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melancholy passions is not only overpowered and effaced by something stronger of an opposite kind, but the whole move. ment of those passions is converted into pleasure, and swells the delight which the eloquence raises in us.
The same force of oratory employed on an uninteresting subject would not please half so much, or, rather, would appear altogether ridiculous; and the mind being left in absolute calmness or indifference, would relish none of those beauties of imagination or expression which, if joined to passion, give it such exquisite entertainment. The impulse or vehemence arising from sorrow, compassion, indignation, receives a new direction from the sentiments of beauty. The latter, being the predominant emotion, seize the whole mind, and convert the former into themselves, or, at least, tincture them so strongly as totally to alter their nature; and the soul being at the same time roused by passion and charmed by eloquence, feels on the whole a strong movement which is altogether delightful.”
I am sorry to say, but truth compels me to acknowledge, that I have reaped no more satisfaction from this account of the matter than from those which preceded it. I could have wished, indeed, that the author had been a little more explicit in his manner of expressing himself, for I am not certain that I perfectly comprehend his meaning. At one time he seems only to intend to say that it is the purpose of eloquence, to the promoting of which its tropes and figures are wonderfully adapted, to infuse into the mind of the hearer such compassion, sorrow, indignation, and other passions, as are, notwithstanding their original character when abstractly considered, accompanied with pleasure. At another time it appears rather his design to signify, though he doth not plainly speak it out, that the discovery made by the hearer of the admirable art and ingenuity of the speaker, and of the elegance and harmony of what is spoken, gives that peculiar pleasure to the mind which makes even the painful passions become delightful.
If the first of these be all that he intended to affirm, he hath told us, indeed, a certain truth, but nothing new or uncommon; nay, more, he hath told us nothing that can serve in the smallest degree for a solution of the difficulty. Whoever doubted that it is the design and work of eloquence to move the passions and to please? The question which this naturally gives rise to is, How doth eloquence produce this effect? This, I believe, it will be acknowledged to do principally, if not solely, agreeably to the doctrine explained above,* by communicating lively, distinct, and strong ideas of the distress which it exhibits. By a judicious yet natural
* Chap. vi.
arrangement of the most affecting circumstances, by a proper selection of the most suitable tropes and figures, it enlivens the ideas raised in the imagination to such a pitch as makes them strongly resemble the perceptions of the senses or the transcripts of the memory. The question, then, with which we are immediately concerned, doth obviously recur, and seems, if possible, more mysterious than before ; for how can the aggravating of all the circumstances of misery in the rep resentation make it be contemplated with pleasure? One would naturally imagine that this must be the most effectual method of making it give still greater pain. How can the heightening of grief, fear, anxiety, and other uneasy sensa. tions, render them agreeable ?
Besides, this ingenious author has not adverted that his hypothesis, instead of being supplementary to Fontenelle's, as he appears to have intended, is subversive of the principles on which the French critic's theory is founded. The effect, according to the latter, results from moderating, weakening, softening, and diminishing the passion. According to the former, it results from what is directly opposite, from the arts employed by the orator for the purpose of exaggeration, strengthening, heightening, and inflaming the passion. Indeed, neither of these writers seem to have attended suffi. ciently to one particular, which of itself might have shown the insufficiency of their systems. The particular alluded to is, that pity, if it exceed not a certain degree, gives pleasure to the mind when excited by the original objects in distress, as well as by the representations made by poets, painters, and orators; and, on the contrary, if it exceed a certain degree, it is on the whole painful, whether awakened by the real objects of pity, or roused by the exhibitions of the historian or of the poet. Indeed, as sense operates more strongly on the mind than imagination does, the excess is much more frequent in the former case than in the latter.
