Alexander Pope "Essay on Man": An Analytical Overview.

In Milton’s day the questioning all centered in the doctrine of the “Fall of Man,” and questions of God’s Justice were associated with debate on fate, fore-knowledge, and free will. In Pope’s day the question was not theological, but went to the root of all faith in existence of a God, by declaring that the state of Man and of the world about him met such faith with an absolute denial. Pope’s argument, good or bad, had nothing to do with questions of theology. Like Butler’s, it sought for grounds of faith in the conditions on which doubt was rested.  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.
Pope’s argument was attacked with violence by M.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. His offense 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. And when his closing hymn was condemned as the freethinker’s hymn, its censurers surely forgot that their arguments against it would equally apply to the Lord’s Prayer, of which it is, in some degree, a paraphrase.
The first design of the "Essay on Man" arranged it into four books, each consisting of a distinct group of Epistles. The First Book, in four Epistles, was to treat of man in the abstract, and of his relation to the Universe.  That is the whole work as we have it now.  The Second Book was to treat of Man Intellectual; the Third Book, of Man Social, including ties to Church and State; the Fourth Book, of Man Moral, was to illustrate abstract truth by sketches of character. This part of the design is represented by the Moral Essays, of which four were written, to which was added, as a fifth, the Epistle to Addison which had been written much earlier, in 1715, and first published in 1720. The four Moral essays are two pairs. One pair is upon the Characters of Men and on the Characters of Women, which would have formed the opening of the subject of the Fourth Book of the Essay: the other pair shows character expressed through a right or a wrong use of Riches: in fact, Money and Morals.  The four Epistles were published separately.  The fourth (to the Earl of Burlington) was first published in 1731, its title then being “Of Taste;” the third (to Lord Bathurst) followed in 1732, the year of the publication of the first two Epistles on the “Essay on Man.”  In 1733, the year of publication of the Third Epistle of the “Essay on Man,” Pope published his Moral Essay of the “Characters of Men.” In 1734 followed the Fourth Epistle of the “Essay on Man;” and in 1735 the “Characters of Women,” addressed to Martha Blount, the woman whom Pope loved, though he was withheld by a frail body from marriage.  Thus the two works were, in fact, produced together, parts of one design.
Pope’s Satires, which still deal with characters of men, followed immediately, some appearing in a folio in January, 1735. 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. Arbuthnot, were written in 1733 and 1734. 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 satire ’ 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). “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 endeavor 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. First let the mind and spirit of the writer come into free, full contact with the mind and spirit of the reader, whose attitude at the first reading should be simply receptive. Such reading is the condition precedent to all true judgment of a writer’s work.  All criticism that is not so grounded spreads as fog over a poet’s page. Read, reader, for yourself, without once pausing to remember what you have been told to think.
Pope's purpose in this poem is to vindicate the ways of God to man. Like Milton, Pope faces the problem of the existence of evil in a world presumed to be the creation of a good God. Tho ugh the poem is didactic, it is richly musical and is distinguished by subtly beautiful visual imagery. It is an affirmative poem. Hope is the process of the poem in which it paves little by little into faith. Man must have faith, believe, submit. He request man not to change the human graduation through his pride since such change may lead to the destruction of universal order. Dennis says: "Pope is condemned as an enemy of religion who read into Homer Popish beliefs, while his verses is described as an eternal monotony." "The Rape of the Lock" on the ground that they are pagan, devoid of allegorical significance, and not justly proportioned to the main theme. Like most of his contemporaries he complained of the degeneration of literary taste, which he attributes to the growing concern of his generation with politics and business affairs. He had previously pointed out the need for balanced judgments, and he further explains that literature appealed not only to the intellect but to the emotion as well. Pope's power of expression, he declares, surpassed his power of thought, and he calls attention to the equivocal manner in which that poet employed the terms "Nature" and "Wit". 
Pope was interested in denouncing literary abuses than in fostering a positive appreciation of literary excellences. He mainly directed towards improving the methods and standards of criticism. His views on the critical business are presented in his "Essay on Criticism" and his judgement in his "Preface to Shakespeare." In form the essay follow the Horatian tradition in its desultory character, but while lacking in system it is not wholly without a plan. He laments the corrupt taste of his day, blinded as it had been by ignorance and pedantry; however, on taste as a touchstone he does not enlarge, beyond stating that "true taste" was best arrived at by a study of the rules, which after all were none other than "Nature Methodized", and here he makes use of Rapin's dictum. Moreover, the rules, he explained, were no arbitrary precepts, but laws deduced from the great works of antiquity, and on them judgement could safely be based, since "to copy nature was to copy them." In his Essay he states definitely that rules alone with their fixed standards would not suffice, and that in forming judgement a poet's aim and his environment had to be taken into account. Elsewhere, he states that each work should be judged "with the same spirit as the author writ." 
Pope condemns judgements based solely on popular opinion, or animated by prejudices in favor of either the old or the new. Nor, he held, should political or sectarian interests, any more than personal feelings, be allowed to influence the critic. Your true critic, he urges, was one who endowed with knowledge and discrimination, uttered disinterested judgements with modesty, courtesy and good breeding, and who refraining from magnifying trifling faults, loved to praise with reason on his side. Such qualities has distinguished the long line of critics from Aristotle to Boileau. 
On points of literature, he has also something to say when he recalls that beauty depends on context or setting that in verse the sound must seem an echo of the sense, or that in the choice of diction "the oldest of the new and the newest of the old" were to be condemned. 
In conclusion, Dr. Johnson says about Pope: "A poet may neither violate essential principles by a desire for novelty, nor debar himself from the attainment of beauties ... by a needless fear of breaking rules which no literary dictator had authority to enact. 

