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the first mention of this, that it were impoffible to account for it otherwise than from an innate principle of malice, which teacheth us to extract delight to ourselves from the sufferings of others, and as it were to enjoy their calamities. A very little reflection, however, would suffice for correcting this error; nay, without any reflection, we may truly fay, that the common sense of mankind prevents them effectually from falling into it. Bad as we are, and prone as we are, to be hurried into the worst of passions by self-love, partiality, and pride; malice is a disposition, which, either in the abstract, or as it discovers itself in the actions of an indifferent person, we never contemplate without feeling a just detestation and abhorrence, being ready to pronounce it the ugliest of objects. Yet this sentiment is not more universal, than is the approbation and even love that we bestow on the tender-hearted, or those who are most exquisitely susceptible of all the influence of the pathetic. Nor are there any two difpofitions of which human nature is capable, that have ever been considered as farther removed from each other, than the malicious and the compassionate are. The fact itself, that the mind derives pleasure from representations of anguilh, is undeniable; the question about the cause is curious, and hath a manifest relation to my subject.
I PURPOSED indeed, at first, to discuss this point in that part of the sixth chapter which relates to the means of operating on the passions, with which the present inquiry is intimately connected. Finding afterwards that the discussion would prove rather too long an interruption, and that the other points which came naturally to be treated in that place, could be explained with sufficient clearnefs, independently of this, I judged it better to reserve this question for a separate chapter. Various' hypotheses have been devised by the ingenious, in order to solve the difficulty. These I shall first briefly examine, and then lay before the reader what appears to me to be the true folution, Of all that have entered into the fubject, those who seem moft to merit our regard, are two French critics, and one of our own country,
SECTION 1. The different solutions hitherto given by philosophers, .
examined. Part I. The first hypothesis. ABBÉ dų Bos begins his excellent Reflectionş on Poe'ry and Painting, with that very question which is the subject of this chapter, and in an, fwer to it supports at fome length* a theory, the substance of which I shall endeavour to comprise in a few words. Few things, according to him, are more disagreeable to the mind, than that liflessness into which it falls, when it has nothing to occupy it, or to awake the passions. In order to get rid of this moft painful situation, it seeks with avidity every amusement and pursuit ; business, gaming, news, Shows, public executions, “romances; in short, whatever will rouse the passions, and take off the mind's attention from itself. It matters not what the emotion be, only the stronger it is, so much the better. And for this reason, those passions which, considered in themselves, are the most afflicting and disagreeable, are preferable to the pleasant, inasmuch
• Reflexions critiques sur la Poesie et sur la Peinture, Sect. i. ii, iii.
as they most effe&tually relieve the soul from that oppressive languor which preys upon it in a state of inactivity. They afford it ample occupation, and by giving play to its ļatent movements and springs of action, convey a pleasure which more than counterbalances the pain.
I ADMIT, with Mr. Hume*, that there is fome weight in these observations, which may sufficiently account for the pleasure taken in gaming, hunting, and several other diverfion's and sports. But they are not quite satisfactory, as they do not assign a sufficient reafon why poets, painters, and orators, exercise themselves more in actuating the painful passions, than in exciting the pleasant. These, one would think, ought in every refpect to have the advantage, because, at the same time that they preserve the mind from a state of inaction, they convey a feeling that is allowed to be agreeable. And though it were granted, that passions of the former kind are stronger than those of the latter (which doth not hold invariably, there being perhaps more examples of persons who have been killed with joy, than of those who have died of grief), ftrength alone will not account for the
• Eflay on Tragedy.
preference. It by no means holds here, that the stronger the emotion is, so much the fitter for this purpose. On the contrary, if you exceed but ever so little a certain measure, instead of that sympathetic delightful forrow, which makes affliction itself wear a lovely aspect, and engages the mind to hug it, not only with tenderness, but with transport, you only excite horror and aversion. “It is certain,” says the author, laft quoted, very justly *, “ that the same object of “ distress which pleases in a tragedy, were it “ really set before us, would give the most un“ feigned uneasiness, though it be then the most “ effectual cure of languor and indolence.” And it is more than barely possible, even in the representations of the tragedian, or in the descriptions of the orator or the poet, to exceed that measure. I acknowledge, indeed, that this measure or degree is not the same to every temper. Some are much sooner shocked with mournful representations than others. Our mental, like our bodily appetites and capacities, are exceedingly various. It is, however, the business of both the speaker and the writer, to accommodate himself to what may be ftyled the common standard; for there is a common standard in * Essay on Tragedy.