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“multitude, in no respect better than any other in it. If “he would act so as that the impartial spectator may enter “into the principles of his conduct, which is what of all “things he has the greatest desire to do, he must, upon “this, as upon all other occasions, humble the arrogance of “his self-love, and bring it down to something which other “men can go along with.” I am ready to acknowledge, that there is much truth in this passage; and that a prudential regard to the opinion of others, might teach a man of good sense, without the aid of more amiable motives, to conceal his unreasonable partialities in favour of himself, and to act agreeably to what he conceives to be the sentiments of impartial spectators. But I cannot help thinking, that the fact is much too strongly stated with respect to the natural partiality of self-love, supposing the situation of our neighbours to be as completely presented to our view, as our own must of necessity be. When the Orator wishes to combat the selfish passions of his audience, and to rouse them to a sense of what they owe to mankind; what mode of persuasion does nature dictate to him 2 Is it to remind them of the importance, of the good opinion of the world, and of the necessity, in order to obtain it, of accommodating their conduct to the sentiments of others, rather than to their own feelings : Such considerations undoubtedly might, with some men, produce a certain effect, and might lead them to assume the appearance of virtue; but they would never excite a sentiment of indignation at the thought of injustice, or a sudden and involuntary burst of disinterested affection. If the Orator can only succeed in fixing their attention to facts, and in bringing these facts home to their imagination by the power of his eloquence, he has completely attained his object. No sooner are the facts apprehended, than the benevolent principles of our nature display themselves in all their beauty. The most cautious and timid lose, for a moment, all thought of themselves, and despising every consideration of prudence or of safety, become wholly engrossed with the fortunes of others. . . Many other facts, which are commonly alleged as proofs of the original selfishness of mankind, may be explained, in part, in a similar way; and may be traced to habits of inattention, or to a want of imagination, arising, probably from some fault in early education. What has now been remarked with respect to the social principles, may be applied to all our other passions, excepting those which take their rise from the body. They are commonly strong in proportion to the warmth and vigour of the imagination. It is, however, extremely curious, that when an imagination, which is naturally phlegmatic, or which, like those of the vulgar, has little activity from a want of culture, is fairly roused by the descriptions of the Orator or of the Poet, it is more apt to produce the violence of enthusiasm, than in minds of a superiour order. By giving this faculty occasional exercise we acquire a great degree of command over it. As we can withdraw the attention at pleasure from objects of sense, and transport ourselves into a world of our own, so when we wish to moderate our enthusiasm, we can dismiss the objects of imagination, and return to our ordinary perceptions and occupations. But in a mind to which these intellectual visions are not familiar, and which borrows them completely from the genius of another, imagination, when once excited, becomes perfectly ungovernable, and produces something like a temporary insanity. Hence the wonderful effects of popular eloquence on the lower orders; effects which are much more remarkable, than what it ever produces on men of education.
* €ontinuation of the same subject.—Inconveniences resulting from an ill-regulated Imagination.
It was undoubtedly the intention of Nature, that the objects of perception should produce much stronger impressions on the mind than its own operations. And, accordingly, they always do so, when proper care has been taken in early life, to exercise the different principles of our constitution. But it is possible, by long habits of solitary reflection, to reverse this order of things, and to weaken the attention to sensible objects to so great a degree, as to leave the conduct almost wholly under the influence of imagination. Removed to a distance from society, and from the pursuits of life, when we have been long accustomed to converse with our own thoughts, and have found our activity gratified by intellectual exertions, which afford scope to all our powers and affections, without exposing us to the inconveniences resulting from the bustle of the world, we are apt to contract an unnatural predilection for meditation, and to lose all interest in external occurrences. In such a situation too, the mind gradually loses that com" mand which education, when properly conducted, gives it over the train of its ideas; till at length the most extravagant dreams of imagination acquire as powerful an influence in exciting all its passions, as if they were realities. A wild and mountainous country, which presents but a limited variety of objects, and these only of such a sort as “awake “to solemn thought,” has a remarkable effect in cherishing this enthusiasm.
When such disorders of the imagination have been long confirmed by habit, the evil may perhaps be beyond a remedy; but in their inferiour degrees, much may be expected from our own efforts; in particular, from mingling gradu
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ally in the business and amusements of the world; or, if we have sufficient force of mind for the exertion, from resolutely plunging into those active and interesting and hazardous scenes, which, by compelling us to attend to external circumstances, may weaken the impressions of imagination, and strengthen those produced by realities. .The advice of the poet, in these cases, is equally beautiful and just : “Go, soft enthusiast! quit the cypress groves, “Nor to the rivulet's lonely moanings tune “Your sad complaint. Go, seek the cheerful haunts “Of men, and mingle with the bustling crowd; “Lay schemes for wealth, or power, or fame, the wish “Of nobler minds, and push them night and day. “Or join the caravan in quest of scenes “New to your eyes, and shifting every hour, “Beyond the Alps, beyond the Appenines. “Or, more adventurous, rush into the field “Where war grows hot ; and raging through the sky, “The lofty trumpet swells the maddoning soul;
“And in the hardy camp and toilsome march,
The disordered state of mind to which these observations refer is the more interesting, that it is chiefly incident to men of uncommon sensibility and genius. It has been often remarked, that there is a connection between genius and melancholy; and there is one sense of the word melancholy, in which the remark is undoubtedly true; a sense which it may be difficult to define, but in which it implies nothing either gloomy or malevolent. This, I think, is not only confirmed by facts, but may be inferred from some principles which were formerly stated on the subject of invention; for as the disposition now alluded to has a ten
dency to retard the current of thought, and to collect she attention of the mind, it is peculiarly favourable to the discovery of those profound conclusions which result from an accurate examination of the less obvious relations among our ideas. From the same principles too may be traced some of the effects which situation and early education produce on the intellectual character. Among the natives of wild and solitary countries we may expect to meet with sublime exertions of poetical imagination and of philosophical research; while those men whose attention has been dissipated from infancy amidst the bustle of the world, and whose current of thought has been trained to yield and accommodate itself, every moment, to the rapid succession of trifles which diversify fashionable life, acquire without any effort on their part the intellectual habits which are favourable to gayety, vivacity, and wit. When a man, under the habitual influence of a warm imagination, is obliged to mingle occasionally in the scenes of real business, he is perpetually in danger of being misled by his own enthusiasm. What we call good sense in the conduct of life, consists chiefly in that temper of mind which enables its possessor to view, at all times, with perfect coolness and accuracy, all the various circumstances of his situation; so that each of them may produce its due impression on him, without any exaggeration arising from his own peculiar habits. But to a man of an ill-regulated imagination, external circumstances only serve as hints to excite his own thoughts, and the conduct he pursues has, in general, far less reference to his real situation, than to some imaginary one, in which he conceives himself to be placed : in consequence of which, while he appears to himself to be acting with the most perfect wisdom and consistency, he may frequently exhibit to others all the appearances of folly. Such, pretty nearly, seems to be the idea