Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

“ 'Tis distance lends enchantment to the view." Whatever may be our present evils, we imagine there is good to come. We rish forward in the pursuit of it like children, who set out with spirited emulation, expecting to grasp in their hands the splendours of the rainbow, that appears to them to rest upon the neigh bouring hills.

319. Explanation of the above misrepresentations of the imagination.

But how happens it that this faculty, in these and other similar instances, sometimes misleads us? What explanation can be given ?- The answer is, that the mind turns away with a natural aversion from whatever causes it pain or uneasiness ; delighting to dwell on the elements of beauty and sublimity, and, in general, on all scenes which excite in it pleasant emotions. As there is, therefore, more or less in all actual situations which causes dissatisfaction, we shall always find, in every condition in which we are placed, something which detracts from what we imagine to be the sum of happiness. The evils which are around us and near us, we must know; our situation forbids an attempt at the concealment of them. Every day forces the lesson of human adversity on our attention. But when we look abroad from the reality which exists at home, from the cares and sorrows which are ever near at hand, to other scenes and prospects, we do not think of trial and disappointment, because we are not obliged to. We fix our attention upon those circumcumstances which appear most favourable and interesting; and, consequently, know nothing of the uneasiness and misery which actually exist in the imaginary paradise of our creation. For instance, we are apt to associ. ate, as has been remarked, with persons in very high stations of life, the ideas of unalloyed happiness, of moral excellence, of manliness and beauty of form; but while men in the most exalted stations have no less a share than others of bodily defa:nities and suffering, they have still greater anxieties; their hours of sorrow are often' more numerous than those of any other class of persons. It was well inquired by King Henry in Shakspeare,

Vol. I.-LL

" What infinite heart's ease must kings neglect,
That private men enjoy ?
And what have kings, that privates have not too,

Save ceremony, save general ceremony ?" And under the direction of the same mental tendency by which we are led to mark the elevations without noticing the depressions of the great men of the earth, we are led also to see the sublirnities and hide from our sight the degradations and miseries of war, to behold the sunshine of the future, but no clouds.

Ø 320. Feelings of sympathy aided by the imagination. But where the imagination is not at liberty to fix itself exclusively upon pleasing circumstances, the results as to the degree of creative power are the same, although they are of a different kind. In the one case it forms creations of beauty, magnificence, sublimity; in the other it is equally efficacious in combining images of gloom and suffering. Hence a quick and powerful imagination is no small aid in the exercise of the sympathetic feelings. Accordingly, when two men (the one a person of imagination, the other not) meet a poor man who has suddenly been reduced to poverty, they will be found to have different degrees of sympathy for him. The latter, no doubt, will pity the unfortunate man; but the former will pity him more. He will think of his former situation; he will follow him to his dwelling; he will see in his “ prophetic eye” the tears of his family; in a word, he will, as a general statement, have more feeling for all individuals in suffering, and, consequently, be more likely to lend his aid to alleviate it.

Thus, in Sterne's Sentimental Journey, he is led by some circumstance to think of a captive in one of the French State Prisons. He gives the reins to his imagi. nation, “and looks through the twilight of the grated door to take the picture.- I beheld,” says he, “his body half wasted with long expectation and confinement, and felt what kind of sickness of the heart it is which arises from hope deferred. Upon looking nearer, I saw him pale and feverish. In thirty years the western breeze had not fanned his blood. He had seen no sun, no moon,

in all that time; nor had the voice of friend or kinsman breathed through his lattice. His children—but here my heart began to bleed, and I was forced to go on with another part of the portrait.”

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER XV.

COMPLEX IDEAS OF INTERNAL (RIGIN,

Ø 321. Of complex ideas of external origin. It will be recollected that, in considering that portion of our knowledge which has an external origin, our mental states were examined in relation to their Simplicity and Complexness. The names of colours, as red, white, yellow, green, &c., were spoken of as being expressive of simple ideas, or, rather, of simple sensations. The character of simplicity belongs also to the original intimations of the touch, and to the original sensations of the hearing, smell, and taste. Other names, as loadstone, tree, sun, gold, and the like, were referred to as expressive of complex notions. It was laid down as characteristic of simple notions, that they are one and inseparable, while such as are complex embrace any number of simple ideas more than one.

