The Rape of the Lock and Other Poems

By Alexander Pope; Thomas Marc Parrott | Go to book overview

AN ESSAY ON MAN
TO H. ST. JOHN LORD BOLINGBROKE

THE DESIGN

HAVING proposed to write some pieces on Human Life and Manners, such as (to use my Lord Bacon's expression) come home to Men's Business and Bosoms, I thought it more satisfactory to begin with considering Man in the abstract, his Nature and his State; since, to prove any moral duty, to enforce any moral precept, or to examine the perfection or imperfection of any creature whatsoever, it is necessary first to know what condition and relation it is placed in, and what is the proper end and purpose of its being.

The science of Human Nature is, like all other sciences, reduced to a few clear points: There are not many certain truths in this world. It is therefore in the Anatomy of the mind as in that of the Body; more good will accrue to mankind by attending to the large, open, and perceptible parts, than by studying too much such finer nerves and vessels, the conformations and uses of which will for ever escape our observation. The disputes are all upon these last, and, I will venture to say, they have less sharpened the wits than the hearts of men against each other, and have diminished the practice, more than advanced the theory of Morality. If I could flatter myself that this Essay has any merit, it is in steering betwixt the extremes of doctrines seemingly opposite, in passing over terms utterly unintelligible, and in forming a temperate yet not inconsistent, and a short yet not imperfect system of Ethics.

This I might have done in prose, but I chose verse, and even rhyme, for two reasons. The one will appear obvious; that principles, maxims, or precepts so written, both strike the reader more strongly at first, and are more easily retained by him afterwards: The other may seem odd, but is true, I found I could express them more shortly this way than in prose itself; and nothing is more certain, than that much of the force as well as grace of arguments or instructions, depends on their conciseness. I was

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The Rape of the Lock and Other Poems
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • SELECTIONS FROM POPE 1
  • The Rape of the Lock - AN HEROI-COMICAL POEM 3
  • An Essay on Criticism 31
  • An Essay on Man - TO H. ST. JOHN LORD BOLINGBROKE 54
  • Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot 66
  • Notes 83
  • Appendix 145
  • ANNOUNCEMENTS 158
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