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natural, acquire strength by indulgence: for no strained or unnatural action of the nerves can ever be so assimilated to their constitutional modes of existence, as not to produce, on every re-application of its cause, a change sufficient to excite a pleasing irritation; which, those that are natural and gentle cease by degrees to do; since, by uninterrupted continuance for any long time, they become blended and confounded with those, which belong to the vital motion and constitutional existence of the organ. A man may inhale air impregnated with ottar of roses, or other sweet scents, till he no longer perceives that it is impregnated; as we often find to be the case with those who live in perfumers' shops: but no one can inhale air mixed with effluvia of assafetida or tobacco without perceiving it, unless his olfactory nerves have totally lost their sensibility.
11. It is to be observed, however, that a great part of the pleasure, arising from the use of bitter and nauseous drugs, and fermented liquors, arises from their exhilarating and in, toxicating qualities: but these belong to another branch of our inquiry, and shall be examined in the proper place.
1. WHAT has been said of tastes may, in almost every instance, be applied with equal propriety to smells; which are caused by the finer particles of bodies being dissolved in the air, which we inhale, and borne by it through the nostrils to the olfactory nerves; as tastes are caused by the same finer particles being diluted in the saliva, and conveyed with it to the palate and other organs of the mouth. The pleasures and pains of each seem to depend on similar modes and degrees of irritation: but, in mankind, to be more limited in their extent, in the sense of smelling, than in that of tasting.
2. In some kinds of animals, however, the sense of smell seems to be connected with certain mental sympathies; as those of hearing and sight are in all that possess them in any high degree: for not only their sexual desires appear to be excited by means of it; but other instinctive passions, which, according to the usual system of nature, should be still more remote from its influence. It has been observed that dogs, though wholly unacquainted with lions, will tremble and shudder at their roar; and an elephant, that has never seen a
tiger, will, in the same manner, show the strongest symptoms of horror and affright at the smell of it. The late Lord Clive exhibited a combat between two of these animals at Calcutta but the scent of the tiger had such an effect upon the elephant, that nothing could either force or allure him to go along the road, where the cage, in which it was enclosed, had passed; till a gallon of arrack was given him; when, his horror suddenly turning to fury, he broke down the paling to get at his enemy, and killed him without difficulty.
3. The excessive eagerness, which dogs express on smelling their game, seems to be but little connected with the appetite for food, and wholly independent of any preconceived ideas of the objects of their pursuit being fit for it. Hence several kinds of them will not eat the game, which they pursue with such wild impetuosity; and of which the scent seems to animate them to a degree of ecstasy, far beyond what the mere desire of food can produce.
4. Where blood has been shed, particularly that of their own species, oxen will assemble; and, upon smelling it, roar and bellow, and show the most manifest symptoms of horror and distress. Yet these symptoms could not arise from any associated ideas of danger or death; since they appear in them, that never had any opportunities of acquiring such ideas.
They must therefore be instinctive, like other innate antipathies and propensities; in which sensation appears, to operate upon the passions and mental affections more immediately, than it is ever found to do in the human species.
5. An eminent author, who makes terror to be a principal source of the sublime, has thence conceived a notion (upon a principle, indeed, different from that here stated) of stinks being sublime; though he acknowledges that he never could bring his mind to act in unison with his nose, so as to satisfy himself that he had really smelt a sublime stink. Through the medium of description, however, he has no doubt of the sentiment being excited by this sensation; in proof of which he quotes a celebrated passage of Virgil*. In this, however, as well as in many other instances, this truly great author has most unphilosophically mistaken a power for a sensation: a mistake, for which no excuse can be made but the early period of life at which the Inquiry into the Sublime and Beautiful was written; and his having soon after, unfortunately for his peace of mind, abandoned himself to more active pursuits," and to party given up what was meant for mankind." But, nevertheless, at this early
Inquiry into the Sublime and Beautiful. Part II. f. xxi.
period, his feelings were generally right, even where his judgment was most wrong; so that he felt, though he did not know that, in the description, it is the power only, and in the reality, the sensation only, that affects the mind, or is at all perceived by it. But of this more hereafter: at present I shall merely observe, in justice to his memory, that, in his latter days, he laughed very candidly and goodhumouredly at many of the philosophical absurdities, which will be here exposed; and I must add, in justice to myself, that I should not have thus undertaken to expose them, had they not been since adopted by others, and made to contribute so largely to the propagation of bad taste; of which instances will be given in the proper place.
6. In exciting the sexual desires of animals, the sense of smell seems to be no further concerned than in indicating their object; the real principles and incentives of their desires being certain internal stimuli, which operate periodically with a degree of violence far surpassing that of any other appetite. As in other instances, in which the other senses are concerned, the sensation excites the idea, and the idea excites the appetite.
tum sævus aper, tum pessima tigris: Heu! malè tum Libya solis erratur in agris.