« AnteriorContinua »
cero discovers in Plautus a happy talent for ridi cule, and a peculiar delicacy of wit: but Horace, who made a figure in the court of Auguftus, where tafte was confiderably purified, declares against the lowness and roughness of that author's raillery. Ridicule is banished France, and is lofing ground daily in England.
Other modifications of pleasant paffions will be occafionally mentioned hereafter. Particularly, the modifications of high and low are handled in the chapter of grandeur and fublimity; and the modifications of dignified and mean, in the chap ter of dignity and grace.
Interrupted exiftence of emotions and passions. Their growth and decay.
Ere it the nature of an emotion, to continue, like colour and figure, in its prefent state till varied by fome operating caufe, the condition of man would be deplorable: it is ordered wifely, that emotions should more refemble another attribute of matter, viz. motion, which requires the conftant exertion of an operating caufe, and ceafes when the caufe is withdrawn. An emotion may fubfift while its cause is prefent; and when its cause is removed, may subsist by means of an idea, though in a fainter
degree but the moment another thought breaks in, and ingroffes the mind, the emotion is gone, and is no longer felt: if it return with its cause, or an idea of its caufe, it again vanifheth with them when other thoughts crowd in. The reafon is, that emotions and paffions are connected with perceptions and ideas, fo intimately as not to have any independent existence: a strong paffion, it is true, hath a mighty influence to detain its object in the mind; but not fo as to detain it for ever, because a fucceffion of perceptions or ideas is unavoidable*. Further, even while a paffion fubfifts, it feldom continues long in the fame tone, but is fucceffively vigorous and faint the vigour of a paffion depends on the impreffion made by its caufe; and a caufe makes its ftrongest impreffion, when happening to be the fingle interesting object, it attracts our whole attention † its impreffion is flighter when our attention is divided between it and other objects; and at that time the paffion is fainter in proportion.
When emotions and paffions are felt thus by intervals, and have not a continued existence, it may be thought a nice problem, to ascertain their identity, and to determine when they are the fame, when different. In a strict philofophic view, every fingle impreffion made even by the fame object, is diftinguishable from what have
* See this point explained afterward, chap. 9.
See the appendix, containing definitions, and explanation of terms, fect. 33.
gone before, and from what fucceed: neither is an emotion raised by an idea, the fame with what is raised by a fight of the object. But fuch accuracy is not found in common apprehenfion, nor is necessary in common language: the emotions raised by a fine landscape in its fucceffive appearances, are not dishinguishable from each o ther; nor even from thofe raised by fucceffive ideas of the object; all of them being held to be the fame a paffion alfo is always reckoned the fame, so long as it is fixed upon the fame object; and thus love and hatred are faid to con tinue the fame for life. Nay, fo loofe are we in this way of thinking, that many paffions are reckoned the fame even after a change of object; which is the cafe of all paffions that proceed from fome peculiar propenfity: envy, for example, is confidered to be the fame paffion, not only while it is directed to the fame perfon, but even where it comprehends many perfons at once: pride and malice are in the fame condition. So much was necessary to be faid upon the identity of a passion and emotion, in order to prepare for examining their growth and decay.
The growth and decay of paffions and emotions, is a fubject too extenfive to be exhausted in an undertaking like the prefent: I pretend only to give a curfory view of it, as far as neceffary for the purposes of criticifm. Some emotions are produced in their utmost perfection, and have a very short endurance; which is the cafe of fur
prife, of wonder, and fometimes of terror. Emotions raifed by inanimate objects, fuch as trees, rivers, buildings, pictures, arrive at perfection almost instantaneously; and they have a long endurance, a fecond view producing nearly the fame pleasure with the firft. Love, hatred, and fome other paffions, increase gradually to a cer tain pitch; and after that decay gradually. En vy, malice, pride, fcarce ever decay. Some paffions, fuch as gratitude and revenge, are often exhausted by a fingle act of gratification: other paffions, fuch as pride, malice, envy, love, hatred, are not fo exhaufted; but having a long continuance, demand frequent gratification..
To handle every fingle paffion and emotion with a view to thefe differences, would be an endlefs work: we must be fatisfied at prefent with fome general views. And with respect to emotions that are quiefcent, and not productive of defire, their growth and decay are easily explained: an emotion caused by an inanimate object, cannot naturally take longer time to arrive at perfection, than is neceffary for a leifurely furvey: fuch emotion alfo must continue long ftationary, without any fenfible decay; a fecond or third view of the object being nearly as agreeable as the firft: this is the cafe of an emotion produ ced by a fine profpect, an impetuous river, or a towering hill; while a man remains the fame, fuch objects ought to have the fame effect upon him. Familiarity, however, hath an influence here,
here, as it hath every where frequency of view, after short intervals especially, weans the mind gradually from the object, which at laft lofes all relish the nobleft object in the material world, a clear and ferene fky, is quite difregarded, unlefs perhaps after a courfe of bad weather. An emotion raised by human virtues, qualities, or actions, may, by reiterated views of the object, grow imperceptibly till it become fo vigorous as to generate defire: in this condition it muft be. handled as a paffion.
As to paffion, I obferve, firft, that when nature requires a paffion to be fudden, it is com+ monly produced in perfection; which is commonly the case of fear and of anger. Wonder and furprise are always produced in perfection? reiterated impreffions made by their caufe, exhauft these paffions inftead of inflaming them. This will be explained afterward *.
In the next place, when a paffion hath for its foundation an original propenfity peculiar to fome men, it generally comes foon to perfection: the propensity, upon pre enting a proper object, is immediately enlivened into a paffion; which is the cafe of pride, of envy, and of malice.
In the third place, the growth of love and of hatred, is flow or quick according to circumstances: the good qualities or kind offices of a perfon, raise in me a pleafant emotion; which,
* Chap. 6.