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pression on the retina. So that, though the image! time; if this thing be little, the effect is little, and of one point should cause but a small tension of a number of other little objects cannot engage the this membrane, another, and another, and another attentior; the mind is bounded by the bounds stroke, must in their progress cause a very great of the object; and what is not aitended to, and one, until it arrives at last to the highest degree; what does not exist, are much the same in the and the whole capacity of the eye, vibrating in all effect; but the eye, or the mind, (for in this case its parts, must approach near to the nature of what there is no difference,) in great, uniform objects, causes pain, and consequently must produce an does not readily arrive at its bounds; it has no idea of the sublime. Again, if we take it, that rest whilst it contemplates them; the image is one point only of an object is distinguishable at much the same every where. So that every thing once; the matter will amount nearly to the same great by its quantity must necessarily be one, thing, or rather it will make the origin of the simple and entire. sublime from greatness of dimension yet clearer. For if but one point is observed at once, the eye must traverse the vast space of such bodies with
SECT. XI.-TIIE ARTIFICIAL INFINITE. great quickness, and consequently the fine nerves and uscles destined to the motion of that part
We have observed, that a species of greatness must be very much strained ; and their great sen- arises from the artificial infinite; and that this sibility must make them highly affected by this infinite consists in an uniform succession of great straining. Besides, it signifies just nothing to the parts: we observed too, that the same uniform effect produced, whether a body has its parts con- succession had a like power in sounds. But because nected and makes its impression at once ; or, the effects of many things are clearer in one of the making but one impression of a point at a time, senses than in another, and that all the senses bear it causes a succession of the same or others so analogy to and illustrate one another, I shall begin quickly as to make them seem united; as is evident with this power in sounds, as the cause of the subfrom the common effect of whirling about a lighted limity from succession is rather more obvious in torch or piece of wood : which, if done with cele- the sense of hearing. And I shall here, once for rity, seems a circle of fire.
all, observe, that an investigation of the natural
and mechanical causes of our passions, besides the SECT. X.-UNITY WHY REQUISITE TO VASTNESS.
curiosity of the subject, gives, if they are discover
ed, a double strength and lustre to any rules we may be objected to this theory, that the
deliver on such matters. When the ear receives generally receives an equal number of rays at all any simple sound, it is struck by a single pulse of times, and that therefore a great object cannot the air, which makes the ear-drum and the other affect it by the number of rays, more than that membranous parts vibrate according to the nature variety of objects which the eye must always discern and species of the stroke. If the stroke be strong, whilst it remains open. But to this I answer, that the organ of hearing suffers a considerable degree admitting an equal number of rays, or an equal of tension. If the stroke be repeated pretty soon quantity of luminous particles, to strike the eye at after, the repetition causes an expectation of anall times, yet if these rays frequently vary their other stroke. And it must be observed, that exnature, now to blue, now to red, and so on, or their pectation itself causes a tension. This is apparent manner of termination, as to a number of petty in many animals, who, when they prepare for squares, triangles, or the like, at every change, hearing any sound, rouse themselves, and prick whether of colour or shape, the organ has a sort of up their ears : so that here the effect of the sounds relaxation or rest; but this relaxation and labour is considerably augmented by a new auxiliary, so often interrupted, is by no means productive of the expectation. But though after a number of ease; neither has it the effect of vigorous and uni- strokes, we expect still more, not being able to form labour. Whoever has remarked the different ascertain the exact time of their arrival, when effects of some strong exercise, and some little pid- they arrive, they produce a sort of surprise, which dling action, 'will understand why a teasing, fretful increases this tension yet further. For I have obemployment, which at once wearies and weakens served, that when at any time I have waited very the body, should have nothing great; these sorts earnestly for some sound, that returned at interof impulses, which are rather teasing than painful, vals, (as the successive firing of cannon,) though I by continually and suddenly altering their tenour fully expected the return of the sound, when it and direction, prevent that full tension, that
spe- came it always made me start a little; the earcies of uniform labour, which is allied to strong drum suffered a convulsion, and the whole body pain, and causes the sublime. The sum total of consented with it. The tension of the part thus things of various kinds, though it should equal increasing at every blow, by the united forces of the number of the uniform parts composing some the stroke itself, the expectation, and the surprise, one entire object, is not equal in its effect upon
the it is worked up to such a pitch as to be capable organs of our bodies. Besides the one already of the sublime; it is brought just to the verge of assigned, there is another very strong reason for pain. Even when the cause has ceased, the orthe difference. The mind in reality hardly ever gans of hearing being often successively struck in can attend diligently to more than one thing at a a similar manner, continue to vibrate in that man
SECT. XIII. -THE EFFECTS OF SUCCESSION IN
VISUAL OBJECTS EXPLAINED.
