Abbildungen der Seite




That it is known to few, most falling into one of the extremes, Avarice or

Profusion, ver. 1, &c. The point discussed, whether the invention of Money has been more commodious, or pernicious to mankind, ver. 21 to 77. That Riches, either to the Avaricious or the Prodigal, cannot afford Happiness, scarcely Necessaries, ver. 89 to 160. That Avarice is an absolute frenzy, without an End or Purpose, ver. 113, &c. 152. Conjectures about the Motives of Avaricious Men, ver. 121 to 153. That the conduct of Men, with respect to Riches, can only be accounted for by the ORDER OF PROVIDENCE, which works the general good out of extremes, and brings all to its great end by perpetual revolutions, ver. 161 to 178. How a Miser acts upon Principles which appear to him reasonable, Ver. 179. How a Prodigal does the same, ver. 199. The due Medium, and true use of Riches, ver. 219. The Man of Ross, ver. 250. The fate of the Profuse and the Covetous, in two examples ; both miserable Life and in Death, ver. 300, &c. The Story of Sir Balaam, ver. 339 to the end.




P. Who shall decide, when Doctors disagree,
And soundest casuists doubt, like you and me?
You hold the word, from Jove to Momus given,
That man was made the standing jest of Heaven;


Ver. 1. Who shall decide, 8c.] The address of the introduction (from ver. I to 21) is remarkable. The Poet represents himself, and the noble Lord, his friend, as in a free conversation, philosophizing on the final cause of Riches ; and it proceeds by way of dialogue, which most writers have employed to hide the want of method ; our author uses it only to soften and enliven the dryness and severity of it. You (says the Poet)

hold the word from Jove to Momus given, But I, who think more highly of our kind,

Opine, that Nature,” &c. As much as to say, “ You, my Lord, hold the subject we are upon, as fit only for SATIRE ; I, on the contrary, esteem it amongst the high points of Philosophy, and profound Ethics. But as we both agree in the main principle, that Riches were not given for the reward of virtue, but for very different purposes, (see Essay on Man, Ep. iv.) let us compromise the matter, and consider the subject both under your idea and mine conjointly, i. e. satirically and philosophically.And this, in fact, we shall find to be the true character of this poem ; which is of a Species peculiar to itself ; partaking equally of the nature of his Ethic Epistles and of his Satires, just as the best pieces of Lucian arose from a combination of the Dialogues of Plato, and the Scenes of Aristophanes. This it will be necessary to carry with us, if we would see either the wit or the reasoning of this Epistle in their true light.


Epistle III.] This Epistle was written after a violent outcry against our author, on suspicion that he had ridiculed a worthy nobleman merely for his wrong taste. He justified himself upon that article in a letter to the Earl of Burlington ; at the end of which are these words : “ I have learnt that there are some who would rather be wicked than ridiculous ; and therefore it may be safer to attack vices than follies. I will therefore leave

my betters in the quiet possession of their idols, their groves, and their bigh places, and change my subject from their pride to their meanness, from their vanities to their miseries ; and as the only certain way to avoid misconstructions, to lessen offence, and not to multiply ill natured

And gold but sent to keep the fools in play,

5 For some to heap, and some to throw away.

But I, who think more highly of our kind, (And surely, Heaven and I are of a mind,) Opine, that Nature, as in duty bound, Deep hid the shining mischief under ground: 10 But when by Man's audacious labour won, Flam'd forth this rival to its sire, the sun, Then careful Heaven supplied two sorts of men, To squander these, and those to hide again.

Like Doctors thus, when much dispute has pass’d, We find our tenets just the same at last.

16 Both fairly owning, Riches, in effect, No grace of Heaven, or token of th’ Elect; Given to the fool, the mad, the vain, the evil, To Ward, to Waters, Chartres, and the Devil. 20


applications, I may probably, in my next, make use of real names instead of fictitious ones.”—Pope.

Ver. 20.] John WARD of Hackney, Esq. Member of Parliament, being prosecuted by the Duchess of Buckingham, and convicted of forgery, was first expelled the House, and then stood on the pillory on the 17th of March, 1727. He was suspected of joining in a conveyance with Sir John Blunt, to secrete fifty thousand pounds of that Director's estate, forfeited to the South Sea Company by Act of Parliament. The Company recovered the fifty thousand pounds against Ward ; but he set up prior conveyances of his real estate to his brother and son, and concealed all his personal, which was computed to be one hundred and fifty thousand pounds. These conveyances being also set aside by a bill in Chancery, Ward was imprisoned, and hazarded the forfeiture of his life, by not giving in his effects till the last day, which was that of his examination. During his confinement, his amusement was to give poison to dogs and cats, and see them expire by slower or quicker torments. To sum up the worth of this gentleman, at the several eras of his life : At his standing in the Pillory, he was worth above two hundred thousand pounds ; at his commitment to prison, he was worth one hundred and fifty thousand; but has been since so far diminished in his reputation, as to be thought a worse man by fifty or sixty thousand.-Pope.

FR. CHARTRES, a man infamous for all manner of vices. When he was an ensign in the army, he was drummed out of the regiment for a cheat ; he was next banished Brussels, and drummed out of Ghent, on the same account. After a hundred tricks at the gaming-tables, he took to lending of money at exorbitant interest and on great penalties, accumulating premium, interest, and capital into a new capital, and seizing to a minute when the payments became due ; in a word, by a constant attention to the vices, wants, and follies of mankind, he acquired an immense fortune. His B. What Nature wants, commodious gold bestows; 'Tis thus we eat the bread another sows.


