« PreviousContinue »
fess the weakness of that very instrument, with which he has wrought so many triumphs? No man could have illustrated the subject more happily. He too, with his rare union of penetration and philosophical devotion, might have pointed out, with perhaps unrivalled felicity, what consolations mankind still possess in the absence of an infallible and convincing test of true reasoning, and what limits the Almighty himself has drawn for our safety in the very constitution of our minds, when he placed us in this dark, agitated, and doubtful state.
Perpaps an interesting sketch of the various orders of intellects might be taken in connexion with Dr Brown's views, and classifications of the simple and relative suggestions. A mind, for instance, which has a peculiar tendency to feel the relation of comprehension between any whole subject and all its possible parts or properties, is happily adapted, according to the theory just given, to logic, reasoning, and demonstration in general. If the tendency of a mind be to feel the relation of proportion, though with some subtlety this relation may be reduced to the former, its inclination is to mathematical demonstration. If it be chiefly inclined to perceive the relation of resemblance or difference, it deals in the generalizations of philosophy or in the distinctions of wit. If its habit be to look for the relation of degree, or comparison, it will be likely to excel in exquisite taste and judgment. If its leading tendency be to feel only the relation of position, it is of an humbler order. There are a few minds, which seem to be blessed with equal and decided capacities for all these five relative suggestions; and if the same minds also are gifted with tendencies towards the higher order of simple suggestions, that is to say, the suggestions of analogy, before dwelt upon, which will almost infinitely multiply the resources of new conceptions among which relations are to be felt; and if also their simple suggestions of proximity in place or time be unusually abundant, meaning thereby, apart from the author's nomenclature, only a strong and ready memory,-on such minds nature has conferred a high, singular, and enviable preeminence. Of course the infinite diversities among different minds will follow the corresponding distributions, which nature or circum stances may make of the foregoing tendencies, modified also, be it observed, by the secondary laws of suggestion already enumerated.
Dr Brown skilfully overthrows the thrice slain syllogistic system, robbing it even of the little reputation it still possessed as a mode of communicating knowledge. He shows that it is in this light, if possible, still more defective than as a mode of acquiring it.
Besides the Relations of Coexistence, the five classes of which have been now considered, there is one more order, which involves the notion of time, or priority and subsequence, and these the author denominates Relations of Succession. These are of two classes. They are relations either of casual, or of invariable antecedence or consequence; and we distinguish these as clearly in our thought, as we distinguish any other two relations. We speak of events which happened after other events, as mere dates in chronology. We speak of other events, as the effects of events or circumstances that preceded them. The relations of invariable antecedence and consequence, in distinction from merely casual antecedence and consequence, is this relation of causes and effects.' Our notions of the fitness or unfitness of objects to produce certain results are ascribed by the author to our Relative Suggestions of Succession. All practical science is the knowledge of these aptitudes of things in their various circumstances of combination, as every art is the employment of them, in conformity with this knowledge, with a view to those future changes, which they tend to produce in all the different circumstances in which objects can be placed. To know how to add any enjoyment to life, or how to lessen any of its evils, is nothing more in any case, than to know the relation which objects bear to each other, as antecedent and consequent, some form of that particular relation, which we are considering.'
The faculty of Taste the author analyses into two separate elements, one of which he refers to this feeling of the Relation of Succession. One of these elements is the existence of certain emotions of admiration or disgust, that arise in the mind at the perception of various objects in nature and art. The other element, which involves the feeling of the Relation of Succession, is the knowledge of the particular forms, colors, sounds, or conceptions, that are most likely to be followed by
The last specimen of Dr Brown's analytical achievements, which we shall now present, is his explanation of Abstraction, a faculty by which we are supposed to be capable of separating in our thought certain parts of our complex notions, and of considering them thus abstracted from the rest. But the whole mystery of this supposed faculty is nothing more, than the perception of the relation of resemblance between two or more objects in certain common properties, without voluntarily or even consciously separating or regarding those other properties in which the objects are unlike. If we are capable of perceiving a resemblance of some sort, when we look at a swan and on snow, why should we be astonished, he asks, that we have invented the word whiteness, to signify the common circumstance of resemblance? Or why should we have recourse for this feeling of whiteness itself to any mysterious capacity of the mind, but that which evolves to us the similarity which we are acknowledged to be capable of feeling? Thus dissolves the last horrida crux, that has tormented so many metaphysical as well as unmetaphysical inquirers.
