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Sect. I. The different solutions hitherto given by philosophers, examined.

PART IV....The fourth hypothesis.

LASTLY, to mention only one other hypothesis ; there are who maintain that compassion is “an ex“ample of unmixed selfishness and malignity,” and may be “resolved into that power of imagination, by “which we apply the misfortunes of others to our“selves;” that we are said “ to pity no longer than “we fancy ourselves to suffer, and to be pleased only “by reflecting that our sufferings are not real; thus “indulging a dream of distress, from which we can “awake whenever we please, to exult in our security, “ and enjoy the comparison of the fiction with truth*.”

thesis, than, for the solution of the general phenomenon, it is entitled to. It is very true that our theatrical entertainments commonly exhibit a degree of distress which we could not bear to witness in the objects represented. Consequently the consideration that it is but a picture, and not the original, a fictitious exhibition, and not the reality, which we contemplate, is essential for rendering the whole, I may say, supportable as well as pleasant. But even in this case, when it is necessary to our repose, to consider the scenical misery before us as mere illusion, we are generally better pleased to consider the things represented as genuine fact. It re

quires, indeed, but a further degree of affliction to make us even

pleased to think, that the copy never had any archetype in nature.

But when this is the case, we may truly say, that the poet hath ex

ceeded and wrought up pity to a kind of horror. * Adventurer, No. 113,

Of the cause of that pleasure we receive from affecting objects or representations.

This is no other than the antiquated doctrine of the philosopher of Malmesbury, rescued from oblivion, to which it had been fast descending, and re-published with improvements. Hobbes indeed thought it a sufficient stretch, in order to render the sympathetic sorrow purely selfish, to define it " imagination or “ fiction of future calamity to ourselves, proceeding “ from the sense of another man's calamity +.” But in the first quotation we have another kind of fiction; namely, that we are at present the very sufferers ourselves, the identical persons whose cases are exhibited as being so deplorable, and whose calamities we so sincerely lament. There were some things hinted in the beginning of the chapter, in relation to this paradoxical conceit, which I should not have thought it necessary to resume, had it not been adopted by a late author, whose periodical essays seemed to entitle him to the character of an ingenious, moral, and instructive writer f. For though he hath declined entering formally into the debate, he hath sufficiently shown his sentiments on this article, and hath endeavoured indirectly to support them.

I Doubt not that it will appear to many of my readers as equally silly to refute this hypothesis and to defend it. Nothing could betray reasonable men into such extravagancies, but the dotage with which one is affected towards every appendage of a favourite

# Hum. Nat. chap. ix. sect. Io. Í Hawkesworth.

Sect. I. The different solutions hitherto given by philosophers, examined.

system. And this is an appendage of that system

which derives all the affections and springs of action in

the human mind from self-love. In almost all system

builders, of every denomination, there is a vehement

desire of simplifying their principles, and reducing all

to one. Hence in medicine, the passion for finding a

catholicon, or cure of all diseases; and in chemistry,

for discovering the true alachest, or universal dissol.

vent. Nor have our moralists entirely escaped the

contagion. One reduceth all the virtues to prudence,

and is ready to make it clear as sunshine, that there

neither is nor can be another source of moral good, but a right conducted self-love : another is equally

confident, that all the virtues are but different modi

fications of disinterested benevolence: a third will de

monstrate to you that veracity is the whole duty of man: a fourth, with more ingenuity, and much greater

appearance of reason, assures you, that the true system

of ethics is comprised in one word, sympathy.

BUT to the point in hand; it appears a great objection to the selfish system, that in pity we are af. fected with a real sorrow for the sufferings of others, or at least that men have universally understood this to be the case, as appears from the very words and phrases expressive of this emotion to be found in all known languages. But to one who has thoroughly imbibed the principles and spirit of a philosophic sect, which hath commonly as violent an appetite for mystery (though under a different name, for with the phi

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Of the cause of that pleasure we receive srom affecting objects or representations.

losopher it is a paradox) as any religious sect whatever; how paltry must an objection appear, which hath nothing to support it but the conviction of all mankind, those only excepted whose minds have been perverted by scholastic sophistry

IT is remarkable, that though so many have contended that some fiction of the imagination is absolutely necessary to the production of pity, and though the examples of this emotion are so frequent (I hope, in the theorists themselves no less than in others) as to give ample scope for examination, they are so little agreed what this fiction is. Some contend only, that in witnessing tragedy, one is under a sort of momentary deception, which a very little reflection can correct, and imagines that he is actually witnessing those distresses and miseries which are only represented in borrowed characters, and that the actors are the very persons whom they exhibit. This supposition, I acknowledge, is the most admissible of all. That children and simple people, who are utter strangers to theatrical amusements, are apt at first to be deceived in this manner, is undeniable. That, therefore, through the magical power (if I may call it so) of natural and animated action, a transient illusion somewhat similar may be produced in persons of knowledge and experience, I will not take upon me to contravert. But this hypothesis is not necessarily connected with any particular theory of the passions. The persons for whom we grieve, whether the

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Sect. I. The different solutions hitherto given by philosophers, examined.

real objects or only their representatives mistaken for them, are still other persons, and not ourselves. Besides, this was never intended to account but for the degree of emotion in one particular case only.

OTHERs, therefore, who refer every thing to self, will have it, that, by a fiction of the mind, we instantly conceive some future and similar calamity as coming upon ourselves; and that it is solely this conception, and this dread, which call forth all our sorrow and our tears. Others, not satisfied with this, maintain boldly, that we conceive ourselves to be the persons suffering the miseries related or represented, at the very instant that our pity is raised. When nature is deserted by us, it is no wonder that we should lose our way in the devious tracks of imagination, and not know where to settle.

THE first would say, “When I see Garrick in the “character of King Lear in the utmost agony of dis“tress, I am so transported with the passions raised in “my breast, that I quite forget the tragedian, and “imagine that my eyes are fixed on that much injur“ed and most miserable monarch.” Says the second, “I am not in the least liable to so gross a blunder ; “but I cannot help, in consequence of the represen“tation, being struck with the impression, that I am “soon to be in the same situation, and to be used with “the like ingratitude and barbarity.” Says the third,

“The case is still worse with me; for I conceive myVol. I. R.

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