Page images
[ocr errors]

England is more fertile than any other country || As wanting power to contain itself, of Europe in characters of this kind. This is at Is humour. So in every human body, tributed to the liberty which distinguishes the The choler, melancholy, phlegm, and blood, government. The opinion appears very plau- By reason that they flow continually sible: I should think it, however, better founded | In some one part, and are not continent, by taking the word liberty in a sense more ex Receive the name of humours. Now thus far tended than has hitherto been done. I should It may, ly metaphor, apply itself then be of that spinion, if by the word liberty | Unto the general disposition: were understood, not only the absence of arbi As when some one peculiar quality trary power, and of a constraint opposite to the || Dpth so possess a man, that it doth draw forms prescribed by law, but also the neglect of || All his effects, his spirits, and his powers those rules expressed by the words urbanity, po In their confluxions all to run one way, liteness, and good breeding. These laws are not This may be truly said to be a humour. written, and their execution is independent of These three explications may serve to form a the sovereign power; but, in the circle in which || fourth, which, in my opinion, will be satisfactory. they are adopted, they are conformed to with || I take humour, then, to be a strong impulse of perhaps more exactitude than those which the

the mind towards a particular object, which the sanction of government has united in a code.

person thinks very important, without its being An entire liberty to dispense with such rules is,

so; and by which, in occupying himself incesif I be not mistaken, absolutely necessary to santly, and with an extravagant atiention and sehumour. The country gentlemen, Western and

riousness on it, he distinguishes himself in a ridiSir Andrew Freeport, may prove the truth of what

culous manner from others. If this definition be 1 advance. Politeness and good breeding include, || just, as I presume it is, ny readers will easily in effect, the power of extirpating all germs of || perceive how much humour injures politeness humour, which nature may have implanted in our

and good breeding, they being the art of con. minds. In order to convince my readers of this, || forming our conduct to certain rules tacitly I must explain wherein humour consists. Se. | adopted and generally followed, by all those who veral authors have spoken of it as an impenetra- || live in society. ble mystery; but, what is more extraordinary, Hitherto I have treated of humour in cha. others have given very just and very clear expli. racter: let us now speak of that which reigns in cations of it, assuring us, at the same time, that writings. Singularity, and a certain seriousness, they know not what humour is. Perhaps they | which excites to laughter, are the signs of humour should have said, they had not discovered all the

in character; they are so also in writings. This forms that humour can assume.

singularity, and this incitement, are to be found I shall first notice various kinds of humour, and

either in invention or in style. An author posafterward endeavour to unite the different ideas

sesses true humour, when, with an air of gravity, they contain. Congreve says, in a letter to Den

he paints objects in such colours as to provoke nis, “We cannot determine what humour is :" || laughter. We often remark in society the effect and farther on he resines upon humour in come

which this humour produces on the mind. dy. His opinions have been attacked by Home.

When, for instance, two persons amuse a com" Were this definition just,” says he, “a ma.

pany with pleasant stories, he, who laughs before jestic or commanding air, which is a singular pro

he speaks, will never interest or divert so much perty, is humour; as also that natural flow of

as he who relates gravely, and without a smile on eloquence and correct elocution, which is a rare

his countenance. The reason of it is probably in talent. Nothing just or proper is denominated

the force with which contrasts affect the mind. humour, nor any singularity of character, words, | There are authors who great serious subjects in a or action, that is valued or respected."

comic stile; as for example, Tassoni in his SecBen Johnson, the first humourist of his nation, chia Rapita, and Scaron in his Typhon. Such says, in one of his comedies,

authors undoubtedly excite mirth; but, as they Why humour (as 'tis ens) we thus define it,

are the opposites of true humourists, they canTo be a quality of air, and water,

not be very well ranked in that class. They only And in itself holds these two properties,

possess the burlesque, which is very different from Moisture and Auxure: as, for demonstration,

humour; but, notwithstanding, if their works be Pour water on this floor, 'twill wet and run:

good, they do not the less merit praise. No kind Likewise the air (forced through a horn or of poetry is despicable, from the epopea and trumpet)

tragedy, to fairy tales and farces. Every thing Flows instantly away, and leaves behind

consists in treating the subject well; and the A kind of dew; and hence we do conclude, Devil on Two Sticks inay be as good in its kind as That whatsoe'er hath fluxure and humidity, Zaire. Irony and parody are a great aid to writers

of humour, of which Lucian furnishes numerous REMARKS.-The explanation or definition examples.

