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Controversy Between Crousaz And Warburton
by [?]

A VIEW OF THE CONTROVERSY BETWEEN MONS. CROUSAZ AND MR. WARBURTON, ON THE SUBJECT OF MR. POPE’S ESSAY ON MAN

In a Letter to the Editor of the Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. xiii. 1743.

Mr. Urban,

It would not be found useless in the learned world, if in written controversies as in oral disputations, a moderator could be selected, who might, in some degree, superintend the debate, restrain all needless excursions, repress all personal reflections, and, at last, recapitulate the arguments on each side; and who, though he should not assume the province of deciding the question, might at least exhibit it in its true state.

This reflection arose in my mind upon the consideration of Mr. Crousaz’s commentary on the Essay on Man, and Mr. Warburton’s answer to it. The importance of the subject, the reputation and abilities of the controvertists, and, perhaps, the ardour with which each has endeavoured to support his cause, have made an attempt of this kind necessary for the information of the greatest number of Mr. Pope’s readers.

Among the duties of a moderator, I have mentioned that of recalling the disputants to the subject, and cutting off the excrescences of a debate, which Mr. Crousaz will not suffer to be long unemployed, and the repression of personal invectives which have not been very carefully avoided on either part, and are less excusable, because it has not been proved, that, either the poet, or his commentator, wrote with any other design than that of promoting happiness by cultivating reason and piety.

Mr. Warburton has, indeed, so much depressed the character of his adversary, that before I consider the controversy between them, I think it necessary to exhibit some specimens of Mr. Crousaz’s sentiments, by which it will probably be shown, that he is far from deserving either indignation or contempt; that his notions are just, though they are sometimes introduced without necessity; and defended when they are not opposed; and that his abilities and piety are such as may entitle him to reverence from those who think his criticisms superfluous.

In page 35 of the English translation, he exhibits an observation which every writer ought to impress upon his mind, and which may afford a sufficient apology for his commentary.

On the notion of a ruling passion he offers this remark: “Nothing so much hinders men from obtaining a complete victory over their ruling passion, as that all the advantages gained in their days of retreat, by just and sober reflections, whether struck out by their own minds, or borrowed from good books, or from the conversation of men of merit, are destroyed in a few moments by a free intercourse and acquaintance with libertines; and, thus, the work is always to be begun anew. A gamester resolves to leave off play, by which he finds his health impaired, his family ruined, and his passions inflamed; in this resolution he persists a few days, but soon yields to an invitation, which will give his prevailing inclination an opportunity of reviving in all its force. The case is the same with other men; but is reason to be charged with these calamities and follies, or rather the man who refuses to listen to its voice in opposition to impertinent solicitations?”

On the means, recommended for the attainment of happiness, he observes, “that the abilities which our Maker has given us, and the internal and external advantages with which he has invested us, are of two very different kinds; those of one kind are bestowed in common upon us and the brute creation, but the other exalt us far above other animals. To disregard any of these gifts would be ingratitude; but to neglect those of greater excellence, to go no farther than the gross satisfactions of sense, and the functions of mere animal life, would be a far greater crime. We are formed by our Creator capable of acquiring knowledge, and regulating our conduct by reasonable rules; it is, therefore, our duty to cultivate our understandings, and exalt our virtues. We need but make the experiment to find, that the greatest pleasures will arise from such endeavours.