Page images

Of self, every one hath a direct perception ; of other things we have no knowledge but my means of their attributes: and hence it is, that of self the perception is more lively than of any other thing. Self is an agreeable object; and for the reason now given, must be more agreeable than any other object. Is this sufficient to account for the prevalence of self-love?

In the foregoing part of this chapter it is suggested, that some circumstances make beings or things fit objects for desire, others not. This hint ought to be pursued. It is a truth ascertained by universal experience, that a thing which in our apprehension is beyond reach, never is the object of desire; no man in his right senses, desires to walk on the clouds, or to descend to the centre of the earth: we may amuse ourselves in a reverie, with building castles in the air, and wishing for what can never happen ; but such things never move desire. And indeed a desire to do what we are sensible is beyond our power, would be altogether absurd. In the next place, though the difficulty of attainment with respect to things within reach, often inflames desire ; yet where the prospect of attainment is faint, and the event extremely uncertain, the object, however agreeable, seldom raiseth any strong desire : thus beauty, or any other good quality, in a woman of rank, seldom raises love in a man greatly her inferior. In the third place, different objects, equally within reach, raise emotions in different degrees; and when desire ac

of doubt, the argument commonly insisted on for reconciling such actions to the seltish system, is, that the only motive I can have to perform a benevolent action, or an action of any kind, is the pleasure that it affords me. So much then is yielded, that we are pleased when we do good to others; which is a fair admission of the principle of benevolence; for without that principle, what pleasure could one have in doing good to others? And admitting a principle of benevolence, why may it not be a motive to action, as well as selfishness is, or any other principle?

[ocr errors]

companies any of these emotions, its strength, as is natural, is proportioned to that of its cause. . Hence the remarkable difference among desires directed to beings inanimate, animate, and rational: the emotion caused by a rational being is out of measure stronger than any caused by an animal without reason ; and an emotion raised by such an animal, is stronger than what is caused by any thing inanimate. There is a separate reason why desire of which a rational being is the object, should be the strongest : our desires swell by partial gratification; and the means we have of gratifying desire, by benefiting or harming a rational being, are without end: desire directed to an inanimate being, susceptible neither of pleasure nor pain, is not capable of a higher gratification than that of acquiring the property. Hence it is, that though every emotion accompanied with desire, is, strictly speaking, a passion; yet, commonly, none of these are denominated passions, but where a sensible being, capable of pleasure and pain, is the object.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Uron a review, I find the foregoing section almost wholly employed upon emotions and passions raised by objects of sight, though they are also raised by objects of hearing. As this happened without intention, merely because such objects are familiar above others, I find it proper to add a short section upon the power of sounds to raise emotions and passions.

I begin with comparing sounds and visible objects with

respect to their influence upon the mind. It has already been observed, that of all external objects, rational beings, especially of our own species, have the most powerful influence in raising emotions and passions; and, as speech is the most powerful of all the means by which one human being can display itself to another, the objects of the eye must so far yield preference to those of the ear. With respect to inanimate objects of sight, sounds may be so contrived as to raise both terror and mirth beyond what can be done by any such object. Music has a commanding influence over the mind, especially in conjunction with words. Objects of sight may indeed contribute to the same end, but more faintly; as where a love poem is rehearsed in a shady grove, or on the bank of a purling stream. But sounds, which are vastly more ductile and various, readily accompany all the social affections expressed in a poem, especially emotions of love and pity.

Music, having at command a great variety of emotions, may, like many objects of sight, be made to promote luxury and effeminacy; of which we have instances without number, especially in vocal music. But, with respect to its pure and refined pleasures, music goes hand in hand with gardening and architecture, her sister arts, in humanizing and polishing the mind ;* of which none can doubt who have felt the charms of music. But, if authority be required, the following passage from a grave historian, eminent for solidity of judgment, must have the greatest weight. Polybius, speaking of the people of Cynætha, an Arcadian tribe, has the following train of reflections : - As the Arcadians have always been celebrated for their

piety, humanity, and hospitality, we are naturally led to “inquire; how it has happened that the Cynætheans are distinguished from the other Arcadians, by savage manners, wịckedness, and cruelty. I can attribute this dif


* See Chapter 24.


“ference to no other cause, but a total neglect among the

people of Cynætha, of an institution established among “the ancient Arcadians with a nice regard to their man

ners and their climate : I mean the discipline and ex“ercise of that genuine and perfect music, which is use“ful in every state, but necessary to the Arcadians; “ whose manners, originally rigid and austere, made it of “ the greatest importance to incorporate this art into the

very essence of their government. All men know that, " in Arcadia, the children are early taught to perform

hymns and songs composed in honour of their gods and “ heroes; and that, when they have learned the music of “ Timotheus and Philoxenus, they assemble yearly in the * public theatres, dancing with emulation to the sound of “ flutes, and acting in games adapted to their tender

years. The Arcadians, even in their private feasts,

never employ hirelings, but each man sings in his turn. “ They are also taught all the military steps and motions " to the sound of instruments, which they perform yearly “in the theatres, at the public charge. To me it is evi“dent, that these solemnities were introduced, not for idle

pleasure, but to soften the rough and stubborn temper of “ the Arcadians, occasioned by the coldness of a high

country. But the Cynætheans, neglecting these arts, “ have become so fierce and savage, that there is not an“other city in Greece so remarkable for frequent and

great enormities. This consideration ought to engage “the Arcadians never to relax in any degree, their mu- sical discipline; and it ought to open the eyes of the Cy. “ nætheans, and make them sensible of what importance “it would be to restore music to their city, and every dis

cipline that may soften their manners; for otherwise they can never hope to subdue their brutal ferocity.*

* Polybius, lib. iv. cap. 3.


No one will be surprised to hear such influence attributed to music, when, with respect to another of the fine arts, he finds a living instance of an influence no less powerful. It is unhappily indeed the reverse of the former: for it has done more mischief by corrupting British manners, than music ever did good in purifying those of Arcadia.

The licentious court of Charless II. among its many disorders, engendered a pest, the virulence of which subsists to this day. The English comedy, copying the manners of the court, became abominably licentious; and continues so with very little softening. It is there an established rule, to deck out the chief characters with every vice in fashion, however gross. But, as such characters viewed in a true light would be disgustful, care is taken to disguise their deformity under the embellishments of wit, sprightliness, and good humour, which in mixed company makes a capital figure. It requires not much thought to discover the poisonous influence of such plays. A young man of figure, emancipated at last from the severity and restraint of a college education repairs to the capital disposed to every sort of excess. The playhouse becomes his favourite amusement; and he is enchanted with the gaiety and splendour of the chief personages. The disgust which vice gives him at first, soon wears off, to make way for new notions, more liberal in his opinion; by which a sovereign contempt for religion, and a declared war upon the chastity of wives, maids, and widows, are converted from being infamous vices to be fashionable virtues. The infection spreads gradually through all ranks, and becomes universal. How gladly would I listen to any one who should undertake to prove, that what I have been describing is chimerical! But the dissoluteness of our young men of birth will not suffer me to doubt of its reality. Sir Harry Wildair has completed

« PreviousContinue »