Context: Pope's fourth epistle of the Moral Essays was addressed to Richard Boyle, the Earl of Burlington; the poem's topic is "Of the Use of Riches." Pope admires the earl for what he is doing with his wealth: "You shew us, Rome was glorious, not profuse,/ And pompous buildings once were things of Use./ Yet shall, my Lord, your just, your noble rules/ Fill half the land with Imitating-Fools." It is those who have wealth, but not taste, that Pope wishes to correct; too often, he thinks, people of wealth and noble birth abuse the word "taste." In the use of riches, says the poet, the "first principle and foundation" is good sense, as it is in everything: to spend one's wealth is not enough in itself. Good sense, he says, is almost worth all the seven branches of knowledge, and fortunately this quality, he adds, is possessed by the Earl of Burlington. If one does not have the quality, however, not even such a great architect as Inigo Jones, or such a landscape and garden designer as Le Nôtre, of France, can give it:
Oft have you hinted to your brother PeerA certain truth, which many buy too dear:Something there is more needful than Expence,And something previous even to Taste–'tis Sense:Good Sense, which only is the gift of Heaven,And though no Science, fairly worth the seven:A Light, which in yourself you must perceive;Jones and Le Nôtre have it not to give.