Obrazy na stronie

being held up to public contempt and ridicule in anonymous Reviews. The case of Henry Kirk White, too keenly alive to the frowns and favors of popular sentiment, notwithstanding his great and unquestionable excellencies, will illustrate what we mean.* The circumstance, that the inordinate exercise of this desire is sometimes connected with distinguished vigor of intellect and purity of moral sentiment, does not necessarily secure the disappointed and calumniated individual who is the subject of it, against great anguish of mind; so great in some instances as not only to destroy happiness but life itself.

§. 317. Disordered action of the desire of power.

Men become disordered in mind, and sometimes actually insane, not only by the inordinate indulgence of the desire of esteem and the desire of possession, but also, perhaps with no less frequency, under the influence of the exaggerated and intense desire of POWER. They are looking onward and upward with an excited heart and constrained eye, to some form of authority, honor, and dominion, till this desire, strengthened by constant repetition, becomes the predomi nant feeling. Instances, where the disorder of the mind arises in this way and exists to this extent, are innumerable. But it is not always, that it stops here. If the desire is suddenly and greatly disappointed, as it is very likely to be, the reaction upon the whole mind may be such as to cause disorder in all its functions, and leave it a wide mass of ruins.

The history of those, who are confined in Insane Hospitals, furnishes a strong presumption, that such results are not unfrequent. Although the mind is deranged, the predominant feeling, which led to the derangement, seems still to remain. One individual challenges for himself the honors of a Chancellor, another of a King; one is a member of Par'liament, another is the Lord Mayor of London; one, under the name of the Duke of Wellington or Bonaparte, claims to be the commander of mighty armies, another announces himself, with the tone and attitude of a Prophet of the Most High. Pinel informs us, that there were at one time no less than three maniacs in one of the French Insane Hospitals;

Keats, the author of Endymion, may probably be regarded as anoth

er recent instance,

each of whom assumed to be Louis XIV. On one occasion these individuals were found disputing with each other, with a great degree of energy, their respective rights to the throne. The dispute was terminated by the sagacity of the superintendent, who approaching one of them gave him with a serious look to understand, that he ought not to dispute on the subject with the others, since they were obviously mad. "Is it not well known, (said the superintendent,) that you alone ought to be acknowledged as Louis, XIV?" The insane person, flattered with this homage, cast upon his companions a look of the most marked disdain, and immediately retired.

§. $18. Disordered action of the principle of veracity.

The principle of veracity or the tendency of mind, which leads men to utter the truth, appears to be an original or implanted one. This principle, either through habit or by natural defect, sometimes exhibits itself in strangely perverted forms. Dr. Rush speaks of a LYING disease. "It differs from exculpating, fraudulent, and malicious lying, in being influenced by none of the motives of any of them. Persons thus diseased cannot speak the truth on any subject nor tell the same story twice in the same way, nor describe any thing as it has appeared to other people. Their falsehoods are seldom calculated to injure any body but themselves, being for the most part of a hyperbolical or boasting nature, but now and then they are of a mischievous nature, and injurious to the characters and property of others. That it is a corporeal disease, [that is to say, in some way connected with a diseased state of the body,] I infer from its sometimes appearing in mad people, who are remarkable for veracity in the healthy states of their minds, several instances of which I have known in the Pennsylvania Hospital. Persons affected with this disease are often amiable in their tempers and manners, and sometimes benevolent and charitable in their dispositions."*

Enough perhaps has been said on this part of our subject, to give at least a general idea of it. The same train of thought, and with scarcely any modification, will apply to all the original appetites and propensities. They are all implanted by the Creator of the mind; they are all good in their *Rush on the Diseases of the mind, 2d Ed. p. 265.

place and under proper regulation; they are all, not only morally evil in their exaggerated and inordinate form, but are attended with more or less of, mental disorder, from the slightest shades of disorganization to the deep and terrible miseries of permanent insanity.



§. 319. Of sympathetic imitation and what is involved in it.

We endeavored, in its proper place, to illustrate the natural origin and the prevalence of the propensity to IMITATION. In connection with the general truth of the existence of such a propensity, it is proper to observe here, that there is a subordinate and peculiar form of imitation, which is deserving of a separate notice; and particularly so on account of its practical results. We speak now of what has been appropriately termed Sympathetic Imitation.

