« PreviousContinue »
from a purpose he approved as right, not even for a moment. but every thing consistent with such a character is done to reconcile the two opposite passions; he is resolved to put her to death, but he will not shed her blood, nor so much as ruffle her skin:
Othello. It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul;
[Lays down the sword.
Let me not name it to you, you chaste stars!
I can again thy former light restore,
Should I repent: but once put out thy light,
I know not where is that Promethean heat
That can thy life relumine.-[Sels down the taper.
I cannot give it vital growth again;
It needs must wither.-I'll smell thee on the tree. [Kissing her.
Justice to break her sword!-One more; one more;
Be thus when thou art dead, and I will kill thee,
Othello, Act V. Sc. 6.
In Otway's Orphan, we have an illustrious example of the address employed to gratify opposite passions directed to the same object. Castalio and Polydore, brothers and rivals, had sworn mutual confidence: Castalio broke his faith by a private marriage; which unwarily betrayed Polydore into a dismal deed, that of polluting his brother's bed. Thus he had injured his brother, and was injured by him: justice prompted him to make full atonement by his own death; resentment against his brother, required a full atonement to be made to himself. In coexistent passions so contradictory, one of them commonly prevails after a struggle: but here happily an expedient occurred to Polydore for gratifying both; which was, that he should provoke his brother to put him to death. Polydore's crime, in his own opinion, merited that punishment; and justice was satisfied when he fell by the hand of the man he had injured: he wanted, at the same time, to punish his brother for breach of faith; and he could not punish more effectually than by betraying his brother to be his executioner.
If difference of aim prevent the union of two passions, though they have the same object, much more will it prevent their union, when their objects are also different: in both cases there is a fluctuation; but in the latter the fluctuation is slower than in the former. A beautiful situation of that kind is exhibited in the Cid of Corneille. Don Diegue, an old soldier worn out with age, having received a mortal affront from the Count, father to Chimene, employs his son Don Rodrigue, Chimene's lover, to demand satisfaction. This situation occasions in the breast of Don Rodrigue a cruel struggle between love and honor, one of which must be sacrificed. The scene is
finely conducted, chiefly by making love, in some degree, take part with honor, Don Rodrigue reflecting, that if he lost his honor he could not deserve his mistress: honor triumphs; and the Count provoked to a single combat, falls by the hand of Don Rodrigue.
This produces another beautiful situation respecting Chimene, which making part of the same story, is placed here, though it properly belongs to the foregoing head. It became the duty of that lady to demand justice against her lover, for whose preservation, in other circumstances, she would have cheerfully sacrificed her own life. The struggle between these opposite passions directed to the same object is finely expressed in the third scene of the third act:
Elvire. Il vous prive d'un père, et vous l'aimez encore !
Ma passion s'oppose à mon ressentiment,
Not less when the objects are different than when the same, are means sometimes afforded to gratify both passions; and such means are greedily embraced. In Tasso's Gerusalemme, Edward and Gildippe, husband and wife, are introduced fighting gallantly against the Saracens. Gildippe receives a mortal wound by the hand of Soliman Edward inflamed with revenge, as well as concern for Gildippe, is agitated between the two different objects. The poet describes him endeavoring to gratify both at once, applying his right hand against Soliman, the object of his resentment, and his left hand to support his wife, the object of his love.
INFLUENCE OF PASSION WITH RESPECT ΤΟ OUR PERCEPTIONS, OPINIONS, AND BELIEF.
The influence of passion upon our perceptions, opinions, and belief-Tranquillity or sedateness, the proper state of mind for accurate perception and cool deliberation Agreeable passions prepossess us in favor of their objects; disagreeable do not-A strong propensity in our nature to justify our passions and actions-Arguments for a favorite opinion always at hand-The mind delighted and impressed by agreeable_arguments, but not by disagreeable— Examples: Gratitude-Envy-Grief-Resentment-Anger-Good news-Bad
news-Improbable events-Future events-Prosperity-Affliction.
CONSIDERING how intimately our perceptions, passions, and actions, are mutually connected, it would be wonderful if they should
Canto 20. st. 97.
have no mutual influence. That our actions are too much influenced by passion, is a known truth; but it is not less certain, though not so well known, that passion has also an influence upon our perceptions, opinions, and belief. For example, the opinions we form of men and things, are generally directed by affection: an advice given by a man of figure, has great weight; the same advice from one in a low condition is despised or neglected: a man of courage underrates danger; and to the indolent the slightest obstacle appears unsurmountable.
This doctrine is of great use in logic; and of still greater use in criticism, by serving to explain several principles of the fine arts that will be unfolded in the course of this work. A few general observations shall, at present, suffice, leaving the subject to be prosecuted more particularly afterward when occasion offers.
