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same time, no passion is more eager than envy, to give its object a disagreeable appearance: it magnifies every bad quality, and fixes or the most humbling circumstances:
Cassius. I cannot tell what you and other men
In awe of such a thing as I, myself.
And bid him follow; so indeed he did.
Did from the flames of Troy upon his shoulder
Did I the tired Cæsar; and this man
Is now become a god, and Cassius is
A wretched creature, and must bend his body
If Cæsar carelessly but nod on him.
He had a fever when he was in Spain,
And when the fit was on him, I did mark
How he did shake. 'Tis true this god did shake;
And that same eye whose bend doth awe the world,
Aye, and that tongue of his, that bade the Romans
A man of such a feeble temper should
So get a start of this najestic world,
And bear the palm alone.-Julius Cæsar, Act I. Sc. 8.
Gloster, inflamed with resentment against his son Edgar, could even force himself into a momentary conviction that they were not related:
O strange fasten'd villain!
Would he deny his letter?-I never got him,
King Lear, Act II. Sc. 8. 153. When by great sensibility of heart, or other means, grief becomes immoderate, the mind, in order to justify itself, is prone to magnify the cause: and if the real cause admit not of being magnified, the mind seeks a cause for its grief in imagined future events:
Busby. Madam, your Majesty is much too sad;
And entertain a cheerful disposition.
152. Operation of gratitude: often productive of affection.-Envy, how excused. Its action towards its objects.-Speech of Cassius.
Queen. To please the King, I did; to please myself,
Richard II. Act II. Sc. 5.
Resentment at first is vented on the relations of the offender, in order to punish him: but as resentment, when so outrageous, is contrary to conscience, the mind, to justify its passion, is disposed to paint these relations in the blackest colors; and it comes at last to be convinced, that they ought to be punished for their own demerits.
Anger raised by an accidental stroke upon a tender part of the body is sometimes vented upon the undesigning cause. But as the passion in that case is absurd, and as there can no solid gratification in punishing the innocent, the mind, prone to justify as well as to gratify its passion, deludes itself into a conviction of the action's being voluntary. The conviction, however, is but momentary: the first reflection shows it to be erroneous; and the passion vanisheth almost instantaneously with the conviction. But anger, the most violent of all passions, has still greater influence: it sometimes forces the mind to personify a stock or a stone, if it happen to occasion bodily pain, and even to believe it a voluntary agent, in order to be a proper object of resentment. And that we have really a momentary conviction of its being a voluntary agent, must be evident from considering, that, without such conviction, the passion can neither be justified nor gratified: the imagination can give no aid; for a stock or a stone imagined sensible, cannot be an object of punishment, if the mind be conscious that it is an imagination merely without any reality. Of such personification, involving a conviction of reality, there is one illustrious instance. When the first bridge of boats over the Hellespont was destroyed by a storm, Xerxes fell into a transport of rage, so excessive, that he commanded the sea to be punished with 300 stripes, and a pair of fetters to be thrown into it, enjoining the following words to be pronounced: "O thou salt and bitter water! thy master hath condemned thee to this punishment for offending him without cause; and is resolved to pass over thee in despite of thy insolence: with reason all men neglect to sacrifice to thee, because thou art both disagreeable and treacherous." (Herodotus, Book vii.)
154. Shakspeare exhibits beautiful examples of the irregular influence of passion in making us believe things to be otherwise than
153. Immoderate grief justifies itself, how?-When entertained towards the relatives of an offender, how resentment justifies itself.-Anger, raised by an accidental stroke, how attempted to bo justified?-Xerxes and the Hellespont
they are. King Lear, in his distress, personifies the rain, wind, and thunder; and in order to justify his resentment, believes them to be taking part with his daughters:
Lear. Rumble thy bellyfull, spit fire, spout rain!
Act III. Sc. 2.
King Richard, full of indignation against his favorite horse for carrying Bolingbroke, is led into the conviction of his being rational:
Groom. O, how it yearn'd my heart, when I beheld
K. Rich. Rode he on Barbary! tell me, gentle friend,
Groom. So proudly as he had disdain'd the ground.
Richard II. Act V. Sc. 11.
