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LITERATURE AND COMPOSITION.
Introduction.-Principle of Association.
Pleasures from the fine Arts.
MY DEAR JOHN, WE live in an age when almost every thing is artificial. . When not only rules are proposed for the performance of almost every action connected with social life, but when the grounds and principles on which those rules are founded constitute an object of anxious inquiry. Men have long agreed in regarding some things as pleasing ; but not satisfied with this, we are led to inquire whence they have derived their power to please, and on what principle in human nature it is that certain appearances, sounds or ideas are delightful to the human mind. VOL. I.
The pleasure which is imparted by the fine arts, and their power over the mind, are founded upon certain principles. We have not yet indeed been enabled to mount to the source whence their controul over the passions is derived ; but by observing carefully certain effects, we can generally foretel when these effects will be produced. Music is perhaps the simplest of all the fine arts : its power is derived entirely from the influence of certain sounds upon the organs of perception. It is impossible to say why some sounds or combinations of sound should be termed pathetic; why some should excite hilarity; why some should be adapted to the passion of love, and why others should be assimilated to joy and triumph; yet so it is, and there is scarcely an ear so insensible to har. mony as not to have proved the force of music on one occasion or another. These effects upon the ear have been compared, and perhaps not without reason, to certain impressions produced upon our other senses.
“ That strain again ;-it had a dying fall,
To the eye some appearances, and even some colours, are productive of pleasure. It is ex. tremely difficult to analyze the sensation, and to account for the pleasing effect of some flowers more than others; it depends upon the combi. nation and arrangement of colours; upon the regular disposition of the petals; upon some unknown circumstance even independent of the principle of association, something as uncon. nected with ideas of social pleasure or pain, as the vibrations of an Æolian harp.
I find I have casually mentioned the word association, and it is necessary perhaps to enter upon a short explanation of it, since those pleasurable sensations, which may properly be called mental, and consequently those which are derived from the reading of poetry, or the beauties of composition in general, are not simple but complex sensations, derived, at least in part, from certain associations which the mind has formed with other objects.
It is exceedingly obvious that two or more sensations happening at the same time, the ideas will become united. Thus the ideas of the figure and colour of bodies admitted by the eye are always combined, and these may be still as. 1 sociated with another idea admitted by means of the touch. Thus the idea, or picture formed in the mind of any object, is complex, or composed of several ideas united : of figure, colour, and perhaps softness or hardness also. If music is heard while we behold the instrument, the sound will be associated with the visible appearance, and the former will recal the idea of the latter, even when we do not see the instrument. ·Names are associated with things, and things with actions.
On this principle of association depends the necessary succession of ideas in a train, of which any one may satisfy himself by attending to the operations of his own mind : ideas are introduced by an agreement in some of the parts of which complex ideas are composed. Shak. speare, describing a merchant's fears, says,
“ My wind, cooling my broth,
“ Should I go to church,
The association and train of ideas is perhaps still more pleasantly illustrated by a story related by Hobbes.“ In a discourse on our present civil war (that in the reign of Charles I.), what,” says he, “ could seem more impertinent than to ask, as one did, the value of a Roman penny
Yet the coherence was to me suffi. ciently manifest. The thought of the war introduced the thought of the delivering up of the king to his enemies; the thought of that brought in the thought of the delivering up of Christ; and that again the thought of the thirty pence which was the price of that treason; and thence easily followed that malicious question, and all that in an instant of time; for thought is quick.' I hope sufficient has been said to make
you acquainted with what is meant by the association and train of ideas; and what may appear a digression is in reality more connected with our subject than at first sight may appear. For much of the pleasure derived from the fine arts, and particularly from poetry and oratory, may be resolved, in part at least, into the principle of association. Many of the human passions are chiefly, if not entirely, derived from