Page images
PDF
EPUB

set, his eye-brows are violently contracted, his forehead is wrinkled, his eyes are dragged inwards, and rolled with great vehemence, his hair stands an end, the voice is forced out in short shrieks and groans, and the whole fabrick totters. Fear or terrour, which is an apprehension of pain or death, exhibits exactly the same effects, approaching in violence to those just mentioned, in proportion to the nearness of the cause, and the weakness of the subject. This is not only so in the human species : but I have more than once observed in dogs, under an apprehension of punishment, that they have writhed their bodies, and yelped, and howled, as if they had actually felt the blows. From hence I conclude, that pain and fear act upon the same parts of the body, and in the same manner, though somewhat differing in degree: that pain and fear consist in an unnatural tension of the nerves ; that this is sometimes accompanied with an unnatural strength, which sometimes suddenly changes into an extraordinary weakness; that these effects often come on alternately, and are sometimes mixed with each other. This is the nature of all convulsive agitations, especially in weaker subjects, which are the most liable to the severest impressions of pain and fear. The only difference between pain and terrour is, that things which cause pain operate on the mind, by the intervention of the body; whereas things that cause terrour, generally affect the bodily organs by the operation of the mind suggesting the danger ; but both agreeing, either primarily, or secondarily, in producing a tension, contraction, or violent emotion of the nerves,* they agree likewise in every thing else. For it appears very clearly to me, from this, as well as from many other examples, that when the body is disposed, by any means whatsoever, to such emotions as it would acquire by the means of a certain passion; it will of itself excite something very like that passion in the mind,

* I do not here enter into the question debated among physiologists, whether pain be the effect of a contraction, or a tension of the nerves. Either will serve my purpose ; for by tension, I mean no more than a violent pulling of the fibres, which compose any muscle or membrane, in whatever way this is done.

SECT. IV.

CONTINUED.

TO this purpose Mr. Spon, in his Recherches d'Antiquité, gives us a curious story of the celebrated physiognomist Canipanella. This man, it seems, had not only made very accurate observations on human faces, but was very expert in mimicking such as were any way remarkable. When he had a mind to penetrate into the inclinations of those he had to deal with, he composed his face, his gesture, and his whole body, as nearly as he could into the exact similitude of the person he intended to examine; and then carefully observed what turn of mind he seemed to acquire by this change. So that, says my author, he was able to enter into the dispositions and thoughts of people as effectually as if he had been changed into the very men. I have often observed, that on mimicking the looks and gestures of angry, or placid, or frighted, or daring men, I have involuntarily found my mind turned to that passion, whose appearance I endeavoured to imitate ; nay, I am convinced it is hard to avoid it, though one strove to separate the passion from its correspondent gestures. Our minds and bodies are so closely and intimately connected, that one is incapable of pain or pleasure without the other. Campanella, of whom we have been speaking, could so abstract his attention from any sufferings of his body, that he was able to endure the rack itself without much pain ; and in lesser pains every body must have observed, that when we can employ our attention on any thing else, the pain has been for a time suspended: on the other hand, if by any means the body is indisposed to perform such gestures, or to be stimulated into such emotions as any passion usually produces in it, that passion itself never can arise, though its cause should be never so strongly in action ; though it should be merely mental, and immediately affecting none of the senses. As an opiate, or spirituous liquors, shall suspend the operation of grief, or fear, or anger, in spite of all our efforts to the contrary, and this by induce ing in the body a disposition contrary to that which it receives from these passions.

SECT. V.

HOW THE SUBLIME IS PRODUCED.

