Under Queen Anne he was an original poet, but made little money by his verses; under George I.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
It may seem even more absurd to name Pope’s “Essay on Man” in the same breath with Milton’s “Paradise Lost;” but to the best of his knowledge and power, in his smaller way, according to his nature and the questions of his time, Pope was, like Milton, endeavouring “to justify the ways of God to Man.” He even borrowed Milton’s line for his own poem, only weakening the verb, and said that he sought to “vindicate the ways of God to Man.” In Milton’s day the questioning all centred 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.