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LECTURE XXXVII.

OF NEARNESS IN PLACE OR TIME, AS MODIFYING SUGGESTION-SECONDARY LAWS OF SUGGESTION.

GENTLEMEN, the influence of the direct resemblances of objects, on the suggestions which constitute our trains of thought, having been considered by us in a former Lecture, I proceeded, in my last Lecture, to point out and illustrate the influence of another species of resemblance, which is not in the objects themselves, but in the mere signs that express them. As similar forms and colours suggest similar forms and colours, so do similar words mutually suggest each other; and the words, thus suggested, exciting the corresponding conceptions of which they are significant, a new train of thought may thus be introduced, by the mere arbitrary resemblance of one symbolic sound to another. This influence of mere sounds in modifying suggestion, though, from circumstances which I pointed out, unremarked by us in many cases in which its influence is, probably, very powerful, is too striking in some cases not to force our attention. I availed myself, therefore, chiefly of these more striking cases, illustrating it particularly by the examples of puns and rhymes, and alliteration; and endeavouring at the same time to show you how exactly the principles of taste, in reference to these, as pleasing or unpleasing, have regard to their accordance, or obvious unaccordance, with the natural order of spontaneous suggestion.

I then proceeded to consider the influence of contrast on the tendencies of suggestion,-illustrating this by various examples, and pointing out to you, particularly, some moral advantages, of which I conceived these rapid transitions of thought to be productive-advantages, not more important to our virtue than to our serenity in happiness, and to our comfort in sorrow.

I proceed, now, to the consideration of nearness in place or time,—the next general circumstance which I pointed out as modifying suggestion.

Of all the general principles of connexion in the trains of our thought, this is evidently the most frequent and extensive in its operation; even when we confine our attention to its grosser and more obvious forms, without attempting, by any very refined analysis, to reduce to it any of the other tribes of our suggestions. The gross and obvious nearness in place or time, of which alone I speak, when I use Mr. Hume's phrase of contiguity, forms the whole calendar of the great multitude of mankind, who pay little attention to the arbitrary eras of chronology, but date events by each other, and speak of what happened in the time of some persecution, or rebellion, or great war, or frost, or famine. Even with those who are more accustomed to use, on great occasions, the stricter dates of months and years, this association of events, as near to each other, forms the great bond for uniting in the memory those multitudes of scattered facts, which form the whole history of domestic life, and which it would have been impossible to remember by their separate relation to some insulated point of time. It is the same with nearness in place. To think of one part of a familiar landscape, is to recall the whole. The hill, the grove, the church, the river, the bridge, and all the walks which lead to them rise before us in immediate succession. On this species of VOL. I.

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local relation chiefly, have been founded those systems of artificial memory, which at different periods have been submitted to the world, and which, whatever perfections or imperfections they may possess in other respects, certainly demonstrate very powerfully, by the facilities of remembrance which they afford, the influence that is exercised by mere order in place, on the trains of our suggestion. From neighbouring place to place, our thoughts wander readily, with a sort of untaught geography; and, but for this connecting principle, not even the labours of the longest life could have fixed in our mind the simple knowledge of that science. If the idea of the river Nile had been as quick to arise on our conception of Greenland as on that of Egypt; and the Pyrenees, instead of suggesting the conterminous countries of France and Spain, had suggested to us equally at random, China and New Holland, and Lapland and Morocco, it is evident that, however intently and frequently we might have traced on our maps every boundary of every province of every nation on our globe, all would have been, in our mind, one mingled chaos of cities and streams and mountains. Every physical science would have been in like manner beyond our reach; since all are founded on the suggestion of the common antecedent events, together with their common consequents, in their regular order of proximity. The most powerful illustration, however, of the influence of co-existence or proximity in associating ideas, is the command acquired by the weak infant mind over all the complicated machinery of language. The thing signified recalls the sign, and conversely the sign the thing signified, because both have been repeatedly at the same moment presented to the senses; and though it would be too much to say, with the Emperor Charles the Fifth, that a man is as many times a man as he has acquired different languages, we may still say, with great truth, that we should scarcely have been men at all, if we had not possessed the power of acquiring at least one language.

What a striking picture of this local connexion of feelings, is presented by the state of Europe, at the time of the Crusades!

