The Evolution of Sympathy in the Long Eighteenth Century (The Enlightenment World)

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The Evolution of Sympathy in the Long Eighteenth Century (The Enlightenment World)

THE EVOLUTION OF SYMPATHY IN THE LONG EIGHTEENTH CENTURY The Enlightenment World: Political and Intellectual History o

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The Enlightenment World: Political and Intellectual History of the Long Eighteenth Century Series Editor: Michael T. Davis Series Co-Editors: Jack Fruchtman, Jr Iain McCalman Paul Pickering Advisory Editor: Hideo Tanaka

Titles in this Series 1 Harlequin Empire: Race, Ethnicity and the Drama of the Popular Enlightenment David Worrall 2 The Cosmopolitan Ideal in the Age of Revolution and Reaction, 1776–1832 Michael Scrivener 3 Writing the Empire: Robert Southey and Romantic Colonialism Carol Bolton 4 Adam Ferguson: History, Progress and Human Nature Eugene Heath and Vincenzo Merolle (eds) 5 Charlotte Smith in British Romanticism Jacqueline Labbe (ed.) 6 The Scottish People and the French Revolution Bob Harris 7 The English Deists: Studies in Further Enlightenment Wayne Hudson 8 Adam Ferguson: Philosophy, Politics and Society Eugene Heath and Vincenzo Merolle (eds) 9 Rhyming Reason: The Poetry of Romantic-Era Psychologists Michelle Faubert

10 Liberating Medicine, 1720–1835 Tristanne Connolly and Steve Clark (eds) 11 John Thelwall: Radical Romantic and Acquitted Felon Steve Poole (ed.)

Forthcoming Titles William Wickham, Master Spy: The Secret War against the French Revolution Michael Durey Enlightenment and Modernity: The English Deists and Reform Wayne Hudson The Edinburgh Review in the Literary Culture of Romantic Britain: Mammoth and Megalonyx William Christie The Spirit of the Union: Popular Politics in Scotland Gordon Pentland Montesquieu and England: Enlightened Exchanges 1689–1755 Ursula Haskins Gonthier British Visions of America, 1775–1820: Republican Realities Emma Vincent Macleod


by Jonathan Lamb

london PICKERING & CHATTO 2009

Published by Pickering & Chatto (Publishers) Limited 21 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH 2252 Ridge Road, Brookfield, Vermont 05036-9704, USA All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without prior permission of the publisher. © Pickering & Chatto (Publishers) Ltd 2009 © Jonathan Lamb 2009 British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Lamb, Jonathan, 1945– The evolution of sympathy in the long eighteenth century. – (The Enlightenment world) 1. Sympathy – History – 18th century 2. Social ethics – History – 18th century I. Title 177.7 ISBN-13: 9781851968541 e: 9781851966905

This publication is printed on acid-free paper that conforms to the American National Standard for the Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials. Typeset by Pickering & Chatto (Publishers) Limited Printed in Great Britain at MPG Books Group.


Introduction 1 Passion and Power 2 Four Kinds of Sympathy 3 Sympathy and Persons 4 Horrid Sympathy 5 Sympathy for the Dead Conclusion

1 13 41 77 105 129 141

Notes Works Cited Index

151 167 175


We shall thus have to account the capacity to feel to a certain degree unhistorically as being more vital and more fundamental, inasmuch as it constitutes the foundation upon which alone anything truly human can grow. The unhistorical is like an atmosphere within which alone life can germinate and with the destruction of which it must vanish.1

This book does not aim to give a broad account of sensibility and sentiment in the eighteenth century: it is focused instead on sympathy. It deals with the actual affective and imaginative experience of feeling what it is like to be someone or something other than one’s self. Except for some sketches of background events, such as the political struggles in England during the seventeenth century and the Revolution in France at the end of the eighteenth, there is little attempt to relate sympathy directly to historical events or to cultural and social developments; although there is much that could be said of this connection, particularly in the sphere of imperial expansion and colonial settlement. I begin with the tentative claim that sympathy thrives in situations of comparative powerlessness in which the function and tendency of social roles is no longer directly apparent to those who fill them, either because power is the prerogative of an absolute authority or because it is distributed in ways that cannot be fully understood. It is amidst the bankruptcy of a clearly stated regime of moral virtue, such as feudal obligation or Christian charity, that the passionate spontaneity of sympathy finds its opportunities for expression. And when taken, these opportunities show the relationships between participants fulfilling very different social, political and historical purposes from what these had formerly been conceived to be, either by themselves or by society at large. Sometimes, in the most dramatically interesting scenes of sympathy, they are revealed to be fulfilling no purpose at all. So it is first of all with the activity of sympathy that I am concerned, and then with the ways that people thought about it and tried to explain, justify, exploit or direct it. Almost all my examples are from literary or philosophical sources, very few from accounts of actual exchanges between people. The reason for this is to be found in the course of the argument, which locates sympathy at the cen–1–


The Evolution of Sympathy in the Long Eighteenth Century

tre of a fascinating and very tense debate about the value of testimony and the reality of the person who gives it. Almost all contributors to this debate occupy a sceptical position, either fully announced like Descartes’s or implicit like Mandeville’s, that prevents any safe assumption being made about the truth of facts or the nature of being. To this extent sympathy is both the object of discussion and, more formidably, an issue hanging over the terms in which the discussion is pursued. It is what cannot be taken for granted because it cannot be explicitly stated or proved: like accounts of aesthetic judgement or public opinion, the account of sympathy ends up in company with a je ne sais quoi which may be sidestepped by various rhetorical appeals to common sense, but which can never be vindicated as a demonstrable truth. Arguments about sympathy are won or lost according to more flexible standards of the probable, the surprising or the painful. In many respects the critique of sympathy is like the critique of the sublime, determined as much by how it is performed as by what it means. According to Pope, Longinus ‘is himself the great sublime he draws’,2 and likewise we might say of Adam Smith that he opens up so many intriguing and contradictory avenues to sympathy that he seems in effect to sympathize with its scope. In this volume, I list four types of sympathy, and suggest a fifth. The four seem to be most obviously in play in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, and the fifth is still with us today. I name these mechanical, social, theatrical, complete and horrid. Between the first and the last there is the shadow of something akin to historical development as the practice of sympathy is seen responding to changing political and social circumstances and to altered notions of the nature and extent of rights. This partly justifies the use of the word ‘evolution’ in the title, for it will become clear that any expectation that sympathy is an exclusively human activity that refers to human aims and values is not going to be answered. Sympathy invites Cartesians to feel divine; it makes Mandeville, an ex-Cartesian, feel most keenly what it is like to be an animal. It carries its practitioners above and below the level of the human. As sympathy gives way in radical thought to notions of individual rights, the idea of humanity as a distinctive moral quality migrates in a similar way, and is attached more and more firmly to sympathy with animal suffering. At the same time sympathy yields examples of personification – it is itself personified in a lengthy poem by Samuel Jackson Pratt – and what is distinctive about personification is its coalition of causes and effects in the one phenomenon, such as Death that appears as its own victim. Hobbes thought personification was a fallible rhetorical manoeuvre verging on the idolatrous in its crediting matter with the power of moving itself. Hume and Smith find it intimately part of the structure of polytheism. So sympathy, or Sympathy, takes us as close as we get in secular thought to an intimation of the gods. Throughout this book I find it useful to refer to a fable of the metamorphic



power of the passions that straddles both of these extremes: Lucius Apuleius’s The Golden Ass, with its fascinating inset story of Cupid and Psyche. Interest in sympathy begins with questions about the nature and limits of the self that became urgent in the seventeenth century under pressure from the Reformation, rising capitalism and revolutionary politics. Rather than making any claims about the destinations of these questions in terms of various kinds of individualism and the discourse of rights, I keep my eye fixed on the breadth of the inquiry as it refers to the passions generally and sympathy in particular. For sympathy to take place there must be two identifiable points of sentience in the shape of that which or who sympathizes, and that which or whom is sympathized with, whether it be animate or inanimate, for both possibilities are allowed. In the doctrine of the passions as it was set out by thinkers as different as Descartes and Spinoza this was not an easy hypothesis to sustain because it assigns to passion an active virtue. For them as well as for the tradition of Aristotelian thought on which they partly rely, action and passion are antithetic. To act is to impinge consciously upon the world and to change it in accordance with a clear idea of what you are doing. To suffer an action on the other hand, that is to be passive, is to be an object altered by action, left in a state of passion with no clear idea of what has happened. Sympathy comprises both elements of this antithesis, allowing passion an active role and, in scenes of complex sympathy such as those imagined by Hume and Smith, a reactive one too. In the terms proposed by Spinoza, for example, sympathy is anomalous, producing hybrids of intentions and events, as it were actssions and pactions, such as an act of will passionately pursued corresponding only with an imperfect idea of what was intended. Where is the self to be found in such a mixture? Since the division between action and passion reflects a division between an imperative power and its opposite, it seemed best to begin with Descartes and the parallels between absolutism in France and the autonomy he assigns his idea of the self. The strange example he gives in his The Passions of the Soul concerns a widower grieving moderately for his dead wife who suddenly realizes that he is not going to miss her at all, and in fact is rather relieved that she has passed out of his life. While still pitying her, his soul recoils triumphantly upon itself and, relishing the thought of its independence from all material accidents, experiences joy. There is a mixture here of the unexpected – the sudden realization followed instantly by feelings of joy – in company with a celebration of free-will, the passion with the action; but it is the result of what Descartes would call self-excitement and quite shamelessly removed from what we might have supposed to be the true object of sympathy. There are variants of this passionate grasp of the sense of autonomy, resulting in something like self-sympathy, to be found in the line of philosophers credited with the discovery of the moral sense. Francis Hutcheson argued that we have a taste for the well-being of others, much as Descartes’s widower finds it right to


