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cess of the imagination, which would be productive of sympathy according to the theory I have quoted. It is probably by the senti. ment of self-felicitation just called into view, that the multitude are so strongly attracted 10 behold public executions, when the truly sympathetic avoid them with horror, as scenes which sym. pathy must feel but cannot relieve.
As an elucidation of his hypothesis, it is observed by our author, that an imaginary uneasiness is often excited in the corresponding limbs of a spectator, by the local evils which vagrants expose to excite compassion. But this I consider as a morbid influence of the fancy, or a species of physical sympathy, which is not always productive of the moral sentiment. The presence of this I conceive to be invariably indicated by compassion, and a dis. position to afford relief: but persons most liable to the fantasies thus excited by objects in distress, are not always the most ready to succour them. Disgust, aversion or horror, are often the only effect of these whimsical conceits : while those who have stronger minds, and better hearts, without any of this morbid stimulus, but instigated by a genuine impulse of moral sympathy, far from abandoning the wretched, hasten to communicate comfort, consolation, or relief.
Agreeably to the theory I have cited, the pains or pleasures of sympathy, would have some resemblance to those of the object by which they are produced; whereas they are in general widely different. The one is often a physical sensation, the other is invariably a moral sentiment. So far as we merely commute in imagination our situation for that of an object in distress, our sensations can only be a very feeble and inadequate imitation of his, and must widely differ from that oppressive sensation which hangs upon the bosom of sympathy, and which is very little varied by the nature of the misfortune which excites it, excepting as to its force. In this respect it may, and often does exceed the pangs of the sufferer.
In elucidation of this critique, I trust to be excused, if I again cite a fictitious picture from the Prince of Dramatic Poets. With me his copies have all the authority of the original. If not nature, they are prototypes of nature, which can never be equalled by delineations of real events, until we shall have a Shakspeare to record them. On these grounds I venture to make him my
standard of authority, conscious that if in calling up fiction in support of truth, I offend against philosophy, I shall find an apology in the taste, if not in the reason of
my readers. I beg leave to call into view that scene in the tragedy of King Lear, where the virtuous and venerable Gloster degraded from the fortune, rank and power in which he had been nurtured, is pinioned by ruffians, and Cornwall having already exterminated one of his eyes, is about to pluck out the other. A situation more calculated to excite sympathy, can hardly be imagined. The good old man, a victim to filial ingratitude and treachery, is to spend the evening of his life, “ all dark and comfortless" forever deprived of the cheering rays of the sun.
A humble retainer, overcome by sympathy, draws his sword singly to oppose the completion of the cruel design; and after inflicting on his master a wound which soon after proves mortal, dies by a thrust in his back implanted by the infuriate Regan. There can be no doubt, but that the noble impulse, the power of which is in this passage so well represented by Shakspeare, must have been excited by that interchange of situation, with the venerable victim, which the appeal of the latter was so well calculated to excite.
"He, that will think to live till he be old,
It is a query naturally arising in the mind, What would be my suffering under these horrid circumstances. But the conception thus arising was only a spark which kindles, but does not constitute that noble sentiment which he soon after gratifies at the expense of life. When, with sword in hand, he'rushes upon the oppressor of virtue and wretched old age, he no longer imagines himself in the place of the miserable victim ; it is not by a feeble imaginary imitation of the sensations of blindness, or the torture of losing an eye, that he is propelled ; it is by a nobler flame which Fancy had merely served to enkindle. He was probably
“ A most poor man, made tame to Fortune's blows;
Upon the considerations thus stated, I think that we may conclude that the degree in which we sympathize with the pleasures
or pains of others, is not merely dependent on an imaginary interchange of situation, but on the degree in which we are capaci.' tated to feel the conception thus originated, not physically, but morally, not corporally, but in our hearts or souls. It is this capacity or property in the soul of man, which I would designate by the term sympathy, which in its origin is to be considered equally occult with the principle of vitality, or the attraction between the sun and revolving planets, and only to be treated as a primary, instinctive, and inscrutable qualification, in the soul of man, implanted for the most happy and obvious purposes, by a direct law of the Creator.
THE SCRIBBLER, NO.I.FOR THE PORT FOLIO.
