Imatges de pÓgina


animals, separately familiar to the spectator, are brought together for the first time. In that case, the effect of magnifying and diminishing, is found remarkably greater than in that first mentioned ; and the reason will appear upon analysing the operation : the first feeling we have is of surprise at the uncommon difference of two creatures of the same species: we are next sensible, that the one appears less, the other larger, than they did formerly; and that new circumstance, increasing our surprise, makes us imagine a still greater opposition between the animals than if we had formed no notion of them beforehand.

I shall confine myself to one other supposition ; That the spectator was acquainted beforehand with one of the animals only, the lap-dog for example. This new circumstance will vary the effect; for instead of widening the natural difference, by enlarging in appearance the one animal, and diminishing the other in proportion, the whole apparent alteration will rest upon the lap-dog : the surprise to find it less than it appeared formerly, directs to it our whole attention, and makes us conceive it to be a most diminutive creature: the mastiff in the mean time is quite overlooked. I am able to illustrate this effect by a familiar example. Take a piece of paper, or of linen tolerably white, and compare it with a pure white of the same kind: the judgment we formed of the first object is instantly varied; and the surprise occasioned by finding it less white than was thought, produceth a hasty conviction that it is much less white than it is in reality : withdrawing now the pure white, and putting in its place a deep black, the surprise occasioned by that new circumstance carries us to the other extreme, and makes us conceive the object first mentioned to be a pure white: and thus experience compels us to acknowledge, that our emotions have an influence even upon our eye-sight. This experiment leads to a general observation, That whatever is found

more strange or beautiful than was expected, is judged to be more strange or beautiful than it is in reality. Hence a common artifice, to depreciate beforehand what we wish to make a figure in the opinion of others.

The comparisons employed by poets and orators, are of the kind last mentioned; for it is always a known object that is to be magnified or lessened. The former is effected by likening it to some grand object, or by contrasting it with one of an opposite character. To effectuate the latter, the method must be reversed : the object must be contrasted with something superior to it, or likened to something inferior. The whole effect is produced upon the principal object, which by that means is elevated above its rank, or depressed below it.

In accounting for the effects that any unusual resemblance or dissimilitude hath upon the mind, no cause has been mentioned but surprise; and to prevent confusion, it was proper to discuss that cause first. But surprise is not the only cause of the effect described : another concurs which operates perhaps not less powerfully, namely, a principle in human nature that lies still in obscurity, not having been unfolded by any writer, though its effects are extensive ; and as it is not distinguished by a proper name, the reader must be satisfied with the following description. Every man who studies himself or others, must be sensible of a tendency or propensity in the mind, to complete every work that is begun, and to carry things to their full perfection. There is little opportunity to display that propensity upon natural operations, which are seldom left imperfect; but in the operations of art, it hath great scope : it impels us to persevere in our own work, and to wish for the completion of what another is doing : we feel a sensible pleasure when the work is brought to perfection ; and our pain is no less sensible when we are disappointed. Hence our uneasiness, when an interesting story is broke off in the middle, when a piece of music ends without a close, or when a building or garden is left unfinished. The same propensity operates in making collections, such as the whole works good and bad of any author. A certain person attempted to collect prints of all the capital paintings, and succeeded except as to a few. La Bruyere remarks, that an anxious search was made for these ; not for their value, but to complete the

set. *

* The examples above given, are of things that can be carried to an end or conclusion. But the same uneasiness is perceptible with respect to things that admit not any conclusion : witness a series that has no end, commonly called an infinite series. The mind moving along such a series, begins soon to feel an uneasiness, whlch becomes more and more sensible, in continuing its progress without hope of an end.

An unbounded prospect dotlı not long continue agreeable; we soon feel a slight uneasiness, which increases with the time we bestow upon the prospect. An avenue without a terminating object, is one instance of an unbounded prospect; and we might hope to find the cause of its disagreeableness, if it resembled an infinite series. The eye indeed promises no resemblance ; for the sharpest eye commands but a certain length of space, and there it is bounded, however obscurely. But the mind perceives things as they exist; and the line is carried on in idea without end; in which respect an unbounded prospect is similar to an infinite series. In fact, the uneasiness of an unbounded prospect, differs very little in its feeling from that of an infinite series ; and therefore we may reasonably presume, that both proceed from the same cause.

