Richard Steele.

The Spectator, Volumes 1, 2 and 3 With Translations and Index for the Series online

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it does not take in one uniform Idea, but several Ideas of the same
kind. Look upon the Outside of a Dome, your Eye half surrounds it; look
up into the Inside, and at one Glance you have all the Prospect of it;
the entire Concavity falls into your Eye at once, the Sight being as the
Center that collects and gathers into it the Lines of the whole
Circumference: In a Square Pillar, the Sight often takes in but a fourth
Part of the Surface: and in a Square Concave, must move up and down to
the different Sides, before it is Master of all the inward Surface. For
this Reason, the Fancy is infinitely more struck with the View of the
open Air, and Skies, that passes through an Arch, than what comes
through a Square, or any other Figure. The Figure of the Rainbow does
not contribute less to its Magnificence, than the Colours to its Beauty,
as it is very poetically described by the Son of Sirach: Look upon the
Rainbow and praise him that made it; very beautiful it is in its
Brightness; it encompasses the Heavens with a glorious Circle, and the
Hands of the [most High [5]] have bended it.

Having thus spoken of that Greatness which affects the Mind in
Architecture, I might next shew the Pleasure that arises in the
Imagination from what appears new and beautiful in this Art; but as
every Beholder has naturally a greater Taste of these two Perfections in
every Building which offers it self to his View, than of that which I
have hitherto considered, I shall not trouble my Reader with any
Reflections upon it. It is sufficient for my present Purpose, to
observe, that there is nothing in this whole Art which pleases the
Imagination, but as it is Great, Uncommon, or Beautiful.


[Footnote 1: Grounds]

[Footnote 2: two]

[Footnote 3: Protogenes's]

[Footnote 4: Dinocrates.]

[Footnote 5: [Almighty]]

* * * * *

No. 416. Friday, June 27, 1712. Addison.

'Quatenûs hoc simile est oculis, quod mente videmus.'


I at first divided the Pleasures of the Imagination, into such as arise
from Objects that are actually before our Eyes, or that once entered in
at our Eyes, and are afterwards called up into the Mind either barely by
its own Operations, or on occasion of something without us, as Statues,
or Descriptions. We have already considered the first Division, and
shall therefore enter on the other, which for Distinction sake, I have
called the Secondary Pleasures of the Imagination. When I say the Ideas
we receive from Statues, Descriptions, or such like Occasions, are the
same that were once actually in our View, it must not be understood that
we had once see the very Place, Action, or Person which are carved or
described. It is sufficient, that we have seen Places, Persons, or
Actions, in general, which bear a Resemblance, or at least some remote
Analogy with what we find represented. Since it is in the Power of the
Imagination, when it is once Stocked with particular Ideas, to enlarge,
compound, and vary them at her own Pleasure.

Among the different Kinds of Representation, Statuary is the most
natural, and shews us something likest the Object that is represented.
To make use of a common Instance, let one who is born Blind take an
Image in his Hands, and trace out with his Fingers the different Furrows
and Impressions of the Chissel, and he will easily conceive how the
Shape of a Man, or Beast, may be represented by it; but should he draw
his Hand over a Picture, where all is smooth and uniform, he would never
be able to imagine how the several Prominencies and Depressions of a
human Body could be shewn on a plain Piece of Canvas, that has in it no
Unevenness or Irregularity. Description runs yet further from the Things
it represents than Painting; for a Picture bears a real Resemblance to
its Original, which Letters and Syllables are wholly void of. Colours
speak of Languages, but Words are understood only by such a People or
Nation. For this Reason, tho' Men's Necessities quickly put them on
finding out Speech, Writing is probably of a later invention than
Painting; particularly we are told, that in America when the Spaniards
first arrived there Expresses were sent to the Emperor of Mexico in
Paint, and the News of his Country delineated by the Strokes of a
Pencil, which was a more natural Way than that of Writing, tho' at the
same time much more imperfect, because it is impossible to draw the
little Connexions of Speech, or to give the Picture of a Conjunction or
an Adverb. It would be yet more strange, to represent visible Objects by
Sounds that have no Ideas annexed to them, and to make something like
Description in Musick. Yet it is certain, there may be confused,
imperfect Notions of this Nature raised in the Imagination by an
Artificial Composition of Notes; and we find that great Masters in the
Art are able, sometimes, to set their Hearers in the Heat and Hurry of a
Battel, to overcast their Minds with melancholy Scenes and Apprehensions
of Deaths and Funerals, or to lull them into pleasing Dreams of Groves
and Elisiums.

