« AnteriorContinuar »
Pleas’d with this bauble still, as that before,
Mean-while opinion gilds with varying rays
NOTES. his description with the same image with which he set out— And life's poor play is o'er. W. Ver. 280. the toys of age:] Exactly what Fontenelle says,
« Il est des hochets pour tout age.” And Prior,
“ Give us play-things for old age.” Yet it is certain that Fontenelle could not have taken this verse from Prior, for he did not understand English, though prior wrote it more than twenty years before Fontenelle.
De Lisle, whose translation of Virgil's Georgics is so frequently and so unjustly praised by Voltaire, has also translated, but not published, the Essay on Man. Millot has given another, published 1762.
Ver. 286. And each vacuity of sense by Pride :] An eminent Casuist, Father Francis Garasse, in his Somme Theologique, has drawn a very charitable conclusion from this principle; which he hath well illustrated : “Selon la Justice" (says this equitable Divine) “tout travail honnête doit être recompensé de louange ou de satisfaction. Quand les bons esprits font un ouvrage excellent, ils sont justement recompensés par les suffrages du Public. Quand un pauvre esprit travaille beaucoup, pour fair un mauvais ouvrage, il n'est pas juste ni raisonnable, qu'il attende des louanges publiques ; car elles ne lui sont pas dues. Mais afin que ses travaux ne demeurent pas sans recompense, Dieu lui donne une sătisfaction personnelle, que personne ne lui peut envier sans une injustice plus que barbare ; tout ainsi que Dieu, qui est juste, donne de la satisfaction aux Grenoüilles de leur chant. Autrement le blâme public, joint à leur mécontentement, seroit suffi. sant pour les réduire au desespoir.” W.
One prospect lost, another still we gain ;
Ver. 290. And not a vanity] Dr. Balguy has given us some bold and original thoughts on this subject:.
“In single persons, it must be owned, the balance of the passions is very frequently destroyed; seldom indeed preserved with exactness and truth. But then the defects to be found in one man are supplied by the excesses in another. So that, if you consider the whole species, you will neither find too much, nor too little, of any one principle in the human mind. Indolence and ambition, avarice and sensuality, resentment and compassion, if not in the same persons, yet in different persons, counteract and balance, each other. Nor is there a single sentiment implanted in our nature which can either be increased, or lessened, in the whole race of mankind, without loss or harm to the human species; unless, indeed, you assume a liberty of altering many things at a time; of forming a new and fantastic system, perhaps made up of inconsistent parts, and beyond the bounds of possibility itself. So true is that celebrated passage of Cicero, de Nat. Deorum, lib. ii. c. 34; “Si quis corrigere aliquid volet, aut deterius faciet, aut id, quod fieri non potuit, desiderabit.” Divine Benevolence, p. 100.
Ver. 294. 'Tis this, Tho' Man's a fool,] A little time after the second edition of this Epistle was published, Voltaire writes thus, July 24, 1733, to Mons. Thiriot, his friend, in London :
“ A propos d'epitre, dites à M. Pope, que je l'ai très-bien reconnu, in his Essay on Man (which Pope had not owned at that time); 'tis certainly his style; now and then there is some obscurity: but the whole is charming." Lettres de M. Voltaire, tome i. p. 165. And, speaking of it again, p. 291, he says, “ C'est un ouvrage qui donne quelquefois de la peine aux lecteurs Anglois.” And in a long letter to La Marquise du Deffant, in the year 1736, p. 337, he tells her, “Tout l'ouvrage de Pope, fourmille de pareilles obscurités. Il y a cent eclairs admirables qui per cent
à tous momens cette nuit, et votre imagination brillante doit les aimer.” I am informed by Lord Orford, an intimate friend of this accomplished lady, that she communicated a great number of Voltaire's letters to the publishers of his Works, which they returned, and would not insert, because they bore very hard on many of the philosophers of Paris, and particularly on Helvetius.
ARGUMENT OF EPISTLE III.
Of the Nature and State of Man with respect to
I. THE whole Universe one system of Society, Ver. 7, &c. No
thing made wholly for itself, nor yet wholly for another, Ver. 27. The happiness of Animals mutual, Ver. 49. II. Reason or Instinct operate alike to the good of each Individual, Ver. 79. Reason or Instinct operate also to Society, in all animals, Ver. 109. III How far Society carried by Instinct, Ver. 115. How much farther by Reason, Ver. 128. IV. Of that which is called the State of Nature, Ver. 144. Reason instructed by Instinct in the Invention of Arts, Ver. 166; and in the Forms of Society, Ver. 176. V. Origin of Political Societies, Ver. 196. Origin of Monarchy, Ver. 207. Patriarchal Government, Ver. 212. VI. Origin of true Religion and Government, from the same principle, of Love, Ver. 231, &c. Origin of Superstition and Tyranny, from the same principle, of Fear, Ver. 237, &c. The Influence of Self-love operating to the social and public Good, Ver. 266. Restoration of true Religion and Government on their first principle, Ver. 285. Mirt Government, Ver. 288. Various Forms of each, and the true end of all, Ver. 300, &c.