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of the injury done her? The effect of history, in point of instruction, depands in some measure upon its veracity. But history cannot reach the heart, while we indulge any reflection upon the facts : such reflection, if it engage our beliet, never fails at the same time to poison our pleasure, by convincing us that our sympathy for those who are dead and gone is absurd. And if reflection be laid aside, history stands upon the same footing with fable: what effect either may have to raise our sympathy, depends on the vivacity of the ideas they raise; and, with respect to that circumstance, fable is generally more successful than history.
120. Of all the means for making an impression of ideal presence, theatrical representation is the most powerful. That words, indopendent of action, have the same power in a less degree, every one of sensibility must have felt: a good tragedy will extort tears in private, though not so forcibly as upon the stage. That power belongs also to painting: a good historical picture makes a deeper impression than words can, thongh not equal to that of theatrical action. Painting seems to possess a middle place between reading and acting: in making an impression of ideal presence, it is not less superior to the forner than interior to the latter.
It must not, however, be thought that our passions can be raised by painting to such a height as by words: a picture is confined to a single instant of time, and cannot take in a succession of incidents : its impression indeed is the deepest that can be made instantaneously; but seldom is a passion raised to any height in an instant, or by a single impression. It was observed above, that our passions, those especially of the sympathetic kind, require a succession of impressions; and for that reason, reading and acting have greatly the advantage, by reiterating impressions without end.
Upon the whole, it is by means of ideal presence that our passions are excited; and till words produce that charm, they avail nothing: even real events entitled to our belief, must be conceived present and passing in our sight, before they can move us. And this theory serves to explain several phenomena otherwise unaccountable. A misfortune happening to a stranger, makes a less impression than one happening to a man we know, even where we are no way interested in him: our acquaintance with this man, however slight, aids the conception of his suffering in our presence. For the same reason, we are little moved by any distant event; because we have more difficulty to conceive it present, than an event that happened in our neighborhood.
119. Ilow does the doctrine of ideal presence account for the equal impressiveness of fiction and true liistory? Reference to the Mind, and King Lear. - Ideal presence contra-te! with ideas raised by a cursory narrative.-When only does even real history exert a comunami over our passions ?- What die troys the emotive power of history?
12!. The most powerful means of making an impression of ideal presence. The next most powerful.-Comparative influence of paintins, reading, and acting, in awakening etrong feeling.-- What is required even for real events, entitled to belief, to move us Misfortunes happening to strangers or to acquaintancos. -Events distant or near.
121. Every one is sensible, that describing a past event as present, has a fine effect in language: for what other reason than that it aids the conception of ideal presence ? Take the following example:
And now with shouts the shocking armies closed,
And slaughter'u heroes swell the dreadful tide. In this passage we may observe how the writer, inflamed with the subject, insensibly advances from the past time to the present; led to that form of narration by conceiving every circumstance as passing in his own sight: which at the same time has a fine ettect upon the reader, by presenting things to him as a spectator. But change from the past to the present requires some preparation, and is not sweet where there is no stop in the sense : witness the following passage:
Thy fate was next, O Phæstus ! doom'd to feel
And pierced his shoulder as lie mounts his car.-lliad, v. 57. It is still worse to fall back to the past in the same period; for that is an anticlimax in description:
Throngh breaking ranks his furious course he bends,
And the transparent skin with crimson stain'd.-Iliad, v. 415. Again, describing the shield of Jupiter :
Hlcre all the Terrors of grim war appear,
And the dire orb portentous Gorgon crown’d.-Iliad, v. 914. Nor is it pleasant to be carried backward and forward alternately in a rapid succession :
Then died Scamandrius, expert in the chace,
His brazen arinor rings against the ground.-Iliad, v. 63. 121. The effect, in language, of describing a past event as present. Example.-Cantion in changing from the past to the present. Example from the Iliad. - The effect of falling back again to the part in the same period. Examples from the Iliad. --The effect of being carried backward and forward alternately in rapid succession.
122. It is wonderful to observe, upon what slight foundations Nature erects some of her most solid and magnificent works. In appearance at least, what can be more slight than ideal presence? And yet from it is derived that extensive influence which language hath over the heart; an influence which, more than any other means, strengthens the bond of society, and attracts individuals from their private system to perform acts of generosity and benevolence. Matters of fact, it is true, and truth in general, may be inculcated without taking advantage of ideal presence; but without it, the finest speaker or writer would in vain attempt to move any passion: our sympathy would be confined to objects that are really present; and language would lose entirely its signal power of making us sympathize with beings removed at the greatest distance of time as well as of place. Nor is the influence of language, by means of ideal presence, confined to the heart: it reacheth also the understanding, and contributes to belief. For when events are related in a lively inanner, and every circumstance appears as passing before us, we suffer not patiently the truth of the facts to be questioned. An historian, accordingly, who hath a genius for narration, seldom fails to engage our beliet. The same facts related in a manner cold and indistinct, are not suffered to pass without examination : a thing ill described is like an object seen at a distance, or through a mist; we doubt whether it be a reality or a fiction. Cicero says, that to relate the manner in which an event passed, not only enlivens the story, but makes it appear more credible. For that reason, a poet who can warm and animate his reader, may employ bolder fictions than ought to be ventured by an inferior genius : the reader once thoroughly engaged, is susceptible of the strongest impressions. A masterly painting has the same effect: Le Brun is no small support to Quintus Curtius; and among the vulgar in Italy, the belief of scripture history is, perhaps, founded as much upon the authority of Raphael, Michael Angelo, and other celebrated painters, as upon that of the sacred writers.
