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LECTURE XXIII.

ON THE PASSIONS.

EFFECTs of PAssions on the body, AND of surprise on the PAssions. — of what is said About RULING PASSIONs. – of TEMPER ; HUMoUR ; NATURE. —THE DIFFERENT DEGREES OF THE PAssions, AND PART1cularly of the PASSIONS IN THEIR LOW DEGREES. - HOW FAR A STATE or PASSION 1s AGREEABLE TO THE MIND. — The EFFECTS OF PASSIONS AND TALENTS ON EACH OTHER.

THE powerful part which the passions were intended to act in our constitution, is clearly evinced by those rapid and dreadful effects which they frequently commit upon the body. Instances are very numerous of persons who have been driven mad by joy, — who have dropt down dead from anger or grief. Great numbers of people die every year, pining away from deranged circumstances, or from disgrace, or disappointed affection, in a state which we call broken-hearted. The passions kill like acute diseases, and like chronic ones too. Every physician who knows anything of the science, has seen innumerable cases of all the disorders of the body, originating from disturbed emotion, and totally inaccessible to all the remedies by which mere animal infirmities are removed. Dr. Gregory, of Edinburgh, in his “Lectures on the Practice of Medicine,” mentions so singular an instance of the effects of joy, that, but for such highly respectable authority, I should hardly think it credible. He was sent for in the course of his medical practice, to a family in the country, consisting of a mother and two daughters. They had recently come to a very large, and a very sudden accession of fortune. Upon his arrival at the house, he was met by the eldest daughter, who, with a great appearance of agitation, cautioned him against her mother and sister; and informed him they were both mad. He very soon perceived that this lady was so herself; and upon visiting the other two, perceived they were not a jot better. The truth turned out to be, that their astonishment and joy was so great, upon being raised from poverty to extreme opulence, — they had had so many plans of equipage; and so many disputes whether they should go to Bath before they went to London, or London before they visited Bath, – that the small share of reason they ever could have possessed, fell a sacrifice to the agitation. Independent of the mere magnitude of the passion, a distinct effect is produced by the suddenness of it; or rather, perhaps, it would be clearer to say, that all the passions are considerably increased by surprise, and diminished by expectation. To be thoroughly informed of the nature and extent of any danger, to which we are about to be exposed, – to have leisure to summon up resolution, and invent resources, – diminishes very materially the feeling of that danger: a sudden exposure to it, might completely overset the mind. In the same manner with grief. A long struggle with death, and a finely-graduated decay, familiarise us to the loss of our friends: the countenance which grows paler day by day, and the form which every hour emaciates, inure us so to the pang of separation, that we meet with calm resignation a misfortune, which, suddenly communicated, would bear down all authority of reason, and leave, perhaps, the mind itself a mere ruin beneath its pressure. In this respect, there is a great analogy between body and mind. It is not difficult, by gradations, to accustom the body to anything; while it receives the most violent injuries from changes that are sudden. This dread of sudden vicissitude, admits of no explanation; it is one of the means by which the powers of man are limited, and he is controlled within the sphere in which he at present moves. It is curious to observe the very little time necessary to the mind for its changes; and how short a preparation obviates the worst and most dangerous effects of the passions. To come into a room suddenly, and say such a person is dead, might very likely kill the rson to whom it was addressed: but “he is not quite so well as could be wished; there is some little danger; he was getting worse,” and so on; — by the presentation of a mournful idea, which the mind can bear, and by the gradual increase of it up to the point which you wish to establish, though you can never prevent the feelings of nature, you blunt them, and deter their excesses from acting so tremendously upon the infirmities of the body. Any one passion may act upon the mind, when it is in one of these three states: — first, when it is under the influence of a similar passion; next, when it is under the influence of an opposite passion; next, when it is in a state of rest, and under the influence of no passion at all. For instance, I may receive such news as would overwhelm me with grief, and, at the moment previous to my receiving it, I may be in a state of joy, or sorrow, or in a state of indifference; the question is, in which of these three states will the new passion produce its greatest effects 2 Is the grief greater for being added to grief, or being contrasted to previous joy 7 or from its falling on the mind when it was in a passionless state? If the two states of grief and joy cannot coexist, so that they neutralise each other, then the grief is always more intense from the contrast. If a father were to learn that his son had distinguished himself very much in battle, and were then to be told, in the midst of his joy, that his son had died of his wounds, the joy and the grief stand so opposed to each other, that the one would go rather to inflame, than to diminish, the other. “Dead at the very moment that I expected to see him return with the highest reputations in the midst of all the congratulations I was making to myself for his safetyl"—these are the ideas with which a parent would naturally exasperate his misfortune. But if the joy and the grief were in no wise related together, then the joyful passion would neutralise the sad one. To hear that my fortune was materially diminished, would affect me less, if I had just recovered my health, or had just gained a distinguished reputation. I should set off the good against the evil, and bring my mind to a kind of equilibrium of feeling and passion. Some men possess a much stronger tendency to particular passions than to others, – and passions, like talents, are transmitted by birth from parent to child: some say, acquired by early imitation; but the analogy of animals rather leads us to suppose that birth influences the qualities of the mind, as well as the limbs and general figure. All the foals of an ill-tempered horse are very often as vicious as the sire, whom they have never seen. Cock-fighters are extremely attentive to the breed of their fowls: a valiant cock has his eggs sent about as presents, that they may be hatched into heroes; and these heroes have certainly had no communication with their parents, and no opportunity of forming their manners upon such models of valour. It is very often (not always) true, that there is a ruling passion which obscures or absorbs all the rest. In some minds, two or three of the great passions appear to hold a divided empire. In others, there is such a want of prominence in the active principles, that it is extremely difficult to say which governs,—which obeys. It is, however, an extremely important circumstance in the investigation of character, to ascertain what are the paramount motives, by which any human being is habitually impelled; and the most complicated phenomena, after such a key to their interpretation is once obtained, become clear and comprehensible. We speak of a man's disposition according to the predominance of good or bad passions in his nature. There are three expressions in our language, which, because they refer to the kind and degree of the passions, require some explanation in this place;—Temper, Humour, and Nature. When used with adjectives of blame and praise, temper and humour mean nearly the same thing. A good-humoured person, or a good-tempered person, is one in whom the intentions and actions of others do not easily excite bad passions, – who does not mistake the motives by which the rest of the world are actuated towards him. A good-natured person is a man of active benevolence; who seeks to give pleasure to others in little things. Good-temper measures how a man is acted upon by others: good-nature measures how he acts for others. The presumption is, that the two excellences would be found uniformly conjoined together; that a man who was passively benevolent, would be actively so too: but the reverse is often the case in practice. There are many men of inviolable temper, who never exert themselves to do a good-natured thing, from one end of the year to the other; and many in the highest degree irritable, who are perpetually employed in little acts of good-nature. It must be observed, that all the three words refer only to the little vices and virtues. Repeated fits of peevishness, constitute illtemper. Violent hatred, and deadly revenge, require and receive a much graver name. To do little favours to others, and contrive small gratifications and amusements for them, is the province of a good-natured man. A more exalted and difficult benevolence immediately assumes a more dignified appellation, and ceases to be called good-nature. To bring a large twelfth-cake to a child, is good-nature; to give him education, support,

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