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received, which attends it, indeed, forever in the mind of the vindictive, but preceded the first desire of vengeance that was kindled by the thought.
The importance of our susceptibility of this emotion of surprise at things unexpected, as a part of our mental constitution, is very obvious. It is in new circumstances that it is most necessary for us to be upon our guard; because, from their novelty, we cannot be aware of the effects that attend them, and require, therefore, more than usual caution, where foresight is impossible. But, if new circumstances had not produced feelings peculiarly vivid, little regard might have been paid to them, and the evil, therefore, might have been suffered, before alarm was felt. Against this danger nature has most providentially guarded us. We cannot feel surprise, without a more than ordinary interest in the objects which may have excited this emotion, and a consequent tendency to pause, till their properties have become, in some degree, known to us.
Our astonishment may thus be considered as a voice from that Almighty Goodness, which constantly protects us, that, in circumstances, in which inattention might be perilous, whispers, or almost cries to us, Beware!
Of a kind very different from astonishment, which implies unexpected novelty, is the emotion of weary and languid uneasiness, which we feel from the long continuance of one unvaried object, or from a succession of objects so nearly similar, as scarcely to appear varied. Even objects that originally excited the highest interest, if long continued, cease to interest, and soon become painsul. Who, that is not absolutely deaf, could sit for a whole day in a music-room, if the same air, without any variation, were begun again in the very instant of its last note? The most beautiful couplet of the most beautiful poem, if repeated to us without intermission, for a very few minutes, would excite more uneasiness than could have been felt from a single recitation of the dullest stanza of the most soporific inditer of rhymes. By a little wider extension of this principle, we may perceive, how the very excellence of a work of genius often operates against it, in the later estimation which we form of it. What is intrinsically excellent, may, indeed, admit of being frequently perused, without any diminution, or, perhaps, even with increase of pleasure,-a circumstance which has been assigned as the distinguishing mark of excellence in works
of this sort. But there are limits to this susceptibility of repeated perusal with delight; and, if a work be very excellent,-especially if the work be comprised in small compass—we are in great danger of passing these limits, till it become too familiar to us to give us any direct pleasure ; and, if it were not for our remembrance of the pleasure which we formerly received, we might be led to think it incapable of giving us very high delight, merely because it has given us so much delight, as to have wearied us with the too frequent voluntary repetition of it.
What works of genius gain with the multitude by extensive diffusion of the admiration which they excite when very popular, they thus often lose, in its intensity, as a permanent feeling of individuals. How weary are we of many of the lines of our best poets, which are quoted to us forever, by those who read only what others quote; and the same remark may be made as to those longer passages, or whole pieces, which are collected in the volumes of so many publishers of beauties, as they term them, who see only the beauties which others have seen, and extract, therefore, and collect only what their compiling predecessors have extracted and collected-presenting to us, very nearly the same volumes, with little more than the difference of the order of the pages. What we admired when we read it first, fatigues and disappoints us when we meet with it so often; and the author appears
l to us almost trite and common, in his most original images, merely because these images are so very beautiful, as to have become some of the common places of rhetorical selection. He gains, indeed, by this ubiquity, many admirers, whom he otherwise would not have found; but he loses probably more than he gains, by the diminished pleasure which he affords to the few whose approbation is far more than equal in value to the homage of a multitude of dull admirers.
In travelling over a flat country, amid unvaried scenery, how weary does the mind become ! and what refreshment would a single eminence give, that might shew us, at a distance, rivers, and woods, and villages, and lakes, or perhaps the ocean, still more remote ; or at least something more than a few hedge-rows, which, if they shew us anything, seem to shew us constantly the same meadow which they have been shewing us for miles before. Nofwithstanding our certainty, that a road, without one turn, must lead us sooner to our journey's end, it would be to our mind, and thus indirectly to our body also, which is soon weary when the mind is weary, the most fatiguing of all roads. A very long avenue is sufficiently wearying, even when we see the house which is at the end of it. But what patience could travel for a whole day, along one endless avenue, with perfect parallelism of the two straight lines, and with trees of the same species and height, succeeding each other exactly at the same intervals? In a journey like this, there would be the same comfort in being blind, as there would be in a little temporary deafness, in the case before imagined, of the same unvaried melody endlessly repeated in a music-room.
