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ARGUMENT OF EPISTLE I.
I. That it is not sufficient for this knowlege to consider man
in the abstract: books will not serve the purpose, nor yet our own experience singly, ver. 1. General maxims, unless they be formed on both, will be but notional, v. 10. Some peculiarity 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 seasons, v. 71. Unimaginable weaknesses 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 influencing 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 of the world, v. 135. And some reason for it, v. 141. Education alters the nature, or at least the 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, v. 179. A caution against mistaking second qualities for first, which will destroy all possibility of the knowlege of mankind, v. 210. Examples of the strength of the ruling passion, and its continuation to the last breath, v. 222, &c.
OF THE KNOWLEGE AND CHARACTERS OF MEN.
Yes, you despise the man to books confined,
4 Some general maxims. Pope has been charged with ad. ducing the ruling passion as a sort of predestinarian doctrine, by which the course of every man's life is to be regulated under the influence of an original necessity : but Roscoe has fully shown, on the evidence of the poem itself, that the only ruling passion asserted in these pages, is the known propensity wbich directs peculiar minds to peculiar objects, and which may be guided, modified, or mastered, by the wisdom, experience, or energy, of the individual. The present arrangement of the epistle was suggested by Warburton, who, on this ground at least, may be taken as authority for its division :- The whole is distributed into three principal parts or members. The first, from ver. 1 to 99, treats of the difficulties in ascertaining the characters of men; the second, to 174, of the wrong means which both philosophers and men of the world have employed in surmounting those difficulties; and the third, to the end, treats of the right means, with rules for their application.'
Though many a passenger he rightly call,
And yet the fate of all extremes is such,
That each from other differs, first confess; Next, that he varies from himself no less : 20
20 Next, that he varies from himself. Warton quotes a French writer, as 'sensible,' who says that Cicero was 'un grand esprit,' but'une ame foible. The Frenchman who said this, was neither sensible, nor qualified to play the critic on Cicero. The man who rose from an humble condition of life to the highest, who vanquished the jealousy of birth, opulence, and office, and who was looked on by common consent as the pillar of the state in its time of most imminent peril, could not have been either une ame foible,' or 'un homme d'état médiocre.' The leader of the Roman nobility, the master of the senate, the hope and pride of every Roman, must have added to the talents of the great orator the faculties of the great man : the overthrower of Catiline, and the exterminator of the furious faction which had already prepared the ruin of the commonwealth, and of which Catiline himself was but a symptom, must have possessed the qualities of the statesman in an eminent degree. His submission to Cæsar supplies no evidence of weakness. The cause of the republic was gone; the state contained no elements for its restoration. The alternative to him, as to many a man of sense and honor since, lay between anarchy and power. If Cæsar, with all his noble and unrivalled qualities for government, were not to be sovereigo, faction, led by some furious thirster for blood, must have assumed the national supremacy; the days
Add nature’s, custom's, reason's, passion's strife, And all opinion's colors cast on life.
Our depths who fathoms, or our shallows finds, Quick whirls and shifting eddies of our minds ? On human actions reason though you can, 25 It may be reason, but it is not man: His principle of action once explore, That instant 'tis his principle no more; Like following life through creatures you dissect, You lose it in the moment you detect. 30
Yet more; the difference is as great between The optics seeing, as the objects seen. All manners take a tincture from our own; Or come discolor'd, through our passions shown: Or fancy's beam enlarges, multiplies, Contracts, inverts, and gives ten thousand dies.
Nor will life's stream for observation stay; It hurries all too fast to mark their way : In vain sedate reflections we would make, When half our knowlege we must snatch, not
take. Oft, in the passions' wide rotation toss'd, Our spring of action to ourselves is lost :
of Marius and Sylla must have been renewed, and Rome flooded with slaughter. Cicero, thus maligned as a willing slave, exbibited only the intelligence and integrity of a statesman cf the first rank in deciding the question against anarchy. The result proved bis wisdom. The assassination of Cæsar threw the national power into the hands of the democracy: those bands were found totally ineffectual to sustain the government; and that sceptre, which was arrogantly refused to Cæsar, the generous, the brilliant, and the merciful; was feebly dropped into the possession of Augustus, selfish, sullen, and defiled with the incalculable murders of the triumvirate. From that hour Rome was essentially a despotism.