In all these Instances, this Secondary Pleasure of the Imagination
proceeds from that Action of the Mind, which compares the Ideas arising
from the Original Objects, with the Ideas we receive from the Statue,
Picture, Description, or Sound that represents them. It is impossible
for us to give the necessary Reason, why this Operation of the Mind is
attended with so much Pleasure, as I have before observed on the same
Occasion; but we find a great Variety of Entertainments derived from
this single Principle: For it is this that not only gives us a Relish of
Statuary, Painting and Description, but makes us delight in all the
Actions and Arts of Mimickry. It is this that makes the several kinds of
Wit Pleasant, which consists, as I have formerly shewn, in the Affinity
of Ideas: And we may add, it is this also that raises the little
Satisfaction we sometimes find in the different Sorts of false Wit;
whether it consists in the Affinity of Letters, as in Anagram,
Acrostick; or of Syllables, as in Doggerel Rhimes, Ecchos; or of Words,
as in Punns, Quibbles; or of a whole Sentence or Poem, to Wings, and
Altars. The final Cause, probably, of annexing Pleasure to this
Operation of the Mind, was to quicken and encourage us in our Searches
after Truth, since the distinguishing one thing from another, and the
right discerning betwixt our Ideas, depends wholly upon our comparing
them together, and observing the Congruity or Disagreement that appears
among the several Works of Nature.

But I shall here confine my self to those Pleasures of the Imagination,
[which [1]] proceed from Ideas raised by Words, because most of the
Observations that agree with Descriptions, are equally Applicable to
Painting and Statuary.

Words, when well chosen, have so great a Force in them, that a
Description often gives us more lively Ideas than the Sight of Things
themselves. The Reader finds a Scene drawn in stronger Colours, and
painted more to the Life in his Imagination, by the help of Words, than
by an actual Survey of the Scene which they describe. In this case the
Poet seems to get the better of Nature; he takes, indeed, the Landskip
after her, but gives it more vigorous Touches, heightens its Beauty, and
so enlivens the whole Piece, that the Images which flow from the Objects
themselves appear weak and faint, in Comparison of those that come from
the Expressions. The Reason, probably, may be, because in the Survey of
any Object we have only so much of it painted on the Imagination, as
comes in at the Eye; but in its Description, the Poet gives us as free a
View of it as he pleases, and discovers to us several Parts, that either
we did not attend to, or that lay out of our Sight when we first beheld
it. As we look on any Object, our Idea of it is, perhaps, made up of two
or three simple Ideas; but when the Poet represents it, he may either
give us a more complex Idea of it, or only raise in us such Ideas as are
most apt to affect the Imagination.

It may be here worth our while to Examine how it comes to pass that
several Readers, who are all acquainted with the same Language, and know
the Meaning of the Words they read, should nevertheless have a different
Relish of the same Descriptions. We find one transported with a Passage,
which another runs over with Coldness and Indifference, or finding the
Representation extreamly natural, where another can perceive nothing of
Likeness and Conformity. This different Taste must proceed, either from
the Perfection of Imagination in one more than in another, or from the
different Ideas that several Readers affix to the same Words. For, to
have a true Relish, and form a right Judgment of a Description, a Man
should be born with a good Imagination, and must have well weighed the
Force and Energy that lye in the several Words of a Language, so as to
be able to distinguish which are most significant and expressive of
their proper Ideas, and what additional Strength and Beauty they are
capable of receiving from Conjunction with others. The Fancy must be
warm to retain the Print of those Images it hath received from outward
Objects and the Judgment discerning, to know what Expressions are most
proper to cloath and adorn them to the best Advantage. A Man who is
deficient in either of these Respects, tho' he may receive the general
Notion of a Description, can never see distinctly all its particular
Beauties: As a Person, with a weak Sight, may have the confused Prospect
of a Place that lies before him, without entering into its several
Parts, or discerning the variety of its Colours in their full Glory and


[Footnote 1: [that]]










* * * * *

No. 417. Saturday, June 28, 1712. Addison.

