Under Queen Anne he was an original poet, but made little money by his verses; under George I.
Pope’s life as a writer falls into three periods, answering fairly enough to the three reigns in which he worked.
But as the eighteenth century grew slowly to its work, signs of a deepening interest in the real issues of life distracted men’s attention from the culture of the snuff-box and the fan.
As Pope’s genius ripened, the best part of the world in which he worked was pressing forward, as a mariner who will no longer hug the coast but crowds all sail to cross the storms of a wide unknown sea.
Out of this came, nearly at the same time, two works wholly different in method and in tone—so different, that at first sight it may seem absurd to speak of them together.
They were Pope’s “Essay on Man,” and Butler’s “Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature.” Butler’s “Analogy” was published in 1736; of the “Essay on Man,” the first two Epistles appeared in 1732, the Third Epistle in 1733, the Fourth in 1734, and the closing Universal Hymn in 1738.The First Book, in four Epistles, was to treat of man in the abstract, and of his relation to the Universe. 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. 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 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.he was chiefly a translator, and made much money by satisfying the French-classical taste with versions of the “Iliad” and “Odyssey.” Under George I.he also edited Shakespeare, but with little profit to himself; for Shakespeare was but a Philistine in the eyes of the French-classical critics.Many now talk about evolution and natural selection, who have never read a line of Darwin.In the reign of George the Second, questionings did spread that went to the roots of all religious faith, and many earnest minds were busying themselves with problems of the state of Man, and of the evidence of God in the life of man, and in the course of Nature.The argument of Leibnitz’s Theodicee was widely used; and although Pope said that he had never read the Theodicee, his “Essay on Man” has a like argument.When any book has a wide influence upon opinion, its general ideas pass into the minds of many people who have never read it.