The Rape of the Lock: Critical Commentary

English poet Alexander Pope dominated the first half of the 18th century. He was a Roman Catholic. In his time, the Catholics were legally prohibited from practicing their religion openly. He was prohibited as a Catholic from taking degrees. He was also prohibited from sitting in the parliament. He pays a double tax. These elements influenced Pope to prefer to Tory part which are conservatives because the whig was against the Catholics.Pope was a social poet, dealing with the subjects of the time. His subject mainly is human natures, pleasures, and crimes. His poems have a lot to say about politic (either directly or indirectly). Also, economics, education, literature, and morals. Byron said: "Pope is the moral poet of all civilizations." His language is social; he has a selected language to bring out the moral meaning of objects. He inherited some of the characteristics of the Augustan Age: reducing the complicated things into the simple. The ideal poem for Pope has a maximum of tension, and it has resulted from a struggle of contraries and opposites. These contraries may live in the style, theme, and manners. The structure of his poems or any of his satires is a kind of debate between a way of life and a pursuit of virtue. Pope's world is that of limits. Love and grief has limits. In his world ideals are strictly limited. He is the social poet dealing with the problems of social time. 

The Rape of the Lock (1712; revised 1714) is a mock epic. The mock epic developed in the 18th century, since learning was spreading. Readers could understand the epic references and the criticism they reflected at contemporary life. It is based on the use of epic language, action, structure, but in narrating trifling incidents with the aim of proving insignificance. It derives much of its humor from applying the grandeur of the epic form to a trivial (and true) incident, in which a feud developed between two rich families over a lock of hair. Pope revels in linking the serious with the banal as if they were of equal value, as in the formulation "Does sometimes counsel take, and sometimes tea." The humor is successful precisely because the reader knows that taking advice and drinking tea are not of comparable importance. Pope pokes gentle fun at aristocrats who, like Belinda (the woman whose lock of hair is taken), spend so much time on appearances. 

The Rape of the Lock carries an implied satire. This satire is directed at persons, customs, social activities, the weaknesses in both sexes, fashions of the time, and at the superstitions of the time. 

Satire is seen through many situations:Belinda: still asleep at noon and this is a custom of fashionable people, but lovers are supposed to pass sleepless hours during the night (this is the contrast). 

There is exaggerated descriptions of everything. Pope satirizes Queen Anne, judges and the courts for the way they carry justice. He introduces Clarissa (clarity) to represent the voice of reason, but at the same time pointing at human vanities and the lack of clear reason and imagination. 

Pope makes fun of people who are ruled by emotion rather than reason and who let mighty contest rise from trivial things. The poem is correcting the follies of this society and teaching people to depend on reason and common sense rather than emotion. Therefore, Clarissa represents Pope's view that beauty without common sense has no value. 

Extract from The Rape of the Lock:
Canto III
Close by those meads, for ever crown'd with flow'rs, 
Where Thames with pride surveys his rising tow'rs, 
There stands a structure of majestic frame, 
Which from the neighb'ring Hampton takes its name. 
Here Britain's statesmen oft the fall foredoom
Of foreign Tyrants and of Nymphs at home; 
Here thou, great Anna! whom three realms obey. 
Dost sometimes counsel take — and sometimes Tea.

