Imatges de pÓgina

pears so, the sudden alarm it gives, without preparation, is apt totally to unhinge the mind, and for a moment, to suspend all its faculties, even thought itself;* in which state a man is quite helpless; and if he move at all, is as like to run upon the danger as from it. Surprise carried to such a height, cannot be either pleasant or painful ; because the mind, during such a momentary stupefaction, is in a good measure, if not totally, insensible.

If we then inquire for the character of this emotion, it must be where the unexpected object or event produceth less violent effects. And while the mind remains sensible of pleasure and pain, is it not natural to suppose, that surprise, like wonder, should have an invariable character? I am inclined, however, to think, that surprise has no invariable character, but assumes that of the object which raises it. Wonder being an emotion invariably raised by novelty, and being distinguishable from all other emotions, ought naturally to possess one constant character. The unexpected appearance of an object, seems not equally entitled to produce an emotion distinguishable from that which is produced by the object in its ordinary appearance: the effect it ought naturally to have, is only to swell that emotion, by making it more pleasant or more painful than it commonly is. And that conjecture is confirmed by experience, as well as by language, which is built upon experience: when a man meets a friend unexpectedly, he is said to be agreeably surprised; and when he meets an enemy unexpectedly, he is said to be disagreeably surprised. It appears, then, that the sole effect of surprise is to swell the emotion raised by the object. And that effect can be clearly explained: a tide of connected perceptions glide gently into the mind, and produce no perturbation; but an object breaking in unexpectedly, sounds an alarm, rouses the

*Hence the Latin names for surprise, torpor, animi stupor.

mind out of its calm state, and directs it whole attention to the object, which, if agreeable, becomes doubly so. Several circumstances concur to produce that effect: on the one hand, the agitation of the mind, and its keen attention, prepare it in the most effectual manner for receiving a deep impression: on the other hand, the object, by its sudden and unforeseen appearance, makes an impression, not gradually as expected objects do, but as at one stroke with its whole force. The circumstances are precisely similar where the object is in itself disagreeable.*

*What the Mareschal Saxe terms le cœur humain is no other than fear occasioned by surprise. It is owing to that cause that an ambush is geneally so destructive: intelligence of it beforehand renders it harmless. The Mareschal gives from Cæsar's Commentaries two examples of what he calls le cœur humain. At the siege of Amiens by the Gauls, Cæsar came up with his army, which did not exceed 7000 men, and began to intrench himself in such hurry, that the barbarians, judging him to be afraid, attacked his intrenchments with great spirit. During the time they were filling up the ditch, he issued out with his cohorts; and, by attacking them unexpectedly, struck a panic that made them fly with precipitation, not a single man offering to make a stand. At the siege of Alesia, the Gauls, infinitely superior in number, attacked the Roman lines of circumvallation, in order to raise the siege. Cæsar ordered a body of his men to march out silently, and to attack them on the one flank, while he with another body did the same on the other flank. The surprise of being attacked when they expected a defence only, put the Gauls into disorder, and gave an easy victory to Cæsar.

A third may be added, no less memorable. In the year 846, an obstinate battle was fought between Xamire, king of Leon, and Abdoulrahman, the Moorish king of Spain. After a very long conflict, the night only prevented the Arabians from obtaining a complete victory. The king of Leon, · taking advantage of the darkness, retreated to a neighbouring hill, leaving the Arabians masters of the field of battle. Next morning, perceiving that he could not maintain his place for want of provisions, nor be able to draw off his men in the face of a victorious army, he ranged his men in order of battle, and, without losing a moment, marched to attack the enemy, resolving to conquer or die. The Arabians, astonished to be attacked by those who were conquered the night before, lost all heart: fear succeeded to astonishment, the panic was universal, and they all turned their backs almost without drawing a sword.

The pleasure of novelty is easily distinguished from that of variety to produce the latter, a plurality of objects is necessary; the former arises from a circumstance found in a single object. Again, where objects, whether co-existent or in succession, are sufficiently diversified, the pleasure of variety is complete, though every single object of the train be familiar: but the pleasure of novelty, directly opposite to familiarity, requires no diversification.