The Evolution of Sympathy in the Long Eighteenth Century

weep for his wife, but that this does not have to be vindicated by any outcome: the desire is enough. It testifies not so much to our ability to act as our inclination to feel, and this inclination itself is a real cause of self-delight. Hutcheson finds it convenient therefore to distinguish between the multitude of passions excited in actual transactions with other people and these higher feelings which he calls affections and limits to two: desire and aversion. Shaftesbury combing and whetting his social wings in what he calls his vocal looking-glass is in much the same kind of technical or ironical relation to actual sympathy, for really what he seeks is what Ralph Cudworth calls the hegemonic sense of self, that recoil of self-love that is absolutely empowering, and which (according to Descartes) makes a human feel like God. It makes Shaftesbury feel like a king. However, Shaftesbury and Smith widen considerably the element of the unexpected in this exercise of self-inspection. Shaftesbury’s A Philosophical Regimen, unpublished until 1900, is a remarkable collection of examples of passionate self-disgust, often lapsing into fantasies of amputation and self-mutilation, indicating that the secular and carnal world, explicitly identified as the seductive temptation to sympathy, is harder to transcend or to cut out than Shaftesbury’s published work would suggest. Even though he recommends a stoical control of the passions consistent with Shaftesbury’s perfected self, Smith is much more hospitable to accident and the force of Fortune. He presents figures from the drama who confront themselves as Shaftesbury never wanted to, except in private, and that is as the opposite of what they meant to be: a virtuous woman who finds herself an adultress, another who discovers she has committed bigamy, or Oedipus at Colonus, complaining that what has happened to him is what he unintentionally did. Here self-sympathy breaks its Cartesian bounds, overflowing into regions we would all recognize as proper to sympathy, and this is owing to Smith’s alertness to the importance of what he calls piacular guilt, known in common law as faultless trespass. That is to say he is interested in exploring to its fullest extent the hybrid that Descartes initiated, where action and passion, intention and accident, provoke potent and unpredictable effects, including strong affective bonds between different people. Descartes and the Cambridge Platonists call the self the thinking thing, or soul, or the thing which only is, or immaterial substance. That is not what Hobbes and Locke call it. They agree in naming the functioning social individual, someone with legal responsibilities and rights, a person. Hobbes distinguishes between a natural person, or author, and an artificial person, or actor. With unmistakable allusions to the stage as well as the law-courts, he says an artificial person is a representative standing in some recognizable relation to sovereign power. Originally the person was not an actor but an author, the one who authorized power to the commonwealth by handing over his natural rights to the original person or artificial man of the commonwealth, first of all personated



by the sovereign and then by all his dependent deputies, magistrates and vicars. Locke with equal care distinguishes his person from possible synonyms, such as man, character, soul, self and consciousness. It is in fact a blend of the last two that constitutes his person; it is the person who, with the temporal advantage supplied by consciousness, owns and imputes to himself the deeds and narrative of the self. Locke’s person is as artificial as Hobbes’s but for different reasons. The unity of Hobbes’s person derives from the unity of Leviathan itself, the artificial man, represented by a single figure comprising what was once a multitude. The unity of Locke’s derives from the ability of the person to disguise the discontinuities of self-consciousness and make it seem coherent. However, both are agreed that the experience of the person depends entirely upon sensations caused by objects. Sense-impressions of things, stored as ideas, provide the stuff of consciousness and of the self that Locke’s person claims to be; and for Hobbes they supply the imagination with what it needs to invent fictions of social and political union. Nothing could more clearly marked than the difference between this sort of materialist empiricism, which relies for knowledge entirely upon the sensations caused by things acting on the senses, and Cartesian scepticism, which retreats to the minimal certainty not of the sentient but the thinking thing. Empiricism represents for the Cartesians total subjection to passion, a complete and humiliating alternative to action. Instead of proceeding from the perfectly conceived idea of the self, the empirical first person starts with nothing, and acquires its dimensions and stuff in a series of accidental encounters with things which, when striking upon each individual sensorium, excite first our sensations, then our passions and finally our ideas which, according to Spinoza’s equation, must necessarily be less than perfect. Neither Hobbes nor Locke is interested in disputing the imperfection of our ideas, they are concerned instead to show how this imperfection is no impediment to the artificial unity of the state and the person. Basically this is achieved by means of fiction. Whatever is missing from the account is supplied by means of imagination. Hobbes is quite explicit about this fictional supplement. When talking of the system of representation in the state, and how it may include even inanimate things, he points out that, ‘There are few things, that are uncapable of being represented by Fiction’.3 Locke is less explicit, but in the section on personal identity in the Essay concerning Human Understanding he defines his position negatively by means of what he calls wild fancies, as if tame fancies were not only the eligible but the only alternatives. Hume is quite sure that Locke’s position on identity is a fiction: For when we attribute identity, in an improper sense, to variable or interrupted objects, our mistake is not confin’d to the expression, but is commonly attended with a fiction, either of something invariable and uninterrupted, or of something mysterious and inexplicable, or at least with a propensity to such fictions.4


The Evolution of Sympathy in the Long Eighteenth Century

So in different ways we find these two political philosophers going to some trouble to settle the issue of probable versus improbable fictions, with Hobbes holding up to scorn what he calls gloriation of mind, which causes men to claim as their own deeds they never did, and with Locke exhibiting his wild fancies, such as an amputated little finger that assumes the person to whom the finger once belonged, the soul of a prince entering the body of a cobbler, a parrot that becomes a man, and a man that becomes a pig. As for sympathy, neither is much concerned to talk about it. Hobbes makes some perfunctory remarks about pity as ultimately a selfish emotion; Locke talks of the sympathy we feel for body parts that are still attached. But what they did between them was to open up political and social avenues to sympathy that did not exist before. Hobbes concedes that we enter into civil society on a gust of fear, and that many of our transactions within the artificial man are fuelled by passion. The important thing is to regulate the passions, and the fictions they produce, according to the standard of probability and verisimilitude. This is the litmus test of the difference between gloriation of mind and authorized impersonation, between fancies that are incredible and those worthy of belief. It is a standard needed to govern the fiction of sympathy itself, namely the fiction that one person may enter into the feelings or even the identity of another; a fiction that in Locke’s view runs dangerously close to Pythagorean metempsychosis, and its associated lie (the favourite of the Cartesians): pre-existence. Mandeville, a medical man and former Cartesian, and latterly a fabulist, translator of La Fontaine and author of the notorious The Fable of the Bees, fully exploits empiricism in his discussion of sympathy while being thoroughly alive to the issue of fiction. Sympathy is empirical truth of the first water, for a scene of suffering impinges directly on our sight and hearing. It comes in either at the Eye or the Ear, or both; and the nearer and more violently the Object of Compassion strikes those Senses, the greater Disturbance it causes in us, often to such a Degree as to occasion great Pain and Anxiety.5

This is where Mandeville locates the real, in the passions arising from objects that strike directly upon the senses, and none more powerfully than objects of compassion. Passions such as shame, pride, anxiety and vicarious pain are ‘Realities in our Frame, and not imaginary Qualities’.6 They have specific physical symptoms, and they are the indices of our actual engagement with the material facts of the world. It is with an almost Cartesian certainty he makes the claim for reality of passion, as opposed to the truth of thought. Nevertheless, this gives him a very useful handle on the instrumental fictions of civil society, the chief of which is the pretence that we are immune to the realities of passion. The social individual, according to Mandeville, is one who ‘strains all his Faculties to appear what his shallow Noddle imagines he is believ’d to be’.7 Each of us, Mandeville suggests,



operates at three levels of deceit, for first there is the struggle to appear as we are not; second the effort to make that appearance consistent with a picture of ourselves painted by the imagination; and third we try to make the picture which we are now embodying agreeable with the erroneous impression we hope the public has already formed of us. The social self is the least trustworthy sign of what we really are, and compassion or sympathy is the most reliable. Rousseau read Mandeville with great attention, and he agreed with him about this. In different ways Hume and Burke echo Mandeville. Hume considers personal identity to be based on a fiction, and any attempt to consult Shaftesbury’s vocal looking glass in order to get closer to a real sense of the self ends up in a theatre where the figures representing our state of mind participate in a drama that is an entire mystery. These inadequate ideas are eloquent testimony to the priority of sensation and passion over any rule of reason which deserves, in Hume’s notorious phrase, to be the slave of the passions. Apart from avoiding manifest lies, there is nothing to do but follow our taste and inclination which, in the social world, means a perpetual experience of shared feelings, sometimes painful but mostly pleasurable. In his account of sympathy as a social phenomenon Burke agrees; but it is during his examination of sympathy as a channel of sublime delight that he shows how far his Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful fails to be what he claimed it was, namely a rationale of the passions. Too often, he says, in what is plainly a rebuke to Hutcheson and others who believe in the hegemony of self-reflection, we turn to reason to explain the reality of our passions, when in fact ‘the influence of reason in producing our passions is nothing near so extensive as it is commonly believed’. This is why the experience of the sublime, including the sublime of sympathy, is simply astonishing, wonderful, inexplicable: what we have no choice but to feel. He calls this ‘the triumph of the real sympathy’.8 The trouble with this standard of passionate reality invoked by Mandeville, Hume and Burke is that it is associated with an inability to understand it as anything but discrete instances of powerful feeling. It is only with the addition of fiction in the form of a factitious unity of self, depending upon a spurious continuity of remembered sensations, that we can incorporate passion into a personal narrative. On this topic Vicky Kahn has many useful things to say. She points out that the fiction of civil society, including the fiction of the state of nature and the fiction of an original contract, depending according to Hobbes on the fiction of sovereign power which like a personification is both the guarantor and the outcome of that contract, are part of the network of fictions needed to invent a history capable of supplanting the history of jus divinum. The price paid for telling history suddenly in a different manner and with a different plot was that it was vulnerable to the same kind of interruption, especially if its fictions became implausible. So she points out how closely intertwined were the issues


The Evolution of Sympathy in the Long Eighteenth Century

of probability and politics in the years before the Glorious Revolution, and how necessary it was to engage the passions and particularly the sympathy of an audience when telling a credible fiction of state. Only in this way could fictions forge a political reality, having consequences whose importance and actuality could not be denied.9 Just such a fiction is to be found in Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, a novel often read as an allegory of an individual’s entry into civil society from a state of nature by means of contract. What is surprising about the critical moment in Crusoe’s re-socialization, his rescue of Friday and his consolidation of his community on the island, is that it is itself a fiction, spun out of his own imagination in the form of a dream that then takes place and becomes real. Such preposterous realism seems to be inevitably part of the history of sympathy, and of the history of the novel. When Crusoe makes first makes his appearance as the contractually confirmed governor of his island, it is not in the person of the governor, but the person of that person, who is of course ‘all a Fiction’, just like the other. Consequently, When I shew’d my self to the two Hostages, it was with the Captain, who told them, I was the Person the Governour had order’d to look after them … as we never suffer’d them to see me as Governour, so I now appear’d as another Person.10

Locke’s superstructure of the person who represents the self now has an extra level, the person of the person of the self. It is a redoubling that may have suggested itself to Adam Smith via Cudworth’s hegemonicon, or variations on it, for Cudworth defined it as follows, ‘the soul as comprehending itself … and holding itself, as it were, in its own hand, as if redoubled upon itself ’.11 Smith makes a significant advance in The Theory of Moral Sentiments upon his early idea of sympathy merely as the work of imagination, no more than a hypothesis of someone else’s agony. There he writes, They [the senses] never did, and never can, carry us beyond our own person, and it is by the imagination only that we can form any conception of what are his sensations. Neither can that faculty help us to this any other way, than by representing to us what would be our own, if we were in his case.12

But when he is trying much later in his argument to protect his kind of sympathy from Mandeville’s imputation of self-interest, he makes a very different point about the relation of persons to persons: Sympathy … cannot … be regarded as a selfish principle … though sympathy is very properly said to arise from an imaginary change of situations with the person chiefly concerned, yet this imaginary change is not supposed to happen to me in my own person and character, but in that of the person with whom I sympathise … I not only change circumstances with you, but I change persons and characters. My grief, therefore, is entirely upon your account, and not in the least upon my own.13