'Quem tu Melpomene semel
Nascentem placido lumine videris,
Non illum labor Isthmius
Clarabit pugilem, non equus impiger, &c.
Sed quæ Tibur aquæ fertile perfluunt,
Et Spissæ nemorum comæ
Fingent Æolio carmine nobilem.'


We may observe, that any single Circumstance of what we have formerly
seen often raises up a whole Scene of Imagery, and awakens [numberless
[1]] Ideas that before slept in the Imagination; such a particular Smell
or Colour is able to fill the Mind, on a sudden, with the Picture of the
Fields or Gardens, where we first met with it, and to bring up into View
all the Variety of Images that once attended it. Our Imagination takes
the Hint, and leads us unexpectedly into Cities or Theatres, Plains or
Meadows. We may further observe, when the Fancy thus reflects on the
Scenes that have past in it formerly, those which were at first pleasant
to behold, appear more so upon Reflection, and that the Memory heightens
the Delightfulness of the Original. A _Cartesian_ would account for both
these Instances in the following Manner.

The Sett of Ideas, which we received from such a Prospect or Garden,
having entered the Mind at the same time, have a Sett of Traces
belonging to them in the Brain, bordering very near upon one another;
when, therefore, any one of these Ideas arises in the Imagination, and
consequently dispatches a flow of Animal Spirits to its proper Trace,
these Spirits, in the Violence of their Motion, run not only into the
Trace, to which they were more particularly directed, but into several
of those that lie about it: By this means they awaken other Ideas of the
same Sett, which immediately determine a new Dispatch of Spirits, that
in the same manner open other Neighbouring Traces, till at last the
whole Sett of them is blown up, and the whole Prospect or Garden
flourishes in the Imagination. But because the Pleasure we received from
these Places far surmounted, and overcame the little Disagreeableness we
found in them; for this Reason there was at first a wider Passage worn
in the Pleasure Traces, and, on the contrary, so narrow a one in those
which belonged to the disagreeable Ideas, that they were quickly stopt
up, and rendered incapable of receiving any Animal Spirits, and
consequently of exciting any unpleasant Ideas in the Memory.

It would be in vain to enquire, whether the Power of Imagining Things
strongly proceeds from any greater Perfection in the Soul, or from any
nicer Texture in the Brain of one Man than of another. But this is
certain, that a noble Writer should be born with this Faculty in its
full Strength and Vigour, so as to be able to receive lively Ideas from
outward Objects, to retain them long, and to range them together, upon
Occasion, in such Figures and Representations as are most likely to hit
the Fancy of the Reader. A Poet should take as much Pains in forming his
Imagination, as a Philosopher in cultivating his Understanding. He must
gain a due Relish of the Works of Nature, and be thoroughly conversant
in the various Scenary of a Country Life.

When he is stored with Country Images, if he would go beyond Pastoral,
and the lower kinds of Poetry, he ought to acquaint himself with the
Pomp and Magnificence of Courts. He should be very well versed in every
thing that is noble and stately in the Productions of Art, whether it
appear in Painting or Statuary, in the great Works of Architecture which
are in their present Glory, or in the Ruins of those [which [2]]
flourished in former Ages.

Such Advantages as these help to open a Man's Thoughts, and to enlarge
his Imagination, and will therefore have their Influence on all kinds of
Writing, if the Author knows how to make right use of them. And among
those of the learned Languages who excel in this Talent, the most
perfect in their several kinds, are perhaps _Homer_, _Virgil_, and
_Ovid_. The first strikes the Imagination wonderfully with what is
Great, the second with what is Beautiful, and the last with what is
Strange. Reading the _Iliad_ is like travelling through a Country
uninhabited, where the Fancy is entertained with a thousand Savage
Prospects of vast Desarts, wide uncultivated Marshes, huge Forests,
mis-shapen Rocks and Precipices. On the contrary, the _Æneid_ is like a
well ordered Garden, where it is impossible to find out any Part
unadorned, or to cast our Eyes upon a single Spot, that does not produce
some beautiful Plant or Flower. But when we are in the _Metamorphoses_,
we are walking on enchanted Ground, and see nothing but Scenes of Magick
lying round us.