ner for some time longer; this is an additional continues. From whence it is obvious, that, at the help to the greatness of the effect.
last pillar, the impression is as far from continuing
as it was at the very first ; because, in fact, the senSECT. XII.-THE VIBRATIONS MUST BE SIMILAR.
sory can receive no distinct impression but from the
last; and it can never of itself resume a dissimilar But if the vibration be not similar at every im- impression: besides, every variation of the object is a pression, it can never be carried beyond the num- rest and relaxation to the organs of sight; and these ber of actual impressions; for, move any body as reliefs prevent that powerful emotion so necessary a pendulum, in one way, and it will continue to to produce the sublime. To produce therefore a oscillate in an arch of the same circle, until the perfect grandeur in such things as we have been known causes make it rest ; but if after first put- mentioning, there should be a perfect simplicity, ting it in motion in one direction, you push it into an absolute uniformity in disposition, shape, and another, it can never reassume the first direction; colouring. Upon this principle of succession and because it can never move itself, and conse- uniformity it may be asked, why a long bare wall quently it can have but the effect of that last mo- should not be a more sublime object than a colontion ; whereas, if in the same direction you act nade; since the succession is no way interrupted ; upon it several times, it will describe a greater since the eye meets no check ; since nothing more arch, and move a longer time.
uniform can be conceived ? A long bare wall is certainly not so grand an object as a colonnade of the same length and height. It is not altogether difficult to account for this difference.
When we look at a naked wall, from the evenness If we can comprehend clearly how things ope of the object, the eye runs along its whole space, rate upon one of our senses, there can be very little and arrives quickly at its termination ; the eye difficulty in conceiving in what manner they affect meets nothing which may interrupt its progress ; the rest. To say a great deal therefore upon the but then it meets nothing which may detain it a corresponding affections of every sense, would tend proper time to produce a very great and lasting rather to fatigue us by an useless repetition, than effect. The view of a bare wall, if it be of a great to throw any new light upon the subject by that height and length, is undoubtedly grand; but this ample and diffuse manner of treating it; but as in is only one idea, and not a repetition of similar this discourse we chiefly attach ourselves to the ideas : it is therefore great, not so much upon the sublime, as it affects the eye, we shall consider principle of infinity, as upon that of vastness. But particularly why a successive disposition of uniform we are not so powerfully affected with any one imparts in the same right line should be sublime,* and pulse, unless it be one of a prodigious force inupon what principle this disposition is enabled to deed, as we are with a succession of similar immake comparatively a small quantity of matter pulses; because the nerves of the sensory do not produce a grander effect, than a much larger quan- (if I may use the expression) acquire a habit of tity disposed in another manner. To avoid the repeating the same feeling in such a manner as to perplexity of general notions ; let us set before our continue it longer than its cause is in action ; eyes a colonnade of uniform pillars planted in a besides all the effects which I have attributed to right line; let us take our stand in such a manner, expectation and surprise in Sect. 11, can have no that the eye may shoot along this colonnade, for place in a bare wall. it has its best effect in this view. In our present situation it is plain, that the rays from the first SECT, Xiv.