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or ridiculous; the former is mirthful, the latter both mirthful and contemptible. The first raises an emotion altogether pleasant; the pleasant emotion of laughter raised by the other, is blended with the painful emotion of contempt, and the mixed emotion is termed the emotion of ridicule. The pain a ridiculous object gives me is resented and punished by a laugh of derision. A risible object, on the other hand, gives me no pain: it is altogether pleasant by a certain sort of titillation, which is expressed externally by mirthful laughter. Ridicule will be more fully explained afterward: the present chapter is appropriated to the other emotion.
Risible objects are so common, and so well understood, that it is unnecessary to consume paper or time
Resemblance and Dissimilitude. NATURE has given us a vigorous propensity to compare new objects and discover their resemblance and difference. We are gratified most by discovering difference among things where resemblance prevails, and resemblance where difference prevails. A comparison may be too far stretched; when difference or resemblance are carried beyond certain bounds, they appear slight and trivial, and cannot be relished by a man of taste.
That resemblance and dissimilitude have an enlivening effect upon objects of sight, is sufficiently
evident; and that they have the same effect upon objects of the other senses, is also certain. Nor is that law confined to the external senses; for characters contrasted make a greater figure by the opposition: Iago, in the tragedy of Othello, says,
He hath a daily beauty in his life,
That makes me ugly. The character of a fop, and of a rough warrior, are nowhere more successfully contrasted than in Shakspeare's First Part of Henry IV. Act I. Sc. 3.
Passions and emotions are also inflamed by comparison. A man of high rank humbles the bystanders, even to annihilate them in their own opinion: Cæsar, beholding the statue of Alexander, was greatly mortified that now, at the age of thirty-two, when Alexander died, he had not performed one memorable action. Our opinions also are much influenced by compari
A man whose opulence exceeds the ordinary standard, is reputed richer than he is in reality; and wisdom or weakness, if at all remarkable in an individual, is generally carried beyond the truth.
The opinion a man forms of his present distress is heightened by contrasting it with his former happi
The distress of a long journey makes even an indifferent inn agreeable; and in travelling when the road is good, and the horseman well covered, a bad day may be agreeable by making him sensible how
snug he is.
The same effect is equally remarkable, when a man opposes his condition to that of others. A ship tossed about in a storm, makes the spectator reflect upon his own ease and security, and puts these in the strongest light. A man in grief cannot bear mirth: it makes him unhappy, by giving him a lively notion of his unhappiness.
The appearance of danger gives sometimes pleasure, sometimes pain. A timorous person upon the battle
ments of a high tower, is seized with fear, which even the consciousness of security cannot dissipate. But upon one of a firm head the appearance of danger heightens, by opposition, the consciousness of security, and, consequently, the satisfaction that arises therefrom: here, the feeling resembles that above-mentioned, occasioned by a ship laboring in a storm.
The effect of magnifying or lessening objects by means of comparison, is so familiar, that no philosopher has thought of searching for a cause; which is simply the influence of passion over our opinions.
The greatest disparity between objects of different kinds, is so common as to be observed with perfect indifference; but such disparity between objects of the same kind, being uncommon, never fails to produce surprise: and may we not fairly conclude, that surprise, in the latter case, is what occasions the deception, when we find no deception in the former? In the next place, if surprise be the sole cause of the deception, it follows necessarily, that the deception will vanish as soon as the objects compared become familiar. This holds so unerringly, as to leave no reasonable doubt that surprise is the prime mover. Our surprise is great the first time a small lap-dog is seen with a large mastiff; but when two such animals are constantly together, there is no surprise, and it makes no difference whether they be viewed separately or in company: we set no bounds to the riches of a man who has recently made his fortune, the surprising disproportion between his present and his past situation being carried to an extreme; but with regard to a family that for many generations hath enjoyed great wealth, the same false reckoning is not made. It is equally remarkable, that a trite simile has no effect; a lover compared to a moth scorching itself at the flame of a candle, originally a sprightly simile, has, by frequent use, lost all force; love cannot now be compared to fire, without some degree of disgust: it has been justly objected against Homer
that the lion is too often introduced into his similies all the variety he is able to throw into them not being sufficient to keep alive the reader's surprise.
Emotions make the greatest figure when contrasted in succession ; but the succession ought neither to be rapid, nor immoderately slow: if too slow, the effect of contrast becomes faint by the distance of the emotions; and if rapid, no single emotion has room to expand itself to its full size, but is stifled, as it were, in the birth, by a succeeding emotion.
What is above laid down, will enable us to determine a very important question concerning emotions raised by the fine arts, namely, Whether ought similar emotions to succeed each other, or dissimilar? The emotions raised by the fine arts, are for the most part tou nearly related to make a figure by resemblance; and for that reason their succession ought to be regulated as much as possible by contrast. This holds confessedly in epic.and dramatic compositions; and the best writers, led perhaps more by taste than by reasoning, have generally aimed at that beauty. It holds equally in music; in the same cantata, all the variety of emotions that are within the power of music may not only be indulged, but, to make the greatest figure, ought to be contrasted. In gardening, there is an additional reason for the rule: the emotions raised by that art are at best so faint, that every artifice should be employed to give them their utmost vigor: a field 'may be laid out in grand, sweet, gay, neat, wild, melancholy scenes; and when these are viewed in succession, grandeur ought to be contrasted with neatness, regularity with wildness, and gaiety with melancholy, so as that each emotion may succeed its opposite: nay, it is an improvement to intermix in the succession rude uncultivated spots as well as unbounded views, which in themselves are disagreeable, but in succession heighten the feeling of the agreeable objects; and we have nature for our guide, which in her most beautiful landscapes often intermixes rugged rocks, dirty marshes, and barren stony heaths. The greatest masters of music have the same view in their
compositions: the second part of an Italian song seldom conveys any sentiment; and, by its harshness, seems purposely contrived to give a greater relish for the interesting parts of the composition.
REVIEW. Why are we gratified by the discovery of resemblance and dissimilitude?
What is the effect of carrying a comparison too far?
The opposite effects of an appearance of danger on a timid ano a bold person.
Where does disparity strike us strongly?
What is the effect of frequently repeating comparisons and
be regulated ?
Uniformity and Variety. The necessary succession of our perceptions regards order and connexion, uniformity and variety. The world is replete with objects as remarkable for their variety as for their number; and these, unfolded by the wonderful mechanism of external sense, furnish the mind with innumerable perceptions, which, joined with ideas of memory, imagination and reflection, form a complete train that has no gap or interval. This train depends little on the will, by artificial means it may be retarded or accelerated, rendered