We have now exhibited Dr Brown's outlines of the External Affections of the Mind, and its purely Intellectual States; two out of the three leading Divisions into which he distributes all our mental states or feelings. His peculiar and prominent claims to originality may be suggested in one word, by mentioning his exhibition of the predominant share of influence, which the Muscular System exerts in the first class of feelings, and his analytical reduction of the whole of the second class to Simple Suggestions and Felt Relations.
We reserve for another occasion an examination of the author's more popular and tractable third grand division of our mental states, namely, the Emotions; together with his speculations on Ethics and Natural Theology.
1. C. Bryant.
ART. II.-1. The Ruins of Pæstum ; and other Compositions in Verse. 8vo. pp. 128. Salem, 1822. Cushing & Appleton.
2. Athens, and other Poems. of Pæstum. 8vo. pp. 84. Appleton.
By the Author of the Ruins
As the book, which bears the first of these titles, made its appearance two years ago, we are not sure that we do not owe our readers an apology for not having noticed it earlier. We should ill fulfil the task we have undertaken, were we to neglect the principal works of this kind, which are published in our own country. We might also obtain credit for sterner natures than we really possess, were we not occasionally won upon to pause amidst our severer labors, and notice those early blossoms, which the spring time of our literature is throwing out along our path. It is, certainly, no uninteresting or unphilosophical speculation to watch the progress of our poetry, and see it gradually assuming a character of its own.
We have read this volume with pleasure and interest. In addition to that strong sense of natural beauty, without which no man can be a poet, there is shown throughout a vein of true pathos, without which the most splendid poetry soon. grows tiresome. The sentiments are often fine and striking; always just, noble, and generous. With these qualities is associated a deep, natural, and unaffected admiration of whatever great and excellent the genius of man has produced in the fine arts. The remains of antiquity; the wonders of architecture and sculpture, which are left as the vestiges of a mighty race, that has long passed away; the works of modern masters, and the productions of contemporary talent, are alike the objects of this warm and liberal enthusiasm. Where so many of the elements of poetry are present, we cannot but regret that any cause should mar, in the slightest degree, that perfection and harmony into which they should mingle. We are at the same time glad to see, that if any such cause exists, it is one which the author may easily remove. A little of the lima labor, a stricter attention to the niceties of poetical diction, and a more painful revision of weak passages, would do much towards freeing the poetry of our author
All readers of
from the imperfections to which we allude. poetry know how much of its excellence lies in the language; how much of the strength and distinctness of the impression depends upon the way in which it is communicated. There are expressions, which act like a spell upon the imagination and the passions, when the same general idea, conveyed in other combinations of words, shall leave the imagination ungratified and the heart unaffected.
The defect of which we now speak is most perceptible in the author's narrative poems. He seems, if we may judge from the style of these pieces, to have read one of the most delightful and fascinating of the English poets, the author of the Seasons, with all that attention which his beautiful pictures of nature, and fine touches of sentiment, justly deserve; but, at the same time, he has contracted something of his diffuse, inverted diction, and foreign idiom. Of all styles in the world this is least adapted to narration. There is, perhaps, as much truth in the following maxim of Boileau, as in any general rule of criticism ever laid down.
Soyez vif et pressé dans vos narrations.
The general effect of any narrative is made up of a multitude of particular impressions on the mind, resulting from the particular incidents related. It is the business of the author to see that these impressions succeed each other in such a manner, that the new one shall be made before the last is effaced, and that each shall contribute to heighten and help forward those that follow. Whatever tends to weaken these impressions, whatever withdraws the attention from the particular incidents, diminishes the main interest of the narrative. An inverted style, by occupying the reader with the search of a meaning, and a diffuse style, by wasting his attention on epithets and expletives, which add nothing to the progress of the story, tend of course to distract the attention and impair the general effect. An elaborate magnificence of diction, overlaying the merely narrative parts of a poem, is like a load of costly drapery about the limbs of a competitor in the foot race.
The author, in one of the notes to his work, ingenuously acknowledges, that the greatest part of the volume was hastily composed. We could find it in our hearts to blame him