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ere it is made and finished. I speak but in figures, and comparisons of it: As Alexander kill'd his friend Clytus, being in his ales and his cups; so also Harry Monmouth, being in his right wits and his good judgments, turn'd away the fat knight with the great belly doublet; he was full of jests, and gypes, and knaveries, and mocks: I have forgot his name.
Gower. Sir John Falstaff.
Fiueilen. That is he: I tell you there is good men porn at Monmouth.
Instruction, no doubt, is the chief end of comparison; but that it is not the only end will be evident from considering, that a comparison may be employed with success to put a subject in a strong point of view. A lively idea is formed of a man's courage, by likening it to that of a lion; and eloquence is exalted in our imagination, by comparing it to a river overflowing its banks, and invol ving all in its impetuous course. The same effect is produced by contrast: a man in prosperity becomes more sensible of his happiness by opposing his condition to that of a person in want of bread. Thus, comparison is subservient to poetry as well as to philosophy; and, with respect to both, the foregoing observation holds equally, that resemblance among objects of the same kind, and dissimilitude among objects of different kinds, have no effect: such a comparison neither tends to gratify our curiosity, nor to set the objects compared in a stronger light: two apartments in a palace, similar in shape, size, and furniture, make, separately, as good a figure as when compared; and the same observation is applicable to two similar copartments in a garden: on the other hand, oppose a regular building to a fall of water, or a good picture to a towering hill, or even a little dog to a large horse, and the contrast will produce no effect. But a resemblance between objects of different kinds, and a difference between objects of the same kind, have remarkably an enlivening effect. The poets, such of them as have a just taste, draw all their similies from things that in the main differ widely from the principal subject; and they never attempt a contrast but where the things have a common genus and a resemblance in the capital circumstances: place together a large and a small sized animal of the same species, the one will appear greater, the other less, than when viewed separately when we oppose beauty to deformity, each makes a greater figure by the comparison. We compare the dress of different nations with curiosity, but without surprise: because they have no such resemblance in the capital parts as to please us by contrasting the smaller parts. But a new cut of a sleeve or of a pocket enchants by its novelty, and in opposition to the former fashion, raises some degree of surprise.
That resemblance and dissimilitude have an enlivening effect upon objects of sight, is made sufficiently evident: and that they have the same effect upon objects of the other senses, is also certain. Nor is that law confined to the external senses: for characters contrasted make a greater figure by the opposition: Iago, in the tragedy of Othello, says,
He hath a daily beauty in his life
The character of a fop, and of a rough warrior, are no where mora successfully contrasted than in Shakspeare:
Hotspur. My liege, I did deny no prisoners;
gave his nose; and still he smil'd, and talk'd
I then all smarting with my wounds; being gall'd
Out of my grief, and my impatience,
He should, or should not; for he made me mad,
To see him shine so brisk, and smell so sweet,
Of guns, and drums, and wounds; (God save the mark!)
Was parmacity, for an inward bruise;
First Part Henry IV. Act I. Sc. 4. Passions and emotions are also inflamed by comparison. A man of high rank humbles the by-standers, even to annihilate them in their own opinion. Cæsar, beholding the statue of Alexander, was greatly mortified, that now at the age of thirty-two, when Alexander died, he had not performed one memorable action.
Our opinions also are much influenced by comparison. A man whose opulence exceeds the ordinary standard, is reputed richer than he is in reality; and wisdom or weakness, if at all remarkable in an individual, is generally carried beyond the truth.
The opinion a man forms of his present distress is heightened by contrasting it with his former happiness.
Could I forget
What I have been, I might the better bear
What I am destin'd to. I'm not the first
That have been wretched: but to think how much
I have been happier.
Southern's Innocent Adultery, Act II.
The distress of a long journey makes even an indifferent inn agreeable and in travelling, when the road is good, and the horseman well covered, a bad day may be agreeable by making him sensible how snug he is.
The same effect is equally remarkable, when a man opposes his condition to that of others. A ship tossed about in a storm, makes the spectator reflect upon his own ease and security, and puts these in the strongest light:
Suave, mari magno turbantibus æquora ventis,
How sweet to stand when tempests tear the main
A man in grief cannot bear mirth: it gives him a more lively notion of his unhappiness, and of course makes him more unhappy. Satan contemplating the beauties of the terrestrial paradise, has the following exclamation:
With what delight could I have walk'd thee round,
Of hill and valley, rivers, woods, and plains,
Bane, and in heav'n much worse would be my state.
Paradise Lost, book 9. l. 114.
Gaunt. All places that the eye of heaven visits,
But thou the King. Woe doth the heavier sit,
The grass whereon thou tread'st, the presence-floor;
Bolingbroke. Oh, who can hold a fire in his hand,
But upon one of a firm head, this situation has a contrary effect: the appearance of danger heightens, by opposition, the consciousness of security, and consequently, the satisfaction that arises from security: here the feeling resembles that above mentioned, occ•1sioned by a ship laboring in a storm.
