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can pursue a particle of matter through an infinite variety of divisions; but the fancy soon loses sight of it, and feels in itself a kind of chasm, that wants to be filled with matter of a more sensible bulk. We can neither widen nor contract the faculty to the dimensions of either extreme. The object is too big for our capacity, when we would comprehend the circumference of a world; and dwindles into nothing when we endeavour after the idea of an atom,
It is possible this defect of imagination may not be in the soul itself, but as it acts in conjunction with the body. Perhaps there
not be room in the brain for such a variety of impressions, or the animal spirits may be incapable of figuring them in such a manner as is necessary to excite so very large or very minute ideas. However it be, we may well suppose that beings of a higher nature very much excel us in this respect, as it is probable the soul of man will be infinitely more perfect hereafter in this faculty, as well as in all the rest; insomuch that, perhaps, the imagination will be able to keep pace with the under: standing, and to form in itself distinct ideas of all the different modes and quantities of space.
N° 421. THURSDAY, JULY 3, 1712.
ON THE PLEASURES OF THE IMAGINATION.
CONTENTS, How those please the imagination who treat of subjects abstracted
from matter, by allusions taken from it. What allusions most pleasing to the imagination. Great writers, how faulty in this respect. of the art of imagining in general. The imagination capable of pain as well as pleasure. In what degree the imagination is capable either of pain or pleasure.
Ignotis errare locis, ignota videre
The pleasure lessen'd the attending toil.- ADDISON.
fined to such particular authors as are conversant in material objects, but are often to be met with among the polite masters of morality, criticism, and other speculations
abstracted from matter, who, though they do not directly treat of the visible parts of nature, often draw from them their similitudes, metaphors, and allegories. By these allusions, a truth in the understanding is, as it were, reflected by the imagination; we are able to see something like colour and shape in a notion, and to discover a scheme of thoughts traced out upon matter. And here the mind receives a great deal of satisfaction, and has two of its faculties gratified at the same time, while the fancy is busy in copying after the understanding, aud transcribing ideas out of the intellectual world into the material.
The great art of a writer shews itself in the choice of pleasing allusions, which are generally to be taken from the great or beautiful works of art or nature; for, though whatever is new or uncommon is apt to delight the imagination, the chief design of an allusion being to illustrate and explain the passages of an author, it should be always borrowed from what is more known and common than the passages which are to be explained.
Allegories, when well chosen, are like so many tracks of light in a discourse, that make every thing about them clear and beautiful. A noble metaphor, when it is placed to an advantage, casts a kind of glory round it, and darts a lustre through a whole sentence. These different kinds of allusion are but so many different manners of similitude; and that they may please the imagination, the likeness ought to be very exact or very agreeable, as we love to see a picture where the resemblance is just, or the posture and air graceful. But we often find eminent writers very faulty in this respect: great scholars are apt to fetch their comparions and allusions from the sciences in which they are most conversant, so that a man may see the compass of their learning in a treatise on the most indifferent subject. I have read a discourse upon love, which none but a profound chymist could understand, and have heard many a sermon that should only have been preached before a congregation of Cartesians. On the contrary, your men of business usually have recourse to such instances as are too mean and familiar. They are for drawing the reader into a game of chess or tennis, or for leading him from shop to shop, in the cant of particular trades and employments. It is certain, there may be found an infinite variety of very
agreeable allusions in both these kinds ; but, for the generality, the most entertaining ones lie in the works of nature, which are obvious to all capacities, and more delightful than what is to be found in arts and sciences.
It is this talent of affecting the imagination that gives an embellishment to good sense, and makes .one man's compositions more agreeable than another's. It sets off all writings in general, but is the very life and highest perfection of poetry. Where it shines in an eminent degree, it has preserved several poems for many ages, that have nothing else to recommend them; and where all the other beauties are present, the work appears dry and insipid, if this single one be wanting. It has something in it like creation. It bestows a kind of existence, and draws up to the reader's view several objects which are not to be found in being. It makes additions to nature, and gives a greater variety to God's works. In a word, it is able to beautify and adorn the most illustrious, scenes in the universe, or to fill the mind with more glorious shows and apparitions than can be found in any part of it.
