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from being sufficiently ascertained, even after much care and labour bestowed by an eminent writer ;* to whom, however, the world is greatly indebted, for removing a mountain of rubbish, and moulding the subject into a rational and correct form. The same defect is remarkable in criticism, which has for its object the more delicate feelings; the terms that denote these feelings being not more distinct than those of logic. To reduce the science of criticism to any regular form, has never once been attempted however rich the ore may be, no critical chemist has been found, to analyse its constituent parts, and to distinguish each by its own name.
In the second place, Society among individuals is greatly promoted by that universal language. Looks and gestures give direct access to the heart, and lead us to select, with tolerable accuracy, the persons who are worthy of our confidence. It is surprising how quickly, and for the most part how correctly, we judge of character from external appearance.
Thirdly, After social intercourse is commenced, these external signs, which diffuse through a whole assembly the feelings of each individual, contribute above all other means to improve the social affections. Language, no doubt, is the most comprehensive vehicle for communicating emotions: but in expedition, as well as in power of conviction, it falls short of the signs under consideration; the involuntary signs especially, which are incapable of deceit. Where the countenance, the tones, the gestures, the actions, join with the words in communicating emotions, these united have a force irresistible: thus all the pleasant emotions of the human heart, with all the social and virtuous affec
tions, are, by means of these external signs, not only perceived but felt. By this admirable contrivance, conversation becomes that lively and animating amusement, without which life would at best be insipid: one joyful countenance spreads cheerfulness instantaneously through a multitude of spectators.
Fourthly, Dissocial passions, being hurtful by prompting violence and mischief, are noted by the most conspicuous external signs, in order to put us upon our guard: thus anger and revenge, especially when sudden, display themselves on the countenance in legible characters.* The external signs again of every passion that threatens danger raise in us the passion of fear: which frequently operating without reason or reflection, moves us by a sudden impulse to avoid the impending danger.†
In the fifth place, These external signs are remarkably subservient to morality. A painful passion, being accompanied with disagreeable external signs, must produce in every spectator a painful emotion: but then, if the passion be social, the emotion it produces is attractive, and connects the spectator with the person who suffers. Dissocial
* Rough and blunt manners are allied to anger by an internal feeling, as well as by external expressions resembling in a faint degree those of anger: therefore such manners are easily heightened into anger; and savages for that reason are prone to anger. Thus rough and blunt manners are unhappy in two respects: first, they are readily converted into anger; and next, the change being imperceptible because of the similitude of their external signs, the person against whom the anger is directed is not put upon his guard. It is for these reasons a great object in society, to correct such manners, and to bring on a habit of sweetness and calmness. This temper has two opposite good effects. First, it is not easily provoked to wrath. Next, the interval being grea between it and real anger, a person of that temper who receives an affront, has many changes to go through, before his anger be inflamed: these changes have each of them their external sign; and the offending party is put upon his guard, to retire, or to endeavour a reconciliation.
† See Chapter II. Part i. sect. 6.
passions only are productive of repulsive emotions, involving the spectator's aversion, and frequently his indignation. This beautiful contrivance makes us cling to the virtuous, and abhor the wicked.
Sixthly, Of all the external signs of passion, those of affliction or distress are the most illustrious with respect to a final cause. They are il lustrious by the singularity of their contrivance, and also by inspiring sympathy, a passion to which human society is indebted for its greatest blessing, that of providing relief for the distressed. A subject so interesting deserves a leisurely and attentive examination. The conformity of the nature of man to his external circumstances is in every particular wonderful: his nature makes him prone to society; and society is necessary to his wellbeing, because in a solitary state he is a helpless being, destitute of support, and in his manifold distresses destitute of relief: but mutual support, the shining attribute of society, is of too great moment to be left dependent upon cool reason; it is ordered more wisely, and with greater conformity to the analogy of nature, that it should be enforced even instinctively by the passion of sympathy. Here sympathy makes a capital figure, and contributes, more than any other means, to make life easy and comfortable. But, however essential the sympathy of others may be to our well-being, one beforehand would not readily conceive how it could be raised by external signs of distress: for considering the analogy of nature, if these signs be agreeable, they must give birth to a pleasant emotion leading every beholder to be pleased with human woes; if disagreeable, as they undoubtedly are, ought they not naturally to repel the spectator from them, in order to be relieved from pain? Such would be the reasoning beforehand; and VOL. I. Ꮓ Ꮓ
such would be the effect were man purely a selfish being. But the benevolence of our nature gives a very different direction to the painful passion of sympathy, and to the desire involved in it: instead of avoiding distress, we fly to it in order to afford relief: and our sympathy cannot be otherwise gratified but by giving all the succour in our power.* Thus external signs of distress, though disagreeable, are attractive: and the sympathy they inspire is a powerful cause, impelling us to afford relief even to a stranger as if he were our friend or relation.†
The effects produced in all beholders by external signs of passion, tend so visibly to advance the social state, that I must indulge my heart with a more narrow inspection of this admirable branch of the human constitution. These external signs, being all of them resolvable into colour, figure, and motion, should not naturally make any deep impression on a spectator: and supposing them qualified for making deep impressious, we have seen above, that the effects they produce are not such as might be expected. We cannot therefore account
* See Chapter II. Part vii.
It is a noted observation, that the deepest tragedies are the most crowded; which in a slight view will be though an unaccountable bias in human nature. Love of novelty, desire of occupation, beauty of action, make us fond of theatrical representations; and, when once engaged, we must follow the story to the conclusion, whatever distress it may create. But we generally become wise by experience: and when we foresee what pain we shall suffer during the course of the representation, is it not surprising that persons of reflection do not avoid such spectacles altogether? And yet one who has scarce recovered from the distress of a deep tragedy, resolves coolly and deliberately to go to the very next, without the slightest obstruction from self love. The whole mystery is explained by a single observation, That sympathy, though painful, is attractive, and attaches us to an object in distress, the opposition of self-love notwithstanding, which should prompt us to fly from it. And by this curious mechanism it is, that persons of any degree of sensibility are attracted by affliction still more than by joy.
otherwise for the operation of these external signs, but by ascribing it to the original constitution of human nature; to improve the social state, by mak ing us instinctively rejcice with the glad of heart, weep with the mourner, and shun those who threaten danger, is a contrivance no less illustrious for its wisdom than for its benevolence. With respect to the external signs of distress in particular, to judge of the excellency of their contrivance, we need only reflect upon several other means seemingly more natural, that would not have answered the end proposed. What if the external signs of joy were disagreeable, and the external signs of distress agreeable? This is no whimsical supposition, because there appears not any necessary connexion between these signs and the emotions produced by them in a spectator. Admitting then the supposition, the question is, How would our sympathy operate? There is no occasion to deliberate for an answer: sympathy would be destructive, and not beneficial: for, supposing the external signs of joy disagreeable, the happiness of others would be our aversion; and supposing the external signs of grief agreeable, the distresses of others would be our entertainment. I make a
second supposition, That the external signs of distress were indifferent to us, and productive neither of pleasure nor of pain. This would annihilate the strongest branch of sympathy, that which is raised by means of sight: and it is evident, that reflective sympathy, felt by those only who have great sensibility, would not have any extensive effect. I shall draw nearer to truth in a third supposition, That the external signs of distress being disagreeable, were productive of a painful repulsive emotion. Sympathy upon that supposition would not be annihilated: but it would be render