Slike strani

not to be gaudy, nor crowded with little ornaments. A woman of consummate beauty can bear to be highly adorned, and yet shows best in a plain dress,

-For loveliness
Needs not the foreign aid of ornament,
But is, when unadorn'd, adorn'd the most.

Thomson's Autumn.

288. Congruity regulates not only the quantity of ornament, but also the kind. The decorations of a dancing-room ought all of them to be gay. No picture is proper for a church but what has religion for its subject. Every ornament upon a shield should relate to war; and Virgil, with great judgment, confines the carvings upon the shield of Æneas to the military history of the Romans: that beauty is overlooked by Homer, for the bulk of the sculpture upon the shield of Achilles is of the arts of peace in general, and of joy and festivity in particular: the author of Telemachus betrays the same inattention in describing the shield of that young hero.

In judging of propriety with regard to ornaments, we must attend, not only to the nature of the subject that is to be adorned, but also to the circumstances in which it is placed: the ornaments that are proper for a ball will appear not altogether so decent at public worship; and the same person ought to dress differently for a marriage-feast and for a funeral.

289. Nothing is more intimately related to a man than his sentiments, words, and actions; and therefore we require here the strictest conformity. When we find what we thus require, we have a lively sense propriety; when we find the contrary, our sense of impropriety is no less lively. Hence the universal distaste of affectation, which consists in making a show of greater delicacy and refinement than is suited either to the character or circumstances of the person. Nothing in epic or dramatic compositions is more disgustful than impropriety of manners. In Corneille's tragedy of Cinna, Emilia, a favorite of Augustus, receives daily marks of his affection, and is loaded with benefits; yet all the while is laying plots to assassinate her benefactor, directed by no other motive than to avenge her father's death (see Act I. Sc. 2). Revenge against a benefactor, founded solely upon filial piety, cannot be directed by any principle but that of justice, and therefore never can suggest unlawful means; yet the crime here attempted, a treacherous murder, is what even a miscreant will scarce attempt against his bitterest enemy.

287. Instances of congruity and incongruity in a subject and its ornaments.-Dress required for different classes,

258. Congruity regulates not only the quantity of ornament, but the kind: in a dancingroom, &.-Circumstances are to be considered in judging of propriety.

259. The close relation of a man to his sentiments, words, and actions.-Affectation, what, and why detested-In epic or dramatic composition, what is most disgusting?-Remarks on the tragedy of Cinna.

290. What is said might be thought sufficient to explain the relations of congruity and propriety; and yet the subject is not exhausted; on the contrary, the prospect enlarges upon us, when we take under view the effects these relations produce in the mind Congruity and propriety, wherever perceived, appear agreeable; and every agreeable object produceth in the mind a pleasant emotion: incongruity and impropriety, on the other hand, are disagreeable, and of course produce painful emotions. These emotions, whether pleasant or painful, sometimes vanish without any consequence; but inore frequently occasion other emotions, to which I proceed.

When any slight 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 painful 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 author: when proper, we reward him with our esteem; when improper, we punish him with our contempt. Let us suppose, for example, a generous action suited to the character of the author, which raises in him and in every spectator the pleasant emotion of propriety: this emotion generates in the author both self-esteem and joy; the former when he considers his relation to the action, and the latter when he considers the good opinion that others will entertain of him: the same emotion of propriety produceth in the spectators esteem for the author of the action; and when they think of themselves, it also produceth by 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 humility and shame; the former when he considers his relation to the action, and the latter when he considers 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 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 seem, is a favorite of Nature, or of the Author of Nature, when such care and solicitude is bestowed on it. It is not left to our own choice; but, like justice, is required at our hands: and, like justice, is enforced 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

290. The effects of the relations of congruity and propriety upon the mind of the beholder. The effect of incongruity different from that of impropriety. Case of sight incongruity; of propriety and impropriety.-Effects of a suitable generous action, in the agent and spectator. Effects also of an unsuitable action.--Propriety of action, how en


apparatus so complicated, and so singular, ought to rouse our attention: for nature doth nothing in vain; and we may conclude with certainty, that this curious branch of the human constitution is intended for some valuable purpose.

291. A gross impropriety is punished with contempt and indig nation, which are vented against the offender by external expressions; nor is even the slightest impropriety suffered to pass without some degree of contempt. But there are improprieties of the slighter kind, that provoke laughter; of which we have examples without end in the blunders and absurdities of our own species: such improprieties receive a different punishment, as will appear by what follows. The emotions of contempt and of laughter occasioned by an impropriety of that kind, uniting intimately in the mind of the spectator, are expressed externally by a peculiar sort of laugh, termed a laugh of derision or scorn. (See chapter vii.) An impropriety that thus moves not only contempt but laughter, is distinguished by the epithet of ridiculous; and a laugh of derision or scorn is the punishment provided for it by nature. Nor ought it to escape observation, that we are so fond of inflicting that punishment, as sometimes to exert it even against creatures of an inferior species; witness a turkey-cock swelling with pride, and strutting with displayed feathers, which in a gay mood is apt to provoke a laugh of derision.

