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Still, however, though the terms in this sense be not strictly synonymous, but expressive of states, more or less complex, the wonder differs from the surprise, only by the new elements which are added to this primary emotion, and not by any original diversity of the emotion itself. Whether it be a familiar object, which we perceive in unexpected circumstances, or an object that is itself as new as it is unexpected, the first feeling of astonishment--which is the emotion now considered by us,-is the same in kind, however different the series of subsequent feelings may be. We may feel, for example, only the momentary surprise itself, or we may begin to consider what circumstances are the most likely to have occasioned the presence of the object, and our surprise is, by this union of uncertain and fluctuating thought, converted into wonder, -or we may be struck at the same time with the beauty or grandeur of the new object, and our mixed emotion of the novelty and beauty combined, will obtain the name of admiration,—the simple primary emotion, which we term surprise or astonishment, being in all these cases the same, and being only modified by the feelings of various kinds, that afterwards arise, and coexist with it.
In the History of Astronomy,--that very elegant specimen of scientific history, which Dr A. Smith has bequeathed to us, in one of the Essays of his posthumous volume,-he commences his inquiry, with some remarks on the emotion which we are now considering,—and contends, as many other philosophers have contended, for an esssential distinction of the varieties of the emotion, both with respect to the objects that excite these varieties, and to the nature of the feelings themselves.
What is new and singular, he conceives to excite that feeling, -or sentiment, as he terms it, which in strict propriety, is called wonder ; what is unexpected, that different feeling which is commonly termed surprise.
“We wonder," he says, " at all extreme and uncommon objects,-at all the rarer phenomena of nature,-at meteors, comets, eclipses,-at singular plants and animals,--and at every thing, in short, with which we have before been either little, or not at all acquainted ; and we still wonder, though fore-warned of what we are to see.”
“ We are surprised,” he continues, " at those things which we have seen often, but which we least of all expected to meet with,
in the place where we find them; we are surprised at the sudden appearance of a friend, whom we have seen a thousand times, but whom we did not imagine we were to see then."*
This distinction, which Dr Smith makes of wonder and surprise, seems, when we first consider it, a very obvious and accurate one; and yet I conceive, that if we analyse it more minutely, the difference, as I have already endeavoured to shew, is more in the circumstances, in which the emotions arise ; and the thoughts, which are the consequence of the emotions, than in these emotions themselves, as simple feelings of the mind. The circumstances in which they arise, are obviously very different; since, in the one case, the object is familiar, in the other new, and the consequences are usually as different; since in the one case, we are generally able to discover, by mere inquiry, what has led to the presence of the familiar object, in the unexpected situation,-and when we know this, we know every thing; or cease to think of it, if such inquiry be ineffectual. In this case, therefore, there is little fluctuation of doubtful and varying conjecture, blending with the emotion and modifying it. In the other case,
. the very novelty of the object is gratifying to our love of the new, which is one of the strongest of our desires, and leads us to dwell on it, with particular interest, while this very novelty, or uncommonness, which stimulates our curiosity to observe and inquire, renders inquiry less easy to be satisfied; and one inquiry, even when satisfactorily answered, far from giving us all the knowledge which we desire, leaves of course, when the object is one with which we are unacquainted, many new properties to be investigated. In the one case, that in which a familiar object appears to us, where we did not expect to find it, there is only surprise, or little more ; in the other case, when the object itself is new to us, there is surprise followed by many very doubtful conjectures ; and, during these conjectures, from the little satisfaction which they afford, a constant recurrence and mingling of the surprise, with the imperfect inquiries. It is not the emotion, therefore, which is different itself, but the mixture of inquiry and emotion, which, coexisting, form a state of mind different from the simple emotion itself. “ The imagination and memory,” to use Dr Smith's
* Page 2d of Essays on Philosophical Subjects, by the late D: SmithWith his life prefixed, by D. Stewart, Esq.
