who fathoms, or our shallows finds,
25 It may be Reason, but it is not Man:
VER. 19. That each from other differs, &c.] A second cause of this difficulty (from ver. 18 to 21.) is man's inconstancy ; for not only one man differs from another, but the same man from himself.
WARBURTON. Ver. 21. Add Nature's, &c.] A third cause (from ver. 20 to 23.) is that obscurily thrown over the characters of men, through the strife and contest between nature and custom, between reason and appetite, between truth and opinion. And as most men, either through education, temperature, or profesion, have their characters 'warped by custom, appetite, and opinion, the obscurity arising from thence is almost universal.
WARBURTON. VER. 23. Our depths who fathoms, &c.] A fourth cause (from ver. 22 to 25.) is deep dissimulation, and restless caprice ; whereby the shallows of the mind are as difficult to be found, as the depths of it are to be fathomed.
WARBURTON. VER. 25. On human Aēlions, &c.] A fifth cause (from ver. 24 to 31.) is the sudden change of his principle of action ; either on the point of its being laid open and detected, or when it is reasoned upon, and attempted to be explored. WARBURTON.
Ver. 20. Next, that he varies] A sensible French writer says, that the faults and follies of men chiefly arise from this circumstance, qu'ils n'ont pas l'esprit, en equilibre, pour ainfi dire, avec leur charactere : Ciceron, par exemple, etoit un grand esprit et une ame foible ; c'est pour cela, qu'il fut grand orateur et homme d'etat mediocre.
WARTON. VER. 13. Our depths who fathoms, &c.] “ A mesure qu'on a plus d'esprit,” says the profound Pascal, “on trouve qu'il y a plus d'hommes originaux."
His Principle of action once explore,
35 Contracts, inverts, and gives ten thousand dies.
Nor will Life's stream for Observation stay, It hurries all too fast to mark their way : In vain sedatè reflections we would make, When half our knowledge we must snatch, not tåke.
Ver. 31. Yet more ; the diff'rence, &c.] Hitherto the Poet hath spoken of the causes of difficulty arising from the obscurity of the object ; he now comes to those which proceed from defeats in the obferver. The first of which, and a fixth cause of difficulty, he shews (from ver. 30 to 37.) is the perverse manners, affe&ions, and imaginations of the observer ; whereby the characters of others are rarely seen either in their true light, complexion, or proportion.
WARBURTON. Ver. 37. Nor will Life's stream for Observation, &c.] The seventh cause of difficulty, and the second arising from defects in the Observer (from ver. 36 to 41.), is the shortness of human life; which will not suffer him to select and weigh out his knowledge, but just to snatch it, as it rolls swiftly by him, down the rapid current of Time.
VER. 33. All Manners take] A deep knowledge of Human Nature is displayed in these four lines. · So also in ver. 42.