« AnteriorContinuar »
degree of positive pleasure without all the characters of relaxation, we must not therefore reject the conclusion we had drawn from a concurrence of many experiments; but we must still retain it, subjoining the exceptions which may occur accord. ing to the judicious rule laid down by Sir Isaac Newton in the third book of his Optics. Our posi. tion will, I conceive, appear confirmed beyond any reasonable doubt, if we can shew that such things, as we have already observed to be the genuine constituents of beauty, have each of them, sepa. rately laken, a natural tendency to relax the fibres. And if it must be allowed us, that the appearance of the human body, when all these constituents are united together before the sensory, further favours this opinion, we may venture, I believe, to con. clude, that the passion called love is produced by this relaxation. By the same method of reasoning which we have used in the inquiry into the causes of the sublime, we may likewise conclude, that as a beautiful object presented to the sense, by causing a relaxation in the body, produces the passion of love in the mind; so, if by any means the passion should first have its origin in the mind, a relaxation of the outward organs will as certainly ensue in a degree proportioned to the cause.
SECT. XX.-WHY SMOOTHNESS IS
IT is to explain the true cause of visual beauty that I call in the assistance of the other senses. If it appears that smoothness is a principal cause of plea. sure to the touch, taste, smell, and hearing, it will be easily admitted a constituent of visual beauty ; especially as we have before shewn, that this qua. lity is found, almost without exception, in all the bodies that are by general consent held beautiful. There can be no doubt that bodies, which are rough and angular, rouse and vellicate the organs of feel. ing, causing a sense of pain, which consists in the violent tension or contraction of the muscular fibres. On the contrary, the application of smooth bodies relax ; gentle stroking with a smooth hand allays violent pains and cramps, and relaxes the suffering parts from their unnatural tension; and it has, therefore, very often no mean effect in removing swellings and obstructions. The sense of feeling is highly gratified with smooth bodies. A bed smoothly laid, and soft, that is, where the resist. ance is every way inconsiderable, is a great luxury, disposing to a universal relaxation, and inducing, beyond any thing else, that species of it called sleep,
SECT. XXI.-SWEETNESS, ITS NATURE. Nor is it only in the touch that smooth bodies cause positive pleasure by relaxation. In the smell and taste, we find all things agreeable to them, and which are commonly called sweet, to be of a smooth nature, and that they all evidently tend to relax their respective sensories. Let us first consider the taste. Since it is most easy to inquire into the pro. perty of liquids, and since all things seem to want a fluid vehicle to make them tasted at all, I intend rather to consider the liquid than the solid parts of our food. The vehicles of all tastes are water and oil. And what determines the taste is some salt, which affects variously, according to its nature, or its manner of being combined with other things. Water and oil, simply considered, are capable of giving some pleasure to the taste. Water, when
simple, is insipid, inodorous, colourless, and smooth; it is found, when not cold, to be a great resolver of spasms, and lubricator of the fibres: this power it probably owes to its smoothness; for as duidity depends, according to the most general opinion, on the roundness, smoothness, and weak cohesion of the component parts of any body; and as water acts merely as a simple fluid, it follows, that the cause of its fuidity is likewise the causes of its relaxing quality; namely, the smoothness and slippery texture of its parts. The other fluid vehicle of tastes is oil. This too, when simple, is insipid, inodorous, colourless, and smooth to the touch and taste. It is smoother than water, and in many cases yet more relaxing. Oil is in some degree pleasant to the eye, the touch, and the taste, insipid as it is. Water is not so grateful; which I do not know on what principle to account for, other than that water is not so soft and smooth. Suppose that to this oil or water were added a certain quantity of a specific salt, which had a power of putting the ner. vous papillæ of the tongue into a gentle vibratory motion; as suppose sugar dissolved in it; the smoothness of the oil, and the vibratory power of the salt, cause the sense we called sweetness. In all sweet bodies, sugar, or a substance very little different from sugar, is constantly found : every species of salt, examined the microscope, has its own distinct, regular, invariable form. That of nitre is a pointed oblong ; that of sea salt is an exact cube ; that of sugar a perfect globe. If you have tried how smooth globular bodies, as the mar. bles with which boys amuse themselves, have affected the touch when they are rolled backward and forward, and over one another, you will easily con. ceive how sweetness, which consists in a salt of such nature, affects the taste; for a single globe (though somewhat pleasant to the feeling), yet, by the regularity of its form, and the somewhat too sudden deviation of its parts from a right line, it is nothing near so pleasant to the touch as several globes, where the hand gently rises to one and falls to another: and this pleasure is greatly increased if the globes are in motion and sliding over one another; for this soft variety prevents that weariness which the uniform disposition of the several globes would otherwise produce. Thus, in sweet liquors, the parts: of the fuid vehicle, though most probably round, are yet so minute as to conceal the figure of their component parts from the nicest inquisition of the microscope; and consequently, being so sively minute, they have a sort of flat simplicity to the taste, resembling the effects of plain smooth bodies to the touch ; for, if a body be composed of round parts excessively small, and packed pretty closely together, the surface will be both to the sight and touch, as if it were nearly plain and smooth. It is clear, from their unveiling their figure to the microscope, that the particles of sugar are considerably larger than those of water or oil; and consequently, that their effects from their roundness will be more distinct and palpable to the ner. vous papillæ of that nice organ the tongue: they will induce that sense called sweetness, which in a weak manner we discover in oil, and in a yet weaker in water; for insipid as they are, water and oil are in some degree sweet; and it may be observed, that insipid things of all kinds approach more nearly to the nature of sweetness than to that of any other taste.
SECT. XXII.--SWEETNESS RELAXING.
In the other senses we have remarked that smooth things are relaxing. Now it ought to appear that sweet things, which are the smooth of taste, are relaxing too. It is remarkable, that, in some languages, soft and sweet have but one name. Doux, in French, signifies soft as well as sweet. The Latin dulcis, and the Italian dolce, have, in many cases, the same double signification. That sweet things are generally relaxing, is evident; be cause all such, especially those which are most oily, taken frequently, or in a large quantity, very much enfeeble the tone of the stomach. Sweet smells, which bear a great affinity to sweet tastes, relax very remarkably. The smell of flowers disposes people to drowsiness; and this relaxing effect is further apparent from the prejudice which people of weak nerves receive from their use. It were worth while to examine, whether tastes of this kind, sweet ones, tastes that are caused by smooth oils and a relaxing salt, are not the original pleasant tastes; for many, which use has rendered such, were not at all agreeable at first. The way to examine this is, to try what nature has origi. nally provided for us, which she has undoubtedly made originally pleasant, and to analyse this provision. Milk is the first support of our childhood. The component parts of this are, water, oil, and a sort of very sweet salt called the sugar of milk. All these, when blended, have a great smoothness to the taste, and a relaxing quality to the skin. The next thing children covet is fruit, and of fruits those principally which are sweet; and every one knows that the sweetness of fruit is caused by a subtile oil, and such a salt as that mentioned in the last sec