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was a real malignity in the human heart, and that it recurred to them as to a feast. This is a horrid untruth: such spectacles are, in their nature, painful; and all that the consideration of our own security can effect, will be only to render them less painful; bụt of itself can give us no interest in them, ncr render them at all attracting to us.
The celebrated David Hụme has offered a more plausible theory; or rather, has added to the systems of Du Bos and Fontenelle, by referring the greatest part of that pleasure which springs out of the bosom of uneasiness, and yet retains all the features and symptoms of distress and sorrow, to the bewitching power of that eloquence with which the melancholy scene is represented. The effect, he says, is like to the composition of two forces, which, combining together, produce a new direction, a direction not contrary to that of either, but partaking of both. Of these four illustrations of the question, & 2
the first and the last, viz. of Du Bos and Hume, require a particular discussion, in the progress of which the truth will probably unfold itself. : It is a misfortune, in moral as in natural philosophy, that the theory, which is to account for important phænomena, is often the creature of a bold and lively imagination, and not the modest result of careful observation and experiment. As a theory, servation and experiment, will always follow us downwards to the explanation of facts ; so every fanciful system is found to decline this test; and, if compelled thereto, confesses its insufficiency to account for che phænomena of nature.
It is, therefore, a general objection to both these systems, in the first view of them, that the principles, to whose operation they ascribe such singular effects, are either not at all present to the mind, while their influence is supposed to be exerted and felt; or make a very dubious appearance, and utterly
vanish at that critical moment, when the effect of the tragic imitation is the greatest; viz. when their presence ought to be most conspicuous and manifest to the very sense. Who, in the moment when the heart is rent and agonized with a tragic scene, can say to himself, that he converts the exquisitely painful feelings of that moment into the character of pleasure; or so as to be attracted by, and be passionately interested in, the scene; because his soul abhors the languor of indolence, and delights to be violently móved? Or who, with Mr. Hume, is ruminating on the ingenuity and eloquence of the artist, which can give to a fictitious scene all the glowing colours of nature? Who, under the possession of sympathetic sorrow, has his
upon an object of intellectual taste, and feasts in proportion to the opinion which he has of the poet's skill ?
If the system of Du Bos be true, our attraction to spectacles of a tragic character, and the interest which we feel in the representation of them, ought to be proportioned
to the perturbation of the mind, and to the violence, of the emotions which are excited. But the most violent emotions shall be at, tempted to be raised, while we are only disgusted with the scene; because the whole is descitute of that single requisite, which alone has power to attach us to misery. The play of The Libertine abounds with scenes which address themselves to our terror and indignation; but we abhor the scenes, because they exhibit no field for a benevolent compassion; they are not the tragedy of a man, but of a fiend ; it is not human nature, but hell, which is exhibited. There is enough of violent action, enough of terror and distress, to rouse and agitate; but being out of the field of man, we cannot sympathize; or our horror and indignation are stronger than our sympathy, and we detest a picture which awakens not those divine feelings to which the soul of man delights to commit itself.
Otway, the eldest son of Shakespeare, has greatly offended in this view, and greatly
lessened the impression of his genius, by, the immorality and profligacy of his prin, cipal characters. We cannot feel for them as we wish, and our interest in their sufferings is diminished, as they appear to deserve them. Some touching pictures of innocent and virtuous distress, to which a pure and benevolent sympathy attaches itself, have rescued him perhaps from our utter disgust. The innocent, the gentle Monimia, and the more dignified virtue of Belvidera, relieve the horror of the villains with whom they are unhappily associated, and support in us an interest through the whole drama.
The tragedy of The Robbers, and other productions of the German drama, have the vice of Otway, but with more extravagance and scorn of nature, and therefore are more repulsive to the heart. With them to create what God never designed, and what human wickedness never meditated, is Genius; and to terrify is Sublime. If the system of Du Bos, therefore, be true, these are the per