We must not expect that these different improprieties are separated by distinct boundaries; for of improprieties, from the slightest to the most gross, from the most risible to the most serious, there are degrees without end. Hence it is, that in viewing some unbecoming actions, too risible for anger, and too serious for derision, the spectator feels a sort of mixed emotion, partaking both of derision and of anger; which accounts for an expression, common with respect to the impropriety of some actions. Thus we know not whether to laugh or be angry.

292. 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 between a passion and its gratification, may seem 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 contributes, more than any other particular, to the pleasure we have in ridiculing follies and absurdities; and accordingly, it is well known that those who have the greatest share of vanity are the most prone to laugh at others. Vanity, which is a vivid passion, pleasant in it elf, and not less so in its gratification,

291. How a gross impropriety is punished; how that of a slighter kind. Degrees of Improprieties.

would singly be sufficient to account for the pleasure of ridicule, without borrowing any aid from contempt. Hence appears the reason of a noted observation, 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.

293. Having with wary steps traced an intricate road, not without danger of wandering, what remains to complete our journey, is to account for the final cause of congruity and propriety, which makes so great a figure in the human coustitution. One final cause, regarding congruity, is pretty obvious, that the sense of congruity, as one principle of the fine arts, contributes in a remarkable degree to our entertainment, which is the final cause assigned above for our sense of proportion (see chapter iii.), 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 may be said 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 be the same with proportion: a very long nose is disproportioned, but cannot be termed improper. In some instances, it is true, impropriety coincides with disproportion in the same subject, but never in the same respect. I give for an example a very little man buckled to a long toledo considering the man and the sword with respect to size, we perceive a disproportion: considering the sword as the choice of the man, we perceive an impropriety.

294. The sense of impropriety with respect to mistakes, blunders, and absurdities, is evidently calculated for the good of mankind. In the spectators it is productive of mirth and laughter, excellent recreation in an interval from business. But this is a trifle compared to what follows. It is painful to be the subject of ridicule; and to punish with ridicule the man who is guilty of an absurdity, tends to put him more on his guard in time coming. It is well ordered, that even the most innocent blunder is not committed with impunity; because, were errors licensed where they do no hurt, inattention would grow into 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 the moral duties that respect others must be distinguished from those that respect ourselves. Fidelity, gratitude, and abstinence from injury, are examples of the first sort; temperance, modesty, firmness of mind, are examples of the other the former are made duties by the sense of justice; the latter by the sense of propriety. Here is a final cause of the sense of propriety that will rouse our attention. It is undoubtedly the

292. Case of a risible impropriety.-Why derision is pleasant.

293. Final cause of congruity and propriety. Congruity often coincides with propor tlon; propriety never. Instance-Instance of impropriety coinciding with disproportion

interest of every man to suit his behavior to the dignity of his nature, and to the station allotted him by Providence: for such rational conduct contributes in every respect to happiness, by preserving health, by procuring plenty, by gaining the esteem of others, and, which of all is the greatest blessing, by gaining a justly founded self-esteem. But in a matter so essential to our well-being, even self-interest is not relied on: the powerful authority of duty is superadded 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 laws and principles, preventive of many aberrations, which would daily. happen were we totally surrendered to so fallible a guide as is human reason. Propriety cannot rightly be considered in another light than as the natural law that regulates our conduct with respect to ourselves; as justice is the natural law that regulates our conduct with respect to others. I call propriety a law, no less than justice; because both are equally rules of conduct that ought to be obeyed: propriety includes that obligation; for to say an action is proper, is in other words to say, that it ought to be performed; and to say it is improper, is in other words to say, that it ought to be forborne. It is that very character of ought and should which makes justice a law to us; and the same character is applicable to propriety, though perhaps more faintly than to justice; but the difference is in degree only, not in kind; and we ought, without hesitation and reluctance, to submit equally to the government of both.

295. But I have more to urge upon that head. To the sense of propriety as well as of justice, are annexed the sanctions of rewards and punishments; which evidently prove the one to be a law as well as the other. The satisfaction a man hath in doing his duty, joined to the esteem and good-will of others, is the reward that belongs to both equally. The punishments also, though not the same, are nearly allied; and differ in degree more than in quality. Disobedience to the law of justice is punished with remorse; disobedience to the law of propriety, with shame, which is remorse in a lower degree. Every transgression of the law of justice raises indignation in the beholder; and so doth every flagrant transgression of the law of propriety. Slighter improprieties receive a milder punishment: they are always rebuked with some degree of contempt, and frequently with derision. In general, it is true, that the rewards and punishments annexed to the sense of propriety are slighter in degree than those annexed to the sense of justice; which is wisely ordered, because duty to others. is still more essential to society than duty to ourselves: society, in

294. Sense of impropriety with respect to blunders, &c., beneficial.--Final cause of propriety as to moral duties; those that respect others and ourselves distinguished-The conduct which self-interest prompts.--What motive is added to self-interest.- Propriety and justice, naturai laws of conduct.

295. Sanctions of rewards and punishments, appended to propriety and justice. Their kinds and degrees.

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