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what regards the faculties of the mind, as well as in what concerns the powers of the body. · Now if there be any quality in the afflictive passions, besides their strength, that renders them peculiarly adapted to rescue the mind from that torpid, but corrosive rest which is considered as the greatest of evils, that quality ought to have been pointed out : for till then, the phenomenon under examination is not accounted for. The most that can be concluded from the Abbe's premises, is the utility of exciting passion of some kind or other, but nothing that can evince the superior fitness of the diftressful affections,
PART II. The second hypothesis. The next hypothesis is Fontenelle's *. Not having the original at hand at present, I shall give Mr. Hume's translation of the passage, in his Essay on Tragedy above quoted. Pleasure *“ and pain, which are two sentiments so differ
ent in themselves, differ not so much in their “ 'cause. From the instance of tickling it ap
pears, that the movement of pleasure pushed “ a little too far, becomes pain; and that the “ movement of pain, a little moderated, becomes pleasure. Hence it proceeds, that there is • Reflexions sur la Poctique, Sect. xxxvi.
¢ such a thing as a forrow, foft and agreeable, şi It is a pain weakened and diminished. The “ heart likes naturally to be moved and affected,
Melancholy objects fuit it, and even disastrousi “ and forrowful, provided they are softened by “ fome circumstance. It is certain that, on the " theatre, the representation has almost the ef“ feet of reality ; but yet it has not altogether " that effect. However we may be hurried
away by the spectacle, whatever dominion the “ fenses and imagination may usurp over the “ reason, there still lurks at the bottom, a cer“ tain idea of falsehood in the whole of what we “ see. This idea, though weak and disguifed, “ suffices to diminith the pain which we suffer “ from the misfortunes of those whom we love, “ and to reduce that affliction to such a pitch “ as converts it into a pleasure. We weep
for " the misfortunes of a hero to whom we are at“ tached. In the same inftant we comfort our" felves by reflecting, that it is nothing but a “ fi&tion: and it is precisely that mixture of “ sentiments, which composes an agreeable for
row, and tears, that delight us. But as that “ affliction which is caused by exterior and sen“ fible objects, is stronger than the confolation " which arises from an internal reflection, they
“ are the effects and symptoms of sorrow, which
ought to prevail in the compofition.”
I CANNOT affirm that this solution appears to me so juft and convincing, as it seems it did to Mr. Hume. If this English version, like a faithful mirror, reflect the true image of the French original, I think the author in some degree chargeable, with what in that language is emphatically enough styled verbiage, a manner of writing very common with those of his nation, and with their imitators in ours. The only truth that I can discover in his hypothesis, lies in one small circumstance, which is so far from being applicable to the whole case under consideration, that it can properly be applied but to a very few particular instances, and is therefore no solution at all. That there are at least many cases to which it cannot be applied, the author last mentioned declares himself to be perfe&tly sensible.
But let us examine the passage more narrowly. He begins with laying it down as a general principle, that however different the feelings of pleafure and of pain are in themselves, they differ not much in their cause; that the movement of pleasure pushed a little too far, becomes pain;
and that the movement of pain a little moderated, becomes pleafure. For an illuftration of this he gives an example in tickling. I will admit that there are several other similar instances, in which the observation to appearance holds. The warmth received from fitting near the fire by one who hath been almost chilled with cold, is very pleasing; yet you may increase this warmth, first to a disagreeable heat, and then to burning, which is one of the greatest torments. It is nevertheless extremely hazardous, on a few instances, and those not perfectly parallel to the case in hand, to found a general theory. Let us make the experiment, how the application of this doctrine to the passions of the mind will answer, And for our greater security against mistake, let us begin with the simplest cases in the direct, and not in the reflex or sympathetic passions, in which hardly ever any feeling or affection comes alone. A merchant losech all his fortune by a Thipwreck, and is reduced at one stroke from
opulence to indigence. His grief, we may suppose, will be very violent. If he had lost half his stock only, it is natural to think he would have born the loss more easily; though still he would have been affected: perhaps the loss of fifty pounds he would have scarcely felt: but I thould be glad
to know how much the movement or passion must be moderated ; or, in other words, as the difference ariseth solely from the different degrees of the cause, how small the loss must be, when the sentiment or feeling of it begins to be converted into a real pleasure : for to me it doth not appear natural that any the most trifling loss, were it of a single thilling, should be the subject of pofitive delight.
But to try another instance, a gross and public insult commonly provokes a very high degree of resentment, and gives a most pungent vexation to a person of sensibility. I would gladly know, whether a smaller affront, or some flight instance of neglect or contempt, gives such a person any pleasure. Try the experiment also on friendihip and hatred, and you will find the same success. As the warmest friendthip is highly agreeable to the mind, the flighteft liking is also agreeable, though in a lefs degree. Perfect hatred is a kind of torture to the breast that harbours it, which will not be found capable of being mitigated into pleasure ; for there is no degree of ill-will without pain. The gradation in the cause and in the effect, are entirely correfpondent.