תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

CHAP: VI.

NOVELTY, AND THE UNEXPECTED APPEARANCE

OF OBJECTS.

are

en

F all the circumstances that raise emotions,

not excepting beauty, nor even greatness, novelty hath the most powerful influence. A new object produceth instantaneously an emotion termed wonder, which totally occupies the mind, and for a time excludes all other objects. Conversation among the vulgar never is more interesting than when it turns upon strange objects and extraordinary events. Men tear themselves from their native country in search of things rare and new; and novelty converts into a pleasure, the fatigues and even perils of tra velling. To what cause shall we ascribe these fingular appearances ? To curiosity undoubtedly, a principle implanted in human nature for a purpose extremely beneficial, that of acquiring knowledge; and the emotion of wonder, raised by new and strange objects, inflames our curio. fity to know more of them. This emotion is different from admiration : novelty wherever found, whether in a quality or action, is the cause of wonder; admiration is directed to the person who performs any thing wonderful.

During

During infancy, every new object is proba. bly 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 singular as well as new, to raise our wonder. To save 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 fingle 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 connecition, it raises an emotion, known by the name of surprise. That emotion may be produced by the most familiar object, as when one unexpectedly 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 the 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 his wonder : an R 2

Indian

* See Chap. I.

Indian' in Britain would be much surprised to stumble upon an elephant feeding at large in the open fields : but the creature itself, to which he was accustoined, 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 inftantaneous production of these emotions in perfection, may contribute to that effect, in conformity to a general law, That things foon 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 occafioned chiefly by that of their causes: we are foon 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 strange, that our own feelings and their capital qualities, should afford any matter for a doubt: but when we are engrossed by any emotion, there is no place for speculation; and when sufficiently calm for fpeculation, it is not easy to recall the emotion with accuracy. New objects are sometimes

terrible,

une

O

CY

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

terrible, sometimes delightful : The terror which
a tyger inspires is greatest at first, and wears off
gradually by familiarity: on the other hand,
even women will acknowledge that it is novelty
which pleases the most in a new fashion. It
would be rash however to conclude, that won-
der is in itself neither pleasant nor painful, but
that it assumes either quality according to cir-
cumstances. An object, it is true, that hath a
threatening appearance, adds to our terror by
its novelty : but from that experiment it doth
not follow, that novelty is in itself disagreeable;
for it is perfectly consistent, 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 thele qua-
lities in an enemy, they serve to increase our
terror. In the same manner, novelty may pro.
duce two effects clearly distinguishable from each
other : it may, directly and in itself, be agree.
able; and it may have an opposite effect indi.
rectly, which is, to inspire terror; for when a
new object appears in any degree 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
R 3

lion,

are

* Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion, part 2. eff. 6,

[ocr errors]

lion, for example, may at the same instant produce two opposite feelings, the pleasant emotion of wonder, and the painful paffion of terror: the novelty of the object produces the former direct. ly, and contributes to the latter indirectly. Thus, when the subject is analysed, we find, that the power which novelty bath indirectly to inflame terror, is perfectly consistent with its being in every circumstance 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 puts us within reach of that dangerous animal, our terror may be so great as quite to exclude any fenle of novelty. But this fact proves not that wonder is painful: it proves only, that wonder may be excluded by a more powerful passion. Every man may be made certain from his own experience, that wonder raised by a new object which is inof, fensive, is always pleasant; and with respect to offensive objects, it appears from the foregoing deduction, that the same must hold as long as the spectator can attend to the novelty

Whether surprise be in itself pleasant or painful, is a question no less intricate than the former. It is certain that surprise inflames our joy when unexpectedly we meet with an old friend, and our terror when we stumble upon any thing noxious. To clear that question, the first thing

to

« הקודםהמשך »