Hither the heroes and the nymphs resort,
To taste awhile the pleasures of a Court;
In various talk th' instructive hours they past,
Who gave the ball, or paid the visit last;
One speaks the glory of the British Queen,
And one describes a charming Indian screen;
A third interprets motions, looks, and eyes;
At ev'ry word a reputation dies.
Snuff, or the fan, supply each pause of chat,
With singing, laughing, ogling, and all that

Mean while, declining from the noon of day,
The sun obliquely shoots his burning ray; 
The hungry Judges soon the sentence sign,
And wretches hang that jury-men may dine;
The merchant from th' Exchange returns in peace,
And the long labours of the Toilet cease.

The following lines raise the question or issue of music because Pope is insisting on it when he says "There stands a structure of majestic frame," he thinks this is the best form to write poetry. Words and music are elements that are not found in poetry; we have to know the target of poetry which is a controversial (Pope followed the track of Dryden in his ideals "heroic, long, slow) imitation and representation. Rhythm, rhyme, meter, couplet of Dryden are standards in which we have dissociation of sensibility. Music in poetry is an intellectual process of both the poet and the reader (poetry is composed not written). Moreover, the slow motion of regular iambic pentameter ending in heroic couplet gives a need range "The long majestic march, and energy divine."  

The way The Rape of the Lock opens is Shakespearean (Antony & Cleopatra) ... A majestic atmosphere trying to impose this informal atmosphere in regular beats enriched with seriousness versus informal title. 

The characters in this extract aren't individualized (too many), thus this is in compliance with quotation. Poetry is an imitation and representation of human nature. Aristotelean theory states that the function of poetry is to represent what is universal and permanent (universality is presentation of human nature). Those figures are representatives of certain class of society. In other words a possible improbability, for example: a king playing cards with a clown (in a poem it's possible); however in reality it is impossible. There is no need to visualize in this kind of poetry because it can't be sustained by imagery rather by the heroic couplet. There is sense in this poetry, but it doesn't require reasoning on the behalf of the reader. 

Dr. Johnson said: "Pope exhibits every mode of excellence that can embellish or dignify didactic composition selection of matter, novelty of arrangement, justness of precepts, splendor of illustration and propriety of digression."

Samuel Johnson: The vanity of human wishes

Throughout the 19th century it was generally agreed that although Johnson himself was interesting, especially as a conversationalist, most of his works were unreadable. His poems were condemned as prosaic, his essays as tritely moralistic, his criticism as wrongheaded and tasteless. The case is altered today; a few of the poems, it is agreed, belong with the best of the century; the grave Rambler essays, which in his own time established his reputation as a stylist and a moralist, prove not so forbidding as we have been told they are; and the criticism is ranked with that of Dryden and Samuel Taylor Coleridge as the best in English. Boswell's Johnson is chiefly a conversationalist whose talk came hot from a mind that was wise, humane, honest, truthful, and well stored with knowledge drawn from books and experience. The talk is that of a wit and a poet who was quick to seize and to use the unexpected but appropriate image to illuminate truth as it was apprehended by a deeply moral imagination imagination. Any fair examination of Johnson's best writings will demonstrate that for all its studied formality, Johnson's prose surpasses the virtues of his conversation. The object of the talker and of the moral essayist or critic proves in general to be the same-the search for truth in the wide field of human experience; and the wit and wisdom and energy of Johnson's spontaneous talk are also present in his prose.

Two examples must suffice here. When Mrs. Anna Williams wondered why a man should make a beast of himself through drunkenness, Johnson answered that "he who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man." In this reply Mrs. Williams' tired metaphor is so charged with an awareness of the dark aspects of human life that it comes almost unbearably alive. Such moments characterize Johnson's writings a well. For instance, in reviewing the book of a fatuous would-be philosopher who blandly explained away the pains of poverty by declaring that a kindly providence compensates the poor by making them more hopeful, more healthy, more capable of relishing small pleasures and less sensitive to small annoyances than the rich, Johnson, who had known extreme poverty, retorted:"The poor indeed are insensible of many little vexations which sometimes embitter the possessions and pollute the enjoyment of the rich. They are not pained by casual incivility, or mortified by the mutilation of a compliment; but this happiness is like that of the male-factor who ceases to feel the cords that bind him when the pincers are tearing his flesh."

