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AN ESSAY ON MAN.—ADDRESSED TO A FRIEND. Part I.
London : Printed for J. WILFoRD, at the Three Flower-de-luces, behind the Chapter-house, St. Paul's. Price one shilling. Folio.
This is the first edition of Epistle I. of the Essay on Man, which was published anonymously, and without any date on the title-page, Feb. 1733. It was also printed in quarto and octavo. The octavo has not the prefatory address “To the Reader.” The right to print each epistle of the Essay on Man for one year was bought by Gilliver for 50l. an Epistle.
AN ESSAY ON MAN.—IN EpistLEs To A FRIEND. Epistle I.
The rest of the title-page is the same as in the first edition. This second edition has a table of Contents to the first three Epistles, which were originally published without the table. The fourth Epistle had the table prefixed from the outset. With the exception of the first Epistle, I am not aware that there was a second edition of any part of the Essay on Man till the whole was incorporated in the works of the poet. An octavo edition, published by WILFoRD in 1736, is called the seventh; but he may have counted in the three sizes of the first edition, together with the editions which had appeared in Pope's works.
AN ESSAY ON MAN.—IN EpistLEs To A FRIEND. Epistle II.
London : Printed for J. WILFord, at the Three Flower-de-luces, behind the Chapter-house, St. Paul's. Price one shilling. Folio.
The second Epistle appeared about April, 1733.
The title of the third and fourth Epistle is the same as that of the second. At the end of the third Epistle is this notice : “N. B. The rest of the work will be published the next winter,” and the promise was kept by the publication of the fourth Epistle about the middle of January, 1734. The last three Epistles were printed like their precursor, in quarto and octavo, as well as folio. The octavo edition of all four Epistles differs from the rest in having the year on the title-page, the first three, 1733, the fourth Epistle, 1734.
AN ESSAY ON MAN : BEING THE FIRST Book of ETHIC EPISTLEs.
To H. St. John L. BoLINGBRoKE. With the Commentary and Notes of W. WARBURTON, A.M.
London: Printed by W. Bowy ER for M. Cooper, at the Globe, in Paternoster-Row, 1743, 4to.
This is the first edition with Warburton's Commentary, and the last which appeared during the life-time of Pope. The Essay on Criticism is in the same volume, which was kept back for some months after it was printed, and was not published till 1744.
WARBURTON and Hurd have introduced a new kind of criticism, in which they discover views and purposes the authors never had, and they themselves never believed they had, but consider them as the refinements of their own delicate conceptions, only taking hints from these authors, to show how much higher they themselves would have carried the same ideas. Warburton's discovering “the regularity” of Pope's Essay on Criticism, and “the whole scheme" of his Essay on Man, I happen to know to be mere absurd refinement in creating conformities, and that from Pope himself, though he thought fit to adopt them afterwards., By this method of overlooking the plain and simple meaning which presents itself at first sight (as that of good authors always does, only that there is no credit to be gained in discovering what any one else could discover) it might clearly be shown that Pope's Art of Criticism is, indeed, an Essay on Man, and his Essay on Man was really designed by the deep author for an Art of Criticism. I know that these would not be more false than the assertion and sophistry in proving “the regularity’ of his Art of Criticism, since he, when often speaking of it, before he so much as knew Warburton, spoke of it always, as an “irregular collection of thoughts thrown together as they offered themselves, as Horace's Art of Poetry was, and written in imitation of that irregularity,” which he even admired, and said was beautiful. As for his Essay on Man, as I was witness to the whole conduct of it in writing, and actually have his original MSS. for it from the first scratches of the four books, to the several finished copies, all which, with the MS. of his Essay on Criticism, and several of his other works, he gave me himself for the pains I took in collating the whole with the printed editions, at his request, on my having proposed to him the “making an edition of his works in the manner of Boileau's,”—as to this noblest of his works, I know that he never dreamed of the scheme he afterwards adopted, perhaps for good reasons, for he had taken terror about the clergy, and Warburton himself, at the general alarm of its fatalism, and deistical tendency, of which however we talked with him (my father and I) frequently at Twickenham, without his appearing to understand it otherwise, or ever thinking to alter those passages, which we suggested as what might seem the most exceptionable.”—RICHARDSON.
* Roscoe supposes Richardson to have asserted that there was an “entire discrepancy between the Essay on Man as published, and the original manuscripts,” and to have implied that the change was from “infidelity” to its opposite. This is not the statement of Richardson. He says, on the contrary, that when the “exceptionable passages” were pointed out Pope “did not think of altering them,” and “never dreamed of adopting ” a more orthodox “scheme” for his The Essay on Man was at first given, as Mr. Pope told me, to Dr. Young, to Dr. Desaguliers," to Lord Bolingbroke, to Lord Paget,” and in short to everybody but to him who was capable of writing it. While several of his acquaintances read the Essay on Man as the work of an unknown author, they fairly owned they did not understand it,” but when the reputation of the poem became secured by the knowledge of the writer, it soon grew so clear and intelligible, that, on the appearance of the Comment on it, they told him they wondered the editor should think a large and minute interpretation necessary.—WARBURTON.
[In 1733] Pope published the first part of what he persuaded
Essay till after “its fatalism and deistical tendency” had excited that “general alarm" which could not precede the publication of the poem, and which only, in fact, commenced some three years later. Richardson is enforcing his charge against Warburton of inventing forced meanings, and the instance would contradict the accusation if Pope had altered his language from deism to orthodoxy before he printed the work. The commentary would then have expressed the natural sense of the text. The change of which Richardson speaks was not in the Essay itself, but in the interpretation Pope put upon it. While he was composing the poem he accepted the deistical construction of the Richardsons; and when he was terrified at the “general alarm" he endorsed the christian construction of Warburton. * Dr. Desaguliers, the son of a French refugee, was born at Rochelle in 1683, and died, Feb. 29, 1744, at the Bedford Coffee-house, Covent Garden. He was a clergyman of the church of England, a great lover of science, and a friend of Newton. He delivered lectures for many years on Experimental Philosophy, and published an excellent work on the subject in 2 vols. 4to. He does not appear to have shown any turn for poetry, and those who ascribed to him the Essay on Man may have had no better ground for their opinion than that the poem treated of one kind of philosophy, and Desaguliers was learned in another. 2 Thomas Catesby, Lord Paget, son of the Earl of Uxbridge, died before his father in Jan. 1742. He published in 1734, a poem called An Essay on Human Life; and in 1737 An Epistle to Mr. Pope, in Anti-heroics. “The former,” says Horace Walpole, “is written in imitation of Pope's ethic epistles, and has good lines, but not much poetry.” * In the Life of Pope by the pretended Squire Ayre, it is said that “a certain gentleman,” meaning Mallet, was at Pope's house shortly after the first Epistle was published, and in answer to the question “What new pieces were brought to light 1" replied, “That there was a thing come out called an Essay on Man, and it was a most abominable piece of stuff; shocking poetry, insufferable philosophy, no coherence, no connection at all.” Pope confessed he was the author, which, says Ayre, “was like a clap of thunder to the mistaken bard ; with a blush and a bow he took his leave of Pope, and never ventured to show his unlucky face there again.” The final statement is contradicted by the letters of Pope and Mallet, which prove that they carried on a cordial intercourse to the last. The rest of the story is improbable, for it is not likely that Pope, who was bent at this early period upon keeping the authorship a secret, would have unmasked himself in a manner to preclude confidence, and provoke Mallet to divulge the truth to the world. Ayre's authority is good for nothing, and Ruffhead only copied Ayre, but his repetition of the anecdote gave it currency, and it has ever since passed unquestioned from writer to writer.