The whole system of propriety which underwrote his earlier position, namely that his imagination would allow him to represent someone else’s sensations in such a way as to bring them home to his own bosom, and in effect to make them his own property, has now been reversed. And what seems to enable the reversal is the addition of an extra person: this imaginary change is supposed to happen to me in the person and character of the person with whom I sympathize. It is significant too that a change of personal situations which was formerly represented by means of my imagination in my own person, now happens to me in someone else’s. Smith has four categories of unpropertied sympathy, where things happen to persons. One is female humanity which prompts us to do ‘what this exquisite sympathy would of its own accord prompt us to do’.14 The second is similar, being an unreflective absorption in physical circumstances where objects act immediately on the passions, and he cites Robinson Crusoe’s experience as an example, presumably the episode of the clay pot, where he feels such joy at having made it.15 The third is the next step, when we feel irrational anger a stone that has hurt us, or love for a thing that has helped us, such as the plank that saved us from drowning.16 Finally there are scenes in tragedies where persons are forced to behold themselves as creatures not of what they meant to do but of what has happened to them, as persons of the persons they thought they were.17 In all four categories it is not free will that generates passion or sympathy, it is what Smith calls Fortune. Fortune specializes in personifying things and making new persons of persons. Shaftesbury’s worst fear of sympathy, namely that it can change us in spite of our best intentions into someone we would scarcely recognize, is brought forward by Smith as the chief characteristic of disinterested sympathy. This is a most fruitful departure from Hutcheson’s and Shaftesbury’s idealization of the self; likewise it begins to dismantle the fiction of an intelligible continuity upon which Hume says the empiricist person is based. At the same time Smith steers clear of Burke’s ignorance in the face of what deeply moves us, nor does he treat the drama of a person altered by force of circumstance as the sort of futile pageant Hume outlines. He is pointing the way to some sort of alternative realism, using a representation of the self capable of yielding knowledge of the passions, or perhaps a passionate knowledge, free from fiction. Indeed, since the novel itself has such a large stake in the passions and in sympathy, and since it has usually been viewed as a genre aligned more than any other with empiricist claims for knowledge, Smith’s alternative presents the fascinating possibility of another kind of fiction, one in which the passionate person of the person has a role, as in novels such as Roxana, The Female Quixote, The Memoirs of Miss Sidney Bidulph and Tristram Shandy; not to mention Clarissa, in which the heroine announces, ‘I have escaped, but I, my best self, have not escaped’.18 Another important contribution made by Smith to the debate about fiction is


The Evolution of Sympathy in the Long Eighteenth Century

his development of Hume’s idea of sympathy as a force which includes more than just human beings. That we can feel for things, and even invest them with feelings, is a concession that begins to make sense of that large sub-genre of the eighteenth-century novel which deals with first-person memoirs of things, animals, insects and even atoms. He invites us to consider these personifications not as an anthropomorphizing rhetorical trick, but rather as a literary experiment in relating propertied to unpropertied experience, sympathy which we bring home to our own bosoms, and sympathy which happens to us, and makes us feel like someone else. Smith says that Fortune, the agent which fashions new persons on top of old ones, was responsible for the subjection of West Africans to the refuse of the jails of Europe, to wretches who possess the virtues neither of the countries which they come from, not of those which go to, and whose levity, brutality, and baseness, so justly expose them to the contempt of the vanquished.19

It is a judgement shared by the non-human persons who write their lives, who often make it sufficiently plain that being human is not a condition they admire. Their sense of the tyranny of Fortune prepared the way for the next stage of the genre, memoirs of people who had lost their persons to the people who had made them their property. When restored to personhood these people found it hard to accept on the terms offered, namely a gift of what had been unjustly seized in the first place: and these are slave narratives, in which sympathies of all kinds, propertied and unpropertied, social and horrid, are on show. Above all, Smith understands, like Sterne, the intimate connection between the life of the passions and the structure of the market. While he would like to trace in its operations a force of providential government, the irregularity of Fortune prevents him. Talking of the law of unintended consequences, he points out how often she punishes the best plans with the worst outcomes, and then public opinion is sure to compound the disappointment. The happy or unprosperous event of any action, is not only apt to give us a good or bad opinion of the prudence with which it was conducted, but almost always too animates our gratitude or resentment, our sense of the merit or demerit of the design.20

Bad luck is the badge of moral deficiency. No man cares to have his virtues made the sport of contingencies, Sterne’s Yorick says, but he proves again and again that chance determines outcomes, not the will, and that the world judges accordingly. Mandeville had already enjoyed the paradoxes resulting from the disparity between claims for the simplicity of moral virtue and the way it is actually sustained, thus prudence depends upon inconstancy, chastity on organized licentiousness, wealth upon profligacy, meanwhile good springs up and pullulates from evil. It is a state of affairs that Malthus was to explain according to a



law not of unintended consequences but of symmetrical disappointment, where every human trial of happiness ensures an outcome quite the reverse. Darwin explained his Origin of Species as Malthus applied to all of nature. A. R. Wallace said that he could not have theorized natural selection without having read Malthus on population. But rather than the so-called Social Darwinism that was abstracted by others from the system of natural selection, Darwin and Wallace synthesized the various explorations of the nature of change and mutability that had exercised historians such as Raynal and Gibbon, linguists such as Monboddo and Rousseau, natural historians such as Buffon and Lamarck, as well as political philosophers such as Montesquieu and Mandeville. Against them had been arrayed a powerful orthodoxy defending the reality and hierarchy of species, the impossibility of extinction, the stability and permanence of national character, and the truth of the scriptural account of the creation. The harshness of this latter school is evident in the opinions of Joseph Banks on the insignificance of animal pain and Thomas Jefferson on the justification of slavery. The generosity of the former is exhibited in their attitudes towards the sentient and even the vegetable parts of the world, which were owing to their sense of a purely provisional, non-necessary and non-essential difference between the human and non-human. Before Darwin wrote on the common emotions of humans and animals, Buffon and Mandeville had pointed out that the pain of creatures with central nervous systems like ours was an event to which we could not possibly be indifferent. Sympathy was in this sense not an expression of humanity but of a sensibility shared among numerous branches of evolved life. In the Andes Darwin heard the sobering sound of a mountain torrent tumbling stones down its bed, and he had a vision not just of their destination as ocean mud, but of the universal waste to which everything would come. From this vast perspective of time and the terrible metamorphosis it will accomplish, Darwin drew consolation from the companionship of all living things, especially dogs. We can say that sympathy evolved in the eighteenth century to the extent that its cultural manifestations changed and opinions about it altered. But more importantly sympathy was the experience of change, which as Smith says happens to each individual as if that individual were someone or something else.


For what is passion, but a wild beast.1

Of all philosophers of the passions, Spinoza most clearly sets out the difference between action and its counterpart passion, between doing something and having something done to one, between possessing power and being possessed by it. He says, ‘We act when something takes place within us or outside of us whose adequate cause we are’. He goes on, ‘Insofar as the mind has adequate ideas, thus far it necessarily acts, and insofar as it has inadequate ideas, thus far it is necessarily passive’.2 Action includes knowledge of our own power, while passion involves ignorance of the true nature of an event in which we are implicated. Human creatures subject to passion seek an explanation that will always be imperfect, usually by means of an anthropomorphic projection, a personified agent such as fate, a god or a devil that consolidates the multitude of factors hidden from them in any other recognizable form. These projections fail entirely to grasp the externality of the force that moves the passionate person. The essence of passion cannot be explained merely through our essence … the power of passion cannot be defined by the power with which we endeavour to persist in our being … it must necessarily be defined by the power of some external cause compared with our own.3

So passion is the effect on us of an impression made by a force operating from outside. Passion is the symptom of an involuntary state of affairs that Spinoza defines as follows: ‘Weakness consists in this alone, that man allows himself to be led by things which are outside him, and is determined by them to do those things which the common constitution of external things demands’.4 A lot is going on here. If there is an extrinsic power which operates through material things to create a state of mind and feeling in individuals whose nature and origin they cannot understand, then it makes a mess of the conceptual basis of empiricism, which relies on the sense-impressions of things for knowledge of the real world and of our place in it. If we are led and misled by our encounters with things, then we must acknowledge in them, as well as in the power that moves – 13 –


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them, an autonomy and freedom of action we cannot hope to equal. What is more, as the shape of our lives as citizens and persons is not our own to determine, being nothing but the material moulded by unknown free agents who change us as they please, then society loses its moral purpose, and history ceases to be intelligible as a sequence of intentional acts. From the human point of view, experience is no more than the sum of unexplained accidents. The opposite of passionate ignorance, action is internally coherent and outwardly competent, always aware of what it is doing to whom and why. Whether human beings ever enjoy more than momentary intuitions of such power is doubtful, Spinoza believes, because freedom of the will is a fiction to which we all subscribe. Experience teaches as clearly as reason that men think themselves free on account of this alone, that they are conscious of their actions and ignorant of the causes of them; and moreover that the decisions of the mind are nothing save their appetites, which are various according to various dispositions of the body … Those who believe they [act] from the free decision of the mind, dream with their eyes open.5

However, we shall find that thinkers with a powerful investment in the action of a free and integral self, like Lord Shaftesbury, do a lot of dreaming with their eyes open, and often become passionate in defence of a serene autonomy; and others, less passionate, like Descartes, demonstrate an impressive degree of self-control and political efficiency. Spinoza is probably right however to say, along with Hobbes, that passion accounts for a lot more of our experience than we might care to admit. It modifies our being in ways we neither understand nor control, triggering changes in our temperaments and lives that we cannot account for and that possess us for as long as the passion exists. We are invaded by a phenomenon that is not our own, its source and purpose remaining a mystery. In political terms, Spinoza describes a difference that is dramatized in Shakespeare’s sonnet 94, ‘They that have power to hurt’. On one side are the lords and owners of their faces, moving others while remaining stony and impassive themselves; and on the other are the passionate and malleable stewards of their excellence, shaped and moved about in a political game whose rules they do not know. It seems a very symmetrical arrangement, where the exercise of power is cold and precise, while those over whom it is exercised are emotional and confused. It has often been the case that power tending towards the absolute has been responsible for a sentimental reaction among its victims as if, being given no choice but to be passionate, they resolve to make a virtue of necessity. The cult of pity, clemency, grace and compassion among patricians under the Roman principate was contemporaneous with the consolidation of imperial power.6 In eighteenth-century Germany the taste for exquisite sentiments grew in tandem with development of a highly efficient militarist oligarchy.7 William

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Reddy points out that in Ancien Régime France sensibility extended its range and subtlety alongside the exacting formality of the court and the royal prerogative that its rituals celebrated.8 In seventeenth-century England the salience and importance of the passions were recognized by opponents of divine right such as Milton, and by analysts of civil society such as Hobbes. In Paradise Lost Milton attempts to imagine, Victoria Kahn persuasively suggests, ‘a fully embodied subject, one whose passions are a crucial part of the reason for action, a crucial dimension of natural right’.9 Whether passion is the birthright of lovers of liberty, or whether it is the unequivocal sign of loss and subjection is a question that lies open in Milton’s epic. But Hobbes was under no illusion about the origin of Leviathan, his artificial man. It lay in ‘hatred fear, hope, love or any other passion or emotion rather than reason’.10 As far as Hobbes is concerned, passion is the attendant of absolute power; and the host of emotions that flow from the inordinate desire of self-preservation, multiplied many times, provide the occasion for such power being proclaimed. Hobbes points out, and Rousseau too, that a kind of impotence spreads in the wake of passion, and needs supplements from outside if the individual is not to succumb to inertia. Hobbes mentions vainglory and its delusions, ‘whereby one may think well of oneself, and yet be deceived’.11 Rousseau observes how hypocrisy keeps time with the refinement of passion in civil society, perverting the expression of truly social impulses such as sympathy.12 Adam Smith says, There is a helplessness in the character of extreme humanity … we only regret that it is unfit for the world … prey … to a thousand pains and uneasinesses, which, of all men, he the least deserves to feel, and which generally too he is, of all men, the least capable of supporting.13