-LOCKE'S OPINION CONCERNING DARKround pillar will cause in the eve a vibration of that species ; an image of the pillar itself. The pillar immediately succeeding increases it; that It is Mr. Locke's opinion, that darkness is not which follows renews and enforces the impression.; naturally an idea of terrour; and that, though an each in its order as it succeeds, repeats impulse excessive light is painful to the sense, the greatest after impulse, and stroke after stroke, until the eye, excess of darkness is no ways troublesome. He long exercised in one particular way, cannot lose observes indeed in another place, that a nurse or that object immediately; and, being violently an old woman having once associated the ideas of roused by this continued agitation, it presents the ghosts and goblins with that of darkness, night, mind with a grand or sublime conception. But in- ever after, becomes painful and horrible to the stead of viewing a rank of uniform pillars, let us imagination. The authority of this great man is suppose that they succeed each other, a round and a doubtless as great as that of any man can be, and square one alternately. In this case the vibration it seems to stand in the way of our general princaused by the first round pillar perishes as soon as ciple.f
We have considered darkness as a cause it is formed ; and one of quite another sort (the of the sublime; and we have all along considered square) directly occupies its place; which however the sublime as depending on some modification of it resigns as quickly to the round one ; and thus pain or terrour: so that if darkness be no way the eye proceeds, alternately, taking up one image, painful or terrible to any, who have not had their and laying down another, as long as the building minds early tainted with superstitions, it can be
• Part II. sect. 10.
† Part II. sect. 3.
XVI.-WHY DARKNESS IS TERRIBLE.
no source of the sublime to them. But, with all the original association was made very early, and deference to such an authority, it seems to me, the consequent impression repeated often. In our that an association of a more general nature, an instance, there was no time for such a habit ; and association which takes in all mankind, may make there is no reason to think that the ill effects of darkness terrible ; for in utter darkness it is im- black on his imagination were more owing to its possible to know in what degree of safety we stand; connexion with any disagreeable ideas, than that we are ignorant of the objects that surround us; the good effects of more cheerful colours were dewe may every moment strike against some dan- rived from their connexion with pleasing ones. gerous obstruction ; we may fall down a precipice They had both probably their effects from their the first step we take; and if an enemy approach, natural operation. we know not in what quarter to defend ourselves; in such a case strength is no sure protection; wisdom can only act by guess; the boldest are staggered, and he, who would pray for nothing else It may be worth while to examine how darktowards his defence, is forced to pray for light. ness can operate in such a manner as to cause pain.
It is observable, that still as we recede from the Ζευ πατερ, αλλα συ ρυσαι υπ’ ηερος υιας Αχαιων light, nature has so contrived it, that the pupil is Ποιησον δ' αιθρην, δος δ' οφθαλμοισιν ιδεσθαι
enlarged by the retiring of the iris, in proportion Εν δε φαει και ολεσσον.
to our recess. Now, instead of declining from it As to the association of ghosts and goblins; but a little, suppose that we withdraw entirely surely it is more natural to think, that darkness, from the light; it is reasonable to think, that the being originally an idea of terrour, was chosen contraction of the radial fibres of the iris is proas a fit scene for such terrible representations, portionably greater ; and that this part may by than that such representations have made darkness great darkness come to be so contracted, as to terrible. The mind of man very easily slides into strain the nerves that compose it beyond their an errour of the former sort; but it is very hard natural tone; and by this means to produce a to imagine, that the effect of an idea so univer- painful sensation. Such a tension it seems there sally terrible in all times, and in all countries, as certainly is, whilst we are involved in darkness ; darkness, could possibly have been owing to a set for in such a state whilst the eye remains open, of idle stories, or to any cause of a nature so there is a continual nisus to receive light; this is trivial, and of an operation so precarious.
