Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

bific agent as very limited in its operations; it may, for instance, be capable of adding to the vividness of pleasurable feelings, and consequently of depressing painful ones; or, vice versa, of exciting painful feelings and depressing pleasurable ones. But, as long as moral agents are paramount in their vivifying influence to such as are adventitious or morbific, it must always happen, that those feelings which may be connected with a definite occasion of moral excitement will be rendered more disproportionally vivid than others of similar quality, whether pleasurable or painful, which may be unconnected with the same moral occasion. A good general illustration of this effect is afforded by Burton, when speaking of patients whose temper and pursuits are evidently frivolous, but all of which

may

be so acted upon by morbific causes as to be rendered pre-eminently vivid. Patients of this kind “vary,” says Burton, “ upon every object heard or seen. If they see a stage-play, they run upon that a week after; if they hear music or see dancing, they have nought but bagpipes in their brains; if they see a combat, they are all for arms; if abused, an abuse troubles them long after ; if crossed, they cross. Restless in thoughts, and continually meditating. More like dreamers than men awake; they wake as others dream, and such, for the most part, are their imaginations and conceits ; absurd, vain, foolish toys, yet they are most curious and solicitous continually. As serious in a toy as it were a most necessary

business of great moment, and still thinking of it. Though they do talk with you, and seem to be otherwise employed, and to your thinking very intent and busy,

still that toy runs in their mind, that fear, that suspicion, that abuse, that vexation, that castle in the air, that pleasant walking dream, whatever it is.”

I shall likewise, on this occasion, repeat the remark which I made, that when Hope and Fear act on the mind without the co-operation of any morbific excitement, the tendency of these emotions is to render more vivid all the feelings of the mind that are actually connected with the moral occasion which gave

irth to them, and to reduce to as opposite a state of faintness all feelings of the mind that fail in being connected with the same moral occasion. Owing, then, to this principle, which no morbific agent is capable of resisting, it is impossible that any quality of sensations and ideas, pleasurable or painful, can be excited or depressed with the least degree of uniformity.

I shall now illustrate this law by that passion which forms the chief theme of poets. In this instance, every idea of the object of the lover's hopes is unduly vivified, while every other object, particularly if it be ungrateful to the mind, appears to fade from the recollection. But no one has better described this effect than Dryden, in the truly affecting and natural strain of verse which he has put into the mouth of a heroine of one of his dramas :

" I am not what I was since yesterday ;
My food forsakes me, and my needful rest :
I pine, I languish, love to be alone,
Think much, speak little, and, in speaking, sigh :
When I see Torrismond, I am unquiet ;
And when I see him not I am in pain.

They brought a paper to me to be sign'd ;
Thinking on him, I quite forgot my name,
And writ, for Leonora, Torrismond.
I went to bed, and to myself I thought
That I would think on Torrismond no more ;
Then shut my eyes, but could not shut out him.
I turn'd, and tried each corner of my bed,
To find if sleep was there ; but sleep was lost :
Fev'rish for want of rest, I rose and walk'd,
And by the moonshine to the windows went;
There, thinking to exclude him from my thoughts,
I cast my eyes upon the neighb'ring fields,
And, ere I was aware, sigh’d to myself,
There fought my Torrismond.”

With this illustration before us, (faithfully copied from nature, as most of my readers will, I think, admit,) it is easy to foresee the effect which must arise, when the vividness of a strong affection is increased by morbific causes of excitement. A young man,” says Pinel,“ who had lost his reason amid the pangs of disappointed love, was influenced by so powerful an illusion, that he mistook every female visitor for his Mary Adelina, the object of his unfortunate attachment.”+

But this investigation becomes of considerable moment, when we reflect upon the permanent effects which

may

result from the paramount influence of moral laws, when viewed in connexion with the subordinate, yet co-operating, influence of morbific excite

Spanish Fryer. + Pinel on Insanity, translation by Dr Davis, page 144.

ments. Pinel has stated, that, out of one hundred and thirteen lunatic patients, the exciting causes of thirty-four of them might be traced to domestic misfortunes. Twenty-four had met with matrimonial obstacles, thirty had suffered from political events occasioned by the revolution, and twenty-five were disturbed by religious fanaticism.

These are all the remarks I have to offer on the cooperation of morbific and moral agents in their influ. ence on the states of the mind. We are, therefore, I trust, entitled to expect, that when any quality of mental feelings, pleasurable or painful, is subjected to a vivifying action, an uniformity of excitement is by no means to be expected, and that the most intense ideas which may give rise to spectral illusions will be often found attributable to the predominant vivifying action of moral causes. But of this fact I shall now adduce several remarkable

ILLUSTRATIONS.

In the first place, the force of the sexual and parental ties will be often indicated by the subject of these visions. “ When I accidentally fell into the sea," says a writer on the phantasms, to which he was subject from disease, “and, after swimming a certain time without assistance, began to despair of my situation, the image of my dwelling, and the accustomed objects, appeared with a degree of vividness little dif. fering from that of actual vision. Mr Stuart, M. P. when greatly in danger some years ago, by being

wrecked in a boat on the Eddystone rocks, relates, in an account which appeared in the papers, that his family appeared to him in this extremity. He thought he saw them.'

A vision of the same general character (though some little doubt may be expressed whether it was not a dream) occurred to Ben Jonson. But it is probable that, in this case, the poet's mental excitement had resulted from a plethoric state of the system, the consequence of too generous a diet, which had cooperated with parental anxiety for the safety of a son, whom he had left exposed to a contagious fever raging at the time in London. Drummond was told by Jonson, “ that when the King came to England, about the time that the plague was in London, he, being in the country at Sir Robert Cotton's house with old Cambden, saw in a vision his eldest son, then a young child and at London, appear unto him with the mark of blood upon his forehead, as if it had been with a sword, at which, amazed, he prayed unto God, and in the morning he came unto Mr Cambden's chamber to tell him, who persuaded him it was but an apprehension, at which he should not be dejected. In the meantime, there came letters from his wife of the death of that boy in the plague. He appeared to him, he said, of a manly shape, and of that growth, he thinks, he shall be at the resurrection.”

Many other narratives, exhibiting indications of a similar excitement of feelings, may be found in various biographies, where they have only found a place, be

* Nicholson's Journal, vol. xv. p. 295.

« AnteriorContinuar »