Page images
PDF
EPUB

all the pagan world, spoke best of God, and wrote best of government.

Ver. 303. For forms of government let fools contest.] The author of these lines was far from meaning that no one form of government is, in itself, better than another, (as, that mixed or limited monarchy, for example, is not preferable to absolute,) but that no form of government, however excellent or preferable in itself, can be sufficient to make a people happy, unless it be administered with integrity. On the contrary, the best sort of government, when the form of it is preserved, and the administration corrupt, is most dangerous.

EPISTLE IV. Ver. 6. O’erlook'd, seen double.] O'erlook'd by those who place happiness in any thing exclusive of virtue ; seen double by those who admit any thing else to have a share with virtue in procuring happiness; these being the two general mistakes that this epistle is employed in confuting.

Ver. 100. See godlike Turenne.] This epithet has a peculiar justness ; the great man to whom it is applied not being distinguished from other generals, for any of his superior qualities so much as for his providential care of those whom he led to war: which was so uncommon, that his chief purpose in taking on himself the command of armies seems to have been the preservation of mankind. In this godlike care he was more distinguishably employed throughout the whole course of that famous campaign in which he lost his life.

Ver. 110. Lent heav'n a parent, &c.] This last in- . stance of the poet's illustration of the ways of Providence, the reader sees, has a peculiar elegance; where a tribute

of piety to a parent is paid in a return of thanks to, and made subservient to his vindication of, the great Giver and Father of all things. The mother of the author, a person of great piety and charity, died the year this poem was finished, viz. 1733.

Ver. 123. Shall burning Etna, &c.] Alluding to the fate of those two great naturalists, Empedocles and Pliny, who both perished by too near an approach to Etna and Vesuvius, while they were exploring the cause of their eruptions.

Ver. 193. Honour and shame from no condition rise Act well your part, there all the honour lies.] What power then has fortune over the man? None at all ; for as her favours can confer neither worth nor wisdom; so neither can her displeasure cure him of any of his follies. On his garb indeed she hath some little influence; but his heart still remains the same.

Fortune in men has some small diff'rence made,

One flaunts in rags, one flutters in brocade.
But this difference extends no further than to the habit ;

the pride of heart is the same, both in the flaunter and i flutterer, as it is the poet's intention to insinuate by the use of those terms.

Ver. 281, 283. If parts allure thee -Or ravish'd with the whistling of a name.] These two instances are chosen with great judgment; the world, perhaps, doth not afford two other such. Bacon discovered and laid down those

principles, by whose assistance Newton was enabled to ; unfold the whole law of nature. He was no less eminent

for the creative power of his imagination, the brightness of his conceptions, and the force of his expression: yet be

[ocr errors]

1

ing legally convicted for bribery and corruption in the administration of justice, while he presided in the supreme court of equity, he endeavoured to repair his ruined fortunes by the most profligate flattery to the court: which, from his very first entrance into it, he had accustomed himself to practise with a prostitution that disgraceth the very profession of letters.

Cromwell seemeth to be distinguished in the most eminent manner,

with regard to his abilities, from all other great and wicked men, who have overturned the liberties of their country. The times, in which others succeeded in this attempt, were such as saw the spirit of liberty suppressed and stifled, by a general luxury and venality ; but Cromwell subdued his country, when this spirit was at its height, by a successful struggle against court oppression; and while it was conducted and supported by a set of the greatest geniuses for government the world ever saw embarked together in one common cause.

[ocr errors]

[As some passages in the Essay on Man have been sus

pected of favouring the schemes of Leibnits and Spinoza, or, as Mr. Warburton says, in his note on the Universal Prayer, of a tendency towards Fate and Natrralism ; it is thought proper here to insert the two following Letters, to show how ill-grounded such a suspicios is.- These letters are not in any London edition.

Mr. Pope to the younger Racine, a celebrated French wri

ter, occasioned by his animadversions on his Essay ou Man, in a poem called Religion.

London, Sept. 1, 1742. Sir, THE expectation in which I have been for some time past, of receiving the present you have honoured me with, was the occasion of my delaying so long to answer your letter. I am at length favoured with your poem upon Religion ; and should have received from the perusal of it, a pleasure unmixed with pain, had I not the mortification to find, that you impute several principles to me,

*•The following lines, cant. 2. 1.92-97, are probably alluded to.

" Sans doute pu'a ces mots, des bords de la Tamise
Quelque abstrait raisonneur, qui ne se plaint de rien,
Dans son flegme Anglican repondra, Tout est bien.
Le grand Ordonnateur dont le dessein si sage,
De tant d'etres divers ne forme qu’un ouvrage,
Nous place a votre rang pour orner son tableau.”

which I abhor and detest. My uneasiness met some alleviation from a passage in your preface, where you declare your inability, from a want of knowledge of the English language, to give your own judgment on the Essay on Man.t You add, that you do not controvert my tenets, but the evil consequences deducible from them, and the maxims which some persons of notable sagacity have imagined that they have discovered in my poem. This declaration is a shining proof of your candour, your discretion, and your charity. I must take leave to assure you, Sir, that your acquaintance with the original has not proved more

than the imperfect conceptions of my translạtors, who have not sufficiently informed themselves of my real sentiments. The many additional embellishments, which my piece has received from the version of M. D. R have not done an honour to the Essay on Man equal to the prejudice it has suffered from his frequent misapprehension of the principles it inculcates. These mistakes, you will perceive, are totally refuted in the English piece, which I have transmitted to you. It is a

fatal to me,

† M. Racine, in an advertisement perfixed to his answer to M. Rousseau's letter against the Free-thinkers, speaks thus : “ N'ayant pas le bonheur de pouvoir lire dans l'original les ouvagres de M. Pope, le plus celebre poete que l'Angleterre ait aujourd'hui, je ne pretens pas attaquer ici ses veritables sentimens, dont je ne puis etre certain. Je ne pretens atiaquer que ceux qui sont devenus si communs parmi nous depuis la lecture de son Essai sur l'Homme, dont les principes n'etant pas assez developes pour nous, sont cause que pluiseurs personnes croyent y turouver un system, qui n'est peut-etre pas elui de l'auteur."

« PreviousContinue »