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fection : of their minds. But where the distress is merely fictitious,or the representation of what is past; and no kind humane interposition is expected from us, but only the cherishing an uniformly benevolent temper may be supposed to be in view; then the pain is mixed and tempered with something that we know not to give a name to, something that must attend on every mind in the exercise of its best affections, a complacence such as a superior spirit may be supposed to feel, if he were viewing the infirmities and distresses of some inferior system. To such scenes, which imply no augmentation of the real calamities of our fellow-creatures, but may minister to the augmentation of our good will towards them, we are moved by an internal impulse; by an impulse which we approve of in reflection, and which those who are little accustomed to reflection do however obey.
In speaking of the affection of the mind to tragic representations, I have adopted the language of the writers I have opposed, F 4
while I was discussing their theories ; and I may myself, in contemplating the impulse to tragical representations, and the complacence in those benevolent affections which are excited, and distinguishing these from the impressions on the heart which the spectacle of pain .excites, have used the term pleasure, yet with a visible dubiousness and reluctance, because language immediately suggested no other term; though it by no means corresponded to my idea, nor to the real truth of the sensation. When the mind is but moderately interested in any tragic scene, and has leisure to attend to no other circumstances than what are appropriate to sympathy, it may be sensible to feelings which are in their nature pleasant, but chiefly, if not entirely, springing out of these collateral circumstances. But when the increasing distress of the scene entirely possesses the mind, all semblance of pleasure vanishes, and the feelings are those of pure coinpassion ; but not, unless in some particular instances, painful up to the de
gree of aversion. It is not strictly just, therefore, to say, that the feelings at such an instant are in any degree pleasant;, as it would be grossly false to say, that we are instigated to this participation of distress by the view of pleasure; unless all the sympathetic feelings be referred to the class of the agreeable ones. We are carried, indeed, by a virtuous impulse to converse with distress; the certainty that we shall not be spectators of any real suffering, withdraws all aversion to this impulse: but under this assurance wé surrender ourselves up'entirely to the poet; we enter into his views; we are carried out of ourselves into his fictitious scenes, as if they were real. We often feel from them an exquisite pain, which oppresses our minds for a considerable time after the representation is over, and sinks too deeply into those of a delicate and susceptible make. Yet we return to such scenes; not that pain is desirable, not to seek for pleasure in the field of pain; but the better inclination of our natures determines our conduct; and
the distressing sensations, to which we are exposing ourselves, appear with that softened aspect,
which a virtuous and be nevolent melancholy always wears.
This investigation of the effect of tragedy on the mind, will account, in a great measure, for the superiority of the best productions of the moderns above those of the ancients, and of the English tragedy above that of the French. The pictures are more exquisitely finished; the characters of the sufferers are more interesting; and more powerfully lay hold on our affections, and plead for our compassion. Domestic life and domestic manners were more gross and undressed among the ancients; the social passions were but half awakened among them; and, therefore, the pictures of domestic happiness are not near so interesting, nor can, to our improved taste, present such rich subjects of compassion, The French tragedies are in this respect also far inferior to the English ; wit, gallantry, and philosophic declamation are more displayed than
touching scenes of pure and ingenuous distress. Tragedy, in order to be perfect, ought to be throughout an animated picture; enlivened, enriched by grandeur of sentiment, by every exhibition of mind which is fitted to interest a fellow mind; but still it must be a picture. When this is conducted by a masterly artist, it is then that all yield to the genius of tragedy; we feel that there is an eloquence in the exhibition of virtuous distress, suffering from the incidents of our natures, from the pardonable errors of human judgement, from the follies or vices of others, or under the iron hand of oppression and cruelty, which mocks all the
power of wisdom to equal; which the lettered and the polished can no more resist than the most uncultivated child of nature. And this eloquence is the instrument of a wise Provi. dence, whereby he forms and fashions our hearts according to what he designs and approves, and calls forth those benevolent affections which move not at the voice of rea
and calm philosophy.