"An Essay on Man: Epistle 1 by Alexander Pope • 81 Poems by Alexander PopeEdit."An Essay on Man: Epistle 1 by Alexander Pope Classic Famous Poet. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 May 2013. >.
Alexander Pope was born in London to a Roman Catholic family. A childhood sickness left him with stunted height, a curved spine, and ill health for the rest of his life. Pope earned fame and great financial success as a poet, satirist, and translator. He is perhaps best remembered for his mastery of the heroic couplet, as in An Essay on Man and “The Rape of the Lock.”
- Alexander Pope (From "An Essay on Man")
[John Sergeant], Solid Philosophy Asserted, Against the Fancies of the Ideists: Or, The Method to Science Farther Illustrated. With Reflexions on Mr. Locke’s Essay concerning Human Understanding. London: Printed for Roger Clavil, [et al], 1697. de Beer Eb 1697 S
Epistle I concerns itself with the nature of man and with his place in the universe; Epistle II, with man as an individual; Epistle III, with man in relation to human society, to the political and social hierarchies; and Epistle IV, with man's pursuit of happiness in this world. An Essay on Man was a controversial work in Pope's day, praised by some and criticized by others, primarily because it appeared to contemporary critics that its emphasis, in spite of its themes, was primarily poetic and not, strictly speaking, philosophical in any really coherent sense: , never one to mince words, and possessed, in any case, of views upon the subject which differed materially from those which Pope had set forth, noted dryly (in what is surely one of the most back-handed literary compliments of all time) that "Never were penury of knowledge and vulgarity of sentiment so happily disguised." It is a subtler work, however, than perhaps Johnson realized: G. Wilson Knight has made the perceptive comment that the poem is not a "static scheme" but a "living organism," (like ) and that it must be understood as such. The four epistles of the Essay on Man were published successively on February 20, March 29, May 8, 1733 and finally on January 24, 1734. The first editions of the first three Epistles appear in variant states, the priority of which is not always clear, but none of which are of significance textually (except Griffith's issue "I" of Epistle I, which Pope revised). The 'friend' to whom the Epistles were addressed was Henry St. John, Lord Bolingbroke. But this poem was not simply a statement of Bolingbroke's deistic philosophy. It has been referred to as 'a public, social and classical poem', a poem that takes into account Newton's impersonal universe but also interweaves a 'tissue of images from older and more human conceptions' (M. Mack, Works, Vol. III) and which examines the human condition against Miltonic, cosmic bacground. Although Pope's perspective is well above our everyday life, and he does not hide his wide knowledge, the work is suggestive, dramatic, exciting, and sometimes even comfortably concrete: "Each beast, each insect, happy in its own: / Is Heaven unkind to Man, and Man alone?"