We have now discovered the several originals of those pleasures that gratify the fancy; and here, perhaps, it would not be very difficult to cast under their proper beads those contrary objects, which are apt to fill it with distaste and terror; for the imagination is as liable to pain as pleasure. When the brain is hurt by any accident, or the mind disordered by dreams or sickness, the fancy is overrun with wild dismal ideas, and terrified with a thousand hideous monsters of its own framing.
Eumenidum veluti demens videt agmina Pentheus,
VIRG. Æn. iv. 469.
DRYDEN. There is not a sight in nature so mortifying as that of
a distracted person, when his imagination is troubled, and his whole soul disordered and confused. Babylon in ruins is not so melancholy a spectacle. But to quit so disagree able a subject, I shall only consider, by way of conclusion, what an infinite advantage this faculty gives an Almighty Being over the soul of man, and how great a measure of happiness or misery we are capable of receiving from the imagination only.
We have already seen the influence that one man has over the fancy of another, and with what ease he conveys into it a variety of imagery, how great a power then may we suppose lodged in him, who knows all the ways of affecting the imagination, who can infuse what ideas he pleases, and fill those ideas with terror and delight to what degree he thinks fit! He can excite images in the mind without the help of words, and make scenes rise up
before seem present to the eye, without the assistance of bodies or exterior objects. He can transport the imagination with such beautiful and glorious visions as cannot possibly enter into our present conceptions, or haunt it with such ghastly spectres and apparitions as would make us hope for annihilation, and think existence no better than a curse. In short, he can so exquisitely ravish or torture the soul through this single faculty, as might suffice to make up the whole heaven or hell of any finite being.
[This essay on the Pleasures of the Imagination hav. ing been published in separate papers, I shall conclude it with a table of the principal contents of each paper.*]
N° 422. FRIDAY, JULY 4, 1712.
DO not know any thing which gives greater disturb
ance to conversation, than the false notion some people have of raillery. It ought, certainly, to be the first point to be aimed at in society, to gain the good-will of those
* These contents are printed all together in the original folio, at the end of No. 421 ; bụt are in this edition arranged in their proper places, and placed at the beginnings of the several papers.
with whom you converse : the way to that is, to shew you are well inclined towards them. What then can be more absurd than to set up for being extremely sharp and biting, as the term is, in your expressions to your familiars ? A man who has no good quality but courage,
is in a very ill way towards making an agreeable figure in the world, because that which he has superior to other people cannot be exerted without raising himself an enemy.. Your gentleman of a satirical vein is in the like condition. To say a thing which perplexes the heart of him you speak to, or brings blushes into his face, is a degree of murder; and it is, I think, an unpardonable offence to shew a man you do not care whether he is pleased or displeased. But will you not then take a jest ?-Yes: but pray let it be a jest. It is no jest to put me, who am so unhappy as to have an utter aversion to speaking to more than one man at a time, under a necessity to explain myself in much company, and reducing me to shame and derision, except I perform what my infirmity of silence disables me to do.
Callisthenes has great wit, accompanied with that quality without which a man can have no wit at all-a sound judgment. This gentleman rallies the best of any man I know; for he forms his ridicule upon a circumstance which you are in your heart not unwilling to grant him; to wit, that you are guilty of an excess in something which is in itself laudable. He very well understands what you would be, and needs not fear your anger for declaring you are a little too much that thing. The generous will bear being reproached as lavish, and the valiant as rash, with being provoked to resentment against their monitor What has been said to be a mark of a good writer will fall in with the character of a good companion. The good writer makes his reader better pleased with himself, and the agreeable man makes his friend enjoy themselves, rather than him, while he is in their company. Callisthenes does this with inimitable pleasantry. He whispered a friend the other day, so as to be overheard by a young officer who gave symptoms of cocking upon the company, “That gentleman has very much of the air of a general officer.” The youth immediately put on a composed be. haviour, and behaved himself suitably to the conceptions he believed the company had of him. It is to be allowed