« PreviousContinue »
der the influence of uncontrolled passions, and the other completely master of them; the former exclaims with terror, and shuns the presence of the ill-favoured mortal; the latter receives the same alarm from the soul, but giving the reins to reason, a cool examination takes place, and by reading the mind of the terrific object, he finds nothing to fear, but probably much to admire and esteem, and perhaps secures a friend, which the other loses by absurd precipitation. The passion of fear has evidently been implanted in us, in order to preserve the extremely frail and delicate organs which compose our bodies; but such is the perverseness of our education, that this very passion is frequently the immediate cause of our destruction. This certainly never could have been the case, had we been taught from our infancy to govern it by reason; the prescience of the soul shows instantaneously the extent of the danger to be apprehended; were the impulse less arbitrary, it would be disregarded; the alarm given, reason is always at hand to suggest the means of preservation; nor can her dictates frequently fail, though it must be admitted circumstances do sometimes exist, which preclude a possibility of extrication. In reasoning upon this subject, facts ought to supersede theory, and it should be our endeavour, at least, to be of service to the community, by showing the public their errors from their own conduct. In this particular it is, unhappily, in our power to cite a recent instance of the fatal effects of uncontrolled fear.— We allude to the loss of eighteen lives, in October, 1807, at Saddler's Wells, where the brutal conduct of two persons, in a state of intoxication, insulting every person near them, excited alarm in some weak females, seated above them in the boxes; which natural and necessary emotion was suffered, by indulgence, to confound their senses of seeing, hearing, and smelling, to such a degree, as to derange their ideas even to madness. In this state of fear they exhibited the most frantic gestures, exclaimed fire, in their delirium, and soon lost the power of delivering themselves from the supposed danger. The horror of being burned to death immediately spread; all ranks of persons, from the pit to the gallery, obeyed the dictates of fear, and each endeavouring to escape, pressure, and suffocation, and death followed. The performers, in full possession of their faculties, terriVOL. IX.
fied at the scene before them, joined with the managers, by signs and entreaties, to obtain quiet and silence, in vain. In vain did they urge that the stage could not be on fire, and they not be sensible of it: in vain did they exclaim, even with speaking trumpets, that the audience themselves might perceive that smoke or, flame appeared in no part of the theatre. Still they fled to certain suffocation, still they precipitated themselves from the gallery to the pit, till the place was nearly emptied. Such is the simple narrative of this dreadful scene; but how is it to be accounted for 2 Were we to argue from the precise occurrences of the scene just described, we must suppose that the perceptions of the soul are greatly confined or limited; that confused or imperfect sounds, striking upon the drum of the ear, convey ideas to the former which it is incapable of separating and appropriating; but that being roused to a sense of some sort of danger, resemblances are taken for originals. Thus, perhaps, some of the execrations of by the rioters may have sounded like the word fire, to the female or females who repeated it, whose weakness and want of resolution deprived them of the power of ascertaining, from every surrounding object, that the conceptions of their fears were utterly unsupported by facts. Nor was their faculty of recollection sufficiently strenuous to remind them, that the passages from the boxes of the theatre they were in were so capacious as to admit of the exit of every individual in ten minutes, in a manner that would not injure an infant; that the whole of the stage being a vast tank of water, it was impossible that the engines behind the scenes sheuld want a supply; besides the total absence of alarm in the countenances of the performers, it might be supposed sufficiently indicated, that the only place concealed from their view was entirely free from danger. The fears of those who sat in the back part of the gallery were far more justly excited; they saw nothing but the stage, and might suppose that the boxes or pit beneath them was on fire, and their own screams prevented their hearing the entreaties for silence from the stage; it is, therefore, not altogether to be wondered at that they endeavoured to escape. Dr. Cogan very truly observes, that an idea is the grand exciting cause of every passion and affection: it instigates the
whole of our conduct; it pervades and directs every internal operation of the mind; it is clearly known by every one who has the power of thinking, but it defies every definition. That this is the truth no one will dispute; hence it appears that the Divinity has given us an invisible active spirit, possessing the means of perception, and even of foresight, extending to a hint of what would be hurtful, or beneficial, or pleasant, on which it is intended reason, improved by education and experience, should act and bring to perfection. Admitting these premises, it necessarily follows, that man has the means of foreseeing what will prove injurious, or the reverse, and the power of turning those means to the full use intended. These we shall term the control of the passions; were they carried to the extent of which they are capable, half the present unhappiness of life might be avoided, and an endless catalogue of dangers prevented. We manage the horse, and command his passions; nay, we teach him to face the fire and thunder of cannon; though we know that, when untutored, his fears fascinate