Page images

burns for an opportunity to exert his gratitude, without having any affection for his benefactor: neither does desire of vengeance for an atrocious injury involve aversion.

It is perhaps not easy to say why moderate pleasures gather strength by custom; but two causes concur to prevent that effect in the more intense pleasures. These, by an original law in our nature, increase quickly to their full growth, and decay with no less precipitation ;* and custom is too slow in its operation to overcome that law. The other cause is no less powerful: exquisite pleasure is extremely fatiguing; occasioning, as a naturalist would say, great expense of animal spirits;† and of such the mind cannot bear so frequent gratification, as to superinduce a habit; if the thing that raises the pleasure return before the mind have recovered its tone and relish, disgust ensues instead of pleasure.

A habit never fails to admonish us of the wonted time of grati fication, by raising a pain for want of the object, and a desire to have it. The pain of want is always first felt; the desire naturally follows; and upon presenting the object, both vanish instantaneously. Thus a man accustomed to tobacco, feels, at the end of the usual interval, a confused pain of want; which at first points at nothing in particular, though it soon settles upon its accustomed object and the same may be observed in persons addicted to drinking, who are often in an uneasy restless state before they think of the bottle. In pleasures indulged regularly, and at equal intervals, the appetite, remarkably obsequious to custom, returns regularly with the usual time of gratification; not sooner, even though the object be presented. This pain of want arising from habit, seems directly opposite to that of satiety; and it must appear singular, that frequency of gratification should produce effects so opposite, as are the pains of excess and of want.

The appetites that respect the preservation and propagation of our species, are attended with a pain of want similar to that occasioned by habit: hunger and thirst are uneasy sensations of want, which always precede the desire of eating or drinking; and a pain

The sultan, after a gloomy silence, formed his resolution. He ordered Mustapha to assemble the troops next morning; and then with precipitation retired to Irene's apartment. Never before did that princess appear so charming; never before did the prince bestow so many warm caresses. To give a new lustre to her beauty, he exhorted her women next morning, to bestow their utmost art and care on her dress. He took her by the hand, led her into the middle of the army, and, pulling off her veil, demanded of the bashas with a fierce look, whether they ever had beheld such a beauty? After an awful pause, Mahomet, with one hand laying hold of the young Greek by her beautiful locks, and with the other pulling out his scimitar, severed the head from the body at one stroke. Then turning to his grandees, with eyes wild and furious, "This sword," said he, "when it is my will, knows to cut the bands of love." However strange it may appear, we learn from experience, that desire of enjoyment may consist with the most brutal aversion, directed both to the same woman. Of this we have a noted example in the first book of Sully's Memoirs; to which I choose to refer the reader, for it is too gross to be transcribed.

*See chap. 2. part 3.

+ Lady Easy, upon her husband's reformation, expresses to her friend the following sentiment: "Be satisfied; Sir Charles has made me happy, even to a "pain of joy."

for want of carnal enjoyment precedes the desire of an object. The pain being thus felt independent of an object, cannot be cured but by gratification. Very different is an ordinary passion, in which desire precedes the pain of want: such a passion cannot exist but while the object is in view; and therefore, by removing the object out of thought, it vanisheth, with its desire, and pain of want.*

The natural appetites above mentioned differ from habit in the following particular: they have an undetermined direction toward all objects of gratification in general; whereas an habitual appetite is directed to a particular object: the attachment we have by habit to a particular woman, differs widely from the natural passion which comprehends the whole sex; and the habitual relish for a particular dish is far from being the same with a vague appetite for food. That difference notwithstanding, it is still remarkable, that nature hath enforced the gratification of certain natural appetites essential to the species, by a pain of the same sort with that which habit produceth.

The pain of habit is less under our power than any other pain that arises from want of gratification: hunger and thirst are more easily endured, especially at first, than an unusual intermission of any habitual pleasure: persons are often heard declaring, they would forego sleep or food, rather than tobacco. We must not, however, conclude that the gratification of an habitual appetite affords the same delight with the gratification of one that is natural; far from it; the pain of want only is greater.

The slow and reiterated acts that produce a habit, strengthen the mind to enjoy the habitual pleasure in greater quantity and more frequency than originally; and by that means a habit of intemperate gratification is often formed: after unbounded acts of intemperance, the habitual relish is soon restored, and the pain for want of enjoyment returns with fresh vigour.