given of the word humour contains a part, but

Were a · In this kind of writing, comic comparisons, || far from the whole, of its meaning. particularly when in part moral and in part phy- || man, characterised for cruelly, tu assert that he sical, produce a great effect. The first chapter of would have all the Eron scholars nailed to the Tom Jones may here serve as an example. The garden wall, each by the ear, because one of them author compares himself to a landlord, his work had stolen a peach, we should rather be shocked to dishes, and the titles to his chapters to the gar- | by the barbarity of the sentiment than exnish. The same may be said of the singular cited to laugh by the grimaces with which the mania of Uncle Toby, in Tristram Shandy, and | imagination might be struck. But were the of many passages in the Spectator, Tatler, &c. same thing asserted by a man of krown hu. which may all serve as models of true humour. manity and goodness of heart, a humourist, who,

In the Idler, by Johnson, there is also a simile on such occasions, assumed a whimsical gravity, of this kind. The author proves, that all the

it would excite hearty laughter. It is a great ingredients which compose a bowl of punch, mistake to suppose that humour offends the remay be found in a very social company. That

ceived laws of good breeding. To insult the beverage, says he, is composed of spirits, acid, feelings may sometimes produce mirih, but sugar, and water. The spirits, which are inflam much more frequently disgust and pain. An mable, and evaporate easily, are images of the English gentleman, of the first fashion, but a vivacity of the mind; the acid of the lemon juice humourist, among other means of diverting his represents the sharpness of raillery; the friends, used sometimes to quarrel with himself, the emblem of indulgence and flattery, and the

and proceed from step to step, till at last he bewater that of unmeaning prattle.

came so unmannerly to himself, that he was obAuthors who are endowed with humour of liged, from respect to the company, to kick him

self out of the room. The humour of the scene character, shew it also in their writings; traits of it escape them, even in spite of themselves, was not in words that might offend good manwhen they wish to treat a serious and grave sub

ners, but in the absolute gravity with which it ject. Sir Robert L'Estrange, in his translation of

was performed. Among other efforts of humour, Josephus, speaks of a queen, whose passions

which seem to be national, the English have a were very violent, to whom an ambassador had variety of songs; the humour of which it would made a proposition that was displeasing The

be difficult to write. Thus, “ an old woman scene in the original is, “ Scarcely had his dis

cloathed in grey” has nothing, apparently, that course ended, but the queen suddenly arose;" || should excite much laughter; but a humourist which Sir Roger translates, “ Scarce had the

will imitate the old woman's shrill voice, and ambassador finished his speech, but presently up

mark his hand with black, so as to caricature her was madam.” No one will be surprised at the face; and, by opening his thumb while he sings, humour which reigns in the writings of la Fon

make grimaces that will set the table in a roar. taine, when he knows that this author one day

This must be heard and seen to be conceived.

Another will introduce successively the meuling very seriously asked an ecclesiastic whether St. Augustine or Rabelais had most wit? A of the cat, the hooting of the owl, the braying of humorous author does better in attacking small the ass, &c.; and, by the perfect imitation of faults than great vices. Men often inconsider

the discordant notes of various animals, excite ately fall into them; they, therefore, require to peals of laughter. Some of these humourists, be warned of their danger, while the laws take it is true, have the habitual character of bufcare to repress crimes. The Archbishop de la foonery: but others are men of elegant minds Caza was consequently right in saying that he

and refined manners. He who, in his atwould be more thankful for the means of secur tempts, offends good breeding must change his ing himself from the sting of insects, than of manner; or he cannot become a humourist, in preventing the bite of tigers and lions.