Hamlet, swelled with indignation at his mother's second marriage, was strongly inclined to lessen the time of her widowhood, the shortness of the time being a violent circumstance against her; and he deludes himself by degrees into the opinion of an interval shorter than the real one:
By what it fed on; yet, within a month,-
She married Oh, most wicked speed, to post
It is not, nor it cannot come to good.
Act I. Sc. 8.
But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue. The power of passion to falsify the computation of time is remarkable in this instance; because time, which hath an accurate measure, is less obsequious to our desires and wishes, than objects which have no precise standard of less or more.
155. Good news is greedily swallowed upon very slender evidence: our wishes magnify the probability of the event, as well as the veracity of the relater; and we believe as certain, what at best is doubtful:
Quel, che l'huom vede, amor li fa invisible
Questo creduto fu, che 'l miser suole
For the same reason, bad news gains also credit upon the slightest evidence: fear, if once alarmed, has the same effect with hope, to magnify every circumstance that tends to conviction. Shakspeare, who shows more knowledge of human nature than any of our philosophers, hath in his Cymbeline (Act ii. Sc. 6) represented this bias of the mind; for he makes the person who alone was affected with the bad news, yield to evidence that did not convince any of his companions. And Othello (Act iii. Sc. 8) is convinced of his wife's infidelity from circumstances too light to move any person less interested.
If the news interest us in so low a degree as to give place to reason, the effect will not be altogether the same: judging of the probability or improbability of the story, the mind settles in a rational conviction either that it is true or not. But, even in that case, the mind is not allowed to rest in that degree of conviction which is produced by rational evidence: if the news be in any degree favorable, our belief is raised by hope to an improper height; and if unfavorable, by fear.
This observation holds equally with respect to future events: if a future event be either much wished or dreaded, the mind never fails to augment the probability beyond truth.
156. That easiness of belief with respect to wonders and prodigies, even the most absurd and ridiculous, is a strange phenomenon; because nothing can be more evident than the following proposition, that the more singular an event is, the more evidence is required to produce belief; a familiar event daily occurring, being in itself extremely probable, finds ready credit, and therefore is vouched by the slightest evidence; but to overcome the improbability of a
154. Examples, where passion makes us believe things to be otherwise than they are.From King Lear, &c.
155. Why are good news and bad news received upon slight evidence? Examples. -Belief of future events.
strange and rare event, contrary to the course of nature, the very strongest evidence is required. It is certain, however, that wonders and prodigies are swallowed by the vulgar, upon evidence that would not be sufficient to ascertain the most familiar occurrence. It has been reckoned difficult to explain that irregular bias of mind; but we are now made acquainted with the influence of passion upon opinion and belief: a story of ghosts or fairies, told with an air of gravity and truth, raiseth an emotion of wonder, and perhaps of dread; and these emotions imposing upon a weak mind, impress upon it a thorough conviction contrary to reason.
Opinion and belief are influenced by propensity as well as by passion. An innate propensity is all we have to convince us, that the operations of nature are uniform: influenced by that propensity, we often rashly think that good or bad weather will never have an end; and in natural philosophy, writers, influenced by the same propensity, stretch commonly their analogical reasonings beyond just bounds.
Opinion and belief are influenced by affection as well as by propensity. The noted story of a fine lady and a curate viewing the moon through a telescope, is a pleasant illustration: I perceive, says the lady, two shadows inclining to each other; they are certainly two happy lovers. Not at all, replies the curate, they are two steeples of a cathedral.
APPENDIX TO PART V.
Methods that Nature hath afforded for computing Time and Space.
157. THIS subject is introduced, because it affords several curious examples of the influence of passion to bias the mind in its conceptions and opinions; a lesson that cannot be too frequently inculcated, as there is not, perhaps, another bias in human nature that hath an influence so universal to make us wander from truth as well as from justice.
The question is, What was the measure of time before artificial measures were invented; and what is the measure at present, when these are not at hand? I speak not of months and days, which are computed by the moon and sun; but of hours, or in general of the time that passes between any two occurrences when there is not access to the sun. The only natural measure is the succession of our thoughts; for we always judge the time to be long or short, in pro
156. Facility of belief with respect to wonders: how explained.-Opinion and belief influenced by propensity; e. g. to believe the uniformity of nature's operations.-Opinion and belief influenced by affection.-Story of the lady and the curate.