The causes of the present emotions hitherto in view, are either an individual, such as a companion, a certain dwelling-place, a certain amusement; or a particular species, such as coffee, mutton, or any other food. But habit is not confined to such. A constant train of trifling diversions may form such a habit in the mind, that it cannot be easy a moment without amusement: a variety in the objects prevents a habit as to any one in particular; but as the train is uniform with respect to amusement, the habit is formed accordingly; and that sort of habit may be denominated a generic habit, in opposition to the former, which is a specific habit. A habit of a town life, of country sports, of solitude, of reading, or of business, where sufficiently varied, are instances of generic habits. Every specific habit hath a mixture of the generic; for the habit of any one sort of food makes the taste agreeable, and we are fond of that taste wherever found. Thus a man deprived of an habitual object, takes up with what most resembles it; deprived of tobacco, any bitter herb will do rather than want: a habit of punch makes wine a good resource: accustomed to the sweet society and comforts of matrimony, the man, unhappily deprived of his beloved * See chap. 2. part 3.

object, inclines the sooner to a second. In general, when we are deprived of an habitual object, we are fond of its qualities in any other object.

The reasons are assigned above, why the causes of intense plea. sure become not readily habitual: but now we discover that these reasons conclude only against specific habits. In the case of a weak pleasure, a habit is formed by frequency and uniformity of reiteration, which, in the case of an intense pleasure, produceth satiety and disgust. But it is remarkable, that satiety and disgust have no effect, except as to that thing singly which occasions them: a surfeit of honey produceth not a loathing of sugar; and intemperance with one woman produceth no disrelish of the same pleasure with others. Hence it is easy to account for a generic habit in any intense pleasure: the delight we had in the gratification of the appetite inflames the imagination, and makes us, with avidity, search for the same gratification in whatever other subject it can be found. And thus uniform frequency in gratifying the same passion upon different objects, produceth at length a generic habit. In this manner, one acquires an habitual delight in high and poignant sauces, rich dress, fine equipages, crowds of company, and in whatever is commonly termed pleasure. There concurs, at the same time, to introduce this habit, a peculiarity observed above, that reiteration of acts enlarges the capacity of the mind to admit a more plentiful gratification than originally, with regard to frequency as well as quantity.

Hence it appears, that though a specific habit cannot be formed but upon a moderate pleasure, a generic habit may be formed upon any sort of pleasure, moderate or immoderate, that hath variety of objects. The only difference is, that a weak pleasure runs naturally into a specific habit; whereas an intense pleasure is altogether averse to such a habit. In a word, it is only in singular cases that a moderate pleasure produces a generic habit; but an intense pleasure cannot produce any other habit.

The appetites that respect the preservation and propagation of the species are formed into habit in a peculiar manner; the time as well as measure of their gratification are much under the power of custom, which, by introducing a change upon the body, occa. sions a proportional change in the appetites. Thus, if the body be gradually formed to a certain quantity of food at stated times, the appetite is regulated accordingly; and the appetite is again changed, when a different habit of body is introduced by a different practice. Here it would seem that the change is not made upon the mind, which is commonly the case in passive habits, but upon the body.

When rich food is brought down by ingredients of a plainer taste, the composition is susceptible of a specific habit. Thus the sweet taste of sugar, rendered less poignant in a mixture, may, in course of time, produce a specific habit for such mixture. As moderate pleasures, by becoming more intense, tend to generic habits, so intense pleasures, by becoming more moderate, tend to specific habits.

The beauty of the human figure, by a special recommendation of


nature, appears to us supreme, amid the great variety of beauteous forms bestowed upon animals. The various degrees in which indi. viduals enjoy that property, render it an object, sometimes of a moderate, sometimes of an intense passion. The moderate passion, admitting frequent reiteration without diminution, and occupying the mind without exhausting it, turns gradually stronger till it becomes a habit. Nay, instances are not wanting of a face, at first disagreeable, afterward rendered indifferent by familiarity, and at length agreeable by custom. On the other hand, consummate beauty, as the very first glance, fills the mind so as to admit no increase. joyment lessens the pleasure ;* and if often repeated, ends commonly in satiety and disgust. The impressions made by consummate beauty, in a gradual succession from lively to faint, constitute a series opposite to that of faint impressions waxing gradually more lively, till they produce a specific habit. But the mind, when ac. customed to beauty, contracts a relish for it in general, though often repelled from particular objects by the pain of satiety; and thus a generic habit is formed, of which inconstancy in love is the necessary consequence; for a generic habit, comprehending every beautiful object, is an invincible obstruction to a specific habit, which is confined to one.