Sentimental novels of the eighteenth century often idealize a hero rendered supine by emotion, at the same time nourishing a nostalgia for the agency that is now supplanted by rural retirement, disappointment in love, susceptibility to grief, and scenes of sentimental exchange where keepsakes desiderate a fully furnished existence.14 Dr Primrose, the hero of Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield, has to be assisted out of his misfortunes by the mysterious Sir William Thornhill, a man previously so addicted to sentimental scenes, and so indulgent of his delight in compassion, as to have been once entirely bereft of the means he can now provide to a man undone by his feelings. Thornhill is proof that a moderate use of the passions can transform them from a burden into a benefit. They may sometimes be enjoyed for the pleasure they give, and sometimes exploited for the energy they impart. Even if sentiment may be on many occasions an involuntary reaction to oppression, the oppressed generally have an adequate idea of what they lack, and seek to obtain it, often by cultivating a sensate and embodied existence as a political resource. This is how we might interpret Milton’s interest


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in the passions or, later, Mary Wollstonecraft’s. Both argued that a contract no longer authorized by passion is invalid. Britain’s political history includes a place for passionate energy which, while it may not have been recognized as shaping or directing events, surely impelled them. In the English Revolution, for example, powerful feelings were not understood to be passive. Passion helped unseat and then execute a monarch: what more could it achieve? In his reply to the Eikon Basilike, allegedly Charles I’s meditation on the eve of his death, Milton was indignant that the condemned monarch should employ the language of passion and pity in what he took to be a mischievous and unprecedented appeal to the feelings of the people, who had never excited royal emotion before. Here and elsewhere Milton identified a tactical and possibly strategic value in the language of sensibility that his opponents were not slow the exploit. When the adherents of the Royalist cause became subject to the power of the Commonwealth, they responded with their own play of passion. In pro-Stuart romances such as William Sales’s Theophania (1655) and Percy Herbert’s The Princess Cloria (1661), Victoria Kahn finds a kind of sensibility that seeks to demonstrate an affective bond no less passionate but ethically superior to the consensual basis of the Hobbesian commonwealth.15 Terry Eagleton suggests that sensibility in eighteenth-century Germany was not exclusively a refuge for people outside the circuit of political influence; it was in fact a necessary supplement to political power that found itself unable to ignore what he calls the ‘gross and palpable’ life of appetent individuals. This dimension of experience had to be acknowledged and attended to, even if it was only to fetch it ‘within the majestic scope of reason itself ’.16 Similarly, the salon culture of sensibility in France was based on more than the velleities of sentimental dissidence. Ultimately it provided the rhetoric as well as the ideology of the Terror, an interlude of stunning contradictions when patriots consulted their hearts to distinguish between genuine feeling and its counterfeit, and used variants of Milton’s arguments in the Tenure of Kings and Magistrates to act with deadly force against their enemies. This was the era in his life when William Wordsworth confessed that he felt a kind of sympathy with power, and when Robespierre warned his fellow citizens to be wary of false pity. Heads fell to vindicate true compassion and to prove how readily patriots had acted, as Reddy puts it, ‘in the defence of virtue in distress’.17 Now sensibility had become the property of the revolutionary state, and the spokesperson of the volonté générale was its sentimental champion. Burke found it appropriate in his fourth letter on the regicide peace to venture the paradox that gentleness not founded on a degree of charitable rancour will collude with cruelty and injustice: ‘They will never love where they ought to love, who do not hate where they ought to hate’.18 In eighteenth-century Britain the situation was more complicated than in Ancien Régime France. After the Glorious Revolution there was no unassailable

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seat of power against which passion felt obliged to define its options. What was the countervailing force here? It is intriguing that one of the most searching investigations of passionate life should have been conducted by a man who was also responsible for the first modern analysis of the market. In both The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and The Wealth of Nations (1776), Adam Smith was aware of the importance of irrational passions. In aesthetics and economics criteria operated which no one could point to and isolate, and whose determinations no one could predict: these were the je ne sais quoi of taste and the invisible hand that acted as the providence of commercial affairs. By means of such intangible standards the want of a Spinozan adequate idea in the sphere of taste, for example, allowed the ignorant and the mute to enjoy the subtlest of aesthetic pleasures. Like every judgement of taste, the je ne sais quoi was impenetrable by reason and indifferent to consensus; it was merely what an individual chose to believe about the operation of his or her own sensations. In a market where instruments of debt functioned as money only as long as people believed what was written on pieces of paper, credit outweighed every other factor in estimating value such as bullion reserves, terms of trade and probable reasoning. Fundamentally irrational, credit was often personified as a capricious woman, but that did not disguise its power to make and break merchants and nations alike. Everyone who had lived through the South Sea Bubble in 1720 and the Mississippi Scheme a year earlier knew that wealth and poverty in a speculative market were determined by mass operations of opinion and sentiment. No one could predict them before they happened and no-one could explain them afterwards. Credit would arrive on a tide of hope, and it would disappear in a cloud of fear – surges of feeling as immune to analysis as the nameless sensation enjoyed in front of a canvas, a view or a bibelot. Unlike the rise of sentiment under absolute power, where initiative changed places depending upon how adaptable each party was to altered circumstances, one side eschewing passions and the others indulging and maybe deploying them, the power of the market was itself sentimental, prone to the same exuberance and accidie as the most sensitive individual. It represented a new form of absolutism, its decrees imperative and irrefragable; but unlike the French model of monarchy or the Cartesian rational soul, it was fuelled by feeling and acted passionately. It is not surprising therefore that Smith seeks to find in economic as well as affective life some form of restraint exercised through the medium of an invisible presence that sets passion the task of moderating itself. Thus the invisible hand of the market transforms the desire for idleness into technological improvement and productive expansion; meanwhile the impartial observer teaches us to moderate impatience by making us sensitive to shame, to restrain ambition by inclining us to sympathy, and so on. It is Hume, however, who draws the potentially anarchic and notorious conclusion from this state of affairs when he says that reason is and ought to be the slave of the passions. More remarkable


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yet, he takes passion quite out of the subordinate and reactive position assigned to it by Spinoza, when he says, ‘Nothing can oppose or retard the impulse of passion, but a contrary passion … A passion is an original existence … when I am angry, I am actually possesst with the passion.’19 Here then is a new form of affective power, armed with its own prerogatives and enjoying dominion over will and reason, the faculties usually associated with action. Whether the human heart is the field where contrary passions have it out, or whether the flux and reflux of feeling is the basis of new kinds of cognition and knowledge, passion has for better or worse usurped the place of action. In the debates about the passions that run from Descartes to Rousseau in France, and from Hobbes to Burke in Britain, no two thinkers could stand further apart than Descartes and Hume, the one guarding the seat of the rational soul from turbulent sensations, the other dispersing identity itself through the eddies of feelings and fancies. I want to make the terms of this opposition more distinct because the moral sense philosophers who influenced so much thought about the passions in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries – particularly Francis Hutcheson and Lord Shaftesbury – advocate a blend of Cartesian and neo-Platonic ideas of the soul that is deeply hostile to the empiricist and sensationist positions of Hobbes and Locke. Moreover they are outraged by the economic realism of Bernard Mandeville, founded on the belief that everyone is influenced by their passions whilst pretending as hard as they can that they are not. I mean to show how, in the course of its development, this debate produced widely different evaluations of the passions, conflicting definitions of personal identity, and the bases of various models of sympathy, none of them really consistent with each other. At the root of these disagreements between neo-Cartesians and empiricists were rival attitudes to change. Later in the century Joseph Ritson suggested there were only two sets of opinions among the learned: The first embraced a world subsisting in a steady state, its species settled and immutable, its human inhabitants armed with reason, free will and an immortal and incorporeal soul. The second favoured an Epicurean mass of heaving atoms all coalescing and dispersing as circumstances and chance direct, where species come and go and the mutability of human beings is everywhere apparent, where there is no guide but the sensations and passions provoked by the movement of matter, and where the soul is consubstantial with the body and therefore mortal too.20 It is a buoyant generalization, and it serves to underline the proximity of ideas about change as they were handled in the sphere of affective life to ideas about change in nature at large. We shall find that there was scant interest in sympathy among those who favoured stability in species and consistency in the self; but sympathy was much more widely canvassed by those pursuing ideas that were to culminate in the theory of evolution. The evolution of sympathy is therefore a kind of pun, for it combines not only

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changing attitudes towards sympathy itself but also the congeniality of sympathy towards this radical revision in notions of human and natural history. William Reddy gives an intriguing example of passion in the court of Louis XIV, an incident perfectly illustrating Spinoza’s formulation of action as passion’s opposite. When the King ordered his nephew the duc de Chartres to marry one of his illegitimate daughters, Mlle de Blois, it was evident from the youth’s reddened eyes and his mother’s tears that they were deeply opposed to the plan. Nor was their response limited to weeping: her curt responses to the King’s acts of complaisance at dinner on the day of the edict made it plain that she was angry as well as mortified, and that she and her son were struggling under what they regarded as an extraordinary and unpleasant example of royal prerogative. Far from being nonplussed or insulted by such behaviour, the King was stimulated to make further attentive gestures, but of course there was no retreat from what he had decreed. So on the one side there was the unlimited operation of his power and his will, and on the other were passions not fully vented, for protocol would have forbidden that. But their symptoms were unmistakable. So the King beheld with polite concern the passionate consequences of his irreversible decision, signs of agitation that from his point of view did not denote disobedience, rather homage to the fact of his power. Because these signs were controlled by the circumstances in which they were exhibited, they tempered the representation of anger and grief, bringing it to such an orderly display that the King could be interested in it, and offer (although in the most formal and trivial way) to alleviate it, because really such a performance was the most exquisite confirmation his authority could demand.21 This story provides a useful illustration of Descartes’s idea of how the soul experiences passion. In his The Passions of the Soul he sets out the situation of the soul, the ‘thinking thing’ which is the irreducible core of identity and being, as if it were a court – as if it were Versailles in fact. The body in which the thinking thing is located is a mere machine, linked to the soul by means of animal spirits, infinitesimal bodies transacting between the intellectual and physical realms via the blood and nerves. They carry to the soul or thinking thing representations of the sensations and perceptions excited in the sense organs by outward things. Descartes insists on the mediate, referred and limited nature of this information. Fetched by the animal spirits to where the soul is seated on the throne of the pineal gland are images, pictures and representations of objects of the senses, all presented for its inspection.22 These images are treated with sceptical remoteness for they have nothing really to do with the soul, being feigned outlines of corporeal things, counterfeits of imperfect ideas of the real.23 So they are exhibited as in a theatre, the passions performing as persons in a drama; and the soul is the single spectator, judging each performance with a keen eye: ‘I observe in Love … a mild warmth in the chest … I observe in Hatred … that chills are felt in the