own words, “ exert themselves to no purpose, and in vain look around all their classes of ideas, in order to find one, under which it may be arranged. They fluctuate to no purpose, from thought to thought; and we remain still uncertain and undetermined, where to place it, or what to think of it. "It is this fluctuation, and vain recollection, together with the emotion or movement of the spirits that they excite, which constitute the sentiment properly called wonder, and which occasion that staring, and sometimes that rolling of the eyes, that suspension of the breath, and that swelling of the heart, which we may all observe, both in ourselves and others, when wondering at some new object; and which are the natural symptoms of uncertain and undetermined thought. What sort of a thing can that be? What is that like? questions which, upon such an occasion, we are all naturally disposed to ask. If we can recollect many such objects, which exactly resemble this new appearance, and which present themselves to the imagination naturally, and, as it were, of their own accord, our wonder is entirely at an end. If we can recollect but a few, and which it requires, too, some trouble to be able to call up, our wonder is, indeed, diminished, but not quite destroyed. can recollect none, but are quite at a loss, it is the greatest possible."*
Even from this very description which Dr Smith has given us, -a description which seems to be, in its chief circumstance, a very faithful picture of the phenomena of wonder,-it might be collected, that wonder, as a mere emotion, independently of the trains of thought that may mingle with it, does not differ essentially from surprise ; and so completely does he forget the distinction, laid down by himself, which would confine wonder and surprise to distinct objects, that he afterwards speaks of them both as produced by the same object, remarking, that when one accustomed object appears after another, which it does not usually follow, it first excites, by its unexpectedness, the sentiment properly called surprise, and afterwards, by the singularity of the succession, or order of its appearance, the sentiment properly called wonder. "We start and are surprised at seeing it there, and then wonder how it came there ;'4—that is to say, if I may attempt the analysis, according to the view which I have given you, of the com* Essay, &c. page 12.
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plex state, or states of mind described,
-we are first surprised at the appearance of the unaccustomed object--we are desirous of knowing what circumstances have led to the appearance,--and, by the various relations which the circumstances perceived bear to other circumstances that may have been present unobserved, and the consequent operation of the laws of suggestion, not one object only occurs, as a cause in which we might immediately acquiesce, but various possible causes arise to the mind, in judging of which we pass rapidly from one probability to another, and are lost and perplexed with a sort of anxious irresolution. The application of both terms to the emotions excited by one object, in our peculiar situation, is, however, as I have before remarked, a sufficient proof that Dr Smith had either forgotten his original distinction of wodder and surprise, or had seen that the distinction, precise and apposite as it appears at first, involves truly no specific difference of the astonishment itself, but merely of the circumstances which precede or attend it.
The defective analysis, however, on which the distinction of the mere emotion appears to me to be founded,,if I may venture to term it defective,- is an error of much less consequence than another error of Dr. Smith with respect to surprise,-and an error which seems rather incongruous with his former speculation, as to the supposed difference which we have been now considering. Surprise he thinks to be nothing more than the sudden chang. es of feelings which are commonly regarded, and, I conceive, truly regarded, as only the circumstances which give occasion to the surprise, not the surprise itself. “Surprise,” he says, “is not to
. be regarded as an original emotion, of a species distinct from all others. The violent and sudden change produced upon the mind, when an emotion of any kind is brought suddenly upon it, constitutes the whole nature of surprise."* Now if there be any emotion which is truly original, it really seems to me very difficult to discover one, which could have a better claim to this distinction, than surprise. It certainly is not involved in either of the successive perceptions, or conceptions, or feelings of any kind, the unusual successions of which, appear to us surprising; and, if it be not even in the slightest degree involved, in either of them separately, it cannot be involved in the two, which contain nothing more,
* Page 6.
as successive, than they contained separately. When the two are regarded by the mind as objects, indeed, they may give rise to feelings which are not involved in themselves, and the emotion of surprise may be, or rather truly is, one of these secondary feelings; but the surprise is then an original emotion, distinct from the primary states of mind which gave rise to it, indeed, but do not constitute it. Sudden joy, and sudden sorrow, even in their most violent extremes, might succeed each other, reciprocally, in endless succession, without exciting surprise, if the mind had been unsusceptible of any other feelings than joy and sorrow. Surprise is evidently not joy,-it is as evidently not sorrow,-nor is it a combination of joy and sorrow,-it is surely, therefore, something different from both; and we may say with confidence, that before the mind can be astonished at the succession of the two feelings, it must have been rendered susceptible, at least, of a third feeling.
The error of Dr Smith, in this case, is precisely the same as that fundamental error which we before traced in the system of Condillac and the other French metaphysicians,—the error of sup. posing that a feeling, which is the consequence of certain other previous feelings, is only another form of those very feelings themselves. Joy and sorrow, as mere states or affections of the mind, are as truly different from that state or affection of mind, which we term surprise, that may arise from the rapid succession of the two former states, as the fragrance of a rose, the bitterness
a of wormwood, or any other of our mere sensations, differs from those emotions of gratitude or revenge, into which these, or similar mere sensations, are, according to the very strange doctrine of Condillac, transformed, -though, as we found, in examining that system, which assumes without any proof, what it would certainly not have been very easy to prove,—all which constitutes the supposed transformation, is the mere priority of one set of feelings and subsequence, in time, of another.
Surprise, in like manner, is not, as Dr Smith contends, a mere rapid change of feelings, but is a new feeling, to which that rapid change gives rise,-a state of mind, as clearly distinguishable from the primary feelings, that may have given occasion to it, as gratitude is distinguishable from the mere memory of kindness received, -or revenge, as an emotion from that mere feeling of injury