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ELEMENTS OF CRITICISM.
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These few hints may enable us to judge in some measure of foreign manners, whether exhibited by foreign writers or our own. A comparison between the ancients and the moderns was some time ago a favorite subject; those who declared for ancient manners thought it sufficient that these manners were supported by custom : their antagonists, on the other hand, refusing submission to custom as a standard of taste, condemned ancient manners as in several instances irrational.
To them we know how and we kne
How is custom distinguished from habit?
Does the influence of custom or fashion on our feelings prove a defective taste?
Give examples of the power of custom on taste.
CHAPTER XV. External Signs of Emotions and Passions. P.16 So intimately connected are the soul and body, that every agitation in the former produceth a visible effect upon the latter.
The external signs of passion are of two kinds, voluntary and involuntary. The voluntary signs are also of two kinds : some are arbitrary, some natural. Words are obviously voluntary signs: and they are also arbitrary; excepting a few simple sounds expressive of certain internal emotions, which sounds being the same in all languages, must be the work of nature: thus the unpremeditated tones of admiration are the same in all men; as also of resentment, compassion, and despair.
The other kind of voluntary signs comprehend those attitudes and gestures which accompany certain emotions with uniformity; excessive joy is expressed by leaping; grief by depression; prostration and kneeling, imply veneration. Hence grief is cast down; humility droops; arrogance elevates the head; despon dency reclines it on one side. The expressions of the hands are manifold: by different attitudes and motions, they express desire, hope, fear; they assist us in promising, in inviting, in keeping one at a distance; they are made instruments of threatening, of supplication of praise, and of horror ; they are employed in ap proving, in refusing, in questioning ; in showing oui joy, our sorrow, our doubts, our regret, our admiration, These expressions, so obedient to passion, are extremely difficult to be imitated in a calm state: the ancients,
sensible of the advantage as well as difficulty of hav. ing these expressions at command, bestowed much time and care in collecting them from observation, and in digesting them into a practical art, which was taught in their schools as an important branch of education. Certain sounds are by nature allotted to each passion for expressing it externally. The actor who has these sounds at command to captivate the ear, is mighty: if he also have proper gestures at command to captivate the eye,
he is irresistible. The involuntary signs are of two kinds, some being temporary, others permanent signs of passion: and the natural signs and emotions are common to all men, and form an universal language, which influence cannot sophisticate, nor education render doubtful. Providence has conferred them upon all men, as direct avenues to all hearts.
The effects produced upon the spectator by external signs of passion, are productive of various emotions, tending to wise and good ends. Thus joy produces a cheerful emotion; grief produces pity, rage, terror. Pleasant passions express themselves to the spectator externally, by agreeable signs; and the external signs of a painful passion being disagreeable, produce a painful emotion. The external signs of painful passions are some of them attractive, some repulsive. Of every painful passion that is also disagreeable, the external signs are repulsive. Painful passions that are agreeable, have external signs that are attractive; drawing the spectator to them, and producing in him benevolence to the person upon whom these signs appear. Man is provided, by nature, with a faculty that lays open to him every passion, by means of its external expressions. External signs fix the signification of spoken language; looks and gestures show whether the speaker be worthy of our confidence—we judge of character from external appearance; involuntary signs are incapable of deceit—the tones of the voice are irresistible. The dissocial passions, being hurtful by
prompting violence and mischief, are noted by the most conspicuous external signs, in order to put us upon our guard : thus anger and revenge, especially when sudden, display themselves on the countenance in legible characters. The external signs again of every passion that threatens danger, raise in us the passion of fear; which frequently operating without reason or reflection, moves us, by a sudden impulse, to avoid the impending danger. These external signs are subservient to morality, and this beautiful contrivance makes us cling to the virtuous, and abhor the wicked. Finally,
the external signs of passion are a strong indication, • that man is, by his very constitution, .framed to be open and sincere. Nature herself, candid and sincere, intends that mankind should preserve the same character, by cultivating simplicity and truth, and banishing every sort of dissimulation that tends to mischief.
How are the external signs of passion divided?-the voluntary
EVERY thought, prompted by passion, is termed a sentiment.) To have a general notion of the different passions, will not alone enable an artist to make a just representation of any passion : he ought, over and
Where there is no vision the people perish. Prov. 29:18.
above, to know the various appearances of the same passion in different persons. Passions receive a tincture from every peculiarity of character; and for that reason it rarely happens, that a passion, in the different circumstances of feeling, of sentiment, and of expression, is precisely the same in any two persons. Hence the following rule concerning dramatic and epic compositions. That a passion be adjusted to the character, the sentiments to the passion, and the language to the sentiments. If nature be not faithfully copied in each of these, a defect in execution is perceived : there may appear some resemblance; but the picture, upon the whole, will be insipid, through want of grace and delicacy.
Each passion has a certain tone, to which every sentiment proceeding from it, ought to be tuned with the greatest accuracy. To awaken passion, a writer must be something more than an eye-witness of what he describes.
This descriptive manner of representing passion is a very cold entertainment: our sympathy is not raised by description ; we must first be lulled into a dream of reality, and every thing must appear as passing in our sight. Unhappy is the player of genius who acts a capital part in what may be termed a descriptive tragedy; after assuming the very passion that is to be represented, how is he cramped in action when he must utter, not the sentiments of the passion he feels, but a cold description in the language of a bystander ! It is that imperfection, I am persuaded, in the bulk of our plays, which confines our stage almost entirely to Shakspeare, notwithstanding his many irregularities. In our late English tragedies, we sometimes find senti ments tolérably well adapted to a plain passion; but we must not, in any of them, expect a sentiment expressive of character; and, upon that very account, our late performances of the dramatic kind are for the
most part intolerably insipid.