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by the passion in that state is instantaneous; for the shortest delay sets all to rights; and circumstances are seldom so unlucky as to put it in the power of a passionate man to do much harm in an instant.
Social passions, like the selfish, sometimes drop their character, and become instinctive. It is not unusual to find anger and fear respecting others so excessive, as to operate blindly and impetuously, precisely as where they are selfish.
SECTION VII.-Emotions caused by Fiction.
Hitherto fiction has not been assigned as the cause of any emotion or passion; but passions are moved by fiction as well as by truth.
The objects of our external senses really exist in the way and manner we perceive, and nature determines us to rely on the veracity of our senses; and the power of memory recalls objects to the mind with different degrees of accuracy. Interesting objects make a strong impression. For example, I saw yesterday a beautiful woman in tears for the loss of an only child, and was greatly moved with her distress: not satisfied with a slight recollection or bare remembrance, I ponder upon the melancholy scene: conceiving myself to be in the place where I was an eye-witness, every circumstance appears to me as at first: I think I see the woman in tears, and hear her moans. Hence it may be justly said, that in a complete idea of memory there is no past nor future: a thing recalled to the mind with the accuracy I have been describing, is perceived as in our view, and consequently as existing at present. Past time makes part of an incomplete idea only: I remember or reflect, that some years ago I was at Oxford, and saw the first stone laid of the Ratcliff library. This act of the mind is called conception. The thing exists, and I am a spectator of its existence, and I have a perception of the object similar to what a real spectator has.
Many rules of criticism depend on conception. To
ELEMENTS OF CRITICISM.
distinguish conception from reflective remembrance, I give the following illustration: when I think of an event as past, without forming any image, it is barely reflecting or remembering that I was an eye-witness; but when I recall the event so distinctly as to form a complete image of it, I perceive it as passing in my presence; and this perception is an act of intuition, into which reflection enters not, more than into an act of sight.
Let us now consider the idea of a thing we never saw, raised in us by speech, writing, or painting. That idea, with respect to the present subject, is of the same nature with an idea of memory, being either complete or incomplete. Lively and accurate description raises in us ideas no less distinct than if we had been originally spectators. Slight and superficial narrative produces faint and incomplete ideas, of which conception makes no part. Past time enters into this idea, as into an incomplete idea of memory; as when we have spread out before our minds a lively and beautiful description of the battle of Zama, in which Scipio overcame Hannibal.
Ideas, both of memory and speech, produce emotions similar to those produced by an immediate view of the object; only fainter, in proportion as an idea is fainter than an original perception. Conception supplies the want of real presence; and in idea we perceive persons acting and suffering precisely as in an original survey: hence the pleasure of a reverie, the objects of which we conceive to be actually existing in our presence, precisely as if we were eye-witnesses of them. If then, in reading, conception be the means by which our passions are moved, it makes no difference whether the subject be fable or true history. When the conception is complete, the mind finds no leisure for reflection. The meeting of Hector and Andromache, the passionate scenes in Lear, give an impression of reality no less distinct than that given by Tacitus of the death of Otho.
Even genuine history has no command over our passions but by conception only: in this respect it stands upon the same footing with fable. History reaches not the heart when we indulge in reflection upon the facts; for if reflection be laid aside, it stands upon the same footing with fable. What effect either may have to raise sympathy depends on the vivacity of the ideas they raise, and fable is thence generally more successful than history. Of all the means for making an impression of conception, theatrical representation is the most powerful. Words, independent of action, have the same power in a less degree; for a tragedy will extort tears in private. This power belongs also to painting: a good historical painting makes a deeper impression than words can, but still inferior to theatrical action. Painting possesses a middle place between reading and acting. Painting, however, cannot raise our passions like words: a painting is confined to a single instant, its impression is instantaneous; passions require a succession of impressions; hence the effect of reading and acting, which reiterate impressions without end. The machinery of imaginary beings in an epic poem amuses by its novelty and singularity; but they never move the sympathetic passions, because they cannot impose on the mind by any perception of reality. A burlesque poem may employ machinery with success, because it is not the aim of that poem to raise our sympathy. The more extravagant the fiction, the better.
Having assigned the means by which fiction commands our passions, our task is accomplished by assigning the final cause. Fiction, by means of language, has the command of our sympathy for the good of others. By the same means our sympathy may also be raised for our own good. Examples both of virtue and vice raise virtuous emotions; which becoming stronger by exercise, tend to make us virtuous by habit, as well as by principle. Examples confined to real
events are not so frequent as without other means to produce a habit of virtue. We are formed in such a manner as to be susceptible of the same improvement from fable that we receive from genuine history. By that contrivance examples to improve us in virtue may be multiplied without end. No other sort of discipline contributes more to make virtue habitual, and no other sort is so agreeable in the application. I add another final cause with thorough satisfaction; because it shows that the Author of our nature is not less kindly provident for the happiness of his creatures than for the regularity of their conduct: the power that fiction has over the mind, affords an endless variety of refined amusement always at hand to employ a vacant hour: such amusements are a fine resource in solitude; and, by cheering and sweetening the mind, contribute greatly to social happiness.
How do fear and anger operate?
Give examples of their deliberative action.
Give an example of the instinctive action of fear of anger.
How is instinctive anger frequently raised?
Give the instance of blind and absurd anger from the Spectator.
For what purpose was anger given us?
What prevents mischief arising from absurd passion.
Give examples of past scenes made present to the mind?
How is conception distinguished from reflective remembrance?
Of what does conception supply the want? How?
Does fiction impress us as strongly as history? Why?
How does history command the passions?
What is the most powerful means of making an impression by conception?
What else possesses this power?
Why is painting less effective in raising the passions than words? Give examples.
What are the uses of fiction?
Emotions and Passions, as pleasant and painful. Agreeable and disagreeable modifications of these Qualities.
It will naturally occur at first, that a discourse upon the passions ought to commence with explaining the qualities now mentioned: but upon trial, I found that this explanation could not be made distinctly, till the difference should first be ascertained between an emotion and a passion, and their causes unfolded.
Great obscurity may be observed among writers with regard to the present point; particularly, no care is taken to distinguish agreeable from pleasant, disagreeable from painful; or rather these terms are deemed synonymous. This is an error not at all venial in the science of ethics. Some painful passions, we affirm, are agreeable; some pleasant passions are disagreeable.
Viewing a fine garden, I perceive it to be beautiful or agreeable as belonging to the object, or one of its qualities. When I turn my attention from the garden to what passes in my mind, I am conscious of a pleasant emotion, of which the garden is the cause. This pleasure is a quality of the emotion produced, not of the garden. A rotten carcass is disagreeable, and raises a painful emotion; the disagreeableness is a quality of the object, the pain the quality of the emotion. Agreeable and disagreeable are qualities of the objects we perceive; pleasant and painful are qualities of the emotions we feel: the former belongs to the objects, the latter exist within us.
But a passion or emotion, beside being felt, is frequently made an object of thought or reflection: we examine it; we inquire into its nature, its cause, and its effects. In that view, like other objects, it is either agreeable or disagreeable. Hence clearly appear the different significations of the terms under