Page images
PDF
EPUB

the poet can find no pretext for an adventure so extraordinary, but the hero's longing to visit the ghost of his father, recently dead: in the mean time the story is interrupted, and the reader loses his ardour. Pity it is that an episode so extremely beautiful, were not more happily introduced. I must observe at the same time, that full justice is done to this incident, by considering it to be an episode ; for if it be a constituent part of the principal action, the connexion ought to be still more intimate. The same objection lies against that elaborate description of Fame in the Æneid :* any other book of that heroic poem, or of any heroic poem, has as good a title to that description as the book where it is placed.

In a natural landscape, we every day perceive a multitude of objects connected by contiguity solely ; which is not unpleasant, because objects of sight make an impression so lively, as that a relation even of the slightest kind is relished. This, however, ought not to be imitated in description : words are so far short of the eye in liveliness of impression, that in a description connexion ought to be carefully studied; for new objects introduced in description are made more or less welcome in proportion to the degree of their connexion with the principal subject. In the following passage, different things are brought together without the slightest connexion, if it be not what may be called verbal, i. e. taking the same word in different meanings.

Surgamus : solet esse gravis cantantibus umbra.
Juniperi gravis umbra : nocent et frugibus umbræ.
Ite domum saturæ, venit Hesperus, ite capellæ.

Virg. Buc. x. 75.

* Lib, iy, lin. 173.

1

The introduction of an object metaphorically or figuratively, will not justify the introduction of it in its natutural appearance: a relation so slight can never be relished:

Distrust in lovers is too warm a sun;
But yet ’tis night in love when that is gone.
And in those climes which most his scorching know,
He makes the noblest fruits and metals grow.

Part 2. Conquest of Grenada, Act III.

The relations among objects have a considerable influence in the gratification of our passions, and even in their production. But that subject is reserved to be treated in the chapter of emotions and passions.*

There is not, perhaps, another instance of a building so great erected upon a foundation so slight in appearance, as the relations of objects and their arrangement. Relations make no capital figure in the mind, the bulk of them being transitory, and some extremely trivial: they are, however, the links that, by uniting our perceptions into one connected chain, produce connexion of action, because perception and action have an intimate correspondence. But it is not sufficient for the conduct of life, that our actions be linked together, however intimately : it is beside necessary that they proceed in a certain order; and this is also provided for by an original propensity. Thus order and connexion, while they admit sufficient variety, introduce a method in the management of affairs : without them our conduct would be fluctuating and desultory; and we should be hurried from thought to thought, and from action to action, entirely at the mercy of chance.

* Chap. 2. part, i. sect. 4.,

CHAPTER II.

Emotions and Passions.

OF all the feelings raised in us by external objects, those only of the eye and the ear are honoured with the name of passion or emotion ; the most pleasing feelings of taste, or touch, or smell, aspire not to that honour. From this observation appears the connexion of emotions and passions with the fine arts, which, as observed in the in'troduction, are all of them calculated to give pleasure to the

eye or the ear; never once condescended to gratify any of the inferior senses. The design accordingly of this chapter is to delineate that connexion, with the view chiefly to ascertain what power the fine arts have to raise emotions and passions. To those who would excel in the fine arts, that branch of knowledge is indispensable ; for without it the critic, as well as the undertaker, ignorant of any rule, have nothing left but to abandon themselves to chance. Destitute of that branch of knowledge, in vain will either pretend to foretel what effect his work will have upon the heart.

The principles of the fine arts, appear in this view to open a direct avenue to the heart of man. The inquisitive mind beginning with criticism, the most agreeable of all amusements, and finding no obstruction in its progress, advances far into the sensitive part of our nature; and gains imperceptibly a thorough knowledge of the human heart, of its desires, and of every motive to action; a science which of all that can be reached by man, is to him of the greatest importance.

Upon a subject so comprehensive, all that can be expected in this chapter, is a general or slight survey: and to shorten that survey, I propose to handle separately some emotions more peculiarly connected with the fine arts. Even after that circumspection, so much matter coines under the present chapter, that, to avoid confusion, I find it necessary to divide it into many parts : and though the first of these is confined to such causes of emotion or passion as are the most common and the most general; yet upon examination I find this single part so extensive, as to require a subdivision into several sections. Human nature is a complicated machine, and is unavoid. bly so in order to answer its various purposes. The public indeed have been entertained with many systems of human nature that flatter the mind by their simplicity : according to some writers, man is entirely a selfish being; according to others, 'universal benevolence is his duty: one foun:ls morality upon sympathy solely, and one upon utility. If any of these systems were copied from nature, the present subject might be soon discussed. But the variety of nature is not so easily reached, and for confuting such Utopian systems without the fatigue of reasoning, it appears the best method to take a survey of human nature, and to set before the eye, plainly and candidly, facts as they really exist.

PART I.

CAUSES UNFOLDED OF THE EMOTIONS AND PASSIONS.

Sect. I.--Difference between Emotion and Passion.Causes

that are the most common and the most general.- Passion considered as productive of Action.

These branches are so interwoven that they cannot be handled separately. It is a fact universally admitted, that no emotion or passion ever starts up in the mind without a cause: if I love a person, it is for good qualities or good offices: if I have resentment against a man, it must be for some injury he has done me: and I cannot pity any one who is under no distress of body nor of mind.

The circumstances now mentioned, if they raise an emotion or passion, cannot be entirely indifferent; for if so, they could not make any impression. And we find, upon examination, that they are not indifferent: looking back upon the foregoing examples, the good qualities or good offices that attract my love, are antecedently agreeable: if an injury did not give uneasiness, it would not occasion resentment against the author: nor would the passion of pity be raised by an object in distress, if that object did not give pain.

What is now said about the production of emotion or passion, resolves into a very simple proposition, That we love what is agreeable, and hate what is disagreeable. And indeed it is evident, that a thing must be agreeable

« PreviousContinue »