manifest from the flashes and luminous appearances
which often seem in these circumstances to play SECT. XV.- DARKNESS TERRIBLE IN ITS OWN
before it ; and which can be nothing but the effect of spasms, produced by its own efforts in pursuit
of its object: several other strong impulses will Perhaps it may appear on enquiry, that black- produce the idea of light in the eye, besides the ness and darkness are in some degree painful substance of light itself, as we experience on many by their natural operation, independent of any occasions. Some, who allow darkness to be a associations whatsoever. I must observe, that cause of the sublime, would infer, from the dilathe ideas of darkness and blackness are much the tation of the pupil, that a relaxation may be prosame; and they differ only in this, that blackness ductive of the sublime, as well as a convulsion : is a more confined idea. Mr. Cheselden has given but they do not, I believe, consider that although us a very curious story of a boy, who had been the circular ring of the iris be in some sense a born blind, and continued so until he was thirteen sphincter, which may possibly be dilated by a or fourteen years old; he was then couched for a simple relaxation, yet in one respect it differs from cataract, by which operation he received his sight. most of the other sphincters of the body, that it Among many remarkable particulars that attended is furnished with antagonist muscles, which are the his first perceptions and judgments on visual ob- radial fibres of the iris : no sooner does the cirjects, Cheselden tells us, that the first time the boy cular muscle begin to relax, than these fibres, saw a black object, it gave him great uneasiness; wanting their counterpoise, are forcibly drawn and that some time after, upon accidentally seeing back, and open the pupil to a considerable wideness. a negro woman, he was struck with great horrour But though we were not apprized of this, I believe at the sight. The horrour, in this case, can scarcely any one will find, if he opens his eyes and makes be supposed to arise from any association. The an effort to see in a dark place, that a very perboy appears by the account to have been particu- ceivable pain ensues. And I have heard some larly observing and sensible for one of his age; | ladies remark, that after having worked a long time and therefore it is probable, if the great uneasi- upon a ground of black, their eyes were so pained ness he felt at the first sight of black had arisen and weakened, they could hardly see. It may from its connexion with any other disagreeable perhaps be objected to this theory of the mechaideas, he would have observed and mentioned it. nical effect of darkness, that the ill effects of darkFor an idea, disagreeable only by association, has ness or blackness seem rather mental than corthe cause of its ill effect on the passions evident poreal : and I own it is true, that they do so; and enough at the first impression ; in ordinary cases, so do all those that depend on the affections of it is indeed frequently lost; but this is, because the finer parts of our system. The ill effects of
SECT. XVII.-THE EFFECTS OF BLACKNESS.
SECT. XVIII.—THE EFFECTS OF BLACKNESS
bad weather appear often no otherwise, than in a | laxation of the body, which by some mechanism melancholy and dejection of spirits; though with in nature restores itself by as quick and vigorous out doubt, in this case, the bodily organs suffer an exertion of the contracting power of the musfirst, and the mind through these organs. cles? The dream itself is caused by this relaxation:
and it is of too uniform a nature to be attributed
relax too suddenly,
which is in the nature of falling; and this acciBLACKNESS is but a partial darkness ; and dent of the body induces this image in the mind. therefore it derives some of its powers from being When we are in a confirmed state of health and mixed and surrounded with coloured bodies. In vigour, as all changes are then less sudden, and its own nature, it cannot be considered as a co- less on the extreme, we can seldom complain of lour. Black bodies, reflecting none, or but a few this disagreeable sensation. rays, with regard to sight, are but as so many vacant spaces dispersed among the objects we view. When the eye lights on one of these vacuities, after having been kept in some degree of tension by the play of the adjacent colours upon it, it suddenly Though the effects of black be painful originfalls into a relaxation; out of which it as suddenly ally, we must not think they always continue so. recovers by a convulsive spring. To illustrate this : Custom reconciles us to every thing. After we let us consider, that when we intend to sit on a have been used to the sight of black objects, the chair, and find it much lower than was expected, terrour abates, and the smoothness and glossiness, the shock is very violent; much more violent than or some agreeable accident, of bodies so coloured, could be thought from so slight a fall as the differ-softens in some measure the horrour and sternness ence between one chair and another can possibly of their original nature; yet the nature of the make. If, after descending a flight of stairs, we original impression still continues. Black will attempt inadvertently to take another step in the always have something melancholy in it, bemanner of the former ones, the shock is extremely cause the sensory will always find the change to rude and disagreeable: and by no art can we cause
