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rused this poem in the same spirit in which it was written, to find the author accused of inculcating doctrines unfavourable to the idea of a future state. With this view Dr. Warton has quoted in a note, a passage “ from a MS. of the late learned printer, Mr. Bowyer.” After adducing, as a proof of a future state, the dissatisfaction which the mind experiences in mere earthly things, the poet adds,
“ Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is, but always to be blest ;
Essay on Man, Ep. i. ver. 95. On these two last lines, Mr. Bowyer observes, “ In the old editions, it was, 'confin’d at home,' which was altered at the persuasion of the divine, against the sense of the poet. The point to be illustrated is, that hope is implanted in man, to enable him to bear all the evils of life, though it is merely visionary, and has no foundation.
What future bliss he gives not thee to know,
Essay on Man, Ep. i. ver.
i 93. Thus man, confined on his own earth, dreams of imaginary mansions in another world. Hope supplies the reality of them. He hopes, upon the same ground as the Indian does, for a heaven, where his dog shall accompany him. Sorry am I to give this view of the author's creed; but it is too true a representation of it ; &c.”* This passage is as erroneous in its premises as it is unjust in its conclusion. The point to be illustrated is not, “ that hope is implanted in man to enable him to bear the evils of this life, though it is merely visionary, and without foundation," but that it was given us as an earnest of a future state of existence; a sentiment so deeply fixed in human nature, that it is felt and acknowledged by the poor Indian, who “
sees God in clouds, and hears him in the wind,” and that such hope is a consolation to the soul, even in its present state, whilst it is uneasy and confined from its home, and rests and expatiates in a world to come. It is not said by Pope, that the hopes of futurity are all a dream ; he only asserts, as St. Paul had done before, that we do not know the nature of the bliss which a future state affords. That Pope intended to
* Note on Essay on Man, Ep. i. ver. 97. Warton's Ed.
change the sense of the passage by adopting the alteration of Warburton, it would be absurd to suppose. He only meant to strengthen it. It was however sufficiently evident, as it before stood, that by the expression at home, he meant our temporary or present home, as contradistinguished from our future, and the alteration was merely a concession to prevent cavils, and by no means an improvement. Thus, according to the moral system which the author has undertaken to develop, the certainty of a future state may even be inferred from the general conviction of it entertained by all mankind, and from the necessity of such a state to the completion of the great design, without which the present state of being would only be an imperfection and a blot.
That the certainty of a future state is not only uniformly admitted and reasoned upon in this Essay as an established and indisputable tenet, but is considered as essential to the completion of that great order of things of which we are only permitted to see a portion here below, appears from many passages of the poem.
“ Of man what see we, but his station here,
Essay on Man, Ep. i. ver. 19. evidently implying that there is more to be known than is compatible with our present situation. In the same spirit we are told to
“Hope humbly then; with trembling pinions soar ;
Essay on Man, Ep. i. ver. 91. But if death be the termination of our existence, this, and all similar
passages would be futile and ridiculous. This great union that combines the present with the future, and will perhaps enable us to know more than our mere mortal faculties are enabled to comprehend, is more decisively referred to towards the close of the poem, as
" that chain that links th’ immense design,
Essay on Man, Ep. iv. ver." 333. After perusing these, and various other passages to the same effect, it is surely extraordinary that attempts should have been made by the Commentators of Pope, on the pages of his own
works, to insinuate that he did not himself believe in the doctrine of a future state.
It is perhaps with greater plausibility, but with equal injustice, that this poem has been represented as containing sentiments favourable to fatalism and necessity, thereby destroying the idea of the freedom of the human will, and overthrowing the barriers between vice and virtue. This idea seems to have arisen from a too confined and partial view of the manner in which the poet has treated his subject, and from judging of it by detached parts and expressions, instead of comprehending the tenor and result of the whole. Those who have attempted to substantiate this objection have in general adverted only to one part of the Essay, that in which the author undertakes to demonstrate the regularity and harmony of the established order of things, and have overlooked that portion of the work in which he contends for the freedom of human action, and the consequent responsibility of man; the compatibility of which apparently irreconcileable opinions it is the chief object of this work to demonstrate.