I need not, however, seek any additional illustrations of a fact, which, I may take for granted, is sufficiently familiar to you all, without any illustration. You cannot fail to have been subject to the influence of which I speak, in some one or other of its forms; and may remember that weariness of mind, which you would gladly have exchanged for weariness of body; and which it is perhaps more difficult to bear with good humour, than many profound griefs ;-because it involves, not merely the uneasiness of the uniformity itself, but the greater uneasiness of hope, that is renewed every moment, to be every moment disappointed. The change, which we know must come, seems yet never to come.
In the case of the supposed journey of a day along one continued avenue, there can be no doubt, that the uniformity of similar trees, at sim. ilar distances, would itself be most wearisome. But what we should feel with far more fretfulness, would be the constant disappointment of our expectation, that the last tree, which we be held in the distance, would be the last that was to rise upon us; when, tree after tree, as if in mockery of our very patience itself, would still continue to present the same dismal continuity of line.
The great utility of this uneasiness, that arises from the uniformity of impressions, which may even have been originally pleasing, it is surely superfluous for me to point out. Man is formed, pot for rest, but for action ; and if there were no weariness on a repetition of the past, the most general of all motives to action would be instantly suspended. We act, that is to say, we perform what is new, because we are desirous of some result, which is new : and we are desirous of the new, because the old, which itself was once new, presents to us no longer the same delight. If the old
appeared to us, as it once appeared to us, we should rest in it with most indolent content.
“ Hope, eager Hope, the assassin of our joy,
It is not because Hope treads our present blessings under foot, that they seem to us to have lost their brightness, but, in a great measure, because they already seem to us to have faded, that we yield to the illusions of that Hope, which promises us continual. ly some blessing more bright and less perishable,—from the enjoyment of which it is afterwards to seduce us with a similar deceit.
The diminished pleasure, however, fading into positive uneasiness, which thus arises from uniformity of the past, answers, as we have seen, the most benevolent of purposes. It is to our mind, what the corresponding pain of hunger is to our bodily health. It gives an additional excitement, even to the active; and to far the greater number of mankind, it is, perhaps, the only excitement which could rouse them, from the sloth of ease, to those exertions, by which their intellectual and moral powers are, in some degree at least, more invigorated, ---or by which, notwithstanding all their indifference to the welfare of others, they are forced to become the unintentional benefactors of that society, to which otherwise they might not have given the labours of a single bodily exertion, or even of a single thought.
After these remarks, on two of our very common emotions, 1
proceed to that which is next in the order of our arrange. ment.
6 and lo! disclosed in all her smiling pomp,
Night Thoughts, VI. v. 107-109, and 112, 113.
+ “ O Beauty, source of praise."--Orig. VOL, 11.
Their own !--Thee, form divine ! thee, Beauty, thee,
The emotions of beauty, and the feelings opposed to those of beauty, to which I now proceed, are, next to our moral emotions, the most interesting of the whole class. They are emotions, indeed, which, in their effects, either of vice or virtue, may almost be considered as moral,-being mingled, if not with our own moral actions, at least in our contemplation of the moral actions of others, which we cannot admire, without making them, in some measure, our own, by that desire of imitating them, which, in such a case, it is scarcely possible for us not to feel,-or which, in like manner, we cannot view with disgust and abhorrence, without some strengthening in ourselves of the virtues, that are opposite to the vices which we consider.
Delightful as our emotions of beauty are,-important as they are, in their indirect effects,—and universally as they are felt, there is, perhaps no class of feelings, in treating which so little precision has been employed by philosophers, and on which so little certainty has been attained. It is a very striking, though a quaint remark, of an old French writer, La Chambre, in his Treatise on the Characters of the Passions, that beauty has had a sort of double effect, in depriving men of their reason.
66 The greatest men,” says he," who have felt its effects, have been ignorant of its cause, -and we may say, that it has made them lose their reason, both when they have been touched with the charms of it, and wben they have attempted to say any thing about that very charm which they felt.”
So many, indeed, have been the opinions of pbilosophers, on this subject-and opinions so very confused, and so very contra
# Pleasures of Imagination, B. I. v. 271--3. Second form of the poem, F. 282, 284—7, (from "O, source,” to “ their own !” First form of the poem, 5. 275,-282.