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chest’. Tears fall when the warm blood sent through the veins by love is cooled by sadness, and condensed into liquid that drains through the pores of the eyes.24 As the soul observes these physiological signs of the passions, placidly taking note and no more than mildly interested in the drama being staged, so Louis XIV beheld the tears of the duc de Chartres and his mother as they were shed in the baroque theatre of his palace. The point of the exercise in both cases is the triumph of the will, unconstrained by any passions except self-love and love of power. ‘Experience shows that those who are most agitated by their passions are not those who know them best’.25 Contrariwise, the will is by its nature free in such a way that it can never be constrained … the whole action of the soul consists in this: merely by willing something, it makes the little gland to which it is closely joined move in the way required to produce the effect corresponding to this volition.26

Individuals possessed of the quality of générosité, roughly translatable as the continuous experience of justified self-esteem, ‘are entirely masters of their passions’, they enjoy ‘absolute dominion over all their passions’.27 By générosité Descartes intends something more than gelid spectatorhood warmed only by the very mild reactions provoked in the soul as it studies the representations of the passions channelled from the senses through the nerves and the blood. There is a capacity for ‘inner excitations’, prompted by the reflective capacity of the soul itself, ‘in which respect they differ from those passions that always depend on some motion of the [animal] spirits’.28 Générosité is a feeling of delight that bankrolls a stoical indifference to fortune. Nothing from outside can affect a person armed with a mirror for his soul in which each image that appears invariably causes him to ‘esteem himself as highly as he can legitimately esteem himself ’. That turns out to be at a pretty high rate, for Descartes adds that this degree of mastery over contingency ‘renders us like God’ – an extraordinary claim.29 At this point he tells a story to illustrate the intense satisfactions of self-esteem. It concerns a husband whose wife has just died and who is grieving according to the customs and forms prescribed for recent widowers. But the truth is he never loved his wife, and is secretly relieved that he will no longer have to be in her company, so his tears need some explanation if they are not to be a hypocrite’s: And it may be that some remnants of love or pity, presented to his imagination, draw tears from his eyes – in spite of the fact that at the same time he feels a secret Joy in the innermost depths of his soul, whose excitation has so much power that the Sadness and tears accompanying it can diminish none of its strength.30

The protocol of shedding tears for the image of a woman whom really he does not miss at all and who, appearing in the form for which he now weeps, never existed at all, provides the double counterfeit that makes the inner joy sweeter

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and more true, since it refers only to the indisputable existence of the thinking thing. Here if you like is Descartes’s own commentary on Louis XIV and the duc de Chartres. Royal concern for the symptoms of grief in the young man and his mother is polite and faint, something registered in the King’s sensorium at two removes, a representation in the theatre of his soul of the performance of someone else’s passion. It cannot compete with the inner joy he feels at having acted upon this passionate pair without restraint, inwardly immune while outwardly available to the contingent appeal for pity, for here Louis is entirely of Spinoza’s opinion, rendered by Descartes to this effect that ‘whatever is done … is … a Passion with respect to the subject it happens to, and an Action with respect to what makes it happen’.31 As the agent of this particular scene, just like the husband who is secretly not grieving for his wife under his lineaments of woe, it would be folly in him to be really moved to pity, the passion most typical of ‘those who feel very weak and very much subject to fortune’s adversities’.32 As Victoria Kahn points out in an essay on Descartes’s baroque politics, this moment in The Passions of the Soul marks the shift from a Stoic ideal of virtue to something more Machiavellian, and in effect poses the question, ‘What is the will free for?’ The answer seems to be that it acts freely in a cause that is something like the psychological equivalent of reason of state.33 That copies of impressions of the corporeal world, while presenting an imperfect reflection of the real, provide an opportunity for the exercise of free will and at the same time act as a sort of mirror in which the soul can behold its own excellence is an idea that exerts a powerful grip on post-Cartesian thinkers in England. According to Ralph Cudworth the will is the ‘hegemonic, or ruling principle in man’; but what the faculty of will expresses in action is the hegemonicon of the soul itself, which he defines as, ‘the soul … comprehending itself … and holding itself, as it were, in its own hand … redoubled upon itself ’.34 He is careful not to confound this sui potestas as a kind of self-fashioning, where a lesser soul is worked on by a greater, for that would imply ‘a kind of duplicity in the human soul, one, that which is ruled, another, that which ruleth’. It is a form of self-reduplication, or self-comprehension, that is the direct gift of God, and which Descartes said makes us feel as if we were God.35 Henry More tackles Hobbes’s materialism with a Cartesian distinction between impressions on the body (mere fancies) and the self-activity of the soul, declaring, ‘If the Perplexiveness of the Imagination may hinder assent, we must not believe Mathematical demonstration’.36 More gives a negative definition of self-activity that is easier to grasp than Cudworth’s reflexive formulations, for it makes plain that the soul’s recognition of itself constitutes a surprise, a kind of inward impression that Descartes calls joy but which, when what the soul beholds is distinctly what it wants not to see but which it is nevertheless obliged to own, More calls remorse: ‘And


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that which pinches us and vexes us so severely, is the sense that we have brought such an evill upon our selves, when it was in our power to have avoided it’.37 This conflicted form of spiritual self-recognition is very strong in Shaftesbury, particularly in that strange series of addresses to himself that was published long after his death as The Philosophical Regimen. Although he wishes to set out a typically Cartesian difference between on the one hand sensory impressions of objects, imagination and passion, all belonging to what he calls the zone of the ‘carcase’, and on the other the autonomy of the soul, ‘that thing which only is’, the sustaining of a clear intuition of what Cudworth calls the hegemonicon costs him crisis after crisis.38 The drumbeat of Descartes’s meditations (‘But what am I … But then what am I … From what do I … derive my existence’), finds a very querulous echo in Shaftesbury’s: ‘What am I? who? Whence? Whose?’ rising sometimes like Walter Shandy’s exclamations into unconscious quotations of Job: ‘Why was I born? … why made at all? Why any thing made? How? Or by whom? … O Cimmerian darkness! Fatal and overcoming blindness!’39 The passions that he wants to set over on the other side from the self, ‘loves, eager and tumultuous joys, wishes, hopes, transporting fancies, extravagant mirth, airiness, humour, fantasticalness, buffoonery, drollery’ all come too specifically close to him (‘what passions are grown from those wrong indulgences in friendship! Wretch!’).40 David Marshall has pointed out how much more rackety and unpredictable is Shaftesbury’s internal theatre compared with Descartes’s, being a place where characters and persons seem to have no certain parts to play, and where there are no scripts to follow. He points out that the author of the Miscellaneous Reflections speaks of the author of the first two sections of the Characteristics in the third person ‘as if he were someone else’ – or as Shaftesbury himself puts it, ‘I and Me are something else’.41 But it means that, for good or ill, for joy or remorse, the glimpses Shaftesbury catches of himself are astonishing, and the risks he takes in catching them, huge. Francis Hutcheson works much more sedately on the Cartesian firewall dividing the importunate clamour and heat of the senses from the cool serenity of a mind charged with ‘a Power of Reason and Reflection’.42 From the outset of An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections he wishes to emphasize the hegemonic priority of what he variously calls natural affection, natural power and internal perception over the chaos of empirical data and the weakness into which it throws the mind. Immunity from the impressions of external objects and their ‘Relations to the Perceptions of the External Senses’ guarantees the individual freedom from the servitude of sense impressions and from the inadequate ideas that arise when we are passively acted upon, and our bodies are put into motion by extraneous things over which we have no control.43 He disagrees with Descartes, however, over the mediation of the passions. He does not believe that they arrive at the sensorium as faint pictures or repre-

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sentations of what is alleged to be happening to the organism; like Shaftesbury he believes that they are urgent and direct: ‘the particular Passions towards Objects immediately presented to some sense … the Operation of any Object … occasioned by some Impression on our Bodies’.44 So Hutcheson offers his own version of the self-excitation of the Cartesian soul. It derives from two natural affections, desire and aversion. He insists these are distinct from passions such as lust, ambition, covetousness and revenge; for not only are they not importunate, being calm, rational and disinterested, they are also the result of reflection, the mind’s contemplation of its own perfections, and have nothing at all to do with sensations or impressions. They arise ‘from some Reflection upon, or Opinion of our Possession of any Advantage, or from a certain Prospect of future pleasant Sensation … or from a like … Prospect of evil or painful Sensations’. But still they are affections independent of the joy the soul might experience in the contemplation of its own perfection. They operate effectually as the rational apprehension of good and evil, and direct the will accordingly: ‘Desire and Aversion are obviously different from the other Modifications called Passions; [in] that these two directly lead to Action, or the Volition of Motion, and are, wholly distinct from all sort of Sensation’.45 They are the guides of the will and the road to truth; but still they belong generically to the passions, and not to the rationality of the soul. These affections constitute the moral sense, and they lead to a self-delight that has much in common with Cartesian self-esteem and générosité, and with the involution of Cudworth’s hegemonicon, but crucially they are sentiments not demonstrations: These moral Pleasures … make us delight in our selves, and relish our very Nature … other sensations are all dependent upon … something different from our selves; to a Body which we do not call Self, but something belonging to this Self … The Pleasures of Virtue are the very Perfection of this SELF and are immediately perceived as such, independent of external Objects.46

Hutcheson explicitly denies Locke’s empiricist axiom that all ideas in the mind arise from the senses (Nihil in intellectu quod non prius in sensu).47 The internal perceptions associated with the operation of the affections are in a well-formed mind sealed off from that kind of imprecision which Hutcheson goes so far as to call disorder, a condition productive of something less than the truth: namely illusion or fiction. ‘During this State, every trifle shall be apt to provoke or deject us’.48 Far from empiricism leading to a solid and accurate estimate of the world and our relation to it, it represents for Hutcheson the opposite: a tyranny exercised by things over the mind by means of the senses and the passions, a delusion. However, the will is made free by means of impulses that are cognate with the passions, and not by an effort of pure self-reflection.


