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flection, reason that Reafon alone countervails all the other faculties, Ver. 207. VIII. How much further this order and subordination of living creatures may extend, above and below us; were any part of which broken, not that part only, but the whole connected creation must be destroyed, Ver. 233. IX. The extravagance, madness, and pride of such a desire, Ver. 250. X. The consequence of all. the absolute submission due to Providence, both as to our present and future state, Ver. 281, &c. to the end.


POPE informs us, in his first preface to this Essay, “ that he chose this epistolary way of writing, notwithstanding his subject was high, and of dignity, because of its being mixed with argument which of its nature approacheth to profe.” He has not wandered into any useless digressions; has employed no fictions, no tale or ftory, and has relied chiefly on the poetry of his style for the purpose of interesting his readers. His style is concise and figurative, forcible and elegant. He has many metaphors and images, artfully interspersed in the driest passages, which stood most in need of such ornaments. If any beauty in this Essay be uncommonly transcendent and peculiar, it is brevity of diction; which, in a few instances, and those perhaps pardonable, has occafioned obscurity. On its first publication Pope did not own it, and it was given by the public to Lord Paget, Dr. Young, Dr. Desaguliers, and others. Even Swift seems to have been deceived. There is a remarkable passage in one of his letters : “ I confess I did never imagine you were so deep in morals, or that so many and excellent rules could be produced fo advantageously and agreeably in that science, from any one head. I confess in some places I was forced to read twice. I believe I told


before what the Duke of DM said to me on that occasion; how a judge here, who knows you, told him, that, on the first reading those Essays, he was much pleased, but found some lines a little dark : On the second, most of them cleared up, and his pleasure increased : On the third, he had no doubt remaining, and then he admired the whole."

The subject of this Essay is a vindication of Providence ; in which the poet proposes to prove, That, of all possible fyftems, Infinite Wisdom has formed the best : That in such a system, coherence, union, subordination, are necessary; and if so, that appearances of evil, both moral and natural, are also necessary and unavoidable : That the seeming defects and blemishes in the universe conspire to its general beauty: That as all parts in an animal are not eyes; and as in a city, comedy, or picture, all ranks, cha

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[8] racters, and colours are not equal or alike ; even so excesses and contrary qualities contribute to the proportion and harmony of the universal system: That it is not strange that we should not be able to discover perfection and order in every inftance; because, in an infinity of things mutually relative, a mind which sees not infinitely, can see nothing fully. This do&trine was inculcated by Plato and the Stoics, but more amply and particularly by the later Platonifta, and by Antoninus and Simplicius.

In illustrating his subject, Pope has been much more deeply indebted to the Theodicée of Leibnitz, to Archbishop King's Origin of Evil, and to the Moralifts of Lord Shaftesbury, (particularly to the laft,) than to the philosophers above mentioned. The late Lord Bathurst repeatedly assured me, that he had read the whole scheme of the Essay of Man, in the hand-writing of Bolingbroke, and drawn up in a series of propofitions, which Pope was to amplify, versify, and illustrate. In doing which, our poet, it must be confessed, left several passages so expressed, as to be favourable to fatalism and necessity, notwithstanding all the pains that can be taken, and the artful turns that can be given to those passages, to place them on the side of religion, and make them coincide with the fundamental doctrines of revelation.

The doctrine obviously intended to be inculcated in this Essay is, “ That the dispensations of Providence in the distribution of good and evil, in this life, stand in no need of any hypothesis to juftify them ; all is adjusted in the most perfect order ; whatever is, is right ; and we have no occasion to call in the notion of a future life to vindicate the ways of God to man, because they are fully and sufficiently benevolent and juft in the present.” If we cannot subscribe, on one hand, to Dr. Warburton's opinion, “ that these epiftles have a precision, force, and closeness of connection rarely to be met with, even in the most formal treatises of philosophy :” yet neither can we afsent to the severe fentence that Dr. Johnson has passed on the other hand; namely, " that penury of knowledge, and vulgarity of sentiment, were never so happily disguised as in this Essay; the reader feels his mind full, though he learns nothing; and, when he meets it in its new array, no longer knows the talk of his mother and his nurse."


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The difference between Lord Bolingbroke's system and Pope's is

very well ftated by Ruffhead :

“ Pope's Essay on Man is a real vindication of Providence against libertines and atheists, who quarrel with the present confti.


tution of things, and deny a future ftate. To these he answers, that whatever is, is right; and he assigns this reason,--that we see only a part of the moral system, and not the whole : therefore these irregularities serving to great purposes, such as the fuller manifestation of God's goodness and justice, they are right.

“ On the other hand, Lord Boling broke’s Essays are a pretended vindication of Providence against what he confiders an ingenious confederacy between Divines and Atheists; who use a common principle, namely, the irregularities of God's moral government here, for different ends and purposes; the one, to establish a future fate, and the other to discredit the being of God. Lord Bolingbroke opposes both conclufions, by endeavouring to overthrow the common principle, by his friend's maxim, “ Whatever is, is right;” not because the present ftate of our moral world (which is part only of a general system) is necessary for the perfection of the whole, but because our moral world is an ENTIRE SYSTEM of itSELF. In a word, the poet directs his reasonings against Atheists and Libertines in support of religion ; Lord Bolingbroke against Divines in support of naturalism. Mr. Pope's argument is manly, systematical, and convincing; Lord B.'s confused, prevaricating, and inconsistent.”

It is well known, that M. de Crousaz wrote remarks on the Essay, accusing the Author of inculcating “ Naturalism.” These remarks were answered by Warburton, whose interpretation, as it was adopted by Pope, is here retained. It is plain, that Pope did not in his Essay intend to inculcate Naturalism ; but there are fome passages which, notwithstanding all Warburton has done, seem to look that way. It is but fair, however, that he should have that interpretation by which he deliberately wished to abide. The eagerness with which Warburton's explanations were adopted, appears evidently from Pope's letter to him on the subject, in which I have no doubt he spoke the truth : “ You have made my system as clear as I ought to have done, and could not ; you understand me as well as I understand myfelf, but you express me better than I could myself.”

This poem is of the moral and philosophical kind, and is to be classed with the Poem of Lucretius,' &c. It has


little resemblance to dida&ic or preceptive pieces, such as the Game of Chefs by Vida, Boileau's Art of Poetry, Phillips' Cyder, and other poems of the kind, which Warton enumerates. In its cast and character it is almost as different from these, as they are of a



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different rank and character from poems which (as Warton fays) “ describe events.” Its merit is to be estimated from the depth of thinking which it evinces as a philosophical treatise, and from the propriety and beauty of the language and illustrations which it displays as a poem.

This Essay was translated into Latin verse by J. Sayer.

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