Johnson had himself known the pains of poverty. During his boyhood and youth, is father's financial circumstances steadily worsened, so that he was forced to leave Oxford before he had taken a degree. An early marriage drove him to open a school which was unsuccessful; and the failure of the school prompted him to attempt to make his ay as a writer in London. The years between 1737, when he first arrived there with his pupil David Garrick (later to become the leading actor of his generation), and 1755, when the publication of the Dictionary established his reputation, were very difficult. He supported himself at first as best he could by doing hack work for the Gentleman's Magazine, but gradually his own original writings began to attract attention, though hardly to support his wife and himself.

In 1747, Johnson published the Plan of his Dictionary, and the next seven years were occupied in compiling it-although he had been sanguine enough to count on finishing it in three years. Boswell remarks that "the world contemplated with wonder" a work 'achieved by one man, while other countries had thought such undertakings fit only for whole academies." When in 1748 Dr. Adams, a friend from Oxford days, questioned his ability to carry out such a work alone in so short a time, and reminded him that the Dictionary of the French Academy had been compiled by forty academicians working for forty years, Johnson replied with humorous jingoism:"Sir, thus it is. This is the proportion. Let me see; forty times forty is sixteen hundred. As three to sixteen hundred, so is the proportion of an Englishman to a Frenchman."

Johnson's achievement in compiling the Dictionary becomes even greater when it is realized that he was writing some of his best essays and poems during the same period, for although the booksellers who published the Dictionary paid him what was then the large sum of 1575 euros, it was not enough to enable him to support his household, buy materials, and pay the wages of the six amanuenses when he employed year by year until the task was accomplished. He therefore had to exert tragedy Irene was produced at long last by his old friend Garrick, by then not only a successful actor but also the manager of Drury Lane. The play, deservedly,was not a success, though Johnson made some profit from it. In the same year appeared his finest poem, The Vanity of Human Wishes. The Rambler (1750-52) and the later Idler (1758-60), Johnson's very un-Addisonian imitations of the Spectator, found admiring readers and spread his reputation as a moralist throughout the island.

Boswell said of the Rambler essays that "in no writings whatever can be found more bark and steel (i.e., quinine and iron) for the mind." Moral strength and nealth; the importance of applying reason to experience; the testing of a man by what he does, not by what he says or mealy "feels"; faith in God: these are the centers to which Johnson's moral writings always return. As such critics as Walter Jackson Bate remind us, what Johnson uniquely offers us is the quality of his understanding of the human condition, based on wide reading but always ultimately referred to his own passionate and often anguished experience. Such understanding had to be fought for again and again.

Johnson is thought of as the great generalizer, but what gives his generalizations strength is that they are rooted in the particulars of his self-knowledge. He had constantly to fight against what he called "filling the mind" with illusions, in order to avoid the call of duty, his own black melancholy, and the realities of life. The portrait (largely a self-portrait) of Sober in Idler 31 is revealing: he occupies his idle hours with crafts and hobbies, and has now taken up chemistry-he "sits and counts the drops as they come from his retort, and forgets that, whilst a drop is falling, a moment flies away." So clear a vision is some distance away from the secure ease of the Additional essay.

His theme of themes is expressed in the title of his poem, The Vanity of Human Wishes, by which Johnson means the dangerous but all pervasive illusion of what we now call wishful thinking, the feverish intrusion of our desires and hopes which distorts reality and interferes with the possibility of sensibly relying on what we have reason to expect. Almost all of Johnson's major writings-verse satire, moral essay, or the prose fable Rasselas (1759)-bear this theme. In Rasselas it is called "the hunger of imagination, which preys upon life," the seeing of things a one would like them to be, rather than as they are. The travelers who are the fable's protagonists pursue supposed guarantees of happiness; they reflect our naive hopefulness, against the accumulation of contrary experience, that such a guarantee exists.

During this time of great activity, in which he produced the bulk of his moral writings, Johnson developed his characteristic style: the rotund periods, proceeding through balanced or parallel words; phrases or clauses moving to carefully controlled rhythms, in language that is characteristically general, often Latinate, and frequently polysyllabic. It is a style which is at the opposite extreme from swift's simplicity or Addison's neatness. In Johnson's writings this style never becomes obscure or turgid, for even a very complex sentence reveals-as it should-the structure of the thought, and the learned words are always precisely used. "Sesquipedalian" words are not so frequent in Johnson's writings as his reputation for using them would imply. He learned many of them when he was reading early scientists to collect words for the Dictionary-such words as obtund, exuberant, fugacity, frigorific, which most people have been willing to forget. But he used many of these strange words in conversation as well as in his writings, often with a peculiarly Johnsonian felicity, describing the operations of the mind with a scientific precision.

