His vision pierces to the world hidden from our senses, and realizes in the transitory present a scene in the slow development of a divine drama.To make us share his vision is to give his justification of Providence.
He might again conceivably have written an interesting work, though it would hardly have been a poemif he had versified the arguments by which a coherent theory might be supported.
Unluckily, he was quite unqualified for either undertaking, and, at the same time, he more or less aimed at both.
His philosophical writings are equally superficial and arrogant, though they show here and there the practised debater's power of making a good point against his antagonist without really grasping the real problems at issue.
Bolingbroke received a pardon in 1723, and returned to England, crossing Atterbury, who had just been convicted of treasonable practices.
He had been originally introduced to Bolingbroke by Swift, but had probably seen little of the brilliant minister who, in the first years of their acquaintance, had too many occupations to give much time to the rising poet.
Bolingbroke, however, had been suffering a long eclipse, whilst Pope was gathering fresh splendour.If he had fairly grasped some definite conception of the universe, whether pantheistic or atheistic, optimist or pessimist, proclaiming a solution of the mystery, or declaring all solutions to be impossible, he might have given forcible expression to the corresponding emotions.He might have uttered the melancholy resignation and the confident hope incited in different minds by a contemplation of the mysterious world.Its deity was not a historical personage, but the name of a metaphysical conception. To vindicate Providence meant no longer to stimulate imagination by pure and sublime rendering of accepted truths, but to solve certain philosophical problems, and especially the grand difficulty of reconciling the existence of evil with divine omnipotence and benevolence.Pope might conceivably have written a really great poem on these terms, though deprived of the concrete imagery of a Dante or a Milton.Having finished the Dunciad, he was soon employed on a more ambitious task.Pope resembled one of the inferior bodies of the solar system, whose orbit is dependent upon that of some more massive planet ; and having been a satellite of Swift, he was now swept into the train of the more imposing Bolingbroke.He could be at once the most reckless of rakes and the leading spirit in the Cabinet or the House of Commons.He seems to have thought that philosophical eminence was obtainable in the same offhand fashion, and that a brilliant style would justify a man in laying down the law to meta-physicians as well as to diplomatists and politicians." Does Pope talk to you," says Bolingbroke to Swift in 1731, " of the noble work which, at my instigation, he has begun in such a manner that he must be convinced by this time I judged better of his talents than he did I " And Bolingbroke proceeds to describe the Essay on Man, of which it seems that three (out of four) epistles were now finished. Pope, being apparently nervous on his first appearance as a philosopher, withheld his name.The other parts followed in the course of 17, and the authorship was soon avowed.