him to the spot where that element surrounds and would destroy him : shall it then be said, that the infant must advance into life with all its passions advancing in equal proportion ? have we reason given us to tutor the horse, and neglect our own species Surely not. Let the latter, then, be taught, in the earliest period of existence, to fear nothing but moral evil; let the child be led into the very jaws of danger, and taught the method of deliberate retreat, that he may not faint before shadows, and magnify fancies into gulfs of destruction. Parents, nurses, and ignorant teachers, lay the foundation of much misery, by exciting fears of imaginary beings in the minds of infants. This method of frightening them into propriety of conduct turns the thoughts of the child from contemplating the appearance of natural objects, whose operations are easily comp. into a dark vacuum, where ncy finds floating spectres, of horrid form and mien, which haunt them sleeping, and pursue them in the dark, through the remainder of their lives; and to this cause we principally attribute the sudden magnifying of the soul's hints of danger, which finding nothing real to work upon, the thoughts are wrought into chaos and
frenzy, confusing the organs of speecin, depriving the muscles of the power of action, and sometimes the body of existence. Fear operates in a variety of ways upon the human frame, and its effects depend, in a great measure, on the temperament of the body under its influence. Females, when suddenly and violently alarmed, frequently utter a piercing cry, and faint into total insensibility. Others are seized with hysterics, or a general convulsion of the whole system; and in slighter degrees of fear, the eyes are fixed on the object of terror, while the feet involuntarily perform the office of flight. When the cause of fear strikes the soul, without a possibility of an intervening conception of it, an universal start of the nerves and muscles is the consequence; the contraction of the skin of the head raises the hair upright; the blood rushes back to the heart, which palpitates most rapidly; the mouth opens; the eyes undergo the same operation, and are stretched in eager gaze after the dreaded object; and an uniform trembling and faintness of the limbs take place. The best painters exhibit terrified figures with their arms extended forward, as if to resist an assault, or rather to prevent a substance from rushing against them; one of the legs set firmly back, the mouth open, the eyes glaring, the skin of the temple wrinkled, and a deadly paleness overspreading their features. We shall support our observations on this first of the human passions by a short quotation from a late and approved writer. “Excessive fear is, by far, the most painful of all our sensations. Fear is wholly engaged in the contemplation of misery, which contains not a single particle in its nature calculated to soothe and mitigate its agonizing influence. But still it is the vigilant guardian of wellbeing. It tries every expedient, and makes every effort to escape the evil so much dreaded. Were we indifferent about things pernicious in themselves, they would frequently seize us totally unprepared, and overwhelm us when we might have escaped from them.” Fear may be generally attributed to an apprehension of we know not what calamity, one which may be traced to a cause, perhaps, but not to its full effects. Apprehension is a modification of the same passion, with sensations of uneasiness and restless watchings. Terror, on the contrary, has its cause in full view; the
eye sees it, the ear hears it, and the whole frame feels, by anticipation, the moment when it shall be crushed or overwhelmed by the approaching power. Consternation is a species of fear; a discovery is dreadtd, which produces punishment, guilt causes agitation, and the emotions of consternation often occasion suspicion where none was entertained before. The indications of this passion are flushed and deranged features, hurried actions, and Confused and contradictory speeches. Each of the above designations of pasion apply to the universal desire entertained by man for his own preservation. We shall next proceed to notice a Passion equally destructive and perniSious in its effects upon the body, but for less innocent, anger, which is capable of being raised from a slight flushing of the face to furious rage. The discovery of an intended injury, a blow unexpectedly received, or insulting language, excites what is generally termed onger. Rage, on the contrary, more particularly proceeds from a reiteration of tither of the above causes; such, at lost, is anger founded on principles capable of some slight justification; but it must be admitted, that this passion is of. on generated by causes trivial and unimportant; difference of opinion in the ourse of common conversation, a dispute whether a window-sash shall be opened or *mainshut, have been known to produce *ger, which could only be appeased by the shedding of blood. Passions arising on causes of this description, and in"ulged to excess, place human nature in *most degrading point of view, and exhibitthewiolence of self-love in the strong“ot colours. The soul in this instance §lves the same warning of probable inJoy which takes place in the case of fear, with the difference of suggesting means sprevention. Anger braces the nerves, the muscles become rigid, and the body *s into a posture indicating majesty *d defiance, the features are animated With a strong expression of energy, and the blood flows rapidly to the face. Rage may be termed anger degenerat‘dinto the miserable state of insanity; on some instances the first impulses of *ge are too powerful for the faculties, old the person under its influence either fills dead, or sinks into an agitation, which disarms him of the power of re*istance or defence; he becomes pale, *nd trembles from head to foot, and es*ys in vain to utter the purposes of * Soul; in others, where the consti