HAVING considered terrour as producing an unnatural tension and certain violent emotions of the nerves; it easily follows, from what we have just said, that whatever is fitted to produce such a tension must be productive of a passion similar to terrour,* and consequently must be a source of the sublime, though it should have no idea of danger connected with it. So that little remains towards shewing the cause of the sublime, but to shew that the instances we have given of it in the second part relate to such things, as are fitted by nature to produce this sort of tension, either by the primary operation of the mind or the body. With regard to such things as affect by the associated idea of danger, there can be no doubt but that they produce terrour, and act by some modification of that passion ; and that terrour, when sufficiently violent, raises the emotions of the body just mentioned, can as little be doubted. But if the sublime is built on terrour, or some passion like it, which has pain for its object, it is previously proper to inquire how any species of delight can be derived from a cause so apparently contrary to it. I say delight, because, as I have often remarked, it is very evidently different in its cause, and in its own nature, from actual and positive pleasure.

SECT. VI.

HOW PAIN CAN BE A CAUSE OF DELIGHT.

PROVIDENCE has so ordered it, that a state of rest and inaction, however it may flatter our indolence, should be productive of many inconveniences; that it should gener

* Part II. sect. 2.

ate such disorders, as may force us to have recourse to some labour, as a thing absolutely requisite to make us pass our lives with tolerable satisfaction; for the nature of rest is to suffer all the parts of our bodies to fall into a relaxation, that not only disables the members from performing their functions, but takes away the vigorous tone of fibre which is requisite for carrying on the natural and necessary secretions. At the same time, that in this languid inactive state, the nerves are more liable to the most horrid convulsions, than when they are sufficiently braced and strengthened. Melancholy, dejection, despair, and often self murder, is the consequence of the gloomy view we take of things in this relaxed state of body. The best remedy for all these evils is exercise or labour ; and labour is a surmounting of difficulties, an exertion of the contracting power of the muscles; and as such resembles pain, which consists in tension or contraction, in every thing but degree. Labour is not only requisite to preserve the coarser organs in a state fit for their functions ; but it is equally necessary to these finer and more delicate organs, on which, and by which, the imagination and perhaps the other mental powers act. Since it is probable, that not only the inferiour parts of the soul, as the passions are called, but the understanding itself makes use of some fine corporeal instruments in its operation ; though what they are, and where they are, may be somewhat hard to settle: but that it does make use of such, appears from hence; that a long exercise of the mental powers induces a remarkable lassitude of the whole body; and on the other hand that great bodily labour, or pain, weakens and sometimes actually destroys the mental faculties. Now, as a due exercise is essential to the coarse muscular parts of the constitution, and that without this rousing they would become languid and diseased, the very same rule holds with regard to these finer parts we have mentioned; to have them in proper order, they must be shaken and worked to a proper degree.

SECT. VII.

EXERCISE NECESSARY FOR THE FINER ORGANS.

AS common labour, which is a mode of pain, is the exercise of the grosser, a mode of terrour is the exercise of the finer parts of the system ; and if a certain mode of pain be of such a nature as to act upon the eye or the ear, as they are the most delicate organs, the affection approaches more nearly to that which has a mental cause. In all these cases, if the pain and terrour are so modified as not to be actually noxious; if the pain is not carried to violence, and the terrour is not conversant about the present destruction of the person, as these emotions clear the parts, whether fine or gross, of a dangerous and troublesome incumbrance, they are capable of producing delight; not pleasure, but a sort of delightful horrour, a sort of tranquillity tinged with terrour; which, as it belongs to self-preservation, is one of the strongest of all the passions. Its object is the sublime.* Its highest degree I call astonishment; the subordinate degrees are awe, reverence, and respect, which by the very etymology of the words, shew from what source they are derived, and how they stand distinguished from positive pleasure.

SECT. VIII.

WHY THINGS NOT DANGEROUS PRODUCE A PASSION LIKE

TERROUR.

+A MODE of terrour or pain is always the cause of the sublime. For terrour, or associated danger, the foregoing explanation is, I believe, sufficient. It will require something more trouble to shew, that such examples as I have given of the sublime in the second part, are capable of producing a mode of pain, and of being thus allied to terrour, and to be accounted for on the same principles. And first

* Part II. sect. 2.

+ Part I. sect. 7.

Part II. sect. 2.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »