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Under Queen Anne he was an original poet, but made little money by his verses; under George I. Pope’s life as a writer falls into three periods, answering fairly enough to the three reigns in which he worked.The intellectual scepticism, based upon an honest search for truth, could end only in making truth the surer by its questionings.
His offence in the eyes of de Crousaz was that he had left out of account all doctrines of orthodox theology.
But if he had been orthodox of the orthodox, his argument obviously could have been directed only to the form of doubt it sought to overcome.
Doubt was born of the corruption of society; Nature and Man were said to be against faith in the rule of a God, wise, just, and merciful.
In 1710, after Bayle’s death, Leibnitz, a German philosopher then resident in Paris, wrote in French a book, with a title formed from Greek words meaning Justice of God, Theodicee, in which he met Bayle’s argument by reasoning that what we cannot understand confuses us, because we see only the parts of a great whole.
Milton sought to set forth the story of the Fall in such way as to show that God was love.
Pope dealt with the question of God in Nature, and the world of Man. de Crousaz, Professor of Philosophy and Mathematics in the University of Lausanne, and defended by Warburton, then chaplain to the Prince of Wales, in six letters published in 1739, and a seventh in 1740, for which Pope (who died in 1744) was deeply grateful.Pope’s poetry thus deepened with the course of time, and the third period of his life, which fell within the reign of George II., was that in which he produced the “Essay on Man,” the “Moral Essays,” and the “Satires.” These deal wholly with aspects of human life and the great questions they raise, according throughout with the doctrine of the poet, and of the reasoning world about him in his latter day, that “the proper study of mankind is Man.” Wrongs in high places, and the private infamy of many who enforced the doctrines of the Church, had produced in earnest men a vigorous antagonism.Tyranny and unreason of low-minded advocates had brought religion itself into question; and profligacy of courtiers, each worshipping the golden calf seen in his mirror, had spread another form of scepticism.Bayle, he said, is now in Heaven, and from his place by the throne of God, he sees the harmony of the great Universe, and doubts no more.We see only a little part in which are many details that have purposes beyond our ken.That part of the epistle to Arbuthnot forming the Prologue, which gives a character of Addison, as Atticus, had been sketched more than twelve years before, and earlier sketches of some smaller critics were introduced; but the beginning and the end, the parts in which Pope spoke of himself and of his father and mother, and his friend Dr. Then follows an imitation of the first Epistle of the Second Book of the Satires of Horace, concerning which Pope told a friend, “When I had a fever one winter in town that confined me to my room for five or six days, Lord Bolingbroke, who came to see me, happened to take up a Horace that lay on the table, and, turning it over, dropped on the first satire in the Second Book, which begins, ‘Sunt, quibus in satira.’ He observed how well that would suit my case if I were to imitate it in English.After he was gone, I read it over, translated it in a morning or two, and sent it to press in a week or a fortnight after” (February, 1733).Out of this came, nearly at the same time, two works wholly different in method and in tone—so different, that at first sight it may seem absurd to speak of them together.They were Pope’s “Essay on Man,” and Butler’s “Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature.” Butler’s “Analogy” was published in 1736; of the “Essay on Man,” the first two Epistles appeared in 1732, the Third Epistle in 1733, the Fourth in 1734, and the closing Universal Hymn in 1738.“And this was the occasion of my imitating some others of the Satires and Epistles.” The two dialogues finally used as the Epilogue to the Satires were first published in the year 1738, with the name of the year, “Seventeen Hundred and Thirty-eight.” Samuel Johnson’s “London,” his first bid for recognition, appeared in the same week, and excited in Pope not admiration only, but some active endeavour to be useful to its author.The reader of Pope, as of every author, is advised to begin by letting him say what he has to say, in his own manner to an open mind that seeks only to receive the impressions which the writer wishes to convey.