Imatges de pÓgina


regoing theory must have fatigued the reader with much dry reasoning, but his labour will not be fruitless; because from that theory are derived many useful rules in criticism, which shall be mentioned in their proper places. One specimen shall be our present entertainment. Events that surprise by being unexpected, and yet are natural, enliven greatly an epic poem : but in such a poem, if it pretend to copy human manners and actions, no improbable incident ought to be admitted ; that is, no incident contrary to the order and course of nature. A chain of imagined incidents linked together according to the order of nature, finds easy admittance into the mind : and a lively narrative of such incidents occasions complete images, or in other words, ideal presence : but our judgment revolts against an improbable incident; and, if once begin to doubt of its reality, farewell relish and concern-an unhappy effect; for it will require more than an ordinary effort to restore the waking dream, and to make the reader conceive even the more probable incidents as passing in his presence.

I never was an admirer of machinery in an epic poem, and I now find my taste justified by reason; the foregoing argument concluding still more strongly against imaginary beings, than against improbable facts: fictions of that nature may amuse by their novelty and singularity ; but they never move the sympathetic passions, because they cannot impose on the mind any perception of reality. I appeal to the discerning reader, whether that observation be not applicable to the machinery of Tasso and of Voltaire : such machinery is not only in itself cold and uninteresting, but gives an air of fiction to the whole composition. A burlesque poem, such as the Lutrin or the Dispensary, may employ machinery with success; for these poems, religioni videtur; adeo majestas operis Deum æquavit. Quintilian, lib. XII. cap. X. sect. 1.

though they assume the air of history, give entertainment chiefly by their pleasant and ludicrous pictures, to which machinery contributes: it is not the aim of such a poem, to raise our sympathy : and for that reason a strict imitation of nature is not required. A poem professedly ludicrous, may employ machinery to great advantage and the more extravagant the better.

Having assigned the means by which fiction commands our passions; what only remains for accomplishing our present task, is to assign the final cause. I have already mentioned, that fiction, by means of language, has the command of our sympathy for the good of others. By the same means, our sympathy may also be raised for our own good. In the fourth section of the present chapter, it is observed, that examples both of virtue and of vice raise virtuous emotions : which become stronger by exercise, tend to make us virtuous by habit, as well as by principle. I now further observe, that examples confined to real events are not so frequent as without other means to produce a habit of virtue: if they be, they are not recorded by historians. It therefore shows great wisdom, to form us in such a manner, as to be susceptible of the same improvement from fable that we receive from genuine history. By that contrivance, examples to improve us in virtue may be multiplied without end : no other sort' of discipline contributes more to make virtue habitual, and no other sort is so agreeable in the application. I add another final cause with thorough satisfaction : because it shows, that the Author of our nature is not less kindly provident for the happiness of his creatures, than for the regularity of their conduct: the power that fiction bath over the mind affords an endless variety of refined amusements always at hand to employ a vacant hour: such amusements are a fine resource in solitude; and, by cheering and sweetening the mind, contribute mightily to social happiness.




It will naturally occur at first, that a discourse upon the passions ought to commence with explaining the qualities now mentioned: but upon trial, I found that this explanation could not be made distinctly, till the difference should first be ascertained between an emotion and a passion, and their causes unfolded.

Great obscurity may be observed among writers with regard to the present point : particularly no care is taken to distinguish agreeable from pleasant, disagreeable from painful; or rather these terms are deemed synonymous. This is an error not at all venial in the science of ethics ; as instances can and shall be given, of painful passions that are agreeable, and of pleasant passions that are disagreeable. These terms, it is true, are used indifferently in familiar conversation, and in compositions for amusement; but more accuracy is required from those who profess to explain the passions. In writing upon the critical art, I would avoid every refinement that may seem more curious than useful : but the proper meaning of the terms under consideration must be ascertained, in order to understand the passions, and some of their effects that are intimately connected with criticism.

I shall endeavour to explain these terms by familiar examples. Viewing a fine garden, I perceive it to be beautiful or agrecable; and I consider the beauty or agreeableness as belonging to the object, or as one of its qualities. When I turn my attention from the garden to what passes in my mind, I am conscious of a pleasant emotion, of which the garden is the cause: the pleasure here is felt, as a quality, not of the garden, but of the emotion produced by it. I give an opposite example. A rotten carcass is disagreeable, and raises in the spectator a painful emotion : the disagreeableness is a quality of the object; the pain is a quality of the emotion produced by it. In a word, agreeable and disagreeable are qualities of the objects we perceive; pleasant and painful are qualities of the emotions we feel : the former qualities are perceived as adhering to objects; the latter are felt as existing within us.

But a passion or emotion, beside being felt, is frequently made an object of thought or reflection : we examine it; we inquire into its nature, its cause, and its effects. In that view, like other objects, it is either agreeable or disagreeable. Hence clearly appear the different significations of the terms under consideration, as applied to passion; when a passion is termed pleasant or painful, we refer to the actual feeling; when termed agreeable or disagreeable, we refer to it as an object of thought or reflection; a passion is pleasant or painful to the person in whom it exists; it is agreeable or disagreeable to the person who makes it a subject of contemplation.

In the description of emotions and passions, these terms do not always coincide: to make which evident, we must endeavour to ascertain, first, what passions and emotions are pleasant, what painful ; and next, what are agreeable, what disagreeable. With respect to both, there are general rules, which, if I can trust to induction, admit not a single exception. The nature of an emotion or passion, as pleasant or painful, depends entirely on its cause : the emotion produced by an agreeable object is invariably pleasant; and the emotion produced by a disagreeable object is invariably painful.* Thus a lofty oak a generous action, a valuable discovery in art or science, are agreeable objects that invariably produce pleasant emotions. A stinking puddle, a treacherous action, an irregular, ill-contrived edifice, being disagreeable objects, produce painful emotions. Selfish passions are pleasant, for they arise from self, an agreeable object or cause. A social passion directed upon an agreeable object is always pleasant; directed upon an object in distress is painful.t Lastly, all dissocial passions, such as envy, resentment, malice, being caused by disagreeable objects, cannot fail to be painful.

A general rule for the agreeableness or disagreeableness of emotions and passions is a more difficult enterprize: it must be attempted however.

We have a sense of a common nature in every species of animals, particularly in our own: and we have a conviction that this common nature is right, or perfect, and that individuals ought to be made conformable to it. To every faculty, to every passion, and to every bodily member, is assigned a proper office and a due proportion: if one limb be longer than the other, or be disproportioned to the whole, it is wrong and disagreeable : if a passion deviate from the common nature, by being too strong or too weak, it is also wrong and disagreeable: but as far as comformable to common nature, every emotion and every passion is perceived by us to be right, and as it ought to be ; and upon that account it must appear agreeable. That this holds true in pleasant emotions and passions, will readily be admitted : but the painful are no less natural than the other : and therefore ought not to be an exception. Thus the painful emotion raised by a monstrous birth or brutat ac

* See part vii. of this chapter. + See part vii, of this chapter. I See this doctrine fully explained, chap. xxv. Standard of Taste.

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