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HE ESSAY ON MAN was intended to have been comprised in Four Books:
The First of which, the Author has given us under that title, in four Epiftles.
The Second was to have confifted of the fame number: 1. Of the extent and limits of human Reafon. 2. Of thofe Arts and Sciences, and of the parts of them, which are useful, and therefore attainable, together with thofe which are unuseful, and therefore unattainable. 3. Of the Nature, Ends, Ufe, and Application of the different Capacities of Men. 4. Of the Ufe of Learning, of the Science of the World, and of Wit; concluding with a Satire against a Mifapplication 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 feveral Modes of Religious Worship, as far forth as they affect Society; between which the Author always fuppofed there was the most interesting relation and clofeft connection; fo that this part would have treated of Civil and Religious Society in their full extent.
The Fourth and laft Book concerned private Ethics, or practical Morality, confidered in all the Circumftances, Orders, Profeffions, and Stations of human Life.
The Scheme of all this had been maturely digefted, 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 difcouragements from the depravity of the times, and partly on prudential and other confiderations, interrupted, poftponed, and, lastly, in a manner laid afide.
But as this was the Author's favourite Work, which more exactly reflected the Image of his ftrong capacious Mind, and as we can have but a very imperfect idea of it from the disjecta membra Poeta' that now remain, it may not be amifs to be a little more particular concerning each of these projected books.
The FIRST, as it treats of Man in the abstract, and confiders 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 Firft and Second Epiftles of the First Book, and treats of Man in his intellectual Capacity at large, as has been explained above. Of this only a small part of the conclufion (which, as we faid, 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, occafionally, in the other three.
The THIRD Book, in like manner, was to reaffume the fubject of the Third Epiftle of the First, which treats of Man in his Social, Political, and Religious Capacity. But this part the Poet afterwards conceived might be beft 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 fhould be chiefly delivered in feigned Examples.
The FOURTH and laft Book was to pursue the fubject of the Fourth Epiftle of the Firft, and treats of Ethics, or practical Morality; and would have confifted of many members; of which the four following Epiftles were detached Portions: the two first, on the Characters of Men and Women, being the introductory part of this concluding Book.
MORAL ESSAY S.
Sir Richard Temple, L. Cobham.
Of the Knowledge and Characters of MEN. I. THAT it is not fufficient for this knowledge to confider Man in the Abstract: Books will not ferve the purpose, nor yet our own Experience fingly, 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 arifing from our own Paffions, Fancies, Faculties, &c. ver. 31. The fhortnefs 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 ourfelves, ver. 41. Some few Characters plain, but in general confounded, diffembled, or inconsistent, ver. 51. The fame 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 fame actions proceeding from contrary Motives, and the fame Motives influ
encing contrary actions, ver. 100. II. 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 men of the world, ver. 135. And fome reafon for it, ver. 140. Education alters the Nature, or at least Character, of many, ver. 149. Actions, Paffions, Opinions, Manners, Humours, or Principles, all fubject to change. No judging by Nature, from ver. 158. to ver. 178. III. It only remains to find (if we can) his RULING PASSION: That will certainly influence all the reft, and can reconcile the feeming or real inconfiftency of all his actions, ver. 175. Inftanced in the extraordinary Character of Clodio, ver. 179. A caution against mistaking second qnalities for firft, which will destroy all poffibility of the knowledge of mankind, ver. 210. Examples of the strength of the Ruling Paffion, and its continuation to the last breath, ver. 222, &c.
ES, you defpife the man to Books confin'd,
Though what he learns he speaks, and may advance,
That from his cage cries Cuckold, Whore, and Knave, Though many a paffenger he rightly call,
You hold him no Philofopher at all.
And yet the fate of all extremes is fuch,
To written Wisdom, as another's, lefs:
Maxims are drawn from Notions, thefe from Guess.
Next, that he varies from himself no lefs;
Our depths who fathoms, or our fhallows finds,