Page images
[ocr errors]


grief; but furely disappointment and grief are pofitive pains. "But," fays he, " grief can be no pain, because we see that many persons are found "indulging it." They are fo! but it fhould be remembered that grief is a mixed paffion, confifting of forrow for our lofs and fondness for the object: now our fondness for the object makes our imagination dwell on the idea, though we feel very painful fenfations at the fame time. Animum picturd pafcit inani. Our author proceeds to divide our paffions into two general claffes, viz. felf-prefervation, and fociety; the felfifh and the focial paffions would have been a better diftinction, becaufe felfifh includes all the ideas of felf-preservation, and all our other gratifications. The paffions which concern felf-prefervation he rightly obferves turn moftly on pain and danger; and these, he adds very juftly, are the most powerful in our nature. He then endeavours to graft the Sublime on our paffions of felf-preservation. "Whatever " is fitted," fays he, "to excite ideas of pain and "danger, or operates in a manner analogous to "terror, is a fource of the Sublime; that is, ex"cites the strongest emotion which the mind is ca"pable of feeling." But furely this is falfe philofophy: the brodequin of Ravilliac, and the iron bed of Damien, are capable of exciting alarming ideas of terror, but cannot be faid to hold any thing of the Sublime. Befides, why are our other paffions to be excluded? Cannot the Sublime confift with ambition? It is perhaps in confequence of this very paffion, grafted in us for the wifeft purposes by the Author of our existence, that we are capable of feel

ing the Sublime in the degree we do; of delighting in every thing that is magnificent, of preferring the fun to a farthing candle, that by proceeding from greater to ftill greater, we might at laft fix our imagination on Him who is the Supreme of all. And this perhaps is the true fource of the Sublime, which is always greatly heightened when any of our paffions are ftrongly agitated, fuch as terror, grief, rage, indignation, admiration, love, &c. By the ftrongest of these the Sublime will be enforced, but it will confift with any of them. As for inftance, when Virgil fays of Jupiter,

Annuit et totum nutu tremefecit Olympum ;

Here we have a Sublime image increafed by our terror, when we think of his fhaking the poles with a nod. And on the other hand, when the fame poet defcribes the fame perfonage,

Vultu quo cælum tempeftatefque ferenat ;

With that countenance with which he looks storms and tempefts into a calm, we still have a fublime idea of the power which thus commands all nature, and we feel it with love and admiration.

Our author proceeds to the focial paffions, which he claffes into two forts: firft, the fociety of the fexes; and next, the more general fociety which we hold with mankind and the whole universe. With regard to the first he observes, that beauty is the object of it; and he endeavours to refute Mr. Addifon's opinion, that animals have a fenfe of beauty to confine them to their own fpecies: but as he only fuppofes a law of another kind, we think Mr.


[ocr errors]

Addifon's may ftand till he will be pleafed to fubftitute a better. He agrees that beafts have no perception of beauty, because they do not pick and choose but furely it is probable that they may have an immediate perception of fomething beautiful in their own fpecies, without waiting to compare it with others, and felect for themfelves. This would be to enjoy the advantages of deliberate reafoning and reflection; qualities of which they do not appear to be poffeffed.

Our author himself affigns a reafon why the brute creation need not choose for themselves. "But "man, who is a creature adapted to a greater va"riety and intricacy of relation, connects with the "general paffion the idea of fome focial qualities, "which direct and heighten the appetite which he

has in common with all other animals: and as he " is not defigned like them to live at large, it is fit "that he should have fomething to create a pre“ference, and fix his choice; and this in general "fhould be fome fenfible quality; as no other can "fo quickly, fo powerfully, or fo furely produce its "effect."

From hence it appears why a beaft in the field, according to Mr. Addifon's ingenious notion, may have a sense of beauty in its own fpecies, without waiting to determine its choice by comparison.

In contradiction to his former affertions, he fays, that folitude is as great a pofitive pain as can be conceived and yet the pain of folitude is a privation of pleasure, and is merely a difappointment, and a grieving for the lofs of company. In talking of the focial paffions, he fays, "I am convinced we

"have a degree of delight, and that no fmall one, "in the real misfortunes and pains of others; for "let the affection be what it will in appearance, if "it does not make us fhun fuch objects, if on the "contrary it induces us to approach them, if it "makes us dwell upon them, in this cafe I conceive "we must have a delight or pleasure of fome species "or other in contemplating objects of this kind." But this is certainly very false reasoning: we have no delight in the real misfortunes of others; and if we go near them, it is because our fondness attaches us to them, and we cannot keep away, even though the fight is painful. This he has afterwards obferved himself, when he says, "Pity is a paffion "accompanied with pleafure, because it arifes from "love and affection." He therefore fhould have faid, we have a pleasure in feeling and compaffionating the misfortunes of others. With regard to the pleasure refulting from tragedy, he afcribes it to imitation, and then retracts it again when he fays, "We fhall be mistaken if we imagine our pleasure

arifes from its being no reality: the nearer it ap"proaches to reality, the more perfect its' power." This is certainly true, but it is because the more perfect is the imitation; and imitation fuppofes no reality. If we really faw the earl of Effex's head ftruck off on the ftage, no body would go there for pleasure, which fhews that we are fecretly pleased the tragic diftress is not reality. "Chufe a day on "which to represent the most fublime and affecting "tragedy which we have; appoint the moft fa"vourite actors; spare no coft upon the scenes and "decorations; unite the greatest efforts of poetry,


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

painting, and mufic; and when you have col"lected your audience, juft at the moment when. "their minds are erect with expectation, let it be "reported that a ftate criminal of high rank is on "the point of being executed in the adjoining

fquare; in a moment the emptiness of the theatre "would demonftrate the comparative weakness of "the imitative arts, and proclaim the triumph of "the real fympathy."

[ocr errors]

But here he does not observe that there is an adventitious motive: curiofity would begin to operate, and our love of novelty would hurry us away to a fight uncommon. But chufe a cart for Tyburn, Spare no pains in filling it with malefactors, &c. then tell the audience of it; or tell them that an house is on fire, and then we fhall fee the triumph of imitated woe over real fympathy. The fact is this in real distress we have a joy in finding an aptitude in ourselves to indulge the feelings of humanity; in fictitious reprefentations, we have the fame pleasure, and the additional delight of feeing beautiful imitation, and confidering that the diftrefs is not real. It is upon these principles that the Abbe du Bos and Fontenelle have justly accounted for tragick pleasure. In talking of imitation, our author fays, "When the object reprefented in

poetry or painting is fuch, as we could have had "no defire of seeing in reality, then I may be fure "the pleasure is owing to the power of imitation; " as a cottage, a dunghill, &c. But when the ob"ject is fuch as we should run to fee if real, we may rely upon it, that the power of the poem or "the picture is more owing to the thing itself, than


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »