Page images
[ocr errors]

der the name of Magnanimity or Heroism; LEC T.
and they produce an effect extremely similar
tɔ what is produced by the view of grand ob-
jects in nature; filling the mind with admira-
tion, and elevating it above itself. A noted
instance of this, quoted by all the French
Critics, is the celebrated Qu'il Mourut of
Corneille, in the Tragedy of Horace. In the
famous combat betwixt the Horatii and the
Curiatii, the old Horatius, being informed,
that two of his sons are sain, and that the
third had betaken himself to flight, at first will
not believe the report; but being thoroughly
assured of the fact, is fired with all the senti-
ments of high honour and indignation at this
Tupposed unworthy behaviour of his surviving
son. He is reminded, that his son stood alone
against three, and asked what he wished hiin
to have done?" To have died,” he an-
swers. In the same manner Porus, taken
prisoner by Alexander, after a gallant defence,
and asked how he wished to be treated ? an-
swering, “ Like a king ;” and Cæsar chid-
ing the pilot who was afraid to set out with
him in a storm,

" Quid times ? Cæsarem
“ vehis;" are good instances of this fenti los de
mental Sublime. Wherever, in some critical Pern
and high situation, we behold a man uncom-
monly intrepid, and resting upon himself;
superior to passion and to fear; animated by
some great principle to the contempt of popu-

lar Caratteus free

2 db

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

F 2

[ocr errors]

LE C T. lar opinion, of selfish interest, of dangers, or

of death; there we are struck with a sense of
the Sublime *


High virtue is the most natural and fertile source of this moral Sublimity. However, on fome occafions, where Virtue either has no place, or is but imperfectly displayed, yet if extraordinary vigour and force of mind be discovered, we are not insensible to a degree of grandeur in the character; and from the splendid conqueror, or the daring conspirator, whom we are far from approving, we cannot with-hold our admiration t.

* The Sublime, in natural and in moral objects, is
brought before us in one view, and compared together, in
the following beautiful pafiage of Akenfide's Pleasures of
the In.agination:

Look then abroad through nature ; to the range
Of planets, funs, and adamantine (pheres,
Wheeling, unihaken, through the void immenfe;
And speak, O man ! does this capacious scene,
With half that kindling.majesty, dilate
Thy strong conception, as when Brutus rose
Refulgent, from the stroke of Cæsar's fatego
Amid the crowd of patriots ; and his arm
Aloft extending, like eternal Jove,
When guilt brings down the thunder, call'd aloud
On Tully's name, and fhook his crimson steel,
And bade the father of his country hail !
For lo ! the tyrant proftrate on the dust;
And Rome again is free.-

+ Silius Italicus has ftudied to give an august idea of
Hannibal, by reprefenting him as surrounded with all his


[ocr errors]


I have now enumerated a variety of in. LECT. stances, both in inanimate objects and in human life, wherein the Sublime appears. In all these instances, the emotion raised in us is of the same kind, although the objects that produce the emotion be of widely different kinds... A question next arises, whether we are able to discover fome one fundamental quality in which all these different objects agree, and which is the cause of their producing an emotion of the same nature in our minds ? Various hypotheses have been formed concerning this; but, as far as appears to me,

[ocr errors]

victories, in the place of guards. One who had formed a
design of affassinating him in the midst of a featt, is thus
addressed :

Fallit te, menfas inter quod credis inermem ;
Tot bellis quæfita viro, tot cædibus, armat
Majestas æterna ducem. Si admoveris ora
Cannas, & Trebiam ante oculos, Trasymenaque bufta

Et Pauli ftare ingentem miraberis umbram.
A thought somewhat of the same nature occurs in a French
author : “ Il se cache ; mais sa reputation le decouvre: Il
“ marche sans suite & fans equipage ; mais chacun, dans
“ son esprit, le met sur un char de triomphe. On compte, ,

en le voiant, les ennemis qu'il a vaincus, non pas les se:“ viteurs qui le suivent. Tout seul qu'il est, on se figure, autour de lui, ses vertus, & ses victoires


l'accompagnent. Moins il est superbe, plus il devient vene“ rable.” Oraison funebre de M. de Turenne, par M. Plechier. -Both these passages are splendid, rather than sublime. In the first, there is a want of juftness in the thought; in the econd, of fimplicity in the expression.

F 3



LE C T. hitherto unsatisfactory. Some have imagined

that amplitude, or great extent, joined with fimplicity, is either immediately, or remotely, the fundamental quality of whatever is fublime; but we have seen that amplitude is confined to one species of Sublime Objects; , and cannot, without violent straining, be applied to them all. The Author of “ a Phi“ losophical Enquiry into the Origin of our « Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful,” to whom we are indebted for several ingenious and original thoughts upon this subject, proposes a formal theory upon this foundation, That terror is the source of the Sublime, and that no objects have this character, but such as produce impressions of pain and danger. It is indeed true, that many terrible objects are highly sublime; and that grandeur does not refuse an alliance with the idea of danger. But though this is very properly illustrated by the Author (many of whose sentiments on that head I have adopted), yet he seems to stretch his theory too far, when he represents the Sublime as consisting wholly in modes of danger, or of pain. For the proper sensation of Sublimity appears to be very diftinguishable from the sensation of either of these; and, on several occasions, to be entirely separated from them. In many grand objects, there is no coincidence with terror at all; as in the magnificent prospect of wide extended plains, and


of the starry firmament; or in the moral disposi- LECT.
tions and sentiments, which we view with high
admiration; and in many painful and terri-
ble objects also, it is clear, there is no sort of
grandeur. The amputation of a limb, or the
bite of a snake, are exceedingly terrible ; but
are destitute of all .claim whatever to Subli-
mity. I am inclined to think, that mighty
force or power, whether accompanied with
terror or not, whether employed in protecting,
or in alarming us, has a better title, than any
thing that has yet been mentioned, to be the
fundamental quality of the Sublime; as, after
the review which we have taken, there does not
occur to me any Sublime Object, into the
idea of which, power, strength, and force,
either enter not directly, or are not, at least,
intimately associated with the idea, by leading
our thoughts to some astonishing power, as
concerned in the production of the object.
However, I do not infift upon this as fufficient
to found a general theory : It is enough to
have given this view of the nature and different
kinds of Sublime Objects; by which I hope to
have laid a proper foundation for discussing,
with greater accuracy, the Sublime in Writing
and Composition.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]


« PreviousContinue »