« PreviousContinue »
ing shows and apparitions : we discover imaginary glories in the heavens and in the earth, and see some of this visionary beauty poured out upon the whole creation : but what a rough unsightly sketch of nature should we be entertained with, did all her colouring disappear, and the several distinctions of light and shade vanish? In short, our souls are at present delightfully lost and bewildered in a pleasing delusion, and we walk about like the enchanted hero of a romance, who sees beautiful castles, woods, and meadows; and, at the same time, hears the warbling of birds, and the purling of streams; but upon the finishing of some secret spell the fantastic scene breaks up, and the disconsolate knight finds himself on a barren heath, or in a solitary desert. It is not improbable that something like this may be the state of the soul after its first separation, in respect of the images it will receive from matter; though indeed the ideas of colours are so pleasing and beautiful in the imagination, that it is possible the soul will not be deprived of them, but perhaps find them excited by some other occasional cause, as they are at present by the different impressions of the subtle matter on the organ of sight.
I have here supposed that my reader is acquainted with that great modern discovery, which is at present universally acknowledged by all the inquirers into natural philosophy: namely, that light and colours, as apprehended by the imagination, are only ideas in the mind, and not qualities that have any
existence in matter. As this is a truth which has been proved incontestably by many modern philosophers, and is indeed one of the finest speculations in that science, if the English reader would see the notion explained at large, he may find it in the eighth chapter of the second book of Mr. Locke's Essay on Human Understanding.-0.
The following letter of Steele to Addison is reprinted
here from the original edition of the Spectator in folio. • MR. SPECTATOR,
June 24, 1712. I would not divert the course of your discourses, when you seem bent upon obliging the world with a train of thinking, which, rightly attended to, may render the life of every man who reads it more easy and happy for the future. The pleasures of the imagination are what bewilder life, when reason and judgment do not interpose ; it is therefore a worthy action in you to look carefully into the powers of fancy, that other men, from the knowledge of them, may improve their joys, and allay their griefs, by a just use of that faculty. I say, Sir, I would not interrupt you in the progress of this discourse; but if you will do me the favour of inserting this letter in your next paper, you will do some service to the public, though not in so noble a way of obliging, as that of improving their minds. Allow me, Sir, to acquaint you with a design (of which I am partly author), though it tends to no greater a good than that of getting money. I should not hope for the favour of a philosopher in this matter, if it were not attempted under all the restrictions which you sages put upon private acquisitions. The first purpose which
every good man is to propose to himself, is the service of his prince and country: after that is done, he cannot add to himself, but he must also be beneficial to them. This scheme of gain is not only consistent with that end, but has its very being in subordination to it; for no man can be a gainer here but at the same time he himself, or some other, must succeed in their dealings with the government. It is called The Multiplication Table,' and is so far calculated for the immediate service of her majesty, that the same person who is fortunate in the lottery of the state may receive yet farther advantage in this table. And I am sure nothing can be more pleasing to her gracious temper than to find out additional methods of increasing their good fortune who adventure any thing in her service, or laying occasions for others to become capable of serving their country who are at present in too low circumstances to exert themselves. The manner of executing the design is by giving out receipts for half guineas received, which shall entitle the fortunate bearer to certain sums in the table, as is set forth at large in the proposals printed the 23d instant. There is another circumstance in this design which gives me hopes of your favour to it, and that is what Tully advises, to wit, that the benefit is made as diffusive as possible. Every one that has half a guinea is put into the possibility, from that small sum, to raise himself an easy fortune : when these little parcels of wealth are, as it were, thus thrown back again into the redonation of Providence, we are to expect that some who live under hardships or obscurity may be produced to the world in the figure they deserve by this means. I doubt not but this last argument will have force with you ; and I cannot add another to it, but what your severity will, I fear, very little regard, which is, that I am,
N° 414. WEDNESDAY, JUNE 25, 1712.
ON THE PLEASURES OF THE IMAGINATION.
CONTENTS The works of nature more pleasant to the imagination than those
of art. The works of nature still more pleasant, the more they resemble those of art. The works of art more pleasant, the more they resemble those of nature. Our English plantations and gardens considered in the foregoing light.
HOR. Ars Poet. v. 410. But mutually they need each other's help.-Roscommon. If we consider the works of nature and art as they are qualified to entertain the imagination, we shall find the last very defective, in comparison of the former; for though they may sometimes appear as beautiful or strange, they can have nothing in them of that vastness and immensity, which afford so great an entertainment to the mind of the beholder. The
be as polite and delicate as the other, but can never shew herself so august and magnificent in the design. There is something more bold and masterly in the rough careless strokes of nature, than in the nice touches and embellishments of art. The beauties of the most stately garden or palace lie in a narrow compass; the imagination immediately runs them over, and requires something else to gratify her; but in the wide fields of nature, the sight wanders up and down without confinement, and is fed with an infinite variety of images, without any certain stint or number. For this reason we always
find the poet in love with the country life, where nature appears in the greatest perfection, and furnishes out all those scenes that are most apt to delight the imagination. Scriptorum chorus omnis aniat nemus, et fugit urbes.
HOR. 2 Ep. ii. 77. -To grottos and to groves we run, To ease and silence, every Muse's son.—POPE. Hic secura quies, et nescia fallere vita, Speluncæ, vivique lacus ; hic frigida Tempe, Dives opum variarum : hìc latis otia fundis, Mugitusque boum, mollesque sub arbore somni.
Virg. Georg. ii. 467. Here easy quiet, a secure retreat, A harmless life that knows not how to cheat, With home-bred plenty the rich owner bless, And rural pleasures crown his happiness. Unvex'd with quarrels, undisturb'd with noise, The country king his peaceful realm enjoys : Cool grots, and living lakes, the flow'ry pride Of meads, and streams that through the valley glide ; And shady groves that easy sleep invite, And, after toilsome days, a sweet repose at night.-DRYDEN.
But though there are several of those wild scenes, that are more delightful than any artificial shows, vet we find the works of nature still more pleasant, the more they resemble those of art: for in this case our pleasure rises from a double principle; from the agreeableness of the objects to the eye, and from their similitude to other objects. We are pleased as well with comparing their beauties, as with surveying them, and can represent them to our minds, either as copies or originals. Hence it is that we take delight in a prospect which is well laid out, and diversified with fields and meadows, woods, and rivers ; in those accidental landscapes of trees, clouds, and cities, that are sometimes found in the veins of marble; in the curious fret-work of rocks and grottos; and, in a word, in any thing that hath