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Walter Charleton wanted to marry an ideal of Epicurean tranquility to the self-esteem of the Cartesian soul, and in effect to build a bridge between those favouring hegemonic free will and materialist necessitarians such as Hobbes and Gassendi. He supposed that the friction between the soul and the body, which Descartes said gives us the illusion of two souls operating simultaneously, is in fact the truth: that there is a sensitive soul that presents messages from the senses to the rational soul, which she observes and whose importance to herself she measures ‘as by a mirrour’.49 He wants to say that there is no need for the rational soul to treat these images as delusions, that they are in fact crucial to the redoubled sense of self-comprehension that Descartes and Cudworth identify as the core of self-activity. Indeed, he goes further and says the hegemonicon requires in both souls an equal share of reflexive consciousness. Just as the rational soul holds itself in its own hands, impressed by the sense of its own autonomy, so the sensitive soul is conscious of sensation and can, ‘by a reflex act … perceive that it doth perceive’. Although she may at times be overcome by the force and multitude of passions, this soul incites its partner ‘to affect and desire those things, which Nature by secret dictates teacheth to be good and profitable to her; and to persist in that desire’.50 Among these secret dictates he lists pity and commiseration, where the tendency of the senses and the motions of the soul are not at odds, or different, as they are with the Cartesian widower, but the same and mutually reinforcing. Here is the seed of the moral sense that is to be improved by Hutcheson, and of which Hume wrote as follows: A late philosopher has taught us, by the most convincing arguments, that morality is nothing in the abstract nature of things, but is entirely relative to the sentiment or mental taste of each particular being, in the same manner as the distinctions of sweet and bitter, hot and cold arise from the particular feeling of each sense or organ.51

Charleton resumed a debate about the reflexivity of sense perception that began with Aristotle’s De Anima and achieved prominence in the early modern period in the work of Tommaso Campanella (a thinker in whom Descartes found very little solidity) and Francis Bacon. Campanella laid it down as an axiom that there can be no sensation without a sensu sui, or distinct sense of self-existence, likewise that ‘there can be no sensation without the sensing being’s acquiring a likeness of the sensed’.52 For his part, Bacon pointed to the lodestone as an example of the mutuality of things and sensations, and drew a conclusion very like Campanella’s: ‘No body when placed near another either changes it or is changed by it, unless a reciprocal perception precede the operation … in short there is Perception everywhere’.53 Campanella’s De Sensu rerum (1620) treated the sentience of things as a literal truth, one of the many proofs of the vitality of the ‘world animal’. He wrote, ‘We affirm that the sense with which animals seem to be equipped and which seems to distinguish them from inanimate things, can

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be found in every thing’. He pictured experience as perpetual metamorphosis and perception as sympathy. To feel movement is to be moved, to see light is to be brightened; and this truth depends upon another, namely the sapience of all things, not just Cartesian souls: ‘We see that the existent is, because it knows that it is, and there is no existent that does not know itself ’.54 Where Lucretius had been at great pains (as Hume was later) to remove any hint of representation from sense-perception – it is not the image of matter but a thin film of matter itself which strikes our fingers or our eyes, and it is not the effect of passion but passion itself which moves us – and had repeatedly denied any link between consciousness and constituent matter (‘One can laugh although not grown from laughing things’), Campanella and Bacon were fully of the same mind as the current school of thinkers called panpsychists, who believe that the potential of intelligence belongs to all matter.55 There has to be some determinate and continuous physical link between thinking things and the atoms of which they are made.56 The idea of the ‘sense of things’ has an interesting life in two early novels, Charles Gildon’s Apuleian romance, The Golden Spy (1709), and in Defoe’s Roxana (1724), where self-reflection is shown to be a purely sensate experience, enjoyed equally by things as well as humans. French materialists such as Julien Offray de La Mettrie and Baron D’Holbach enjoyed jousting with the Cartesian idealization of mental self-sufficiency. ‘Everything is steeped in passion’, said La Mettrie; and by that he meant that there is no distinction either between soul and body or action and passion; they are implicated in the continuous reciprocal cycles of matter in motion, acting and reacting by turns.57 There are three significant conclusions he draws from this premise. First, everything is in a perpetual condition of metamorphosis, changing and being changed; second, the senses are by far the most reliable informants of the changes really taking place within us; and third, that matter, since it is consubstantial with our own intelligence, must also be able to think, and maybe to feel.58 D’Holbach takes a rigorously empiricist approach to experience (‘To know an object, is to have felt it; to feel it, is to have been moved by it’), and he goes further than Lucretius on matter, seeing it not only constantly in motion but self-existent and, by virtue of its ‘own peculiar force’, capable of becoming alive, sensate and intelligent. It is the perpetual process of atoms cohering and dissipating that he salutes as Nature, in respect of whose power he apostrophizes ‘man’ as an ‘ephemeron’.59 This occasions one of his most intriguing insights, namely that the human response to self-moving matter is fear, and the fear provokes the prosopopeias by which humans immobilize the forces of Nature, framing them as images of their own faculties, thus dividing Nature from herself and from the motion in which she perpetually subsists. ‘We perceive not living Nature but the life of Nature; not acting Nature but natural action’.60 He construes this as a human assault on the self-existence of matter, just as the Cartesians and Platon-


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ists regard empiricism as an assault on the autonomy of the soul. More than La Mettrie, D’Holbach invites non-Cartesians to suppose that it is never a trifle that provokes or dejects us, it is an active thing whose motion is communicated to us. Without its force, which we absorb and pass on, we would be inert, less active than the stone in the road. Although he was a materialist, Hobbes was adamant that matter could not move of its own accord. Some of his more extravagant satire against those acting under the illusion of the mutuality of mind and things involves grapes that squeeze themselves into our mouths, fish that cook themselves and iron horses that fly through the air. Nevertheless, he was equally hostile to people like Descartes who set up an invincible fort of reason and a regime of free will in the autonomous human soul, secure against all inroads from the senses. Hobbes called this degree of self-sufficiency ‘gloriation of mind’ and he compared it with the madness of Don Quixote because it ignored so completely the sense of things.61 In his opinion such self-love demonstrated an illusory enfranchisement of the will consistent with our ‘perpetuall and restlesse desire of Power after power, that ceaseth onely in Death’.62 There is no utopia where percipient things serve us; equally there is no possibility that mere fallen humanity will ever enjoy the power it dreams of. As we have seen, Hobbes’s gloomy estimate of life in a state of nature nevertheless discloses the passionate energy without which the civil contract could never have come about. This is not the work of Hutcheson’s serene natural affections, but the exigent emotions of fear, greed, hatred, envy, ambition working immediately on the primary instinct for self-preservation. So it was not a calm and reflective choice between good and evil that formed the first commonwealth, but feelings that could not be resisted. Hobbes’s definition of the will is cognate with his account of the birth of nations: ‘The Imagination is the first internall beginning of all Voluntary Motion’, and ‘Will is the last Appetite in Deliberating’ – that is, will is the last passion we experience and the last image we see before commencing to act.63 Locke sees no distinction either between what Hutcheson would distinguish as the affections and the passions. Aversion is a passion just like fear and anger, and desire is what passions precipitate and seek to satisfy. Everything we feel is caused by objects acting upon us, and it is under the influence of those feelings and the circumstances in which they are aroused that the will operates, not as a pure act of intention but as a response to the impressions made by things and to the uneasiness caused by desire. He says, ‘The Mind has a different relish, as well as the Palate; and you will as fruitlessly endeavour to delight all Men with Riches or Glory … as you would to satisfy all Men’s Hunger with Cheese or Lobsters’.64 Sterne is one of the best commentators on this aspect of Locke’s thought. In Tristram Shandy the narrator tells us that the circumstances in which we find ourselves frame what we do and what we feel, and that love (for example) is not

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so much a sentiment as a situation. Our minds, he says, are wrapped up in flesh and blood, and bodies and souls are joint sharers in everything they get; and finally ‘REASON is, half of it, SENSE; and the measure of heaven itself is but the measure of our present appetites and concoctions’.65 It is impossible to consider the action of the will outside this embodied state of the mind. It is not a faculty we can abstract from the field of action, as if it were a pure volitional agency free to operate regardless of the situation; nor is it ever fully in possession of the reason for what is understood to be a voluntary act. These assumptions lead Locke to conclude that power is not simply action, and that passion is not the result of being acted on, rather that it is defined by a relation to change, sometimes active and sometimes passive. He says, ‘Power thus considered is twofold, viz. as able to make, or able to receive any change: The one may be called Active, and the other Passive Power’. The will is correspondingly a power to act or not to act: Volition, ’tis plain, is an Act of the Mind knowingly exerting that Dominion it takes it self to have over any part of the Man, by imploying it in, or withholding it from any particular Action. And what is the Will, but the faculty to do this? And is that Faculty any thing more in effect, than a Power, the power of the Mind to determine its thought, to the producing, continuing, or stopping any Action, as far as it depends on us?66

As Tristram says of Mrs Wadman when she finds herself in love with a man who does not yet love her, she could ‘go on and love my uncle Toby – or let it alone’.67 Because the passions set the will in motion, it is quite likely, Locke concedes, that the object may be trivial, not the grand opposition between good and evil studied by Hutcheson’s natural affections. However he says that control of the more turbulent emotions is necessary if the exercise of will is to secure our happiness and pursue the good. This is something we are all capable of managing, but not by means of serene self-reflection. It is the relish or taste of the mind that determines us to do or to forbear; which is to say that each person is arbiter of what constitutes happiness or pleasure for him- or herself, and by habitual exercise of the mental palate acquires a reliable sense of how it is to be achieved.68 It is by discriminate sensation that we find out what is important in life – to us as individuals not as a consensual moral community. Shaftesbury was Locke’s pupil but was by no means faithful to his master’s doctrine. In his section on personal identity in the Essay concerning Human Understanding Locke had been very careful not to talk about the self in unitary terms as a soul or immaterial substance, like the Cartesian essence of the thinking thing, or as a beautiful and finished entity, like Hutcheson’s perfected self, exempt from the multifarious influences of an embodied life. So he divided the thinking thing (borrowing again Descartes’s definition of the I, or soul) into


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three distinct phases or functions. There is the self, receptive to sense-impressions from moment to moment; there is the consciousness of self, which allows a temporal dimension to these impressions, so that they may be remembered or anticipated; and there is the person, the result of self-consciousness, which delivers to the world the narrative or history of the self, taking responsibility for its actions even though it is not strictly speaking the self. I shall deal more at large with the question of the personate self in Chapter 3, but I wish to note here a difference between Shaftesbury’s use of the person and Hobbes’s and Locke’s. Although the scope of the person is very differently conceived by the two political philosophers, they are agreed that the person is a representative, an image of a unity that can never be demonstrated, only represented. While Hobbes would argue that in a commonwealth almost anything can be personated, Locke restricts his use of person to what Hobbes would call the imagination, namely the residue of all the sense impressions held in the mind or memory. In Cartesian terms, Locke’s person is composed of figures and images of corporeal things, it is a thing ‘feigned in imagination’, a fiction.69 In Locke’s terms it represents all we can know of the continuity of the self, and although he would be the first to say that the concatenation of images out of which it is formed is far from continuous, he would insist that there is a perfectly adequate forensic function this self can fulfil: it can impute actions to itself, it can claim them as its own and take responsibility for the consequences. Neither he nor Hobbes confounds the word person with character: a person represents power as being exercised, but a character is the result of power having been exerted, not the representation of power but the reputation of it. Hobbes is talking of character when he says, ‘the Value, or WORTH of a man, is as of all other things, his Price; that is to say, so much as would be given for the use of his Power’.70 Locke had this idea in mind when he asked Shaftesbury to give him the character of M. La Treille, and the letter he received exhibits an interesting confusion, for this is what it said: The giving of characters of people is, in my opinion, not only a very dangerous undertaking, but a task, too, of some labour and hardship, when besides the strict considerations of the person spoken of, so much must be had in relation to the persons addressed, and that after one has formed one’s own judgment with much pains, there is still so much remaining of the nicety that there must be in the delivering of it to others, who perhaps have such different notions and understand even the same things so differently from what one’s self does.71

