Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

particular art; and when he judges of it by this new measure, it may often appear to deserve the highest applause, upon account of its approaching much nearer to perfection than the greater part of those works which can be brought into competition with it.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

Of the Degrees of the different Passions which

are consistent with Propriety.

[ocr errors]

INTRODUCTION. The propriety of every passion excited by objects peculiarly related to ourselves, the pitch which the spectator can go along with, muft lie, it is evident, in a certain mediocrity. If the pallion is too high, or if it is too low, he cannot enter into it. Grief and resentment for private misfortunes and injuries may easily, for example, be too high, and in the greater part of mankind they are so. They may likewise, though this more rarely happens, be too low. We denominate the excess weakness and fury: and we call the defect stupidity, insensibility, and want of spirit. We can enter into neither of them, but are astonished and confounded to see them.

This mediocrity, however, in which the point of propriety consists, is different in different pasfions. It is high in fome, and low in others.

[ocr errors]

There are some passions which it is indecent to express very strongly, even upon those occasions, in which it is acknowledged that we cannot avoid feeling them in the highest degree. And there are others of which the strongest expressions are upon many occasions extremely graceful, even though the passions themselves do not, perhaps, arise fo necessarily. The first are those passions with which for certain reasons, there is little or no sympathy: the second are those with which, for other realons, there is the greatest. And if we consider all the different passions of human nature, we shall find that they are regarded as decent, or indecent, just in proportion as mankind are more or less disposed to sympathize with them.

GH A P. I.

Of the Passions which take their origin from

the body.

IT i. is indecent to express any strong degree of those passions which arise from a certain situation or disposition of the body; because the company, not being in the fame disposition, cannot be expected to sympathize with them. Violent hunger, for example, though upon many occasions not only natural, but unavoidable, is always indecent, and to eat voraciously is universally regarded as a piece of ill manners. There is, however, some degree of sympathy, even with hunger. It is agreeable

Da

to see our companions eat with a good appetite, and all expressions of loathing are offensive. The disposition of body which is habitual to a man in health, makes his stomach easily keep time, if I may be allowed so coarse an expression, with the one, and not with the other. We can sympathize with the distress which exceflive hunger occasions when we read the description of it in the journal of a fiege, or of a sea-voyage. We imagine ourselves in the situation of the sufferers and thence readily conceive the grief, the fear and con[ternation, which must necessarily distract them. We feel, ourselves, some degree of those passions, and therefore sympathize with them: but as we do not grow hungry by reading the description, we cannot properly, even in this case, be said to sympathize with their hunger.

It is the same case with the passion by which Nature unites the two sexes. Though naturally the most furious of all the passions, all strong expresfions of it are upon every occasion indecent, even between persons in whom its most complete indulgence is acknowledged by all laws, both human and divine, to be perfectly innocent. There seems, however, to be some degree of sympathy even with this passion. To talk to a woman as we should to a man is improper: it is expected that their company should inspire us with more gaiety, more pleasantry, and more attention; and an entire insensibility to the fair sex, renders a man contemptible in some measure even to the men.

Such is our aversion for all the appetites which

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

take their origin from the body:all strong expressions
of them are loathsone and disagreeable. Accord-
ing to some ancient philosophers, these are the
passions which we share in common with the bru-
tes, and which having no connexion with the cha-
racteristical qualities of human nature, are upon that
account beneath its dignity. But there are many
other passions which we share in common with the
brutes, such as resentment, natural affection, even
gratitude, which do not, upon that account, ap-
pear to be so brutal. The true cause of the pecu-
liar disgust which we conceive for the appetites of
the body when we see them in other men, is that
we cannot enter into them. To the person him-
self who feels them, as soon as they are gratified,
the object that excited them ceases to be agreeable
even its presence often becomes offensive to him;
he looks round to no purpose for the charm which
transported him the moment before, and he can
now as little enter into his own passion as another
person. When we have dined, we order the
covers to be removed; and we should treat in the
same manner the objects of the most ardent and
passionate defires, if they were the objects of no
other passions but those which take their origin
from the body.

In the command of those appetites of the body
consists that virtue which is properly called tem-
perance. To restrain them within those bounds,
which regard to health and fortune prescribes , is
the part of prudence. But to confine them within
those limits, which grace,

which

propriety, which

[ocr errors]

delicacy, and modesty, require, is the office of temperance.

2. It is for the same reason that to cry out with bodily pain, how intolerable foever, appears always unmanly and unbecoming. There is, however, a good deal of sympathy even with bodily pain. if, as has already been observed, I see a stroke aimed, and just ready to fall upon the leg, or arm, of another person, I naturally shrink and draw back my own leg, or my own arm: and when it does fall, I feel it in the same measure, and am hurt by it as well as the sufferer. My hurt, however, is, no doubt, excessively slight, and, upon that account, if he makes any violent outcry, as I cannot go along with him, I never fail to despise him. And this is the case of all the passions which take their origin from the body: they excite either no sympathy at all, or such a degree of it, as is altogether disproportioned to the violence of what is felt by the sufferer.

It is quite otherwise with those passions which take their origin from the imagination. The frame of my body can be but little affecied by the alterations which are brought about upon that of my companion: but my imagination is more ductile, and more readily assumes , if I may say so, the shape and configuration of the imaginations of those with whom Iam familiar. A disappointment in love, or ambition, will, upon this account, call forth more sympathy than the greatest bodily evil. Those passions arise altogether from the imagination. The person who has loft his whole fortune, if he is in

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »