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other follows, in imagination, the unfortunate man to his dwelling, and partakes with him and his family in their domestic diftreffes. He listens to their conversa. tion, while they recal to remembrance the flattering prospects they once indulged; the circle of friends they had been forced to leave; the liberal plans of education which were begun and interrupted; and pictures out to himself all the various resources which delicacy and pride suggest, to conceal poverty from the world. As he proceeds in the painting, his sensibility increases, and he weeps, not for what he sees, but for what he imagines. It will be said, that it was his sensibility which originally roused his imagination; and the observation is undoubtedly true; but it is equally evident, on the other hand, that the warmth of his imagination increases and prolongs his sensibility.
This is beautifully illustrated in the Sentimental Journey of Sterne. While engaged in a train of reflections on the State prisons in France, the accidental sight of a starling in a cage suggests to him the idea of a captive in his dungeon. He indulges his imagination," and looks through the twilight of the grated “ door to take the picture.”
“ 1 beheld,” (says he,)“ his body half-wasted away “ with long expectation and confinement, and felt “ what kind of sickness of the heart it is, which « arifes from hope deferred. Upon looking nearer, " I saw him pale and feverish : in thirty years the
western breeze had not once fanned his blood: he “ had seen no sun, no moon, in all that time, nor had " the voice of friend or kinsman breathed through « his lattice.--His children --But here my heart
began to bleed, and I was forced to go on with “ another part of the portrait.
“ He was fitting upon the ground, in the farthest
corner of his dungeon, on a little straw, which was “ alternately his chair and bed : a little calender of a small sticks was laid at the head, notched all over “ with the dismal days and nights he had passed “ there :-he had one of these little sticks in his hand, " and with a rusty nail he was etching another day of “ misery to add to the heap. As I darkened the little
light he had, he lifted up a hopeless eye towards “ the door, then cast it down-shook his head, and " went on with his work of amiction."
The foregoing observations may account, in part, for the effect which exhibitions of fictitious distress produce on some persons, who do not discover much fensibility to the distresses of real life. In a Novel, or a Tragedy, the picture is completely finished in all its parts; and we are made acquainted not only with every
circumstance on which the distress turns, but with the sentiments and feelings of every character with respect to his situation. In real life we see, in general, only detached scenes of the Tragedy; and the impression is flight, unless imagination finilhes the cha. ra&ters, and supplies the incidents that are wanting.
It is not only to scenes of distress that imagination increases our sensibility. It gives us a double share in the prosperity of others, and enables us to partake, with a more lively interest, in every fortunate incident that occurs either to individuals or to communities. Even from the productions of the earth, and the viciffitudes of the year, it carries forward our thoughts to
the enjoyments they bring to the sensitive creation, and by interesting our benevolent affections in the scenes we behold, lends a new charm to the beauties of nature.
I have often been inclined to think, that the apparent coldness and selfishness of mankind may be traced, in a great measure, to a want of attention and a want of imagination. In the case of misfortunes which happen to ourselves, or to our near connexions, neither of these powers is necessary to make us acquainted with our situation ; so that we feel, of necessity, the correspondent emotions. But without an uncommon degree of both, it is impossible for any man to comprehend completely the situation of his neighbour, or to have an idea of a great part of the distress which exists in the world. If we feel therefore more for ourselves than for others, the difference is to be ascribed, at least partly, to this; that, in the former case, the facts which are the foundation of our feelings, are more fully before us than they poflibly can be in the latter.
In order to prevent misapprehensions of my meaning, it is necessary for me to add, that I do not mean to deny that it is a law of our nature, in cases in which there is an interferenee between our own interest and that of other men, to give a certain degree of preference to ourselves; even supposing our neighbour's situation to be as completely known to us as our own. I only affirm, that, where this preference becomes blameable and unjust, the effect is to be accounted for partly in the way I mentioned *. One striking proof of this is,
* I say partly ; for habits of inattention to the situation of other men, undoubtedly presuppofe fome defect in the social affections.
the powerful emotions which may be occasionally excited in the minds of the most callous, when the attention has been once fixed, and the imagination awakened, by eloquent and circumstantial and pathetic description.
A very amiable and profound moralist in the account which he has given of the origin of our sense of justice, has, I think, drawn a less pleasing picture of the natural constitution of the human mind, than is agreeable to truth. “ To disturb,” (says he,)“ the happiness “ of our neighbour, merely because it stands in the way “ of our own; to take from him what is of real use
to him, merely because it may be of equal or of
more use to us; or, to indulge, in this manner, at “ the expence of other people, the natural preference “ which every man has for his own happiness above " that of other people, is what no impartial spectator
can go along with. Every man is, no doubt, first “ and principally recommended to his own care; and
as he is fitter to take care of himself than of any other “ person, it is fit and right that it should be fo. Every
man, therefore, is much more deeply interested in “ whatever immediately concerns himself, than in what concerns any
other man: and to hear, perhaps, of “ the death of another person with whom we have no “ particular connexion, will give us less concern, will
spoil our stomach, or break our rest, much less than “ a very insignificant difafter which has befallen our“ selves. But though the ruin of our neighbour may " affect us much less than a very small misfortune of “ our own, we must not ruin him to prevent that “ small misfortune, nor even to prevent our own LI
" ruin. 66 ruin.
-66 nificant part
We must here, as in all other cases, view “ ourselves not so much according to that light “ in which we may naturally appear to ourselves,
as according to that in which we naturally appear to others.
Though every man may, ac“ cording to the proverb, be the whole world to “ himself, to the rest of mankind he is a most insig
of it. Though his own happiness may “ be of more importance to him than that of all the “ world besides, to every other person it is of no more “ consequence than that of any other man. Though “ it may be true, therefore, that every individual, in “ his own breast, naturally prefers himself to all man“ kind, yet he dares not look mankind in the face, " and avow that he acts according to this principle. “ He feels that, in this preference they can never go
along with him, and that how natural soever it may “ be to him, it must always appear excessive and ex
travagant to them. When he views himself in the “ light in which he is conscious that others will view “ him, he sees that to them he is but one of the mul“ titude, in no respect better than any other in it. If “ he would act so as that the impartial spectator may
enter into the principles of his conduct, which is “ what of all things he has the greatest desire to do, he “ must, upon this, as upon all other occasions, humble “ the arrogance of his self-love, and bring it down “ to something which other men can go along with.”
I am ready to acknowledge, that there is much truth in this passage ; and that a prudential regard to the opinion of others, might teach a man of good sense, without the aid of more amiable motives, to conceal