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of Greece or Rome? If the one never had any existence, neither have the other any at present, which, with respect to the final causes of our pafsions, is the same thing.
The faithful historian, and the writer of romances, having the same access to the springs of the human passions, it is no wonder that the latter generally moves them more forcibly, since he hath the choice of every circumstance that contributes to raise them; whereas the former hath nothing in his power but the disposition of them, and is restricted even in that. I fancy, however, that no person of reading and observation can doubt of the fact, that more tears have been shed, and more intense joy hath been expressed in the perusal of novels, romances, and feigned tragedies, than in reading all the true histories in the world. Who ever, upon any occurrence in real history, ever felt what he must feel in reading Clarissa, George Barnwell, Eloisa, and many other well-contrived fictions. It is to no purpose to say to ourselves,
This is alla fiction, why am I thus affected?” if we read, and form an idea of the scenes there exhibited, we must feel in spite of ourselves. The thought of its being a fi&tion enables us to make but a feeble and ineffectual effort to repress our feelings, when the ideas which excite them are very strong and vivid. Some persons, however, may have acquired such an aversion to all works of fiction, that they cannot be prevailed H
on of considerable consequence, it will be frequently repeated, and applied to the particular figures, when they come to be separately explained and illustrated.
The Division of this part of the Work into what af
feets the Passions, JUDGMENT, and IMAGI
Of the Effeet of Vivid RepresentATION, the
Use of the Present Tense in describing past Scenes, and of PARTICULAR Names and CIR
AVING considered the nature of taste, and of figurative language in general, I proceed to consider distinctly the several objects that offer themselves to our attention respecting the ornament that sentiment admits of. These, as they were before pointed out, are either fome of the more remarkable and general affections of the stronger pasions ; those forms of address which are adapted to engage assent, or those finer feelings which constitute the pleasures of the imagination. Each of these three objects will engage our attention in the order in which they are here mentioned.
The first observation I shall make on the general affections of the passions, is, that they are engaged, and we feel ourselves interested, in proportion to the vividness of our ideas of those objects and cirupon to give that unprejudiced attention to them which this experiment requires.
The use of the present tense in the narration of past events contributes greatly to heighten the ideal presence of any scene. This form of narration is introduced with the most advantage when a preceding lively and animated description hath already, as it were, transported the reader into the scene of action. In that situation of mind, he is so far from being sensible of the real impropriety of that style, that it appears to him the most natural; and indeed no other would correspond to his feelings: and too precipitate a return to the proper style of narration would have a very bad effect, as it would put an end to the pleasing illusion, which makes the scene so interesting, and which can continue no longer than while the reader conceives himself present with the objects that are presented to his imagination. In the following poetical description of a battle, we have an example of a very natural, and therefore (for the reason given above) unperceived transition from the preter to the present time.
And now with shouts the shocking armies closed,
In the following descriptions we cannot but feel the ill effect of too precipitate a return to the proper style of narration, and of the still worse effect of passing from time past to the present, and from the present to the past, as it were alternately in the same scene.
Here all the terrors of grim war appear,
ILIAD V. 914
ILIAD V. 65.
Since no form of expreslion can appear natural, unless it correspond to the feelings of the person who uses it, let no writer adopt the present tense in describing a past transaction, unless the scene be so interesting, that the reader can hardly help realizing it, and fancying that he actually sees and hears every thing that is represented ; otherwise the affectation becomes sensible, and cannot fail to give disgust.
It is a very extravagant stretch of this figure when a public speaker represents a scene that is H 2