Imatges de pÓgina
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CHAPTER VIII.

RESEMBLANCE AND DISSIMILITUDE.

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Having discussed those qualities and circumstances of single objects that seem peculiarly connected with criticism, we proceed, according to the method proposed in the chapter of beauty, to the relations of objects, beginning with the relations of resemblance and dissimilitude.

The connexion that man hath with the beings around him, requires some acquaintance with their nature, their powers and their qualities, for regulating his conduct. For acquiring a branch of knowledge so essential to our well-being, motives alone of reason and interest are not sufficient : nature hath providently superadded curiosity, a vigorous propensity, which never is at rest. This propensity attaches us to every new object ;* and incites us to compare objects, in order to discover their differences and resemblances.

Resemblance among objects of the same kind, and dissimilitude among objects of different kinds, are too obvious and familiar to gratify our curiosity in any degree : its gratification lies in discovering differences among things where resemblance prevails, and resemblances where disference prevails. Thus a difference in individuals of the same kind of plants or animals is deemed a discovery; while the many particulars in which they agree are neglected : and in different kinds, any resemblance is greedi

* See chapter vi.

ly remarked, without attending to the many particulars in which they differ.

A comparison, however, may be too far stretched. When differences or resemblances are carried beyond certain bounds, they appear slight and trivial; and for that reason will not be relished by a man of taste : yet such propensity is there to gratify passion, curiosity in particular, that even among good writers we find many comparisons too slight to afford satisfaction. Hence the frequent instances among logicians of distinctions without any solid difference: and hence the frequent instances among poets and orators, of similes without any just resemblance. With regard to the latter, I shall confine myself to one instance, which will probably amuse the reader, being a quotation, not from a poet nor orator, but from a grave author, writing an institute of law. “Our student shall observe, that the knowledge of the “law is like a deep well out of which each man draweth “according to the strength of his understanding. He that “ reaches deepest, seeth the amiable and admirable se- crets of the law, wherein I assure you the sages of the “law in former times have had the deepest reach. And,

as the bucket in the depth is easily drawn to the upper“most part of the water, (for nullum elementum in suo proprio loco est grave,) but take it from the water, it cannot “ be drawn up but with a great difficulty; so, albeit be“ginnings of this study seem difficult, yet when the pro“ fessor of the law can dive into the depth, it is delightful, “easy, and without any heavy burden, so long as he keep “himself in his own proper element."* Shakspeare, with uncommon humour, ridicules such disposition to simile-making, by putting in the mouth of a weak man a resemblance much of a piece with that now mentioned:

* Coke upon Lyttleton, p, 71.

Fluellen. I think it is in Macedon where Alezander is porn: I tell you, Captain, if you look in the maps of the orld, I warrant that you sall find, in the comparisons between Macedon and Monmouth, that the situations, look you, is both alike. There is a river in Macedon, there is also moreover a river in Monmouth : it is called Wye at Monmouth, but it is out of my prains what is the name of the other river : but it is all one, 'tis as like as my fingers to my fingers and there is salmons in both. If you mark Alexander's life well, Harry of Monmouth's life is come after it indifferent well ; for there is figures in all things. Alexander, God knows, and you know, in his rages, and his furies, and his wraths, and his cholars, and his moods, and his displeasures, and his indignations : and also being a little intoxicates in his prains, did, in his ales and his angers, look you kill his pest friend Clytus.

Gower. Our king is not like him in that ; he never kill'd any of his friends.

Fluellen. It is not well done, mark you now, to take the tales out of my mouth, ere it is made and finished. I speak but in figures, and comparisons of it : As Alexander kill'd his friend Clytus, being in his ales and his cups ; so also Harry Monmouth, being in his right wits and his good judgments, turn’d away the fat knight with the great belly doublet; he was full of jests, and gypes, and knaveries, and mocks : I have forgot his name.

Gower. Sir John Falstaff.

Fluellen. That is he: I tell you there is good men porn at Monmouth.

King Henry V. Act IV.Sc. 13.

Instruction, no doubt, is the chief end of comparison ; but that it is not the only end will be evident from considering, that a comparison may be employed with success to put a subject in a strong point of view. A lively idea is formed of a man's courage, by likening it to that of a lion; and eloquence is exalted in our imagination, by comparing it to a river overflowing its banks, and involving all in its impetuous course. The same effect is produced by

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contrast: a man in prosperity becomes more sensible of his happiness by opposing his condition to that of a person in want of bread. Thus, comparison is subservient to poetry as well as to philosophy: and, with respect to both, the foregoing observation holds equally, that resemblance among objects of the same kind, and dissimilitude among objects of different kinds, have no effect: such a comparison neither tends to gratify our curiosity, nor to set the objects compared in a stronger light: two apartments in a palace, similar in shape, size, and furniture, make separately as good a figure as when compared; and the same observation is applicable to two similar copartments in a garden: on the other hand, oppose a regular building to a fall of water, or a good picture to a towering hill, or even a little dog to a large horse, and the contrast will produce no effect. But a resemblance between objects of different kinds, and a difference between objects of the same kind, have remarkably an enlivening effect. The poets, such of them as have a just taste, draw all their similes from things that in the main differ widely from the principal subject; and they never attempt the contrast but where the things have a common genus and a resemblance in the capital circumstances: place together a large and a small sized animal of the same species, the one will appear greater, the other less, than when viewed separately: when we oppose beauty to deformity, each makes a greater figure by the comparison. We compare the dress of different nations with curiosity, but without surprise; because they have no such resemblance in the capital parts as to please us by contrasting the smaller parts. But a new cut of a sleeve gr of a pocket enchants by its novelty, and in opposition to the former fashion, raises some degree of surprise.

That resemblance and dissimilitude have an enlivening effect upon objects of sight, is made sufficiently evident: and that they have the same effect upon objects of the other senses, is also certain. Nor is that law confined to the external senses; for characters contrasted make a greater figure by the opposition: Iago, in the tragedy of Othello, says,

He hath a daily beauty in his life
That makes me ugly.

The character of a fop, and of a rough warrior, are no where more successfully contrasted than in Shakspeare:

Hotspur. My liege, I did deny no prisoners ;
But I remember, when the fight was done,
When I was dry with rage, and extreme toil,
Breathless and faint, leaning upon my sword ;
Came there a certain Lord, neat trimly dress’d,
Fresh as a bridegroom ; and his chin new-reap'd,
Show'd like a stubble-land at harvest-home.
He was perfumed like a milliner ;
And 'twixt his finger and his thumb he held
A pouncet-box, which ever and anon
He gave his nose ;-and still he smil'd, and talk'd :
And as the soldiers bare dead bodies by,
He call'd them untaught knaves, unmannerly,
To bring a slovenly unhandsome corse
Betwixt the wind and his nobility!
With many holiday and lady terms
He questioned me : among the rest, demanded
My pris'ners, in your Majesty's behalf.
I then all smarting with my wound ; being gallid
To be so pester'd with a popinjay,
Out of my grief and my impatience,
Answer'd neglectingly, I know not what :
He should, or should not ; for he made me mad,
To see him shine so brisk, and smell so sweet,
And talk so like a waiting gentlewoman,
Of guns, and drums, and wounds ; (God save the mark !)

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