« PrécédentContinuer »
THE DEGREE OF LIVELINESS OF THE SUGGESTING FEELINGS IN
FLUENCES GREATLY THAT OF THE FEELINGS SUGGESTED.
My last Lecture, Gentlemen, was employed in an inquiry, which very naturally arises from the consideration of the various relations according to which suggestion may take place ;-why, if the same object, as either perceived or imagined by us, is capable, by its almost innumerable relations, of suggesting the conception of various other objects, it suggests, at any particular time, one of these, rather than another? To say, that certain objects suggest certain other objects which are similar to them, opposite to them in quality, or formerly proximate in place or time, is to say nothing in explanation of this difficulty, but only to state the very difficulty itself; since it is to state various relations, according to which various conceptions may indifferently arise. It is evident, therefore, that whatever may be the number of these primary laws of suggestion,-or general circumstances of relation, according to which the parts of our trains of thought may suggest each other,—there must be other circumstances, which modify and direct the operation of the primary laws. To these modifying circumstances I gave the name of secondary laws of suggestion ; the classification of which,—though not less interesting or important than the classification of the general circumstances which constitute the primary laws,-has been altogether neglected, even by those philosophers who have endeavoured to arrange the primary relations.
The chief part of my last lecture was employed, accordingly, in inquiring into the general circumstances which constitute the secondary laws of ysuggestion ; those circumstances by which it
happens, that one suggestion takes place rather than another, when according to the mere primary laws either suggestion might equally occur.
To repeat then, briefly, that enumeration which was the re sult of our inquiry, the occasional suggestions that flow from the primary laws, on which our trains of thought depend, are various, as the original feelings have been, 1st, Of longer or shorter continuance; 2dly, More or less lively; 3dly, Of more or less frequent occurrence; 4thly, More or less recent; 5thly, More or less pure from the occasional and varying mixture of other feelings; 6thly, They vary according to differences of original constitution ; 7thly, According to differences of temporary emotion; 8thly, According to changes produced in the state of the body; and, 9thly, According to general tendencies produced by prior babits. Many of these differences, it is evident, may concur; but even a single difference in any one of these respects may be sufficient to account for the particular varying suggestion of the moment.
The next inquiry to which I would direct your attention, is to the difference of liveliness of the feeling which forms a part of a train of thought, according as that which suggested it may have been itself more or less lively.
The conception of an object may, it is evident, be suggested in two ways,-by the perception of some other object really existing without; or by some other conception, previously existing in a train of internal thought. But, though it may be suggested in either way, it is by no means indifferent, with respect to it, in which of the two ways the suggestion has taken place.
“ The influence of perceptible objects,” says Mr. Stewart, “ in reviving former thoughts and former feelings, is more particularly remarkable. After time has, in some degree, reconciled us to the death of a friend, how wonderfully are we affected the first time we enter the house where he lived! Every thing we see,-the apartment where he studied,—the chair upon which he saty--recal to us the happiness we have enjoyed together; and we should feel it a sort of violation of that respect we owe to his memory, to engage in any light or indifferent discourse when such objects are before us.
In the case, too, of those remarkable scenes, which in
terest the curiosity from the memorable persons or transactions which we have been accustomed to connect with them in the course of our studies, the fancy is more awakened by the actual perception of the scene itself, than by the mere conception or imagination of it. Hence the pleasure we enjoy in visiting classical ground; in beholding the retreats which inspired the genius of our favourite authors, or the fields which have been dignified by exertions of heroic virtue. How feeble are the emotions produced by the liveliest conception of modern Italy, to what the poet felt, when, amidst the ruins of Rome,
• He drew th' inspiring breath of ancient arts,
-And trod the sacred walks, Where, at each step, imagination burns!' 6. The well-known effect of a particular tune on Swiss regiments when at a distance from home, furnishes a very striking illustration of the peculiar power of a perception, or of an impression on the senses, to awaken associated thoughts and feelings; and numberless facts of a similar nature must have occurred to every person of moderate sensibility, in the course of his own experi
"Whilst we were at dinner,' says Captain King,' in this miserable hut, on the banks of the river Awatska,—the guests of a people with whose existence we had before been scarce acquainted, and at the extremity of the habitable globe,-a solitary halfworn pewter spoon, whose shape was familiar to us, attracted our attention ; and, on examination, we found it stamped on the back with the word, London. I cannot pass over this circumstance in silence, out of gratitude for the many pleasant thoughts, the anxious hopes, and tender remembrances, it excited in us. Those who have experienced the effects that long absence, and extreme distance, from their native country produce on the mind, will readily conceive the pleasure such a triling incident can give.” **
Of the truth of these delightful influences, who is there that can doubt ? Distant as we are from those lands, which, in the studies of our boy hood, endeared and consecrated by so many remembrances, were to us almost like the very country of our birth, it is
* Philosophy of the Human Mind, Chap. V. Part I. Sect. 1. VOL. II.
