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Could I forget
Southern's Innocent adultery, act 2,
The distress of a long journey makes even an indifferent inn pass current : and in travelling, when the road is good, and the horseman well covered, a bad day may be agreeable, by making him sensible how fnug he is.
The same effect is equally remarkable, when a man oppofes his condition to that of others. A fhip tossed about in a storm, makes the spectator reflect upon his own eafe and security, and puts these in the strongest light:
Suave, mari magno turbantibus æquora ventis,
Lucret, l. 2. principio.
A man in grief cannot bear mirth: it gives him a more lively notion of his unhappiness, and of course makes him more unhappy. Sațan contemplating the beauties of the terrestrial paradise, breaks out in the following exclamation.
With what delight could I have walk'd thee round,
Now land, now sea, and shores with forest crown'd,
Paradise Lost, book 9. 1.114,
Gaunt. All places that the eye of heaven visits,
Bolingbroke. Oh, who can hold a fire in his hand,
Gives but the greater feeling to the worse.
King Richard II. act 1.sc. 6.
appearance of danger gives sometimes pleasure, sometimes pain. A timorous perfon upon the battlements of a high tower, is seized with fear, which even the consciousness of security cannot dissipate. But upon one of a firm head, this fituation has a contrary effect: the appearance of danger heightens, by opposition, the consciousness of security, and consequently, the satisfaction that arises from security: here the feeling resembles that above mentioned, occasioned by a thip labouring in a storin
This effect of magnifying or lessening objects by means of comparison, is fo familiar, that no philosopher has thought of searching for a cause *. The obfcurity of the subject, may possibly have contributed to their filence; but luckily, we discover the cause to be a principle unfolded above, which is the influence of passion over our opinions f. We have had occasion to see many illustrious effects of this singular power of paffion; and that the magnifying or diminishing objects
* Practical writers upon the fine arts will attempt any thing, being blind both to the difficulty and danger. De Piles, accounting why contrast is agreeable, says, " That it is a sort of war, which “pats the opposite parties in motion.” Thus, to account for an effect of which there is no doubt, any cause, however foolih, is made welcome. + Chap. 2. part 5. VOL. I. S
by means of comparison, proceeds from the fame cause, will evidently appear, by reflecting in what manner a spectator is affected, when a very large animal is for the first time placed beside a very small one of the same species. The first thing that strikes the mind, is the difference between the two animals, which is fo great as to occasion surprise; and this, like other emotions, magnifying its object, makes us conceive the difference to be the greatest that can be: we fee, or seem to see, the one animal extremely little, and the other extremely large. The emotion of surprise arising from any unusual resemblance; serves equally to explain, why at first view we are apt to think such resemblance more entire than it is in reality. And it must be observed, that the circumstances of more and less, which are the proper subjects of comparison, raise a perception fo indistinct and vague as to facilitate the effect described : we have no mental standard of great and little, nor of the several degrees of any attribute; and the mind thus unrestrained, is naturally disposed to indulge its surprise to the ut. most extent.
In exploring the operations of the mind, fome of which are extremely nice and slippery, it is necessary to proceed with the utmost circumspection: and after all, seldom it lappens that fpeculations of this kind afford any fatisfaction. Luckily, in the present case, our speculations are supported by facts and solid argument. First,
a small object of one species opposed to a great object of another, produces not, in any degree, that deception, which is so remarkable when both objects are of the same species. The greatest difparity, between objects of different kinds, is so common as to be observed with perfect indifference; but such disparity between objects of the same kind, being uncommon,, never fails to produce surprise : and may we not fairly conclude, that surprise, in the latter case, is what occasions the deception, when we find no deception in the former? In the next place, if surprise be the fole cause of the deception, it follows necessarily, that the deception will vanih so soon as the objects compared become familiar.
This holds so unerringly, as to leave no reasonable doubt, that furprise is the prime mover in this operation : our surprise is great, the first time a small lapdog is seen with a large mastiff; but when two such animals are constantly together, there is no surprise; and it makes no difference whether they be viewed separately or in company: we put no bounds to the riches of a man who has recently made his fortune; the opposition between his present and his past situation, or between his present situation and that of others, being carried to an extreme : but with regard to a family that for many generations hath enjoy'd great wealth, the same false 'reckoning is not made: it is equally remarkable, that a trite fimile has no effect; a lover compared to a moth scorching itself