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wrong.” A man's judgment, however, can never be wrong, where his feelings are right, unless he depart from them, and suffer his judgment to be directed by that of others. This was not the case with Burke : he always thought for himself, and never submitted to the bondage of authority, except where authority and reason seemed to confirm each other. Burke, however, is frequently in error; but if I may now venture an opinion, which I shall prove in another place, Mr. Knight is more frequently so; and, what is worse, his errors are of a much more dangerous character, and more calculated “ to contribute to the propagation of bad taste.” This truth I hope to make evident in my work on the “ Sublime and Beautiful ;” not that I intend to advocate Burke's principles, nor yet, that I feel a desire to expose Mr. Knight's; but that truth requires of me to point out the different influences which the adoption of their systems would have on the cul. tivation of taste. I admire Mr. Knight's intellectual powers and energy; but he is always too rapid to be correct, and his feelings seem to be of too energetic a character to discriminate the lighter shades and more delicate affections of human nature, qualities which Burke possessed in a very eminent degree. In ascribing the abandonment of the theatre, in the present instance, to curiosity, Mr. Knight abandons the very first principle on which he founds Tragic Pleasure. The fact is, that he sets out, like Burke, with ascribing the pleasure to sympathy; but the moment he came in contact with the latter, he forgot that he had ever made sympathy the cause of the pleasure. He seems to have been under an impression, that Burke
and he could never happen to think alike, or, rather, . that whatever theory the former adopted, it must necessarily be erroneous, and that he, of necessity, was bound to adopt a different one. Accordingly, when he found Burke ascribing Tragic Pleasure to sympathy, he contradicts him, and ascribes it to curiosity, forgetting that he had, in the very preceding page, ascribed it to sympathy himself. I shall quote his own words. “ When we see others suffer we naturally suffer with them, though not in the same degree, nor even in the same modes : for those sufferings which we should most dread personally to endure, we delight to see exhibited, or represented, though not actually endured by others; and, nevertheless, this delight certainly arises from sympathy.” Who could think that, in the very next page, he should attribute as much of the effect to curiosity as to sympathy, simply because he wished to break a lance with Burke? Indeed, from the instances he has given of the “ bottle conjuror,” and “flying witch,” he appears to refer the entire of the effect to curiosity alone.
But what is this curiosity, to which Mr. Knight and so many other writers, ascribe such wonderful effects ? In my opinion those who ascribe effects to curiosity ascribe them to nothing at all, and if so, they must necessarily be wrong, for ex nihilo nihil fit. Curiosity is either a feeling, an idea, or an act of volition within us, or it is something without us, which creates feelings, ideas, or volitions within us. It must be one or other of these, because these embrace every thing in nature, of which we have any knowledge. Let us see, then, which of these it is, and we shall be better
able to perceive whether it be as prolific in its effects as it is generally supposed.
Curiosity cannot be volition, because we may will to do a good or an evil act, which we have done frequently before. This cannot be the effect of curiosity, because it has novelty always for its object. And even when we will to do something, or to see something, which we have never done or seen before, the propensity which impels us to it, is different from that act of mind which indulges the propensity, as this act may be exercised in opposition to, as well as in accordance with, the propensity. A man may will on the side of reason, as well as on the side of his propensities, when they happen to be at variance; so that he may will to do what he has no propensity or inclination to do; and he may will not to do what he has a strong propensity for doing. If curiosity, then, be any thing within us, it must be a feeling, or an idea. Now, all our feelings and ideas are produced by something without us, for we cannot perceive, unless there be something to be perceived; and it is this something, consequently, that creates the perception, or idea, in us. Neither can we feel, unless there be something to make an impression upon us, so that, whether curiosity be a feeling or an idea, it must, in either case, be an effect produced by something without us. The effects, therefore, that are said to result from curiosity, should be attributed, not to any principle or faculty of our nature, which we designate by that name, but to the external influence by which it is produced. All our feelings, like that of curiosity, are simple effects, or impressions made upon us; and, consequently, the causes by which they are produced, are the real causes of the influences which they possess over us. According to the degrees of energy with which these causes act upon us, we are, more or less, powerfully prompted to action, so that the feeling which we call curiosity, is strong or weak, according to the strength or weakness of the influence by which it is excited. This would not be the case, if curiosity were a principle or faculty in our nature which could act upon us, independent of any external influence. The fact is, that curiosity is the mere creature of chance : it is alive to-day and dead to-morrow. Its existence depends on circumstances, and when these circumstances do not occur, curiosity is totally extinct. Why, then, do we attribute to curiosity, what we ought to attribute to the circumstance by which it is immediately excited ? for, if this circumstance did not exist, neither would the curiosity be felt. The truth of these observations will appear obvious from the case before us. Mr. Knight says, that the report of “any very renowned foreign chief, or potentate, appearing in the neighbouring square, would equally empty the benches.” Now, if it be mere curiosity that empties the benches, the report of any foreigner having just come over, and appearing in the square, would produce the same effect, because the one would be as novel an object as the other. Yet, no person would quit the theatre to go see a person of whom he never heard any thing before, though it is obvious, that such a person would be a more novel object than he of whom we had some knowledge by public report. The sight of a novel object has, therefore, little influence over us, so far as
regards its mere novelty: it is some circumstance connected with the object, and of which we have already some knowledge, that creates the interest, and it is to this circumstance, not to the mere curiosity which it excites, that we must attribute the effect, or, in other words, the impression made upon us. The fact is, as will hereafter appear, that whatever produces a strong sensation in us, gives us pleasure, and therefore we feel no desire whatever of seeing a strange object, unless we antecedently know, that this object is calculated to produce a strong sensation,
The pleasure which we derive from Tragic representations cannot, therefore, be attributed to curiosity or sympathy, both of which are modifications of feeling, produced by external influences, but to a certain law in our nature, that strongly attaches us to all powerful sensations, where the pleasure is not impeded by three circumstances, which shall be hereafter mentioned.
One of the instances produced by Burke himself, clearly shews, that this pleasure does not arise from sympathy. “This noble capital,” he says, “the pride of England and of Europe, I believe no man is so strangely wicked as to desire to see destroyed by a conflagration, or an earthquake, though he should be removed himself to the greatest distance from the danger. But suppose such a fatal accident happened, what numbers from all parts would crowd to see the ruins, and amongst them many who would have been content never to have seen London in its glory.” Surely, we cannot supposc, that those who would not wish to see London in its glory, would feel any sym