tution happens to be strong, the features are distorted, the muscles of the mouth are drawn back, the teeth grind together, the eyes are strained outwards, the brows are knit, the hands clenched, and every muscle indicates sudden exertion; the heart palpitates, and the lungs with difficulty afford air for respiration; so rapid are the cries and exclamations of the unhappy being thus moved, who becomes an object of compassion to the spectators, but out of pity, as it is more than probable that the vengeance about to be taken will be more than commensurate with the injury received. Anger, in its slightest degree, necessarily follows certain occurrences, the consequences of family and social connections; and its indulgence is allowable under the guidance of reason, otherwise it would be impossible to correct the aggressions of unthinking persons, or conduct the education of youth: but beyond this boundary, it becomes brutal and degrading to our nature. Anger may be made habitual by indulgence; the nerves are, by this means, rendered diseased and irritable, and the person thus situated actually falls into an universal tremor, with a species of rage, almost at the instant the ear hears, or the eye views, the cause of offence; indeed some cases exist, when the mind becomes inflamed at the bare suspicion of what may be said or done. Miserable are the feelings of those, who suffer anger to overpower their reason, and miserable are the ef. fects of their rapid and frequently unfounded conceptions. It may be doubted whether the mind, in this state of derangement, can be recovered to discrimination and gentleness in adults; it is, therefore, doubly necessary to repress any effervescence in the breasts of infants, who are known to feel most violent paroxysms of rage, even before their limbs are capable of supporting them, and which have been known to be fatal. This circumstance alone proves that our passions are received with life in their full vigour, consequently every means should be tried to soothe and repress them, rather than to encourage their increase, by teaching resentment against animals, friends, and inanimate objects, by the detestable practice of asking a blow from a child to beat a table or wainscot, for coming in contact with its head or limbs, or a person or animal for some offence. Revenge is a twin brother of anger or rage; we see but little of the movements of this branch of the passions, as they are generally secret, founded on fear, and prey on the vitals of the wretch who entertains it; it is a compound of courage and apprehension, but the latter ever predominates. Revenge is not always confined to acts, but descends to malice, which delights in insinuations and false conclusions; when successful, the human face divine becomes the type of that of a fiend, and a smile sets on the features which cannot be described. Another gradation of anger is hatred, which arises from a real or supposed injury. Inveterate hatred is a most direful passion, distorting every word and every act of the individual the subject of it; whose smiles are equally detested with their frowns, and whose motives in all cases are supposed to be governed by an intention of injuring the possessor of this unworthy sensation. Resentment is a far more generous inmate, because it possesses the power of discriminating an unintentional from a voluntary insult, and is vented generally, and immediately, in words alone. It must be obvious, that he who entertains hatred fosters an inmate which feeds upon his own vitals, even when the object hated is unconscious of its existence, or has forgot its future consequences. Envy often produces hatred; the former, being a most unreasonable passion, seems to derive its origin from an innate principle of evil; it is one, in short, which cannot be accounted for on any rational grounds. The person influenced by envy feels some deficiency, and observes another endowed with qualifications either beyond the reach of acquirement, or that may be obtained without difficulty: when the defect lies in the person or features, it might be imagined that the hopeless state of the case would produce resignation, if not content. If the acquirements disliked or envied are attainable by all mawkind, emulation might be supposed to urge an attempt at rivalry; but, no ; the envious person rests in listless inactivity, and suffers his mind to tear every ornament, natural or artificial, from the subject of his dislike, his eyes to express it, and his tongue to depreciate and lessen every movement of the involuntary enemy of his repose. Aversion is often produced by a similar cause ; and yet it must be admitted, that aversions do sometimes occur in minds virtuous and pure, which require the strongest efforts to subdue them. Those,
however, generally proceed from the contemplation of a set of forbidding features, or some peculiarity in the manners of the individual disapproved of, and may be conquered by exertion. In another sense, aversion is proper and justifiable = the good must feel an aversion for those whose conduct is wicked or disgraceful. Hatred is expressed by contemptuous looks, or knitting of the brows, the raising: of the lips towards the nostrils, and an averted face. Envy exhibits an eagerness to see the departure of its object, when the eyes sparkle, and the voice is tuned to ridicule. Aversion shuns the presence of the wicked, and turns the back to its presumptuous folly. Cruelty, this perversion of our nature, for it cannot be innate, may be traced to its origin without a circuitous or theoretical process. Examine the domestic economy of most families, and the result will be, that five out of six, who have infants to instruct and educate, possess some animals, entertained for the sole purpose of amusing the tender years of their offspring, which are dragged by the neck and limbs from one to another, with the same indifference in the child and parents, and their attendants, as if they were inanimate representations of dogs, cats, rabbits, or birds; and should the injured animal complain or resist, the family is in arms to beat, nay, hang the innocent of fender, while the child is soothed with execrations of the animal, and assurances of a cruel revenge. Can the unfortunate being thus tutored, be supposed to respect the feelings of man, when opposed to his will, in the course of his future life, after having been taught to despise the cries of suffering from his earliest days Impossible. To follow the aberrations
