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§. 318. Remarks from the writings of Dr. Reid.

Dr. Reid (Essay IV. ch. 4.) gives the following graphical statement of the selection, which is made by the writer from the variety of his constantly arising and departing conceptions.

"We seem to treat the thoughts, that present themselves to the fancy in crowds, as a great man treats those [courtiers] that attend his levec. They are all ambitious of his attention. He goes round the circle, bestowing a bow upon one, a smile upon another; asks a short question of a third, while a fourth is honoured with a particular conference; and the greater part have no particular mark of attention, but go as they came. It is true, he can give no mark of his attention to those, who were not there; but he has a sufficient number for making a choice and distinction."

§. 319. Grounds of the preference of one conception to


A question after all arises, on what principle is the mind enabled to ascertain that congruity, or incongruity, fitness or unfitness, agreeably to which it makes the selection from its various conceptions. The fact is admitted, that the intellectual principle is successively in a series of different states, or, in other words, that there are successive conceptions or images, but the inquiry still remains, why is one image in the group thought or known to be more worthy than any other image, or why are any two images combined together in preference to any two others? The answer is, it is owing to no secondary law, but to an instantaneous and original feeling of approbation or disapprobation. Those conceptions, which according to this original power of approving or disapproving, are found to be suitable to the general outlines of the subject, are detained. Those images, which are perceived to possess a peculiar congruity and fitness for each other, are united together, forming new and more beautiful compounds. While others, although no directly voluntary power is ex

ercised over either class, are neglected, and soon become extinct. But no account of this vivid feeling of approval or disapproval, of this very rapid perception of the mutual congruity of the images for each other or for the general conception of the subject, can be given, other than this, that with such a power, the original author of our intellectual susceptibilities has been pleased to form us.

§. 320. Mental

process in the formation of Milton's imaginary paradise.

What has been said can perhaps be made plainer, by considering in what way Milton must have proceeded, in forming his happy description of the garden of Eden.— He had formed, in the first place, some general outlines of the subject; and as it was one, which greatly interested his feelings, the interest, which was felt, tended to keep the outlines steadily before him.-Then, the principles of association, which are ever at work, brought up a great variety of conceptions, having a relation of some kind to those general features; such as conceptions of rocks, and woods, and rivers, and green leaves, and golden fruit.The next step was the exercise of that power, which we have of perceiving relations, which has sometimes been designated as the susceptibility or power of relative suggestion. By means of this he was at once able to determine, whether the conceptions, which were suggested, were suitable to the general design of the description and to each other, and whether they would have, when combined together to form one picture, a pleasing effect. Accordingly, those, which were judged most suitable, were combined together as parts of the imaginary creation, and were detained and fixed by means of that feeling of interest, which was at first exercised towards the more prominent outlines merely; while others speedily disappeared from the mind.-And thus arose an imaginary landscape, more interesting, more perfect, than we can ever expect to find realized in nature.

§. 321. Limitations of imagination by the condition of the senses.

The power of imagination depends in some measure on the number and condition of the senses. If Milton had been blind from infancy, it cannot be supposed, that he would have been able to have formed that beautiful combination, the description of Paradise. Had he possessed the sense of seeing only in an imperfect degree, furnished, for instance, with only those glimmerings of sight, which persons sometimes possess before being couched for the cataract, he would not have been able to have done it, at least to the degree of perfection, in which the description appears at present.

A person undertakes to describe a battle, who has always been deaf; and in order that he may enjoy every facility for the execution of his plan, he places himself on some eminence, where he can overlook those military manoeuvres and conflicts, the description of which he antici pates giving. He gives us an account of the number engaged, of the position occupied, of the military dress, of the valour of different corps; but it was to him, as he beheld it, and it is to us, as we read it in his description, only a noiseless scene. A deathlike silence prevails. The word of command flies from rank to rank and we hear it not. The hoofs of war-horses beat the earth, and we perceive the motion, without a perception of the noise of their tread. We witness the flashes of cannon on the hills of the battle, but while we feel the trembling of the earth, no sound reaches us.--What an inadequate conception must a person, who does not possess the sense of hearing, have of many of those circumstances, which inspire others with emotions of pleasure and sublimity!

Similar remarks will apply to those cases, where there is a failure of any other sense.--We read of a philosopher,who attempted to give a blind man a notion of scarlet colour. The philosopher assured him, that it yielded a lively and pleasant sensation; that it was an emblem of courage; and being considered ornamental to them, was worn by

kings and princes. Having specified these and some other things, connected with this colour, he then asked the blind man, whether he had any idea of scarlet? The blind man replied, that he thought he had some notion of it, and that he supposed, it must be more like the sound of a trumpet, than any thing else in the world.

But it will be asked, how does it then happen, that men born blind, frequently talk of visible things with great readiness and propriety? When they with propriety apply epithets to objects of colour, such conversation must be the effect of memory. They repeat what they have heard others say. For, if they are perfectly blind, they certainly can have no idea of what is meant by colours; being as ignorant of them as any man whatever is of the phenomena of the world of spirits.

In their efforts, (which, in consequence of their unhappy condition, they undoubtedly often make,) to form a conception of light, their ideas must always be conformed, in a great measure, to the knowledge they already possess by means of the other senses. And it must conse quently be very erroneous, as there is certainly nothing in the nature of light, analogous to the nature of sound, or of taste, or of smell.

§. 322. Explanation of the case of the poet Blacklock.

In connection with the remarks, which have already been made on the limitation of imagination by the state and condition of the senses, it seems proper to say something in explanation of the case of the poet Blacklock.

Thomas Blacklock, a poet and a minister of the established church of Scotland, lost his sight in consequence of a disease at five months of age. It does not come within our plan to repeat in this place his interesting and instructive history, any further than to say that, notwithstanding the great misfortune, under which he laboured, he made such advances in learning as to merit the reputation of a philosopher as well as of a poet. "I am acquainted, (says Dr. Beattie, referring to Blacklock,) with a person,


who, having at the age of five months lost his sight by the small-pox, retains not the idea of any thing visible; and is yet a good poet, philosopher, and divine, a most ingenious as well as a most worthy man. He dreams too as frequently as other people, and dreams are universally ascribed to the fancy; and his writings prove, that he possesses, what every critick will allow to be, and what Addison himself would have called, a sublime imagination."

In the remarks before made, we find a solution, in some measure, of his poetical ability. He was undoubtedly at person of a natural capacity superiour to that of most men ; and possessed in particular of no small share of poetical sensibility. Giving loose to the ardour of his imaginati ›n, he was led to treasure up in his memory, from conversation and from hearing works read, the words, white, black, PURPLE, and others, descriptive of the colour of objects. His general accuracy, in the application of them, may be accounted for in this way. He had acquired in the same way, that he had acquired the words themselves, those associations, which people in general are in the habit of attaching to such colours, as have been mentioned. With the word, WHITE, for instance, although it could not suggest to him the idea of that colour, he associated the ideas of cheerfulness and innocence; with the word, PURPLE,the ideas of splendour and majesty; with the word BLACK, the qualities of gloom and melancholy. It is not, therefore, wholly unaccountable, that he should have been able to speak of the "purple" dawn, or of "dark" woodland scenery, although he at the same time was without any correct notions of the primary signification of these terms.

§. 323. Works of imagination give different degrees of pleasure.

Different persons receive different degrees of pleasure from works of imagination. The fact is well known. Something may be said in explanation of it, in reference to poetry; which is one of the creations of the power, we are considering. And the same explanation will apply in part to other efforts of the imagination.--Although poetry is

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