_Homer_ is in his Province, when he is describing a Battel or a
Multitude, a Heroe or a God. _Virgil_ is never better pleased, than when
he is in his _Elysium_, or copying out an entertaining Picture.
_Homer's_ Epithets generally mark out what is Great, _Virgil's_ what is
Agreeable. Nothing can be more Magnificent than the Figure _Jupiter_
makes in the first _Iliad_, no more Charming than that of Venus in the
first _Æneid_.

Ae, kaì kyanéaesin ep' ophrysi neuse Kroníôn,
Ambrósiai d' ára chaitai eperrhôsanto ánaktos
Kratòs ap' athanátoio mégan d' élélixen Ólympos.]

Dixit et avertens roseâ cervice refulsit:
Ambrosiæque comæ; divinum vertice odorem
Spiravere: Pedes vestis defluxit ad imos:
Et vera incessu patuit Dea -

_Homer's_ Persons are most of them God-like and Terrible; _Virgil_ has
scarce admitted any into his Poem, who are not Beautiful, and has taken
particular Care to make his Heroe so.

- lumenque juventæ
Purpureum, et lætos oculis afflavit honores.

In a Word, 'Homer' fills his Readers with Sublime Ideas, and, I believe,
has raised the Imagination of all the good Poets that have come after
him. I shall only instance 'Horace', who immediately takes Fire at the
first Hint of any Passage in the 'Iliad' or 'Odyssey', and always rises
above himself, when he has 'Homer' in his View. 'Virgil' has drawn
together, into his 'Æneid', all the pleasing Scenes his Subject is
capable of admitting, and in his 'Georgics' has given us a Collection of
the most delightful Landskips that can be made out of Fields and Woods,
Herds of Cattle, and Swarms of Bees.

'Ovid', in his 'Metamorphoses', has shewn us how the Imagination may be
affected by what is Strange. He describes a Miracle in every Story, and
always gives us the Sight of some new Creature at the end of it. His Art
consists chiefly in well-timing his Description, before the first Shape
is quite worn off, and the new one perfectly finished; so that he every
where entertains us with something we never saw before, and shews
Monster after Monster, to the end of the 'Metamorphoses'.

If I were to name a Poet that is a perfect Master in all these Arts of
working on the Imagination, I think 'Milton' may pass for one: And if
his 'Paradise Lost' falls short of the 'Æneid' or 'Iliad' in this
respect, it proceeds rather from the Fault of the Language in which it
is written, than from any Defect of Genius in the Author. So Divine a
Poem in 'English', is like a stately Palace built of Brick, where one
may see Architecture in as great a Perfection as in one of Marble, tho'
the Materials are of a coarser Nature. But to consider it only as it
regards our present Subject: What can be conceived greater than the
Battel of Angels, the Majesty of Messiah, the Stature and Behaviour of
Satan and his Peers? What more beautiful than 'Pandæmonium', Paradise,
Heaven, Angels, 'Adam' and 'Eve'? What more strange, than the Creation
of the World, the several Metamorphoses of the fallen Angels, and the
surprising Adventures their Leader meets with in his Search after
Paradise? No other Subject could have furnished a Poet with Scenes so
proper to strike the Imagination, as no other Poet could have painted
those Scenes in more strong and lively Colours.


[Footnote 1: [a Thousand]]

[Footnote 2: [that]]

* * * * *

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* * * * *

No. 418. Monday, June 30, 1712. Addison.

' - ferat et rubus asper amomum.'


The Pleasures of these Secondary Views of the Imagination, are of a
wider and more Universal Nature than those it has when joined with
Sight; for not only what is Great, Strange or Beautiful, but any Thing
that is Disagreeable when looked upon, pleases us in an apt Description.
Here, therefore, we must enquire after a new Principle of Pleasure,
which is nothing else but the Action of the Mind, which _compares_ the
Ideas that arise from Words, with the Ideas that arise from the Objects
themselves; and why this Operation of the Mind is attended with so much
Pleasure, we have before considered. For this Reason therefore, the
Description of a Dunghill is pleasing to the Imagination, if the Image
be represented to our Minds by suitable Expressions; tho' perhaps, this
may be more properly called the Pleasure of the Understanding than of
the Fancy, because we are not so much delighted with the Image that is
contained in the Description, as with the Aptness of the Description to
excite the Image.

