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by the force of custom. Nor will this be surprising after the discovery made above, that the original agreeableness or disagreeableness of an object, is, by the influence of custom, often converted into the opposite quality.
Proceeding to matters of taste, where there is naturally a preference of one thing before another; it is certain, in the first place, that our faint and more delicate feelings are readily susceptible of a bias from custom ; and therefore that it is no proof of a defective taste to find these in some measure influenced by custom : dress and the modes of external behaviour are regulated by custom in every country: the deep red or vermilion with which the ladies in France cover their cheeks, appears to them beautiful in spite of nature; and strangers cannot altogether be justified in condemning that practice, considering the lawful authority of custom, or of the fashion, as it is called : It is told of the people who inhabit the skirts of the Alps facing the north, that the swelling they have universally in the neck is to them agreeable. So far has custom power to change the nature of things, and to make an object originally disagreeable take on an opposite appearance.
But, as to every particular that can be denominated proper or improper, right or wrong, custom has little authority, and ought to have none. The principle of duty takes naturally place of every other; and it argues a shameful weakness or degeneracy of mind, to find it in any case so far subdued as to submit to custom.
These few hints may enable us to judge in some measure of foreign manners, whether exhibited by foreign writers or our own. A comparison between the ancients and the moderns was some time ago a favourite subject: those who declared for ancient manners thought it sufficient that these manners were supported by custom : their antagonists, on the other hand, refusing submission to custom as a standard of taste, condemned ancient manners as in several instances irrational. In that controversy, an appeal being made to different principles, without the slightest attempt to establish a common standard, the dispute could have no end. The hints above given tend to establish a standard for judging how far the authority of custom ought to be held lawful ; and, for the sake of illustration, we shall apply that standard in a few instances.
Human sacrifices, the most dismal effect of blind and groveling superstition, wore gradually out of use by the prevalence of reason and humanity. In the days of Sophocles and Euripides, traces of that practice were still recent; and the Athenians, through the prevalence of custom, could without disgust suffer human sacrifices to be represented in their theatre, of which the Iphigenia of Euripides is a proof. But a human sacrifice, being altogether inconsistent with modern manners as producing horror instead of pity, cannot with any propriety be introduced upon a modern stage. I must therefore condemn the Iphigenia of Racine, which, instead of the tender and sympathetic passions, substitutes disgust aud horror. Another objection occurs against every fable that deviates so remarkably from improved notions and sentiments; which is, that if it should even command our belief by the authority of history, it appears too fictitious and unnatural to produce a perception of reality : human sacrifice is so unnatural, and to us so improbable, that few will be affected with the representation of it more than with a fairy tale. The
* See Chapter II. Part i. sect. 7.
objection first mentioned strikes also against the Phedra of that author : the Queen's passion for her stepson, transgressing the bounds of nature, creates aversion and horror rather than compassion. The author in his preface observes, that the Queen's passion, however unnatural, was the effect of destiny and the wrath of the gods; and he puts the same excuse in her own mouth, But what is the wrath of a heathen god to us Christians ? we acknowledge no destiny in passion; and if love be unnatural, it never can be relished. A supposition like what our author lays hold of, may possibly cover slight improprieties; but it will never engage our sympathy for what appears to us frantic or extravagant.
Neither can I relish the catastrophe of that tragedy. A man of taste may peruse, without disgust, à Grecian performance describing a sea-monster sent by Neptune to destroy Hippolytus : he consis ders, that such a story might agree with the religious creed of Greece, and may be pleased with the story, as what probably had a strong effect upon a Grecian audience. But be cannot have the same indulgence for such a representation upon a modern stage ; because no story that carries a violent air of fiction can ever move us in any considerable degree. In the Coëphores of Eschylus,* Orestes is made
that he was commanded by Apollo to avenge his father's murder; and yet if he obeyed, that he was to be delivered to the furies, or be struck with some horrid malady: the tragedy accordingly concludes with a chorus, deploring the fate of Orestes, obliged to take vengeance against a mother, and involved thereby in a crime against bis will. It is impossible for any modern to bend his mind to opi. nions so irrational and absurd, which must disgust him in perusing even a Grecian story. Again, among the Greeks, grossly superstitious, it was a common opinion, that the report of a man's death was a presage of his death; and Orestes, in the first act of Electra, spreading a report of his own death, in order to blind his mother and her adulterer, is even in that case affected with the presage. Such imbecility can never find grace with a modern audience : it may indeed produce some compassion for a people afflicted with absurd terrors, similar to what is felt in perusing a description of the Hottentots ; but such manners will not interest our affections, nor attach us to the personages represented.
* Act II,
External Signs of Emotions and Passions.
SO intimately connected are the soul and body, that every agitation in the former produceth a visible effect opon the latter.
the latter. There is, at the same time, a wonderful uniformity in that operation ; each class of emotions and passions being invariably attended with an external appearance peculiar to itself.* These external appearances or signs may not improperly be considered as a natural lan
Omnis enim motus animi, suum quemdam a natura habet vultum et sonum et gestum. Cicero, l. iii. De Oratore. VOL. I.
guage, expressing to all beholders emotions and passions as they arise in the heart. Hope, fear, joy, grief, are displayed externally: the character of a man can be read in his face; and beauty, which makes so deep an impression, is koown to result, not so much from regular features and a fine complexion, as from good pature, good sense, sprightliness, sweetness, or other mental quality, expressed upon the countenance. Though perfect skill in that language be rare, yet what is generally known is sufficient for the ordinary purposes of life, But by what means we come to upderstand the lan. guage, is a point of some intricacy: it cannot be by sight merely; for, upon the most attentive inspec. tion of the human face, all that can be discerned, are figure, colour, and motion, which, singly or combined, never can represent a passion, nor a sentiment: the external sign is indeed visible; but to understand its meaning we must be able to connect it with the passion that causes it, an operation far beyond the reach of eye-sight. Where, then, is the instructor to be found that can unveil this secret connexion ? If we apply to experience, it is yielded, that from long and diligent observation, we may gather, in some measure, in what manner those we are acquainted with express their passions exter. nally : but with respect to strangers, we are left in the dark; and yet we are not puzzled about the meaning of these external expressions in a stran. ger, more than in a bosom-companion. Further, had we no other means but experience for under. standing the external signs of passion, we could not expect any degree of skill in the bulk of indi. viduals : yet matters are so much better ordered, that the external expressions of passion form a language understood by all, by the young as well as the old, by the ignorant as well as the learned : I