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eyesight. This experiment leads to a general observation, that whatever is found more strange or beautiful than was expected, is judged to be more strange or beautiful than it is in reality. Hence a common artifice, to depreciate beforehand what we wish to make a figure in the opinion of others.
The comparisons employed by poets and orators, are of the kind last mentioned; for it is always a known object that is to be maguified or lessened. The former is effected by likening it to some grand object, or by contrasting it with one of an opposite character. To effectuate the latter, the method must be reversed: the object must be contrasted with something superior to it, or likened to something inferior. The whole effect is produced upon the principal object, which by that means is elevated above its rank, or depressed below it.
In accounting for the effect that any unusual resemblance or dissimilitude has upon the mind, no cause has been mentioned but surprise; and to prevent confusion, it was proper to discuss that cause first. But surprise is not the only cause of the effect described: another concurs which operates, perhaps, not less powerfully, namely, a principle in human nature that lies still in obscurity, not having been unfolded by any writer, though its effects are extensive; and as it is not distinguished by a proper name, the reader must be satis fied with the following description. Every man who studies himself or others, must be sensible of a tendency or propensity in the mind, to complete every work that is begun, and to carry things to their full perfection.. There is little opportunity to display that propensity upon natural operations, which are seldom left imperfect; but in the operations of art, it has great scope: it impels us to persevere in our own work, and to wish for the completion of what another is doing: we feel a sensible pleasure when the work is brought to perfection; and our pain is no less sensible when we are disappointed. Hence our uneasiness, when an interesting story is broken off in the middle, when a piece of music ends without a close, or when a building or garden is left unfinished. The same propensity operates in making collections, such as the whole works good and bad of any author. A certain person attempted to collect prints of all the capital paintings, and succeeded except as to a few. La Bruyere remarks, that an anxious search was made for these; not for their value, but to complete the set."
The examples above given, are of things that can be carried to an end or conclusion. But the same uneasiness is perceptible with respect to things that admit not any conclusion; witness a series that has no end, commonly called an infinite series. The mind moving along such a series, begins soon to feel an uneasiness, which becomes more and more sensible, in continuing its progress without hope of an end.
An unbounded prospect doth not long continue agreeable: we soon feel a slight uneasiness, which increases with the time we bestow upon the prospect. An avenue without a terminating object, is one instance of an unbounded prospect; and we might hope to find the cause of its disagreeableness, if it resembled an infinite series. The eye indeed promises no resemblance; for the sharpest eye commands but a certain length of space, and there it is bounded, however ob scurely. But the mind perceives things as they exist: and the line is carried on
The final cause of the propensity is an additional proof of its existence: human works are of no significancy till they be completed; and reason is not always a sufficient counterbalance to indolence: some principle over and above is necessary, to excite our industry, and to prevent our stopping short in the middle of the
We need not lose time to describe the co-operation of the foregoing propensity with surprise, in producing the effect that follows any unusual resemblance or dissimilitude. Surprise first operates, and carries our opinion of the resemblance or dissimilitude beyond truth. The propensity we have been describing carries us still farther; for it forces upon the mind a conviction, that the resemblance or dissimilitude is complete. We need no better illustration, than the resemblance that is fancied in some pebbles to a tree or an insect; which resemblance, however faint in reality, is conceived to be wonderfully perfect. The tendency to complete a resemblance acting jointly with surprise, carries the mind sometimes so far, as even to presume upon future events. In the Greek tragedy entitled Phineides, those unhappy women, seeing the place where it was intended they should be slain, cried out with anguish, "They now saw their cruel destiny had condemned them to die in that place, being the same where they had been exposed in their infancy."
The propensity to advance every thing to its perfection, not only co-operates with surprise to deceive the mind, but of itself is able to produce that effect. Of this we see many instances where there is no place for surprise; and the first I shall give is of resemblance. Unumquodque eodem modo dissolvitur quo colligatum est, is a maxim in the Roman law that has no foundation in truth; for tying and loosing, building and demolishing, are acts opposite to each other, and are performed by opposite means: but when these acts are connected by their relation to the same subject, their connection
in idea without end; in which respect an unbounded prospect is similar to an infinite series. In fact, the uneasiness of an unbounded prospect, differs very little in its feeling from that of an infinite series; and therefore we may reasonably presume, that both proceed from the same cause.
