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In faith and hope the world will disagree,
Here he recommendeth the true Form of Government, which is the mixed. In another place he as strongly condemneth the false, or the absolute jure divino Form:
“ For Nature knew no right divine in men.” But the reader will not be displeased to see the Poet's own apology, as I find it written in the year 1740, in his own hand, in the margin of a pamphlet, where he found these two celebrated lines very much misapplied : “ The author of these lines was far from meaning that no one form of Government is, in itself, better than another, as, that mixed or limited Monarchy, for example, is not preferable to absolute), but that no form of Government, however excellent or preferable, in itself, can be sufficient to make a people happy, unless it be administered with integrity. On the contrary, the best sort of Government, when the form of it is preserved, and the administration corrupt, is most dangerous.”
II. Again, to suppose the Poet to mean, that all Religions are indifferent, is an equally wrong, as well as uncharitable suspicion. Mr. Pope, though his subject, in this Essay on Man, confineth him to Natural Religion, yet he giveth frequent intimations of a more sublime Dispensation, and even of the necessity of it; particularly in his second Epistle (ver. 149, &c.), where he confesseth the weakness and insufficiency of human Reason.
And likewise in his fourth Epistle, where, speaking of the good man, the favourite of Heaven, he saith,
“ For him alone, Hope leads from goal to goal,
And opens still, and opens on his soul:
all the mind.” But Natural Religion never lengthened Hope on to Faith; nor did any Religion, but the Christian, ever conceive that Faith could fill the mind with happiness.
Lastly, In this very Epistle, and in this very place, speaking of the great Restorers of the Religion of Nature, he intimates that they could only draw God's shadow, not his image :
“ Relum'd her ancient light, not kindled new,
If not God's image, yet his shadow drew:
All must be false that thwart this one great end; And all of God, that bless Mankind or mend. 310
as reverencing that truth, which telleth us, this discovery was reserved for the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Cor. iv. 4.
Warburton. Ver. 303. For forms of Government let fools contest, &c.] It is by no means surprising that these four lines should have been considered as inculcating a slavish subserviency to authority, both in government and religion. Nor will it perhaps be generally admitted that the explanations given by Warburton, or even by Pope himself, in the foregoing note, are sufficient to invalidate such an opinion. Warburton's plea is, that the poet is speaking only of a just and legitimate government, and of the true faith; and that to contend, where all is good, which is the best, and where all is true, which is the most true, is a speculative and foolish employment, but unfortunately the passage objected to does not admit of this construction; for it expressly allows, that there are different forms of government, (some of which must be preferable to others) and different modes of faith, (all of which cannot be right). Pope himself expressly states that “ he was far from meaning that no one form of government is, in itself, better than another ;” and as long as this is the case, it cannot be foolish to endeavour to ascertain which of these is the best. The fact seems to be, that the poet in describing " the world's great harmony,”
“ was led to consider whatever tended to promote the general happiness as right and good; and that it could not, therefore, be either a bad government, or a fulse religion, which led to so happy a result. His context therefore required that he should have said, “ let fools contend about forms of government; THAT is the best form which renders mankind the happiest. Let graceless zealots fight about modes of faith ; that is the best mode which renders men the most virtuous”—and this would have been consistent with his conclusion:
All must be false that thwart this one great end,
And all of God, that bless mankind or mend. But this would have had too much the appearance of an insipid truism, and in substituting ideas of greater novelty, he has not only hazarded some very doubtful propositions, but has given ocVOL. y.
Man, like the generous vine, supported lives; The strength he gains is from th' embrace he gives.
Ver. 311. Man, like the generous vine, &c.] Having thus largely considered man in his social capacity, the Poet, in order to fix a momentous truth in the mind of his reader, concludes the Epistle in recapitulating the two Principles which concur to the support of this part of his character, namely, SELF-LOVE and SOCIAL; and in shewing that they are only two different motions of the appetite to good, by which the Author of Nature hath enabled man to find his own happiness in the happiness of the whole. This he illustrates with a thought as sublime as that general harmony which he describes :
“ On their own axis as the planets run,
Yet make at once their circle round the sun;
Thus God and Nature link'd the general frame,
And bade Self-love and Social be the same." For he hath the art of converting poetical ornament into philosophic reasoning; and of improving a simile into an analogical argument; of which, more in our next.
casion to imputations on the independence of his principles, which, on any other supposition than that above stated, it would be difficult to remove.
Ver. 305. For modes of Faith, &c.] He borrowed this from Cowley; who, extolling the piety of his friend Crashaw, the Poet, who went over to the Romish Church, and died a Canon of Loretto, says: Pardon, my
Mother Church, if I consent
Be wrong; his life, I'm sure, was in the right.”
On their own axis as the planets run,
Thus God and Nature link'd the general frame, And bade Self-love and Social be the same.
“ Digladient alii circa res religionis :
Quod credas nihil est, sit modo vita proba.” But“ digladient is a barbarism; he should have said, digladientur, or contendant," says Dr. Jortin.
Warton. Ver. 313. On their own axis] This illustration is plainly taken from the Spectator, No. 588, said to be written by Mr. Grove: “ Is therefore Benevolence inconsistent with Self-love ? Are their motions contrary? No more than the diurnal rotation of the earth is opposed to its annual; or its motion round its own centre: which might be improved as an illustration of Self-love; that whirls it about the common centre of the world, answering to universal benevolence. Is the force of Self-love abated, or its interest prejudiced by benevolence?. So far from it, that benevolence, though a distinct principle, is extremely serviceable to Self-love, and then doth most service when it is least designed.” Warton.
Ver. 315. act the soul,] It should certainly be actuate or act upon. He has used this expression again, Iliad xv. v. 487.
This acted by a God.” Such inaccuracies are not worth remarking, but in writers so correct and eminent as our author, lest they should give a sanction to errors. Dr. Lowth in his Grammar has pointed out several in our author's works.
Warton. Ver. 318. And bade Self-love and Social be the same.] True Selflove is an appetite for that proper good, for the enjoyment of which, we were made as we are. Now that good is commensurate with all other good, and a part and portion of Universal Good: it is therefore the same with Social, which hath these properties.
Warburton. Ver. 318. And bade Self-love] The remarks of Warburton on the Essay on Man, on the Moral Epistles, and the Alliance betwixt Church and State, were translated into French by M. De Silhouette;
for which translation, supposing it contained opinions unfavourable to the despotic government of France, he was much censured, and had nearly been prosecuted, when he became ControllerGeneral of the Finances ; and he immediately bought up and destroyed all the copies of this work that could be found.
In this passage (ver. 318.) Pope uses the very words of Bolingbroke: “ Thus it happens that Self-love and Social are divided, and set in opposition to one another in the conduct of particular men, whilst in the making laws, and the regulation of government, they continue the same.” Minutes of Essays, section 51. addressed to Pope.