This imperfect sentence, trying vainly to reconcile the person spoken of, the person spoken to, and the person speaking, indicates how relatively happier at this stage of his life (1692) the young Shaftesbury would be if he were dealing solely with the idea of person rather than character. In the dialogues he conducts with

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himself some years later in front of what he calls the ‘vocal Looking-Glass’ he calls the exercise self-personation, ‘by Virtue of SOLILOQUY [becoming] two distinct Persons’, ‘a certain Duplicity of Soul, and [division] of our-selves into two Partys’, ‘two Persons in one individual Self ’.72 The point of this self-dramatization is not to become better than himself but to enjoy the surprise of seeing himself as he really is, to behold himself as ‘one and the same Person to Day as yesterday, and to morrow as to day’.73 But the tendency of the Soliloquy is the reverse of his letter to Locke; it is to locate the solidity of character in the dramatic performance of person. In the ancient plays, for instance, ‘the Persons themselves had their Characters preserve’d throughout … in consequence pointed out real Characters’. A character is wounded when ‘the Passion or Humour of a known Person changes’; so a person is susceptible to change and metamorphosis, but character expresses the ‘true and native self ’, the ‘genuine, true and natural SELF’.74 In The Philosophical Regimen the danger to the self is explicitly assigned to the division of it into persons: ‘How long is it that thou wilt continue thus to act two different parts and be two different persons? … recollect thyself wholly within thyself ’.75 However, such important advice issues from a self already divided, an exercise which in the Characteristics is designed quite consciously to enable the author ‘to describe a perfect Character’, namely an entity truly proportionate, virtuous and immutable; certainly not a representative of something else.76 ‘If it be not a part consistent with the preservation of a character, it is never to be undertaken’.77 So Shaftesbury gently enquires of himself regarding the adequacy of the person to its task, beginning with the prophetic words, ‘Tell me now, my honest heart, am I really honest?’, and it is pretty certain what the answer ought to be. It will deliver a self and character not less or more than itself, unlike an ambitious modern author, and not equal to something other than itself, unlike Locke’s person.78 There is however a region of the self that threatens corruption, and this is the psychological domain of the fancies and the passions, agents of change and mutability. These must be confronted if they are not to end up as ‘our governing Fancys, Passions and Humours’, spreading mutability and revolution throughout the economy of the true self; for ‘there is that which when it is wholly metamorphos’d and converted, We are in reality transform’d and lost’.79 Shaftesbury’s mode of confrontation is performed with a certain degree of aristocratic aplomb, as if he were about to deal with an egregious case of insolence: The Question therefore is the same here, as in a Family, or Household, when ’tis ask’d, ‘Who rules?’ or ‘Who is master?’ … How stands it therefore, in my own Oeconomy, my principal Province and Command? How stand my Fancys? How deal they with me? Or do I take upon me rather to deal with Them? Do I talk, question, arraign? Or am I talk’d with, arraign’d and contented to hear, without giving a Reply? … Let my Senses err ever so widely; I am not on this account beside my-self, nor am I out of my


The Evolution of Sympathy in the Long Eighteenth Century own possession while there is a Person left within who has the Power to dispute the Appearances, and redress the Imagination.80

This person is of course is the steward of the perfect character, the public face of the real and genuine self who bears a strong resemblance to the Cartesian soul and the Hutchesonian self. They are all produced by the same experiment in selfreflection that results in the same kind of self-excitation that Descartes approves of because it assures the independence of the soul from all external forces. Such a character is in every sense a magisterial figure: the master, the lord of the estate – not quite god, but certainly monarchical. As a Whig, Shaftesbury is cautious when dealing with absolute power that is not open to sage advice, but there is something charming as far as he is concerned in the single and coherent person of a ruler, especially when he is also an author. He mentions with respect Henry VIII and James I, and adds, ‘Nor can it be doubted that the pious Treatise of SelfDiscourse ascrib’d to the succeeding Monarch, contributed in a great measure to his glorious and never-fading Titles of SAINT and MARTYR’.81 He is praising the Eikon Basilike as the very model of his own experiment with soliloquy. Unlike Milton, who found it to be a hypocritical indulgence of the passions, Shaftesbury understands the self-discourse of a king as mastery of them. No one was more sceptical of these claims to consistency and integrity than Bernard Mandeville, who entered directly into debate with Shaftesbury and Hutcheson over their claims for the unity of the self and the infallibility of moral sense. Naming Shaftesbury, Mandeville says of him, In respect to our Species he looks upon Virtue and Vice as permanent Realties that must ever be the same in all Countries and all Ages, and imagines that a Man of sound Understanding, by following the Rules of good Sense, may not only find out that Pulchrum & Honestum both in Morality and the Works of Art and Nature, but likewise govern himself by his Reason with as much Ease and Readiness as a good Rider manages a well-taught Horse by the Bridle.82

Although Hobbes remarked of hypocrisy that it is the only sin that cannot be accused, Mandeville accuses Shaftesbury of being a hypocrite for denying the manifest truth that all members of civil society necessarily mask their worst sides in order to reap advantage by it: ‘I tell my Antagonist that his Conscience flies in his Face, while his Tongue is preparing to refute me’.83 Briefly, Mandeville’s account of civil society does not begin with a contract so much as a dawning recognition among the savages in the natural state that the desires by which they are dominated have to be dissembled if they are going to be satisfied. Those who learned this truth first were the most accomplished hypocrites and the ones who monopolized power, while those who came later were less skilful and much in awe of those who effortlessly proclaimed virtues they did not really possess. Hierarchy is symmetrical with sequence here, for at the top are those most in

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command of their faces, while at the very bottom are working folk who need no disguise at all. But in the middle is the individual who takes an awkward part in the drama of the civilized world and ‘strains all his Faculties to appear what his shallow Noddle imagines he is believ’d to be’.84 Notice that the performance does not need to be perfect to succeed; rather the opposite, for it is the clumsiness of the deceit that convinces those in power of the unassailability of their position. It is as if Descartes’s theatre of the soul were turned inside out (Mandeville was a renegade Cartesian): here is the same relation of action to passion that we saw with Louis XIV, the same imperfect signs of self-control among his inferiors, the same pleasure taken by the ruler in the awkward restraint enforced upon his passionate subjects. Only here it is held up for ridicule – not the ridicule of the satirist, for Mandeville has no interest in changing things for the better; it is the ridicule of the realist who knows that all the moral gestures made in civil society serve to disguise the very opposite of what they proclaim, a truth that everyone with a stake in the benefits of such a deceit secretly avows. All nature is really culture, and all culture is really nothing but theatre. This is not to say that the passions are suppressed: their energy is redirected; for without ‘the Influence of the Passions, [the lumpish Machine] may be justly compar’d to a huge Wind-mill without a breath of Air’.85 The penalty for not acknowledging the force of the passions and the power of art is, according to Mandeville, self-loss, and I think this is the real point of his rebuke of Shaftesbury and implicitly of Hutcheson as well. A self that works reflexively upon itself to arouse the feelings of self-esteem that result in the illusion of godlike mastery and perfection is in danger of losing itself entirely, rather like an actor over-identified with a role. In the ‘Dialogues’ attached to The Fable of the Bees Cleomenes is distinguishing for the benefit of Horatio between self-love, the impulse behind the instinct of self-preservation and all the passions, and self-liking, or the sort of glorying self-approval Descartes, Hutcheson and Shaftesbury all cultivate to the limit. Common to both forms of self-regard, he suggests, is fidelity to the fundamental and natural self, the sort of self that Locke begins with in his analysis of personal identity, whether it is to be preserved from destruction or falsely idealized. What worries Cleomenes is the person who wishes not just to seem what he is believed to be, but really desires to be it in fact. Horatio has just confessed that when he was in Rome he wished very much to be another person called Count Theodati. Cleomenes exclaims that there has to be some degree of loyalty to the self wishing such a thing: That is impossible … unless you wished for Annihilation at the same time. It is that Self we wish well to; and therefore we cannot wish for any Change in ourselves, but with a Proviso, that the self, that Part of us, that wishes, should still remain: for take away that Consciousness you had of yourself, whilst you was wishing, and tell me pray, what part of you it is, that could be the better for the Alteration wish’d for?86


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Mandeville’s Fable is about such self-loss on a national scale, when the wish to be thought virtuous is replaced with the desire to be virtuous in deed. No one is recognizable as what they were before, and the real reformation of manners ruins what had been formerly a thriving lying commonwealth. The bees who survive set up a new community in a hollow tree, an exiguous and Spartan existence, but truly honest. All we can be sure of when we confront other individuals is the sincerity of their desire to preserve themselves, Mandeville suggests. Further than that we cannot go. Their virtue, candour, intentions and pleasure are professions we take on trust as far as is consistent with our own advantage. With regard to pleasure, for instance, Mandeville says, ‘I don’t call things Pleasures which Men say are best, but such as they seem to be most pleased’.87 The pleasure of love, for example, is ‘a product of Nature warp’d by Custom and Education’, so it is only by means of some performance that the pleasure will be expressed or recognized. As for the will, it is determined by exactly the same constraints as pleasure, seeking what may only obliquely and at length be obtained: so by a combination of dissimulation and deferment ‘we are always forc’d to do as we please’.88 Nothing we experience as a passion or nominate as an intention can ever be what it pretends, for not only are we trying to master our own contradictions, wanting badly what we appear not to want, but we are at the same time creatures of the contradictions that dominate society as a whole, where good springs up and pullulates from evil, chastity is protected by organized licentiousness, vice contributes to the public good and wealth is accumulated by prodigality. In Mandeville’s hive the bees ‘mended by Inconstancy / Faults which no Prudence could foresee’.89 In such a world no one can predict an outcome, pursue a stated end, or say what they really mean or feel. The power of those who run it is correspondingly limited, for even the most accomplished hypocrite would still need to be extraordinarily clear-sighted to predict the concatenation of causes that would bring a plot to a successful conclusion. Mandeville, however, claims a portion of such prevoyance in telling us that this is the case, and in underlining the improbability that the pretence to virtue might in fact produce real virtue. Rousseau has an interesting relationship with Mandeville, despite their apparent differences. The false utopia of the hive at the end of The Fable of the Bees is Rousseau’s starting point. The era of Spartan simplicity that Mandeville derides as society’s most potent fantasy about moral virtue defines Rousseau’s state of nature, where human beings are dominated by the two passions of fear and desire, each attached to the two powerful instincts of self-preservation and compassion. Here in a condition of amour de soi, or what Mandeville calls selflove, the soul is wrapped up in the sensation of its present existence, not able to reflect upon itself, nor needing to. But as the isolated existence of the savage is gradually exchanged for family and tribe, the passions grow more powerful and

