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We shall next consider the effect of motion and force in conjunction. In contemplating the planetary system, what strikes us the most, is the spherical figures of the planets, and their regular motions: the conception we have of their activity and enormous bulk being more obscure the beauty accordingly of that system, raises a more lively emotion than its grandeur. But if we could comprehend the whole system at one view, the activity and irresistible force of these immense bodies would fill us with amazement : nature cannot furnish another scene so grand.
Motion and force, agreeable in themselves, are also agreeable by their utility when employed as means to accomplish some beneficial end. Hence the superior beauty of some machines, where force and motion concur to perform the work of numberless hands. Hence the beautiful motions, firm and regular, of a horse trained for war: every single step is the fittest that can be, for obtaining the purposed end. But the grace of motion is visible chiefly in man, not only for the reasons mentioned, but because every gesture is significant. The power however of agreeable motion is not a common talent: every limb of the human body has an agreeable and disagreeable motion; some motions being extremely graceful, others plain and vulgar; some expressing dignity, others meanness. But the pleasure here, arising, not singly from the beauty of motion, but from indicating character and sentiment, belongs to different chapters.
I should conclude with the final cause of the relish we have for motion and force, were it not so evident as to require no explanation. We are placed here in such circumstances as to make industry essential to our well-being; for without industry the plainest necessaries of life are not obtained. When our situation, therefore, in this world requires activity and a constant exertion of motion
*Chapter xi. and xv,
and force, Providence indulgently provides for our welfare by making these agreeably to us: it would be a gross imperfection in our nature, to make any thing disagreeable that we depend on for existence; and even indifference would slacken greatly that degree of activity which is indispensable.
NOVELTY, AND THE UNEXPECTED APPEARANCE OF OBJECTS.
Of all the circumstances that raise emotions, not excepting beauty, nor even greatness, novelty hath the most powerful influence. A new object produceth instantaneously an emotion termed wonder, which totally occupies the mind, and for a time excludes all other objects. Conversation among the vulgar never is more interesting than when it turns upon strange objects and extraordinary events. Men tear themselves from their native country in search of things rare and new; and novelty converts into a pleasure, the fatigues and even perils of travelling. To what cause shall we ascribe these singular appearances? To curiosity undoubtedly, a principle implanted in human nature for a purpose extremely beneficial, that of acquiring knowledge; and the emotion of wonder, raised by new and strange objects, inflames our curiosity to know more of them. This emotion is different from admiration: novelty, wherever found, whether in a quality or action, is the cause of wonder; admiration is directed to the person who performs any thing wonderful.
During infancy, every new object is probably the occa
sion of wonder, in some degree; because, during infancy, every object at first sight is strange as well as new: but as objects are rendered familiar by custom, we cease by degrees to wonder at new appearances, if they have any resemblance to what we are acquainted with; for a thing must be singular as well as new, to raise our wonder. To save multiplying words, I would be understood to comprehend both circumstances when I hereafter talk of novelty.
In an ordinary train of perceptions where one thing inintroduces another, not a single object makes its appearance unexpectedly :* the mind thus prepared for the reception of its objects, admits them one after another without perturbation. But when a thing breaks in unexpectedly, and without the preparation of any connexion, it raises an emotion, known by the name of surprize. That emotion may be produced by the most familiar object, as when one unexpectedly meets a friend who was reported to be dead; or a man in high life lately a beggar. On the other hand, a new object, however strange, will not produce the emotion, if the spectator be prepared for the sight: an elephant in India will not surprise a traveller who goes to see one; and yet its novelty will raise his wonder: an Indian in Britain would be much surprised to stumble upon an elephant feeding at large in the open fields: but the creature itself, to which he was accustomed, would not raise his wonder.
Surprise thus in several respects differs from wonder: unexpectedness is the cause of the former emotion; novelty is the cause of the latter. Nor differ they less in their nature and circumstances, as will be explained by and by. With relation to one circumstance they perfectly agree; which is, the shortness of their duration: the instantaneous production of these emotions in perfection,
* See chapter i.
may contribute to that effect, in conformity to a general law, That things soon decay which soon come to perfection the violence of the emotions may also contribute; for an ardent emotion, which is not susceptible of increase, cannot have a long course. But their short duration is occasioned chiefly by that of their causes: we are soon reconciled to an object, however unexpected; and novelty soon degenerates into familiarity.
Whether these emotions be pleasant or painful, is not a clear point. It may appear strange, that our own feelings and their capital qualities, should afford any matter for a doubt: but when we are engrossed by any emotion, there is no place for speculation; and when sufficiently calm for speculation, it is not easy to recal the emotion with accuracy. New objects are sometimes terrible, sometimes delightful: The terror which a tiger inspires is greatest at first, and wears off gradually by familiarity : on the other hand, even women will acknowledge that it is novelty which pleases the most in a new fashion. It would be rash however to conclude, that wonder is in itself neither pleasant nor painful, but that it assumes either quality according to circumstances. An object, it is true, that hath a threatning appearance, adds to our terror by its novelty: but from that experiment it doth not follow that novelty is in itself disagreeable; for it is perfectly consistent, that we be delighted with an object in one view, and terrified with it in another: a river in flood, swelling over its banks, is a grand and delightful object; and yet it may produce no small degree of fear when we attempt to cross it: courage and magnanimity are agreeable; and yet, when we view these qualities in an enemy, they serve to increase our terror. In the same manner, novelty may produce two effects clearly distinguishable from each other: it may, directly and in itself, be agreeable; and it may have an opposite effect indirectly, which is, to inspire terror: for when a new object ap
pears in any degree dangerous, our ignorance of its powers and qualities, affords ample scope for the imagination to dress it in the most frightful colours.* The first sight of a lion, for example, may at the same instant produce two opposite feelings, the pleasant emotion of wonder, and the painful passion of terror: the novelty of the object produces the former directly, and contributes to the latter indirectly. Thus, when the subject is analyzed, we find, that the power which novelty hath indirectly to inflame terror, is perfectly consistent with its being in every circumstance agreeable. The matter may be put in the clearest light, by adding the following circumstances. If a lion be first seen from a place of safety, the spectacle is altogether agreeable without the least mixture of terror. If, again, the first sight puts us within reach of that dangerous animal, our terror may be so great as quite to exclude any sense of novelty. But this fact proves not that wonder is painful: it proves only, that wonder may be excluded by a more powerful passion. Every man may be made certain from his own experience, that wonder raised by a new object which is inoffensive, is always pleasant; and with respect to offensive objects, it appears from the foregoing deduction, that the same must hold as long as the spectator can attend to the novelty.
Whether surprise be in itself pleasant or painful, is a question no less intricate than the former. It is certain that surprise inflames our joy when unexpectedly we meet with an old friend, and our terror when we stumble upon any thing noxious. To clear that question, the first thing to be remarked is, that in some instances an unexpected object overpowers the mind, so as to produce a momentary stupefaction: where the object is dangerous, or ap
Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion, part ii. ess. 6.