We next consider a prospect unbounded every way, as, for example, a great plain or the ocean, viewed from an eminence. We feel here an uneasiness occasioned by the want of an end or termination, precisely as in the other cases. A prospect unbounded every way, is indeed so far singular, as at first to be more pleasant than a prospect that is unbounded in one direction only, and afterward to be more painful. But these circumstances are easily explained without wounding the general theory; the pleasure we feel at first, is a vivid emotion of grandeur, arising from the immense extent of the object: and to increase the pain we feel afterward for the want of a termination, there concurs a pain of a different kind occasioned by stretching the eye to comprehend so wide a prospect; a pain that gradually increases with the repeated efforts we make to grasp the whole.

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The final cause of the propensity is an additional proof of its existence: human works are of no significancy till they be completed ; and reason is not always a sufficient counterbalance to indolence: some principle over and above is necessary, to excite our industry, and to prevent our stopping short in the middle of the course.

We need not lose time to describe the co-operation of the foregoing propensity with surprise, in producing the effect that follows any unusual resemblance or dissimilitude. Surprise first operates, and carries our opinion of the resemblance or dissimilitude beyond truth. The propensity we have been describing carries us still farther ; for it forces upon the mind a conviction, that the resemblance or dissimilitude is complete. We need no better illustration, than the resemblance that is fancied in some pebbles to a tree or an insect; which resemblance, however faint in reality, is conceived to be wonderfully perfect. The tendency to complete a resemblance acting jointly with surprise, carries the mind sometimes so far, as even to presume upon future events. In the Greek tragedy entitled Phineides, those unhappy women, seeing the place where it was intended they should be slain, cried out with anguish, “ They now saw their cruel destiny had con

demned them to die in that place, being the same where “they had been exposed in their infancy."*

The propensity to advance every thing to its perfection, not only co-operates with surprise to deceive the mind, but of itself is able to produce that effect. Of this we see

It is the same principle, if I mistake not, which operates imperceptibly with respect to quantity and number. Another's property indented into my field, gives me uneasiness ; and I am eager to make the purchase, not for profit, but in order to square my field. Xerxes and his army, in their passage to Greece, were sumptuously entertained by Pythius the Lydian: Xerxes recompensed him with 7000 Darics, which he wanted to complete the sum of four millions. * Aristotle, Poet. cap. 17. VOL. 1.


many instances where there is no place for surprise ; and the first I shall give is of resemblance. Unumquodque eodem modo dissolvitur quo colligatum est, is a maxim in the Roman law that has no foundation in truth; for tying and loosing, building and demolishing, are acts opposite to each other, and are performed by opposite means : but when these acts are connected by their relation to the same subject, their connexion leads us to imagine a sort of resemblance between them, which by the foregoing propensity is conceived to be as complete as possible. The next instance shall be of contrast. Addison observes, “ That the palest features look the most agreeable in 6 white ; that a face which is overflushed appears to ad

vantage in the deepest scarlet; and that a dark com“plexion is not a little alleviated by a black hood."* The foregoing propensity serves to account for these appearances; to make which evident one of the cases shall suffice. A complexion, however dark, never approaches to black: when these colours appear together, their opposition strikes us : and the propensity we have to complete the opposition makes the darkness of complexion vanish out of sight.

The operation of this propensity, even where there is no ground for surprise, is not confined to opinion or conviction : so powerful it is, as to make us sometimes proceed to action, in order to complete a resemblance or dissimilitude. If this appear obscure, it will be made clear by the following instances. Upon what principle is the lex talionis founded, other than to make the punishment resemble the mischief ? Reason dictates, that there ought to be a conformity or resemblance between a crime and its punishment: and the foregoing propensity impels us to make the resemblance as complete as possible. Titus Livius, under the influence of that propensity, accounts

Spectator, No. 265.

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