This objection has however been recently countenanced by a distinguished living author, whose observations cannot fail of producing a great effect on the public opinion. It is remarked by Mr. Dugald Stewart, that various writers in their great zeal to “ vindicate the ways of God,” have been led to hazard principles more dangerous in their consequences than the prejudices and errors which it was their aim to correct. Amongst this number," says he, “must be included the author of the Essay on Man; who, from a want of precision in his metaphysical ideas, has unconsciously fallen into various expressions equally inconsistent with each other, and with his own avowed opinion;" as a proof of which, he instances the lines,
“ If plagues and earthquakes break not heaven's design,
Essay on Man, Ep. i. ver. 155. “ This,” says he,“
says he, “ approaches very nearly to the optimism of Leibnitz, and has certainly nothing in common with that of Plato,” according to whom, “ every thing is right so far as it is the work of God; the creation of beings endowed with free will, and consequently liable to moral delinquency, and the government of the world by general laws, from which occasional evils must result, furnishing no objection to the perfection of the universe, to which VOL. V.
a satisfactory reply. may not be found in the partial and narrow views of it to which our faculties are at present confined; but he held, at the same time, that although the permission of moral evil does not detract from the goodness of God, it is nevertheless imputable to man as a fault, and renders him justly obnoxious to punishment."*
Surely the scope and tendency of the work of Pope could not have been more precisely and truly defined, than in the passage last cited. The lines here objected to, are so far from being liable to the censure applied to them, that they are in perfect accordance with the doctrines before stated, and are merely used as an illustration of the position, “ that from the government of the world by general laws occasional evils must result.” Pope by no means asserts, that Borgia and Catiline are not morally culpable. He only contends, that as man is not created perfect, there must somewhere be imperfection ; but he no where supposes that this detracts from the goodness of God, or that it is not imputable to man as a fault.
The system of Pope is therefore precisely that described by Mr. Stewart, as having “ been in all ages maintained (under a variety of forms) by the wisest and best philosophers, who, while they were anxious to vindicate the perfections of God, saw the importance of stating their doctrine in a manner not inconsistent with man's free will and moral agency.” Nor can we admit with Mr. Stewart, that the lines of Pope,
“ The general order since the whole began
Essay on Man, Ep. i. ver. 171. are inconsistent with the lines,
“ What makes all physical and moral ill ?
Essay on Man, Ep. iv. ver. 111. The two passages put together, containing only an assertion, that notwithstanding the aberrations physical or moral, in particular instances, the general order of things still continues unimpaired. These observations will probably be thought sufficient to shew, that these detached passages in Pope are not in fact in
* Dissertation to Pref. to Suppl. of Encyclop. Britan. Part II.
consistent either with each other, or with his general system ; but when we extend our views so as to comprehend the whole object of the Essay, we shall find that these are only particular parts which, like strong touches in the picture of a great artist, when viewed distinct from the rest, seem incorrect and discoloured, but when taken as a part of the whole appear indispensable to its harmony, beauty, and effect.
That this is the true construction of the poem will, however, more clearly appear from considering that portion of it, in which the poet positively asserts the free agency, and responsibility of man. This is in fact the principal object of his second Epistle; in which after adverting to the limits placed by nature to the exertion of the human faculties, he enters upon an inquiry into the operation of those passions, on the proper regulation of which our happiness here and hereafter so essentially depends. These passions, however, can only be exercised within certain bounds, and cannot in their consequences derange the great system of things, and the established order and harmony of the universe-thus,
“ Each individual seeks a several goal;
But Heaven's great view is one, and that the whole.
That disappoints th' effect of every vice.”—Ep. ii. ver. 237. And thus, “ th' eternal art educing good from ill,” is constantly employed, not only in counterbalancing the effects of evil by an equal quantity of good; but in producing ON THE WHOLE, a much greater quantity of good than could possibly have existed without it.
But although the powers and faculties of man are circumscribed by the great system of things, and have only a limited sphere of action; yet these limits are amply sufficient to admit of a great variety of conduct, in which every individual acts according as his own interest, real or imaginary, leads him. He cannot, indeed, derange the course of the planets, nor arrest the fury of the winds, nor prevent the return of the tide, but he can effect considerable changes within the bounds prescribed, both in the natural and moral world; and according as he employs the faculties with which he is endowed, he may be said to be wise or foolish, virtuous or vicious. What the effects of his virtues or his vices may be upon the general system of things, it is out of his power either to prescribe or foresee ; and therefore it neither adds to the merit