The effect of magnifying or lessening objects by means of comparison, is so familiar, that no philosopher has thought of searching for a cause. The obscurity of the subject may possibly have contributed to their silence; but luckily, we discover the cause to be a principle unfolded above, which is, the influence of passion over our opinions. We have had occasion to see many illustrious effects of that singular power of passion; and that the magnifying or the diminishing of objects by means of comparison, proceeds from the same cause, will evidently appear, by reflecting in what manner a spectator is affected, when a very large animal is for the first time placed beside a very small one of the same species. The first thing that strikes the mind, is the difference between the two animals, which is so great as to occasion surprise; and this, like other emotions, magnifying its object, makes us conceive the difference to be the greatest that can be: we see, or seem to see, the one animal extremely little, and the other extremely large. The emotion of surprise arising from any unusual resemblance, serves equally to explain, why at first view we are apt to think such resemblance more entire than it is in reality. And it must not escape observation, that the circumstances of more and less, which are the proper subjects of comparison, raise a perception so indistinct and vague as to facilitate the effect described: we have no mental standard of great and little, nor of the several degrees of any attribute; and the mind thus unrestrained, is naturally disposed to indulge its surprise to the utmost
In exploring the operations of the mind, some of which are extremely nice and slippery, it is necessary to proceed with the utmost caution and after all, seldom it happens that speculations of that kind afford any satisfaction. Luckily, in the present case, our speculations are supported by facts and solid argument. First, a small object of one species opposed to a great object of another, produces not, in any degree, that deception which is so remarkable when both objects are of the same species. The greatest disparity between objects of different kinds, is so common as to be observed with perfect indifference; but such disparity between objects of the same kind, being uncommon, never fails to produce surprise and may we not fairly conclude, that surprise, in the latter case, is what occasions the deception, when we find no deception in the former? In the next place, if surprise be the sole cause of the deception, it follows necessarily, that the deception will vanish as soon as the objects compared
* Practical writers upon the fine arts will attempt any thing, being blind both to the difficulty and danger. De Piles, accounting why contrast is agreeable, says. That it is a sort of war, which puts the opposite parties in motion." Thus, to account for an effect of which there is no doubt, any cause, however foolish, is made welcome.
+ Chap. 2. part 5.
become familiar. This holds so unerringly, as to leave no reasonable doubt that surprise is the prime mover: our surprise is great the first time a small lap-dog is seen with a large mastiff; but when two such animals are constantly together, there is no surprise, and it makes no difference whether they be viewed separately or in company we set no bounds to the riches of a man who has recently made his fortune, the surprising disproportion between his present and his past situation being carried to an extreme; but with regard to a family that for many generations has enjoyed great wealth, the same false reckoning is not made. It is equally remarkable, that a trite simile has no effect; a lover compared to a moth scorching itself at the flame of a candle, originally a sprightly simile, has by frequent use lost all force; love cannot now be compared to fire, without some degree of disgust: it has been justly objected against Homer, that the lion is too often introduced into his similies; all the variety he is able to throw into them, not being sufficient to keep alive the reader's surprise.
To explain the influence of comparison upon the mind, I have chosen the simplest case, to wit, the first sight of two animals of the same kind, differing in size only; but to complete the theory, other circumstances must be taken in. And the next supposition I make, is where both animals, separately familiar to the spectator, are brought together for the first time. In that case, the effect of magnifying and diminishing, is found remarkably greater than in that first mentioned; and the reason will appear upon analyzing the operation the first feeling we have is of surprise at the uncommon difference of two creatures of the same species: we are next sensible, that the one appears less, the other larger, than they did formerly; and that new circumstance, increasing our surprise, makes us imagine a still greater opposition between the animals than if we had formed no notion of them beforehand.
I shall confine myself to one other supposition: That the spectator was acquainted beforehand with one of the animals only, the lap-dog for example. This new circumstance will vary the effect; for instead of widening the natural difference, by enlarging in appearance the one animal, and diminishing the other in proportion, the whole apparent alteration will rest upon the lap-dog: the surprise to find it less than it appeared formerly, directs to it our whole attention, and makes us conceive it to be a most diminutive creature: the mastiff in the mean time is quite overlooked. I am able to illustrate this effect by a familiar example. Take a piece of paper, or of linen tolerably white, and compare it with a pure white of the same kind the judgment we formed of the first object is instantly varied; and the surprise occasioned by finding it less white than was thought, produces a hasty conviction that it is much less white than it is in reality withdrawing now the pure white, and putting in its place a deep black, the surprise occasioned by that new circumstance carries us to the other extreme, and makes us conceive the object first mentioned to be a pure white and thus experience compels us to acknowledge, that our emotions have an influence even upon our