« AnteriorContinuar »
In genuine burlesque, the original will be copied to a certain extent, but yet with such variations as to leave no doubt of the design of the speaker or writer. One of the finest specimens of genuine burlesque, that I recollect to have met with, was given some years since in a foreign review of the works of an Irish orator of some celebrity, especially for what the reviewer termed bombast. He accordingly presents a speech professedly after the style of the orator, a speech designed to show the great advantages which the poor man has over the rich, in respect to happiness. I quote a single paragraph from the speech, as it occurs in memory :
“ Happiness, Mr. Speaker, is like a crow seated upon the top of a mountain, which the hunter vainly endeavors to reproach. The hunter looks at the crow, Mr. Speaker, and the crow looks at him. But if he should attempt to reproach him, he banishes away, like the schismatic tints of the rainbow, which it was the sublime, and astonishing genius of Newton that developed and deplored.”
Sarcasm. Analogous to burlesque is sarcasm. Its appropriate sphere is to burlesque false claims to merit-claims which may not be assumed in a boinbastic style. It attributes to the individual his claims, but does it in such a manner, that the irony shall be visible. “No doubt ye are the people, and wisdom will die with you."
PROPRIETY OF USING THE IMAGINATION AND FANCY IN WORKS OF
I close this protracted chapter with two or three suggestions of a general nature.
The first is, the propriety of employing the Imagination and Fancy in the production of fictitious composition. Of the propriety of employing such a noble faculty in bringing out such productions, some persons, whose opinions are deserving of respect, have serious doubts. To me it appears that such doubts have been occasioned exclusively by an abuse of what is in itself proper. Suppose I am contemplating a statue. It presents all the forms almost of grace and beauty that appear in all beautiful human forms. I ask the question, What individual does this statue represent? The
answer is, that it represents no one human form, but the statuary's own Ideal of beauty and grace, as it may be embodied in a human form. Am I offended at the fact contained in the reply? By no means.. Why may not an individual as properly embody, in external form, an Ideal in his own mind, as copy an object less beautiful without? The Ideal within is just as much a reality, as the object without, and may as properly be represented with the chisel, the brush, or the pen. To shadow forth conceptions more perfect than the real around, is to lay a foundation for human improvement. But let us suppose, that an individual, gifted with the power of thus blessing his race, employs that power, not in shadowing forth the forms of truth, beauty and perfection, but in throwing such attractions over vice and error, as tend to draw the young, the thoughtless, and the ignorant from the paths of truth, purity, and peace ;--such individuals deserve the deepest reprobation of the universe, as having abused and perverted one of the highest gifts with which any intelligent being has ever been entrusted. The individual also who will familiarize himself with the productions of such authors, subjects himself to an influence of all others, best adapted to sap the foundations of moral character. The maxim of ancient wisdom, “ The companions of fools shall be destroyed," is no more true, than the maxim, that the reader of impure books will himself become impure. False Idea in respect to the Influence of Familiarity with the
popular Fictitious Writings of the Day. A very common impression exists that familiarity with fictitious writings, especially with the popular fictions of the day, tends to improve the Imagination, and that because they are fictitious. Now this is a grand mistake. It by no means follows, that because a work is fiction, and not sober history, the perusal of it tends to improve the Imagination. It may tend, on the other hand, to no other end, than to vitiate the Fancy, by generating impure associations. For myself, I am persuaded, that the study of such works as Prescott's · Conquest of Mexico,' and “ Alison's History of Modern Europe,' tends incomparably more to develop the Imagination than the perusal of the great mass of fictitious works that are floating upon the surface of society. The question whether the perusal of a work tends to improve the Imagination, depends, not upon the fact whether it is fiction, but upon the manner in which the elements of thought are therein blended. Without de parting at all from the path of truth in the narration of facts, the Imagination of the historian may be almost continually energizing, in blending into the forms of beauty, granceur, and sublimity, the elements of thought which the narrative presents. In contemplating history, as its .glowing facts are set forth in such forms, the Imagination may receive its most rapid development. The remark of Coleridge, that but a small part of even the best poems that we meet with, presents the appropriate creations of the Imagination, is pre-eminently true of fictitious writings. The question, then, whether the perusal of a particular work of fiction tends to improve the Imagination, depends not upon the fact that it is fiction, but upon the manner in which the elements of thought are therein blended.
