Moral Essays

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Alexander Pope (1688—1744) poet

Martha Blount (1690—1762) Roman Catholic gentlewoman

Henry St John, Lord Bolingbroke (1678—1751) politician, diplomatist, and author


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Four ethical poems by Pope, published 1731–5. They were inspired by Bolingbroke and take the form of four Epistles. Epistle I, addressed to Viscount Cobham, deals with the knowledge and characters of men; it sets forth the difficulties in judging a man's character and finds their solution in the discovery of the ruling passion, which ‘clue once found unravels all the rest’. Epistle II, addressed to Martha Blount, deals with the characters of women. Atossa was intended either for Sarah, duchess of Marlborough, or for Katherine, duchess of Buckinghamshire; Chloe for Lady Suffolk; Philomodé for Henrietta, duchess of Marlborough. Epistle III, to Lord Bathurst, deals with the use of riches. The Epistle contains the famous characters of the ‘Man of Ross’ (see Kyrle) and ‘Sir Balaam’. Epistle IV, to Lord Burlington, deals with the same subject as Epistle III, giving instances of the tasteless use of wealth, particularly in architecture and gardening, where nature should be followed, and ending with advice on the proper use of wealth.

Subjects: Literature.

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