After Johnson received his pension in 1762, he no longer had to write for a living, and since he held that "no man but a blockhead" ever wrote for any other reason, he produced as little as he decently could during the last twenty years of his life. His edition of Shakespeare, long delayed, was published in 1765, with its fine preface and its fascinating notes, both textual and explicatory. Johnson's praise of Shakespeare and his discussion and destruction of the doctrine of the three unities are printed below. His last important work is the Lives of the Poets, which came out in two parts in 1779 and 1781. These biographical and critical prefaces were written at the instigation of a group of booksellers who had joined together to publish a large collection of the English poets and who wished to give their venture the prestige that it would acquire if Johnson took part in it. The poets to be included (except for four insisted on by Johnson) were selected by the booksellers, and their choice was determined by the current fashions. We have, therefore, a collection that begins with Cowley and Milton and ends with Gray and the poetaster Lord Lyttleton, and that omits poets whom we regard as "standard," such as Chaucer, Spenser, Sidney, or the metaphysicals.

In the Lives of the Poets and in the earlier Life of Richard Savage (1744), Johnson did much to advance the art of biography in England. The public had long been familiar with biography as panegyric or as scandalous memoir, and therefore Johnson's insistence on truth, even about the subject's defects, and on concrete, often minute, details was a new departure, disliked by many readers, as Boswell was to find when he followed hs master's principles both in the Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides and in the Life itself. "The biographical part of literature is what I love most," Johnson said, for he found every biography useful in revealing human nature and the way men live. His insistence on truth in biography (and knowing that Boswell intended to write his life, he insisted that he should write it truthfully) was due to his conviction that the more truthful such a work is the more useful it will be to all of us who are concerned with the business of living. The value of the lives of the poets varies, for Johnson wrote some more casually than he did others. He is at his best as a critic when he draws up a general character of a writer's genius and when he discusses individual works.

Johnson's taste was conservative, and he therefore liked little in contemporary literature. He valued Richardson for his knowledge of the human heart, but he considered Fielding "low" and immoral, and Sterne merely perversely odd and trivial. Though he loved Collins, he regretted his fanciful subjects and "harsh" diction, and he offended many by his strictures on what he considered Gray's affectations. He poked gentle fun at his friend Thomas Warton's revival of antique words and "Ode, and elegy, and sonnet." But if he was conservative, he was no worshiper of authority, and least of all was he prone to follow mere theory. As a critic Johnson is always the empiricist, testing theory, as he tested all notions, by experience. His attitude toward the rules is perfectly expressed in these words from Rambler 156:"It ought to be the first endeavor of a writer to distinguish nature from custom; or that which is established because it is right, from that which is right only because it is established; that he may neither violate essential principles by a desire of novelty, nor debar himself from the attainment of beauties within his view, by a needless fear of breaking rules which no literary dictator has authority to enact." And the perfect illustration of this attitude is his treatment of the long-revered principle of the three dramatic unities in the Preface to Shakespeare.

That there were "essential principles" which any writer must follow seemed to him self-evident. He must adhere to universal truth and experience, i.e., to "Nature"; he must please, but he must also instruct ; he must not offend against religion or promote immorality; he must avoid cold and slavish imitation of others, and he must not cultivate "singularity," the eccentrically original. In the passages from the Lives of the Poets below, some of his principles are illustrated. The well-known and influential discussion of metaphysical poetry, with its brilliant definition of "wit" as "a kind of discordia concord," at once illustrates Johnson's genius for formulating broad broad philosophical principles and reveals clearly why he equated the general with the natural. The notorious attack on Milton's Lycidas, which damaged Johnson's reputation as a critic for over a century, puzzles us until we recall that Johnson himself had his critical singularities, which in this case stood between him and a liking for a very great poem: he was justly contemptuous of 18th century pastoral poetry, which was always conventional, artificial, and bookish, and which could be produced by mere imitation; and he had a great dislike on religious grounds for the Renaissance habit of mingling pagan and Christian materials in a poem. The praise of Dryden, Pope, and Shakespeare, on the other hand, is admirable because those poets nobly illustrated the literary standards that Johnson respected throughout his career.