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For another example, let us figure some grand and heroic action, highly agreeable to the spectator: beside veneration for the author, the spectator feels in himself an unusual dignity of character, which disposeth him to great and noble actions: and herein chiefly consists the extreme delight every one hath in the histories of
conquerors and heroes.
This singular feeling, which may be termed the sympathetic emotion of virtue, resembles, in one respect, the wellknown appetites that lead to the propagation and preservation of the species. The appetites of hunger, thirst, and animal love, arise in the mind before they are directed to any object; and in no case whatever is the mind more solicitous for a proper object, than when under the influence of any of these appetites.
The feeling I have endeavoured to unfold, may well be termed the sympathetic emotion of virtue ; for it is raised in the spectator, or in a reader, by virtuous actions of every kind, and by no other sort. When we contemplate a virtuous action, which fails not to prompt our love for the author, our propensity at the same time to such actions is so much enlivened, as to become for a time an actual emotion. But no man hath a propensity to vice as such: on the contrary, a wicked deed disgusts him, and makes him abhor the author; and this abhorrence is a strong antidote against vice, as long as any impression remains of the wicked action..
In a rough road, a halt to view a fine country is refreshing; and here a delightful prospect opens upon us.
It is indeed wonderful to observe what incitements there are to virtue in the human frame : justice is perceived to be our duty; and it is guarded by natural punishments, from which the guilty never escape ; to perform noble and generous actions, a warm sense of their dignity and supertr excellence is a most efficacious incitement.* And to leave virtue in no quarter unsupported, here is unfolded an admirable contrivance, by which good example commands the heart, and adds to virtue the force of habit. We approve every virtuous action, and bestow our affection on the author; but if virtuous actions produced no other effect upon us, good example would not have great influence: the sympathetic emotion under consideration bestows upon good example the utmost influence, by prompting us to imitate what we admire. This singular emotion will readily find an object to exert itself upon : and at any rate, it never exists without producing some effect: because virtuous emotions of that sort, are in some degree an exercise of virtue; they are a mental exercise at least, if they appear not externally. And every exercise of virtue, internal and external, leads to habit; for a disposition or propensity of the mind, like a limb of the body, becomes stronger by exercise. Proper means, at the same time, being ever at hand to raise this sympathetic emotion, its frequent reiteration may, in a good measure, supply the want of a more complete exercise. Thus, by proper discipline, every person may acquire a settled habit of virtue : intercourse with men of worth, histories of generous and disinterested actions, and frequent meditation upon them, keep the sympathetic emotion in constant exercise, which by degrees introduceth a habit, and confirms the authority of virtue: with respect to education in particular, what a spacious and commodious avenue to the heart of a young person is here opened !
In many instances one Emotion is productive of another.
The same of Passions.
In the first chapter it is observed, that the relations by which things are connected, have a remarkable influence on the train of our ideas. I here add, that they have an influence, no less remarkable, in the production of emotions and passions. Beginning with the former, an agreeable object makes every thing connected with it appear agreeable; for the mind gliding sweetly and easily through related objects, carries along the agreeable propertics it meets with in its passage, and bestows them on the present object, which thereby appears more agreeable than when considered apart.* This reason may appear obscure and metaphysical, but the fact is beyond all dispute. No relation is more intimate than that between a being and its qualities: and accordingly, every quality in a hero, even the slightest, makes a greater figure than more substantial qualities in others. The propensity of carrying along agreeable properties from one object to another, is sometimes so vigorous as to convert defects into properties: the wry neck of Alexander was imitated by his courtiers as a real beauty, without intention to flatter: Lady Piercy, speaking of her husband Hotspur,
* Such proneness has the mind to this communication of properties, that we often find a property ascribed to a related object, of which naturally it is not susceptible. Sir Richard Grenville in a single ship, being surprised by the Spanish fleet, was advised to retire. He utterly refused to turn from the enemy; declaring, "he would rather die, than dishonour himself, his country, and her Majesty's ship.” Hakluit, vol. ii. part. II. p. 169. To aid the communication of properties in instances like the present, there always must be a momentary personification: a ship must be imagined a sensible being, to make it susceptible of honour or dishonour. In the Battle of Mantinea, Epaminondas being mortally wounded, was carried to his tent in a manner dead: recovering his senses, the first thing he inquired about was his shield; which being brought, he kissed it as the companion of his valour and glory. It must be remarked, that among the Greeks and Romans it was deemed infamous for a soldier to return from battle without his shield.
By his light
Second Part, Henry IV. Act II. Sc. 6.
The same communication of passion obtains in the relation of principal and accessory. Pride, of which self is the object, expands itself upon a house, a garden, servants, equipage, and every accessory. A lover addresseth his mistress's glove in the following terms:
Sweet ornament that decks a thing divine.
Veneration for relics has the same natural foundation; and that foundation with the superstructure of superstition, has occasioned much blind devotion to the most ridiculous objects, to the supposed milk, for example, of the Virgin Mary, or the supposed blood of St. Janivarius.* A temple is in a proper sense an accessory of the deity to which it is dedicated : Diana is chaste, and not only her temple, but the very icicle which hangs on it, must partake of that property :
The noble sister of Poplicola,
Corialanws, Act V. Sc. 3.
Thus it is, that the respect and esteem, which the great, the powerful, the opulent, naturally command, are in some measure communicated to their dress, to their manners, and to all their connexions : and it is this communication of properties, which, prevailing even over the natural taste of beauty, helps to give currency to what is called the fashion.
By means of the same easiness of communication, every bad quality in an enemy is spread upon all his connexions. The sentence pronounced against Ravaillac for the assassination of Henry IV. of France ordains that the house in which he was born should be razed to the ground, and that no other building should ever be erected on that spot. Enmity will extend passion to objects still less connected. The Swiss suffer no peacocks to live, because the Duke of Austria, their ancient enemy, wears a peacock's tail in his crest. A relation more
* But why worship the cross which is supposed to be that upon which our Saviour suffered? That cross ought to be the object of hatred, not of veneration. If it be urged, that as an instrument of Christ's suffering it was salutary to mankind, I answer, Why is not also Pontius Pilate reverenced, Caiaphas the high-priest, and Judas Iscariot ?