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nefactor, directed by no other motive but to avenge her father's death * Revenge against a benefactor founded solely upon filial piety,' will never suggest unlawful means; because it can never exceed the bounds of justice. And yet the crime here attempted, murder under trust reposed, is what even a miscreant will scarce attempt against his bitterest enemy.
What is said may be thought fufficient to explain the qualities of congruity and prot priety. But the subject is not exhausted. On the contrary, the prospect enlarges upon us, when we take under view the effects these qualities produce in the mind. Congruity and propriety, where-ever perceived, appear agreeable; and every agreeable object produceth in the mind a pleasant e+ motion. Incongruity and impropriety, on the other hand, are disagreeable; and confequently produce painful emotions. An emotion of this kind sometimes vanisheth without
any confequence; but more frequently is the occasion of other emotions.
See act 1. fc. 2.
When When any flight incongruity is perceived in an accidental combination of persons or things, as of passengers in a stage-coach or of individuals dining at an ordinary, the emotion of incongruity, after a momentary existence, vanisheth without producing any effect. But this is not the case of propriety and impropriety. Voluntary acts, whether words or deeds, are imputed to the au. thor: when proper, we reward him with our esteem: when improper, we punish him with our contempt. Let us suppose, for example, an heroic action suitable to the character of the author, which raises in him and in every spectator the pleasant et motion of propriety. This emotion generates in the author both self-esteem and joy; the former when he confiders his relation to the action, and the latter when he confiders the good opinion that others will entertain of him. The same emotion of propriety, produçeth in the spectators, esteem for the author of the action: and when they think of themselves, it also produceth, by means of contrast, an emotion of humility. To discover the effects of an unsuitable action,
we must invert each of these circumstances. The painful emotion of impropriety, generates in the author of the action both humi, lity and shame; the former when he considers his relation to the action, and the latter when he confiders what others will think of him. The same emotion of impropriety, produceth in the spectators, contempt for the author of the action ; and it also produceth, by means of contrast when they think of themselves, an emotion of self-esteem. Here then are many different emotions, derived from the same action considered in different views by different persons; a machine provided with many springs, and not a little complicated. Propriety of action, it would feem, is a chief favourite of nature, or of the author of nature, when such care and solicitude is bestowed upon it. It is not left to our own choice; but, like justice, is required at our hands; and, like justice, inforced by natural rewards and punishments. A man cannot, with impunity, do any thing unbecoming or improper. He suffers the chastisement of contempt inflicted by others, and of shame inflicted by himself. An
paratus so complicated and so fingular, ought to rouse our attention. Nature doth nothing in vain ; and we may conclude with great certainty, that this curious branch of the human constitution is intended for some valuable purpose. To the discovery of this purpose I shall with ardor apply my thoughts, after discoursing a little more at large upon the punishment, for I may now call it so, that Nature hath provided for indecent or unbecoming behaviour. This, at any rate, is necessary, in order to give a full view of the subject; and who knows whether it may not, over and above, open some track that will lead us to what we are in
A gross impropriety is punished with contempt and indignation, which are vented against the offender by every external expreffion that can gratify these passions. And even the slightest impropriety raises fome degree of contempt. But there are improprieties, generally of the flighter kind, that provoke laughter ; of which we have examples without end in the blunders and absurdities of our own species. Such
improprieties improprieties receive a different punisha ment; as will appear by what follows: The emotions of contempt and of laughter occasioned by an impropriety of this kind, uniting intimately in the mind of the spectator, are expressed externally by a peculiar fort of laugh, termed a laugh of derifon or fcorn *. An impropriety that thus moves not only contempt but laughter, is distinguished by the epithet of ridiculous; and a laugh of derision or fcorn is the punishment provided for it by nature. Nor ought it to escape observation, that we are só fond of inflicting this punishment, as sometimes to exert it even against creatures of an inferior species; witness a Turkycock swelling with pride, and strutting with displayed feathers. This object appears ridiculous, and in a gay mood is apt to provoke a laugh of derision.