Imagination and Fancy-How improved. Every power is developed in one way only-in being exercised upon its appropriate objects. Each of the functions of the Intelligence under consideration, has its appropriate sphere. To develop the power, we must find its legitimate sphere, and in that sphere exercise it upon its appropriate objects. The Fancy is improved, by developing in the mind the sense of the beautiful, the true, the perfect, and the sublime, by furnishing the Intelligence with distinct apprehensions of the forms of beauty, grandeur, and sublimity which the universe of matter and mind, nature and art presents.
The Imagination will be improved by familiarizing the mind with the true functions of the power itself, with the laws which regulate its action, in blending into form the elements of thought, and with its actual creations, as given in the works of minds most highly gifted with this function of the Intelligence.
The preceding Chapters have occupied more than the entire ground which is traversed in the common systems of Philosophy, so far as an analysis of the Intellectual Powers is concerned. Such an analysis, however, leaves untouched many of the more important phenomena of the human Mind. Consciousness and Sense, which lie at the foundation of all the faculties which have been the subject of the preceding analysis, can never give us infinite, eternal, absolute, universal, and necessary truths, nor can they account for the existence of the ideas of such truths in the Mind. Such phenomena demand the admission of another power, not supposed in the existence of conceptions of contingent and relative phenomena. These last might exist in a Mind totally destitute of a knowledge of universal and necessary truths.
Reason defined. That faculty which apprehends truths, infinite, eternal, absolute, universal, and necessary, is the Reason. It bears precisely the same relation to such truths, that Consciousness and Sense do to contingent phenomena. Like those faculties, all its affirmations are direct and intuitive. Coleridge's Characteristics of Reason as distinguished from
the Understanding. Coleridge has taken great pains to establish and elucidate the distinction between the Reason and the Understanding, Before proceeding to a further analysis of the phenomena and functions of the former faculty, I will present some of the characteristics of these faculties-characteristics which
he has given to distinguish the one from the other. In giving their characteristics, I shall use the term Understanding in the sense in which Coleridge himself appears to use it, as including the Judgment as well as the notion-forming power. I desire this fact to be kept distinctly in mind. In all other parts of this Treatise I use the Understanding and Judgment in strict accordance with the definitions given in preceding Chapters. Here I use the term Understanding in accommo dation to the usage of the author whose distinctions I shall endeavor to elucidate. What then are the great distinctions between the Reason and Understanding, as laid down by this philosopher ?
1. “ The Understanding, in all its judgments, refers to some other faculty as its ultimate authority.” “ The Reason in all its decisions appeals to itself.” Take as an illustration of the above distinction the following propositions : “ This is a book.” “ Space is, or exists." The first proposition supposes three things in the Mind—the conception designated by the term book—the perception of the particular object, a judgment that the object corresponds to the conception, and a consequent subsumption of the object under the conception. Now this judgment is an affirmation of the Understanding. Is it self-affirmed, or is it based upon the authority of some other faculty ? Ask the speaker, how he knows that this is a book ? He refers at once to Sense
“I see it"), and to a notion of a class derived from previous perceptions. The same may be shown to be true of every other affirmation of the Understanding, or generalizing power.
Let us now look at the second proposition-Space is. On what authority is this affirmation made ? Upon no other authority than that of the faculty which apprehends the idea. So of the proposition, “Every event has a cause.” All men know it to be true. In all minds, however, the faculty which affirms it is the sole ground or reason of the affirmation. The same principle holds in respect to all the judgments of the pure Reason,
2. “The judgments of the Understanding admit of degrees. Those of the Reason preclude all degrees.” In reference to some particular object of the perception, for example, under certain circumstances, we conjecture that it is a man; under others, we believe it to be a man; under others, we are sure that it is; and under others still, we know it to be a man,