Images de page
[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

ger of embracing tenets, the absurdity of which, though altogether unobserved by their illustrious authors, minds of a much humbler class might, perhaps, have been swifter to perceive, and which, if they had first occurred to ourselves, in our own speculations, unsanctioned by authority, we should probably not have hesitated a single moment in rejecting.

To the threefold division which Mr Hume has made, of the principles of association in the trains of our ideas, as consisting in resemblance, contiguity, and causation, there is an obvious objection of a very different kind, not founded on excessive simplicity, the love of which might more naturally be supposed to have misled him, but on its redundancy, according to the very principles of his own theory. Causation, far from being opposed to contiguity, so as to form a separate class, is, in truth, the most exquisite species of proximity in time,—and in most cases of contiguity in place also, which could be adduced ; because it is not a proximity depending on casual circumstances, and consequently liable to be broken, as these circumstances may exist apart,—but one which depends only on the mere existence of the two objects that are related to each other as cause and effects and therefore fixed and never failing. Other objects may sometimes be proximate ; but a cause and effect,--are always proximate, and must be proximate, and are, indeed, classed in that relation, merely from this constant proximity. On his own principles, therefore, the three connexions of our ideas should indisputably be reduced to two. To speak of resemblance, contiguity, and causation, as three distinct classes, is, with Mr Hume's view of causation, and, indeed, with every view of it, as if a mathematician should divide lines into straight, curved, and circular. The inhabitants of China are said to have made a proverbial division of the human race, into men, women, and Chinese. With their view of their own importance, we understand the proud superiority of the distinction which they have made. But this sarcastic insolence would surely have been absurdity itself, if they had not intended it to express some characteristic and exclusive excellence, but had considered themselves as such ordinary men and women, as are to be found in all the other regions of the earth.

Resemblance and contiguity in place and time,--to which, on his own principles, Mr Hume's arrangement must be reduced

may be allowed indeed to hold a permanent rank, in whatever classification there may be formed, if any be to be formed, of the principles that regulate our trains of thought. But are there, in this case, truly distinct classes of suggestions, that are not reducible to any more common principle ? or are they not all reducible to a single influence? I have already remarked the error, into which the common phrase, Association of ideas, has led us, by restricting, in our conception, the influence of the suggesting principle to those particular states of mind, which are exclusively denominated ideas ; and it is this false restriction, which seems to me to have led to this supposition of different principles of association, to be classed in the manner proposed by Mr Hume and others, under distinct heads. All suggestion, as I conceive, may, if our analysis be sufficiently minute, be found to depend on prior coexistence, or, at least, on such immediate proximity as is itself, very probably, a modification of coexistence. For this very nice reduction, however, we must take in the influence of emotions, and other feelings, that are very different from ideas; as when an analogous object suggests an analogous object, by the influence of an emotion or sentiment, which each separately may have produced before, and which is therefore common to both. But, though a very nice analysis may lead to this reference of all our suggestions to one common influence of former proximity or coexistence of feelings, it is very convenient, in illustration of the principle, to avail ourselves of the most striking subdivisions, in which the particular instances of that proximity may be arranged; and I shall, therefore, adopt, for this purpose, the arrangement which Mr Hume has made,-if resemblance be allowed to comprehend every species of analogy, and if contrast, as a peculiar subdivision, be substituted for the superfluous one of causation. The illustrations which I shall use, will be chiefly rhetorical, because these are, in truth, the most striking and beautiful illustrations, and because it may be of use to lead your attention more particularly to the great principles of human nature, as in their relation to human emotions and human judgments, the standard of all just criticism.

To begin then, with resemblance, no one can be ignorant of the effect of strong similarity, in recalling objects, as when a pictured landscape recals a familiar scene, or a portrait a familiar counte



There are many cases of this kind, indeed, which, strictly speaking, cannot be said to be instances of suggestion, from resemblance, but to be reducible to the simple laws of perception, or, at least, to associations, which may be considered almost as involved in every repeated perception of the same object; for, if a portrait be faithfully painted, the effect which it produces on the eye that perceives it, is the same, or very nearly the same, as the effect produced on the eye by similar light reflected from the living object; and we might, therefore, almost as justly say, that, when any individual is seen by us repeatedly, he suggests himself by resemblance, as that he is thus suggested by his portrait.

