Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

verse, on a slight view, they may appear, they are by nature modelled and tempered with perfect wisdom, for the good of society as well as for private good. The subject, treated at large, would be too extensive for the present work; all there is room for, are a few general observations upon the sensitive part of our nature, without regarding that strange irregularity of passion discovered in some individuals. Such topical irregularities cannot fairly be held an objection to the present theory: we are frequently misled by inordinate passion ; but less frequently by wrong judgment.

An agreeable cause produces a pleasant emotion; a disagreeable cause a painful emotion; and this law admits not a single exception. Many inanimate objects, considered as the causes of emotion, are made agreeable, to promote our happiness. This proves the benignity of the Deity, that we are placed among objects, for the most part agreeable, and the bulk of such objects are of real use in common life; hence they are agreeable to excite our industry. On the other hand, it is not easy to name a disagreeable object that is not hurtful; some are disagreeable because they are noxious; others, a dirty marsh for example, or a barren heath, are made disagreeable, in order, as above, to excite our industry. And with respect to the few things that are neither agreeable nor disagreeable, their being left indifferent is not a work of chance, but of wisdom; of such I shall have occasion to give several instances.

Because inanimate objects that are agreeable fix our attention, and draw us to them, they in that respect are termed attractive; such objects inspire pleasant emotions, which are gratified by adhering to the objects, and enjoying them. Because disagreeable objects of the same kind repel us from them, they in that respect are termed repulsive ; and the painful emotions raised by such objects are gratified by flying from them. Thus, in general, with respect to things inanimate, the tendency of every pleasant emotion is to prolong the 9. pleasure; and the tendency of every painful emotion is to end the pain.

Sensible beings, considered as objects of passion, lead into a more complex theory. A sensible being that is agreeable by its attributes, inspires us with a pleasant emotion accompanied with desire; and such objects being of real use in life, are made agreeable in order to excite our industry. To the man of feeling every amiable being gives pleasure; every sensible being gives pleasure; and their happiness becomes the gratification of his desire.

Sensible beings in distress raise a painful emotion, and, were man purely a selfish being, he would desire to be relieved from that pain, by turning from the object. But the principle of benevolence gives an opposite direction to his desire: it makes him desire to afford relief; and by relieving the person from distress, his passion is gratified. The painful passion thus directed, is termed sympathy; which, though painful, is yet in its nature attractive. And, with respect to its final cause, we can be at no loss: it not only tends to relieve a fellow-creature from distress, but in its gratification is considerably more pleasant, than if it were repulsive.

We, in the last place, bring under consideration persons hateful by vice or wickedness. Imagine a wretch who has lately perpetrated some horrid crime: he is disagreeable to every spectator; and consequently raises in every spectator a painful passion. But a principle common to all, prompts us to punish those who do wrong; an envious, a malicious, or a cruel action. being disagreeable, raises in the spectator the painful emotion of resentment, which frequently swells into a passion; and the natural gratification of the desire included in that passion, is to punish the guilty person I must chastise the wretch by indignation at least, and hatred, if not more severely. Here the final cause is self-evident.

An injury done to myself, touching me more than when done to others, raises my resentment to a higher degree. The desire, accordingly, included in this pas

sion, is not satisfied with so slight a punishment as in· dignation or hatred; it is not fully gratified with re

taliation; and the author must by my hand suffer mischief, as great at least as he has done to me. Neither can we be at any loss about the final cause of that higher degree of resentment; the whole vigor of the passion is required to secure individuals from the injustice and oppression of others.

A wicked or disgraceful action is disagreeable not only to others, but even to the delinquent himself; and raises in both a painful emotion, including a desire of punishment. The painful emotion felt by the delinquent, is distinguished by the name of remorse; which naturally excites him to punish himself. There cannot be imagined a better contrivance to deter us from vice; for remorse itself is a severe punishment. That passion, and the desire of self-punishment derived from it, are touched delicately by Otway.

Monimia. Let mischiefs multiply! let every hour
Of my loath'd life yield me increase of horror!
Oh, let the sun to these unhappy eyes
Ne'er shine again, but be eclips’d for ever!
May every thing I look on seem a prodigy,
To fill my soul with terror, till I quite
Forget I ever had humanity,
And grow a curser of the works of nature!

ORPHAN.-Act IV. Nothing can be more entertaining to a rational mind than the economy of the human passions, of which we have attempted to give some faint notion.

It must, however, be acknowledged, that our passions, when they happen to swell beyond proper limits, take on a less regular appearance: reason may proclaim our duty, but the will, influenced by passion, makes gratification always welcome. Hence the power of passion, which, when in excess, cannot be resisted but by the utmost fortitude of mind: it is bent upon gratification; and where proper objects are wanting, it clings to any object at hand without distinction.

E

REVIEW.

Do emotions sometimes resemble their causes ? Give an example. Give examples of the effect of sound-of form-of attitude. To what besides still life does the observation apply? What is the effect of an instance of gratitude? What other passions are infectious ? What determines the will? What results from hence? Are the passions created for the public and for private good ? Why are some inanimate objects made agreeable? What does this prove? Why are other inanimate objects made disagreeable? Why are certain objects called attractive? Why are others called repulsive ? What effect is produced by an agreeable sensible being? What principle is the origin of sympathy? Does it afford gratification to the person that feels it? What emotion is raised by the sight of vice and wickedness ?-what desire ?

For what is the principle of personal resentment implanted within us?

What is the origin of remorse?
What is its use?
What results from passion which has passed the proper limits?

CHAPTER III.

Beauty. BEAUTY, the most noted of all the qualities that belong to single objects, is a term which, in its native signification, is appropriated to objects of sight.

A tree, the simplest object of external sense, presents to us color, figure, size, and sometimes motion. The beauty of the human figure is extraordinary, being a éomposition of numberless beauties, arising from the parts and qualities of the objects ; various colors, various motions, figures, size, &c. all unite in one complex object, and strike the eye with combined force. Hence it is, that beauty, a quality so remarkable in visible objects, lends its name to express every thing that is eminently agreeable: thus, by a figure of speech, we say a beautiful sound, a beautiful thought or expression, a beautiful theorem, a beautiful event, a beautiful discovery in art or science. But, as figurative expression is the subject of a following chapter, this chapter is confined to beauty in its proper signification.

It is natural to suppose, that a perception so various as that of beauty, comprehending sometimes many particulars, sometimes few, should occasion emotions equally various; and yet all the various emotions of beauty maintain one common character, that of sweetness and gaiety.

Considering attentively the beauty of visible objects, we discover two kinds: first, intrinsic beauty, because it is discovered in a single object viewed apart without relation to any other: the examples above given are of that kind. The other, relative beauty, being founded on the relation of objects. The purposed distribution would lead me to handle these beauties separately; but they are frequently so intimately connected, that, for the sake of connexion, I am forced to vary the plan, and to bring them both into the same chapter. Intrinsic beauty is an object of sense merely: to perceive the beauty of a spreading oak, or of a flowing river, no more is required but singly an act of vision. The perception of relative beauty, is accompanied with an act of understanding and reflection, and of means relating to some good end or purpose. Intrinsic beauty is ultimate; and the beauty of effect is transferred to the cause. A subject void of beauty, appears beautiful from its utility, as an old gothic tower, considered as a defence against an enemy; a dwelling-house, from its conveniences. When these beauties coincide in any object, it appears delightful. The beauty of utility requires no illustration. The beauty of color is too familiar to need explanation.

Let us inquire into the beauty of figure, as arising

« PoprzedniaDalej »