Now, in attempting to give a solution of the difficulty, it is plain that all our theorists ought regularly and properly to begin with the former case. If in that, which is the original and the simplest, the matter is sufficiently accounted for, it is accounted for in every case, it being the manifest design both of painting and of oratory as nearly as possible to produce the same affections which the very objects represented would have produced in our minds; whereas, though Mr. Hume should be admitted to have accounted fully for the impression made by the poet and the orator, we are as far as ever from the discovery of the cause why pity excited by the objects themselves, when it hath no eloquence to recommend it, is on the whole, if not excessive, a pleasant emotion.
But if this celebrated writer intended to assert that the dis
covery of the oratory, that is, of the address and talents of the speaker, is what gives the hearer a pleasure, which, mingling itself with pity, fear, indignation, converts the whole, as he expresses it, into one strong movement, which is altogether delightful—if this be his sentiment, he hath indeed advanced something extraordinary and entirely new. And that this is his opinion appears, I think, obliquely from the expressions which he useth. "The genius required, the art employed, the judgment displayed, along with the force of expression and beauty of oratorical numbers, diffuse the highest satisfaction on the audience.” Again: “The impulse or vehemence arising from sorrow, compassion, indignation, receives a new direction from the sentiments of beauty." If this, then, be a just solution of the difficulty, and the detection of the speaker's talents and address be necessary to render the hearer susceptible of this charming sorrow, this delightful anguish, how grossly have all critics and rhetoricians been deceived hitherto! These, in direct opposition to this curious theory, have laid it down in their rhetorics as a fundamental maxim, that “it is essential to the art to conceal the art ;" a maxim, too, which, in their estimation, the orator, in no part of his province, is obliged to such a scrupulous observance of as in the pathetic.f In this the speaker, if he would prove successful, must make his subject totally engross the attention of the hearers, insomuch that he himself, his genius, his art, his judgment, his richness of language, his harmony of numbers, are not minded in the least. I
Never does the orator obtain a nobler triumph by his eloquence than when his sentiments, and style, and order appear so naturally to arise out of the subject, that every hearer is inclined to think he could not have either thought or spoken otherwise himself, when everything, in short, is exhibited in such manner,
“As all might hope to imitate with ease;
Should find their labour and their hopes in vain."_FRANCIS. As to the harmony of numbers, it ought no farther to be the
* Artis est celare artem. † “ Effugienda igitur in hac præcipuè parte omnis calliditatis suspicio: ni. hil videatur fictum, nihil solicitum : omnia potius a causa, quam ab oratore profecta credantur. Sed hoc pati non possumus, et perire artem putamus, nisi appareat: cùm desinat ars esse, si apparet.”—Quint., Inst., lib. iv.,
I “Ubi res agitur, et vera dimicatio est, ultimus sit samæ locus. Propterea non debet quisquam, ubi maxima rerum momenta versantur, de ver, bis esse solicitus. Neque hoc eo pertinet, ut in his nullus sit ornatus, sed uti pressior et severior, minus confessus, præcipuè ad materiam accommodatus.”-QUINT.
