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'Est brevitate opus, ut currat sententia, neu se
THE 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 Epistles.
The Second was to have consisted of the same number: 1. Of the extent and limits of human reason. 2. Of those arts and sciences, and of the parts of them, which are useful, and there'fore attainable, together with those which are unuseful, and therefore unattainable. 3. Of the nature, ends, use, and application, of the dif
ferent capacities of men.
4. Of the use of learning, of the science of the world, and of wit; concluding with a satire against the 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 closest 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, considered 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 considerations, interrupted, postponed, and lastly, in a manner laid aside.
But as this was the Author's favorite 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 disjecta membra poeta 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 intellectual 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 misappli cation 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 false 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 consisted 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 con cluding Book.
TO SIR RICHARD TEMPLE, LORD COBHAM.
OF THE KNOWLEDGE AND CHARACTERS OF MEN.
1. THAT it is not sufficient for this knowledge to consider Man in the abstract; books will not serve the purpose, nor yet our own experience singly, v, 1. General maxims, unless they be formed upon both, will be but notional, v. 10. Some pe culiarity in every man, characteristic to himself, yet varying from himself, v. 15. Difficulties arising from our own passions, fancies, faculties, &c. v. 31. The shortness of life to observe in, and the uncertainty of the principles of action in men to observe by, v. 37, &c. Our own principle of action often hid from ourselves, v. 41. Some few characters plain, but in general confounded, dissembled, or inconsistent, v. 51. The same man utterly different in different places and seasens, v. 71. Unimaginable weakness in the greatest, v, 77, &c. Nothing constant and certain but God and Nature, v. 95. No judging of the motives from the actions; the same actions proceeding from Contrary motives, and the same motives in fluencing contrary actions, v. 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, v. 120. Characters given according to the rank of men in the world, v. 135; and some reason for it, v. 140. Education alters the nature, or at least character, of many, v. 149. Actions, passions, opinions, manners, humors, or principles, all subject to change, No judging by Nature, from v. 158, to 174. III. It only remains to find (if we can his ruling passion: that will certainly influence all the rest, and can reconcile the seeming or real inconsistency of all his actions, v. 175. Instanced in the extraordinary character of Clodio, 179. A caution against mistaking second qualities for first, which will destroy all possibility of the knowledge of mankind, v. 210. Examples of the strength of the ruling passion, and its continuation to the last breath v. 222, &c.
YES, you despise the man to books confin'd,
Who from his study rails at human kind;