« FöregåendeFortsätt »
sion, indeed, in that case, can be but a single flash; for being entirely irrational, it must vanish with the first reflection. Nor is that irrational effect confined to bodily pain internal distress, when excessive, may be the occasion of effects equally irrational: perturbation of mind occasioned by the apprehension of having lost a dear friend, will, in a fiery temper, produce momentary sparks of anger against that very friend, however innocent: thus Shakspeare, in the Tempest,
-Sit down and rest.
Act III. Sc. 3.
The final words, Well, let him go, are an expression of impatience and anger at Ferdinand, whose absence greatly distressed his father, dreading that he was lost in the storm. This nice operation of the human mind, is by Shakspeare exhibited upon another occasion, and finely painted in the tragedy of Othello: Iago, by dark hints and suspicious circumstances, had roused Othello's jealousy; which, however, appeared too slightly founded to be vented upon Desdemona, its proper object. The perturbation and distress of mind thereby occasioned, produced a momentary resentment against Iago, considered as occasioning the jealousy, though in
Othello. Villain, be sure thou prove my love a whore ;
Be sure of it give me the ocular proof,
Or by the wrath of man's eternal soul
Thou hadst been better have been born a dog,
Than answer my wak'd wrath.
Iago. Is't come to this?
Othello. Make me see't; or, at the least, so prove it,
Othello. If thou dost slander her, and torture me,
Othello, Act II. Sc. 8.
This blind and absurd effect of anger is more gaily illustrated by Addison, in a story, the dramatis persona of which are, a cardinal, and a spy retained in pay for intelligence. The cardinal is represented as minuting down the particulars. The spy begins with a low voice, "Such an one the ad"vocate whispered to one of his friends within my "hearing, that your Eminence was a very great "poltroon ;" and after having given his patron time to take it down, adds, "That another called "him a mercenary rascal in a public conversa
tion." The cardinal replies, "Very well," and bids him go on. The spy proceeds, and loads him with reports of the same nature, till the cardinal rises in a fury, calls him an impudent scoundrel, and kicks him out of the room.*
We meet with instances every day of resentment raised by loss at play, and wreaked on the cards or dice. But anger, a furious passion, is satisfied with a connexion still slighter than that of cause and effect; of which Congreve, in the Mourning Bride, gives one beautiful example:
Gonsalez. Have comfort.
Almeria. Curs'd be that tongue that bids me be of comfort. Curs'd my own tongue that could not move his pity,
*Spectator, No. 439.
Curs'd these weak hands that could not hold him here,
Act IV. Sc. 8.
I have chosen to exhibit anger in its more rare appearances, for in these we can best trace its nature and extent. In the examples above given, it appears to be an absurd passion, and altogether irrational. But we ought to consider, that it is not the intention of nature to subject this passion, in every instance, to reason and reflection: it was given us to prevent or to repel injuries; and, like fear, it often, operates blindly and instinctively, without the least view to consequences: the very first apprehension of harm, sets it in motion to repel injury by punishment. Were it more cool and deliberate, it would lose its threatening appearance, and be insufficient to guard us against violence. When such is and ought to be the nature of the passion, it is not wonderful to find it exerted irregularly and capriciously, as it sometimes is where the mischief is sudden and unforeseen. All the harm that can be done by the passion in that state is instantaneous; for the shortest delay sets all to rights; and circumstances are seldom so unlucky as to put it in the power of a passionate man to do much harm in an instant.
Social passions, like the selfish, sometimes drop their character, and become instinctive. It is not unusual to find anger and fear respecting others so excessive, as to operate blindly and impetuously, precisely as where they are selfish.
Emotions caused by Fiction.`
THE attentive reader will observe, that hitherto no fiction hath been assigned as the cause of any passion or emotion: whether it be a being, action, or quality, that moveth us, it is supposed to be really existing. This observation shows that we have not yet completed our task; (because passions, as all the world know, are moved by fiction as well as by truth. In judging beforehand of man, so remarkably addicted to truth and reality, one should little dream that fiction can have any effect upon him; but man's intellectual faculties are not sufficiently perfect to dive far even into his own nature. I shall take occasion afterward to show, that the power of fiction to generate passion is an admirable contrivance, subservient to excellent purposes in the mean time, we must try to unfold the means that give fiction such influence over the mind.
That the objects of our external senses really exist in the way and manner we perceive, is a branch of intuitive knowledge: when I see a man walking, a tree growing, or cattle grazing, I cannot doubt but that these objects are really what they appear to be: if I be a spectator of any transaction or event, I have a conviction of the real existence of the persons engaged, of their words, and of their actions. Nature determines us to rely on the veracity of our senses; for otherwise they could not in any degree answer their end, that of laying open things existing and passing around
By the power of memory, a thing formerly seen may be recalled to the mind with different degrees of accuracy. We commonly are satisfied with a slight recollection of the capital circumstances; and, in such recollection, the thing is not figured as in our view, nor any image formed: we retain the consciousness of our present situation, and barely remember that formerly we saw that thing. But with respect to an interesting object or event that made a strong impression, I am not satisfied with a cursory review, but must dwell upon every circumstance. I am imperceptibly converted into a spectator, and perceive every particular passing in my presence, as when I was in reality a spectator. For example, I saw yesterday a beautiful woman in tears for the loss of an only child, and was greatly moved with her distress; not satisfied with a slight recollection or bare remembrance, I ponder upon the melancholy scene: conceiving myself to be in the place where I was an eye-witness, every circumstance appears to me as at first: I think I see the woman in tears, and hear her moans. Hence it may be justly said, that in a complete idea of memory there is no past nor future: a thing recalled to the mind with the accuracy I have been describing, is perceived as in our view, and consequently as existing at present. Past time makes part of an incomplete idea only: I remember or reflect, that some years ago I was at Oxford, and saw the first stone laid of the Ratcliff library; and I remember that, at a still greater distance of time, I heard a debate in the House of Commons about a standing army.
Lamentable is the imperfection of language, almost in every particular that falls not under external sense. I am talking of a matter exceedingly clear in the perception: and yet I find no small