"Banditti saints disturbing distant lands,

And unknown nations wandering for a home."*

What was the interest which then roused, and led for the first time to one great general object, so many warring tribes, who had till then never thought of each other but with mutual animosity, and which brought forward the feudal slave with his feudal tyrant, not, as before, to be his blind and devoted instrument of vengeance or rapacity, but to share with perfect equality the same common passion with his lord?

It certainly was not the rescue of a few rocks or plains from the offspring of the invaders who had subdued them-it was for the delivery of that land to which local conceptions associated with it gave a value that could not be measured with any calculations of wealth, or people, or territory;-for that land, which, trod by prophets, and consecrated by the display of the power, and the sufferings of the great Being whom they worshipped as the founder of their faith, presented in almost every step the vestige of a miracle. The belief of wonders, which were said to be still performed there, might concur to raise the importance of the holy sepulchre, and to augment the general devotion,-if, indeed, this very belief itself was not, in its origin, referable to

* Thomson's Poems-Liberty, Part IV. v. 86, 87.

the same cause which gave interest to the scene, being only another form of that lively emotion which must have been felt by those who visited it, and who thought of him whom the sepulchre had enclosed, and of the miracles which he had wrought. The sepulchre itself was thus, as it were, mingled with the very image of its divine tenant; and it was only a natural result of the influence of this contiguity, that the wonder-working power which was known to have been exercised by the one, should have been felt as in some measure a part of the other. The very ardour of emotion, which could not fail to be excited on the first visit to such a spot, would aid this illusion; as it would seem like a sudden inspiration from that awful presence, which in the liveliness of the conception excited, was felt as if still hovering around the place. To think of the presence of that Being, however, was to recognise the power by which miracles were actually performed; and with such an impression, it was scarcely possible to return from the pilgrimage, without the belief of a sort of holiness derived from it; as if nothing could be impure which had come from the presence of its God.

After this statement and illustration of various relations, by which, without the renewal of perception, the mere conception of one object is sufficient to awaken the conception of many others that are said to be associated with it, an inquiry very naturally presents itself, which yet seems to have been unaccountably neglected by philosophers. If there be various relations, according to which these parts of our trains of thought may succeed each other,—if the sight of a picture, for example, can recall to me the person whom it resembles, the artist who painted it, the friend who presented it to me, the room in which it formerly was hung, the series of portraits of which it then formed a part, and perhaps many circumstances and events that have been accidentally connected with it,-why does it suggest one of these conceptions rather than the others? The variety of the suggestion is surely sufficient to show, that the laws of suggestion, as a principle of the mind, are not confined merely to the relations of the successive feelings, in which case the suggestion would be uniform, but that, though these may be considered as primary laws, there must be some other circumstances which modify their peculiar influence at different times, and in different persons, and which may therefore be denominated secondary laws of suggestion. To the investigation of the secondary laws, then, as not less important than the primary, I next proceed.

After the remarks which I have already frequently made on this subject, I trust it is now unnecessary for me to repeat, that the term laws, as employed in the physics, whether of matter or of mind, is not used to denote any thing different from the phenomena themselves, that, in short, it means nothing more than certain circumstances of general agreement in any number of phenomena. When Mr. Hume reduced to the three orders of resemblance, contiguity, and causation, the relations on which he believed association to depend, he considered himself as stating only facts which were before familiar to every one, and did state only facts that were perfectly familiar. In like manner, when I reduce under a few heads those modifying circumstances, which seem to me as secondary laws, to guide, in every particular case, the momentary direction of the primary, my object is not to discover facts that are new, or little observed, but to arrange facts that, separately, are well known.

The first circumstance which presents itself, as modifying the influence

of the primary laws, in inducing one associate conception rather than another, is the length of time during which the original feelings from which they flowed, continued, when they co-existed, or succeeded each other. Every one must be conscious, that innumerable objects pass before him, which are slightly observed at the time, but which form no permanent associations in the mind. The longer we dwell on objects, the more fully do we rely on our future remembrance of them.

In the second place, the parts of a train appear to be more closely and firmly associated, as the original feelings have been more lively. We remember brilliant objects, more than those which are faint and obscure. We remember for our whole life-time, the occasions of great joy or sorrow; we forget the occasions of innumerable slight pleasures or pains, which occur to us every hour. That strong feeling of interest and curiosity, which we call attention, not only leads us to dwell longer on the consideration of certain objects, but also gives more vivacity to the objects on which we dwell,— and in both these ways tend, as we have seen, to fix them more strongly in the mind.