But in respect to complex notions of an external origin, there is this further and obvious characteristic. When they are ascertained with suitable care, they are just what the forms of external nature have constituted them, being neither more nor less extensive. complex notions, for instance, of a loadstone, a tree, the sun, animal, man, horse, gold, &c., we embrace precisely what nature has allotted to the objects themselves; that is to say, if our complex ideas in these particular cases be properly and fully formed. Nature, as she exists external to the mind, has placed a limit on combinations of this kind which we are clearly not at liberty to disregard.

In our

$322. Nature of complex ideas of internal origin. But in considering, as we do at present, that portion of our knowledge which is not directly dependant on external objects, we are naturally led to remark on complex notions of internal origin. Complex ideas of this description are like all others, in being composed of elementary parts which are simple. Original Suggestion, Consciousness, Relative Suggestion, and the Reasoning power, which are the great sources of internal knowledge, are all fountains of new simple views. A multitude of thoughts, unknown to the mind before, arise from these various sources, which are not susceptible of being resolved into others more elementary. But, while we cannot resolve, we are able to combine them in a variety of ways almost endless.

But the prominent characteristic of the complex mental states now under consideration is not that the elementary parts come in a great degree from these sources; it is rather the mind's agency in forming them. We are not limited, in the process of combination, by any precise complication of qualities in outward objects, which is the fact in respect to complex notions of external origin; but may bring together ideas of the same or of different kinds, and may form new wholes of every imaginable description. Such new notions, considered in reference to what they are in their complex state, are purely creatures of the mind, fashioned by the mind's choice, and capable of being altered, according to the mere dictates of that choice, into every degree of enlargement and diminution, and into every novelty of aspect. It is on this ground chiefly that they are characterized as being of internal rather than of external origin. Ø 323. Of complex notions formed by the repetition of the saine thing

In some instances we find the same ideas repeated a greater or less number of times, and susceptible of enlargement and variety by the mere addition or inultip cation of itself. By means of such repetition we become possessed of various complex notions, which are distinguished from others merely in being modifications of the same original thought, carried on to a greater or less extent, but without any intermixture of foreign materials.

Of the ideas of this class are such as are expressed by the words hour, day, week, month, and year; which are framed by the modification, and the adding together, as it were, of our elementary notions of time. Artificial measures of extension, such as an inch, foot, yard, furlong, and mile, although they are based upon something which is directly addressed to the outward senses, are nevertheless, in themselves considered, the arbitrary creations of the mind, and, of course, belong here.—To this class also belong the complex ideas of number, as a dozen, a score, a hundred, a thousand, which are formed by the repeated addition of units, as far as the collections specified by those names.

The origin of the elementary notion of unity or oneness was explained on a former occasion; and it is not only one of the earliest, but one of the most distinct notions men have. This simple elementary idea lays the foundation of all the numerous and diversified combinations of numbers. And it is worthy of remark, that these combinations, although they are carried to a wonder ful extent, are exceedingly distinct in the mind's conception of them, so as to be but seldom confounded with each other, or attended with any perplexity. There is, for instance, no confusion and indistinctness in the complex idea expressed by the word MILLION, although it might not be unreasonable to expect it when we consider the vast number of subordinate parts embraced in it. But this is owing, in part, to certain facilities afforded to the mind by the numerical signs used, and by language in particular. Ø 324. Of the help afforded by names in the combination of numbers.

A certain writer remarks on the skilful formation of the names of numbers, and on the assistance afforded by them, in the following terms." And here we may take notice of a wonderful artifice made use of by the mind to facilitate and help itself forward in its conceptions. For, as the advance from number to number is endless, were they all to be distinguished by different denoininations that had no connexion or dependance one upon another, the multitude of them must soon overcharge the

memory.

« VorigeDoorgaan »