It is implied in all cases of Sympathetic Imitation, that there is more than one person concerned in them; and it exists in general, in the highest degree, when the number of persons is considerable. Some one or more of these individuals is strongly agitated by some internal emotion, desire, or passion; and this inward agitation is expressed by the countenance, gestures, or other external signs. There is also a communication of such agitation of the mind to others; they experience similar emotions, desires, and passions. And these new exercises of soul are expressed on the part of the sympathetic person, by similar outward signs. In a single word, when we are under the influence of this form of imitation, we both act and feel as others. And this happens, not only in consequence of what we witness in them, and appa

[ocr errors]

rently for no other reason; but it happens naturally; that is to say, in virtue of an implanted or natural principle. The view, which we are inclined to take of this principle, is, that, although we may properly speak of it, on account of its close resemblance, as a modification of the more ordinary form of Imitativeness, yet on the whole it is so far distinct and specific in its character, as to entitle it to be regarded as a separate part of our sensitive nature. As such, it might have been treated of in another place; but in its ordinary action it is generally well understood; and we have delayed the consideration of it till the present time, because it is our principal object to give some account of its disordered or alienated action.

§. 320. Familiar instances of sympathetic imitation.

Abundance of instances, (many of them frequent and familiar,) show the existence of SYMPATHETIC IMITATION; in other words, that there is in human feelings, and in the signs of those feelings, a power of contagious communication, by which they often spread themselves rapidly from one to another.

"In general it may be remarked, (says Mr. Stewart,) that whenever we see, in the countenance of another individual, any sudden change of features; more especially, such a change as is expressive of any particular passion or emotion; our own countenance has a tendency to assimilate itself to his. Every man is sensible of this when he looks at a person under the influence of laughter, or in a deep melancholy. Something, too, of the same kind takes place in that spasm of the muscles of the jaw, which we experience in yawning; an action which is well known to be frequently excited by the contagious power of example. Even when we conceive, in solitude, the external expression of any passion, the effect of the conception is visible in our own appearance. This is a fact of which every person must be conscious, who attends, in his own case, to the result of the experiment; and it is a circumstance, which has been often remarked with respect to historical painters, when in the act of transferring to the canvass the glowing pictures of a creative imagination."*

To these statements, illustrative of sympathetic imitation, may be added the fact, that if there are a number of children *Stewart's Elements, Vol. 11, Chap. 11.

together, and one of them suddenly gives way to tears and sobs, it is generally the case, that all the rest are more or less affected in the same manner. Another case, illustrative of the same natural principle, is that of a mob, when they gaze at a dancer on the slack rope. They seem not only to be filled with the same anxiety, which we may suppose to exist in the rope dancer himself; but they naturally writhe, and twist, and balance their own bodies, as they see him do. It has also been frequently remarked, that when we see a stroke aimed and just ready to fall upon the leg or arm of another person, we naturally shrink, and slightly draw back our own leg or arm, with a sort of prophetic or anticipative imitation of the person on whom the blow is about to be inflicted. Hysterical paroxysms are said to have been sometimes produced at witnessing the exhibition of the pathetic parts of a drama. And even the convulsions of epilepsy have been excited by the mere sight of a person afflicted with them.

§. 321. Of sympathetic imitation in large multitudes.

It has been often noticed, that the power of sympathetic imitation has been rendered intense, nearly in proportion to the numbers assembled together. In a large army, if the voice of triumph and joy be raised in a single column, it immediately extends through the whole. On the other hand, if a single column be struck with panic, and exhibit external signs of terror by flight or otherwise, the whole army is likely to become rapidly infected. The tremendous power of the mobs, which are often collected in large cities, may be explained in part, on the same principle. The dark cloud, that is standing upon the brow of one, is soon seen to gather in darkness upon the brow of his neighbor; and thus to propogate itself rapidly in every direction, till one universal gloom of vengeance settles broadly and blackly upon the moving sea of the multitude.

Similar results are sometimes witnessed in large deliberative assemblies. The art of the orator introduces a common feeling, which glows simultaneously in their bosoms. Soon some one, either sustained by weaker nerves or under the influence of stronger internal impulses, gives signs of bodily agitation. Those, who sit nearest, will probably next imbibe

« PoprzedniaDalej »