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other follows, in imagination, the unfortunate man to his dwelling, and partakes with him and his family in their domeftic diftreffes. He liftens to their converfa. 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 refources which delicacy and pride fuggeft, to conceal poverty from the world. As he proceeds in the painting, his sensibility increases, and he weeps, not for what he fees, but for what he imagines. It will be faid, that it was his fenfibility which originally roufed his imagination; and the obfervation is undoubtedly true; but it is equally evident, on the other hand, that the warmth of his imagination increases and prolongs his fenfibility.
This is beautifully illuftrated in the Sentimental Journey of Sterne. While engaged in a train of reflections on the State prisons in France, the accidental fight of a ftarling in a cage fuggefts 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."
"I beheld," (fays he,)" his body half-wafted away "with long expectation and confinement, and felt "what kind of fickness of the heart it is, which "arifes from hope deferred. Upon looking nearer, "I faw him pale and feverish in thirty years the "western breeze had not once fanned his blood: he "had seen no fun, no moon, in all that time, nor had "the voice of friend or kinfman 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 ftraw, which was alternately his chair and bed: a little calender of "fmall fticks was laid at the head, notched all over
with the difmal days and nights he had paffed "there he had one of these little sticks in his hand, "and with a rusty nail he was etching another day of mifery to add to the heap. As I darkened the little "light he had, he lifted up a hopeless eye towards "the door, then caft it down-fhook his head, and "went on with his work of affliction."
The foregoing obfervations may account, in part, for the effect which exhibitions of fictitious distress produce on fome perfons, who do not discover much fenfibility to the diftreffes 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 fentiments and feelings of every character with respect to his fituation. In real life we fee, in general, only detached fcenes of the Tragedy; and the impreffion is flight, unless imagination finishes the cha racters, and fupplies the incidents that are wanting.
It is not only to fcenes of diftrefs that imagination increases our fenfibility. It gives us a double fhare 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
the enjoyments they bring to the fenfitive creation, and by interefting our benevolent affections in the fcenes 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 thefe powers is neceffary to make us acquainted with our fituation; so that we feel, of neceffity, the correfpondent emotions. But without an uncommon degree of both, it is impoffible for any man to comprehend completely the fituation 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 cafe, the facts which are the foundation of our feelings, are more fully before us than they poffibly can be in the latter.
In order to prevent mifapprehenfions 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 cafes in which there is an interferenee between our own intereft and that of other men, to give a certain degree of preference to ourselves; even fuppofing our neighbour's fituation 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 way I mentioned *. One striking proof of this is,
* I say partly; for habits of inattention to the fituation of other men, undoubtedly prefuppofe fome defect in the focial affections.
the powerful emotions which may be occafionally excited in the minds of the moft callous, when the attention has been once fixed, and the imagination awakened, by eloquent and circumftantial and pathetic description.
A very amiable and profound moralift in the account which he has given of the origin of our fenfe of juftice, has, I think, drawn a lefs pleafing picture of the natural conftitution of the human mind, than is agreeable to truth. "To difturb," (fays 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 ufe 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 fpectator
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 "perfon, it is fit and right that it fhould 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 perfon with whom we have no "particular connexion, will give us lefs concern, will
spoil our stomach, or break our reft, much less than a very infignificant difafter which has befallen our"felves. But though the ruin of our neighbour may "affect us much lefs than a very fmall misfortune of 66 our own, we must not ruin him to prevent that "fmall misfortune, nor even to prevent our own LI
"ruin. We must here, as in all other cafes, view "ourselves not fo much according to that light "in which we may naturally appear to ourselves, 66 as according to that in which we naturally ap66 pear to others. Though every man may, according to the proverb, be the whole world to himself, to the rest of mankind he is a most infig"nificant part of it. Though his own happiness may "be of more importance to him than that of all the "world befides, to every other perfon it is of no more "confequence 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 foever it may "be to him, it must always appear exceflive and ex"travagant to them. When he views himfelf in the "light in which he is conscious that others will view
him, he fees that to them he is but one of the mul❝titude, in no respect better than any other in it. If "he would act fo as that the impartial fpectator may "enter into the principles of his conduct, which is "what of all things he has the greatest defire to do, he "muft, upon this, as upon all other occafions, humble "the arrogance of his felf-love, and bring it down "to fomething which other men can go along with."
I am ready to acknowledge, that there is much truth in this paffage; and that a prudential regard to the opinion of others, might teach a man of good fense, without the aid of more amiable motives, to conceal