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spectively significant, it will follow, that when a child catches, by imitation and sympathy, the smile or the frown of its mother, the corresponding emotions will necessarily arise, in some degree, in its own breast; and will give a pathetic effect to these natural and visible signs of her tenderness or displeasure, for which the theories of Hartley and Priestley do not even attempt to account. Incipe, parve puer, RISU cognoscere matrem. That this suggestion goes at once to the bottom of the difficulty, I am far from apprehending; but I am inclined to believe, that it will not be altogether useless to those who may undertake the task of subjecting this very curious and hitherto unexamined part of the human frame to an accurate analysis.
of certain Phenomena which seem to be resolvable, in part, into the foregoing
THE contagious nature of convulsions, of hysteric disorders, of panics, and of all the different kinds of enthusiasm, is commonly referred by medical writers to the
* It seems strange to me, that commentators should, from the earliest times, have been so much divided in opinion about the meaning of this passage ; as, in point of poetical beauty, there can be no comparison between the two interpretations. It is still more strange, that Dryden should have given the preference to that which one would have thought his good taste would at once have rejected. But he had high authorities in his favor; and with all his transcendant merits as a poet, he seems to have had little relish for the tender and pathetic. His version is as follows:
“Begin, auspicious boy, to cast about
Thy infant eyes, and, with a smile, thy mother single out.” The sequel of the passage, (which he has also mistranslated,) might have convinced him of his mistake.
“ Incipe parve puer : cui non risere parentes,
Non Deus hunc mensâ, Dea nec dignata cubili est.” Which Dryden renders thus :
" Then smile; the frowning infant’s doom is read,
No god shall crown the board, nor goddess bless the bed." On this subject see Heyne's Virgil.
† In a general view which I have elsewhere given (see Dissertation prefixed to the Supplement to the Encyclopædia Britannica, Part I. p. 50,) of Lord Bacon's contributions to the Philosophy of the Human Mind, I have taken notice of the attention he had bestowed on that particular class of phenomena to which this Section relates. The reader will forgive me for transcribing the following paragraphs, as proofs of the VOL. III.
principle of Imitation ; and it seems, indeed, to have a very intimate connexion with that part of our constitution. Among these various phenomena, however, there are some which depend also on a combination of very powerful causes of another description ;-on the influence, for example, of Imagination, and of those passions
prophetic sagacity with which he had anticipated the future course of philosophical inquiry in metaphysical as well as in physical science.
“In considering Imagination as connected with the nervous system, more particularly as connected with that species of sympathy to which medical writers have given the name of imitation, Lord Bacon has suggested some very important hints, which none of his successors have hitherto prosecuted; and has, at the same time, left an example of cautious inquiry, worthy to be studied by all who may attempt to investigate the laws regulating the union between mind and body.
“ To this branch of the Philosophy of Mind, Bacon gives the title of Doctrina de fædere, sive de communi vinculo animæ et corporis, (De Aug. Scient. Lib. iv. cap. 1.) Under this article, he mentions, among other desiderata, an inquiry (which he recommends to physicians) concerning the influence of imagination over the body. His own words are very remarkable ; more particularly, the clause in which he remarks the effect of fixing and concentrating the attention, in giving to ideal objects the power of realities over the belief. • Ad aliud quippiam, quod huc pertinet, parce admodum, nec pro rei subtilitate, vel utilitate, inquisitum est; quatenus scilicet ipsa imaginatio animæ vel cogitatio perquam fixa, et veluti in fidem quandam exaltata, valeat, ad immutandum corpus imaginantis.' (Ibid.) He suggests also, as a curious problem, to ascertain how far it is possible to fortify and exalt the imagination, and by what means this may most effectually be done. The class of facts here alluded to, are manifestly of the same description with those to which the attention of philosophers has been lately called by the pretensions of Mesmer and of Perkins. Atque huic conjuncta est disquisitio, quomodo imaginatio intendi et fortificari possit? Quippe, si imaginatio fortis tantarum sit virium, operæ pretium fuerit nósse, quibus modis eam exaltari, et se ipsâ majorem fieri detur? Atque bic oblique, nec minus periculose se insinuat palliatio quædam et defensio maximæ partis Magiæ Ceremonialis.'" See what Lord Bacon has farther remarked concerning Magia Ceremonialis.-De Aug. Scient. Lib. iv. cap. 3.
Various striking passages, with respect both to Imagination and Imitation, occur in Bacon's Sylva Sylvarum. One of his remarks upon the latter subject coincides so exactly with what I have observed in p. 160, that, if it had not escaped me at the time, I would not have failed to have quoted it there, at the end of the note. I shall, therefore, though somewhat out of place, transcribe it here: Nor shall I suppress the wild hypothesis to which this great man plainly had a leaning, which would resolve the phenomena of Imitation into a transmission of spirits from one person to another. The very extravagance of this theory renders it highly worthy of notice, as it proves, indirectly indeed, but with the force of demonstration, that Bacon was fully aware of (what no succeeding inquirer seems to me to have perceived) the great, or rather the insurmountable difficulty of the problem which he was anxious to resolve. Nothing else could have led him to avail himself, on such an occasion, of a.magical transmission of spirits from body to body. “ It is a thing strange in nature, when it is attentively considered, how children and some birds learn to imitate speech. They take no mark at all of the motion of the mouth of him that speaketh ; for birds are as well taught in the dark as by light. The sounds of speech are very curious and exquisite ; so one would think it were a lesson hard to learn. It is true that it is done with time, and by little and little, and with many essays and proffers; but all this dischargeth not the wonder. It would make a man think (though this which we shall say may seem exceeding strange,) that there is some transmission of spirits ; and that the spirits of the teacher put in motion, should work with the spirits of the learner a predisposition to offer to imitate, and so to perfect the imitation by degrees. But touching operations by transmissions of spirits, (which is one of the highest secrets in nature,) we shall speak in due place; chiefly when we come to inquire of Imagination.”
