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we muft invert each of these circumftances. The painful emotion of impropriety, generates in the author of the action both humility and fhame; the former when he confiders his relation to the action, and the latter when he confiders what others will think of him. The fame emotion of impropriety, produceth in the fpectators, contempt for the author of the action; and it alfo produceth, by means of contraft when they think of themselves, an emotion of self-esteem. Here then are many different emotions, derived from the fame action confidered in different views by different perfons; a machine provided with many fprings, and not a little complicated. Propriety of action, it would feem, is a chief favourite of nature, or of the author of nature, when fuch care and folicitude is bestowed upon it. It is not left to our own choice; but, like justice, is requi, red at our hands; and, like juftice, inforced by natural rewards and punishments. A man cannot, with impunity, do any thing unbecoming or improper. He fuffers the chastisement of contempt inflicted by others, and of shame inflicted by himself. An ap❤ paratus

paratus so complicated and so fingular, ought to rouse our attention. Nature doth nothing in vain; and we may conclude with great certainty, that this curious branch of the human conftitution is intended for fome valuable purpose. To the discovery of this purpose I shall with ardor apply my thoughts, after difcourfing a little more at large upon the punishment, for I may now call it fo, that Nature hath provided for indecent or unbecoming behaviour. This, at any rate, is neceffary, in order to give a full view of the subject; and who knows whether it may not, over and above, open fome track that will lead us to what we are in queft of?

A grofs impropriety is punished with contempt and indignation, which are vented against the offender by every external expreffion that can gratify these paffions. And even the flighteft impropriety raises fome degree of contempt. But there are improprieties, generally of the flighter kind, that provoke laughter; of which we have examples without end in the blunders and abfurdities of our own fpecies. Such improprieties

improprieties receive a different punishment, as will appear by what follows. The emotions of contempt and of laughter occafioned by an impropriety of this kind, uniting intimately in the mind of the spectator, are expreffed externally by a peculiar fort of laugh, termed a laugh of derifion or fcorn*. An impropriety that thus moves not only contempt but laughter, is diftinguished by the epithet of ridiculous; and a laugh of derifion or fcorn is the punishment provided for it by nature. Nor ought it to escape obfervation, that we are so fond of inflicting this punishment, as fometimes to exert it even against creatures of an inferior fpecies; witnefs a Turkycock swelling with pride, and strutting with displayed feathers. This object appears ridiculous, and in a gay mood is apt to provoke a laugh of derifion.

We must not expect that the improprieties to which thefe different punishments are adapted, can be separated by any precise boundaries. Of improprieties, from the

See chap. 7.


flightest to the most grofs, from the most rifible to the most ferious, a fcale may be formed afcending by degrees almost imperceptible. Hence it is, that in viewing fome unbecoming actions, too rifible for anger and too ferious for derifion, the fpectator feels a fort of mixt emotion partaking both of derifion and of anger. This accounts for an expreffion, common with refpect to the impropriety of fome actions, That we know not whether to laugh or be


It cannot fail to be observed, that in the case of a rifible impropriety, which is always flight, the contempt we have for the offender is extremely faint, though derifion, its gratification, is extremely pleasant. This disproportion betwixt a paffion and its gratification, feems not conformable to the analogy of nature. In looking about for a folution, I reflect upon what is laid down above, that an improper action, not only moves our contempt for the author, but alfo, by means of contraft, fwells the good opinion we have of ourselves. This contributes, more than any other article, to the pleasure we feel in ridiculing the follies and abfurdities



abfurdities of others. And accordingly, it is well known, that they who put the greateft value upon themselves, are the most prone to laugh at others. Pride is a vivid paffion, as all are which have felf for their object. It is extremely pleasant in itself, and not lefs fo in its gratification. This paffion fingly would be fufficient to account for the pleasure of ridicule, without borrowing any aid from contempt. Hence appears the reafon of a noted obfervation, That we are the most disposed to ridicule the blunders and abfurdities of others, when we are in high fpirits; for in high fpirits, felf-conceit displays itself with more than ordinary vigor.

Having with wary fteps traced an intricate road, not without danger of wandering; what remains to complete our journey, is to account for the final cause of congruity and propriety, which make so great a figure in the human conftitution. One final caufe, regarding congruity, is pretty obvious. The sense of congruity, as one of the principles of the fine arts, contributes in a remarkable degree to our entertainment,

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