Essay on Man, 2

Part I is here


Pope’s Essay on Man is divided into four parts.  However, in a 1900 school edition of the Essay on Man, Joseph Seabury said ”

"The poem is an integer. It should be read contin-
uously, thoroughly, slowly, and read to the end. Weigh
each word : each word has force. Every adjective is a
picture ; every noun a strong tower; every verb a thing
of life."

Integer is a whole number.

You can read it that way, or you break it up into the parts and look for some ideas on specific topics in those parts. The suggestions offered below are really just that – suggestions that may help you make your way through this poem.

In all of them, try to notice what he says about virtue, benevolence or charity/compassion, and piety.

Of the four parts,  the first specifically deals with Man in respect to the place he holds in the Universe, and the principal topic is the refutation of all objections against the wisdom and benevolence of that providence which placed him here, derived from the weakness and imperfection of his nature.

Questions you might ask as you read:

What is he saying about God, about Man and his place in the Universe, about creation?

The second sections begins with ‘what is the proper study of mankind’ and the answer is…

Well, what do you think Pope is saying is the proper study of mankind? Other questions you might notice and consider as you read:

What principles does he say rule over or guide the human race?

What does he have to say about virtue, passions, vices, or character? Do you agree (make sure you understand what he is saying before deciding whether or not you agree).

The third section revisits a topic he has touched on previously.  See what you think he is saying nature, creation, instinct and reason, and whether or not you agree.

How does he describe the development and rise of various human organizations and schemes of government?


In the fourth section, look for  what Pope has to say about happiness and the pursuit of it. Consider any of the previous questions as they apply, and look also at what he has to say here about virtue and the role of fortune, or luck, in our lives.


I always like to ask ‘Does this remind you of anything else,” and that is true of the Essay on Man.

This entry was posted in Charlotte Mason, poetry. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.


  1. Sherry Adams
    Posted July 25, 2018 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for these two guides for understanding/reading Pope. I am so happy that you have taken the time to put this information on your blog.

    I have read your blog for many years and cannot tell you how much it means to me to have a place to go for encouragement and help as a mother, Charlotte Mason home educator and a student of the Great Works left to us by thinkers of the past. This is such a wonderful help to me in my study of Pope’s Essay on Man.

    What else would a person want to do in the summer but study Pope?

    • Headmistress
      Posted July 27, 2018 at 5:25 am | Permalink

      Aww, thanks so much for your encouragement. I am glad these were helpful.

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