In the third place, the parts of any train are more readily suggested, in proportion as they have been more frequently renewed. It is thus, we remember, after reading them three or four times over, the verses which we could not repeat when we had read them only once.

In the fourth place, the feelings are connected more strongly in proportion as they are more or less recent. Immediately after reading any single line of poetry, we are able to repeat it, though we may have paid no particular attention to it ;-in a very few minutes, unless when we have paid particular attention to it, we are no longer able to repeat it accurately-and in a very short time we forget it altogether. There is, indeed, one very striking exception to this law, in the case of old age: for events, which happened in youth, are then remembered, when events of the year preceding are forgotten. Yet, even in the case of extreme age,-when the time is not extended so far back,-the general law still holds; and events, which happened a few hours before, are remembered, when there is total forgetfulness of what happened a few days before.

In the fifth place, our successive feelings are associated more closely, as each has co-existed less with other feelings. The song, which we have never heard but from one person, can scarcely be heard again by us, without recalling that person to our memory; but there is obviously much less chance of this particular suggestion, if we have heard the same air and words frequently sung by others.

In the sixth place, the influence of the primary laws of suggestion is greatly modified by original constitutional differences, whether these are to be referred to the mind itself, or to varieties of bodily temperament. Such constitutional differences affect the primary laws in two ways,-first, by augmenting and extending the influence of all of them, as in the varieties of the general power of remembering, so observable in different individuals. Secondly, they modify the influence of the primary laws, by giving greater proportional vigour to one set of tendencies of suggestion than to another. It is in this modification of the suggesting principle, and the peculiar suggestions to which it gives rise, that I conceive the chief part, or I may say, the whole of what is truly called genius, to consist. We have already seen, that the primary tendencies of suggestion are of various species, some, for

example, arising from mere analogy, others from direct contiguity or nearness in time or place of the very objects themselves, and it is this difference of the prevailing tendency, as to these two species of suggestions, which I conceive to constitute all that is inventive in genius ;-invention consisting in the suggestions of analogy, as opposed to the suggestions of grosser contiguity.

In the mind of one poet, for example, the conception of his subject awakens only such images, as he had previously seen combined with it in the works of others; and he is thus fated, by his narrow and unvarying range of suggestion, only to add another name to the eternal list of imitators. In a poetic mind of a higher order, the conception of this very subject cannot exist for a moment, without awakening, by the different tendency of the suggesting principle, groups of images which never before had existed in similar combination; and instead of being an imitator, he becomes a great model for the imitation of others. The prevailing suggestions of the one, in his trains of thought, are according to the relation of analogy, which is almost infinite; the prevailing suggestions of the other are those of contiguity of the images themselves, which, by its very nature, admits of no novelty, and gives only transcripts of the past. To tame down original genius, therefore, to mere imitation, and to raise the imitator to some rank of genius, it would be necessary only to reverse these simple tendencies. The fancy of the one would then, in the suggestions of mere contiguity, lose all that variety which had distinguished it, and would present only such combinations of images, as had before occurred to it, in similar order, in the works of former writers;-the fancy of the other, on acquiring the peculiar tendency to suggestions of analogy, would become instantly creative,-new forms of external beauty, or of internal passion, would crowd upon his mind, by their analogy to ideas and feelings previously existing; and this single change of the direction of the suggesting principle would be sufficient to produce all those wonders, which the poet of imagination ascribes to the influence of inspiring genii,—

"who conduct

The wandering footsteps of the youthful bard

New to their springs and shades; who touch his ear
With finer sounds; who heighten to his eye
The bloom of nature; and before him turn
The gayest, happiest attitudes,t of things."t

Even in all those "thoughts that breathe, and words that burn," and those boundless stores of imagery, which a great poet lavishes with magnificent profusion, there is probably not a single image which has not been an object of our own perception, and therefore capable of being again awakened in our mind, in conformity with the primary laws of suggestion; nay, there is perhaps not a single image which has not repeatedly been thus awakened in our mind. It is not, therefore, in consequence of any more copious store of images, that an original poet is enabled to group them in more beautiful variety, since the forms which he combines are stored in the memory of all, and are common to him with the dullest versifier; nor is it from any superior tenacity of general memory, that they rise more readily to his imagination. They might rise to both minds, and they do rise to both minds, Your, Orig. + Attitude, Orig. + Pleasures of Imagination, Book 1. v. 5257.

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