« AnteriorContinua »
cause, it again vanisheth with them when other thoughts crowd in. The reason is, that an emotion or passion is connected with the perception or idea of its cause, so intimately as not to have any independent existence: a strong passion, it is true, hath a mighty influence to detain its cause in the mind; but not so as to detain it for ever, because a succession of perceptions or ideas is unavoidable.* Further, even while a passion subsists, it seldom continues long in the same tone, but is successively vigorous and faint ; the vigour of a passion depends on the impression made by its cause; and a cause makes its deepest impression, when happening to be the single interesting object, it attracts our whole attention of its impression is slighter when our attention is divided between it and other objects : and at that time the passion is fainter in proportion.
When emotions and passions are felt thus by intervals, and have not a continued existence, it may be thought a nice problem to determine when they are the same, when different. In a strict philosophic view, every single impression, made even by the same object, is distinguishable from what have gone before, and from what succeed : neither is an emotion raised by an idea the same with what is raised by a sight of the object. But such accura. cy not being found in common apprehension, is not necessary in common language : the emotions raised by a fine landscape in its successive appearances are not distinguishable from each other, nor even from those raised by successive ideas of the object; all of them being held to be the same: a passion also is always reckoned the same as long as it is fixed upon the same object; and thus love and hatred are said to continue the same for life. Nay, so loose are we in that way of thinking, that many passions are reckoned the same even after a change of object; which is the case of all passions that proceed from some peculiar propensity: envy, for example, is considered to be the same passion, not only while it is directed to the same person, but even where it comprehends many persons at once: pride and malice are examples of the same. So much was necessary to be said upon the identity of a passion and emotion, in order to prepare for examining their growth and decay.
* See this point explained afterwards, chap. ix.
+ See the Appendix, containing detinitions and explanation of terms, sect. 33.
The growth and decay of passions and emotions, traced through all their mazes, is a subject too extensive for an undertaking like the présent: I pretend only to give a cursory view of it, such as may be necessary for the purposes of criticism. Some emotions are produced in their utmost perfection, and have a very short endurance; which is the case of surprise, of wonder, and sometimes of terror. Emotions raised by inanimate objects, trees, rivers, buildings, pictures, arrive at perfection almost instantaneously; and they have a long endurance, a second view producing nearly the same pleasure with the first. Love, hatred, and some other passions, swell gradually to a certain pitch; after which they decay gradually. Envy, malice, pride, scarce ever decay. Some passions, such as gratitude and revenge, are often exhausted by a single act of gratification : other passions, such as pride, malice, envy, love, hatred, are not so exhausted; but having a long continuance, demand frequent gratification.
To handle every single passion and emotion with a view to these differences, would be an endless work: we must be satisfied at present with some general views. And with respect to emotions, which are quiescent because not productive of desire, their growth and decay are easily explained : an emotion caused by an inanimate object, cannot naturally take longer time to arrive at maturity, than is necessary for a leisurely survey: such emotion also must continue long stationary, without any sensible decay; a second or third view of the object being nearly as agreeable as the first : this is the case of an emotion produced by a fine prospect, an impetuous river, or a towering hill: while a man remains the same, such objects ought to have the same effect upon him. Familiarity, however hath an influence here, as it hath every where: frequency of view, after short intervals especially, weans the mind gradually from the object, which at last loses all relish: the noblest object in the material world, a clear and serene sky, is quite disregarded, unless perhaps after a course of bad weather. An emotion raised by human virtues, qualities, or actions, may, by reiterated views of the object, swell imperceptibly, till it become so vigorous as to generate desire : in that condition it must be handled as a passion.
As to passion, I observe, first, that when nature requires a passion to be sudden, it is commonly produced in perfection ; which is the case of fear and of anger. Wonder and surprise are always produced in perfection : reiterated impressions made by their cause, exhaust these passions instead of inflaming them. This will be explained afterward. *
In the next place, when a passion hath for its foundation an original propensity peculiar to some men, it generally comes soon to maturity: the propensity, upon presenting a proper object, is immediately enlivened into a passion; which is the case of pride, of envy, and of malice.
In the third place, the growth of love and of hatred is slow or quick according to circumstanses; the good qualities of a person raise in me a pleasant emotion; which, by reiterated views, is swelled into a passion involving desire of that person's happiness: this desire, being freely indulged, works gradually a change internally, and at last produceth in me a settled habit of affection for that person now my friend. Affection thus produced operates precisely like an original propensity; for to enliven it into a passion, no more is required but the real or ideal presence of the object. The habit of aversion or of hatred is brought on in the same manner. And here I must observe by the way, that love and hatred signify commonly affection and aversion, not passion. The bulk of our passions are indeed affection or aversion inflamed into a passion by different circumstances: the affection I bear to my son, is inflamed into the passion of fear when he is in danger; becomes hope when he hath a prospect of good fortune; becomes admiration when he performs a laudable action ; and shame when he commits any wrong: aversion becomes fear when there is a prospect of good fortune to my enemy; becomes hope when he is in danger; becomes joy when he is in distress; and sorrow when a laudable action is performed by him.
* Chap. VI.
Fourthly, passions generally have a tendency to excess, occasioned by the following means. The mind affected by any passion, is not in a proper state for distinct perception, nor for cool reflection : it hath always a strong bias to the object of an agreeable passion, and a bias no less strong against the object of a disagreeable passion. The object of love, for example, however indifferent to others, is to the lover's conviction a paragon; and of hatred, is vice itself without alloy. What less can such delusion operate, than to swell the passion beyond what it was at first? for if the seeing or conversing with a fine woman, have had the effect to carry me from indifference to love; how much stronger must her influence be, when now to my conviction she is an angel? and hatred as well as other passions, must run the same course. Thus between a passion and its object there is a natural operation, resembling action and reaction in physics: a passion acting upon its object, magnifies it greatly in appearance: and this magnified object reacting upon the passion, swells and inflames it mightily.
Fifthly, the growth of some passion depends often on occasional circumstances ; obstacles to gratification, for example, never fail to augment and inflame a passion ; because a constant endeavour to remove an obstacle, preserves the object of the passion ever in view, which swells the passion by impressions frequently reiterated : thus the restraint of conscience, when an obstacle to love, agitates the mind and inflames the passion:
Quod licet, ingratum est : quod non licet, acrius urit.
Ovid, Amor. 1. 2.
At the same time, the mind, distressed with the obstacles, becomes impatient for gratification, and consequently more desirous of it. Shakspeare expresses this observation finely :
All impediments in fancy's course,
We need no better example than a lover who hath many rivals. Even the caprices of a mistress have the effect to infiame love; these occasioning uncertainty of success, tend naturally to make the anxious lover overvalue the happiness of fruition.
So much upon the growth of passions : their continuance and decay come next under consideration. And, first, it is a general law of nature, That things sudden in their growth are equally sudden in their decay. This is commonly the case of anger. And with respect to wonder and surprise, which also suddenly decay, another reason concurs, that their causes are of short duration : no