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fightest to the most gross, from the most risible to the most serious, a scale
be formed ascending by degrees almost imperceptible. Hence it is, that in viewing some unbecoming actions, too risible for too serious for derifion, the spectator feels a sort of mixt emotion partaking both of derision and of anger. This accounts for an expression, common with respect to the im. propriety of some actions, That we know not whether to laugh or be angry.
It cannot fail to be observed, that in the case of a risible impropriety, which is always slight, the contempt we have for the offender is extremely faint, though derision, its gratification, is extremely pleasant. This disproportion betwixt a passion and its gratification, seems not conformable to the analogy of nature. In looking about for a solution, I reflect upon what is laid down above, that an improper action, not only moves our contempt for the author, but also, by means of contrast, swells the good opinion we have of ourselves. This contri, butes, more than any other article, to the pleasure we feel in ridiculing the follies and VOL. II.
absurdities of others. And accordingly, it islwell known, that they who put the greatest value upon themselves, are the most prone to laugh at others. Pride is a vivid passion, as all are which have self for their object. It is extremely pleasant in itself, and not lefs so in its gratification. This passion fingly would be sufficient to account for the pleasure of ridicule, without borrowing any aid from contempt.
Hence appears the reason of a noted obfervation, That we are the most disposed to ridicule the blunders and absurdities of others, when we are in high spirits ; for in high spirits, self-conceit displays itself with more than ordinary vigor.
Having with wary steps traced an intricate road, not without danger of wandera ing; what remains to complete our journey, is to account for the final cause of congruity and propriety, which make so great a figure in the human constitution. One finál cause, regarding congruity, is pretty obvious. The sense of congruity, as one of the principles of the fine arts, contributes in a remarkable degree to our entertainment. This is the final cause affigned above for our fenfe of proportion *, and need not be enlarged upon here. Congruity indeed with respect to quantity, coincides with proportion. When the parts of a building are nicely adjusted to each other, it
be faid indifferently, that it is agreeable by the congruity of its parts, or by the proportion of its parts. But propriety, which regards voluntary agents only, can never in any in
។ ftance be the same with proportion. A very long nose is disproportioned, but cannot be termed improper. In fome instances, it is true, impropriety coincides with dispropor: tion in the same subject, but never in the same respect. I give for an example a very little man buckled to a long toledo. : Confidering the man and the sword with refpect to size, we perceive a disproportion, Considering the sword as the choice of the man, we perceive an impropriety, 1...
The sense of impropriety, with respect to mistakes, blunders, and absurdities, is haps pily contrived for the good of mankind,
• Sec chap. 3.
In the spectators it is productive of mirth and laughter, excellent recreation in an interval from business. The benefit is still more extensive. It is not agreeable to be the subject of ridicule ; and to punish with ridicule the man who is guilty of an absurdity, tends to put him more upon
his guard in time coming. Thus even the most innocent blunder is not committed with impunity ; because, were errors licensed where they do no hurt, inattention would grow into a habit, and be the occasion of much hurt.
The final cause of propriety as to moral duties, is of all the most illustrious. To have a just notion of it, the two sorts of moral duties must be kept in view, viz. those that respect others, and those that refpect ourselves.
Fidelity, gratitude, and the forbearing injury, are examples of the first fort ; temperance, modefty, firmness of mind, are examples of the other. The former are made duties by means of the moral fense'; the latter, by means of the sense of propriety. Here is a final cause of the sense of propriety, that must rouse our attention. It is undoubtedly the interest of every man, to regulate his behaviour suitably to the digo nity of his nature, and to the station allot: ted him by Providence. Such rational conduct contributes in every respect to happia ness: it contributes to health and plenty : it gains the esteem of others : and, which is of all the greatest blessing, it gains a justly-founded felf-esteem. But in a matter so essential to our well-being, even self-interest is not relied on. The sense of propriety fuperadds the powerful authority of duty to the motive of interest. The God of nature, in all things essential to our happiness, hath observed one uniform method. To keep us steady in our conduct, he hath fortified us with natural principles and feelings. These prevent many aberrations, which would daily happen were we totally surrendered to fo fallible a guide as is human reason. The sense of propriety cannot justly be considered in another light, than as the natural law that regulates our conduct with respect to ourselves; as the sense of justice is the natural law that regulates our conduct with respect to others. I call the sense of !