which are apt to be kindled wherever men are assembled in a crowd: And therefore, to refer them all to imitation alone, implies either an error in point of theory or an unwarrantable latitude in the meaning annexed to that word. To draw the line, indeed, accurately; between the causes which, in these instances, conspire in producing the same effect, is not an easy task, nor do I mean, on the present occasion, to attempt such an analysis. It is sufficient for me to remark, in general, that although, in this chapter, I have adopted the common arrangement of physiologists, by introducing the following discussions under the title of Imitation, I would not be understood to overlook those other circumstances which may have their respective shares in producing the phenomena we are about to consider. For thus stopping short at facts, without a more diligent investigation and separation of general laws, the only apology I shall offer is the practical applications of which the facts themselves are susceptible, abstracted from all consideration of the laws to which they ought ultimately to be referred ; and my anxiety, on a subject of such peculiar importance, rather to add a little to the History of the Human Mind, than to indulge myself in speculations and conjectures of more questionable utility.
* Dr. Gregory in his philosophical and elegant work entitled “ Conspectus Medicinæ Theoreticæ," while he adopts the common language of physiologists concerning Imitation, hints very explicitly, with his usual sagacity and caution, that the various classes of phenomena referred to this principle, have only a certain degree of affinity. The whole passage well deserves to be quoted.
“ Porro, solâ Imitatione multa facimus, multa discimus. · Imitatur nondum conscius infans quicquid vel videt vel audit: et vir adultus, et suæ spontis, inscius vel forte invitus, tantum adhuc imitatur, ut hominum quibuscum versatur mores et sermonis prolationem, quamvis sæpe nolens, acquirat. Omnem sermonem infans imitando discit, aliter, ut quibusdam persuasum est philosophis, mutum et turpe pecus futurus.
“ Huic quodammodo affinis est, altera illa, subita, et vehementior Imitatio, quæ, dementiæ instar, non singulos tantum homines, sed totos populos, nonnunquam rapuit. Hac tanquam contagione, varii animi affectus tristes, læti, ridiculi, ab unius vultu per omnium pectora dimanant. Ardor pugne, et plus quam spes victoriæ, ab alacri ducis cui confidunt milites vultu, totam aciem dicto citius pervadit, et multa millia pectorum pariter accendit: iidem vero milites, victoriâ jami partâ, unius vel ignoti hominis terrore perculsi, turpiter terga dederunt, nullâ auctoritate, nullâ vi coërcendi.
“Quin et fanaticorum quorundam furor, simili modo aliquando diffusus est : hominesque se sanos credentes, qui talem insaniam tempsissent et irrisissent, solo visu et auditu furentium, ipsi dementiæ facti sunt participes.
“ Par ratio est affectionum quarundam nervosi generis; oscitationis, hysteriæ, epi.
To that class of facts of which I am now to treat, a valuable addition was made, in the course of the philosophical inquiries which took their rise at Paris, in consequence of the cures pretended to be effected by means of Animal Magnetism. The following quotation from the Report of the Commissioners employed by Louis Sixteenth to examine the pretensions of Mesmer and his disciples, contains some of the most interesting conclusions from these inquiries; and, although it involves too many theoretical expressions, it will convey a sufficiently distinct idea of the nature of the subject, to the illustration of which this section is allotted.*
After observing how inconsiderable the effects were which isolated patients exhibited, in consequence of all the attempts made to operate on their imagination, the commissioners proceed to remark, that even in the public process, the crises do not commence in less than the space of two hours. “By little and little,” (I quote at present their own words,)“the impressions are communicated from one to another, and reinforced in the same manner as the impressions which are made by theatrical representations, where the impressions are greater in proportion to the number of the spectators, and the liberty they enjoy of expressing their sensations. The applause by which the emotions of individuals are announced, occasions a general emotion, which every one partakes in the degree in which he is susceptible. The
lepsiæ, quæ solo visu mirum in modum sæpe propagantur.”—Consp. Med. Theoret. Sects. 345, 346, 347, 348 ; Edin. 1782.
In Sir Gilbert Blane's medical writings, he has repeatedly touched upon the subject of Imitation. See in particular his Dissertation on Muscular Motion. (Select Dissertations on Several Subjects of Medical Science, pp. 268, 269, 270.) See also his Elements of Medical Logic, 2d Ed. p. 260.
Of the professional merits of these works I am not a competent judge ; but without being accused of an undue partiality to one of my oldest and most valued friends, I may be allowed to say, that I know of no medical publications where the practical discussions of the healing art are more agreeably and instructively blended with the lights of sound philosophy.
* This report is known to have been drawn up by the illustrious and unfortunate Bailly; and, notwithstanding its great merits, is somewhat infected with that predilection for figurative language which is characteristical of his style, and which was particularly unsuited to his present subject. A few of the most exceptionable of these expressions I shall distinguish in the paragraphs which I am to quote, by printing them in Italics. I have availed myself of the English translation published by Johnson, St. Paul's Church-yard, 1785, to which is prefixed a valuable Historical Introduction.
same observation has been made in armies upon a day of
. The minds of individuals are calmed by
Of this a recent example occurred in the young ladies of St. Roch, who were thus cured of the convulsions with which they were afflicted while assembled together.” *
* On the day of the ceremony of the first communion, celebrated in the parish