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The advantages which we derive from our susceptibility of this species of emotion, are, in their immediate influence on the cheerfulness, and therefore on the general happiness of society, sufficiently obvious. How many hours would pass wearily along, but for these pleasantries of wit, or of easier and less pretending gaiety, which enliven what would have been dull, and throw many bright colours on what would have been gloomy. We are not to estimate these accessions of pleasure, lightly, because they relate to objects that may seem trifling, when considered together with those more serious concerns, by which our ambition is occupied, and in relation to which, in the success or failure of our various projects, we look back on the past months or years of our life, as fortunate or unfortunate. If these serious concerns alone were to be regarded, we might often have been very fortunate and very unhappy, as in other circumstances we might often have had much happiness in the hours and days of years, which terminated at last in the disappointment of some favourite scheme. It is good to travel with pure and balmy airs and cheerful sunshine, though we should not find, at the end of our journey, the friend whom we wished to see ; and the gaieties of social converse, though they are not, in our journey of life, what we travel to obtain, are, during the continuance of our journey, at once a freshness which we breathe, and a light that gives every object to sparkle to our eye, with a radiance that is not its own.
Such are the immediate and obvious influences of this emotion. But it is not of slight value in influences that are less direct; though capable of being sometimes abused, and far from being always so exactly coincident with moral impropriety, as to furnish a criterion of rectitude, it must be allowed to be, in its ordinary circumstances, favourable to virtue, presenting often a check to improprieties, on which, but for such a restraint, the heedless would rush without scruple-a check, too, which is, by its very nature, peculiarly suited to those who despise the more serious restraints of moral principle, and the opinion of the virtuous. The world's dread laugh, which even the firm philosopher is said to be scarcely able to scorn, cannot be scorned by those to whom the approbation of the world is, what conscience is to the wise and virtuous ; and though that laugh is certainly not so unerring as the voice of moral judgment within the breast, it is still, as I have said, in far the greater number of cases, in accordance with it; and when it differs, differs far more frequently in the degree of its censure or its praise, than in actual censure of what is praiseworthy, or praise of what is wholly censurable. It is often, too, of impor. tance, that we should regulate our conduct with regard to relations, which all mankind cannot have leisure for analysing, and which very few, even of those who have leisure, have patience to examine. The vivid feeling of ridicule, in such cases, as more instant in its operations, may hence be considered as a glorious warning from thąt benignant Power, who,
"conscious what a scanty pause
Having now then finished my remarks on the phenomena of beauty, sublimity, and wit, I close with them my view of the emiotions that are the object of the species of judgment, which is denominated taste. I have already stated my reasons for dividing and arranging the phenomena of taste, under two distinct heads, as they are either emotions, or feelings of the aptitudes of certain images or combinations of images, for producing those emotions. To feel the emotion, which a beautiful, or sublime, or ludicrous object excites, is one state of mind ; to have a knowledge of the aptitude of different means of exciting these emotions, so as to discern accurately, what will tend to produce them, and what will have no tendency of this sort, is another state or function of the mind,--to which the former, indeed, is necessary, but which is itself far from being implied, in the mere susceptibility of the pleasing emotion. That power, by which, from the inductions of for
. mer observations of the mechanic powers, we predict the effects of certain combinations of wheels and pullies in machinery,of certain mixtures in the chemical arts,--and, in legislative or general politics, of certain motives, that are to operate on the
* Pleasures of Imagination, B. II. v. 271–277.
minds of a people, is not supposed by us to be a different power, merely because the relations which it discerns, are different. In all, and in all alike, it is termed judgment, reason, discernment, or whatever other name may be used, for expressing the same discriminating function. The knowledge necessary for the predictions, in mechanics, chemistry, and politics, is, indeed, different; but the power, which avails itself of this knowledge, is in kind the same. In like manner, the knowledge which the discriminating function of taste supposes, is very different, from that, which is necessary in mechanics, chemistry, politics, though not more different from them, than these various species of knowledge are relatively different. But, in taste, as in those sciences, when the knowledge is once acquired, it is the same capacity of feeling the relation of means and ends, which avails itself of this knowledge of the past, in determining the various aptitudes of objects for a desired effect, -whether for producing or retarding motion, as in mechanics, for forming compositions or decompositions, as in chemistry,- for augmenting and securing the happiness of nations, as in politics,or for inducing various delightful emotions, as in taste. If we do not give different names, in all these cases, to the capacity of feeling the relation of means and ends, when the means and ends, are in the different cases different, why should we suppose a new faculty to be exercised, and invent a new name in one alone? The politician, who judges of the reception which the multitude will give to certain laws; and the critic, who judges of the reception they will give to certain works of art, have, for their subject, the same mind; and both determine the aptitude of certain feelings of the mind, for inducing certain other feelings. The general power, by which we discover the relation of means and ends,-of states of mind or circumstances which are prior, and states of mind or circumstances which are consequent to these, is that which is exercised in both the function, to which I have given the name of relative suggestion,—from which we derive our feeling of this, as of every other relation. Without the emotions of beauty and sublimity, there would, of course, be no taste, to discern the aptitude of certain means for producing these emotions --because there would not be that series of feelings, of which the relative antecedence and consequence are felt. On the other
hand, without the judgment which discerns this order, in the relation of means and ends, there might, indeed, still be the emotions, rising, precariously, as nature presented to us certain objects that excite them, but no voluntary adaptation of the great stores of forms and sounds, and colours, for producing them-none of those fine arts, the results of our knowledge of the relations which certain feelings bear to certain other feelings,-arts which give as much happiness as embellishment to life, and which form 60 essential a part of our notion of civilization, that a nation of philosophers, if incapable of any of the conceptions and resulting emotions of this kind, would stand some chance of being counted by us, only a better order of reasoning savages.
In no part of our nature is the pure benevolence of Heaven more strikingly conspicuous than in our susceptibility of the emotions of this class. The pleasure which they afford, is a pleasure that has no immediate connexion with the means of preservation of our animal existence; and which shews, therefore, though all other proof were absent, that the Deity, who superadded these means of delight, must have had some other object in view, in forming us as we are, than the mere continuance of a race of beings, who were to save the earth from becoming a wilderness. In consequence of these emotions, which have made all nature 66 beauty to our eye, and music to our ear,” it is scarcely possible for us to look around, without feeling either some happiness or some consolation. Sensual pleasures soon pall, even upon the profligate, who seeks them in vain in the means which were accustomed to produce them; weary, almost to disgust, of the very pleasures which he seeks, and yet astonished that he does not find them. The labours of severer intellect, if long continued, exhaust the energy which they employ; and we cease, for a time, to be capable of thinking accurately, from the very intentness and accuracy of our thought. The pleasures of taste, however, by their variety of easy delight, are safe from the languor which attends any monotonous or severe occupation, and, instead of palling on the mind, they produce in it, with the very delight which is present, a quicker sensibility to future pleasure. Enjoyment springs from enjoyment; and, if we have not some deep wretchedness within, it is scarcely possible for us, with the delightful resources which nature and art present to us, not to be happy as often as we
will to be happy. In the beautiful language of a poet, of whose powerful verse I have already frequently availed myself, in illustration of the subjects that have engaged us, nature endows us with all her treasures, if we will only deign to use them.
“Oh blest of Heaven, whom not the languid songs
Such is that universal possession of nature which the susceptibility of the emotions of taste conveys to us,-a possession, extending to an infinity of objects, which no earthly power can appropriate, and which enjoys even objects that have been so appropriat
* Pleasures of Imagination, B. III. v. 568-598.