« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Where it shines in an eminent degree, it has preserved several poems
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 heads 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 over-run 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.
Like Pentheus, when, distracted with his fear,
There is not a sight in nature so mortifying as that of a dis. tracted person, when his imagination is troubled, and his whole soul disordered and confused. Babylou in ruins is not so melancholy a spectacle. But to quit so disagreeable 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 imagina tion, who can infuse what ideas he pleases, and fill those ideas with terror or 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 us and 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 Imagi. nation having been published in separate papers, I shall conclude it with a table of the principal contents of each paper.']
* In this edition the example of modern editors has been followed, and each table prefixed to its appropriate number.-G.
• It will, I doubt, be thought a singularity, that the politest writer of his age should conclude the politest of all his works, with a religious reflection.-H.
No. 433. THURSDAY, JULY 17.
Perlege Mæonio cantatas carmine rsoas,
MART. clxxxiii. 14.
The moral world, as consisting of males and females, is of a mixed nature, and filled with several customs, fashions, and cere. monies, which would have no place in it, were there but one sex. Had our species no females in it, men would be quite different creatures from what they are at present; their endeavours to please the opposite sex, po nes and refines them out of those manners which are most natural to them, and often sets them upon
modelling themselves, not according to the plans which they approve in their own opinions, but according to those plans which they think are most agreeable to the female world. In a word, man would not only be an unhappy, but a rude unfinished creature, were he conversant with none but those of his own make.
Women, on the other side, are apt to form themselves in every thing with regard to that other half of reasonable creatures, with whom they are here blended and confused; their thoughts are ever turned upon appearing amiable to the other sex; they talk, and move, and smile, with a design upon us; every feature of their faces, every part of their dress is filled with snares and allurements. There would be no such animals as prudes or coquettes in the world, were there not such an animal as man. In short, it is the male that gives charms to woman kind, that pro. duces an air in their faces, a grace in their motions, a softness in their voices, and a delicacy in their complexions.
As this mutual regard between the two sexes tends to the improvement of each of them, we may observe that men are apt to degenerate into rough and brutal natures, who live as if there were no such things as women in the world; as on the contrary, women, who have an indifference or aversion for their counterparts in human nature, are generally sour and unamiable, sluttish and censorious.
I am led into this train of thoughts by a little manuscript which is lately fallen into my hands, and which I shall communicate to the reader, as I have done some other curious pieces of the same nature, without troubling him with any inquiries about the author of it. It contains a sumn
mmary account of two different states which bordered upon one another. The one was a commonwealth of Amazons, or women without men; the other was a republic of males that had not a woman in their whole community.' As these two states bordered upon one another, it was their way, it seems, to meet
upon their frontiers at a certain season of the year, where those among the men who had not made their choice in any former meeting, associated themselves with particular women, whom they were afterwards obliged to look upon as their wives in every one of these yearly rencounters. The children that sprung from this alliance, if males, were sent to their respective fathers; if females, continued with their mothers. By means of this anniversary carnival, which lasted about a weck, the commonwealths were recruited from time to time, and supplied with their respective subjects.
These two states were engaged together in a perpetual league, offensive and defensive, so that if any foreign potentate offered to attack either of them, both the sexes fell upon him at once, and quickly brought him to reason. It was remarkable that for many ages this agreement continued inviolable between the two states, notwithstanding, as was said before, they were husbands No. 420. WEDNESDAY, JULY 2.
1 V. No. 434.
PLEASURES OF THE IMAGINATION.
What authors please the imagination who have nothing to do with fiction. How history pleases the imagination. How the authors of the new philosophy please the imagination. The bounds and defects of the imagination. Whether these defects are essential to the imagination.'
Quocunque volunt mentem auditoris agunto.
HOR, Ars Poet, v, 100.
As the writers in poetry and fiction borrow their several materials from outward objects, and join them together at their own pleasure, there are others who are obliged to follow nature more closely, and to take entire scenes out of her. Such are bistorians, natural philosophers, travellers, geographers, and in a word, all who describe visible objects of a real existence.
It is the most agreeable talent of an historian, to be able to draw up his armies and fight his battles in proper expressions, to set before our eyes the divisions, cabals, and jealousies of great men, and to lead us step by step into the several actions and events of his history. We love to see the subject unfolding itself by just degrees, and breaking upon us insensibly, that so we may be kept in a pleasing suspense, and have time given us to raise our expectations, and to side with one of the parties concerned in the relation. I confess this shews more the art than the veracity of the historian, but I am only to speak of him as he is qualified to please the imagination. And in this respect Livy has, perhaps, excelled all who ever went before him, or have written since his time. He describes every thing in so lively a manner, that his whole history is an admirable picture, and touches on such proper circumstances in every story, that