Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

val; and it was necessary to handle these cases separately, in order to elucidate a subject which by writers is left in great obscurity. But neither of these principles operates always without rivalship: cases may be figured, and cases actually exist, where the same person is an object both of sympathy and of punishment. Thus the sight of a profligate in the venereal disease, overrun with blotches and sores, puts both principles in motion: while his distress fixes my attention, sympathy prevails; but as soon as I think of his profligacy, hatred prevails, accompanied sometimes with a desire to punish. This, in general, is the case of distress occasioned by immoral actions that are not highly criminal and if the distress and the immoral action make impressions equal or nearly so, sympathy and hatred counterbalancing each other, will not suffer me either to afford relief, or to inflict punishment. What then will be the result? The principle of self-love solves the question: abhorring an object so loathsome, I naturally avert my eye, and walk off as fast as I can, in order to be relieved from the pain.

The present subject gives birth to several other observations, for which I could not find room above, without relaxing more from the strictness of order and connexion, than with safety could be indulged in discoursing upon an intricate subject. These observations I shall throw out loosely as they

occur.

No action, right nor wrong, is indifferent even to a mere spectator: if right, it inspires esteem; disgust, if wrong. But it is remarkable, that these emotions seldom are accompanied with desire: the abilities of man are limited, and he finds sufficient employment, in relieving the distressed, in requiting his benefactors, and in punishing those who

wrong him, without moving out of his sphere for the benefit or chastisement of those with whom he has no connexion.

(If the good qualities of others raise my esteem, the same qualities in myself must produce a similar effect in a superior degree, upon account of the natural partiality every man hath for himself: and this increases self-love. If these qualities be of a high rank, they produce a conviction of superiority, which excites me to assume some sort of government over others. (Mean qualities, on the other hand, produce in me a conviction of inferiority, which makes me submit to others. These convictions, distributed among individuals by measure and proportion, may justly be esteemed the solid basis of government; because upon them depend the natural submission of the many to the few, without which even the mildest government would be in a violent state, and have a constant tendency to dissolution.

No other branch of the human constitution shows more visibly our destination for society, nor tends more to our improvement, than appetite for fame or esteem for as the whole conveniences of life are derived from mutual aid and support in society, it ought to be a capital aim to secure these conveniences, by gaining the esteem and affection of others. Reason, indeed, dictates that lesson: but reason alone is not sufficient in a matter of such importance; and the appetite mentioned is a motive more powerful than reason, to be active in gaining esteem and affection. That appetite, at the same time, is finely adjusted to the moral branch of our constitution, by promoting all the moral virtues for what means are there to attract love and esteem so effectual as a virtuous course of life? if a man be just and beneficent, if he be temperate,

modest, and prudent, he will infallibly gain the esteem and love of all who know him.

Communication of passion to related objects, is an illustrious instance of the care of Providence to extend social connexions as far as the limited nature of man can admit. That communication is so far hurtful, as to spread the malevolent passions beyond their natural bounds: but let it be remarked, that this unhappy effect regards savages only, who give way to malevolent passions; for under the discipline of society, these passions being subdued, are in a good measure eradicated; and in their place succeed the kindly affections, which, meeting with all encouragement, take possession of the mind, and govern all our actions. In that condition, the progress of passion along related objects, by spreading the kindly affections through a multitude of individuals, hath a glorious effect.

Nothing can be more entertaining to a rational mind, than the economy of the human passions, of which I have attempted to give some faint notion. It must however be acknowledged, that our passions, when they happen to swell beyond proper limits, take on a less regular appearance: reason may proclaim our duty, but the will, influenced by passion, makes gratification always welcome. Hence the power of passion, which, when in excess, cannot be resisted but by the utmost fortitude of mind it is bent upon gratification; and where proper objects are wanting, it clings to any object at hand without distinction. Thus joy inspired by a fortunate event, is diffused upon every person around by acts of benevolence; and resentment for an atrocious injury done by one out of reach, seizes the first object that occurs to vent itself upon. Those who believe in prophecies, even wish the accomplishment; and a weak mind is disposed

voluntarily to fulfil a prophecy, in order to gratify its wish. Shakspeare, whom no particle of human nature hath escaped, however remote from common observation, describes that weakness:

K. Henry. Doth any name particular belong Unto that lodging where I first did swoon?

Warwick. 'Tis call'd Jerusalem, my noble Lord. K. Henry, Laud be to God! ev'n there my life must end, It hath been prophesy'd to me many years, I should not die but in Jerusalem, Which vainly I suppos'd the Holy Land. But bear me to that chamber, there I'll lie : In that Jerusalem shall Henry die.

Second part, Henry IV. Act IV. Sc. last.

I could not deny myself the amusement of the foregoing observation, though it doth not properly come under my plan. The irregularities of passion proceeding from peculiar weaknesses and biasses, I do not undertake to justify; and of these we have had many examples.* It is sufficient that passions common to all, are made subservient to beneficent purposes. I shall only observe, that, in a polished society, instances of irregular passions are rare, and that their mischief doth not extend far.

Part V. of the present chapter.

VOL. I.

169

CHAPTER III.

HAVING discoursed in general of emotions and passions, I proceed to a more narrow inspection of such of them as serve to unfold the principles of the fine arts. It is the province of a writer upon ethics, to give a full enumeration of all the passions; and of each separately to assign the nature, the cause, the gratification, and the effects. But a treatise of ethics is not my province: I carry my view no farther than to the elements of criticism, in order to show, that the fine arts are a subject of reasoning as well as of taste. An extensive work would ill suit a design so limited and to confine this work within moderate bounds, the following plan may contribute. The observation made above, that things are the causes of emotions, by means of their properties and attributes,* furnisheth a hint for distribution. Instead of a painful and tedious examination of the several passions and emotions, I purpose to confine my inquiries to such attributes, relations, and circumstances, as in the fine arts are chiefly employed to raise agreeable emotions. Attributes of single objects, as the most simple, shall take the lead; to be followed with

Beauty.

Chapter II. part i. sect. 1. first note:

Y

« FöregåendeFortsätt »