« AnteriorContinuar »
mind dwells, as in a dream, on the sports and t he companions of their infancy.' p. 339.
II. From these different observations, we are authorised to 'conclude, that the same laws of association which regulate 'the train of our thoughts while we are awake, continue to operate during sleep. I now proceed to consider, how far the circumstances which discriminate dreaming from our waking 'thoughts, correspond with those which might be expected to result from the suspension of the influence of the will.' 1. If the influence of the will be suspended during sleep, all our voluntary operations, such as recollection, reasoning, &c. must also be suspended.
That this really is the case, the extravagance and inconsistency of our dreams are sufficient proofs. We frequently confound together times and places the most remote from each other; and, in the course of the same dream, conceive the same person as existing in different parts of the world. Sometimes we imagine ourselves conversing with a dead 'friend, without remembering the circumstance of his death, although, perhaps, it happened but a few days before, and affected us deeply.' p. 340.
'Of this passive state of the mind in our dreams, it is un'necessary to multiply proofs; as it has always been considered as one of the most extraordinary circumstances with which they are accompanied. If our dreams, as well as our waking thoughts, were subject to the will, is it not natural to conclude, that in the one case, as well as in the other, we would endeavour to banish, as much as we could, every idea which had a tendency to disturb us; and detain 'those only which we found to be agreeable? So far, however,
2. If the influence of the will during sleep be suspended, the mind will remain as passive, while its thoughts change from one subject to another, as it does during our waking hours, while different perceptible objects are presented to
is this power over our thoughts from being exercised, that we are frequently oppressed, in spite of all our efforts to the contrary, with dreams which affect us with the most painful emotions.' p. 342.
3. If the influence of the will be suspended during sleep, the conceptions which we then form of sensible objects, will be attended with a belief of their real existence, as much as the perception of the same objects is while we are awake.
In treating of the power of Conception, I formerly ob'served, that our belief of the separate and independent existence of the objects of our perceptions, is the result of experience; which teaches us that these perceptions do not depend on
our will. If I open my eyes, 1 cannot prevent myself from 'seeing the prospect before me. The case is different with respect to our conceptions. While they occupy the mind, to the exclusion of every thing else, I endeavoured to shew, that they are always accompanied with belief; but as we can banish them from the mind, during our waking hours, at 'pleasure; and as the momentary belief which they produce,
is continually checked by the surrounding objects of our per'ceptions, we learn to consider them as fictions of our own
creation; and, excepting in some accidental cases, pay no ' regard to them in the conduct of life. If the doctrine, how· ever, formerly stated with respect to conception be just, and if, at the same time, it be allowed, that sleep suspends the 'influence of the will over the train of our thoughts, we should
naturally be led to expect, that the same belief which accom'panies perception while we are awake, should accompany the conceptions which occur to us in our dreams. It is scarcely 'necessary for me to remark, how strikingly this conclusion 'coincides with acknowledged facts.' p. 343.
"From these principles may be derived a simple, and, I think, a satisfactory explanation of what some writers have repre'sented as the most mysterious of all the circumstances con'nected with dreaming; the inaccurate estimates we are apt
to form of Time, while we are thus employed;-an inaccuracy 'which sometimes extends so far, as to give to a single instant, the appearance of hours, or perhaps of days. A sudden noise, for example, suggests a dream connected with that ' perception; and, the moment afterwards, this noise has the "effect of awaking us, and yet, during that momentary interval, 'a long series of circumstances has passed before the imagination. The story quoted by Mr. Addison from the Turkish Tales, of the miracle wrought by a Mahometan Doctor, to convince an infidel Sultan, is, in such cases, nearly ‹ verified.
The facts I allude to at present are generally explained 'by supposing, that, in our dreams, the rapidity of thought is 'greater than while we are awake:-but there is no necessity 'for having recourse to such a supposition. The rapidity of
thought is, at all times, such, that in the twinkling of an eye, a crowd of ideas may pass before us, to which it would re'quire a long discourse to give utterance; and transactions may be conceived, which it would require days to realize. But, in sleep, the conceptions of the mind are mistaken for realities; and therefore, our estimates of Time will be formed, not ac'cording to our experience of the rapidity of thought, but according to our experience of the time requisite for realizing 'what we conceive. Something perfectly analogous to this
may be remarked in the perceptions we obtain by the sense of sight. When I look into a shew-box, where the deception is imperfect, I see only a set of paltry dawbings of a few inches diameter; but, if the representation be executed with so much skill, as to convey to me the idea of a distant " prospect, every object before me swells in its dimensions, in proportion to the extent of space which I conceive it to occupy; and what seemed before to be shut up within the limits of a small wooden frame, is magnified, in my apprehension, to an immense landscape of woods, rivers, and mountains. p. 346.
This beautiful theory will, we hope, in some degree compensate to our readers for the dry discussions of the former part of this article. We are aware at the same time, how much it is injured by the abridgements which our limits have obliged us to make.
Here, for the present, we stop. The subject of abstraction is so closely connected with the subjects of Mr. Stewart's second volume, that we shall not at present notice it.