it from other colours too violent; or if it occupy such a shock by the same means when we expect the whole compass of the sight, it will then be and prepare for it. When I say that this is owing darkness; and what was said of darkness will be to having the change made contrary to expecta- applicable here. I do not purpose to go into all tion, I do not mean solely, when the mind expects. that might be said to illustrate this theory of the I mean likewise, that when any organ of sense is effects of light and darkness, neither will I exafor some time affected in some one manner, if it mine all the different effects produced by the be suddenly affected otherwise, there ensues a con
various modifications and mixtures of these two vulsive motion ; such a convulsion as is caused
If the foregoing observations have any when any thing happens against the expectance foundation in nature, I conceive them very suffiof the mind. And though it may appear strange cient to account for all the phenomena that can that such a change as produces a relaxation should arise from all the combinations of black with other immediately produce a sudden convulsion; it is colours. To enter into every particular, or to anyet most certainly so, and so in all the senses. swer every objection, would be an endless labour. Every one knows that sleep is a relaxation ; and we have only followed the most leading roads; that silence, where nothing keeps the organs of and we shall observe the same conduct in our hearing in action, is in general fittest to bring on enquiry into the cause of beauty. this relaxation ; yet when a sort of murmuring sounds dispose a man to sleep, let these sounds cease SECT. XIX.-THE PHYSICAL CAUSE OF Love. suddenly, and the person immediately awakes ; that is, the parts are braced up suddenly, and he WHEN we have before us such objects as excite awakes. This I have often experienced myself, love and complacency, the body is affected, so far and I have heard the same from observing persons.
as I could observe, much in the following manner : In like manner, if a person in broad day-light The head reclines something on one side ; the
eyewere falling asleep, to introduce a sudden dark- lids are more closed than usual, and the
roll ness would prevent his sleep for that time, though gently with an inclination to the object ; the silence and darkness in themselves, and not sud- mouth is a little opened, and the breath drawn denly introduced, are very favourable to it. This slowly, with now and then a low sigh; the whole I knew only by conjecture on the analogy of the body is composed, and the hands fall idly to the senses when I first digested these observations; but sides. All this is accompanied with an inward I have since experienced it. And I have often ex- sense of melting and languor. These appearances perienced, and so have a thousand others, that on are always proportioned to the degree of beauty the first inclining towards sleep, we have been sud- in the object, and of sensibility in the observer. denly awakened with a most violent start; and that and this gradation from the highest pitch of this start was generally preceded by a sort of dream beauty and sensibility, even to the lowest of meof our falling down a precipice : whence does this diocrity and indifference, and their correspondent strange motion arise, but from the too sudden re- | effects, ought to be kept in view, else this descrip
tion will seem exaggerated, which it certainly is A bed smoothly laid, and soft, that is, where the not. But from this description it is almost impos- resistance is every way inconsiderable, is a great sible not to conclude, that beauty acts by relaxing luxury, disposing to an universal relaxation, and the solids of the whole system. There are all the inducing beyond any thing else that species of it appearances of such a relaxation; and a relaxation called sleep. somewhat below the natural tone seems to me to be the cause of all positive pleasure. Who is a
SECT. XXI.-SWEETNESS, ITS NATURE. stranger to that manner of expression so common in all times and in all countries, of being softened, Nor is it only in the touch that smooth bodies relaxed, enervated, dissolved, melted away by cause positive pleasure by relaxation. In the pleasure ? The universal voice of mankind, faith-smell and taste, we find all things agreeable to ful to their feelings, concurs in affirming this them, and which are commonly called sweet, to uniform and general effect : and although some be of a smooth nature, and that they all evidently odd and particular instance may perhaps be found, tend to relax their respective sensories. Let us wherein there appears a considerable degree of first consider the taste.
