Puslapio vaizdai

ance it ought not naturally to have any effect, other than to fwell that emotion, by making it more pleasant or more painful than it commonly is. And this conjecture is confirmed by experience, as well as by language, which is built upon experience: when a man meets a friend unexpectedly, he is faid to be agreeably surprised; and when he meets an enemy unexpectedly, he is faid to be disagreeably surprised. It appears, then, that the fole effect of furprife is to fwell the emotion raised by the object. And this effect can be clearly explained: a tide of connected perceptions, glides gently into the mind, and produceth no perturbation; but an object breaking in unexpectedly, founds an alarm, roufes the mind out of its calm ftate, and directs its whole attention upon the object, which, if agreeable, becomes doubly fo. Several circumftances concur to produce this effect: on the one hand, the agitation of the mind, and its keen attention, prepare it in the most effectual manner for receiving a deep impreffion: on the other hand, the object, by its fudden and unforeseen appearance, makes an impreffion, not gradually, as expected objects do, but as at one ftroke with its whole force. The circumstances are precisely fimilar where the object is in itself disagreeable.

The pleasure of novelty is easily distinguished from that of variety: to produce the latter, a plurality of objects is neceffary; the former arifes from a circumstance found in a single object. A

gain, where objects, whether coexiftent or in fuc ceffion, are fufficiently diverfified, the pleasure of variety is complete, though every fingle object of the train be familiar: but the pleasure of novelty, directly oppofite to familiarity, requires no diverfification.

There are different degrees of novelty, and its effects are in proportion. The lowest degree is found in objects that are furveyed a fecond time after a long interval; and that in this case an object takes on fome appearance of novelty, is certain from experience: a large building of many parts variously adorned, or an extenfive field embellished with trees, lakes, temples, statues, and other ornaments, will appear new oftener than once: the memory of an object fo complex is foon loft, of its parts at least, or of their arrangement. But experience teaches, that even without any decay of remembrance, absence alone will give an air of novelty to a once familiar object; which is not furprising, because familiarity wears off gradually by absence: thus a perfon with whom we have been intimate, returning after a long interval, appears like a new acquaintance: and diftance of place contributes to this appearance, not lefs than diftance of time: a friend, for example, after a fhort abfence in a remote country, has the fame air of novelty as if he had returned after a longer interval from a place nearer home: the mind forms a connection between him and the remote country, and beftows upon him the fingularity


of the objects he has feen: for the fame reason, when two things equally new and fingular are presented, the spectator balances between them; but when told that one of them is the product of a diftant quarter of the world, he no longer hefitates, but clings to this as the more fingular: hence the preference given to foreign luxuries, and to foreign curiofities, which appear rare in proportion to their original distance.

The next degree of novelty, mounting upward, is found in objects of which we have fome information at fecond hand; for defcription, though it contribute to familiarity, cannot altogether remove the appearance of novelty when the object itself is prefented; the first fight of a lion occafions fome wonder, after a thorough acquaintance with the correcteft pictures and fta tues of that animal.

A new object that bears fome diftant refemblance to a known fpecies, is an inftance of a third degree of novelty: a strong resemblance among individuals of the fame fpecies, prevents almost entirely the effect of novelty, unless distance of place or fome other circumftance concur; but where the resemblance is faint, fome degree of wonder is felt, and the emotion rifes in propor+ tion to the faintnefs of the refemblance.

The highest degree of wonder arifeth from unknown objects that have no analogy to any fpecies we are acquainted with. Shakespear in a fimile introduces this fpecies of novelty :


As glorious to the fight

As is a winged meffenger from heaven
Unto the white upturned wond'ring eye
Of mortals, that fall back to gaze on him
When he bestrides the lazy-pacing clouds,
And fails upon the bofom of the air.

Romeo and Juliet.

One example of this fpecies of novelty, deferves peculiar attention; and that is, when an object altogether new is feen by one perfon only, and but once. These circumstances heighten remarkably the emotion: the fingularity of the condition of the fpectator concurs with the fingularity of the object, to inflame wonder to its highest pitch.

In explaining the effects of novelty, the place a being occupies in the scale of existence, is a circumstance that must not be omitted. Novelty in the individuals of a low clafs, is perceived with indifference, or with a very flight emotion: thus a pebble, however fingular in its appearance, fcarce moves our wonder. The emotion rifes with the rank of the object; and, other circumftances being equal, is strongest in the highest order of existence: a ftrange animal affects us more than a strange vegetable; and were we admitted to view fuperior beings, our wonder would rise proportionably; and accompanying nature in her amazing works, be completed in the contemplation of the Deity.

However natural the love of novelty may be,

it is a matter of experience, that those who relish novelty the moft, are careful to conceal its influence. This relish, it is true, prevails in children, in idlers, and in men of a weak mind: and yet, after all, why fhould one be afhamed of indulging a natural propenfity? A diftinction will explain this difficulty. Curiosity is a natural principle directed upon new and fingular objects, in the contemplation of which its gratification confifts, without leading to any end other than knowledge; and accordingly no man is afhamed to acknowledge that he loves to contemplate new and fingular objects. But the man who prefers any thing merely because it is new, hath not this principle for its juftification; nor indeed any good principle: vanity is at the bottom, which eafily prevails upon thofe who have no tafte, to prefer things odd, rare, or fingular, in order to distinguish themselves from others. And in fact, this appetite, as above mentioned, reigns chiefly among perfons of a mean tafte, who are ignorant of refined and elegant pleasures.

One final caufe of wonder, hinted above, is, that this emotion is intended to ftimulate our curiofity. Another, fomewhat different, is, to prepare the mind for receiving deep impreffions of new objects. An acquaintance with the various things that may affect us, and with their properties, is effential to our well-being: nor will a flight or fuperficial acquaintance be fufficient; they ought to be fo deeply ingraved on


« AnkstesnisTęsti »