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exactly reflected the image of his strong capacious mind, and as we can have but a very imperfect idea of it from the disjecta membra poete that 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 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 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 afterward conceived might be best executed in an epic poem ; as the action would make it more ani. mated, 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 subjeet of the fourth epistle of the first, and to treat of ethics, or prac. tical morality; and would have consisted of many mem. bers ; of which the four following epistles were detached portions; the first two, on the characters of men and women, being the introductory part of this concluding Sook.
TO SIR RICHARD TEMPLE, LORD COBHAM.
ARGUMENT. of the Knowledge and Characters of Men. 1. That it is not sufficient for this knowledge to consider man in the abstract : books will not serve the purpose, nor yet our own experience singly, ver. 1. General maxims, unless they be formed upon botli, will be but notional, ver. 10. Some peculiarity in every man, characteristic to himself, yet varying from himself, ver. 15. Difficulties arising from our own passions, fancies, faculties, &c. ver. 31. The shortness of life to observe in, and the uncertainty of the principles of action in nen to observe by, ver. 37, &c. Our own principle of action often hid from ourselves, vér. 41. Some few characters plain, but in general confounded, dissembled, or inconsistent, ver. 51. The same man utterly different in different places and seasons, ver. €2. Unimaginable weaknesses in the greatest, ver. 70. &c. Nothing constant and certain but God and nature, ver. 95. No judging of the motives from the actions; the same actions proceeding from contrary motives, and the same molives inAuencing contrary actions, ver. 100. U. Yet, to form characters we can only take the strongest actions of a man's life, and try to make them agree; The utter uncertainty of this, from nature itself, and from policy, ver. 120. Characters given according to the rank of meu of the world, ver. 135. And some reason for it, ver. 140. Education alters the nature, or at least character, of many, ver. 149. Actions, passions, opinions, manners, humours, or principles, all subject to change. No judging by nature, from ver. 158 to ver. 168. III. It only remaius to find (if we can) his ruling passiou : That will certainly influence all the rest, and can reconcile the seeming or real inconsistency of all his actions, ver. 175. Instanced in the extraordinary character of Clodio, ver. 179. A caution against mistaking second qualities for first, which will destroy all possibility of the knowledge of mankind, ver. 210. Examples of the strength of the ruling passion, and its
continuation to the last breath, rer. 222, &c. I. Yes, you despise the map to books confined, Who from his study rails at human-kind ; Though what he learns he speaks, and may advance Some general maxims, or be right by chance. The coxcomb bird, so talkative and grave, That from his cage cries cuckold, whore, and knave, Though many a passenger he rightly call, You hol him no philosopher at all.
And yet the fate of all extremes is such, Men may be read, as well as books, too much. 10
To observations which ourselves we make,
That each from other differs, first confess ;
20 Add nature's, custom's, reason's, passion's strife, And all opinion's colours cast on life.
Our depths who fathoms, or our shallows finds,
but it is not man :
Nor will life's stream for observation stay; It hurries all too fast to mark their way: In vain sedate reflections we would make, When half our knowledge we must snatch, not take. Oft, in the passion's wild rotation toss'd,
41 Our spring of action to ourselves is lost : Tired, not determined, to the last we yield, And what comes then is master of the field. As the last image of that troubled heap, When sense subsides and fancy sports in sleep (Though past the recollection of the thought), Becomes the stuff of which our dream is wrought; Something as dim to our internal view, Is thus, perhaps, the cause of most we do.
50 True, some are open, and to all men known; Others, so very close, they're hid from none
(So darkness strikes the sense no less than light);
60 When flattery glares, all hate it in a queen, While one there is who charms us with his spleen.
But these plain characters we rarely find ; Though strong the bent, yet quick the turns of mind: Or puzzling contraries confound the whole; Or affectations quite reverse the soul. The dull flat falsehood serves for policy; And in the cunning, truth itself 's a lie : Unthought-of frailties cheat us in the wise; The fool lies hid in inconsistencies.
Catius is ever moral, ever grave,
What made (say, Montagne, or more sage Charron!) Otho a warrior, Cromwell a buffoon 3 A perjured prince a leaden saint revere, A godless regent tremble at a star?
90 The throne a bigot keep, a genius quit, Faithless through piety, and duped through wit? Europe a woman, child, or dotard rule, And just her wisest monarch made a fool?
Know, God and nature only are the same : In man, the judgment shoots at flying game; A bird of passage! gone as soon as found, Now in the moon, perhaps now under ground.
II. In vain the sage, with retrospective eye, Would from th' apparent what conclude the why, Infer the motive from the deed, and shew,
101 That what we chanced, was what we meant to do. Behold, if fortune or a mistress frowns, Some plunge in business, others shave their crowns : To ease the soul of one oppressive weight, This quits an empire, that embroils a state : The same adust complexion has impell’d Charles to the convent, Philip to the field.
Not always actions shew the man: we find Who does a kindness, is not therefore kind : 110 Perhaps prosperity becalm'd his breast, Perhaps the wind just shifted from the east: Not therefore humble he who seeks retreat, Pride guides his steps, and bids him shun the great : Who combats bravely is not therefore brave, He dreads a death-bed like the meanest slave : Who reasons wisely is not therefore wise, His pride in reasoning, not in acting, lies.
But grant that actions best discover man : Take the most strong, and sort them as you can : 120 The few that glare, each character must mark, You balance not the many in the dark. What will you do with such as disagree? Suppress them, or miscal them policy? Must then at once (the character to save) The plain rough hero turn a crafty knave? Alas! in truth the man but changed his mind, Perhaps was sick, in love, or had not dined. Ask why from Britain Cæsar would retreat ? Cæsar himself might whisper, he was beat.
130 Why risk the world's great empire for a punk? Cæsar perhaps might answer, he was drunk. But, sage historians ! 'tis your task to prove One action, conduct; one, heroic love.
'Tis from high life high characters are drawn, A saint in crape is twice a saint in lawn;