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Opinions? they still take a wider range: -' 170 Find, if you can, in what you cannot change.
Manners with Fortunes, Humours turn with Climes, Tenets with Books, and Principles with Times. '
Search then the RULING PASSION : There, alone, The Wild are constant, and the Cunning known:
NOTES. Ver. 171. in what you cannot change.] “Combien diversement jugeons nous de choses ?” says honest Montaigne. “ Combien de fois changeons nous nos fantasies ? Ce que je tien aujourdhuy, ce que je croy, je le tien et le croy, de toute ma creance; mais ne m'est-il pas advenu, non une fois mais cent; mais mille et tous les jours, d'avoir embrassé quelque autre chose ?" Montaigne furnished many hints for this Epistle.
Ver. 172. Manners with Fortunes,] Are there any two lines in Horace or Boileau so replete with strong sense, and so condensed and crowded with matter, as these two of our Author ? I have often amused myself by thinking what sort of magistrates Dante and Montaigne made, when the former was mayor of Florence, and the latter of Bourdeaux. Did their manners change with their stations?
Ver. 174. the RULING PASSION:] Two eminent writers have attacked our Author's notion of a Ruling Passion, Mr. Harris and Dr. Johnson: The former says, “ One talks of a universal passion; as if all passions were not universal. Another talks of a Ruling Passion; and means, without knowing it, certain ruling opinions. Thus, when specious falsehood assumes the lyre, we are charmed with the music, and worship her as truth.”
“ Of any passion," says Johnson, “ thus innate and irresistible, the existence may reasonably be 'doubted. Human characters are by no means constant; men change, by change of place, of fortune, of acquaintance; he who is at one time a lover of pleasure, is at another a lover of money. Those, indeed, who attain any excellence, commonly spend life in one pursuit; for excellence is not often gained upon easier terms. But to the particular species of excellence men are directed, not by an ascendant planet or predominating humour, but by the first
The Fool consistent, and the False sincere; 176
book which they read, some early conversation which they heard, or some accident which excited ardour and emulation.
“ It must be at least allowed, that this ruling passion, antecedent to reason and observation, must have an object independent on human contrivance; for there can be no natural desire of artificial good. No man, therefore, can be born, in the strictest acceptation, a lover of money; for he may be born where money does not exist : nor can he be born, in a moral sense, as a lover of his country; for society, politically regulated, is a state contradistinguished from a state of nature; and any attention to that coalition of interests which makes the happiness of a country, is possible only to those whom inquiry and reflection have enabled to comprehend it.
« This doctrine is in itself pernicious as well as false : its tendency is to produce the belief of a kind of moral predestination or overruling principle which cannot be resisted; he that admits it is prepared to comply with every desire that caprice or opportunity shall excite, and to flatter himself that he submits only to the lawful dominion of nature, in obeying the resistless authority of his Ruling Passion.
“ Pope has formed his theory with so little skill, that, in the examples by which he illustrates and confirms it, he has confounded passions, appetites, and habits.”
I shall add, that the expression, Ruling Passion, was first used by Roscommon. See how much is attributed to the effects of a Ruling Passion. Essay on Man, Epistle ii. v. 132.
Ver. 177. Priests, Princes, Women, no DISSEMBLERS here.] Insinuating that one common principle, the pursuit of Power, gives a conformity of conduct to the most distant and different characters. W.
Ver. 181. the Lust of Praise :) This very well expresses the grossness of his appetite for it; where the strength of the passion had destroyed all the delicacy of the sensation. W.
Born with whate’er could win it from the Wise,
NOTES. Ver. 187. John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, famous for his wit and extravagances in the time of Charles the Second. W.
Ver. 189. With the same spirit] Spirit for principle, not passion. W.
Ver. 190. Enough, if all around him but admire, &c.] What an able French writer observes of Alcibiades may be justly applied to this nobleman.“ Ce n'étoit pas un ambitieux, mais un homme vain, qui vouloit faire du bruit, et occuper les Atheniens. Il avoit l'esprit d'un grand homme; mais son ame, dont les ressorts amollis étoient devenus incapables d'une application constante, ne pouvoit s'elever au grand, que par boutade. J'ai bien de la peine à croire, qu'un homme assez souple, pour être à Sparte aussi dur et aussi sévère, qu’un Spartiate; dans l'Ionie aussi recherché dans ses plaisirs, qu'un Ionien, &c. fût propre à faire un grand homme." W.
A Fool, with more of Wit than half mankind, 200
NOTES. Ver. 200. A Fool, with more of Wit] Folly, joined with much wit, produces that behaviour which we call absurdity; and this absurdity the Poet has here admirably described in the words,
“ Too rash for Thought, for Action too refin’d:” by which we are given to understand, that the person described indulged his fancy when he should have used his judgment; and pursued his speculations when he should have trusted to his experience. W.
Ver. 205. And, harder still ! flagitious, yet not great.] To arrive at what the world calls GREATNESS, a wicked man must either hide and conceal his vices, or he must openly and steadily practise them in the pursuit and attainment of one important end. This unhappy nobleman did neither. W.
Ver. 206. Ask you why Wharton] “ This celebrated peer," says Lord Orford, “ like Buckingham and Rochester, comforted all the grave and dull by throwing away the brightest profusion of parts on witty fooleries, debaucheries, and scrapes, which may mix graces with a great character, but never can compose one. If Julius Cæsar had only rioted with Catiline, he had never been emperor of the world. Indeed the Duke of Wharton was not made for conquest; he was not equally formed for, a Roundhouse and Pharsalia. In one of his ballads he has bantered his own want of heroism ; it was in a song he made on being seized by the guard in St. James's Park, for singing the Jacobite air, The king shall have his own again :'
“ The duke he drew out half his sword,
--- The guard drew out the rest.” His leyities, wit, and want of principles,' his eloquence and adventures, are too well known to be recapitulated. With attach
Nature well known, no prodigies remain,
Yet in his search, the wisest may mistake,
VARIATIONS. Ver. 208. In the former Editions,
Nature well known, no Miracles remain. Altered as above, for very obvious reasons.
NOTES. ment to no party, though with talents to govern any party, this lively man changed the free air of Westminster for the gloom of the Escurial, the prospect of King George's garter for the Pretender's; and, with indifference to all religion, the frolic lord, who had writ the ballad on the Archbishop of Canterbury, died in the habit of a capuchin.
It is difficult to give an account of the works of so mercurial a man, whose library was a tavern, and women of pleasure his muses. A thousand sallies of his imagination may have been lost: he no more wrote for fame than he acted for it. There are two volumes in octavo, called his Life and Writings, but containing of the latter nothing but “ seventy-four numbers of a periodical paper, called the True Briton," and his celebrated “ Speech in the House of Lords on the third reading of the bill to inflict pains and penalties on Francis Lord Bishop of Rochester, May 15, 1723.” It is a remarkable anecdote relating to this speech, that his Grace, then in opposition to the Court, went to Chelsea the day before the last debate on that prelate's affair, where acting contrition, he professed being determined to work out his pardon at Court, by speaking against the bishop, in order to which he begged some hints. The minister was deceived, and went through the whole cause with him, pointing out where the strength of the argument lay, and where its weakness. The Duke was very thankful, returned to town, passed the night in drinking, and, without going to bed, went to the House of Lords, where he spoke for the bishop, recapitulating, in the most masterly manner, and answering all that had been urged against him. His speech against the Ministry, two years before, on the affair of the South-Sea Company, had a fatal effect, Earl Stanhope answering it with so much warmth that he broke a blood-vessel and died.