There are different degrees of novelty, and its effects are in proportion. The lowest degree is found in objects surveyed a second time after a long interval; and that in this case an object takes on some appearance of novelty, is certain from experience: a large building of many parts variously adorned, or an extensive field embellished with trees, lakes, temples, statues, and other ornaments, will appear new oftener than once: the memory of an object so complex is soon lost, of its parts at least, or of their arrangement. But experience teaches, that even without any decay of remembrance, absence alone will give an air of novelty to a once familiar object; which is not surprising, because familiarity wears off gradually by absence thus a person with whom we have been intimate, returning after a long interval, appears like a new acquaintance: and distance of place contributes to this appearance, no less than distance of time: a friend, for example, after a short absence in a remote country, has the same air of novelty as if he had returned after a longer interval from a place near home: the mind forms a connexion between him and the remote country, and bestows upon him the singularity of the objects he has seen. For the same reason, when two things, equally new and singular, are presented, the spectator balances between them; but when told that one of them is the product of a distant quarter of the world, he no longer hesitates, but clings to

it as the more singular. Hence the preference given to foreign luxuries, and to foreign curiosities, which appear rare in proportion to their original distance.

The next degree of novelty, mounting upward, is found in objects of which we have some information at second hand; for description, though it contribute to familiarity, cannot altogether remove the appearance of novelty when the object itself is presented: the first sight of a lion occasions some wonder after a thorough acquaintance with the correctest pictures and statues of that animal.

A new object that bears some distant resemblance to a known species, is an instance of a third degree of novelty: a strong resemblance among individuals of the same species, prevents, almost entirely the effect of novelty, unless distance of place or some other circumstance concur ; but where the resemblance is faint, some degree of wonder is felt, and the emotion rises in proportion to the faintness of the resemblance.

The highest degree of wonder ariseth from unknown objects that have no analogy to any species we are acquainted with. Shakspeare, in a simile, introduces that' species of novelty:

As glorious to the sight

As is a winged messenger from heaven
Unto the white up-turned wond'ring eye
Of mortals, that fall back to gaze on him
When he bestrides the lazy-pacing clouds,
And sails upon the bosom of the air.

Romeo and Juliet.

One example of that species of novelty deserves peculiar attention; and that is, when an object, altogether new, is seen by one person only, and but once. These circumstances heighten remarkably the emotion: the singularity of the spectator concurs with the singularity of the object, to inflame wonder to its highest pitch.

In explaining the effects of novelty, the place a being occupies in the scale of existence, is a circumstance that must not be omitted. Novelty in the individuals of a low class is perceived with indifference, or with a very slight emotion: thus a pebble, however singular in its appearance, scarce moves our wonder. The emotion rises with the rank of the object; and, other circumstances being equal, is strongest in the highest order of existence: a strange insect affects us more than a strange vegetable ; and a strange quadruped more than a strange insect.


However natural novelty may be, it is a matter of experience, that those who relish it the most are careful to conceal its influence. Love of novelty, it is true prevails in children, in idlers, and in men of shallow understanding and yet, after all, why should one be ashamed of indulging a natural propensity? A distinction will afford a satisfactory answer. No man is ashamed of curiosity when it is indulged in order to acquire knowledge. But to prefer any thing merely because it is new, shows a mean taste, which one ought to be ashamed of: vanity is commonly at the bottom, which leads those who are deficient in taste to prefer things odd, rare, or singular, in order to distinguish themselves from others. And in fact, that appetite, as above mentioned, reigns chiefly among persons of a mean taste, who are ignorant of refined and elegant pleasures.

One final cause of wonder, hinted above, is, that this emotion is intended to stimulate our curiosity. Another, somewhat different, is, to prepare the mind for receiving deep impressions of new objects. An acquaintance with the various things that may affect us and with their properties, is essential to our well-being: nor will a slight or superficial acquaintance be sufficient; they ought to be so deeply engraved on the mind, as to be ready for use upon every occasion. Now, in order to make a deep im

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