Since it is most easy to positive pleasure, without all the characters of enquire into the property of liquids, and since all relaxation, we must not therefore reject the con- things seem to want a fluid vehicle to make them clusion we had drawn from a concurrence of many | tasted at all, I intend rather to consider the liquid experiments; but we must still retain it, subjoining than the solid parts of our food. The vehicles of the exceptions which may occur according to the all tastes are water and oil. And what deterjudicious rule laid down by Sir Isaac Newton in mines the taste is some salt, which affects varithe third book of his Optics. Our position will, ously according to its nature, or its manner of I conceive, appear confirmed beyond any reason being combined with other things. Water and oil, able doubt, if we can shew that such things as we simply considered, are capable of giving some pleahave already observed to be the genuine consti- sure to the taste. Water, when simple, is insipid, tuents of beauty have each of them, separately inodorous, colourless, and smooth; it is found, taken, a natural tendency to relax the fibres. And when not cold, to be a
at resolver of spasms, if it must be allowed us, that the appearance of and lubricator of the fibres; this power it probathe human body, when all these constituents are bly owes to its smoothness. For as fluidity deunited together before the sensory, further favours pends, according to the most general opinion, on this opinion, we may venture, I believe, to con- the roundness, smoothness, and weak cohesion of clude, that the passion called love is produced the component parts of any body; and as water by this relaxation. By the same method of rea- acts merely as a simple fluid ; it follows that the soning which we have used in the enquiry into cause of its fluidity is likewise the cause of its rethe causes of the sublime, we may likewise con- laxing quality ; namely, the smoothness and clude, that as a beautiful object presented to the slippery texture of its parts. The other fluid vesense,
by causing a relaxation of the body, pro- hicle of tastes is oil. This too, when simple, is duces the passion of love in the mind; so if by insipid, inodorous, colourless, and smooth to the any means the passion shou!d first have its origin touch and taste. It is smoother than water, and in the mind, a relaxation of the outward organs in many cases yet more relaxing. Oil is in some will as certainly ensue in a degree proportioned to degree pleasant to the eye, the touch, and the the cause.
taste, insipid as it is. Water is not so grateful ; which I do not know on what principle to account for, other than that water is not so soft
and smooth. Suppose that to this oil or water It is to explain the true cause of visual beauty, were added a certain quantity of a specifick salt, that I call in the assistance of the other senses. which had a power of putting the nervous paIf it appears that smoothness is a principal cause pillæ of the tongue into a gentle vibratory moof pleasure to the touch, taste, smell, and hearing, tion; as suppose sugar dissolved in it. The it will be easily admitted a constituent of visual smoothness of the oil and the vibratory power beauty; especially as we have before shewn, that of the salt cause the sense we call sweetness. In this quality is found almost without exception in all sweet bodies, sugar, or a substance very little all bodies that are by general consent held beauti- different from sugar, is constantly found. Every ful. There can be no doubt that bodies which are species of salt, examined by the microscope, has rough and angular, rouse and vellicate the organs its own distinct, regular, invariable form. That of of feeling, causing a sense of pain, which consists in nitre is a pointed oblong; that of sea-salt an exact the violent tension or contraction of the muscular cube ; that of sugar a perfect globe. If you have fibres. On the contrary, the application of smooth tried how smooth globular bodies, as the marbles bodies relaxes; gentle stroking with a smooth with which boys amuse themselves, have affected hand allays violent pains and cramps, and relaxes the touch when they are rolled backward and forthe suffering parts from their unnatural tension ; ward and over one another, you will easily conand it has therefore very often no mean effect in ceive how sweetness, which consists in a salt of removing swellings and obstructions. The sense such nature, affects the taste; for a single globe, of feeling is highly gratified with smooth bodies. I (though somewhat pleasant to the feeling,) yet by
SECT. XX.-WHY SMOOTHNESS IS BEAUTIFUL.