In many other cases, in which the resemblance is less complete, its operation may, even without such refinement of analysis, as that to which I have alluded, be very obviously brought under the influence of contiguity. Thus, as the drapery forms so important

, a part of the complex perception of the human figure, the costume of any period may recal to us some distinguished person of that time. A ruft, like that worn by Queen Elizabeth, brings before us the sovereign herself, though the person who wears the ruff may have no other circumstance of resemblance ;-because, the ruff, and the general appearance of Queen Elizabeth, having formed one complex whole in our mind, it is necessary only that one part of the complexity should be recalled, -as the ruff, in the case supposed,—to bring back all the other parts, by the mere principle of contiguity. The instance of drapery, which is but an adjunct or accidental circumstance of the person, may be easily extended to other instances, in which the resemblance is in parts of the real and permanent figure : for, though the drapery be only an adjunct of the person, considered separately from our perception, it is an actual component part, as much as any other component part, of that complex idea, which is formed of the person perceived. If we meet a stranger, who, in any particular feature, as in the shape and colour of his eyes, resembles one of our intimate friends, the conception of our friend is suggested; because the conception of our friend's countenance is a complex one, composed of the separate parts of forehead, eyes, cheeks, mouth, nose, chin ; and the eyes of the stranger affecting our vision, in precisely the same manner as the eyes of our friend, thus produce one part of the complex whole, which we have been accustomed to recog

nize, as our friend, and the one part, by its former proximity, recals the others. The view of one piece of landscape brings before us, in conception, a distant, and perhaps very different scene, by the influence of some small group of objects, or some detached rock, or tree, or hill, or waterfall, which produces the same impression on the eye in both. In this manner, by analysing every complex whole, and tracing, in the variety of its composition, that particular part, in which the actual similarity consists, and which may, therefore, be supposed to introduce the other parts, that have formerly coexisted with it,-we might be able, to reduce every case of suggestion from direct resemblance, to the influence of mere contiguity. But, as in many cases of faint analogical resemblance, this analysis, however just, might appear to involve too great subtilty; and, as the suggestions of resemblance, if indeed they arise, as I suppose, only from the influence of former proximity, are at least so easily distinguishable, from the grosser instances of contiguity, that they may, without any inconvenience, be considered apart,- have thought it, as I have said, upon the whole, more advantageous for our present purpose of illustration, to consider them thus separately. By the application of a similar refined analysis, however, to other tribes of associations, even to those of contrast, we may, perhaps, find that it would be possible to reduce these also to the same comprehensive influence of mere proximity, as the single principle on which all suggestion is founded.

As yet we have taken into view only those more obvious resemblances of actual things, which produce similar impressions on our organs of sense. There is another species of resemblance, founded on more shadowy analogies, which gives rise to an innumerable series of suggestions, most important in value to our intel. lectual luxury, since it is to them we are, in a great measure, indebted for the most sublime of arts. To these analogies of objects, that agree in exciting similar emotions, we owe the simile, the metaphor, and, in general, all that figurative phraseology, which has almost made. a separate language of poetry, as distinct from the abstract language of prose. “Poetas omnino, quasi aliena lingua locutos, non cogar attingere," says Cicero. Yet the difference of the languages of poetry and prose, is much less in Latin, than in our own tongue, in which the restriction of genders, in common

discourse, to animated beings, gives, for the production of higb rhetorical effect, such happy facilities of distinct personification. In poetry, we perceive every where what Akenside calls

“ The charm,
That searchless Nature o'er the sense of man
Diffuses,-to behold, in lifeless things
The inexpressive semblance of himsell,
Of thought and passion."*

The zephyrs laugh,—the sky smiles,—the forest frowns,-the storm and the surge contend together,-the solitary place not merely blossoms like the rose, but it is glad.

“ Mark the sable woods,
That shade sublime yon mountaio's nodding brow ;
With what religious awe the solemn scene
Commands your steps ! as if the reverend form
Or Minos or of Numa should forsake
The Elysian seats, and down the embowering glade
Move to your pausing eye.”+

All nature becomes animated. The poetic genius, like that soul of the world, by which the early philosophers accounted for all earthly changes, breathes its own spirit into every thing surrounding it. It is " quodcunque vides, quocunque moveres," that vivifying essence, which in the beautiful language of Virgil,

“ Cælum, ac terras, camposque liquentes,
Luceotemque globum Lunæ, Titaniaque astra
Spiritus intus alit, totamque iofussa per artus
Mens agitat molem, et magno se corpore uniscet."|

It is the metaphor which forms the essence of the language of poetry; and it is to that peculiar mode of association which we are now considering,--the suggestion of objects by their analogous objects,-that the metaphor owes its birth,-whether the analogy be derived from the moral to the physical, or from the physical to the moral world. The metaphor expresses with rapidity the

* Pleasures of Imagination, Book III. v. 282–286.
+ Ibid. 286.-292.

I Æn. VI. v. 724—727.

« PrécédentContinuer »