« PreviousContinue »
tion. When the two associate feelings have both, together, or in immediate succession, been of long continuance, very lively, freqeuntly renewed in the same order, and that recently, the tendency to suggest each other is most powerful. But the greater tendency,-though then most remarkably exhibited, is not confined to cases in which these laws are applicable to both the associate feelings. It is much increased, even when they apply only to that one which is second in the succession. The sight of an object which is altogether new to us, and which, therefore, could not have formed a stronger connexion with one set of objects than with another,-will more readily recall to us, by its resemblance or other relation, such objects as have been long familiar to us, than others which may have passed frequently before us, but with which we are little acquainted. The sailor sees every where some near or distant similarity to the parts of his own ship; and the phraseology, so rich in nautical metaphors, which he uses, and applies, with most rhetorical exactness, even to objects perceived by him for the first time, is a proof, that for readiness of suggestion, it is not necessary that the secondary laws of suggestion should, in every particular case, have been applicable to both the suggesting and the suggested idea.
Even one of these secondary laws, alone, may be sufficient to change completely the suggestion, which would otherwise have arisen from the operation of the primary laws; and it is not wonderful, therefore, that when many of them, as they usually do, concur in one joint effect, the result in different individuals should be so various. Of the whole audience of a crowded theatre, who witness together the representation of the same piece, there are probably no two individuals, who carry away the same images, though the resemblances, contiguities, contrasts, and in general what I have called the primary, in opposition to the secondary laws of suggestion, may have been the same to both. Some will perhaps think afterwards of the plot, and general development of the drama; some, of the merits of the performers; some will remember little more, than that they were in a great crowd, and were very happy; a gay and dissipated young man will perhaps. think only of the charms of some fascinating actress; and a young beauty will as probably carry away no remembrance so strong, as that of the eyes which were most frequently fixed upon hers.
By the consideration of these secondary laws of suggestion, then, the difficulty, which the consideration of the primary laws left unexplained, is at once removed. We see now, how VOL. II.-F
one suggestion takes place rather than another, when, by the operation of the mere primary laws, many suggestions might arise equally; the influence of the secondary laws modifying this general tendency, and modifying it, of course, variously, as themselves are various.
THE DEGREE OF LIVELINESS OF THE SUGGESTING FEELINGS INFLUENCES GREATLY THAT OF THE FEELINGS SUGGESTED.
My last Lecture, Gentlemen, was employed in an inquiry, which very naturally arises from the consideration of the various relations according to which suggestion may take place; -why, if the same object, as either perceived or imagined by us, is capable, by its almost innumerable relations, of suggesting the conception of various other objects, it suggests, at any particular time, one of these, rather than another? To say, that certain objects suggest certain other objects which are similar to them, opposite to them in quality, or formerly proximate in place or time, is to say nothing in explanation of this difficulty, but only to state the very difficulty itself; since it is to state various relations, according to which various conceptions may indifferently arise. It is evident, therefore, that whatever may be the number of these primary laws of suggestion, or general circumstances of relation, according to which the parts of our trains of thought may suggest each other, there must be other circumstances, which modify and direct the operation of the primary laws. To these modifying circumstances I gave the name of secondary laws of suggestion; the classification of which,-though not less interesting or important than the classification of the general circumstances which constitute the primary laws,-has been altogether neglected, even by those philosophers who have endeavoured to arrange the primary relations.
The chief part of my last lecture was employed, accordingly, in inquiring into the general circumstances which constitute the secondary laws of suggestion; those circumstances by which it happens, that one suggestion takes place rather than another, when according to the mere primary laws either suggestion might equally occur.
