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MORALE S S A Y S
FOUR E PIST LES
SEVERAL PERSON S.
« Eft brevitate opus, ut currat fententia, neu se
Extenuantis eas confultò.”
HE ESSAY ON MAN was intended to have been T
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: Of the extent and limits of human Reason. 2. Of those Arts and Sciences, and of the parts of them, which are useful, and therefore attainable, together with those which are unuseful, 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 a 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, as far forth as they affect Society ; between which the Author always supposed there was the most interesting relation and clofest connection ; so that this part would have treated of Civil and Religious Society in their full extent.
The Fourth and last Book concerned private Ethics, or practical Morality, confidered in all the Circumstances, Orders, Professions, and Stations of human Life.
The Scheme of all this had been maturely digested, and communicated to L. 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 confiderations, interrupted, postponed, and, lastly, in a manner laid aside.
But as this was the Author's favourite Work, which more exactly reflected the Image of his strong capacious Mind, and as we can have but a very imperfect idea of it from the 'disjećta membra Poetæ' 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 treats of Man in his intellečtual 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 mifapplication 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 reassume 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 falfe 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 treats of Ethics, or practical Morality; and would have confifted of many members ; of which the four following Epistles were detached Portions: the two first, on the Characters of Men and Women, being the introductory part of this concluding Book.
M ORAL ESS A Y S.
EPI S T L E I.
Sir Richard Temple, L. Cobham.
ARGU M E N T.
Of the Knowledge and Characters of Men. I. THAT it is not fulficient 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 both, 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 Paffions, Fancies, Faculties, &c. ver. 31. The Nortness of Life to observe in, and the uncertainty of the Principles of action in men to observe by, ver. 37. &c. Our own Principle of action often hid from ourselves, ver. 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. 71. 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 fame Motives influ