Ver. 21. What Nature wants, fc.] Having thus settled the terms of the debate, before he comes to the main question, the Use of Riches, it was necessary to discuss a previous one, whether, indeed, they be, upon the whole, useful to mankind or not; (which he does from ver. 20 to 77.) It is commonly observed, says he, (from ver. 20 to 35) That gold' most commodiously supplies the wants of Nature : " Let us first consider the proposition in general, both in MATTER and EXPRESSION ; 1. As it regards the supply; and this we shall find to be very unequal : 2. As it regards the wants; and these, we shall see, are very ambiguous ; under that term, all our fantastic and imaginary, as well as real, wants being comprised. Hitherto the use is not very apparent. Let us in the second place, therefore, consider, the proposition in particular, or how gold supplies the wants of nature both in private and public life : 1. As to private ; it aids us, indeed, to support life ; but, at the same time, it hires the assassin. 2. As to Society; it may procure friendships and extend trade ; but it allures robbers, and corrupts our acquaintance. 3. As to Government ; it pays the guards necessary for the support of public liberty ; but it may

with the same ease, bribe a senate to overturn it.”

The matter, therefore, being thus problematical, the Poet, instead of formally balancing between the good and ill, chooses to leave this previous question undetermined (as Tacitus had done before him ; where, speaking of the ancient Germans, he says, Argentum et aurum propitii aut irati Dži negaverint dubito ;) and falls at once upon what he esteems the principal of these abuses, public corruption.



house was a perpetual bawdy-house. He was twice condemned for rapes, and pardoned ; but the last time not without imprisonment in Newgate, and large confiscations. He died in Scotland in 1731, aged 62. The populace at his funeral raised a great riot, almost tore the body out of the coffin, and cast dead dogs, &c. into the grave along with it. The following Epitaph contains his character very justly drawn by Dr. Arbuthnot :

HERE continueth to rot

In spite of Age and INFIRMITIES,
In the Practice of EVERY HUMAN Vice,

His insatiable Avarice exempted him from the first,
His matchless IMPUDENce from the second.

Nor was he more singular
in the undeviating Pravity of his Manners,

Than successful
in accumulating Wealth ;
For, without Trade or PROFESSION,
Without Trust of Public MONEY,
And without Bribe-WORTHY Service,
He acquired, or more properly created,

He was the only Person of his Time,



P. But how unequal it bestows, observe! "Tis thus we riot, while who sow it starve.


For, having in the last instance, of the Use of Riches in Government, spoken of venal Senates, he goes on to lament the mischief as desperate and remediless ; gold, by its power to corrupt with secrecy, defeating all the efforts of public spirit, whether exerted in the courage of heroes, or in the wisdom of patriots.

It is true, indeed, (continues the Poet, from ver. 34 to 49,) the very weight of the bribe has sometimes detected the corruption :

“ From the crack'd bag the dropping guinea spoke,” &c. But this inconvenience was soon repaired, by the invention of paper credit ; whose dreadful effects on public liberty he describes in all the colouring of his poetry, heightened by the warmest concern for virtue ; which now makes him willing to give up, as it were, the previous question, in a passionate wish (from ver. 48 to 59) for the return of that incumbrance attendant on public corruption, before the so common use of money.

And, pleased with this flattering idea, he goes on (from ver. 58 to 77) to show the other advantages which would accrue from riches only in kind ; these are, that neither Avarice could contrive to hoard, nor Prodigality to lavish, in so mad and boundless a manner as they do at present. Here he shows particularly, in a fine ironical description of the embarras on Gaming, how naturally it tends to eradicate that execrable vice.

But this whole digression (from ver. 34 to 77) has another very uncommon beauty ; for, at the same time that it arises naturally from the last consideration, in the debate of the previous question, it artfully denounces, in our entrance on the main question, the principal topics intended to be employed for the dilucidation of it ; namely, Avarice, ProFusion, and Public CORRUPTION.


Who could CHEAT without the Mask of Honesty,

Retain his Primeval MEANNESS
When possessed of Ten THOUSAND a year,
And having daily deserved the Gibber for what he did,
Was at last condemned to it for what he could not do.

Oh indignant Reader !
Think not his Life useless to Mankind !
PROVIDENCE connived at his execrable Designs,

To give to after-ages
A conspicuous Proof and EXAMPLE,
Of how small Estimation is EXORBITANT WEALTH

In the sight of GOD,
By his bestowing it on the most UNWORTHY OF ALL MORTALS.

Pope. This fine reflection has been much admired; it is also found in La Bruyère ; but he evidently borrowed it from Seneca : “ Non sunt divitiæ bonum ; nullo modo magis potest Deus concupita traducere, quam si ille ad perpessimos defert, ab optimis abigit.” Cúr Bonis Viris Mala fiunt :

cap. v.

This passage was pointed out to me by an amiable friend, equally skilled in all parts of useful and ornamental learning, in matters both of taste and philosophy, Dr. Heberden.

The figure of Chartres is introduced by Hogarth in the first plate of his Rake's Progress, and behind him stands a man whom he always had about him, and who was his pimp.-Warton,


« ZurückWeiter »