« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
[ ii ]
HE ESSAY ON MAN, to use the
stem of Ethics; in which Definicion he included Rebigion: For he was far from that Opinion of the noble Writer of the Chara&teristics, that Morality could long support itself
, or have even a real existence, without a reference to the Deity. Hence it is that the first Epistle regards Man with respect to the Lord and Governor of the universe; as the second with respect to himself; the Third to Saciety; and the fourth, to happiness. Having therefore formed and finished his Esay in this View he was much mortified whenever he found it considered in any other ; or as a part and introduction only to a larger work. As appears from the conclusion of his second Dialogue, intitled M DCC XXXVIII, where he makes his impertinent adviser say,
Alas! alas! pray end what you began,
which a MS. note of his thus explains : “ The author undoubtedly ineant this as a “ Sarcasm on the ignorance of those friends “ of his, who were daily peftering him for “ more Esays on Man, as not seeing that the “ four Epistles he had published entirely compleated that subject.
23. But it must be owned, that the Public, by the great and continued demand for his Elay, sufficiently freed itself from this imputation of wrong Judgment. And how great and continued that demand has been, appears from the vast variety of pirated and imperfect Edition continually obtruded on the world, ever since the first publication of the Poem; and which no repeated prosecutions of the Offenders have been able totally to restrain.
These were the considerations which have now induced the Proprietor to give one perfect Edition of the Esay on Man, from Mr. Pope's last corrections and improvements; that the Public may from henceforth be supplied with this Poem alone, in a manner suitable to its dignity, and to the honest intention of its
Concerning the UNIVERSAL PRAYER, which concludes the Esay, it may
proper to observe, that, fome passages in the Elay having been unjustly suspected of a tendency towards Fate and Naturalism, the Author composed that Prayer as the Sum of all, to Thew that his System was founded in Free-will, and terminated in Piety: That the first Cause was as well the Lord and Governor as the Creator of the Universe; and that by Submillion to his Will (the great principleinforced throughout the Esay) was not meant the suffer. ing ourselves to be carried along with a blind determination, but a religious acquiescence, and confidence full of hope and immortality, To give all this the greater weight and reality the Poet chose for his Model the LORD'S PRAY E R, which of all others best deserves the title prefixed to his Paraphrase.
The Reader will excuse my adding a word concerning the Frontispiece ; which, as it was designed and drawn by Mr. Pope himself, would be a kind of Curiosity, had not the excellence of the thought otherwise recommended it. We see it represents the Vanity of human Glory, in the false pursuits after Happiness: where the Ridicule in the Curtain cobweb, the death's head crowned with laurel, and the several Inscriptions, have all the force and beauty of one of his best written Satires : Nor is there less expression in the bearded Philosopher sitting by a fountain running to waste, and blowing up bubbles with a straw from a small portion of water taken out of it, in a dirty dish ; admirably representing the vain business of School-Philosophy, that, with a little artificial logic, sits inventing airy arguments in support of false science, while the human Understanding at large is suffered to lie waste and uncultivated.
AVING proposed to write some pieces on
Human Life and Manners, such as (to use my Lord Bacon's expression) come home to Men's Business and Bofoms, I thought it more satisfactory to begin with confidering Man in the abstract, his Nature and his State : fince, to prove any moral duty, to enforce any moral precept, or to examine the perfection or imperfection of any creature whatsoever, it is necessary first to know what condition and relation it is placed in, and what is the proper end and purpose of its being.
The science of Human Nature is, like all other sciences, reduced to a few clear points: There are not many certain truths in this world. It is therefore in the anatomy of the Mind as in that of the Body: more good will accrue to mankind by attending to the large, open, and perceptible parts, than by stub dying too much such finer nerves and vessels, the conformations and uses of which will for ever escape our observation. The aisputes are all upon these last, and I will venture to say, they have less sharpned the wits than the hearts of men against cach other, and have diminished the practice more than advanced the theory of Morality. If I could Aatter'ınyself that this Essay has any inerit, it is in steering betwixt the extremes of doctrines seemingly opposite; in passing over terms utterly unintelligible; and in forming a temperate, yet not inconsistent; and a short, yet not imperfect system of Ethics.