Art. III. An Essay on the Life of Michel de L'Hôpital, Chancellor of France. By Charles Butler, Esq. small Svo. pp. 80. Price 4s. Longman and Co. 1814.
IT might be made a question which is greater, the pleasure, or the disgust, of beholding an individual of exalted faculties and virtues, maintaining, for a course of years, an unremitting contest for justice with surrounding millions of his species; with consummate policy restraining their bad passions, sometimes by setting these passions to disable one another, sometimes contriving delays to mitigate their violence; sometimes managing to make what is right so palpably identical with what is immediately advantageous, as to constrain its adoption even on the grossest principles of self-interest; keeping parties in a state so balanced as to gain time and impunity for some attempts at the formation of another interest and combination better than any of them; slowly insinuating correction into their practical institutions; and all the while most assiduously labouring, though with small success, to diminish the ignorance and the prejudices of the whole community.
It cannot, however, be a question long; since this illustrious mortal cannot be contemplated as a detached object, present. ing to view nothing but its own excellence. It stands inseparably conjoined with the degraded mass, and as necessarily forces on our perception the character of that mass as its own. And
the complacency or enthusiasm which that one object is fitted to inspire, though reanimated again and again in the mind, will as often be overborne by the shaine, or the grief, or the indignation, or all these sentiments together, which will irresistibly invade the beholder of unworthy millions, in whose very debasement is found the measure of the elevation of the one noble exception. We are too closely related to the race for either benevolence to sanction, or sympathy to leave it possible, that we should be philosophically satisfied to regard ihe grand bulk of that race as answering a sufficient purpose in serving as a foil to a few individuals of eminent excellence; or that we should coolly throw away the immense mass as a kind of waste and rubbish, necessarily heaped around during, the operation of working out a few colossal forms of moral and intellectual perfection, well worth that in their production so much material should go to waste.
But though neither the interest which we ought to feel, nor that which, as sharing the same nature, we are constrained to feel, if it were only through the medium of our pride, will suffer us, in making our estimates of the moral world, to be content to rest the value of a vast aggregate of human creatures on one or a few sublime individuals, and let the remainder go for nothing, yet in attempting to apprehend and verify the worth of that immense crowd, as beheld in some ages and nations, we are forced on a process to divest it of its actual appearance. We are compelled either to an exercise of abstraction and refinement, to reach at some sort of philosophical notion of the essential value of rational and moral creatures independently of their modifications; or to an exer. cise of fancy, representing the admirable agencies and transforinations that might pass upon them, and the estimable and noble state of character to which it would not be impossible for them to be raised.
In the reveries on the conceivable modes in which a stupid, perverse, bigoted tribe or nation might be benefited, the imagination will readily give form to a diversity of grand experients, of a quality corresponding to the more benign or severe temper in which they are conceived. In a mind constitutionally severe, and in the gloomy moments and the liarsh and indignant moods of a more philanthropic spirit, one of the images most prompt to present themselves, and most complacently entertained anıl dwelt upon, will be that of an individual endowed with almost super-human faculties; possessed with an humble and awful fear of God, but toward human beings Jofty, dictatorial, fearless, and inflexible; eulightened and impelled invariably by a consummate sense of justice; invincibly resolute to effect that justice at all hazards, yet sagacious in the choice of means; and, to crown all this, invested with the most unlimited form that can be conceived of temporal power. Such a personage presented to the imagination, in the harsher moods of benevolent musing, will be instantly set to work on some perverse section of the human race; and with delight will be followed through a career in which, indifferent to life but as a space for the fulfilment of appointed duty, infinitely scornful of that idol of almost all other fervent spirits--glory, and caring incomparably less about either the love or the hatred of human beings than about the object of mending them—he will accomplish a grand plan of correction, in which intimidation, and chastisement, and coercion, shall be very largely employed to give authoritative force to the dictates of truth, and drive and frighten men as much as persuade them, into a state of less absurdity and iniquity.
Cardinal Ximenes has often recurred to our imagination as a character meeting several parts of this description in an unprecedented degree: the fatal fault was, that instead of being the castigator and crusher of persecuting bigots, he was himself one of the greatest of bigots in religion. Had he united the comparatively enlightened principles of Michel de l'Hôpital, relative to this great subject, with the vigorous, imperious austerity of his character, we should have been tempted to wish his external means of power ten times greater even than they were; in the exercise of which power we might at some moments of indignant feeling have been tempted to be pleased at seeing him acting out such a part, against the perversities and iniquities of a nation, as would have fixed upon him, in a less terrible and more useful sense, the famous denomination of Flagellum Dei.
It must perhaps be acknowledged, that in a milder state of feeling, the subject of the present biographical Essay would appear the preferable man to be invested with an immense arbitrary power; preferable, we mean, in point of mental temperament, setting out of view the vast difference between a popish Inquisitor and an enlightened friend of religious toleration.
Mr. Butler, we think, has rendered a real service to the public, by drawing together into a compressed arrangement, from a variety of works, which he enumerates and describes, the most important matters relating to the life and character of this eminent and admirable man. Every reader will wish that he had made a larger selection, when he had collected into one view so many materials.