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During infancy, every new object is probably the occasion of wonder, in some degree; because, during infancy, every object at first sight is strange as well as new: but as objects are rendered familiar by custom, we cease by degrees to wonder at new appearances, if they have any resemblance to what we are acquainted with; for a thing must be fingular as well as new, to raise our wonder.
To fave multiplying words, I would be understood to comprehend both circumstances when I hereafter talk of novelty.
In an ordinary train of perceptions where one thing introduces another, not a single object makes its appearance unexpectedly *: the mind thus prepared for the reception of its objects, admits them one after another without perturbation. But when a thing breaks in unexpectedly, and without the preparation of any connection, it raises a singular emotion, known by the name of Surprise. This emotion may be produced by the most familiar object, as when one accidentally meets a friend, who was reported to be dead; or a man in high life, lately a beggar. On the other hand, a new object, however strange, will not produce this emotion if the spectator be prepared for the fight : an elephant in India will not surprise a traveller who goes to see one; and yet
; its novelty will raise liis wonder: an Indian in Britain would be much surprised to stumble upon
* See chap. I.
an elephant feeding at large in the open fields; but the creature itself, to which he was accu1tomed, would not raise his wonder.
Surprise thus in several respects differs from wonder : unexpectedness is the cause of the former emotion; novelty is the cause of the latter. Nor differ they less in their nature and circumstances, as will be explained by and by. With relation to one circumstance they perfectly agree; which is, the shortness of their duration : the instantaneous production of these emotions in perfećtion, may contribute to this effect, in conformity to a general law, That things soon decay which foon come to perfection: the violence of the emotions may also contribute ; for an ardent emotion, which is not susceptible of increase, cannot have a long course. But their short duration is occasioned chiefly by that of their causes: we are soon reconciled to an object, however unexpected; and novelty foon degenerates into familiarity.
Whether these emotions be pleasant or painful, is not a clear point. It may appear Itrange, that our own feelings, and their capital qualities, should afford any matter for a doubt : but when we are ingrossed by any emotion, there is no place for speculation; and when sufficiently calm for speculation, it is not easy to recal the emotion with accuracy. New objects are sometimes terrible, sometimes delightful : the terror which a tyger inspires is greatest at first, and wears off
gradually by familiarity: on the other hand, ex ven women will acknowledge, that it is novelty which pleases the most in a new fashion. At this fate, it should be thought, that wonder is not in itself pleafant nor painful, but that it assumes either quality according to circumstances. This doctrine, however plausible, must not pass without examination : A new object, it is true, that hath a threatening appearance, adds to our terror by its novelty: but from this experiment it doth not follow, that novelty is in itself disagreeable; for it is perfectly confiftent, that we be delighted with an object in one view, and terrified with it in another : a river in flood swelling over its banks, is a grand and delightful object; and yet it may produce no small degree of fear when we attempt to cross it :
courage and magnanimity are agreeable; and yet, when we view these qualities in an enemy, they serve to increase our terror. In the fame manner, novelty may produce two effects clearly distinguishable from each other : it may, directly and in itself, be agreeable; and it may, at the same time, have an opposite effect indirectly, which is, to inspire terfor when a new object appears in any de
. gree dangerous, our ignorance of its powers and qualities, affords ample scope for the imagination to dress it in the most frightful colours * The first sight of a lion, for example, may at the fame
* Essays on the principles of morality and natural religion,
part 2. eff. 6.
instant produce two opposite feelings, the pleasant emotion of wondër, and the painful passion of terror : the novelty of the object, produces the former directly, and contributes to the latter indirectly. Thus, when tlié subject is analyzed, we find, that the power which novelty hath indirectly to inflame terror, is perfectly consistent with its being in every case agreeable. The matter may be put
in the clearest light, by adding the following circumstances. If a lion be first seen from a place of safety, the spectacle is altogether agreeable without the least mixture of terror. If again the first sight put us within reach of this dangerous animal, our terror may be so great as quite to exclude any sense of novelty. But this fact proves not thať wonder is painful: it proves only, that wonder may be excluded by a more powerful passion. Every man may be made certain by his own experience, that wonder raised by a new object that is inoffensive, is always pleasant; and with respect to offensive objects, it appears from the foregoing deduction, that the fame must hold so long as the spectator can attend to the novelty.
Whether surprise be in itself pleasant or painful, is a question not less intricate than the for
It is certain, that furprise inílames our joy, when unexpectedly we meet with an old friend; and not less our terror, when we stuinble upon any thing noxious.
To clear this matter, we must trace it step by step. And the first
thing to be remarked is, that in some instances an unexpected object overpowers the mind, fo as to produce a momentary stupefaction: where the object is dangerous, or appears so, the sudden alarm it gives, without preparation, is apt totally to unhinge the mind, and for a moment to sufpend all the faculties, even thought itself * ;
in which state a man is quite helpless; and if he move at all, is as like to run upon the danger as from it. Surprise carried to this height, cannot be either pleasant or painful ; because the mind, during such momentary stupefaction, is in a good measure, if not totally, insensible.
If we then inquire for the character of this emotion, it must be where the unexpected object or event produceth less violent effects. And while the mind remains sensible of pleasure and pain, is it not natural to suppose, that surprise, like wonder, should have an invariable character? I am inclined however to think, that surprise has no invariable character, but assumes that of the object which raises it. Wonder being an emotion invariably raised by novelty, and being distinguishable from all other emotions, ought naturally to possess one constant character. The unexpected appearance of an object, seems not equally intitled to produce an emotion distinguishable from the emotion, pleasant or painful; that is produced by the object in its ordinary appear
• Hence the Latin names for surprise, torpor, animi ftupor.