1796 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir William Temple

Thomas Green, 12 September 1796; Extracts from the Diary of a Lover of Literature (1810) 1.



Read, in the evening, "Temple on the Origin of Government:" in which the source of political power is justly traced; and the doctrine of an original compact, as an historical fact, successfully exploded. He plainly states, what, though very obvious, is often overlooked, that all government is a restrain upon liberty; and, in all modes of it, the dominion over individuals equally absolute. Pope probably borrowed, from a part of this Essay, his thought—

For forms of government, let fools contest;
Whate'er is best administered, is best—

A position, however, not defensible, since the form may influence the administration. — The whole Essay is extremely judicious and unreserved. Temple is a very sensible writer; and draws more from his own stock of observation and reflection, than is usual with the writers of the present day.