I have often been struck by the different value which men annex to their own literary productions, and to those of others. It is not simply that the fame and success of our own performance is dear to us, that we wish it to be read, studied and admired for the sake of being extolled or revered by others, as the authors of so much eloquence or wisdom. We feel unspeakable complacency and satisfaction in the survey of the work. Review it frequently and with new pleasure, and when it has been laid aside or disappeared so long as to be nearly forgotten, we fasten upon it anew with the utmost eagerness, and give it a dozen successive readings without satiety or weariness.
This fondness for our own productions does not always originate in vanity. It does not argue any defect of judgment or taste, because he that feels it may display uncommon discernment in estimating the merit of other writers. While he reads with the utmost approbation, his own work, he is, frequently, so free from vanity as either not to desire or expect the applause of others. He may clearly perceive and unaffectedly acknowledge the superior merit of others, yet he reads no work with so much satisfaction, or so frequently as his own.
When he commences his career, and before he is enlightened by experience, he may possibly imagine that every reader will Sind as many charms in his performance as he has found; that his paper will be taken up by all with the same eagerness and laid down with the same reluctance as he experiences. This er. ror will, however, have had a very short reign. He will see his essay taken up with an air of immovable vacancy, and the leaves turned over carelessly, or with impatience. The stranger will run his eye through this page, dip into a single paragraph of another, catch up a single sentence from a third, and then, laying it aside, return to ordinary business or foreign conversation, with as much tranquillity as if the essay had never been indited.
If I send my book to a friend, and request him earnestly to read it, and afterwards meet him with a view to know his opiuion of the work, I shall probably be gratified with a high strain of applause. He will assure me that he has carefully perused it, and immediately proceed to comment upon it in such a manner as to prove that he has read no more that a dozen sentences picked out at random, as he hastily turned over the leaves. Some men, on such occasions, will immediately begin to carp, cavil, and blame the writer for omitting facts, which, nevertheless, he had carefully inserted, only they did not lie in that part of the volume which happened to open to his view.
A popular poet relates that one of his friends expressed great anxiety to obtain a sight of a new work of his, just then publishing. Accordingly he took some pains, and went to some expense to gratify so laudable and flattering a curiosity. Having procured a copy, he hastened with it to his friend, and, not finding him at home, left the precious volume on his table. They met some weeks afterwards, and the critic began to upbraid the poet for not complying with his request. An explanation ensuing, it appeared that the new book had lain, during this interval not unseen, but unopened on the table. “ Truly” says the critic, “ I heard you were at my chamber, but it never occurred to me that you had left the book; for which I am sorry, as it was but yesterday that I suffered Betsy to take it: she complained so grievously of wanting paper to put up her hair with.” The poet's mortification was heightened by having filled a blank leaf with an epigrammatic dedication to his friend, which he intended as a prodigy, not only of wit, but of penmanship. The volume was forth with reclainied from the toilet, but the epigram and one of his choicest episodes, had descended froin the lady's brows to some receptacie of dust and ashes, from which they were irrecoverable.
Poor Mickle was greatly mortified on finding a copy of his translation of the Lusiad, some years after its publication, with the leaves uncut on the hall window of the Nobleman, to whom he had dedicated it.
A few instances of this kind, speedily correct the erroneous potions of an author, as to the light in which his works will be viewed by other eyes than his own. Yet this inattention is no proof of demerit in a work. It merely proves that every man must take more delight in his own offspring, whether corporeal or intellectual, than others will be capable of taking. Its merit, in his own eyes, may even fall short of that of other people's literary progeny: yet he will meditate it with more complacency and eagerness. 'Hence it happens that no work ever gave any reader as much pleasure as it gave the author. His perception of its merits is far more lively and exquisite than that of the most eager and enthusiastic of his votaries.
When I read a good poem my imagination always suggests the delight which the author must have derived from the composition and perusal of it: a delight compared to which all my emotions must be cold and feeble. When I light upon a weak, silly and dull performance, I console myself with reflecting that there is, or has been at least one person in the world to whom the reading has imparted not merely satisfaction, but rapture; and that is the author himself.
It may be thought that the voice of public approbation must tend greatly to heighten and prolong the pleasure of the author, no doubt this effect is sometimes produced, but when he comes to compare the impressions made upon the public, with those made upon his own mind: when he examines the kind and degree of the public approbation, he is more frequently displeased and mortified, than flattered or elated by the praise of his rcàders, since he finds it so unlike, or disproportionate to his own feelings.
To talk of the feelings of authors, however, seems to be very impertinent on this occasion. The topic can excite interest in none, or even be understood by none but writers themselves, and that number is extremely small. As to reguJar books, there are