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The Subject of Imagination refumed. Some Directions for the Regulation of it.

T was formerly remarked, that upon affociations, formed by accident, and established by custom, many of the pains and pleasures of life depend. It may now be affirmed, in more comprehenfive terms, that our happiness is peculiarly affected by whatever affects Imagination; and that, therefore, the right government of this faculty must be a matter of the greatest importance to all men. Some rules were propofed, for preventing thofe perverfe affociations, that disturb the tranquility of mankind, by making them fuperftitious with regard to dreams, omens, ghofts, and the like. I fhall now offer a few directions. of a more general nature, which may be of use for the further regulation of this capricious fa. cuity.

The Imagination ftands most in need of reftraint, when it runs into one or other of the opposite extremes of Levity, and Melancholy. The fit is incident to youth; the fecond, to manhood and old age. The latter is more fatal to happinefs than the former; but both are attended with much evil.

I. Those

I. Those minds, which are most in danger from Levity of Imagination, are of a joyous or fanguine temperature, with a great fhare of vanity, and apt on all occafions to amufe themselves with the hope of fuccefs, and of higher felicity, than men have reafon to look for in this world. They are the dupes of the flatterer; and misinterpret common civilities for compliments paid to their fuperiour merit. Hiftory, philofophy, and fimple nature fuit not their tafte: but thofe romances they greedily devour, which contain delufive pictures of happinefs, or incredible exaggerations of calamity. They form a thousand fchemes of conduct, few of which can be reduced to practice; and look down with contempt on thofe plodding mortals, who, having only good fenfe to guide them, and difclaiming all extravagant hopes, aim at nothing beyond the common pursuits of life.

As a perfon of this character is generally happy, at least for a time, in his own folly, it may feem impertinent to endeavour to lay before him. leffons of wisdom. For thefe, if they have any good effect at all, muft depreciate him in his own eyes, and fo deprive him of many an exquifite gratification. Yet, when it is confidered, that fuch levity feldom fails, fooner or later, to make him contemptible; expofes him to difappointments, the more fevere, because unforefeen; diffipates, in an endless variety of idle fchemes, thofe talents, which, if properly directed, might have been of use; and often, by cherishing pride, betrays him into fuch behaviour towards others, as may justly provoke their diflike :—when, I fay, we confider, that thefe and other evils may flow


from this levity, it will be thought, not cruelty, but kindness, to propofe a cure for it.

The cure may be prefumed to be in fome forwardness, when you have instilled into the pȧtient a love of nature, and of truth. With this view, let him ftudy geometry, and hiftory, and thofe parts and fyftems of philofophy, which recommend benevolence, and a lowly mind, and lead to the obfervation of life and manners. Flatterers and romances must be banished for ever; or, if any of the laft are to be tolerated, let them be fuch, as paint the pursuits and fortunes of mankind with fimplicity and truth, and have no tendency to inflame appetite, or encourage wild expectation. The importance of mechanick arts to the publick weal; and how refpectable even in the lowest rank are honesty and industry; and what wretchedness must ever attend the efforts of fantaftick ambition; are topicks, that cannot be too earnestly inculcated.

It will be a lucky circumftance, if he often fall into the company of thofe, who are wifer than himself: for, in this cafe, if he be not entirely blinded by felf-conceit, he must form comparifons, which will at once mortify his vanity, and teach him to have a due respect for other men. But, if he keep aloof from fuch companions, and prefer the fociety of his inferiours and admirers, (which is a common symptom of that mental difeafe whereof I fpeak) there is scarce any hope of his amendment; his admiration of himfelf, and contempt for the reft of the world, will harden into fuch a habit, as adverfity itfelf will scarce have power to unfettle. Adverfity is indeed a fevere monitor: but no other is fo ef


fectual in promoting that knowledge of one's felf, which is the parent of humility; or that fellowfeeling of the infirmities of other men, which melts the heart into forbearance and goodwill, and restrains the fallies of intemperate paffion, and the flights of unruly fancy.

The habit of turning every thing into joke and ridicule, is another dangerous levity of imagination. It is fo far allied to the former, as to derive its origin from vanity; for no man will perfift in it, who has not a very high opinion of his own talents.

Cicero well obferves, that "man feems to "have been destined rather for ferious than for "ludicrous purpofes. Sport," fays he, "and jo"cularity are indeed allowable, like fleep, and "other relaxations; but it is only after we have

discharged our duty in matters of importСС ance." Wit and humour, when natural, are entertaining and useful: they enliven converfatio., and endear human creatures to one another; and are often of fingular advantage in discountenancing vice and folly and he who has a genius in this way needs not take pains to fhow it, for it will break out of its own accord. But they, who are continually aiming at wit, and think by fo doing to render themselves acceptable to every company, little know, how often their pleafantry gives offence; and that the smile, which they look for, and perhaps obtain, is more frequently owing to complaifance, than to approbation. In fact, nothing is more teasing than

De Off. lib. i. cap. 29.


impertinent jocularity: and few artifices are fooner detected, or more heartily defpifed, than theirs are, who endeavour to pafs upon us for natural, that wit, which is the effect of recollection and study.

A parody of a fhort poem is often amusing: but one's mind must be in fome degree perverted, before one can, without general diffatisfaction, and frequent fits of difguft, go through the whole of Scarron's, or even the two books of Cotton's, Virgil Travefti. And the impreffion that fuch things, when long continued, leave on the mind, is by no means defirable. To fee wit mifemployed, and what is fublime, or inftructive, degraded or mifreprefented, not in a flight effort of gayety, but with perfeverance and toil, fuggefts the idea, rather of malice, than of playfulnefs. It might raife a good-humoured fimile, to clap a hat and wig, for a moment, on the buft of Socrates or Cicero: but if a ftatuary were to labour a year, in preparing fuch implements of inarble, with a view to fix them on thofe venerable brows, we fhould hardly pay any compliment either to his heart, or to his fancy.-Befides, parodies, when far profecuted, are never free from indecency: and if he, who at any time affumes the character of a buffoon, does not fpeedily lay it afide, his conduct is in danger of becoming immoral, as well as incongruous.

Another evil, refulting, as a natural confequence, from this levity of mind, is the profanation of things facred. The habitual joker fpares nothing. The phrafeology of Scripture, and the doctrines of religion, ferve him occafionally as funds of merriment: which not only de

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