Page images
PDF
EPUB

and every appearance of nature; because his atten, tion dwells more habitually on human life and conduct, than on the material objects around him. This is the cafe with the banished Duke, in Shakespeare's As you like it, who, in the language of that Poet,

Finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks, "Sermons in stones, and good in every thing."

But this is plainly a diftempered state of the mind; and the allufions please, not fo much by the analogies they prefent, as by the picture they give of the character of the person to whom they have occurred.

2. An allufion pleases, by prefenting a new and beautiful image to the mind. The analogy or the resemblance between this image and the principal fubject, is agreeable of itfelf, and is indeed neceffary to furnish an apology for the transition which the writer makes; but the pleasure is wonderfully heightened, when the new image thus prefented is a beautiful one. The following allufion, in one of Mr. Home's tragedies, appears to me to unite almost every excellence :

"Hope and fear, alternate, sway'd his breast;
"Like light and shade upon a waving field,
"Coursing each other, when the flying clouds
"Now hide, and now reveal, the Sun.'

Here the analogy is remarkably perfect; not only between light and hope, and between darkness and fear; but between the rapid fucceffion of light and fhade, and the momentary influences of these oppofite emotions and, at the fame time, the new image which is prefented to us, is one of the most beautiful and ftriking in nature,

:

The foregoing obfervations fuggeft a reason why the principal ftores of Fancy are commonly supposed

Wit has

to be borrowed from the material world. a more extenfive province, and delights to make new combinations, whatever be the nature of the compared ideas but the favorite excurfions of Fancy, are from intellectual and moral fubjects to the appearances with which our fenfes are converfant. The truth is, that fuch allufions please more than any others in poetry. According to this limited idea of Fancy, it prefuppofes, where it is poffeffed in an eminent degree, an extenfive obfervation of natural ob jects, and a mind fufceptible of ftrong impreffions from them. It is thus only that a ftock of images can be acquired; and that these images will be ready to present themselves, whenever any analogous fubject occurs. And hence probably it is, that poetical genius is almost always united with an exquifite fenfibility to the beauties of nature.

Before leaving the fubject of fancy, it may not be improper to remark, that its two qualities are, livelinefs and luxuriancy. The word lively refers to the quickness of the affociation. The word rich or luxuriant to the variety of affociated ideas.

IV. Of Invention in the Arts and Sciences.

To Thefe powers of Wit and Fancy, that of Invention in the Arts and Sciences has a ftriking refemblance. Like them it implies a command over certain claffes of ideas, which, in ordinary men are not equally subject to the will: and like them, too, it is the refult of acquired habits, and not the original gift of nature.

Of the procefs of the mind in fcientific invention, I propose afterwards to treat fully, under the article of Reasoning; and I fhall therefore confine myself at prefent to a few detached remarks upon fome views of the fubject which are fuggefted by the foregoing inquiries.

1

Before we proceed, it may be proper to take no. tice of the diftinction between Invention and Difcovery. The object of the former, as has been frequently remarked, is to produce fomething which had no exiftence before; that of the latter, to bring to light fomething which did exift, but which was concealed from common obfervation. Thus we say, Otto Guerricke invented the air-pump; Sanctorius invented the thermometer; Newton and Gregory invented the reflecting telescope: Galileo difcovered the folar spots; and Harvey discovered the circulation of the blood. It appears, therefore, that improvements in the Arts are properly called inventions; and that facts brought to light by means of obfervation, are properly called difcoveries.

Agreeable to this analogy, is the ufe which we make of these words, when we apply them to subjects purely intellectual. As truth is eternal and immutable, and has no dependence on our belief or disbelief of it, a person who brings to light a truth formerly unknown, is faid to make a discovery. A perfon, on the other hand, who contrives a new method of discovering truth, is called an inventor. Phythagoras, we fay, difcovered the forty-feventh propofition of Euclid's firft book; Newton difcovered the binomial theorem: but he invented the method of prime and ultimate ratios; and he invented the method of fluxions.

In general, every advancement in knowledge is confidered as a difcovery; every contrivance by which we produce an effect, or accomplish an end, is confidered as an invention. Discoveries in fcience, therefore, unless they are made by accident, imply the exercife of invention; and, accordingly, the word invention is commonly used to exprefs originality of genius in the Sciences, as well as in the Arts. It is in this general fenfe that I employ it in the following obfervations.

It was before remarked, that in every inftance of invention, there is some new idea, or fome new combination of ideas, which is brought to light by the inventor; and that, although this may fometimes happen, in a way which he is unable to explain, yet when a man poffeffes an habitual fertility of invention in any particular Art or Science, and can rely, with confidence, on his inventive powers, whenever he is called upon to exert them; he muft have acquired, by previous habits of study, a command over thofe claffes of his ideas, which are fubfervient to the particular effort that he wishes to make. In what manner this command is acquired, it is not poffible, perhaps, to explain completely; but it appears to me to be chiefly in the two following ways. In the firft place, by his habits of fpeculation, he may have arranged his knowledge in fuch a manner as may render it eafy for him to combine, at pleasure, all the various ideas in his mind, which have any relation to the subject about which he is occupied: or, fecondly, he may have learned by experience, certain general rules, by means of which, he can direct the train of his thoughts into those channels in which the ideas he is in queft of may be moft likely to occur to him.

I. The former of these observations, I fhall not stop to illuftrate particularly, at prefent; as the fame fubject will occur afterwards, under the article of Memory. It is fufficient for my purpose, in this chapter, to remark, that as habits of fpeculation have a tendency to claffify our ideas, by leading us to refer particular facts and particular truths to general principles; and as it is from an approximation and comparison of related ideas, that new discoveries in most instances refult; the knowledge of the philofopher, even fuppofing that it is not more extenfive, is arranged in a manner much more favorable to invention, than in a mind unaccustomed to fyftem.

M M

How much invention depends on a proper combination of the materials of our knowledge, appears from the resources which occur to men of the lowest degree of ingenuity, when they are preffed by any alarming difficulty and danger; and from the unexpected exertions made by very ordinary characters, when called to fituations which roufe their latent powers. In fuch cafes, I take for granted, that neceffity operates in producing invention, chiefly by concentrating the attention of the mind to one fet of ideas; by leading us to view thefe in every light, and to combine them variously with each other. As the fame idea may be connected with an infinite variety of others by different relations; it may, according to circumstances, at one time, fuggeft one of these ideas, and, at another time, a different one. When we dwell long on the fame idea, we obtain all the others to which it is any way related, and thus are furnished with materials on which our powers of judgment and reasoning may be employed. The effect of the divifion of labor, in multiplying mechanical contrivances, is to be explained partly on the fame principle. It limits the attention to a particular fubject, and familiarifes to the mind all the poffible combinations of ideas which have any relation to it.

These observations fuggeft a remarkable difference between Invention and Wit. The former depends, in moft inftances, on a combination of thofe ideas, which are connected by the lefs obvious principles of affociation; and it may be called forth in almoft any mind by the preffure of external circumstances. The ideas which inuft be combined, in order to produce the latter, are chiefly fuch as are affociated by thofe flighter connexions which take place when the mind is carelefs and difengaged. "If you have real "wit," fays Lord Chesterfield, "it will flow fponta"neously, and you need not aim at it; for in that

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »