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AFFECTS THAT OF THE FEELINGS SUGGESTED.
With nodding arches, broken temples spread !
Rome, thus in ruins, is easily conceived by us; for the ruins, in their magnificent decay, are themselves a vivid picture of that grandeur of which we have been accustomed to think. But Rome, if it had no monument of art remaining, and had only its seven naked hills to mark its ancient site, scarcely could be conceived by us, for a few moments in succession; its former grandeur rising on our remembrance, without any intermediate conception into which it might softly fade; and mingling, therefore, its own entire reality, as vividly conceived by us, with the fainter conceptions of that bare soil on which all its miracles of splendour arose.
This influence of our mere conceptions, however, even when comparatively vivid, though illustrating by analogy the influence of perception, is still, as might be supposed, far inferior to the inAuence of that of actual perception, which I consider as diffusing its felt reality to the associate conceptions that blend and harmonize with it.
With respect to the more important theory of this influence, I may remark, that even though the perception of the kindred harmonizing object were not to operate positively, by blending the feeling of its own reality with the conceptions that mingle with it, its negative influence would still be very powerful. It would at least tend, by occupying our perception with a harmonizing object, to diminish the impressions produced by other objects,-impressions which, not harmonizing with the particular associate ideas, would at once break the illusion which gives substance and colouring to their shadowy forms. It is, indeed, this inconsistency of our perceptions with our ideas of suggestion, which in our waking hours, in almost every instance, prevents that belief of the reality of the objects of our imagination, which otherwise we should be disposed to entertain. Though no other effect, therefore, were allowed to be produced by a perception which interests us, and which itself harmonizes with the trains of thought suggested
• Pope's Epistle to Addison, on his Medals, v. 1-4 and 15~16.
by it, its negative influence would still be very powerful. It would be, in a slight degree, like that of sleep, which excludes, or nearly excludes, all sensation, and allows the trains of ideas which pass through the mind, the hills and lakes, perhaps, and pastimes and friends of our youth,--to assume, for the time, an impression of actual reality, as if present with us once more.
In many of these cases, in which the perception of new, or long-lost objects, gives warmth and animation to our trains of thought, there is another circumstance which must bave considerable influence. An object, that is daily before our eyes, becomes associated with innumerable ideas, which have no peculiar harmony or agreement with each other; and though it may suggest these variously, at different times, it is still apt to mingle some of them together, especially if it occupy the attention for any length of time. A memorial which we have received from a friend, for example, must, in a very short time, if it remain in our possession, be associated with many events and feelings that have no relation to our friend. These, as more recent, may become of readier suggestion, in conformity with that secondary law which I stated to you ; and, at last, by mingling in the suggestion many irrelative remembrances, cannot fail to weaken more and more the interest which the primary, and more tender image, would other. wise afford. But an object newly discovered, such as any unexpected relic of a long lost friend, presents the instant image of him to our mind, and presents it unmixed with other conceptions, that could not have coexisted with it, without weakening its particular impression.
There is yet another circumstance which I conceive must be taken into account, in every such case of unexpected discovery :This is the influence of the feeling of astonishment itself. In common circumstances, for which we are prepared, we readily, and almost unconsciously, exercise a self-command, which keeps down any violent emotion. But, when we are struck with new and unexpected circumstances, this self-command is often 'ompletely suspended ; and we yield to the first emotion that arises, however inconsistent it may be with the general character of our mind. The sudden appearance of a foe in ambush, spreads terror to the breasts of those who would have marched undaunted in the open field, in the face of any danger that could have been' opposed to
them. It is probable, therefore, that when, in the instance quoted to you yesterday, the crew of Captain King's ship melted into tears on discovering, in a remote and barbarous country, a pewter spoon stamped with the word “ London,” it was partly under the influence of the sudden astonishment which they must have felt, -an astonishment which, if it had arisen from circumstances of a different kind, might perhaps have excited a panic of terror, as it then excited, what, in relation to the rugged sternness of a ship’s company, might almost be considered as a sort of panic of tender emotion.
I have already instanced, as illustrative of the diffusion of the felt reality of a perception over the coexisting imagery of our internal thought, the terrors of the superstitious, to whom the wild moanings of the wind, and the shadowy forms seen in the obscurity of twilight, realize, for the moment, the voices and the spectral shapes which their fancy has readily mingled with them. I might show in like manner, various other instances, since the whole field of mind seems to me to present examples of this species of illusive combination supposed by me, in which the felt reality of something truly existing, is diffused over images of unexisting things. There is scarcely one of our moral affections which it may not, as I conceive, augment or variously modify, as, in an after-part of the Course, I shall have frequent opportunities of pointing out to you. In the case of jealousy, for example, to hint merely at present what is afterwards to be more fully developed, -what undue importance does the slighest fact, that harmonizes with the suspicions previously entertained, give to those very suspicions in the minds of persons, whose better judgment, if free from the influence of that gloomy passion, could not have failed to discover the futility of the very circumstances to which they attach so much importance ;-the felt truth of the single fact observed communicating, as I conceive, for the time, to the whole coexisting and blending and harmonizing images of suspicion, that reality which it alone possessed. Who is there, in like manner, who must not frequently have observed the influence of a single slight success, in vivifying to the sanguine their most extravagant hopes ? the reality of this one happy fact giving instantly a sort of obscure reality even to those extravagant conceptions which are all considered together with the realized wish, as parts of one
Slight as these hints are, they may serve, at least for the present, to give you some notion of the extensive applicability of a principle, which is, in truth, as wide as the wide variety of feelings that may relate to an imaginary object.
These observations on the influence which objects of perception have, by their permanence, as well as by their reality, in giving additional liveliness to our associate feelings, lead me to remark a property of the suggesting principle, which, however much neglected, seems to me, in the various applications that may be made of it, of the greatest importance, since, without it, it is impossible to explain many of the most striking phenomena of thought. We are so much accustomed to talk of the successions of our ideas, of the trains of our ideas, of the current of our thought; and to use so many other phrases of mere succession, to the exclusion of all notions of coexistence, in speaking of the modifications of the principle of suggestion, that, by the habitual use of these terms, we are led to think of our ideas as consecutive only, and to suppose that because there is truly a certain series of states of the mind in regular progression, the state of mind at one moment must be so different from the state of mind of the moment preceding, that one idea must always fade as a new one arises. That the sequence may sometimes be thus exclusive in the very moment, of all that preceded the particular suggestion, I do not deny, though there are many circumstances which lead me to believe, that, if this ever occur, it is at least far from being the general case.
Thus, to take an instance in some degree similar to those which we have before considered, -when, at a distance from home, and after an interval of years, we listen to any simple song with which the remembrance of a friend of our youth is connected, how many circumstances not merely rise again, but rush upon us together? The friend himself,—the scene where we last sat and listened to him,-the domestic circle that listened with us,-a thousand circumstances of that particular period, which had perhaps escaped us, are again present to our mind : and with all these is mingled the actual perception of the song itself. As the parts of the song succeed each other, they call up occasionally some new circumstance of the past; but we do not, on that account, lose the were before assembled. The new circumstance is only added to them, and the song still continues to blend with the whole, the
pleasure of its own melody, or rather mingling with them in mutual diffusion, at once gives and borrows delight.
If this virtual coexistence, in the sense now explained, which I trust, you will always understand as the sense intended by me, be true, of the case in which perception mingles with suggestion,-it is true, though in a less remarkable degree, of our conceptions alone. Had the same ballad, as in the former case, not been actually sung, but merely suggested by some accidental circumstance, though our emotion would have been less lively, and though fewer objects and events, connected with the scene, might have arisen, it would still probably have suggested the friend, the place, the time, and many other circumstances, not in separate and exclusive succession, like the moving figures of a continued train, but multiplying and mingling as they arose. Of the innumerable objects of external sense, which pass before our eyes, in the course of a day, how many are there, which excite only a momentary sensation,--forgotten, almost as soon as it is felt; while, on many others, we dwell with the liveliest interest. In like manner, there are many of our ideas of suggestion, which are as indifferent to us, as the thousand objects that flit before our eyes. They exist, therefore, but for a moment, or little more than a moment, and serve only for the suggestion of other ideas, some of which, perhaps, may be equally shortlived, while others, more lively and interesting, pause longer in the mind, -and, though they suggest ideas connected with themselves, continue with them, and survive, perhaps, the very conceptions which they suggest. I look at a volume on my table,-it recals to me the friend from whom I received it,—the remembrance of him suggests to me the conception of his family,-of an evening which I spent with them,-and of various subjects of our conversation. Yet the conception of my friend may continue, mingled, indeed, with various conceptions, as they rise successively, but still coexisting with them,—and, is perbaps, the very part of the complex group, that, after a long train of thought, during which it had been constantly present, suggests at last some new conception, that introduces a different train of its own, of which the conception of my friend no longer forms a part.
But for this continuance and coexistence, of which I speak, I cannot but think, that the regular prosecution of any design would be