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such would be the effect were man purely a selfish being. But the benevolence of our nature gives a very different direction to the painful passion of sympathy, and to the desire involved in it: instead of avoiding distress, we fly to it in order to afford relief: and our sympathy cannot be otherwise gratified but by giving all the succour in our power.* Thus external signs of distress, though disagreea. ble, are attractive: and the sympathy they inspire is a powerful cause, impelling us to afford relief even to a stranger as if he were our friend or relation.

The effects produced in all beholders by exter. nal signs of passion, tend so visibly to advance the social state, that I must indulge my heart with a more narrow inspection of this admirable branch of the human constitution. These external signs, being all of them reşolyable into colour, figure, and motion, should not naturally make any deep impression on a spectator : and supposing them qualified for making deep impressious, we have seen above, that the effects they produce are not such as might be expected. We cannot therefore account otherwise for the operation of these external signs, but by ascribing it to the original constitution of human nature; to improve the social state, by making us instinctively rejcice with the glad of heart, weep with the mourner, and shun those who threaten danger, is a contrivance no less illustrious for its wisdom than for its benevolence. With respect to the external signs of distress in particular, to judge of the excellency of their contrivance, we need only reflect upon several other means seem. ingly more natural, that would not have answered the end proposed. What if the external signs of joy were disagreeable, and the external signs of distress agreeable? This is no whimsical supposition, because there appears not any necessary connexion between these signs and the emotions produced by them in a spectator. Admitting then the supposition, the question is, How would our sympathy operate ? There is no occasion to deli. berate for an answer: sympathy would be destructive, and not beneficial: for, supposing the exter. nal signs of joy disagreeable, the happiness of others would be our aversion; and supposing the external signs of grief agreeable, the distresses of others would be our entertainment. I make a second supposition, That the external signs of distress were indifferent to us, and productive neither of pleasure nor of pain. This would annibilate the strongest branch of sympathy, that which is raised by means of sight: and it is evident, that reflective sympathy, felt by those only who have great sensibility, would not have any extensive ef. fect. I shall draw nearer to truth in a third supposition, That the external signs of distress being disagreeable, were productive of a painful repulsive emotion. Sympathy upon that supposition would not be annibilated; but it would be rendered useless; for it would be gratified by flying from or avoiding the object, instead of clinging to it and affording relief: the condition of man would in reality be worse than if sympathy were totally eradicated; because sympathy would only serve to plague those who feel it, without producing any good to the afflicted.

* See Chapter II. Part vii.

7 It is a noted observation, that the deepest tragedies are the most crowded; which in a slight view will be thought an unaccountable bias in human nature. Love of novelty, desire of occupation, beauty of action, make us fond of theatrical representations, and, when once engaged, we must follow the story to the conclusion, whatever distress it may create. But we generally become wise by experience: and when we foresee what pain we shall suffer during the course of the representation, is it not surprising that persons of reflection do not avoid s'ich spec acles altogether? And yet one who has scarce recovered from the distress of a deep tragedy, resolves coolly and deliberately to go to the very next, without the slightest obstruc. tion from self-love. The whole mystery is explained by a single observation, That sympathy, though painful, is attractive, and attaches us to an object in distress, the opposition of self-love notwithstand. ing, which should prompt us to fly from it. And by this curious mechanism it is, that persons of any degree of sensibility are attracted by affliction still more than by joy.

Loth to quit so interesting a subject, I add a reflection, with which I shall conclude. The external signs of passion are a strong indication, that man, by his very constitution, is framed to be open and sincere A child, in all things obedient to the impulses of nature, hides none of its emotions the savage and clown, who have no guide but pure nature, expose their hearts to view, by giving way to all the natural signs. And even when men learn to dissemble their sentiments, and when be. haviour degenerates into art, there still remain checks, that keep dissimulation within bounds, and prevent a great part of its mischievous effects: the total suppression of the voluntary signs during any vivid passion, begets the utmost uneasiness, which cannot be endured for any considerable time: this operation becomes indeed less painful by habit; but, luckily, the involuntary signs cannot, by any effort, be suppressed, nor even dissembled. An absolute hypocrisy, by which the character is concealed, and a fictitious one assumed, is made in. practicable; and nature has thereby prevented much harm to society. We may pronounce, therefore, that Nature, herself sincere and candid, intends that mankind should preserve the same character, by cultivating simplicity and truth, and banishing every sort of dissimulation that tends to mischief.




EVERY thought prompted by passion, is termed a sentiment.* To have a general notion of the different passions, will not alone enable an artist to make a just representation of any passion: he ought, over and above, to know the various appearances of the same passion in different persons. Passions receive a tincture from every peculiarity of character; and for that reason it rarely happens, that a passion, in the different circumstances of feeling, of sentiment, and of expression, is precisely the same in any two persons. Hence the following rule concerning dramatic and epic compositions : That a passion be adjusted to the character, the sentiments to the passion, and the language to the sentiments. If nature be not faithfully copied in each of these, a defect in execution is perceived: there may appear some resemblance; but the picture, upon the whole, will be insipid, through want of grace and delicacy. A painter, in order to represent the various attitudes of the body, ought to be intimately acquainted with muscular motion : no less intimately acquainted with emotions and characters ought a writer to be, in order to represent the various attitudes of the mind. A general notion of the passions, in their grosser differences of strong and weak, elevated and humble, severe and gay, is far from being sufficient:

* See Appendix, sect. 32.

pictures formed so superficially have little resem. blance, and no expression; yet it will appear by and by, that in many instances our artists are deficient even in that superficial knowledge.

In handling the present subject, it would be endless to trace even the ordinary passions through their nice and minute differences. Mine shall be an humbler task; which is, to select from the best writers instances of faulty sentiments, after paving the way by some general observations.

To talk in the language of music, each passion hath a certain tone, to which every sentiment proceeding from it ought to be tuned with the greatest accuracy: which is no easy work, especially where such harmony ought to be supported during the course of a long theatrical representation. In order to reach such delicacy of execution, it is necessary that a writer assume the precise character and passion of the personage represented; which requires an uncommon genius. But it is the only difficulty; for the writer, who, annihilating him. self, can thus become another person, need be in no pain about the sentiments that belong to the assumed character: these will flow without the least study, or even preconception ; and will frequently be as delightfully new to himself as to his reader. But if a lively picture even of a single emotion re. quire an effort of genius, how much greater the effort to compose a passionate dialogue with as many different tones of passion as there are speakers ? With what ductility of feeling must that writer be endowed, who approaches perfection in such a work; when it is necessary to assume different and even opposite characters and passions, in the quick. est succession? Yet this work, difficult as it is, yields to that of composing a dialogue in genteel comedy, exhibiting characters without passion.

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