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his enumeration is not only incomplete, but that it is even indistinct, so far as it goes.
It is not necessary for my present purpose, that I should enter into a critical examination of this part of Mr. Hume's system; or that I should attempt to specify those principles of association which he has omitted. Indeed, it does not seem to me, that the problem admits of a satisfactory solution ; for there is no possible relation among the objects of our knowledge, which may not serve to connect them together in the mind; and, therefore, although one enumeration may be more comprehensive than another, a perfectly complete enumeration is scarcely to be expected.
Nor is it merely in consequence of the relations among things, that our notions of them are associated : they are frequently coupled together by means of relations among the words wbich denote them; such as a similarity of sound, or other circumstances still more trilling. The alliteration which is so common in poetry, and in proverbial sayings, seems to arise, parily at least, from associations of ideas founded on the accidental circumstance, of the two words which express them beginning with the same letter.
“ But thousands die, without or this or that
Die, and endow a college or a cat.”—Pope's Ep. to Lord Bathurst. " Ward tried, on puppies, and the poor, his drop.”—Id. Imitat. of Horace. “ Puffs, powders, patches; bibles, billets-doux."-Rape of the Lock.
This indeed pleases only on slight occasions, when it may be supposed that the mind is in some degree playful, and under the influence of those principles of association which commonly take place when we are careless and disengaged. Every person must be offended with the second line of the following couplet, which forms part of a very sublime description of the Divine power:
“ Breathes in our soul, informs our mortal part,
As full, as perfect, in a hair as heart ”– Essay on Man, Ep. i.
To these observations, it may be added, that things which have no known relation to each other are often associated, in consequence of their producing similar effects on the mind. Some of the finest poetical allusions are founded on this principle; and accordingly, if the reader is not possessed of sensibility congenial to that of the poet, he will be apt to overlook their meaning, or to censure them as absurd. To such a critic it would not be easy to vindicate the beauty of the following stanza, in an ode addressed to a lady by the author of the “ Seasons :"
"O thou, whose tender, serious eye,
Expressive speaks the soul I love;
The pensive shadows of the grove."
to take, does not require a complete enumeration of our principles of association. There is, however, an important distinction among them, to which I shall have occasion frequently to refer; and which, as far as I know, has not hitherto attracted the notice of philosophers. The relations upon which some of them are founded, are perfectly obvious to the mind; those which are the foundation of others, are discovered only in consequence of particular efforts of attention. Of the former kind, are the relations of resemblance and analogy, of contrariety, of vicinity in time and place, and those wbich arise from accidental coincidences in the sound of different words. These, in general, connect our thoughts together, when they are suffered to take their natural course, and when we are conscious of little or no active exertion. Of the latter kind, the relations of cause and effect, of means and end, of premises and conclusion ; and those others, which regulate the train of thought in the mind of the philosopher, when he is engaged in a particular in vestigation.
It is owing to this distinction, that transitions, which would be highly offensive in philosophical writing, are the most pleasing of any in poetry. In the former species of coin position, we expect to see an author lay down a distinct plan or method, and observe it rigorously; without allowing himself to ramble into digressions, suggested by the accidental ideas or expressions, which may occur to him in his progress. In that state of mind in which poetry is read, such digressions are not only agreeable, but necessary to the effect; and an arrangement founded on the spontaneous and seemingly casual order of our thoughts, pleases more than one suggested by an accurate analysis of the subject.
How absurd would the long digression in praise of industry, in Thomson's " Autumn,” appear, if it occurred in a prose essay! a digression, however, which, in that beautiful poem, arises naturally and insensibly from the view of a luxuriant harvest; and which as naturally leads the poet back to the point where his excursion began :
“ All is the gift of industry; whate'er
Exalts, embellishes, and renders life
In Goldsmith's “ Traveller," the transitions are managed with consummate skill; and yet how different from that logical method which would be suited to a philosophical discourse on the state of society in the different parts of Europe! Soine of the finest are suggested by the associating principle of contrast. Thus, after describing the effeminate and debased Roman, the poet proceeds to the Swiss :
“My soul turn from them-turn we to survey..
Where rougher climes a nobler race display." And, after painting some defects in the manners of this gallant but unrefined people, his thoughts are led to those of the French :
“ To kinder skies, where gentler manners reign,
I turn-and France displays her bright domain." The transition which occurs in the the following lines, seems to be suggested by the accidental mention of a word: and is certainly one of the happiest in our language :
“ Heavens ! how unlike their Belgic sires of old !
Rough, poor, content, ungovernably bold;
And flies, where Britain courts the western spring." Numberless illustrations of the same remark might be collected from the ancient poets, more particularly from the Georgics of Virgil, where the singular felicity of the transitions has attracted the notice even of those who have been the least disposed to indulge themselves in philosophical refinements concerning the principles of criticism. A celebrated instance of this kind occurs in the end of the first book ; the consideration of the weather and of its common prognostics leading the fancy, in the first place, to those more extraordinary phenomena which, according to the superstitious belief of the vulgar, are the forerunners of political revolutions; and afterwards, to the death of Cæsar, and the battles of Pharsalia and Philippi. The manner in which the poet returns to his original subject, displays that exquisite art which is to be derived only from the diligent and enlightened study of nature.
