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a complete and distinct object in our mind. It stands there by itself, for we can trace no' relation or point of connexion between it and the part which is supposed to be concealed. To be able to trace such a relation, necessarily implies that we know the thing concealed; for, as we can reason only from what we know, it is impossible we can perceive relations, either between things of which we are ignorant, or between things which we know, and things of which we know nonothing ; for, if there be any quality in the latter similar to the former, it is a quality of which we are ignorant, simply, because we know nothing of the object in which it inheres. To say that we may perceive the quality of an object without perceiving the object itself, is to say what no person can understand, as our idea of qualities are made known to us by the subjects in which they are perceived. Had we never seen an extended object, we could never form an idea of the quality of extension. As, then, the part of the object which we perceive, forms a clear and distinct object of itself in our minds, we have no right to consider it as part of the concealed object, but as a complete object in itself, of which complete object we have not an obscure, but a clear idea. In nature, indeed, it may form only part of an object; but this is more than we can tell, until we extend our perceptions farther, and see the part to which it is connected. If we can never see this part, neither can we ever pretend to say, that such a part exists ; and, consequently, the part we see is the only part to which we can apply the words, clear or obscure, because it is the only part of which we can affirm any thing.
These observations on clear and obscure ideas, particularly apply to the writers who have treated on tho primary cause of Tragic Pleasure. Neither of them has discovered the primary cause, and consequently neither of them has ever formed either a clear or obscure idea of it, because they have formed no idea of it at all. They have perceived, however, many of the proximate or immediate causes by which this pleasure is produced; and of these proximate causes they had consequently clear and distinct perceptions; but as these causes were mere effects resulting from the primary cause, they only saw a part of the object of which they were in pursuit, and of this part they had clear perceptions. Not being able to perceive the part which was concealed from them; it was therefore impossible for them, as I have already shewn, to form any idea of it, and, consequently, they never dreamt of its exist. ence. The part they saw, necessarily stood in their minds for the entire of the object of which they were in pursuit, and consequently each of them substituted that secondary cause beyond which he could not travel, for the primary cause of which it was merely an effect, so that of the primary cause, they consequently knew as little as those who had never treated on the subject.
Their failure has, therefore, arisen from confining themselves to effects, instead of tracing these effects to their primary source. But, as I have already observed, the business of a critic is to watch effects with a diligent and discriminating eye, not to travel up with the philosopher to the primary causes of these effects; and the writers of whom I speak have treated this question as critics, not as philosophers.
From Hume, however, I expected a more philosophic solution of this problem, as he seldom traces any effect to a secondary, where a primary cause can be discovered. As a critic, perhaps, he is inferior to Du Bos, Dri Johnson, and Dr. Blair; but as a philosopher, however dangerous may be the tendency of some of his writings, he is evidently above them all. I cannot help saying, however, that his philosophy has failed him in discussing the present subject, and that the source of the pleasures resulting from Tragic Representations; has bitherto eluded the acumen of criticism, and the generalizations of philosophy. Hume has added little to what had been already written on the subject; and that little is the worst part of his “ Essay on Tragedy.”
What he has quoted from Du Bos and Fontenelle, is worth a thousand of the theories which he has adopted himself; but he must be allowed the merit of perceiving that their theories approached nearer to the truth than any of the rest. They are, however, imperfect, as will hereafter appear, though they have made so near an approach to the truth. As Schlegel, an eminent German critic, is the latest writer on Dramatic criticism, a subject which he has treated at very considerable length; and, as he has examined and rejected the most popular theories on the source of Tragic Pleasure, and substituted one of his own, I shall first inquire into the philosophy of these theories, and of that which he has substituted in their stead. Schlegel is the ablest commentator on Shakspeare, as Mr. Hazett very justly observes, in his criticisms on that poet; and it would secm, that we owe these criticisms more
properly to Schlegel himself, than to Mr. Hazlett; for he acknowledges, in his preface, that “some little jealousy of the national understanding was not without its share in producing the undertaking.” “We were piqued” (he says) “that it should be reserved for a Foreigner to give reasons for the faith which we, English, have in Shakspeare ; certainly, no writer among ourselves, has shewn such enthusiastic admiration of his genius, or the same philosophical acuteness in pointing out his characteristic excellencies.” Such is the critic, with whose theory, on the source of Tragio Pleasure, I shall commence the following inquiry. After examining what he has written on the subject, and the various hypotheses which he quotes and rejects, I shall offer some observations on the theories which have been adopted by other writers. My own theory shall follow, in which I shall examine those of Du Bos, Fontenelle, and Hume.
Philosophical Inquiry into the Source of the
Pleasures derived from Tragic Representations, by M. M Dermot.
REMARKS ON POETRY
AS COMPARED WITH PAINTING AND SCULPTURE.
The received opinion, that every well-described poem must also furnish a good subject for the artist in painting or sculpture, and that the representation of the two latter is the absolute criterion of the poet's merits, so far at least as the artist is able to follow the
poet in all the features of the poem, requires some limitation, even when the sphere of both is considered à priori. For poetry must be considered to possess a much wider sphere than the fine arts, in the unlimited region of the fancy, and the immateriality of her figures, which may coexist in the greatest number and variety, without one covering, or injuring the other : whereas, in the representation of the things themselves, or of their natural symbols, by the artist, it is confined within the limits of time and space. However, though the sphere of the fine arts cannot comprehend the greater one of poetry, yet it must be acknowledged that the former is always contained in the latter; that, though it cannot be said that every subject on which the poet descants will produce the same good effect, when represented on canvas, or in marble, yet every pleasing representation from the artist must produce the same effect when described by the poet. For what we find beautiful in works of art does not prove to be so by its effect on the eye alone, but by its influence on our imagination through the medium of the senses; if, therefore, the same image could be raised in our minds by the arbitrary symbols of language, as its representation by the painter or sculptor, it would produce a similar effect on our imagination.
The identity of Poetry and Painting. Poetry and painting alike present to our minds absent objects as present—representing appearances as realities; both effect an illusion, and the illusions of both please. The pleasing nature of both has its origin in the same source, in the form of beauty.