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the lyre, we are charmed with the music, and worship her as truth.”—(Warton's Edit. vol. iii. p. 198.) Mr. Bowles thinks this “the worst of Pope's Epistles ;” that it is founded upon an absurd and unphilosophical principle," and that "the whole theory is full of inconsistency."-(Bowles's Edit. vol. i. p. 244.) He also observes in his Life of Pope, (p. 98.) that " what Johnson has said on the principle of this poem, the ruling passion, is most just and incontrovertible.”
I trust it will not be imputed to me as the result of a determination to vindicate the author on all occasions, or of a pertinacious desire of opposing the opinions of my predecessors, when I state it to be my strong conviction, that in thus representing the doctrines of Pope in the following Epistle, they have wholly mistaken his meaning; and have accused him of giving rise to consequences which he never intended, and against which he has guarded by every precaution in his power. What is stated in this Epistle, may be considered as a supplement, or practical illustration of what he had before said in the Essay on Man; where we are told that the ruling passion is implanted in us at our birth, and that if we wish to understand the human character, it is indispensably necessary for us to be acquainted with the ruling passion of each individual. But that this ruling passion is so absolute and uncontrollable as “ to produce the belief of a kind of moral predestination, or over-ruling principle that cannot be resisted,” is no where contended. On the contrary it is represented as capable of being modified and restrained ; and as frequently forming a part of, and being mixed up with other causes, on which our conduct is founded:
“ Add nature's, custom's, reason's, passion's, strife,
Moral Essays, Ep. i. Ver. 21.
Judge we by nature ? habit can efface,
Ib. Ver. 166. Restrictions which alone are sufficient to shew, that the doctrine was never intended, by the author, to be taken in' the unlimited sense to which Johnson has carried it.
Again, it is to be observed that Pope has not only cautiously guarded against the undue application of this principle,“ to justify a compliance with every desire that caprice or opportunity shall excite," on the pretext of "submitting only to the lawful dominion of nature,” but that he has considered it as the foundation of our highest virtues, and as the stock upon which it is the business of life to ingraft those fruits which are of the greatest value. This subject forms so important a part of the second Epistle of the Essay on Man, that it is astonishing it should not have occurred to his critics. After dwelling at length on the powerful effect of the ruling passion, and the difficulty there would be in the attempt to eradicate it, he not only admits that it is capable of being regulated, but directs how it is to be accomplished :
“ Nature's road must ever be preferr’d;
Essay on Man, Ep. ii. ver. 161. Not satisfied however with shewing that the ruling passion may be so moderated and controlled as to obviate its injurious effects on the character, he proceeds further, and demonstrates, that such a principle is positively advantageous to us (as indeed it would not otherwise have been implanted in us) and that we derive from it a consistency of character which we should otherwise have wanted:
“ Th' eternal art, educing good from ill,
Grafts on this passion our best principle;
Essay on Man, Ep. ii. ver. 175. And this is extended and illustrated by a passage equally poetical and correct:
“ As fruits, ungrateful to the planter's care,
stocks inserted, learn to bear,
of wit and honesty appear
Essay on Man, Ep. ii. ver. 181. Whence it is evident that the poet considered the ruling passion
merely as the rudder of the mind; upon the due management and direction of which, the success and happiness of life essentially depends. This subject is further explained by Warburton in a luminous note on the Essay on Man, Ep. ii. ver. 163. which has been omitted in the editions of both Warton and Bowles,
OF THE KNOWLEDGE AND CHARACTERS OF MEN.
That it is not sufficient for this knowledge to consider Man in the
Abstract: Books will not serve the purpose, nor yet our own Experience singly, Ver. 1. General maxims, unless they be formed upon both, will be but notional, Ver. 10. Some peculiarity in every man, characteristic to himself, yet varying from himself, Ver. 15. Difficulties arising from our cwn Passions, Fancies, Faculties, &c. Ver. 31. The shortness of Life, to observe in, and the uncertainty of the Principles of Action in men, to observe by, Ver. 37, &c. Our own Principle of action often hid from ourselves, Ver. 41. Some few characters plain, but in general confounded, dissembled, or inconsistent, Ver. 51. The same man utterly different in different places and seasons, Ver. 71. Unimaginable weaknesses in the greatest, Ver. 77, &c. Nothing constant and certain but God and Nature, Ver. 95. No judging of the Motives from the actions ; the same actions proceeding from contrury Motives, and the same Motives influencing contrary actions, Ver. 100. II. Yet to form Characters, we can only take the strongest actions of a man's life, and try to muke them agree. The utter uncertainty of this, from Nature itself, and from Policy, Ver. 120. Characters given according to the rank of men of the world, Ver. 135. And some reason for it, Ver. 141. Education alters the Nature, or at least the Character, of many, Ver. 149. Actions, Passions, Opinions, Manners, Humours, or Principles, all subject to change. No judging by Nature, from
Ver. 158 to 174. III. It only remains to find (if we can) his RULING PASSION. That will certainly influence all the rest, and can reconcile the seeming or real inconsistency of all his actions, Ver. 175. Instanced in the extraordinary character of Clodio, Ver. 179. A caution against mistaking second qualities for first, which will destroy all possibility of the knowledge of mankind, Ver. 210. Eramples of the strength of the Ruling Passion, and its continuation to the last breath, Ver. 222, &c.