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THE Essay on Man consists of four Epistles addressed to Lord Bolingbroke. It is but a portion of a large poem contemplated, but not completed. Hence the title imperfectly describes its contents. It is less a treatise on Man than on the moral order of the world of which man is a part. The Essay is a vindication of Providence. The appearances of evil in the world arise from our seeing only a part of the whole. Excesses and contrary qualities are means by which the harmony of the system is procured. The ends of Providence are answered even by our errors and imperfections. God designs happiness to be equal, but realises it through general laws. Virtue only constitutes a happiness which is universally attainable. This happiness through virtue is only reached in society, or social order, which is only a part of the general order. The perfection of virtue is a conformity to the order of Providence here, crowned by the hope of full satisfaction hereafter.
The argument of the Essay on Man is said to have been supplied to Pope by Bolingbroke. The source of this tradition is Lord Bathurst. Lord Bathurst, a Tory Peer, had lived with the Tory wits of Queen Anne; then with the Bolingbroke and Chesterfield opposition to Walpole; and having survived all his contemporaries, died in 1775, at the age of 91. We may believe that he was in the habit of stating that Bolingbroke had supplied the scheme of the Essay on Man in prose, and that Pope had done no more than put it into verse. This is reported by two independent and trustworthy witnesses. Joseph Warton states, Pope's Works, vol. 3, p. 7, that Lord Bathurst had 'repeatedly assured' him of the fact. Dr. Hugh Blair, dining with Lord