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flection, reason: that Reafon alone countervails all the other faculties, Ver. 207. VIII. How much further this order and fubordination of living creatures may extend, above and below us; were any part of which broken, not that part only, but the whole connected creation must be deftroyed, Ver. 233. IX. The extravagance, madness, and pride of fuch a defire, Ver. 250. X. The confequence of all the abfolute fubmiffion due to Providence, both as to our prefent and future ftate, Ver. 281, &c. to the end.
POPE informs us, in his first preface to this Effay, chose this epiftolary way of writing, notwithstanding his fubject was high, and of dignity, because of its being mixed with argument which of its nature approacheth to profe." He has not wandered into any useless digreffions; has employed no fictions, no tale or ftory, and has relied chiefly on the poetry of his style for the purpose of interesting his readers. His ftyle is concife and figurative, forcible and elegant. He has many metaphors and images, artfully interfperfed in the drieft paffages, which stood moft in need of fuch ornaments. If any beauty in this Effay be uncommonly tranfcendent and peculiar, it is brevity of diction; which, in a few inftances, and those perhaps pardonable, has occafioned obfcurity. On its firft publication Pope did not own it, and it was given by the public to Lord Paget, Dr. Young, Dr. Defaguliers, and others. Even Swift feems to have been deceived. There is a remarkable paffage in one of his letters: "I confefs I did never imagine you were fo deep in morals, or that fo many and excellent rules could be produced fo advantageously and agreeably in that science, from any one head. I confefs in fome places I was forced to read twice. I believe I told you before what the Duke of Dfaid to me on that occafion; how a judge here, who knows you, told him, that, on the first reading thofe Effays, he was much pleased, but found some lines a little dark On the fecond, most of them cleared up, and his pleasure increased: On the third, he had no doubt remaining, and then he admired the whole."
The fubject of this Effay is a vindication of Providence; in which the poet proposes to prove, That, of all poffible systems, Infinite Wisdom has formed the beft: That in fuch a fyftem, coherence, union, fubordination, are neceffary; and if so, that appearances of evil, both moral and natural, are also neceffary and unavoidable: That the feeming defects and blemishes in the universe conspire to its general beauty: That as all parts in au animal are not eyes; and as in a city, comedy, or picture, all ranks, cha
racters, and colours are not equal or alike; even so excesses and contrary qualities contribute to the proportion and harmony of the universal system: That it is not ftrange that we should not be able to discover perfection and order in every instance; because, in an infinity of things mutually relative, a mind which fees not infinitely, can fee nothing fully. This doctrine was inculcated by Plato and the Stoics, but more amply and particularly by the later Platonists, and by Antoninus and Simplicius.
In illuftrating his fubject, Pope has been much more deeply indebted to the Theodicée of Leibnitz, to Archbishop King's Origin of Evil, and to the Moralists of Lord Shaftesbury, (particularly to the laft,) than to the philofophers above mentioned. The late Lord Bathurst repeatedly afsured me, that he had read the whole scheme of the Effay of Man, in the hand-writing of Bolingbroke, and drawn up in a series of propofitions, which Pope was to amplify, verfify, and illustrate. In doing which, our poet, it must be confeffed, left feveral paffages fo expreffed, as to be favourable to fatalism and neceffity, notwithstanding all the pains that can be taken, and the artful turns that can be given to those paffages, to place them on the fide of religion, and make them coincide with the fundamental doctrines of revelation.
The doctrine obviously intended to be inculcated in this Effay is, "That the dispensations of Providence in the diftribution of good and evil, in this life, ftand in no need of any hypothesis to justify them; all is adjusted in the moft perfect order; whatever is, is right; and we have no occafion to call in the notion of a future life to vindicate the ways of God to man, because they are fully and fufficiently benevolent and juft in the prefent." If we cannot subscribe, on one hand, to Dr. Warburton's opinion, "that these epiftles have a precision, force, and clofenefs of connection rarely to be met with, even in the most formal treatifes of philosophy :" yet neither can we affent to the severe fentence that Dr. Johnson has paffed on the other hand; namely, "that penury of knowledge, and vulgarity of fentiment, were never fo happily disguised as in this Effay; the reader feels his mind full, though he learns nothing; and, when he meets it in its new array, no longer knows the talk of his mother and his nurfe." WARTON.
The difference between Lord Bolingbroke's fyftem and Pope's very well ftated by Ruffhead :
"Pope's Effay on Man is a real vindication of Providence against libertines and atheifts, who quarrel with the prefent confti
tution of things, and deny a future ftate. To these he answers, that whatever is, is right; and he affigns this reason,-that we fee only a part of the moral fyftem, and not the whole: therefore these irregularities ferving to great purposes, such as the fuller manifestation of God's goodness and justice, they are right.
"On the other hand, Lord Bolingbroke's Effays are a pretended vindication of Providence against what he confiders an ingenious confederacy between Divines and Atheists; who use a common principle, namely, the irregularities of God's moral government here, for different ends and purposes; the one, to establish a future ftate, and the other to difcredit the being of God. Lord Bolingbroke opposes both conclufions, by endeavouring to overthrow the common principle, by his friend's maxim, "Whatever is, is right;" not because the present ftate of our moral world (which is part only of a general fyftem) is neceffary for the perfection of the whole, but because our moral world is an ENTIRE SYSTEM of ITSELF. In a word, the poet directs his reasonings against Atheists and Libertines in fupport of religion; Lord Bolingbroke against Divines in fupport of naturalifm. Mr. Pope's argument is manly, fyftematical, and convincing; Lord B.'s confufed, prevaricating, and inconfiftent.”
It is well known, that M. de Croufaz wrote remarks on the Effay, accusing the Author of inculcating "Naturalism." These remarks were anfwered by Warburton, whofe interpretation, as it was adopted by Pope, is here retained. It is plain, that Pope did not in his Effay intend to inculcate Naturalism; but there are fome paffages which, notwithstanding all Warburton has done, feem to look that way. It is but fair, however, that he should have that interpretation by which he deliberately wished to abide. The eagerness with which Warburton's explanations were adopted, appears evidently from Pope's letter to him on the subject, in which I have no doubt he fpoke the truth: "You have made my system as clear as I ought to have done, and could not; you understand me as well as I understand myfelf, but you express me better than I could myself."
This poem is of the moral and philosophical kind, and is to be claffed with the Poem of Lucretius,' &c. It has very little refemblance to didactic or preceptive pieces, fuch as the Game of Chefs by Vida, Boileau's Art of Poetry, Phillips' Cyder, and other poems of the kind, which Warton enumerates. In its caft and character it is almoft as different from thefe, as they are of a
different rank and character from poems which (as Warton fays) "defcribe events." "" Its merit is to be estimated from the depth of thinking which it evinces as a philofophical treatise, and from the propriety and beauty of the language and illuftrations which it displays as a poem.
This Effay was translated into Latin verse by J. Sayer.