of so hateful a disposition would require
a relation of facts, which are calculated to excite horror, as the exercise of it extends into a variety of acts, decidedly opposite to each other in their motives. Instances have been known of the infliction of tortures, both mental and corporeal, which could not be traced to any rational cause: when it arises from revenge against real or imagined injuries, we are not at a loss for the reason why a wretch should exult in the misery of his victim; but it is shocking to reflect on the conduct of a fiend, who, after robbing an unresisting traveller, beats him almost to death. In this case, and in those cruelties frequently exercised on the brute creation, we find such a total rejection of the man
. The indulgence Ing passions, may the coward in
of any of the preceddul lead to cruelty : even ulges in this propensity, o o get his enemy into his ty is * safety to himself. But cruelfering : *rely confined to bodily suf. by o Person may be violently cruel that o insinuations, and suggestions, individ o ever destroy the peace of Classe* and families; those may be CellSOTI under the terms prejudice and ete riousness: the former is a perverse ...tion to resist every attempt at given *tion, where offence has been aw **nd to confute every assertion in * of the victim by falsehoods and oyalication; the latter will suffer no. in the conduct of his enemy to be o and proper; he censures each o each word at every opportunity; abl *urely nothing.can be more unjustifi° and cruel. İbesire is a natural but *y sensation of the mind; in one §ont of view it is a necessary means for “Support of the human species, and in others it may be commendable and ex*y the reverse. The desire to injure tither in person or property is criminal, but a desire to effect any commendable Purpose deserves all possible encourageent.
Among the minor affections of the old which are vicious, though not decidedly criminal, we must include peevish*s or ill-nature. The person under the ofluence of this miserable feeling is sel0m mischievous, as all his friends and *0ciates are included in his fretful 9mments, and their general tendency isarms them of their sting. We read the state of his soul in the half angry, alf sorrowful turn of his features: and We are inclined to pity him as under the influence of an incurable disease : and, in truth, peevishness often pro: from a morbid affection of the Ody Ingratitude is a species of apathy: he that receives a benefit, and is not gratefulin return, must possess an insensibility or apathy by no means to be envied. The latter term, indeed, seems to imply a total absence of feeling and pasSion, or a faculty of seeing and hearing every occurrence unmoved. It may, however, admit of a doubt, whether the appearance of apathy is not to be traced to a perfect command of the external
actions of the features and limbs, which disguise the agitation of the mind to the common observer, at the same time that nature performs her operations in the soul without effectual obstruction. There are other designations of the intemperate passions, or those which injure us in the present state of society, and will certainly produce punishment; but as they all refer, in some degree, to those already noticed, we shall turn our attention to a more pleasing portion of the subject. The benevolence of the Creator towards mankind has been demonstrated by the most unequivocal proofs. This cannot be disputed or doubted for a moment when it is remembered, that the first operation of the infant mind is love. The infant recognizes its parent, and smiles with inexpressible delight upon her face; the smile is returned with tenfold interest, and thus commences life and the passions. Were this fact held in constant recollection, the latter would be kept in just subordination, instead of being encouraged to defeat the intentions of the Divinity. Upon examining the features of a handsome child a few weeks after its birth, when in the act of fondling its mother, and that of the latter at the same instant, it will be found that nature has made the human species in a most exquisite mould indeed. On one hand, perfect innocence has full possession of the face; on the other, recent illness, a disregard of external affairs, and present happiness, has restored perfect content. Exquisite picture of perfection how much is it to be regretted, that perverseness has made it transient. Encouraged as these our first propensities sometimes are, we find the parent attentive and anxious, instructing with eagerness, correcting with gentle. ness; the offspring venerating, admiring, and emulating ; and all is happiness, complacency and content. Placid and regular lines throughout the countenance point out those happy mortals for imitation ; the muscles are never strained and distorted, and the painter is at a loss how to express the repose and benevolence he essays to copy. Love, in another sense, descends one step from the above exalted station, and becomes difficult to be defined. Youth frequently feel a passion for their opposite sexes, founded upon an inexplicable emotion of the soul, which seems blinded, and incapable of discrimination. In this case it is an impulse without stability, as it frequently happens that the gratifi