the pleasant, and perhaps the only true sense of I have nothing to add concerning my antidote

the term : for, to call a man a humourist, to melancholy. I exhort those who are subject who has some extravagant babits, as, for exa to frequent paroxisms of it, to dose themselves ample, who should daily beat his servants bewith a few pages from Luciun, Don Quixote, Tom cause they did not prevent barrel organs Jones, Tristram Shandy, and other works of that from playing in his street, appears to be a pekind; the salutary effects of which they will culiar, if not a strained and affected use of the foon experience.




The Distinction between Principle and Sentiment considered," in La Belle Assemblee

for April, Page 139.

With no design to confute, but with an idea that arises in the contemplation of nature or earnest one to excite an interesting debate, am society. I induced to reply to the author of the excellent When in a beautiful morning of spring we Essly entitled, “ the Distinction between Prin look abroad and behold creation bursting forth in ciple and Sentiment consideredl," which ar a thousand different forms, in all lovely, in all peared in the last Number of La Bille Assemblée. beneficently marked by the powerful hand that Debates on such topics must ne essarily have showers his vivifying heat upon them, shall we their good effects; they enable us to compare repress ans of the pure sentiments which at the sensations, to fix the wavering definitions of me beck of the smallest reflection instantly arise ? taplıysical knowledge, and to shew their con Is not every truly valuable principle enlivened Decrion with the moral duties of man. By such | by such a scene? And yet how enlivened exshort discussions those particular characteristics cept by the sentiments which awaken in the which each individual attaches to certain affec

heart? Say, if you will, that the devotion which tions of the mind become apparent; the human | depends upon such a prospect cannot be perdisposition offers itself to contemplation with all

manent-cannot be a fixed principle, and that those rules of action, whether derived from the

on the survey of different appearances, it might head or the heart, that influence the condact, be liable to be aff-cted with very dissimilar sentia:d a chain of ideas may be obtained by which ments; while that founded on sound and steadmore perfect documents concerning our mental fast opinion, though colder, would be more coninpulses may be derived than those which at

stant; though less ecstatic, would be less liable present form the truly abstruse, yet interesting to be eradicated. To this I reply, that the unstudy of the soul. Determined by such motives, adulterated bosom which can once feel the deI venture to enter into an enquiry concerning light of such sensation will easily recover it, and the nature of Principle and Sentiment, thei: dif all the sentiments that depend upon it; nature ferent functions, and what preference should be abounds with objects which on every hand pregiven to either in the direction of our actions. sent the inost lively inducements to the conBy Principle I understand those confirmed opi templation. But that if ever the obstacles of nions of right and wrong implanted by reason life, the gloom of discontent, or the labyrinths and education. If I am permitted to rest upon of erroneous reasoning induce the man of cold this definition, it will be manifest (indeed too principles to let go his hold, he is lost for ever. manifest under the present system of education, Sentiment, the rational part of those sensations and from the pernicious doctrines daily offered in which God and nature speak to the soul, is to the expanding reason of youth) that there in him a mute organ, he hears no voice but the may be such a thing as false principle, and that obstinate pride of a deadening principle, and is the whole condict may be under the direction lost for ever! of erroneous opinions, deduced from notions But I do not purpose to consider the possibility which in the days of infancy have been received of a separation between just principle and naas truths. By the word Sentiment, I distinguish tural sentiment; I never beheld the one unthat natural sense of good and beautiful, of evil

accompanied by the other, and I perceive that and deformity, which exists in the inind, inde the author of “ The Distinction," &c. has pendent of instruction, and which may be dis

argued not so much against Sentiment as against covered in different degrees, even among the the affectation of it in opposition to virtuous brute creation This, I assert, can be con principle; although by the general term of sentaminated by false principle only, and that there timent the most perfect attribute of the soul before whatever may be the evils laid to the charge comes involved in the condemnation so eloof Sentiment, they necessarily originate in the quently pronounced. Sentiment, when taken errors which have become principles in the mind, in a metaphysical view, may be defined to be and which shed a baneful influence over every that power of the mind that receives our sensa

be at;

tions, and converts them into ideas; it is the every primitive sentiment must therefore be ne first connecting agent between the body and the cessarily virtuous. We perceive misery, and we soul; it arranges our perceptions, and rules over desire to relieve it; we hear the voice of gladness, them; it is the very life of reason, which, with.

