Abbildungen der Seite


manner; and that there are many well-attested instances of the greatest imaginable extravagancies of this kind in persons of strong passions and little reflection. Are we not credibly informed by Herodotus, that Xerxes, in great wrath and earnestness, insulted the Hellespont, both by words and actions, when he found the bridge he had laid over it broken to pieces. Nay, did not the Athenians institute a process at law against all instruments of murder, by which clubs, axes, swords, and the like, were strictly tried, and, if found guilty, expelled the territories of Attica ? Nothing like any of these instances could ever have occured, nor could any passion ever have been expressed, or gratified, in so absurd a man

if the mind had not been under a temporary illufion, during which it actually conceived those things, which were no moral agents, to be the proper objects of passion.

Let it be observed, that the personification of brute creatures and inanimate things is taken notice of in this place, as it accounts for their becoming the objects of the passions properly so called. This subject will be considered in a future lecture in quite another light, as contributing to excite thofe finer feelings, which have been before spoken of, as constituting the pleafures of the imagination.



[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

Of the Influence of the Passions on each other, and other

Circumstances relating to strong Emotions of Mind.

ANOTHER obfervation relating to the paf

fions, and of considerable use in criticism, is that they are excited with more or less ease according to the state of mind previous to them; and that when several of them are in joint poffeffion of the mind, they are liable to be greatly affected by their mutual influences upon one another.

Those passions, the emotions belonging to which are similar, easily introduce, and, as it were, pass into one another. As Mr. Hume well expresses it, “ All resembling impressions are connected toge" ther; and no sooner one arises, than the rest “ naturally follow. Grief and disappointment "give rise to anger, anger to envy, envy to ma“ lice, and malice to grief again. In like man

ner our temper, when elevated with joy, nathi turally throws itself into love, generosity, cou

rage, pride, and other resembling affections." Mume's dissertation on the passions.

On the other hand, when emotions of a very opposite nature, which consist of contrary feelings, ate, from independent causes, excited in the mind


at the same time, the oppofition, or contrast, ferves to heighten both. Their difference being hereby rendered very sensible, each of them is more strongly felt than either of them would have been, if they had been impressed singly.

The former of these observations admits of the easiest illustration from the kindred pafrons, as they may be called, of love and pity. These, having the same languid tone, the fame situation of mind is favourable to the introduction of both; and the mind, after having been under the influence of one, is more easily susceptible of impressions from the other.

This is finely illustrated in the speech of Othello in Shakespeare, the following lines of which close the account he gives of his courtship of Defdemona.

On this hint I spake.
She loved me for the dangers I had past,
And I loved her that she did pity them.

OTHELLO, A I. Scene 8.

It must, however, be acknowledged that, in this case, a relation of perilous adventures, in which a person hath acquitted himself bravely, begets a great esteem for the adventurer, which is a confiderable ingredient in the paision of love.

To be sensible of the effect of the cantrariety of emotions, let any one but think how impatient of mirth must a person be who is oppressed with forrow! how much every appearance of joy heightens

[ocr errors]

his distress! Hence the sentimients which Milton afcribes to Satan in Paradise ;

With what delight could I have walk'd the round!

But I in none of these
Find place or refuge, and the more I see
Pleasures about ine, so much the more I feel
Torments within me.


When two states of mind are wholly opposite to one another, it is pleasant to observe the fluctuation of mind occasioned by the alternate prevalence of each of them. If a resolution must succeed it, as is the case of Meleager's mother debating with herself whether to destroy her son, or revenge

her þrother; the preponderating of the mind to one side in some measure gratifies that passion, which necessarily abates its violence, and gives a momentary advantage to the contrary inclination. This circumstance may prolong the state of sus pense, in which, in this situation, the mind is neceifarily kept a considerable time.

If no resolution be depending, as in the mere impreslion made upon the mind by good and bad pews, the stronger emotion will at length overpower the less; and the mind, after having been subject to the influence of both, will settle in a state which is the result of their joint impressions. We see a strong conflict of opposite sensations in Ofmyn in chains on hearing some unexpected good news. Mourning Bride, Akt III. Scene 2.


[ocr errors]

ng These observations relating to the opposition of emotions and passions is of great importance, even in the conduct of life. In no other respect doth men's happiness so much depend upon the regulation of their paflions. Since it is obvious that the sense we have of our happiness may be increased by comparison with the misery of others ; and our meanness and wretchedness may, for the same reason, be made sensible and intolerable, by reflection upon the happiness we do not partake. The pasion of envy hath no other source for its venom ; and hence the delightful sentiments of gratitude, and the calm emotions of contentment derive all their pleasures.

In order to raise a very lively and tender sentiment, it is of advantage to describe the circumstances which raise it, in as few words as possible. The less time is lost in transition, the nearer is any sentiment brought in contrast with the preceding state of mind, and consequently the more sensibly it is perceived. Besides, when few words are sufficient to present a moving scene to the mind, it approaches nearly to giving a view of the scene itself, without description. The writer disappears, and the scene itself is before us ; and to apply a general maxim to this particular case, if the principal and leading circumstances in any scene be expressed, the more negligent a writer seems to be to unfold all the particulars connected with them, the more will the reader imagine ; and instead of his


« ZurückWeiter »