« PreviousContinue »
So two consistent motions * act the soul;
52. Come then, my friend ! my genius! come along ;
Oh, master of the poet, and the song !!
In this concluding address of our author to Lord Bolingbroke, ý one is at a loss which to admire most, the warmth of his friendship, or the warmth of his genius. Pope, indeed, idolized him : when in company with him, he appeared with all the deference and submission of an affectionate scholar. He used to speak of him as a being of a superior order, that had condeI 2
* Should it not be actuate, or act upon ? He has used this expression again, Iliad xv. v. 487,
That fix'd as fate, this acted by a God.
† Ep. iii. ver. 313.
§ Those passages in Bolingbroke's Posthumous Works, that bear the closest resemblance to the tenets of this Essay, are the following. Vol. iv. octavo edition, p. 223 and p. 324 ; p. 94 of vol. v. ; p. 388 of vol. iv. and 389; and p. 49 of vol. iv. p. 5 and 6 of vol. v. p. 17 of vol. v. p. 316 of vol. iv.
36 of vol. v. p. 51 of vol. v. p. 328 of vol. iv. and more particularly than all, p. 326 of vol. iv.
scended to visit this lower world ; in particular, when the last comet appeared, and approached near the earth, he told some of his acquaintance, “ it was sent only to convey Lord Bolingbroke HOME AGAIN; just as a stage-coach stops at your door to take up a passenger.” A graceful person, a flow of nervous eloquence, a vivid imagination, were the lot of this accomplished nobleman; but his ambitious views being frustrated in the early part of his life, his disappointments embittered his temper, and he seems to have * been disgusted with all religions, and all governments. I have been informed from an eye-witness of one of his last interviews with Pope, who was then given over by the physicians, that Bolingbroke, standing behind Pope's chair, looked earnestly down upon him, and repeated several times, interrupted with sobs, “O, Great God, what is man! I never knew a person that had so tender a heart
His manner of reasoning, and philosophising, has been so happily caught in a piece entitled A Vindication of Natural Society, that many, even acute readers, mistook it for a genuine discourse of the author whom it was intended to expose ; it is, indeed, a master-piece of irony. No writings that raised so mighty an expectation in the public as those of Bolingbroke, ever perished so soon, and sunk into oblivion.
for his particular friends, or a warmer benevolence for all mankind." It is to be hoped that Bolingbroke * profited by those remarkable words I 3
* It is asserted, on good authority, that Bolingbroke was accustomed to ridicule Pope, as not understanding the drift of his own principles in their full extent. It is plain, from many of our author's letters, vol. ix. p. 324, that he was pleased to find such an interpretation could be given to this poem, as was consistent with the fundamental principles of religion. This also farther appears from some curious letters that passed in the year one thousand seven hundred and forty-two, between Ramsay, Racine the younger, and our author. The former addressed a vindication of the principles of the Essay on Man to Racine, who had charged it with Spinozism and irreligion. This produced a letter from Pope to Racine, which concludes with these remarkable words: “I declare, therefore, loudly, and with the greatest sincerity, that my sentiments are diame. trically opposite to those of Spinoza, and even of Leibnitz. They are, in truth, perfectly agreeable to the tenets of Pascal, and the Archbishop of Cambray: and I shall think it an honour to imitate the moderation and docility of the latter, in always submitting all my private opinions to the decision of the church." London, Sept. 1, 1742.
There is a circumstance in the letter of Ramsay above-men. tioned, ton remarkable to be onitted ; and which, perhaps, some may be almost tempted to doubt the truth of. In a case of so delicate a nature I chuse to quote the original. “ M. le Chevalier Newton, grand Géométre & nullement Métaphysician, étoit persuadé de la vérité de la Religion : mais il voulut rafiner sur d'anciennes erreurs Orientales, & renouvella l'Arianisme par l'organe de son fameux disciple & interperte M.
that POPE spoke in his last illness to the same gentleman who communicated the foregoing
Clarke; qui m'avoua quelque tems avant que de mourir après plusieurs conférences que j'avois eues avec lui, combien il se repentoit d'avoir fait imprimer son Ouvrage : je fus témoin il y a douze ans, à Londres, des derniers sentimens de ce modeste & vertueux Docteur.”
(Euvres de Racine, tom, i. p. 233.
The manner in which Ramsay endeavours to explain the doctrine of the Essay is as follows.
« Pope is far from assert. ing that the present state of man is his primitive state, (but see above, page 70,) and is conformable to order. His design is to shew that, since the Fall, all is proportioned with weight, mea. sure, and harmony, to the condition of a degraded being, who suffers, and who deserves to suffer, and who cannot be restored but by sufferings; that physical evils are designed to cure moral evil; that the passions and the crimes of the most abandoned men, are confined, directed and governed by Infinite Wisdom in such a manner, as to make order emerge out of confusion, light out of darkness, and to call out innumerable advantages from the transitory inconveniencies of this life; that this so gracious Providence conducts all things to its own ends, without ever hurting the liberty of intelligent beings, and without either causing or approving the effects of their delibe. rate malice; that all is ordained in the physical order, as all is free in the moral : that these two orders are connected closely without fatality, and are not subject to that necessity which renders us virtuous without merit, and vicious without crime; that we see at present but a single wheel of the magnificent machine of the universe; but a small link of the great chain; and but an insignificant part of that immense plan which will one day be unfolded. Then will God fully justify all the in
anécdote: “I am so certain of the soul's being immortal, that I seem even to feel it within me,
comprehensible proceedings of his wisdom and goodness; and will vindicate himself, as Milton speaks, from the rash judg. ment of mortals."
Lettre De M. De Ramsay, A Pontoise le 28 April, 1742.
It will be proper to subjoin Bolingbroke's own account of this Essay, given in a letter to Swift, August 2, 1731.
" Does Pope talk to you of the noble work which, at my instigation, he has begun in such a manner, that he must be convinced, by this time, I judged better of his talents than he did. The first epistle, which considers man, and the habitation of man, relatively to the whole system of universal being. The second, which considers him in his own habitation, in himself, and relatively to his own particular system. And the third, which shews how an universal cause works to one end, but works by various laws; how man, and beast, and vegetable, are linked in a mutual dependency : parts necessary to each other, and necessary to the whole : how human socie. ties were formed; from what spring true religion and true policy are derived; how God has made our greatest interests and our plainest duty indivisibly the same. These three epistles, I say, are finished. The fourth he is now intent upon. It is a noble subject: he pleads the cause of God. I use Seneca's expression against that famous charge which atheists in all ages have brought, the supposed unequal dispensations of Providence; a charge which I cannot heartily forgive your divines