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Of the Knowledge and Characters of Mex.

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, ver. 1. General maxims, unless they be formed upon both, will be but notional, ver. 10. Some peculiarity in every man, characteristic to himself, yet varying from himself, ver. 15. Difficulties arising from our own Passions, Fancies, Faculties, &c. ver. 31. The shortness of Life, to observe in, and she uncertainty of the Principles of Action in men, to observe by, ver. 37, &c. Our own Principle of Action often bid from our. selves, ver. 41. Some few characters plain, but in general confounded, dissembled, or inconsistent, ver. 51. The same man utterly different in different places and seasons, ver. 71. Unimaginable weaknesses in the greatest, ver. 77, &c. Nothing constant and certain but God and Nature, ver. 95. No judging of the Mo. cives from the actions; the same actions proceeding from contrary Motives, and the same Motives influencing contrary, actions, ver. 100. II. Yet to form Characters, we can only take the strongest actions of a man's life, and try to make them agree : Tbe utter uncertainty of this, from Nature itself, and from Policy, ver. I 20. Characters given according to the rank of men of the world, ver. 135. And some reason for it, ver. 141. Education alters the Nature, or at least the Character, of many, ver. 149. Actions, Passions, Opinions, Manners, Humours, or Principles, all subject Po change. No judging by Nature, from ver. 158 to 174. III. It only remains to find (if we can) bis RULING PASSION : That will certainly influence all the rest, and can reconcile the seeming or real inconsistency of all his actions, ver. 175. Instanced in the extrordinary character of Clodio, ver. 179. A caution against mistaking second qualities for first, which will destroy all possibility of the knowledge of mankind, ver. 210. Examples of the strength of the Ruling Passion, and its continuation ta tbe last breath, ver. 222, &c.


Of the Knowledge and Characters of Men.

YES, you despise 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.


* Moral Essays.] 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 consisted of the same number: 1. Of the extent and limits of human reason. 2. Of those arts and sciences, and the parts of them which are useful, and therefore attainable; together with those which are unuseful, 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 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 poli. tics ; in which the several forms of a republic were to be examined and explained ; together with the several modes of religious worship, so far forth as they affect society; between which the author always supposed there was the closest connection and the most interesting relation. 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 com. The coxcomb bird, so talkative and



5 That from his cage cries Cuckold, Whore, and Knave, Tho' many a passenger he rightly call, You hold him no philosopher at all.

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



so that

municated 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 favourite work, which more exactly reflected the image of his own strong and capacious mind, and as we can have but a very imperfect idea of it from the disjecia membra Poeta, which now remain; it may not be amiss to be a little more particular concerning each of these projected books.

The First, as it creats of man in the abstract, and considers him in general, under every one of his relations, hecomes the foundation, and furnishes out the subjects, of the three following;

The Second Book was to take up again the first and second epistles of the first book; and to treat 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 con. tained a satire against the misapplication of wit and learning) may be found in the fourth book of the Dunciad; and up and down, occasionally, in the other tbree.

The Third Book, in like manner, was to re-assume the subject of the third epistle of the first, which treats of man in his social, political, and religious capacity. But this part


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 feigued examples.

The Fourth and last book was to pursue the subject of the fourth epistle of the first, and to treat of Ethics, or practical mo rality; and would have consisted of many members; of which, the four following epistles are detached portions: the two first, on the sharacters of men and women, being the introductory part of shis soncluding book.



To observations which ourselves we make,

grow more partial for th’ observer's sake ;
To written wisdom, as another's less :
Maxims are drawn from notions, those from

There's some peculiar in each leaf and grain, 15
Some unmark'd fibre, or some varying vein :
Shall only man be taken in the gross ?
Grant but as many sorts of mind as moss.
That each from other differs, first confess

Next, that he varies from himself no less :
Add nature's, custom's, reason's, passion's strife,
And all opinion's colours cast on life.

Our depths who fathoms, or our shallows finds,
Quick whirls, and shifting eddies, of our minds ?
On human actions reason tho' 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.

Yet more ; the diff'rence is as great between
The optics seeing, as the objects seen.
All manners take a tincture from our own;
Or come discolour'd through our passions shown.
Or fancy's beam enlarges, multiplies,

35 Contracts, inverts, and gives ten thousand dies.

Nor will life's stream for observation stay, It hurries all too fast to mark their way:

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