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to its height. However it may be with other generic habits, the observation, I am certain, holds with respect to the pleasures of virtue and of knowledge : the pleasure of doing good has an unbounded scope, and may be fo variously gratified, that it can never decay; science is equally unbounded ; our appetite for knowledge having an ample range of gratification, where discoveries are recommended by novelty, by va. riety, by utility, or by all of them.
In this intricate inquiry, I have endeavoured, but without success, to discover by what particular means it is that custom hath influence upon us : and now nothing seems left, but to hold our nature to be so framed, as to be susceptible of such influence. And supposing it purposely fo framed, it will not be difficult to find out several important final causes. That the power of custom is a happy contrivance for our good, cannot have escaped any one who reflects, that business is our province, and pleasure our relaxation only. Now fatiety is necessary to check exquifite pleasures, which otherwise would engross the mind, and unqualify us for bufinefs. On the other hand, as business is sometimes painful, and is never pleasant beyond moderation, the habitual increase of moderate pleasure, and the conversion of pain into pleasure, are admirably contrived for disappointing the malice of Fortune, and for reconciling us to whatever course of life may be our lot:
How use doth breed a habit in a man!
Two Gentlemen of Verona, A&t v. Sc. 4.
As the foregoing distinction between intense and moderate holds in pleasure only, every degree of pain being softened by time, custom is a catholicon for pain and distress of every fort ; and of that regulation the final cause requires no illustration.
Another final cause of custom will be highly relished by every person of humanity, and yet has in a great measure been overlooked ; which is, that custom hath a greater influence than any other known cause, to put the rich and the poor upon a level : weak pleasures, the share of the latter, become fortunately stronger by custom; while voluptuous pleasures, the share of the former, are continually losing ground by fatiety. Men of fortune, who possess palaces, sumptuous gardens, rich fields, enjoy them less than passengers do. The goods of Fortune are not unequally distributed: the opulent possess what others enjoy.
And indeed, if it be the effect of habit, to produce the pain of want in a high degree, while there is little pleasure in enjoyment, a voluptuDd 2
ous ous life is of all the least to be envied. Those who are habituated to high feeding, easy vehicles, rich furniture, a crowd of valets, much deference and flattery, enjoy but a small share of happiness, while they are exposed to manifold diftreffes. To such a man, enslaved by eafe and luxury, even the petty inconvenience in travelling, of a rough road, bad weather, or home. ly fare, are serious evils: he loses his tone of mind, turns peevish, and would wreak his refentment even upon the common accidents of life. Better far to use the goods of Fortune with moderation : a man who by temperance and activity hath acquired a hardy conftitution, is, on the one hand, guarded against external accidents; and, on the other, is provided with great variety of enjoyment ever at command.
I shall close this chapter with an article more delicate than abstruse, namely, what authority custom ought to have over our taste in the fine arts. One particular is certain, that we chearfully abandon to the authority of custom things that nature hath left indifferent. It is custom, not nature, that hath established a difference between the right hand and the left, so as to make it awkward and disagreeable to use the left where the right is commonly ufed. The various colours, though they affect us differently, are all of them agreeable in their purity : but custom has regulated that matter in another manner; a black skin upon a human being, is to
us disagreeable; and a white skin probably no less so to a Negro. Thus things, originally indifferent, become agreeable or disagreeable, by the force of custom. Nor will this be surprising after the discovery made above, that the original agreeableness or disagreeableness of an object, is, by the influence of custom, often converted into the opposite quality.
Proceeding to matters of tafte, where there is naturally a preference of one thing before another; it is certain, in the first place, that our faint and more delicate feelings are readily sufceptible of a bias from custom; and therefore that it is no proof of a defective taste to find these in some measure influenced by custom: dress and the modes of external behaviour are regulated by custom in every country: the deep red or vermilion with which the ladies in France cover their cheeks, appears to them beautiful in spite of nature; and strangers cannot altogether be justified in condemning that practice, confidering the lawful authority of custom, or of the fashion, as it is called : It is told of the people who inhabit the skirts of the Alps facing the north, that the swelling they have universally in the neck is to them agreeable. So far has custom power to change the nature of things, and to make an object originally disagreeable take on an opposite appearance.
But, as to every particular that can be denominated proper or improper, right or wrong, Dd3
custom has little authority, and ought to have none. The principle of duty takes naturally
place of every other; and it argues a shameful , weakness or degeneracy of mind, to find it in any case so far subdued as to submit to custom.
These few hints may enable us to judge in some measure of foreign manners, whether exhibited by foreign writers or our own. A comparison between the ancients and the moderns was some time ago a favourite subject : those who declared for ancient manners thought it fufficient that these manners were supported by custom : their antagonists, on the other hand, refusing submission to custom as a standard of taste, condemned ancient manners as in several instances irrational. In that controversy, an appeal being made to different principles, without the flightest attempt to establish a common standard, the dispute could have no end. The hints above given tend to establish a standard for judging how far the authority of custom ought to be held lawful; and, for the sake of illustration, we shall apply that standard in a few instances.
Human facrifices, the most dismal effect of blind and groveling superstition, wore gradually out of use by the prevalence of reason and humanity. In the days of Sophocles and Euripides, traces of that practice were still recent; and the Athenians, through the prevalence of custom, could without disgust suffer human sacrifices to be represented in their theatre, of