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(Nature, whose dictates to no other kind
Are given in vain, but what they seek they find :)
His greatest virtue with his greatest bliss ;
Self-love thus push'd to social, to divine,
Grasp the whole worlds of reason, life, and sense, In one close system of benevolence:
Happier as kinder, in whate'er degree,
And height of bliss but height of charity.
God loves from whole to parts: but human soul Must rise from individual to the whole.
Self-love but serves the virtuous mind to wake,
Earth smiles around, with boundless bounty blest,
Come then, my friend! my genius! come along! Oh master of the poet, and the song!
And while the Muse now stoops, or now ascends,
Form'd by thy converse, happily to steer,
Oh! while along the stream of time thy name
IN FOUR EPISTLES TO SEVERAL PERSONS.
Est brevitate opus, ut currat sententia, neu se
To SIR RICHARD TEMPLE, L. COBHAM.
OF THE KNOWLEDGE AND CHARACTERS OF MEN.
I. 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. General maxims, unless they be formed upon both, will be but notional. Some peculiarity in every man, characteristic to himself, yet varying from himself. Difficulties arising from our own passions, fancies, faculties. The shortness of life to observe in, and the uncertainty of the principles of action in men to observe by. Our own principle of action often hid from ourselves. Some few characters plain, but in general confounded, dissembled, or inconsistent. same man utterly different in different places and seasons. Unimaginable weaknesses in the greatest. Nothing constant and certain but God and na
No judging of the motives from the actions; the same actions proceeding from contrary
motives, and the same motives influencing contrary actions. II. Yet, to form characters, we can only take the strongest actions of a man's life, and try to make them agree: the utter uncertainty of this, from nature itself, and from policy. Characters given according to the rank of men of the world: and some reason for it. Education alters the nature, or at least character of many. Actions, passions, opinions, manners, humours, or principles, all subject to change. No judging by nature. III. It only remains to find (if we can) his ruling passion: that will certainly influence all the rest, and can reconcile the seeming or real inconsistency of all his actions. Instanced in the extraordinary character of Clodio. A caution against mistaking second qualities for first, which will destroy all possibility of the knowledge of mankind. Examples of the strength of the ruling passion, and its continuation to the last breath.
YES, you despise the man to books confin'd,
And yet the fate of all extremes is such,
Men may be read, as well as books, too much.
Maxims are drawn from notions, these from guess,
There's some peculiar in each leaf and grain,
That each from other differs, first confess;
Our depths who fathoms, or our shallows finds,
Like following life through creatures you dissect,
Yet more; the difference is as great between
The optics seeing, as the objects seen.
All manners take a tincture from our own;
It hurries all too fast to mark their way:
In vain sedate reflections we would make,
When half our knowledge we must snatch, not take.
Our spring of action to ourselves is lost :