“ Ut sibi quivis
speaker's care than that he may avoid an offensive dissonance or halting in his periods, which, by hurting the ear, abstracts the attention from the subject, and must, by consequence, serve to obstruct the effect. Yet even this, it may be safely averred, will not tend half so much to counteract the end as an elaborate harmony or a flowing elocution, which carries along with it the evident marks of address and study.*
Our author proceeds all along on the supposition that there are two distinct effects produced by the eloquence on the hearers: one the sentiment of beauty, or (as he explains it more particularly) of the harmony of oratorical numbers, of the exercise of these noble talents, genius, art, and judgment; the other the passion which the speaker purposeth to raise in their minds. He maintains, that when the first predominates, the mixture of the two effects becomes exceedingly pleasant, and the reverse when the second is superior. At least, if this is not what he means to assert and vindicate, I despair of being able to assign a meaning to the following expressions : “The genius required to paint, the art employed in collecting, the judgment displayed in disposing, diffuse the highest satisfaction on the audience, and excite the most delightful movements. By this means the uneasiness of the melancholy passions is not only overpowered and effaced by something stronger of an opposite kind, but the whole movement of those passions is converted into pleasure, and swells the delight which the eloquence raises in us.” Again: “The impulse or vehemence arising from sorrow receives a new direction from the sentiments of beauty. The latter being the predominant emotion, seize the whole mind, and convert the former—" Again : "The soul being at the same time roused with passion, and charmed by eloquence, feels on the whole" And in the paragraph immediately succeeding, “ It is thus the fiction of tragedy softens the passion, by an infusion of a new feeling, not merely by weakening or diminishing the sorrow.” Now to ine it is manifest that this notion of two distinguishable, and even opposite effects, as he terms them, produced in the hearer by the eloquence, is perfectly imaginary; that, on the contrary, whatever charm or fascination, if you please to call it so, there is in the pity excited by the orator, it ariseth not from any extrinsic senti. ment of beauty blended with it, but intimately from its own
*“Commoveaturne quisquam ejus fortuna, quem tumidum ac sui jactantem, et ambitiosum institorem eloquentiæ in ancipiti forte videat ? Non: imo oderit rerum verba aucupantem, et auxium de fama ingenii, et cui esse diserto vacet."-QUINT., l. xi., cap. i. “ Ubi vero atrocitate, invidia, miseratione pugnandum est, quis ferat contrapositis et pariter cadentibus, et consimilibus, irascentem, flentem, rogantem? cùm in his rebus cura verborum deroget affectibus fidem : et ubicunque ars ostentatur, veritas abesse videatur."-Cap. üi
natnre, from those passions which pity necessarily associates, or, I should rather say, includes.
But do we not often hear people speak of eloquence as moving them gre and pleasing them highly at the same time? Nothing more common. But these are never understood by them as two original, separate, and independent effects, but as essentially connected. Push your inquiries but ever so little, and you will find all agree in affirming that it is by being moved, and by that solely, that they are pleased: in philosophical strictness, therefore, the pleasure is the immediate effect of the passion, and the passion the immediate effect of the eloqúence.
But is there, then, no pleasure in contemplating the beauty of composition, the richness of fancy, the power of numbers, and the energy of expression ?, There is undoubtedly. But so far is this pleasure from commixing with the pathos, and giving a direction to it, that, on the contrary, they seem to be in a great measure incompatible. Such, indeed, is the pleasure which the artist or the critic enjoys, who can coolly and deliberately survey the whole ; upon whose passions the art of the speaker hath little or no influence, and that purely for this reason, because he discovers that art. The bulk of hearers know no farther than to approve the man who affects them, who speaks to their heart, as they very properly and emphatically term it, and to commend the performance by which this is accomplished. But how it is accomplished they neither give themselves the trouble to consider nor attempt to explain.
Part IV. The Fourth Hypothesis. Lastly, to mention only one other hypothesis : there are
* The inquiry contained in this chapter was written long before I had an opportunity of perusing a very ingenious English Commentary and Notes on Horace's Epistles to the Pisos and to Augustus, in which Mr. Hume's sentiments on this subject are occasionally criticised. The opinions of that commentator, in regard to Mr. Hume's theory, coincide in everything ma. terial with mine. This author considers the question no farther than it relates to the representations of tragedy, and hath, by confining his view to the single point, been led to lay greater stress on Fontenelle's hypothesis than, for the solution of the general phenomenon, it is entitled to. It is very true that our theatrical entertainments commonly exhibit a degree of distress which we could not bear to witness in the objects represented. Consequently, the consideration that it is but a picture, and not the original --a fictitious exhibition, and not the reality, which we contemplate, is essential for rendering the whole, I may say, supportable as well as pleasant. But even in this case, when it is necessary to our repose to consider the scenical misery before us as inere illusion, we are generally better pleased to consider the things represented as genuine fact. It requires, indeed, but a farther degree of affliction to make us even pleased to think that the copy never had any archetype in nature. But when this is the case, we may truly say that the poet hath exceeded, and wrought up pity to a kind of horror.