123. From the foregoing theory are derived many useful rules in criticisın, which shall be mentioned in their proper places. One specimen shall be our present entertainment. Events that surprise by being unexpected, and yet are natural, enliven greatly an epic puem: but in such a poem, if it pretend to copy human manners and actions, no improbable incident ought to be admitted ; that is, no incident contrary to the order and course of nature. A chain of imagined incidents linked together according to the order of nature, finds easy admittance into the mind; and a lively narrative of such incidents occasions complete images, or in other words, ideal presence: but our judgment revolts against an improbable incident;
122. The advantages to a speaker or writer in making use of ideal presence. Its influcnce not only on the heart, but on the understanding --The support which anunateul poetry louds to Action, and which a wasterly paintiug leuds to history,
and, if we once begin to doubt of its reality, farewell relish and concern-an unhappy effect; for it will require more than an ordinary effort to restore the waking dream, and to make the reader conceive even the more probable incidents as passing in his presence.
I never was an admirer of machinery in an epic poem, and I now find my taste justified by reason; the foregoing argument concluding still more strongly against imaginary beings, than against improbable facts : fictions of that nature may amuse by their novelty and singularity; but they never move the sympathetic passions, because they cannot impose on the mind any perception of reality. I appeal to the discerning reader, whether that observation be not applicable to the machinery of Tasso and of Voltaire : such machinery is not only in itself cold and uninteresting, but gives an air of fiction to the whole composition. A burlesque poem, such as the Lutrin or the Dispensary, may employ machinery with success; for these poems, though they assume the air of history, give entertainment chiefly by their pleasant and ludicrous pietures, to which machinery contributes: it is not the aim of such a poem to raise our sympathy; and for that reason a strict imitation of nature is not required. A poem professedly ludicrous, may employ machinery to great advantage; and the more extravagant the better.
124. Having assigned the means by which fiction commands our passions, what only remains for accomplishing our present task is to assign the final cause. I have already mentioned, that fiction, by means of language, has the command of our sympathy for the good of others. By the same means, our sympathy may also be raised for our own good. In the fourth section of the present chapter, it is observed, that examples both of virtue and of vice raise virtuous emotions; which becoming stronger by exercise, tend to make us virtuous by habit, as well as by principle. I now further observe, that examples confined to real events are not so frequent as without other means to produce a habit of virtue : if they be, they are not recorded by historians. It therefore shows great wisdom to form us in such a manner as to be susceptible of the same improvement from fable that we receive from genuine history. By that contrivance, examples to improve us in virtue may be multiplied without end : no other sort of discipline contributes more to make virtue habitual, and no other sort is so agreeable in the application. I add another final cause with thorough satisfaction; because it shows that the Author of our nature is not less kindly provident for the happiness of his creatures, than for the regularity of their conduct. The power that fiction hath over the mind affords an endless variety of refined amusements always at hand to employ a vacant hour:
123. One useful rule in criticism upon epic poetry, derived from the foregoing theory; -- to the incidents to be introduced. -Objections to the use of machinery in an epic poen. What is rucant liere by macbiuery.- What sort of poem inny eviploy machiuury lo ndvantura
such amusements are a fine resource in solitude; and, by cheering and sweetening the mind, contribute mightily to social happiness.
[To the above remarks of Lord Kames, it seems important to add, that they give but a partial, and what might prove a hurtful, view of an important subject. He gives no intimation that a large proportion of novels is adapted to corrupt the sentiments of the mind and the affections of the heart : he writes as if all novels were un. exceptionable in their moral tendency; but since his day, nearly a century ago, it is painful to reflect what polluting streams of fiction hare flowed from the press. Hence Lord Kames' remarks must be taken as true only within certain limits—on the supposition that the works of fiction are of good moral tendency.
It is (says Dr. Beattie in his Moral Science) the duty of poets, and other writers of fiction, to cherish, by means of syinpathy, in those who read them, those affections only which invigorate the mind and are favorable to virtue, as patriotism, valor, benevolence, piety, and the conjugal, parental, and filial charities. Scenes of exquisite distress, too long continued, enervate and overwhelm the soul; and those representations are still more blamable, which kindle licentious passion, or promote indolence, affectation, or sensuality. Of the multitude of novels now published, it is astonishing and most provoking to consider how few are not chargeable with one or other of these faults, or with them all in conjunction.
In another place he remarks further :—To contract a habit of reading romances is extremely dangerous. They who do so lose all relish for history, philosophy, and other useful knowledge; acquire a superficial and frivolous way of thinking, and never fail to form false notions of life, which come to be very hurtful to young people when
out into the world. I speak not rashly, but with too much evidence, when I affirm, that many young persons of both sexes have, by reading romances, been ruined; and that many of the follies, and not a few of the crimes, now prevalent, may be traced to the same source.]
EMOTIONS AND PASSIONS, AS PLEASANT AND PAINFUL, AGREE ABLE
AND DISAGREEABLE.—MODIFICATIONS OF THESE QUALITIES.
125. GREAT obscurity may be observed among writers with re. gard to the present point : particularly no care is taken to distinguish
124 The final cause (or design) of onr being so constituted as to have our passions niovod by fiction. --Tbe good effects that may be secured by fiction.-Strictures upon Lord Kawes' remarks-Dr. Beuttie's observations