« السابقةمتابعة »
joys renews in some degree the sensations of our happier days, and relieves with its brighter colouring the gloom of sorrow.” P. 181.
After all, melancholy is frequently a disease, and frequently an affectation. There is little of it in the robuster geniuses, in Milton, and Shakspeare, and Homer; Pope and Horace have more of it; but the most exquisitely melancholy personages are the contributors to the magazines, the Lauras, and Annas, and Rosas; gentle souls, whose very breathing is a sigh, who walk out-perhaps we ought to say stray or wander forth-with a handkerchief in one hand and a pencil in the other, and weep, and moan, and indite most lamentable ditties upon every thing that ever was, is, or can, or shall be.
We are glad to relieve a little the tediousness of critical discus sion by a pretty long extract from the next essay, the subject of which is the tender affections.
“ I know not, for instance, if any representation can either awaken more delightful emotions, or raise us higher above selfish and ungeperous feelings, than the following relation, which deserves so well to be recorded, for the hovour of the fair sex, and the instruction of ours. It is taken from General Burgoyne's State of the Expedition into Canada, duriog the campaigns of 1776 and 1777. On the march of the 19th of September, 1777, Lady Harriet Ackland, the wife of Major Ackland, of the grenadiers, had been directed by her husband to follow the route of the artillery and baggage, which was not exposed, his own party being liable to action at every step. The relation is coutinued by General Burgoyne in these words:
“At the time the action began, she found herself near a small uninhabited hut, where she alighted. When it was found the action was becoming general and bloody, the surgeons of the hospital took possession of the same place, as the most convenient for the first care of the wounded. Thus was this lady in hearing of one contioued fire of candon and musketry for some bours together, with the presumption, from the post of her husband at the head of the grenadiers, that he was in the most exposed part of the action. She had three female companions, the Baroness of Reidesel, and the wives of two British officers, Major Harnage and Lieutevant Reynell; but, in the event, their presence served but little for comfort. Major Harnage was soon brought to the surgeons very badly wounded; and a little while after came intelligence that Lieutenant Reynell was shot dead. Imagination will want no helps to figure the state of the whole group.
“ " From the date of that action to the 7th of October, Lady Harriet, with her usual serenity, stood prepared for new trials. And it was her Jot that their severity increased with their numbers. She was again exposed to the hearing of the whole action, and at last received the shock of her individual misfortune, mixed with the intelligence of the
general calamity; the troops were defeated, and Major Ackland, desperately wounded, was a prisoner.
“• The day of the 8th was passed by Lady Harriet and her compavions in common anxiety: not a tent or a shed being standing, except what belonged to the hospital, their refuge was among the wounded and the dying
“• I soon received a message from Lady Harriet, submitting to my decision a proposal (and expressing an earnest solicitude to execute it, if not interfering with my designs) of passing to the camp of the enemy, and requesting General Gates's permission to attend her husband.
* • 'Though I was ready to believe (for I had experienced) that patience and fortitude, in a supreme degree, were to be found, as well as every virtue, under the most tender forms, I was astonished at this proposal. After so long an agitation of spirits, exhausted not only for want of rest, but absolutely for want of food, drenched in rains for twelve hours together, that a woman should be capable of such an undertaking as delivering herself to the enemy, probably in the night, and uncertain of what hands she might fall into, appeared an effort above human nature. The assistance I was enabled to give was small indeed; I had not even a cup of wine to offer her; but I was told she had found, from some kind and fortunate hand, a little rum and dirty water. All I could furnish to her was an open boat, and a few lines, written upon dirty and wet paper, to General Gates, recommending her to his protection.
4. Mr. Brudenell, the chaplain to the artillery, readily undertook to accompany ber, and with one female servant, and the major's valet de chambre, (who had a ball, which he had received in the late action, then in his shoulder,) she rowed down the river to meet the enemy. But her distresses were not yet to end. The night was advanced before the boat reached the enemy's outposts, and the sentinel would not let it pass, nor even come to shore. In vain Mr. Brudenell offered the flag of truce, and represented the state of the extraordinary passenger. The guard, apprehensive of treachery, and punctilious to their orders, threatened to fire into the boat, if they stirred before daylight. Her anxiety and sufferings were thus protracted through seven or eight dark and cold hours; and her reflections upon that first reception could not give her very encouraging ideas of the treatment she was afterwards to expect. But it is due to justice, as the close of this adventure, to say, that she was received and accommodated by General Gates, with all the humanity and respect, that her rank, her merits, and her fortunes deserved.'” P. 329—233.
We come, in the eighth Essay, to a subject, than which, says the author, “ few speculative subjects have occasioned greater perplexity”-beauty. “We speak,” says he, “of a beautiful woman, and a beautiful tree; a beautiful building, and a beautiful piece of music; a beautiful poem, and a beautiful theorem.” We do so; and all the perplexity arises, as it appears to us, from our applying the word beautiful to objects which affect us with very different feelings. Let us endeavour to distinguish them.
In the first place, our senses and the objects of nature are so adapted one to the other, that almost every thing external which we contemplate affords us pleasure, sensual pleasure. The thing which thus pleases we call beautiful, though, perhaps, common conversation has limited that term to the objects of sight. Of this pleasure, be it observed, we can give no account. We are pleased, we know not why. The Deity has so willed it; it is a proof of his goodness that he has. Thus, almost all the colours, and all the combinations of them which we meet with in nature, are agreeable to the eye; the same may be said of almost all the forms, whether the soft and waving outline of hills and meadows, or the angularities of rocks and trees. Nothing seems to us more idle than to inquire further into the matter; and nothing more unfounded than the distinction which Mr. Price has endeavoured to institute between the beautiful and the picturesque.