But if the Description of what is Little, Common, or Deformed, be
acceptable to the Imagination, the Description of what is Great,
Surprising or Beautiful, is much more so; because here we are not only
delighted with _comparing_ the Representation with the Original, but are
highly pleased with the Original itself. Most Readers, I believe, are
more charmed with _Milton's_ Description of Paradise, than of Hell; they
are both, perhaps, equally perfect in their Kind, but in the one the
Brimstone and Sulphur are not so refreshing to the Imagination, as the
Beds of Flowers and the Wilderness of Sweets in the other.

There is yet another Circumstance which recommends a Description more
than all the rest, and that is if it represents to us such Objects as
are apt to raise a secret Ferment in the Mind of the Reader, and to
work, with Violence, upon his Passions. For, in this Case, we are at
once warmed and enlightened, so that the Pleasure becomes more
Universal, and is several ways qualified to entertain us. Thus in
Painting, it is pleasant to look on the Picture of any Face, where the
Resemblance is hit, but the Pleasure increases, if it be the Picture of
a Face that is Beautiful, and is still greater, if the Beauty be
softened with an Air of Melancholy or Sorrow. The two leading Passions
which the more serious Parts of Poetry endeavour to stir up in us, are
Terror and Pity. And here, by the way, one would wonder how it comes to
pass, that such Passions as are very unpleasant at all other times, are
very agreeable when excited by proper Descriptions. It is not strange,
that we should take Delight in such Passions as are apt to produce Hope,
Joy, Admiration, Love, or the like Emotions in us, because they never
rise in the Mind without an inward Pleasure which attends them. But how
comes it to pass, that we should take delight in being terrified or
dejected by a Description, when we find so much Uneasiness in the Fear
or Grief [which [1]] we receive from any other Occasion?

If we consider, therefore, the Nature of this Pleasure, we shall find
that it does not arise so properly from the Description of what is
terrible, as from the Reflection we make on our selves at the time of
reading it. When we look on such hideous Objects, we are not a little
pleased to think we are in no Danger of them. We consider them at the
same time, as Dreadful and Harmless; so that the more frightful
Appearance they make, the greater is the Pleasure we receive from the
Sense of our own Safety. In short, we look upon the Terrors of a
Description, with the same Curiosity and Satisfaction that we survey a
dead Monster.

' - Informe cadaver
Protrahitur, nequeunt expleri corda tuendo
Terribiles oculos: vultum, villosaque satis
Pectora semiferi, atque extinctos faucibus ignes.'


It is for the same Reason that we are delighted with the reflecting upon
Dangers that are past, or in looking on a Precipice at a distance, which
would fill us with a different kind of Horror, if we saw it hanging over
our Heads.

In the like manner, when we read of Torments, Wounds, Deaths, and the
like dismal Accidents, our Pleasure does not flow so properly from the
Grief which such melancholy Descriptions give us, as from the secret
Comparison which we make between our selves and the Person [who [2]]
suffers. Such Representations teach us to set a just Value upon our own
Condition, and make us prize our good Fortune, which exempts us from the
like Calamities. This is, however, such a kind of Pleasure as we are not
capable of receiving, when we see a Person actually lying under the
Tortures that we meet with in a Description; because in this case, the
Object presses too close upon our Senses, and bears so hard upon us,
that it does not give us Time or Leisure to reflect on our selves. Our
Thoughts are so intent upon the Miseries of the Sufferer, that we cannot
turn them upon our own Happiness. Whereas, on the contrary, we consider
the Misfortunes we read in History or Poetry, either as past, or as
fictitious, so that the Reflection upon our selves rises in us
insensibly, and over-bears the Sorrow we conceive for the Sufferings of
the Afflicted.

But because the Mind of Man requires something more perfect in Matter,
than what it finds there, and can never meet with any Sight in Nature
which sufficiently answers its highest Ideas of Pleasantness; or, in
other Words, because the Imagination can fancy to it self Things more
Great, Strange, or Beautiful, than the Eye ever saw, and is still
sensible of some Defect in what it has seen; on this account it is the
part of a Poet to humour the Imagination in its own Notions, by mending
and perfecting Nature where he describes a Reality, and by adding
greater Beauties than are put together in Nature, where he describes a

He is not obliged to attend her in the slow Advances which she makes

Online LibraryRichard SteeleThe Spectator, Volumes 1, 2 and 3 With Translations and Index for the Series → online text (page 150 of 228)