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of epistolary language; but those who read it did not talk of it. Not much therefore was added by it to fame or envy, nor do I remember that it produced either public praise or public censure. It had, however, in some degree, the recommendation of novelty. Our language had few letters, except those of statesmen. Howel, indeed, about a century ago, published his "Letters," which are commended by Morhoff, and which alone, of his hundred volumes, continue his memory. Loveday's "Letters" were printed only once; those of Herbert and Suckling are hardly known. Mrs. Phillips's (Orinda's) are equally neglected. And those of Walsh seem written as exercises, and were never sent to any living mistress or friend. Pope's epistolary excellence had an open field; he had no English rival, living or dead.
Pope is seen in this collection as connected with the other contemporary wits, and certainly suffers no disgrace in the comparison; but it must be remembered that he had the power of favouring himself. He might have originally had publication in his mind, and have written with care, or have afterwards selected those which he had most happily conceived or most diligently laboured; and I know not whether there does not appear something more studied and artificial in his productions than the rest, except one long letter by Bolingbroke, composed with all the skill and industry of a professed author. It is indeed not easy to distinguish affectation from habit; he that has once studiously formed a style, rarely writes afterwards with complete ease. Pope may be said to write always with his reputation in his head; Swift, perhaps, like a man that remembered he was writing to Pope; but Arbuthnot, like one who lets thoughts drop from his pen as they rise into his mind. Before these "Letters" appeared he published the first part of what he persuaded himself to think a system of Ethics, under the title of an "Essay on Man," which, if his letter to Swift
(of September 14, 1725), be rightly explained by the commentator, had been eight years under his consideration, and of which he seems to have desired the success with great solicitude. He had now many open, and doubtless many secret, enemies. The "Dunces were yet smarting from the war, and the superiority which he publicly arrogated disposed the world to wish his humiliation. All this he knew, and against all this he provided. His own name, and that of his friend to whom the work is inscribed, were in the first editions carefully suppressed; and the poem being of a new kind was ascribed to one or another as favour determined or conjecture wandered. It was given, says Warburton, to every man except him only who could write it. Those who like only when they like the author, and who are under the dominion of a name, condemned it, and those admired it who are willing to scatter praise at random, which, while it is unappropriated, excites no envy. Those friends of Pope that were trusted with the secret went about lavishing honours on the new-born poet, and hinting that Pope was never so much in danger from any former rival. To those authors whom he had personally offended, and to those whose opinion the world considered as decisive, and whom he suspected of envy or malevolence, he sent his Essay as a present before publication, that they might defeat their own enemity by praises which they could not afterwards decently retract. With these precautions, in 1733, was published the first part of the "Essay on Man." There' had been for some time a report that Pope was busy upon a "System of Morality," but this design was not discovered in the new poem, which had a form and a title with which its readers were unacquainted. Its reception was not uniform. Some thought it a very imperfect piece, though not without good lines. While the author was unknown, some, as will always happen, favoured him as an adventurer, and some censured him as an intruder,
but all thought him above neglect. The sale increased, and editions were multiplied. The subsequent editions of the first epistle exhibited two memorable corrections. At first, the poet and his friend
"A mighty maze, but not without a plan;"
for if there was no plan it was in vain to describe or to trace the maze.
The other alteration was of these lines:
"And spite of pride, and in thy reason's spite,
but having afterwards discovered, or been shown, that the "truth" which subsisted "in spite of reason" " could not be very "clear," he substituted
"And spite of pride, in erring reason's spite."
To such oversights will the most vigorous mind be liable when it is employed at once upon argument and poetry.
The second and third epistles were published, and Pope 'was, I believe, more and more suspected of writing them. At last, in 1734, he avowed the fourth, and claimed the honour of a moral poet. In the conclusion it is sufficiently acknowledged that the doctrine of the “Essay on Man was received from Bolingbroke, who is said to have ridiculed Pope, among those who enjoyed his confidence, as having adopted and advanced principles of which he did not perceive the consequence, and as blindly propagating opinions contrary to his own. That those communications had been consolidated into a scheme regularly drawn, and delivered to Pope, from whom it
returned only transformed from prose to verse, has been reported, but hardly can be true. The essay plainly appears the fabric of a poet; what Bolingbroke supplied could be only the first principles, the order, illustration, and embellishments, must all be Pope's. These principles it is not my business to clear from obscurity, dogmatism, or falsehood, but they were not immediately examined. Philosophy and poetry have not often the same readers; and the essay abounded in splendid amplifications and sparkling sentences, which were read and admired with no great attention to their ultimate purpose. Its flowers caught the eye, which did not see what the gay foliage concealed, and for a time flourished in the sunshine of universal approbation. So little was any evil tendency discovered, that, as innocence is unsuspicious, many read it for a manual of piety. Its reputation soon invited a translator. It was first turned into French prose, and afterwards by Resnel into verse. Both translations fell into the hands of Crousaz, who first, when he had the version in prose, wrote a general censure, and afterwards reprinted Resnel's version, with particular remarks upon every paragraph.
Crousaz was a professor of Switzerland, eminent for his treatise of logic, and his "Examen de Pyrrhonisme," and, however little known or regarded here, was no mean antagonist. His mind was one of those in which philosophy and piety are happily united. He was accustomed to argument and disquisition, and perhaps was grown too desirous of detecting faults, but his intentions were always right, his opinions were solid, and his religion pure. His incessant vigilance for the promotion of piety disposed him to look with distrust upon all metaphysical systems of theology, and all schemes of virtue and happiness purely rational; and therefore it was not long before he was persuaded that the positions of Pope, as they terminated for the most part in natural religion, were
intended to draw mankind away from revelation, and to represent the whole course of things as a necessary concatenation of indissoluble fatality, and it is undeniable that in many passages a religious eye may easily discover expressions not very favourable to morals or to liberty.
About this time Warburton began to make his appearance in the first ranks of learning. He was a man of vigorous faculties, a mind fervid and vehement, supplied by incessant and unlimited inquiry, with wonderful extent and variety of knowledge, which yet had not oppressed his imagination nor clouded his perspicacity. To every work he brought a memory full fraught, together with a fancy fertile of original combinations, and at once exerted the powers of the scholar, the reasoner, and the wit. But his knowledge was too multifarious to be always exact, and his pursuits were too eager to be always cautious. His abilities gave him a haughty confidence, which he disdained to conceal or mollify, and his impatience of opposition disposed him to treat his adversaries with such contemptuous superiority as made his readers commonly his enemies, and excited against the advocate the wishes of some who favoured the cause. He seems to have adopted the Roman Emperor's determination, oderint dum metuant; he used no allurements of gentle language, but wished to compel rather than persuade. His style is copious without selection, and forcible without neatness. He took the words that presented themselves. His diction is coarse and impure, and his sentences are unmeasured. He had in the early part of his life pleased himself with the notice of inferior wits, and corresponded with the enemies of Pope. A letter was produced, when he had perhaps himself forgotten it, in which he tells Concanen, 'Dryden, I observe, borrows for want of leisure, and Pope for want of genius, Milton out of pride, and Addison out of modesty." And when Theobald published Shakespeare, in opposition to Pope, the best notes were supplied by