In the exercise of the understanding and the reasoning powers, every one knows how distressing are confusion and perplexity, and how agreeable, on the contrary, it is to have the steps of a proposition laid down in a regular, clear, intelligible train. The pleasure thus received is, to our minds, of a perfectly different kind from that received in the contemplation of external nature; yet we describe the object that affords it as beautiful;"we speak of a beautiful theorem.” That the beauty consists in the intelligibility of every step, and the connected order of the whole, will appear from analyzing any particular theorem. We choose the forty-seventh of the first book of Euclid, as one with which many of our readers must be acquainted, and which every one who is so must acknowledge to be most “beautiful.” It is required, then, to prove that the squares upon the sides of any right-angled triangle are, together, equal to the square upon the hypothenuse. The squares being described, and three lines added to the diagram, we find the square upon the hypothenuse divided into two parallelograms and two additional triangles formed. By the help of former propositions it is proved that the two triangles are equal, that the square upon one side of the original triangle is double of one of them, and one of the parallelograms into which the square upon the hypothenuse has been divided double of the other; and it is thence inferred that the square and the parallelogram are equal. In a similar manner it may be shown that the square is equal to the other parallelogram; and it is inferred that the two squares taken together are equal to the two parallelograms taken together, that is, to the square upon the hypothenuse. Suppose, now, that the two triangles had been said to be equal, and the reader referred for a
proof to some future proposition; or suppose that it had not already been proved that a parallelogram is double of a triangle on the same base and between the same parallels—and the author had stopt short in the middle of his theorem to prove it, or had thrown the proof into a note; would not the proposition have lost much of its beauty ? The understanding would be distressed, either by taking that for granted which had not been proved, or by having the train of reasoning broken in upon by extraneous proof.
Most persons would speak of geometry as more beautiful” than any algebraical calculus. Yet they lead, perhaps, exactly to the same conclusion, and the algebraical calculus by an infinitely speedier process. The geometrician walks, the algebraist flies in a travelling carriage and six. But then the understanding is assisted by the senses in geometry, and, moreover, sees the meaning of every step that is taken. The walker sees his road before him, and turns to the right or left, or goes straight forward, as he judges necessary; the man in the travelling carriage knows he shall be taken right, draws up his blinds, falls asleep, and finds himself, after a time, at the end of his journey, hardly knowing how he got there.
We ought just to notice that, from that curiosity providentially implanted in our natures, we have a pleasure in arriving at any truth, and that pleasure is the greater as the truth is more extensive; and, moreover, if the truth lie very remote, there is a pride and a pleasure in overcoming the difficulties in the way to it. And this last frequently adds greatly to the beauty of a proposition. For instance, if a body be compelled to move in an elliptical orbit by a force situated in one of the focuses of the ellipse, we can prove that the intensity of this force must vary inversely as the square of the distance from it; we can prove this in a series of steps, each one as well grounded, and all as well connected, as those in the theorem of Euclid, above given; moreover, the truth is of the utmost importance, and of an application as extensive 'as the planetary system; and further, the method used in coming at it (viz. that of limiting ratios) is so subtle as to be highly gratifying to the pride of human intellect. Reasoning is always carried on by means of intermediate ideas; in reasoning by the method of prime and ultimate ratios, that intermediate idea is a ponentity; upon all these three grounds we pronounce the proposition “ beautiful.”
We would not be understood to mean, by these examples, that the beauty which addresses itself to the understanding is limited to mathematical reasoning. Moral reasoning, though it certainly does not admit of the same precision, is, however, in its degree, very pleasing to the mind. We know of no specimen of moral reasoning, of which the steps follow one another more connectedly, more mathematically, where the understanding finds itself more at ease, or takes in the subject more readily at one general view, than the second book of Paley's Moral Philosophy. There is, indeed, an incurable defect in the principle, as addressed to fallible creatures, but this is nothing to the beauty of the argument.
We have been thus long (thus tedious, we are afraid) upon this subject, not because of its connexion with essays on the pleasures of the imagination, but to show how utterly unconnected they are, and to do away, in some measure, the perplexity which arises from using the same word for things essentially different.
The beauty of external objects, then, and the beauty of a theorem, we consider as perfectly distinct, and the latter as having no place in an inquiry into the sources of the pleasures of taste. But There is still another kind of beauty that which addresses itself to the moral feelings. To a good man the exercise of the tender affections, “comprehending all the different modifications of love, from the transient good will which we feel for a common stranger, to the fondness with which the mother watches over her child in distress, or which unites the hearts of absent lovers,” is most delightful. The husband of an amiable woman, the father of an affectionate family, the man who can look up with confidence to the friend of his father and the guardian of his youth, he who retains in after-life the dear companions of his boyish days, or who, “illustriously lost" to the world, is surrounded in his native village by happy tenants and retainers—these are, perhaps, among the most enviable of mortal men. Our feelings are thus providentially regulated, and there is an end of the matter. Accordingly, froin the sympathy of our nature, the sight of such objects-of a happy family, of fast friends, of a kind master and grateful servants-is called beautiful; not, indeed, because it affects us at all in a similar way with the beauties of nature, still less with the beauties of regular and accurate demonstration, (at least, we can discover no guch similarity in our own feelings,) but simply because it confers a pleasure, a calm pleasure.
Beauty, then, in the common, loose sense of the word,) addresses itself to the senses, the understanding, or the moral feelings. Poetical beauty speaks to the imagination, or rather, perhaps, to the senses and the moral feelings through the medium of the imagination. There is much ambiguity in the common use of the expression, "pleasures of imagination.” The pleasures of sight and of hearing are no more pleasures of imagination than those of taste and smell: the delight experienced at the rich glow and glorious colours of an evening sky, or the music of the spring,