We next consider a prospect unbounded every way, as, for example, a great plain or the ocean, viewed from an eminence. We feel here an uneasiness occasioned by the want of an end or termination, precisely as in the other cases. A prospect unbounded every way, is indeed so far singular, as at first to be more pleasant than a prospect that is unbounded in one direction only, and afterward to be more painful. But these circumstances are easily explained, without wounding the general theory: the pleasure we feel at first, is a vivid emotion of grandeur, arising from the immense extent of the object: and to increase the pain we feel afterward for the want of a termination, there concurs a pain of a different kind, occasioned by stretching the eye to comprehend so wide a prospect; a pain that gradually increases with the repeated efforts we make to grasp the whole.
It is the same principle, if I mistake not, which operates imperceptibly with respect to quantity and number. Another's property indented into my field, gives me uneasiness; and I am eager to make the purchase, not for profit, but in order to square my field. Xerxes and his army, in their passage to Greece, were sumptuously entertained by Pythius the Lydian: Xerxes recompensed him with 7000 Daries, which he wanted to complete the sum of four millions.
• Aristotle, Poet. cap. 17.
Every thing is dissolved in the same manner in which it is tied together
leads us to imagine a sort of resemblance between them, which by the foregoing propensity is conceived to be as complete as possible. The next instance shall be of contrast. Addison observes, "That the palest features look the most agreeable in white; that a face which is overflushed appears to advantage in the deepest scarlet; and that a dark complexion is not a little alleviated by a black hood.” The foregoing propensity serves to account for these appearances; to make which evident, one of the cases shall suffice. A complexion, however dark, never approaches to black: when these colors appear together, their opposition strikes us; and the propensity we have to complete the opposition makes the darkness of complexion vanish out of sight.
The operation of this propensity, even where there is no ground for surprise, is not confined to opinion or conviction: so powerful it is, as to make us sometimes proceed to action, in order to complete a resemblance or dissimilitude. If this appear obscure, it will be made clear by the following instances. Upon what principle is the lex talionis founded, other than to make the punishment resemble the mischief? Reason dictates, that there ought to be a conformity or resemblance between a crime and its punishment; and the foregoing propensity impels us to make the resemblance as complete as possible. Titus Livius, under the influence of that propensity, accounts for a certain punishment by a resemblance between it and the crime, too subtle for common apprehension. Treating of Mettus Fuffetius, the Alban general, who, for treachery to the Romans his allies, was sentenced to be torn to pieces by horses, he puts the following speech in the mouth of Tullus Hostilius, who decreed the punishment. "Mette Fuffeti, inquit, si ipse discere posses fidem ac fœdera servare, vivo tibi ea disciplina a me adhibita esset. Nunc, quoniam, tuum insanabile ingenium est, at tu tuo supplicio doce humanum genus, ea sancta credere, quæ a te violata sunt. Ut igitur paulo ante animum inter Fidenatem Romanamque rem ancipitem gessisti, ita jam corpus passim distrahendum dabis."† By the same influence, the sentence is often executed upon the very spot where the crime was committed. In the Electra of Sophocles, Egistheus is dragged from the theatre into an inner room of the supposed palace, to suffer death where he murdered Agamemnon. Shakspeare, whose knowledge of nature is no less profound than extensive, has not overlooked this propensity:
Othello. Get me some poison, Iago, this night; I'll not expostulate with her, lest her body and her beauty unprovide my mind again: this night, lago.
Iago. Do it not with poison; strangle her in bed, even in the bed she hath contaminated.
Othello. Good, good: the justice of it pleases; very good.
Othello, Act IV. Sc. 5.
* Spectator, No. 265.
+ Mettus Fulfetius, he says, if you could learn faith, and attention to treaties, you should live, and receive similar treatment from me. Now, since your nature is incurable, your own punishment shall teach mankind to believe in the sacredness of those things which you have violated. As, therefore, you have held a divided mind with regard to the Romans and the Fidenates, so shall your body be now divided in all quarters.-Lib. 1. sect. 28.
Warwick. From off the gates of York fetch down the head,
Third Part of Henry VI. Act II. Sc.
