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The third book, in like manner, was to re-assume the subject of the third epistle of the first, which treats of man in his social, political, and religious capacity. But this part the poet afterwards con. ceived might be best executed in an epic poem, as the action would make it more animated, and the fable less invidious; in which all the great principles of true and false governments and religions should be chiefly delivered in feigned examples.
The fourth and last book was to pursue the subject of the fourth epistle of the first, and to treat of ethics, or practical morality; and would have consisted of many members; of which the four following epistles were detached portions; the first two, on the characters of men and women, being the in. troductory part of this concluding book.
TO SIR RICHARD TEMPLE, L. COBHAM.
of the Knowledge and Characters of Men.
I. That it is not sufficient for this knowledge to con
sider 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 him. self, yet varying from himself, ver. 15. Difficul. ties 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 prin. ciple of action often hid from ourselves, ver. 41. Some few characters plain, but in general confounded, dissembled, or inconsistent, ver. 51. The same may 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 judging 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. No judging by nature, from ver. 158 to ver. 178. 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. Examples of the strength of the ruling passion, and its continuation to the last breath, ver. 222, &c.
VES, you despise the man to books confin'd,
1. 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, so talkative and grave, [kvave, 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 wake, We grow more partial for the observer's sake; To written wisdom, as another's, less; Maxims are drawn from notions, these from guess.
There's some peculiar in each leaf and grain.
That each from other differs, first confess;
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 you dissect, You lose it in the moment you detect.
Yet more; the difference is as great between The opties 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 cause 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 less than light); . Thus gracious Chandos is belov'd at sight;
And every child hates Shylock, though his soul
But these plain characters we rarely find;
See the same man, in vigour, in the gout;
Catius is ever moral, ever grave,
Who would not praise Patricio's high desert,
What made (say, Montagne, or more sage CharOtho a warrior, Cromwell a buffoon?
(ron!) A perjur'd prince a leaden saint revere, A godless regent tremble at a star? The throne a bigot keep, a genius quit, Faithless through piety, and dup'd through wit? Europe a woman, child, or dotard rule, And just her wisest monarch made a fool ?