“ Scilicet et tempus veniet cùm finibus illis
Agricola, incurvo terram molitus aratro,
The facility with which ideas are associated in the mind, is very different in different individuals ; a circumstance which, as I shall afterwards show, lays the foundation of remarkable varieties among men, both in respect of genius and of character. I am inclined, too, to think that, in the other sex, (probably in consequence of early education), ideas are more easily associated together than in the minds of men. Hence the liveliness of their fancy, and the superiority they possess in epistolary writing, and in those kinds of poetry, in which the principal recommendations are, ease of thought and expression. Hence, too, the facility with which they contract or lose habits, and accommodate their minds to new situations; and I may add, the disposition they have to that species of superstition which is founded on accidental combinations of circumstances. The influence which this facility of association has on the power of taste, shall be afterwards considered.
of the Power which the Mind has over the Train of its Thoughts.
By means of the association of ideas, a constant current of thoughts, 7 if I may use the expression, is made to pass through the mind while we are awake. Sometimes the current is interrupted, and the thoughts diverted into a new channel, in consequence of the ideas suggested by other men, or of the objects of perception with which we are surrounded. So completely, however, is the mind in this particular, subjected to physical laws, that it has been justly observed by Lord Kaimes and others, we cannot, by an effort of our will, call up any one thought; and that the train of our ideas depends on causes which operate in a manner inexplicable by us.
This observation, although it has been censured as paradoxical, is almost self-evident; for, to call up a particular thought, supposes it to be already in the mind. As I shall have frequent occasion, however, to refer to the observation afterwards, I shall endeavor to oliviate the only objection which, I think, can reasonably be urged against it; and which is founded on that operation of the mind which is commonly called recollection or intentional memory.
It is evident, that before we attempt to reccollect the particular circumstances of any event, that event in general must have been an object of our attention. We remember the outlines of the story, but cannot at first give a complete account of it. If we wish to recall these circumstances, there are only two ways in which we can proceed. We must either form different suppositions, and then consider which of these tallies best with the other circumstances of the event; or, by revolving in our mind the circumstances we remember, we must endeavor to excite the recollection of the other circumstances associated with them. The first of these processes is, properly speaking, an inference of reason, and plainly furnishes no exception to the doctrine already delivered. We have an instance of the other mode of recollection, when we are at a loss for the beginning of a sentence in reciting a composition that we do not perfectly remember ; in which case we naturally repeat over, two or three times, the concluding words of the preceding sentence, in order to call up the other words which used to be connected with them in the memory. In this instance, it is evident, that the circumstances we desire to remember, are not recalled to the mind in
immediate consequence of an exertion of volition, but are suggested by some other circumstances with which they are connected, independently of our will, by the laws of our constitution.
Notwithstanding, however, the immediate dependence of the train of our thoughts on the laws of association, it must not be imagined that the will possesses no influence over it. This influence, indeed, is not exercised directly and immediately, as we are apt to suppose on a superficial view of the subject : but it is nevertheless, very extensive in its effects; and the different degrees in which it is possessed by different individuals, constitute some of the most striking inequalities among men, in point of intellectual capacity.
Of the powers which the mind possesses over the train of its thoughts, the most obvious is its power of singling out any one of them at pleasure; of detaining it; and of making it a particular object of attention. By doing so, we not only stop the succession that would otherwise take place; but, in consequence of our bringing to view the less obvious relations among our ideas, we frequently divert the current of our thoughts into a new channel. If, for example, when I am indolent and inactive, the name of Sir Isaac Newton accidentally occur to me, it will perhaps suggest, one after another, the names of some other eminent mathematicians and astronomers, or of some of his illustrious contemporaries and friends: and a number of them may pass in review before me, without engaging my curiosity in any considerable degree. In a different state of mind, the name of Newton will lead my thoughts to the principal incidents of his life, and the more striking features of his character: or, if my mind be ardent and vigorous, will lead my attention to the sublime discoveries he made; and gradually engage me in some philosophical investigation. To every object, there are others which bear obvious and striking relations; and others, also, whose relation to it does not readily occur tous, unless we dwell upon it for some time, and place it before us in different points of view.
But the principal power we possess over the train of our ideas, is founded on the influence which our habits of thinking have on the laws of association; an influence which is so great, that we may often form a pretty shrewd judgment concerning a man's prevailing turn of thought, from the transitions he makes in conversation or in writing. It is well known, too, that by means of habit, a particular associating principle may be strengthened to such a degree, as to give us a command of all the different ideas in our mind, which have a certain relation to each other; so that when any one of the class occurs to us, we have almost a certainty that it will suggest the rest. What confidence in his own powers must a speaker possess, when he rises without premeditation, in a popular assembly, to amuse his audience with a lively or a humorous speech! Such a confidence, it is evident, can only arise