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Of

of

gar, quacks and projectors meet with a more easy faith SECT.

X. upon account of their magnificent pretensions, than if they kept themselves within the bounds of moderation.

the influence The first astonishment, which naturally attends their

belief. miraculous relations, spreads itself over the whole soul, and so vivifies and enlivens the idea, that it resembles the inferences we draw from experience. This is a mystery, with which we may be already a little acquainted, and which we shall have further occasion to be let into in the progress of this Treatise.

After this account of the influence of belief on the passions, we shall find less difficulty in explaining its effects on the imagination, however extraordinary they may appear. 'Tis certain we cannot take pleasure in any discourse, where our judgment gives no assent to those images which are presented to our fancy. The conversation of those, who have acquired a habit of lying, though in affairs of no moment, never gives any satisfaction; and that because those ideas they present to us, not being attended with belief, make no impression upon the mind. Poets themselves, though liars by profession, always endeavour to give an air of truth to their fictions; and where that is totally neglected, their performances, however ingenious, will never be able to afford much pleasure. In short, we may observe, that even when ideas have no manner of influence on the will and passions, truth and reality are still requisite, in order to make them entertaining to the imagination.

But if we compare together all the phenomena that occur on this head, we shall find, that truth, however necessary it may seem in all works of genius, has no other effect than to procure an easy reception for the ideas, and to make the mind acquiesce in them with

But as

and

PART satisfaction, or at least without reluctance.
III.

this is an effect, which may easily be supposed to flow Of from that solidity and force, which, according to my knowledge

system, attend those ideas that are established by reaprobability. sonings from causation; it follows, that all the influ

ence of belief upon the fancy may be explained from that system. Accordingly we may observe, that wherever that influence arises from any other principles beside truth or reality, they supply its place, and give an equal entertainment to the imagination. Poets have formed what they call a poetical system of things, which, though it be believed neither by themselves nor readers, is commonly esteemed a sufficient foundation for any fiction. . We have been so much accustomed to the names of Mars, Jupiter, Venus, that in the same manner as education infixes any opinion, the constant repetition of these ideas makes them enter into the mind with facility, and prevail upon the fancy, without influencing the judgment. In like manner tragedians always borrow their fable, or at least the names of their principal actors, from some known passage in history; and that not in order to deceive the spectators; for they will frankly confess, that truth is not in any circumstance inviolably observed, but in order to procure a more easy reception into the imagination for those extraordinary events, which they represent. But this is a precaution which is not required of comic poets, whose personages and incidents, being of a more familiar kind, enter easily into the conception, and are received without any such formality, even though at first sight they be known to be fictitions, and the pure offspring of the fancy.

This mixture of truth and falsehood in the fables of tragic poets not only serves our present purpose, by

X.

Of

the influence

of belief.

showing that the imagination can be satisfied without SECT, any absolute belief or assurance; but may in another view be regarded as a very strong confirmation of this system. 'Tis evident, that poets make use of this artifice of borrowing the names of their persons, and the chief events of their poems, from history, in order to procure a more easy reception for the whole, and cause it to make a deeper impression on the fancy and affections. The several incidents of the piece acquire a kind of relation by being united into one poem or representation; and if any of these incidents be an object of belief, it bestows a force and vivacity on the others, which are related to it. The vividness of the first conception diffuses itself along the relations, and is conveyed, as by so many pipes or canals, to every idea that has any communication with the primary one.

This indeed can never amount to a perfect assurance; and that because the union among the ideas is in a manner accidental; but still it approaches so near in its influence, as may convince us that they are derived from the same origin. Belief must please the imagination by means of the force and vivacity which attends it; since every idea, which has force and vivacity, is found to be agreeable to that faculty.

To confirm this we may observe, that the assistance is mutual betwixt the judgment and fancy, as well as betwixt the judgment and passion; and that belief not only gives vigour to the imagination, but that a vigorous and strong imagination is of all talents the most proper to procure belief and authority, 'Tis difficult for us to withhold our assent from what is painted out to us in all the colours of eloquence; and the vivacity produced by the fancy is in many cases greater than that which arises from custom and experience. We

PART
III.

Of

and

are hurried away by the lively imagination of our author or companion; and even he himself is often a vic

tim to his own fire and genius. knowledge

Nor will it be amiss to remark, that as a lively imaprobability. gination very often degenerates into madness or folly,

and bears it a great resemblance in its operations ; so they influence the judgment after the same manner, and produce belief from the very same principles. When the imagination, from any extraordinary ferment of the blood and spirits, acquires such a vivacity as disorders all its powers and faculties, there is no means of distinguishing betwixt truth and falsehood; but every loose fiction or idea, having the same influence as the impressions of the memory, or the conclusions of the judgment, is received on the same footing, and operates with equal force on the passions. A present impression and a customary transition are now no longer necessary to enliven our ideas. Every chimera of the brain is as vivid and intense as

any those inferences, which we formerly dignified with the name of conclusions concerning matters of fact, and sometimes as the present impressions of the senses.

We may observe the same effect of poetry in a lesser degree ; and this is common both to poetry and madness, that the vivacity they bestow on the ideas is not derived from the particular situations or connexions of the objects of these ideas, but from the present temper and disposition of the person. But how great soever the pitch may be to which this vivacity rise, 'tis evident, that in poetry it never has the same feeling with that which arises in the mind, when we reason, though even upon the lowest species of probability. The mind can easily distinguish betwixt the one and the other; and whatever emotion the po

of

X.

etical enthusiasm may give to the spirits, 'tis still the SECT. mere phantom of belief or persuasion. The case is the same with the idea as with the passion it occasions. There is no passion of the human mind but what may arise from poetry; though, at the same time, the feelings of the passions are very different when excited by poetical fictions, from what they are when they arise from belief and reality. A passion which is disagreeable in real life, may afford the highest entertainment in a tragedy or epic poem. In the latter case it lies not with that weight upon us : it. feels less firm and solid, and has no other than the agreeable effect of exciting the spirits, and rousing the attention. The difference in the passions is a clear proof of a like difference in those ideas from which the passions are derived. Where the vivacity arises from a customary conjunction with a present impression, though the imagination may not, in appearance, be so much moved, yet there is always something more forcible and real in its actions than in the fervours of poetry and eloquence. The force of our mental actions in this case, no more than in any other, is not to be measured by the apparent agitation of the mind. A poetical description may have a more sensible effect on the fancy than an historical narration. It may collect more of those circumstances that form a complete image or picture. It may seem to set the object before us in more lively colours. But still the ideas it presents are different to the feeling from those which arise from the memory and the judgment. There is something weak and imperfect amidst all that seeming vehemence of thought and sentiment which attends the fictions of poetry.

Of the influence

of belief.

We shall afterwards have occasion to remark both

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