To repeat then, briefly, that enumeration which was the result of our inquiry, the occasional suggestions that flow from the primary laws, on which our trains of thought depend, are various, as the original feelings have been, 1st, Of longer or
shorter continuance; 2dly, More or less lively; 3dly, of more or less frequent occurrence; 4thly, More or less recent; 5thly, More or less pure from the occasional and varying mixture of other feelings; 6thly, They vary according to differences of original constitution; 7thly, According to differences of temporary emotion; 8thly, According to changes produced in the state of the body; and, 9thly, According to general tendencies produced by prior habits. Many of these differences, it is evident, may concur; but even a single difference in any one of these respects may be sufficient to account for the particular varying suggestion of the moment.
The next inquiry to which I would direct your attention, is to the difference of liveliness of the feeling which forms a part of a train of thought, according as that which suggested it may have been itself more or less lively.
The conception of an object may, it is evident, be suggested in two ways, by the perception of some other object really existing without; or by some other conception, previously existing in a train of internal thought. But, though it may be suggested in either way, it is by no means indifferent, with respect to it, in which of the two ways the suggestion has taken place.
"The influence of perceptible objects," says Mr. Stewart, "in reviving former thoughts and former feelings, is more particularly remarkable. After time has, in some degree, reconciled us to the death of a friend, how wonderfully are we affected the first time we enter the house where he lived! Every thing we see, the apartment where he studied, the chair upon which he sat,-recall to us the happiness we have enjoyed together; and we should feel it a sort of violation of that respect we owe to his memory, to engage in any light or indifferent discourse when such objects are before us. In the case, too, of those remarkable scenes, which interest the curiosity from the memorable persons or transactions which we have been accustomed to connect with them in the course of our studies, the fancy is more awakened by the actual perception of the scene itself, than by the mere conception or imagination of it. Hence the pleasure we enjoy in visiting classical ground; in beholding the retreats which inspired the genius of our favourite authors, or the fields which have been dignified by exertions of heroic virtue. How feeble are the emotions produced by the liveliest conception of modern Italy, to what the poet felt, when, amidst the ruins of Rome,
'He drew th' inspiring breath of ancient arts,
"The well-known effect of a particular tune on Swiss regiments when at a distance from home, furnishes a very striking illustration of the peculiar power of a perception, or of an impression on the senses, to awaken associated thoughts and feelings; and numberless facts of a similar nature must have occurred to every person of moderate sensibility, in the course of his own experience.
"Whilst we were at dinner,' says Captain King, 'in this miserable hut, on the banks of the river Awatska,-the guests of a people with whose existence we had before been scarce acquainted, and at the extremity of the habitable globe, a solitary half-worn pewter spoon, whose shape was familiar to us, attracted our attention; and, on examination, we found it stamped on the back with the word, London. I cannot pass over this circumstance in silence, out of gratitude for ne many pleasant thoughts, the anxious hopes, and tender remembrances, it excited in us. Those who have experienced the effects that long absence, and extreme distance from their native country produce on the mind, will readily conceive the pleasure such a trifling incident can give.'"*
Of the truth of these delightful influences, who is there that can doubt? Distant as we are from those lands, which, in the studies of our boyhood, endeared and consecrated by so many remembrances, were to us almost like the very country of our birth, it is scarcely possible to think of ancient Rome or Greece, without mingling, with an interest more than passion, in the very ages of their glory. Some name or exploit instantly occurs to our mind; which, even in the faintness of our conception, is sufficient to transport us, for some few moments, from the scene of duller things around. But, when we tread on the soil itself,-when, as Cicero says, speaking of Athens, "Quocunque ingredimur, in aliquam historiam vestigium ponimus," - all which history has made dear to us is renewed to our very eyes. There are visionary forms around us, which make the land on which we tread, not the country that is, but the country that has been. We see again the very groves of Acade
"And Plato's self
Seems half-emerging from his olive bowers,
"Tanta vis admonitionis est in locis," says Cicero, in a passage of his work De Finibus, in which he describes the peculiar vividness of our conceptions, on the actual view of scenes, ennobled by the residence of those whom we have been accus
Philosophy of the Human Mind, Chap. V. Part I. Sect. 1.