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Of the Knowledge and Characters of MEN.

ES, you defpife the man to Books confin'd,
Who from his study rails at human kind;
Tho' what he learns he speaks, and may advance
Some gen❜ral maxims, or be right by chance.



EPISTLE I. This Epiftle is divided into three principal parts or members: The first (from ver. 1 to 99.) treats of the difficulties in coming at the Knowledge and true Charaders of Men.-The fecond (from ver. 98 to 174.) of the wrong means which both Philofophers and Men of the World have employed in furmounting thofe difficulties. And the third (from ver. 173 to the end) treats of the right means; with directions for the application of them.

VER. I. Yes, you despise the man, &c.] The Epiftle is introduced (from ver. 1 to 15.) by obferving, that the Knowledge of men is neither to be gained by books nor experience alone, but by the joint use of both; for that the maxims of the Philofopher and the conclufions of the Man of the World can, feparately, but fupply a vague and fuperficial knowledge: often not fo much; as thofe maxims are founded in the abstract notions of the writer; and these conclufions are drawn from the uncertain conjectures of the observer: But when the Philofopher joins his speculation to the experience of the


Moral Effays.] The ESSAY ON MAN was intended to be comprised in four books:

The First of which, the Author has given us under that title, in four epistles:

The Second was to have confifted of the fame number: 1. Of the extent and limits of human reason. 2. Of thofe arts and



The coxcomb bird, fo talkative and grave,


That from his cage cries Cuckold, Whore, and





the Man of the World, his notions are rectified into principles; and when the Man of the World regulates his experience on the notions of the Philosopher, his conjectures advance into science. Such is the reasoning of this introduction; which, befides its propriety to the general fubject of the Epiftle, has a peculiar relation to each of its parts or members: For the caufes of the difficulty in coming at the knowledge and characters of men, explained in the first part, will fhew the importance of what is here delivered, of the joint affiftance of fpeculation and practice to furmount it; and the wrong means, which both Philofophers and Men of the World have employed in overcoming those difficulties difcourfed of in the second part, have their fource here deduced; which is feen to be a separate adhe rence of Each to his own method of studying Men, and a mutual contempt of the Other's. Laftly, the right means delivered in the third part would be of little use in the application, without the direction here delivered: for though the obfervation of men and manners discovered a RULING PASSION, yet, without a philosophic knowledge of human nature, we may easily mistake a secondary and fubfidiary paffion for the principal, and fo be never the nearer in the Knowledge of Men. But the elegant and easy form of the introduction

fciences, and the parts of them which are useful, and therefore attainable; together with thofe which are unufeful, 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 fcience of the world; and of wit; concluding with a satire againft the mifapplication of them; illuftrated by pictures, characters, and examples.

The Third book regarded civil regimen, or the science of politics; in which the feveral forms of a Republic were to be examined and explained; together with the several modes of religious worship, fo far forth as they affect Society; between which the Author always fuppofed there was the clofeft connection and the


Tho' many a paffenger he rightly call,
You hold him no Philofopher at all.



duction equals the propriety of its matter; for the Epistle being addreffed to a noble perfon, distinguished for his knowledge of the world, it opens, as it were, in the midst of a familiar conversation, which lets us at once into his character; where the Poet, by politely affecting only to ridicule the ufelefs knowledge of men confined to books, and only to extol that acquired by the world, artfully infinuates how alike defective the latter may be, when conducted on the fame narrow principle: which is too often the cafe; as men of the world are more than ordinarily prejudiced in favour of their own obfervations for the fake of the obferver; and, for the fame reason, lefs indulgent to the discoveries of others.



most interesting relation. So 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 circumstances, orders, profeffions, and ftations 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 discouragements from the depravity of the times, and partly on prudential and other confiderations, interrupted, poftponed, and, laftly, in a manner laid afide.

But as this was the Author's favourite Work, which more exactly reflected the image of his own ftrong and capacious mind, and as we can have but a very imperfect idea of it from the dif jeca membra Poeta, which 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 one of his relations, becomes the foundation, and furnishes out the fubjects, of the three following; fo that

The SECOND Book was to take up again the first and fecond epiftles of the first book; and to treat of Man in his intellectual




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And yet the fate of all extremes is fuch, Men may be read, as well as Books, too much.




capacity at large, as has been explained above. Of this, only a fmall part of the conclufion (which, as we faid, was to have contained a fatire 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 re-affume the subject of the third epistle of the firft, which treats of Man in his focial, 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 lefs invidious; in which all the great principles of true and false Governments and Religions fhould be chiefly delivered in feigned examples.

The FOURTH and laft book was to pursue the fubject of the fourth epistle of the first, and to treat of Ethics, or practical morality; and would have confifted of many members; of which, the four following epiftles are detached portions: the two first, on the Characters of Men and Women, being the introductory part of this concluding book. WARBURTON.


VER. I. Yes, you defpife] The patrons and admirers of French literature ufually extol those authors of that nation who have treated of life and manners; and five of them, particularly, are esteemed to be unrivalled, namely, Montagne, Charron, La Rochefoucault, Boileau, La Bruyere, and Pascal. These are fuppofed to have deeply penetrated into the moft fecret receffes of the human heart, and to have discovered the various vices and vanities that lurk in it. I know not why the English should in this refpect yield to their polite neighbours more than in any other. Bacon in his Effays and Advancement of Learning, Hobbes and Hume in their treatifes, Prior in his elegant and witty Alma, Richardfon in his Clariffa, and Fielding in his Tom Jones (comic writers are not here included), have fhewn a profound knowledge of Man; and many portraits of Addifon may be compared with the most finished touches of La Bruyere. But the Epiftles we are now entering upon will place the matter beyond a difpute; for the French can boast of no author who has fo much exhaufted the


To obfervations which ourselves we make,

We grow more partial for th' Obferver's fake;
To written Wisdom, as another's, less:


Maxims are drawn from Notions, those from Guess.
There's fome Peculiar in each leaf and grain,
Some unmark'd fibre, or some varying vein :
Shall only Man be taken in the grofs?
Grant but as many forts of Mind as Mofs.


VER. 15. There's fome Peculiar, &c.] The Poet enters on the firft divifion of his fubject, the difficulties of coming at the Knowledge and true Characters of Men. The first cause of this difficulty, which he profecutes (from ver. 14 to 19.), is the great diverfity of characters; of which, to abate our wonder, and not difcourage our inquiry, he only defires we would grant him


but as many forts of Mind as Mofs."

Hereby artfully infinuating, that if Nature hath varied the most worthless vegetable into above three hundred fpecies, we need not wonder at a greater diverfity in her higheft work, the human mind And if the variety in that vegetable has been thought of importance enough to employ the leifure of a ferious inquirer, much more will the fame circumftance in this mafter-piece of the fublunary world deserve our study and attention.

"Shall only Man be taken in the gross?"




science of morals as Pope has in his five Epiftles. They indeed contain all that is folid and valuable in the above-mentioned French writers, of whom our Author was remarkably fond. But whatever obfervations he has borrowed from them he has made his own by the dexterity of his application. WARTON.

VER. 10. Men may be read,] " Say what they will of the great Book of the World, we must read others to know how to read that." M. De Sevigne to R. Rabutin.


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