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ESSAY ON MAN;
H. ST. JOHN, LORD BOLINGBROKE.
TO WHICH IS ADDED,
The Universal Prayer.
BY ALEXANDER POPE, Esa.
PUBLISHED BY SILAS ANDRUS.
HAVING proposed to write some pieces on human life nd manners, such as (to use my Lord Bacon's expresion) come home to men's business and bosoms, I thought t more satisfactory to begin with considering Man in the bstract, his nature and his state; since, to prove any moral luty, to enforce any moral precept, or to examine the perection or imperfection of any creature whatsoever, it is lecessary first to know what condition and relation it is plaed in, and what is the proper end and purpose of its being. The science of human nature is, like all other sciences, educed to a few clear points: There are not many certain ruths in this world. It is therefore in the anatomy of the nind, as in that ofthe body; more good will accrue to mankind by attending to the large, open, and perceptible parts, than by studying too much such finer nerves and vessels, the conformation and uses of which will for ever escape our observation. The disputes are all upon these last; and I will venture to say, they have less sharpened the wits than the hearts of men against each other, and have diminished the practice, more than advanced the theory, of morality. If I could flatter myself that this Essay has any merit, 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 sho yet not imperfect, system of ethics.
This I might have done in prose; but I chose verse, ar even rhyme, for two reasons. The one will appear obv ous; that principles, maxims, or precepts, so written, bot strike the reader more strongly at first, and are more easil retained by him afterward. The other may seem od but it is true; I found I could express them more short this way than in prose itself! and nothing is more certai than that much of the force, as well as grace of argumen or instructions, depends on their conciseness. I was unabl to treat this part of my subject more in detail, withou becoming dry and tedious; or more poetically, withou sacrificing perspicuity to ornament, without wanderin from the precision, or breaking the chain of reasoning. I any man can unite all these without diminution of any of them, I freely confess he will compass a thing abov my capacity.
What is now published, is only to be considered as a general Map of Man, marking out no more than the greater parts, their extent, their limits, and their connex ion; but leaving the particular to be more fully delineated in the charts which are to follow. Consequently, these Epistles in their progress (if I have health and leisure to make any progress) will be less dry, and more susceptible of poetical ornament. I am here only opening the foun tains and clearing the passage: to deduce the rivers, to follow them in their course, and to observe their effects may be a task more agreeable.
ARGUMENT OF EPISTLE 1.
Of the Nature and State of Man, with respect to the
OF Man in the abstract.-1. That we can judge only with regard to our own system, being ignorant of the relaions of systems and things, ver. 17, &c. II. That man is ot to be deemed imperfect, but a being suited to his place and rank in the creation, agreeable to the general order of things, and conformable to ends and relations to him unknown, ver. 35, &c. III. That it is partly upon his ignoance of future events, and partly upon the hope of a future tate, that all his happiness in the present depends, ver. 77, &c. IV. The pride of aiming at more knowledge, and pretending to more perfection, the cause of man's error and nisery. The impiety of putting himself in the place of God, and judging of the fitness or unfitness, perfection or imperfection, justice or injustice, of his dispensations, ver. 109, &c. V. The absurdity of conceiting himself the final cause of the creation, or expecting that perfection in the moral world which is not in the natural, ver. 131, &c. VI. The unreasonableness of his complaints against Provi dence, while on the one hand he demands the perfections of the angels, and on the other, the bodily qualifications of the brutes; though, to possess any of the sensitive faculties in a higher degree, would render him miserable, ver. 173, &c. VII. That throughout the whole visible world, an universal order and gradation in the sensual and mental faculties is observed, which causes a subordination of ereature to creature, and of all creatures to man. The gradations of sense, instinct, thought, reflection, reason; that reason alone countervails all the other faculties, ver. 207.