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MORAL ESSAYS.

EPISTLE I.

TO SIR RICHARD TEMPLE, L. COBHAM.

ARGUMENT.

- i

Of the Knowledge and Characters of Men,

I. 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 own 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. 62. Unimaginable weaknesses in the greatest, ver. 70, &c. Nothing constant and certain but God and nature, ver. 95. No jndging of the motives from the actions; the same actions proceeding from contrary 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 make 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. 140. Education alters the nature, or at least character of many, ver. 149. Actions, passions, opinions, manners, humours, or principles, all subject to change. JJo judging by nature, from ver. 158 to ver. 178. III. It only remains tb 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. l?y. A caution against mistaking second qualities for first, which will destroy all possibility of the knowledge of mankind, ver. 210. Examples of the strength of the ruling passion, and its continuation to the last breath, ver. 222, &c.

EPISTLE I.

YES, you despise the man to books confin'd,
Who from his study rails at human kind;
Though what he learns he speaks, and may ad-
vance

Some general maxims, or be right by chance.
The coxcomb bird, s0 talkative and grave, [knave,
That from his cage cries cuckold, whore, and
Though many a passenger he rightly call,
You hold him no philosopher at all.

-And yet the fate of all extremes in such.
Men may be read, as well as books, too much.
To observations which ourselves we make,
"We grow more partial for the observer's sake;
To written wisdom, as another's, less;
Masims are drawn from notions, these from guess.

There's tome peculiar in each leaf and grain,

Some unmark'd fibre, or some varying vein;

Shall only man be taken in the gross?

Grant but as many sorts of mind as moss.
That each from other differs, first confess;

Vest, that he varies from himself no less;

Add nature's, custom's, reason's, passion's strife,

And alt opinion's colours cast on life.

Our depths who fathoms, or our shallows finds,

Quick whirls, and shifting eddies, of our minds?

On human actions reason though you can,

It may be reason, but it is not man:

His principle of action once explore,

That instant 'tis his principle no more.

Like following life through creatures yi

You lose it in the moment you detect.
Yet more; the difference is as great between

The optics seeing, as the objects seen.
All manners take a tincture from our own;

Or come discolour'd through our passions shown.
Or fancy's beam enlarges, multiplies,
Contracts, inverts, and gives ten thousand dyes,

Nor will life's stream for observation stay,
It hurries all too fast to mark their way:
In vain sedate reflections we would make,
When half our knowledge we must snatch, not take.
Oft, in the passion's wild rotation tost,
Our spring of action to ourselves is lost:
Tir'd, not determin'd, to the last we yield,
And what comes then is master of the field.
As the last image of that troubled heap,
When sense subsides and fancy sports in sleep
(Though past the recollection of the thought).
Becomes the stuff of which our dream is wrought;
Something as dim to our internal view,
Is thus, perhaps, the canse of most we do.

True, some are open, and to all men known; Others, so very close, they're hid from none (So darkness strikes the sense no leas than light); Thus gracious Chandos is belov'd at sight;

And every child hates Shy lock, though his soul
Still sits at squat, and peeps not from its bole.
At half mankind when generous Manly raves,
All know 'tis virtue, for he thinks them knaves:
When universal homage Umbra pays,
All see 'tis vice, an itch of vulgar praise.
When flattery glares, all hate it in a queen,
While one there is who charms us with his spleen.

But these plain characters we rarely find;
: Though strong the bent, yet quick the turns of mind:
Or puzzling contraries confound the whole;
Or affectations quite reverse the soul.
The dull, flat falsehood serves for policy;
And in the cunning, truth itselfs a lie:
Unthought-of frailties cheat us in the wise;
The fool lies hid in inconsistencies.

See the same man, in vigour, m the gout;
Alone. in company ; in place or out;
Early at business, and at hazard late;
Mad at a fox-chase, wise at a debate;
Drunk at a borough, civil at a ball;
Friendly at Hackney, faithless at Whitehall.

Catins is ever moral, ever grave.
Thinks who endures a knave, is next a knave,
Save just at dinner—then prefers, no doubt,
A rogue with veni son to a saint without.

"Who would not praise Patricio's high desert,
His hand unstain'd. his uncorrupted heart,
His comprehensive head, all interests weigh 'd,
All Europe sav'd, yet Britain not betray'd?
He thanks you not, his pride is in piquet,
Newmarket fame, and judgement at a bet.

Wliat made (say, Montague, or more sage CharOtho a warrior, Cromwell a buffoon? [ron \)

perjur'd prince a leaden saint revere,
A godless regent tremble at a star?
The throne a bigot keep, a-genins quit,
Faithless through piety, and dup'd through wit?
Europe a woman, child, or dotard rule,
And just her wisest monarch made a fool?

Know, Ood and nature only are the same .' In man, the jndgement shoots at flying game; A bird of passage! gone as soon as found, Now in the moon, perhaps now under ground.

II. In vain the sage, with retrospective eye, Would from th' apparent what conclnde the why. Infer the motive from the deed, and show, That what we chane'd, was what we meant to do. Behold, if fortune or a mistress frowns, Some plunge in business, others shave their crowns': To easethe soul of one oppressive weight, This quits an empire, that embroils a state: The same adust complexion has impell'd Charles to the convent, Philip to the field.

Not always actions show the man: we find Who does a kindness, is not therefore kind: Perhaps prosperity becalm'd his breast, Perhaps the wind just shifted from the east: Not therefore humble he wno seeks retreat; Pride guides his steps, and bids him shun the great: Who combats bravely is not therefore brave, He dreads a death-bed like the meanest slave: Who reasons wisely is not therefore wise, His pride in reasoning, not in acting, lies.

But grunt that actions best discover man; Take the most strong, and sort them as you can: The few that glare, each character must mark, You balance not the many in the dark. What will you do with such as disagree? Suppress them, or miscall them policy? Must then at once (the character to save) The plain rough hero turn a crafty knave? Alas! in truth the man but chang'd his mind, Perhaps was sick, in love, or had not din'd. Ask why from Britain Csesar would retreat? Caesar himself might whisper, he was beat. Why risk the world's great empire for a punk? Caesar perhaps might answer, he was drunk. But, sage historians! 'tis your task to prove One action, conduct; one, heroic love.

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