scarcely possible to think of ancient Rome or Greece, without mingling, with an interest more than passion, in the very ages of their glory. Some name or exploit instantly occurs to our mind ; which, even in the intness of our conception, is sufficient to transport us, for some few moments, from the scene of duller things around. But, when we tread on the soil itself,—when as Cicero says, speaking of Athens, “ Quocunque ingredimur, in aliquam historiam vestigium ponimus,"-all which history has made dear to us is renewed to our very eyes. There are visionary forms around us, which make the land on which we tread, not the country that is, but the country that has been. We see again the very groves of Academus;
" And Plato's self
6 Tanta vis admonitionis est in locis," says Cicero, in a passage of his work De Finibus, in which he describes the peculiar vividness of our conceptions, on the actual view of scenes, ennobled by the residence of those whom we have been accustomed to revere,
“ Naturane nobis datum dicam, an errore quodam, ut cum ea lo
" ca videamus, in quibus memoria dignos viros acceperimus multum esse versatos, magis moveamur, quam siquando eorum ipsorum aut facta audiamus aut scriptum aliquod legamus ? Velut ego nunc moveor.
Venit enim mihi Platonis in mentem, quem accepimus primum bic disputare solitum; cujus etiam illi hortuli propinqui, non memoriam solum mihi afferunt, sed ipsum videntur in conspectu meo hic ponere. Hic Speusippus,-hic Xenocrates,-hic ejus auditor Polemo, cujus ipsa illa sessio fuit quam videamus.»**
After these observations of Cicero, at a time when Greece was to him, in a great measure, that land of former greatness, which his own country now is to us, it may be interesting to you to compare with the impression, thus described by him, the impression as described by one of our own contemporaries, after an interval of so many ages. I shall quote to you, therefore, a few passages of a Letter, written from Athens, by the very ingenious French
* Lib. V. c. 1.
poet, the Abbe de Lille, who visited Greece in company with his friend M. de Choiseul, the ambassador from France to Constantinople.
" At length,” says he, we were forced to lie to, by a contrary wind, if I can call that a contrary wind, which gave an opportunity of beholding Athens.
" I shall not endeavour to express to you the pleasure which I felt, on setting my foot on that celebrated land. I could have wept for joy. I saw, at last, what I had only read before. I recognized every thing which I had known from my infancy ;-all was at once familiar to me and new. But what was my emotion on seeing the first monument of that city, which is destined to be for ever interesting!
“I gazed, and gazed again, as if my eyes could never be weary, on those magnificent columns of the finest Parian marble, interesting by their own beauty,-by that of the temples which they adorned-by the glorious ages which they recal to memory, and by their external influence, as the standard of good and bad taste, in every nation and age that for ever will be striving to imitate their noble proportions. I passed from one to the other,- I touched them, -I measured them, with insatiable avidity. In vain were they falling to ruins ;-I could not hinder myself from looking on them as imperishable, I believed that I was making the fortune of my name, in engraving it on their marble. But, too soon, I perceived, with grief, my illusion. These precious remains have more than one enemy; and, of their enemies, Time is far from being the most terrible. The barbarous ignorance of the Turks destroys, sometimes in a single day, what whole ages have spared. I saw lying, at the gate of the commandant, one of those beautiful columns which I mentioned to you. An ornament of the Temple of Jupiter was about to adorn his Haram. The Temple of Minerva,-the finest work of antiquity,—the magnificence of which was 80 ruinous to Pericles, is enclosed, as it were, in a citadel, constructed partly at its expence. We mounted to it by steps, composed of its precious fragments, treading under foot the sculptures of Phidias and Praxiteles. I felt as if to tread on them, was to be an accomplice in the profanation, and I avoided them as carefully as I could, shrinking back almost involuntarily wherever I set my foot.