and we wish to increase it by congenial hilarity; out it, is irresolute, slowly deciding, seldorn we gaze upon beauty, and the sentiments of love acting

and beauty possess our hearts. From our primitive " Irresolute in this unfised in that,

sentiments proceed whatever is excellent in the

arts, whatever is sublime in the sciences, what“ With thoughts unconscious what they would

ever is laudable in poli:ical institutions, praise

worthy in domestic economy, honourable in “ Still hesitating, fearful to do ill,

public transactions, endearing in private rela“ Quintus does nothing well, nor ever will."

tions. For whence should principles have dePASCHASIUS.

rived their knowledge, whence the strength of Sentiment is the organ of sympathy, the first their regulations but from those natural concepspring of all the social affections; by it alone we tions, which by the unprejudiced mind are no become acquainted with our rank in nature, and sooner felt than established, and which, alour obligations to domestic and political institu- though we may stifle by false habits and pertions. Principle ouglit to consist in determined verted principles, we can never entirely separate rules founded on delictions made by reason from those natural impulses to which the heart is from the experience of our own sentiments, or ever recurring. received from the sentiments of others whom we The man of sentiment weeps indeed at ficti. respect. False deductions create false prin- || tious distress, trembles at the consequenc s of ciples, and these in a short time corrupt or imaginary crimes, is susceptible of all the emodeaden every sentiment. Then arises that af tions which eloquence or poetry can assume; fectation which inde d prevails so much in the but if restrained by the voice of prudence or by present day ; but which has equally prevailed in the testimonies of deceit or imposition that sur. times past, and will do so until the truths of real round him on every side, and compel him to act science, the science of self-knowledge and social with a cold principle of mistrust in real life, what obligations shall have streugthened our reasoning is to be blamed? Surely the false rules of confaculties, and made manifest the motives and duct, the perverted principles of the multitude. consequences of all our actions.

He whose sensibility is drawn towards an imaIt is so difficult to define with accuracy the ginary tale of pity correctly natural, would feel moral attributes of the mind, that I am not en the same interest in a real circumstance were it tirely certain whether I have a just idea of the possible to divest the mind of that sus;icion two objects which the author of “ The Distinc which is the natural consequence of frequent intion,” &c. has discussed. The characteristics tercourse with the world.

The young and inexassigned to Sentiment at the end of the Essay | perienced are mostly directed by the influence of are so dissimilar to those at the beginning, that I scnsibility, and are often the victions of a false am inclined to conclude that affectation of sen species of sentiment ari

from its indulgence. timent, false taste, and irrational sensation are For unless guarded by true sentiment united to blended together under one general appellation. I just principle, sensibiliiy has victims whose But it would be an endless labour in the present

excruciating tortures are beyond the powers of indeterminate state of metaphysical knowledge description. to fix denominations on the vague and incompre To pure sentiment appear to belong those prohensible faculties of the mind. Moral authors vinces of judgment which cultivate or cherish are in general careless in their use of terms, which

the arts, or that peunit and foster the benevolent increases the confusion, and when a disquisition and genial passions. The former are imitations is reduced to the definition of a name, ic is then of nature; the latter are her offspring; the maentangled in an inscrutable labyrinth.