But a matter which is of great importance to the youth of both sexes deserves more than a cursory view. Though the pleasant emotion of beauty differs widely from the corporeal appetite, yet when both are directed to the same object, they produce a very strong complex passion † enjoyment in that case must be exqui. site, and therefore more apt to produce satiety than any other case whatever. This is a never-failing effect, where consummate beauty in the one party meets with a warm imagination and great sensibility in the other. What I am here explaining is true without exaggeration; and they must be insensible upon whom it makes no impression it deserves well to be pondered by the young and the amo rous, who, in forming the matrimonial society, are too often blindly impelled by the animal pleasure merely inflamed by beauty. It may indeed happen after the pleasure is gone (and go it must with a swift pace), that a new connexion is formed upon more dignified and more lasting principles; but this is a dangerous experiment; for even supposing good sense, good temper, and internal merit of every sort, yet a new connexion upon such qualifications is rarely formed; it commonly, or rather always happens, that such qualifications, the only solid foundation of an indissoluble connexion, are rendered altogether invisible by satiety of enjoyment creating disgust.

One effect of custom, different from any that have been explained must not be omitted, because it makes a great figure in human nature; though custom augments moderate pleasures, and lessens those that are intense, it has a different effect with respect to pain; for it blunts the edge of every sort of pain and distress, faint or acute. Uninterrupted misery, therefore, is attended with one good effect: if its torments be incessant, custom hardens us to bear them → Bee chap. 2. part 3. See chap. 2. part 4

The changes made in forming habits are curious. Moderate pleasures are augmented gradually by reiteration till they become habitual, and then are at their height; but they are not long sta tionary; for from that point they gradually decay, till they vanish altogether. The pain occasioned by want of gratification runs a different course; it increases uniformly, and at last becomes extreme, when the pleasure of gratification is reduced to nothing: -It so falls out,

That what we have we prize not to the worth,
While we enjoy it; but being lack'd and lost,
Why then we rack the value: then we find
The virtue that possession would not shew us

Whilst it was ours.-Much ado about Nothing, aci 4. sc. 2.

The effect of custom with relation to a specific habit is displayed through all its varieties in the use of tobacco. The taste of that plant is at first extremely unpleasant: our disgust lessens gradually, till it vanish altogether; at which period the taste is neither agreeable nor disagreeable; continuing the use of the plant, we begin to relish it, and our relish improves by use, till it arrive at perfection from that period it gradually decays, while the habit is in a state of increment, and consequently the pain of want. The result is, that when the habit has acquired its greatest vigour, the relish is gone; and accordingly we often smoke and take snuff habitually, without so much as being conscious of the operation. We must except gratification after the pain of want; the pleasure of which gratification is the greatest when the habit is the most vigo rous it is of the same kind with the pleasure one feels upon being delivered from the rack, the cause of which is explained above.* This pleasure, however, is but occasionally the effect of habit, and, however exquisite, is avoided as much as possible, because of the pain that precedes it.

With regard to the pain of want, I can discover no difference between a generic and a specific habit. But these habits differ widely with respect to the positive pleasure. I have had occasion to observe, that the pleasure of a specific habit decays gradually till it turn imperceptible; the pleasure of a generic habit, on the contrary, being supported by variety of gratification, suffers little or no decay after it comes to its height. However it may be with other generic habits, the observation, I am certain, holds with respect to the pleasures of virtue and of knowledge: the pleasure of doing good has an unbounded scope, and may be so variously gratified that it can never decay; science is equally unbounded; our appetite for knowledge having an ample range of gratification, where discoveries are recommended by novelty, by variety, by utility, or by all of them.

In this intricate iuquiry I have endeavoured, but without success, to-discover by what particular means it is that custom hath influence upon us and now nothing seems left but to hold our nature to be so framed as to be susceptible of such influence. And supposing

Chap, 2. part 1. sect. 3.

« PreviousContinue »