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13 January, 2012
|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
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 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 politics, in
which the several forms of a republic were to have been 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 connexion; so that
this part would have treated of civil and religious society in their
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
the Lord 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 strong capacious mind, and as we can have but
a very imperfect idea of it from the disjecta membra poetae 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 one of his relations,
becomes the foundation, and furnishes out the subjects, of the three
following; so that--
The second book takes 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
misapplication 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, reassumes 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 pursues 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 concluding book.--Warburton.