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MORAL ESSAY S.
THESE Essays exhibit the highest powers of the author as a satirist nothing can be more animated than his sketches of character, and nothing more poignant than his animadversions on vice. The Roman and French satirists were evidently his models; but equalling Horace in knowlege of the human heart, he excels the school of Boileau in strength of rebuke and accuracy of conception. The conversation and habits of France, and the graces of a language incomparable in its expression of the minor feelings, had long given a marked superiority to its delineations of national manners. The quaint truth of Montaigne, the vigorous eccentricity of La Bruyère, and the caustic brilliancy of Rochefoucault, were purely and perfectly French: but in the 'Moral Essays' of Pope we have superadded the soundness of English morals, and the manliness of English reason. These Essays were originally designed as a continuation of the great work on morals, to which Pope looked as the great labor of his life, and the consummation of his fame.
Warburton, familiar with the author's projects, is thus intitled to be listened to on the subject of the series. He tells us that the Essay on Man' was intended to be comprised in four books; the first of which the author has given us under that title, in four epistles. The second was to have consisted of the same number: 1. of the extent and
limits of human reason: 2. of those arts and sciences, and the parts of them which are useful, and therefore attainable; together with those which are useless, and therefore unattainable: 3. of the nature, ends, use, and application of the different capacities of men: 4. of the use of learning, of the science of the world, and of wit; concluding with a satire against the misapplication of them; illustrated by pictures, characters, and examples.
'The third book regarded civil regimen, or the science of politics, in which the several forms of a republic were to be examined and explained; together with the several modes of religious worship, so far as they affect society; between which the author always supposed there was the closest connexion and the most interesting relation so that this part would have treated of civil and religious society in their full
The fourth and last book concerned private ethics, or practical morality, considered in all the circumstances, orders, professions, and stations of human life.
'The scheme of all this had been maturely digested, and communicated to lord Bolingbroke, Dr. Swift, and one or two more; and was intended for the only work of his riper years; but was, partly through ill-health, partly through discouragements from the depravity of the times, and partly on prudential and other considerations, interrupted, postponed, and, lastly, in a manner laid aside.
'But as this was the author's favorite work, which more exactly reflected the image of his own strong and capacious mind, and as we can have but a very imperfect idea of it from the disjecta membra poeta which now remain; it may not be amiss to be a little more particular concerning each of these projected books.
"The first, as it treats of man in the abstract, and considers him, in general, under every one of his relations, becomes
the foundation, and furnishes out the subjects, of the three following: so that
'The second book was to take up again the first and second epistles of the first book; and to treat of man in his intellectual capacity at large, as has been explained above. Of this, only a small part of the conclusion (which, as we said, was to have contained a satire against the misapplication of wit and learning) may be found in the fourth book of the Dunciad, and up and down, occasionally, in the other three.
." 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 conceived 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 are detached portions; the first two, on the characters of men and women, being the introductory part of this concluding book.'