There is no truth more universally known, than that tranquillity and sedateness are the proper state of mind for accurate perception and cool deliberation; and for that reason, we never regard the opinion, even of the wisest man, when we discover prejudice or passion behind the curtain. Passion, as observed above,* has such influence over us, as to give a false light to all its objects. Agreeable passions prepossess the mind in favor of their objects, and disagreeable passions, no less against their objects: a woman is all perfection in her lover's opinion, while, in the eye of a rival beauty, she is awkward and disagreeable: when the passion of love is gone, beauty vanishes with it,-nothing is left of that genteel motion, that sprightly conversation, those numberless graces, which formerly, in the lover's opinion, charmed all hearts. To a zealot every one of his own sect is a saint, while the most upright of a different sect are, to him, children of perdition: the talent of speaking in a friend, is more regarded than prudent conduct in any other. Nor will this surprise one acquainted with the world. Our opinions, the result, frequently, of various and complicated views, are commonly so slight and wavering, as readily to be susceptible of a bias from passion.
With that natural bias another circumstance concurs, to give passion an undue influence on our opinions and belief; and that is a strong tendency in our nature to justify our passions as well as our actions, not to others only, but even to ourselves. That tendency is peculiarly remarkable with respect to disagreeable passions: by its influence, objects are magnified or lessened, circumstances supplied or suppressed, every thing colored and disguised, to answer the end of justification. Hence the foundation of self-deceit, where a man imposes upon himself innocently, and even without suspicion of a bias.
There are subordinate means that contribute to pervert the judg ment, and to make us form opinions contrary to truth; of which I shall mention two. First, it was formerly observed,† that though ideas seldom start up in the mind without connection, yet that ideas suited to the present tone of mind are readily suggested by any slight connection: the arguments for a favorite opinion are always at hand, while we often search in vain for those that cross our inclination. * Page 68. + Chap. 1.
Second; the mind, taking delight in agreeable circumstances or arguments, is deeply impressed with them; while those that are disagreeable are hurried over so as scarcely to make any impression: the same argument, by being relished or not relished, weighs so differently, as in truth to make conviction depend more on passion than on reasoning. This observation is fully justified by experience: to confine myself to a single instance; the numberless absurd religious tenets that at different times have pestered the world, would be altogether unaccountable but for that irregular bias of passion.
We proceed to a more pleasant task, which is, to illustrate the foregoing observations by proper examples. Gratitude, when warm, is often exerted upon the children of the benefactor; especially where he is removed out of reach by death or absence.* The passion in this case being exerted for the sake of the benefactor, requires no peculiar excellence in his children: but the practice of doing good to these children produces affection for them, which never fails to advance them in our esteem. By such means, strong connections of affection are often formed among individuals, upon the slight foundation now mentioned.
Envy is a passion, which, being altogether unjustifiable, can only be excused by disguising it under some plausible name. At the same time, no passion is more eager than envy, to give its object a disagreeable appearance: it magnifies every bad quality, and fixes on the most humbling circumstances:
Cassius. I cannot tell what you and other men
In awe of such a thing as I myself.
I was born free as Cæsar, so were you;
I, as Æneas, our great ancestor,
Did from the flames of Troy upon his shoulder
The old Anchises bear; so from the waves of Tyber
Did I the tired Cæsar: and this man
Is now become a god, and Cassius is
A wretched creature; and must bend his body,
If Cæsar carelessly but nod on him.
He had a fever when he was in Spain,
And when the fit was on him, I did mark
How he did shake. "Tis true, this god did shake;
See part 1. sect. 1. of the present chapter.
His coward lips did from their color fly,
Ay, and that tongue of his, that bade the Romans
Julius Cæsar, Act I. Sc. 3.
Glo'ster, inflamed with resentment against his son Edgar, could even force himself into a momentary conviction that they were not related:
O strange fasten'd villain!
Would he deny his letter?-I never got him.
King Lear, Act II. Sc. 3.
When by great sensibility of heart, or other means, grief becomes immoderate, the mind, in order to justify itself, is prone to magnify the cause and if the real cause admit not of being magnified, the mind seeks a cause for its grief in imagined future events:
Busby. Madam, your Majesty is much too sad:
And entertain a cheerful disposition.
Queen. To please the King, I did; to please myself,
Why I should welcome such a guest as grief:
Richard II. Act II. Sc. 5.
Resentment at first is vented on the relations of the offender, in order to punish him: but as resentment, when so outrageous, is contrary to conscience, the mind, to justify its passion, is disposed to paint these relations in the blackest colors; and it comes, at last, to be convinced, that they ought to be punished for their own demerits. Anger raised by an accidental stroke upon a tender part of the body, is sometimes vented upon the undesigning cause. But as the passion in that case is absurd, and as there can be no solid gratification in punishing the innocent, the mind, prone to justify as well as to gratify its passion, deludes itself into a conviction that the action is voluntary. The conviction, however, is but momentary: the first reflection shows it to be erroneous; and the passion vanishes almost instantaneously with the conviction. But anger, the most violent of all passions, has still greater influence: it sometimes forces the mind to personify a stock or a stone, if it happen to occasion bodily pain, and even to believe it a voluntary agent, in order to be a proper object of resentment. And that we have really a momentary conviction of its being a voluntary agent, must be evident from considering, that, without such conviction, the passion can neither