Persons in their last moments are generally seized with an anxiety to be buried with their relations. In the Amynta of Tasso, the lover, hearing that his mistress was torn to pieces by a wolf, expresses a desire to die the same death.*
Upon the subject in general I have two remarks to add. The first concerns resemblance, which, when too entire, has no effect, however different in kind the things compared may be. The remark is applicable to works of art only; for natural objects of different kinds have scarcely ever an entire resemblance. To give an example in a work of art, marble is a sort of matter very different from what composes an animal; and marble cut into a human figure produces great pleasure by the resemblance; but, if a marble statue be colored like a picture, the resemblance is so entire, as at a distance to make the statue appear a person: we discover the mistake when we approach; and no other emotion is raised, than surprise occasioned by the deception. The figure still appears a real person, rather than an imitation; and we must use reflection to correct the mistake. This cannot happen in a picture; for the resemblance can never be so entire as to disguise the imitation.
The other remark relates to contrast. Emotions make the greatest figure when contrasted in succession; but the succession ought neither to be rapid, nor immoderately slow: if too slow, the effect of contrast becomes faint by the distance of the emotions; and if rapid, no single emotion has room to expand itself to its full size, but is stifled, as it were, in the birth, by a succeeding emotion. The funeral oration of the Bishop of Meaux upon the Dutchess of Orleans is a perfect hodge-podge of cheerful and melancholy representations following each other in the quickest succession. Opposite emotions are best felt in succession; but each emotion separately should be raised to its due pitch, before another be introduced.
What is above laid down, will enable us to determine a very important question concerning emotions raised by the fine arts, namely, whether ought similar emotions to succeed each other, or dissimilar? The emotions raised by the fine arts are, for the most part, too nearly related to make a figure by resemblance; and for that reason their succession ought to be regulated as much as possible by contrast. This holds confessedly in epic and dramatic compositions; and the best writers, led, perhaps, by taste more than by reasoning, have generally aimed at that beauty. It holds equally in music: in the same cantata, all the variety of emotions that are within the power of music may not only be indulged, but, to make the greatest figure, ought to be contrasted. In gardening, there is an additional reason for the rule. The emotions raised by that art are at best so faint, that every artifice should be employed to give them their utmost vigor: a fiela
* Act IV. Sc. 2.
may be laid out in grand, sweet, gay, neat, wild, melancholy scenes; and when these are viewed in succession, grandeur ought to be contrasted with neatness, regularity with wildness, and gaiety with melancholy, so that each emotion may succeed its opposite: nay, it is an improvement to intermix in the succession rude uncultivated spots as well as unbounded views, which in themselves are disagreeable, but in succession heighten the feeling of the agreeable objects; and we have nature for our guide, which in her most beautiful landscapes often intermixes rugged rocks, dirty marshes, and barren stony heaths. The greatest masters of music have the same view in their compositions: the second part of an Italian song seldom conveys any sentiment; and, by its harshness, seems purposely contrived to give a greater relish for the interesting parts of the composition.
A small garden comprehended under a single view, affords little opportunity for that embellishment. Dissimilar emotions require different tones of mind; and therefore in conjunction can never be pleasant: gayety and sweetness may be combined, or wildness and gloominess; but a composition of gayety and gloominess is distasteful. The rude uncultivated copartment of furze and broom in Richmond garden has good effect in the succession of objects; but a spot of that nature would be insufferable in the midst of a polished parterre or flower-plot. A garden, therefore, if not of great extent, admits not dissimilar emotions; and in ornamenting a small garden, the safest course is to confine it to a single expression. For the same reason, a landscape ought also to be confined to a single expression; and accordingly it is a rule in painting, that if the subject be gay, every figure ought to contribute to that emotion.
It follows from the foregoing train of reasoning, that a garden, near a great city, ought to have an air of solitude. The solitariness again of a waste country ought to be contrasted in forming a garden; no temples, no obscure walks; but jets d'eau, cascades, objects active, gay, and splendid. Nay, such a garden should in some measure avoid imitating nature, by taking on an extraordinary appearance of regularity and art, to show the busy hand of man, which in a waste country has a fine effect by contrast.
It may be gathered from what is said above,† that wit and ridicule make not an agreeable mixture with gran leur. Dissimilar emotions have a fine effect in a slow succession; but in a rapid succession, which approaches to coexistence, they will not be relished: in the midst of a labored and elevated description of a battle, Virgil introduces a ludicrous image, which is certainly out of its place
Obvius ambustum torrem Chorinæus ab ara
En. XII. 298.
Priest Corynæus armed his better hand,
+ Chap. 2. Part 4.