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as it were, by intuition.” After such a declara-, tion, and after writing so fervent and elevated a piece of devotion as the Universal Prayer, would it not be injustice to accuse our author of libertinism and irreligion ? Especially, as I am told he had inserted an address to Jesus Christ, in the Essay on Man, which he omitted at the instance of Bishop Berkeley, because the Christian dispensation did not come within the compass of his plan. Not that so pious and worthy a prelate could imagine, that this Platonic scheme of OPTIMISM, or the best, sufficiently accounts for the introduction of moral and physical evil into the world ; which, in truth, nothing but revela
for admitting. You admit it, indeed, for an extreme good purpose,
you build on this admission the necessity of a future state of rewards and punishments; but if
should find that this future state will not account for God's justice in the present state, which you give up, in opposition to the atheist, would it not have been better to defend God's justice in this world, against these daring men, by irrefragable reasons, and to have rested the other point on revelation? I do not like concessions made against demonstration, repair or supply them how you will. The epistles I haye mentioned will compose a first book; the plan of the second is settled. You will not understand by what I have said, that Pope will go so deep into the argument, or carry it so far, as I have hinted.”
tion can explain, and nothing but a future state can compensate. *
* The Essay on Man was elegantly, but unfaithfully, translated into French verse by M. Du Resnel. It was more accurately rendered into French prose by M. de Silhouete; which translation has been often printed ; at Paris 1736; at London 1741, in Quarto; at the Hague 1742. He has subjoined a defence of the doctrines of the Essay from Warburton's Letters; and has added a translation also, with a large commentary, of the four succeeding epistles of Pope.
Marmontel, in his Poetique Françoise, has passed a severe sentence on the obscurity and inconclusiveness of Pope's reasoning. Vol. ii. p. 536.
In the very last edition of Bishop Law's translation of the Origin of Evil, p. 17, is the following remarkable passage: “ I had now the satisfaction of seeing that those very principles which had been maintained by Archbishop King, were adopted by Mr. Pope, in his Essay oy Man; this I used to recollect, and sometimes relate, with pleasure, conceiving that such an account did no less honour to the Poet than to our Philosopher; but was soon made to understand, that any thing of that kind was taken highly amiss, by one (i. e. Bishop Warburton) who had once held the doctrine of that same Essay to be rank atheism, but afterwards turned a warm advocate for it, and thought proper to deny the account above-mentioned, with heavy menaces against those who presumed to insinuate that Pope borrowed any thing from any man whatsoever."
OF THE MIORAL ESSAYS IN FIVE EPISTLES
TO SEVERAL PERSONS.
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, MontAIGNE, CHARRON, LA ROCHEFOUCAULT, LA BRUYERE, and PASCAL. These are supposed to have penetrated deeply into the most secret recesses 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 Clarissa, and Field
ING 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 science of morals, as Pope has in these five Epistles. They, indeed, contain all that is solid and valuable in the abovementioned French writers, of whom our author was remarkably fond. But, whatever observations he has borrowed from them, he has made his own by the dexterity of his application.
1. Men may be read, as well as books, too much.*
“ Study life,” cry the unlettered men of the world : but that world cannot be known merely by that study alone. The dread of pedantry is a characteristic folly of the present age.
We adopted it from the French, without considering the reasons that give rise to it among that people. The religious, and particularly the Jesuits, per
* Ep. i. ver. 10.
ceiving that a taste for learning began widely to diffuse itself among the laity, could find no surer method of repressing it, than by treating the learned character as ridiculous. This ridicule was carried so far, that, to mention one instance out of ten thousand, the publisher of La Rochefoucault's Maxims makes a grave apology in form, for quoting Seneca in Latin.
2. At half mankind, when gen'rous Manly raves,
All know 'tis virtue, for he thinks them knaves.*
The character alluded to is the principal one in the Plain Dealer of Wycherly, a comedy taken from the. Misanthrope of Moliere, but much inferior to the original. Alcestes has not that bitterness of spirit, and has much more humanity and honour than Manly. Writers transfuse their own characters into their works : Wycherly was a vain and profligate libertine; Moliere was beloved for his candour, sweetness of temper, and integrity. It is remarkable that the French did not relish this incomparable comedy for the three first representations. The strokes of its satire
* Ver. 57,