Reference > Cambridge History > From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift > Pope > Moral Essays
  Influence of Bolingbroke An Essay on Man  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IX. From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift.

III. Pope.

§ 17. Moral Essays.


The first result was the Epistle to the Earl of Burlington, Of Taste (1731), afterwards altered to Of False Taste, and ultimately, under the sub-title Of the Use of Riches, placed fourth of his Moral Essays. It is a finished specimen of Pope’s art and attitude. The denunciation of extravagant expense, the appeal to good sense and nature, are alike characteristic. The sketches or touches of character in the first part, Villario, Sabinus, Visto, Virro (the precursor of the dean who had much taste, and all very bad) yield to the description of Timon’s villa which fills half the poem. Trouble came of this last. Pope had to learn, as the creator of Harold Skimpole learned later, that, when prominent traits are taken from life, the public will insist on complete identity. There seems to be no ground for supposing ingratitude, but he had no doubt been thinking of Canons and the duke of Chandos. The next Epistle was that To Lord Bathurst (III), also entitled Of the Use of Riches (1732). Pope professed that this was one of his most laboured works; yet his fondness for retouching led him, at the end of his life, to transpose parts and to convert it into a dialogue. He starts with the thought that the miser and spendthrift are divinely appointed to secure a due circulation of wealth; but the merits of the Epistle lie in passages, such as the end of Buckingham and the rise and fall of Sir Balaam. We see how Pope is being drawn into the opposition fomented by Bolingbroke, the lines in which he dwells on the facilities given to corruption by paper credit being an attack on Walpole.   29

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  Influence of Bolingbroke An Essay on Man  
 
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