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Teach me, like thee, in various nature wife,
were to be inferred, will not, I fear, be thought fubftantial; nor can Warton's objection to Johnson's criticism on this Poem be confidered fo well founded, as his objection to the criticifm concerning the Penferofo of Milton. For an ingenious man might take any axiom in Morals, or the plaineft acknowledged truth, and deduce many beautiful illuftrations from it. On the other hand, Johnson's criticism of a Poem like this, cannot be compared with his futile declamation against the imagery of the Penferofo. For in speaking of the Penferofo, Johnson spoke of what I do not hesitate to fay, he did not understand. He had no congenial feelings properly to appreciate the character of fuch Poetry; but the cafe is different where he brings his great mind to try, by the test of truth, arguments and doctrines which appeal to the understanding. Johnfon was not an inadequate judge of Pope's Philofophy, though he was certainly fo of Milton's Poetry. But no compofition could pof'fibly fand before his contemptuous declamation. I fear, even in fome places his own mighty Rambler would tremble; God knows how it might fare with Pope's Paflorals. But it must be, confeffed, unfair as Johnson's criticism is, it is not entirely destitute of truth.
Many of Pope's conclufions in this Effay, after a vast deal of fine verbiage and apparent argument, are such as required very little proof;
"Tho' Man's a fool-yet GOD IS WISE!"
many other axioms equally true.
But can we fay the whole exhibits only a train of tritenesses? Materiem fuperabat opus, it is acknowledged; and poffibly, had it been more recondite, it could not have been made the vehicle of fo many acknowledged beauties of expreffion, of imagery, and of poetic illuftration. The more it is read, the more it will be relished, and the more will the nice precifion of every word, and the general beauty of its ftructure, be acknowledged. Though the treasures of knowledge within be not, perhaps, either very rich or rare; yet, to fay it contains no ftriking fentiments, no truths placed in a more advanced as well as a more pleafing light, would be a manifeft and palpable injuftice. After all, Poetry is not a
Form'd by thy converfe, happily to steer
From grave to gay,
"immenfæ veluti connexa Carinæ
Cimba minor, cum fævit hyems———————
et eodem volvitur Austro."
good vehicle for Philofophy; but as a Philofophical Poem, take it all together, it would not be very easy, with the exception of Lucretius, to find its equal.
VER. 383 Oh! while along] From the Silva of Statius, c. v.
VER. 391. I turn'd the tuneful art] Ought the lovers of true genuine poetry to be obliged to his friend, for being inftrumental in making Pope forfake works of imagination for the didactic! Which of the two fpecies of compofition may be the more useful and instructive, is entirely befide the question; but, in point of poetic genius, the Rape of the Lock, and The Eloifa, as far excel the Effay on Man, and the Moral Epiftles, as the Gierufalemme, fo unjustly depreciated by Boileau, does all his Satires and his Art of Poetry; and as the second and fourth books of Virgil excel the Georgics. To be able to reason well in verfe, is not the First, nor the most effential talent of a poet, great as its merit may be.
For Wit's falfe mirror held up Nature's light;
VER. 394. Shew'd erring Pride, WHATEVER IS, IS RIGHT;] The Poet's address to his friend, which concludeth this Epiftle fo nobly, and endeth with a recapitulation of the general argument, affords me the following obfervation, with which I fhall conclude thefe remarks. There is one great beauty that fhines through the whole Eay: The Poet, whether he speaks of Man as an individual, a member of Society, or the fubject of Happiness, never miffeth an opportunity, while he is explaining his ftate under any of these capacities, to illustrate it in the most artful manner by the inforcement of his grand principle, That every thing tendeth to the good of the Whole; from whence his system gaineth the reciprocal advantage of having that grand Theorem realized by facts; and his facts juftified on a principle of Right or Nature.
THUS I have endeavoured to analyfe and explain the exact reafoning of these four Epiftles. Enough, I prefume, to convince every one, that it hath a precision, force, and closeness of connection, rarely to be met with, even in the moft formal treatises of philofophy. Yet in doing this, it is but too evident I have deftroyed that grace and energy which animates the original. And now let the reader believe, if he be fo disposed, what M. de Croufaz, in his Critique upon this work, infinuates to be his own opinion, as well as that of his friends: "Some perfons," fays he, “have conjectured, that Mr. Pope did not compose this Effay at once, and in a regular order; but that after he had written several fragments of poetry, all finished in their kind, (one, for example, on the parallel between Reafon and Inftinct, another upon Man's groundless Pride, another on the Prerogatives of human Nature, another on Religion and Superftition, another on the Original of Society, and feveral Fragments befides on Self-love and the Paffions,) he tacked thefe together as he could, and divided them into four Epiftles; as, it is faid, was the fortune of Homer's Rhapsodies." I suppose this extravagance will be believed juft as foon of one as of the other. But M. Du Refnel, our Poet's Tranflator, is not behindhand with the Critic, in his judgment on the work. "The only reafon," fays he, "for which this Poem can be properly termed
That REASON, PASSION, anfwer one great aim; 395 That true SELF-LOVE and SOCIAL are the fame; That VIRTUE Only makes our Bliss below;
And all our Knowledge is, OURSELVES TO KNOW.
VER. 397. That Virtue only, &c.] In the MS. thus:
And all the ftudy of Mankind is Man.
an Essay, is, that the Author has not formed his plan with all the regularity of method which it might have admitted." And again“I was, by the unanimous opinion of all those whom I have confulted on this occafion, and, amongst these, of feveral Englishmen completely skilled in both languages, obliged to follow a different method. The French are not fatisfied with fentiments, however beautiful, unless they be methodically difpofed: Method being the characteristic that diftinguishes our performances from those of our neighbours," &c. After having given many examples of the critical skill of this wonderful man of method, in the foregoing notes, it is enough juft to have quoted this flourish of self-applause, and fo to leave him to the laughter of the World. WARBURTON.