nagement of each therefore belongs to that part Could we be assured of the unerring purity of || of the mind which she seems peculiarly to claim sentiment there would be no argument against

as her own, and to have stamped wish a sort of our continually submitting to its influence, ex

instructive power. cept such as might be suggested through the

To just principle belong the boundaries of selfprudential motives of self-love. Every thing || love and social justice; integrity in all its forms; that is offered to our contemplation, either in patience, perseverance, and the severities of duty. the wants of nature or in the oflices of society, || Knowledge, whether derived from education or calls us from ourselves, and makes us behold our experience, is the great support of principle. dependence upon duties reciprocally observed;

When science shall throw her emanations over

the soul, principle shall derive strength and spread into perfection. But while ignorance congeals all the sources of its nourishment, and casts a deep immoveable cloud over the intellect, there is no principle independent of sentiment on which we can constantly rely. The laws that we frame are found inadequate to the circumstances that arise; every new situation, every particular event has features that distinguish

it from others; has duties peculiarly its own – The inscrutable powers of pure sentiment, allied as they are to nature, must be called forth, and to their decision, as to the chancery of the mind, the legislation of principle, and the precedents of experience must subinit.

T. N.

Blackheath, May 7th, 1806.



To a void and unfeeling mind the richest ob- || Hagley, one summer's afternoon, young Palemun Jects of admiration pass unubserved or unadmired: | stopped 10 water a little horse he rede. It hap. but to the heart susceptible of sensibility the pened also that an elderly gentleman was at the smallest incident affords a boundless field for re same instant engaged in the same act. Travellers flection, and opens a passage to the fanciful and dwell not on formal introductions; the old unlimited sallies of imagination.

gentleman was pleased with the open and innoAbout the middle of June, on my return from cent conversation of Palemon; and he, on the the university of Oxford, though I had visited other hand, had every reason to be highly desome of the most enchanting scenes of nature, as | lighted with the affectionate behaviour of his well as the mechanical wonders of art, my mind aged companion. It may be sufficient to say, received the most permanent impression from an that as they were journeying to the same town, object, in itself the most trivial to appearance. the old gentleman urgently invited Palemon to Chance led me to Worcester, and as I walked his house: he was the grandfather of Amelia. with a friend in the cloisters of the cathedral, a The since elegant and accomplished Amelia small tombstone in the western corner caught was then but a child, younger than Palemy eye, with only the single Latin word “ Miser mon. Together would they play, and indulge rimus,” the most wretched af men, inscribed on it. with temporary pleasure each puerile recreation; It is needless to mention the crowd of suggestions though they met and parted almost with indifthat at once arose on my mind; some souls can ference. conceive more from a hint than others from the

This acquaintance continued for some years, most Aorid description. I could not help ex until Palemon, passing in his way to the Uniclaiming,

versity, stopped a few days at the house of “ Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid

his friends. He was now more than seventeen, A heart once pregnant with celestial fire;

and bad made considerable progress in most of Hands, that the rod of empire might have the polite arts, and took great delight in accomsway'd,

panying the voice of Amelia on the piano-forte; Or wakid to exstacy the living lyrc.”

nor did her mental and personal improvement But my friend soon convinced me, by the short

fail to gain its due influence over his heart: she recital of a melancholy tal, that

had in her dsposition and person every thing

that was desirable in a partner for life. He now « This wide and universal theatre

felt at his parting with her an unusual heaviness; Presents more woeful pageants than the scene and during the rest of the journey was pensive Wherein we play.”

and dejected; and if at any time she occurred to What I shall relate (says he) may perhaps | bis thoughts, his mind became agitated and conconvince you that the good are to look beyond || fused. The first ligatures of love are so slender this world for their reward; and it may serve to as to be scarcely perceptible, but on receiving the show how small an incident may be the origin of smallest encouragement they become irresistibly the greatest event of a man's life. Though my || strong. tale may be destitute of the interesting adventures I need not (continued my friend) detain you of fiction, I hope it will claim some attention with intermediate circumstances. I could repeat when I assure you it has truth for its basis. to you their successive interviews for several

At a watering-trough on the road side near years, replete with the most tender and interest

« PreviousContinue »