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numerous, until finally civil society arises, and with it every sophistication of artifice and passion that Mandeville had analysed so remorselessly. Precisely the passions that Hobbes had cited as the impulsive cause of the original contract – avarice, ambition and vice – are now abroad in a social realm Rousseau equates with a state of war.90 William Reddy calls this Rousseau’s sentimentalization of Leviathan.91 In it there is nothing to ease the violence of the powerful and the oppression of the weak, for every talent is devoted to sustaining that division – wit, beauty, strength, skill. And if these attributes are not to hand, they must be borrowed or impersonated: ‘It now became the interest of men to appear what they really were not. To be and to seem became two totally different things.’92 This stage of social development marks the introduction of amour propre which, like Mandeville’s self-liking, ends only in self-forgetting and self-forsaking. For Rousseau there is nothing to choose between the hypocrite of the social world and the actor in a theatre, each is equally alienated from the self.93 If Mandeville turns the Cartesian theatre out of doors and makes it perform commedia dell’arte on the street and in the Exchange, Hume re-interiorizes it, but not with any intention of dignifying the self or soul who watches it. ‘Self or person’ is the sum of each passing sensation or passion, identity is a fiction, and the mind therefore ‘a kind of theatre, where several perceptions successively make their appearance; pass, re-pass, glide away, and mingle in an infinite variety of postures and situations’.94 There is no intention to deceive on the part of these performers, for none is solid enough to wear a mask. The only principle of unity they can aspire to is an association of ideas based on contiguity, cause and effect, custom or contrast. More sceptical than Locke or Mandeville about personal identity, and plainly incredulous of the various forms of self-esteem cultivated by Descartes, Shaftesbury and Hutcheson, Hume considers each person necessarily social because a mind so slenderly stored with permanent qualities as the one he has described could not possibly survive in its own company: ‘I own the mind to be insufficient, of itself, to its own entertainment, and that it naturally seeks after foreign objects, which may produce a lively sensation, and agitate the spirits’.95 Here then is a complete revision of the view of the mind as lord and master of its sensations and passions, most powerful when most secure against contingent impressions. Without the constant distraction of people and of things, mind, self and person would all disappear. Under such circumstances the will is ‘fluctuating and inconstant’.96 Hume would agree with Mandeville that the exercise of power by a mind so labile over the bodies and minds of other people, whose own identities were equally indistinct, would largely be a matter of custom and chance rather than plan and deceit. He says: And indeed, as our passions always regard the real existence of objects, and we always judge of this reality from past instances; nothing can be more likely of itself, without


The Evolution of Sympathy in the Long Eighteenth Century any farther reasoning, than that power consists in the possibility or probability of any action, as discover’d by experience and the practice of the world.97

This is why Hume is no more convinced than Shaftesbury that there was ever an original contract. Political power has always been an alternation between usurpation and loss whose tendency is gradually to soften into civil society. But there is no necessary or contractual connection between what we might suppose or intend and what actually happens, since there is no demonstrable reason why the sun should rise tomorrow morning; repeated instances alone teach us to expect it. Custom is the cause of civility, then, not a treaty. Burke, destined to salute the achievements of custom in his Reflections on the Revolution in France, makes a remarkable concession to the ignorance on which it depends in his Philosophical Enquiry. Talking about the correlation between lack of knowledge and the strength of the passions, he says, ‘It is our ignorance of things that causes all our admiration, and chiefly excites our passions … It is thus with the vulgar, and all men are as the vulgar in what they do not understand’.98 Although he introduces his essay as an effort to form ‘an exact theory of our passions’, what he calls a little later ‘the rationale of our passions’, for which is requisite an exact knowledge ‘of their several jurisdictions … their variety of operations’, so that one may ‘pierce into the inmost, and what might appear inaccessible parts of our nature’, he nevertheless recurs to a recognition of the severe limits of his enterprise.99 In a warning that unmistakably includes his doubts about the claims of moral sense philosophy he says: I am afraid it is a practice much too common in inquiries of this nature, to attribute the cause of feelings which merely arise from the mechanical structure of our bodies, or from the natural frame and constitution of our minds, to certain conclusions of the reasoning faculty on the objects presented to us; for I should imagine, that the influence of reason in producing our passions is nothing near so extensive as it is commonly believed.100

If reason plays such an insignificant part in Burke’s rationale of the passions, what is important to it? The answer is the imagination, especially when it is most fully active; and that is when it is engaged with the impetus of the sublime, a branch of the aesthetic most fully illustrated and exemplified by Longinus and Milton. Such a conclusion puts Burke close to Hobbes and long way from Descartes. In suggesting that our strongest intuition of the presence of God arises directly from an imagination excited by the repeated strokes of objects of sense, Burke has mistaken (Descartes would say) the deity for a mere idol.101 At the outset of his essay on the sublime Burke distinguishes between the passions associated with pleasure, such as sexual excitement, and pain, such as terror. Pleasure is a simple and positive sensation; but pain has a much broader affective spectrum, not least because it is the emissary of the king of terrors:

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death. So he distinguishes between the social passions associated with pleasure, and those arising from the instinct for self-preservation, which are associated with pain. Of the latter, the passion of delight is the most important because it accompanies any encounter with the sublime; and delight he defines as modified pain. In its most extreme form, delight is caused by the threat of annihilation immediately followed by its removal. Such a threat is experienced in the presence of unlimited power – Burke mentions natural phenomena such as the ocean; animals such as Job’s war-horse and leviathan; and humans such as kings and commanders. But by far the most terrible is God, whom to apprehend in the fullest extent takes away the free use of our faculties, and in whose presence ‘we shrink into the minuteness of our own nature, and are, in a manner annihilated before him’.102 Following Longinus, Burke believes that sublime delight involves two pulses, first of terror and then of relief when the menace of annihilation is removed. The first phase of any sublime passion is dominated by the impact of irresistible power, provoking stupefaction, immobility, silence. The sense of the threat removed is not simply relief that we are safe, however, but a feeling much more turbulent and arrogant. ‘Hence proceeds what Longinus has observed of that glorying and sense of inward greatness, that always fills the reader of such passages in poets and orators as are sublime.’103 This is what Longinus says: ‘The Sublime, endued with Strength irresisitible, strikes home [and] … with the rapid force of Lightning has born down all before it’; and then he adds, ‘The Mind is naturally elevated by the true Sublime, and so sensibly affected with its lively Strokes, that it swells in Transport and an inward Pride, as if what was only heard had been the Product of its own Invention’.104 The object of sublime power acquires some of that power, and to some degree usurps the position from which that power flowed, recognizing itself in it. Burke and Longinus want to keep this sublime reaction to power within the scope of literature and the aesthetic, but both are aware of the political implications of sublime oratory. This is how the vulgar are moved, and how power moves with them. Notwithstanding the odium he attracted from radicals such as Paine and Wollstonecraft, Burke’s conservatism is heavily seasoned with a kind of imaginative hospitality to images of violent overthrow, when power suddenly changes hands, and those most nearly threatened with oppression seize the initiative at the expense of sovereigns who are removed from their thrones. He dwells on revolution in its various guises: it repels and fascinates him equally. One of his most powerful examples of a description capable of hurrying the mind out of itself is of the fallen Lucifer, his glory obscured, As when the sun new ris’n Looks through the horizontal misty air Shorn of his beams; or from behind the moon In dim eclipse disastrous twilight sheds


The Evolution of Sympathy in the Long Eighteenth Century On half the nations; and with fear of change Perplexes monarchs.105

He recalls this very image as he laments the fate of the French queen in Reflections on the Revolution in France: It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of France, then the dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she just began to move in – glittering like the morningstar, full of life, and splendor, and joy. Oh! What a revolution! And what an heart must I have, to contemplate without emotion that elevation and that fall!106

The events leading up to the execution of Louis XVI and his queen in 1793, provoking a new cult of the Eikon Basilike, provided Burke with food for what John Barrell has called his addiction to imagined scenes of regicide. In a debate on the regency crisis of 1789, when George III had succumbed to the effects of his porphyria and gone out of his mind, Burke made a speech which included a rebuke to Pitt and his supporters. This was how it was reported: They were talking of a sick King, of a Monarch smitten by the hand of Omnipotence, and that the Almighty had hurled him from his Throne, and plunged him into a condition that drew upon him the pity of the meanest peasant in his Kingdom.107

Although he was roundly attacked for comparing the sick king to Lucifer (Wollstonecraft told him he was ‘prying into the secrets of Omnipotence’),108 Burke returned unabashed to the same image when reflecting on the torments of the French king in the Reflections. ‘In events like these’, he wrote, our passions instruct our reason … when kings are hurl’d from their thrones by the Supreme Director of this great drama, and become the objects of insult to the base, and of pity to the good, we behold such disasters as we should behold a miracle in the physical order of things.109

Barrell notes that according to the laws against sedition being refurbished by Pitt’s government at this time, which defined treason not just as compassing the king’s death but also imagining it, Burke’s sublimity (what Barrell calls his ‘vertiginous slippage’) had carried him into dangerous territory, or at least into language that was ‘avowing, even as it trie[d] to deny, that faced with objects, like kings, that inspire terror by their power and pity by their sufferings, sympathy may be mixed with malevolence’.110 In the history of the debate about the passions, Burke occupies a unique place, for he shares Hume’s opinion of the failure of reason either to modify, understand or control them, and he realizes like Locke that to consider the operation of feeling in its fullest empirical extent is to assign certain important actions of the

Passion and Power


mind such as free will to the sphere of taste. The imaginative freedom this allows has two results: it places much of our experience out of range of cognition, and it makes room for figurative forms of anarchy, of passionate feigning as Descartes would call it.111 Burke’s radical opponents alluded persistently to his use of metaphor, just as Kant mentioned with disdain the ‘empirical anthropology’ of his aesthetics. The effect is a collision of two powerful impulses, namely a conscious desire for political continuity at war with a susceptibility to the passions incident to usurpation of power. Longinus said that discourse of the sublime must be sublime itself, and actually perform what it describes; and if it performs its survival of an encounter with the power of annihilation, it must be seen to have triumphed, not just to have escaped. As Barrell says, ‘There is no need to search the sentimental language … for symptoms of the kind represented by Burke’s vertiginous slippage; the language itself was the symptom’: what Wollstonecraft called ‘a rhapsody delivered in an equivocal language’.112 With Burke, Hume, and Mandeville all muddying the waters on the other side of the stream occupied by the proponents of the existential purity of the thinking thing and the infallible judgements of the moral sense, the questions concerning self, will and power needed some sort of adjudication and stabilization, and this was provided by Adam Smith. He took certain key ideas from Shaftesbury and his school: a self capable of observing and appreciating itself, and of locating in self-inspection both the model and the impulse of moral virtue. But he set the stage for self-surveillance in the open, beyond the enclosure of the individual mind, where the social force of sympathy would be publicly responsible for quelling the more outrageous passions. He fancies this as a theatre not like Descartes’s, where the soul views impassively the play of the passions, but more like Mandeville’s, where performances of various degrees of skill will sue for approval. So Smith marries the idea of the potential sovereign authority of the will to the metaphor of the theatre. The audience is represented by an impartial spectator, the self by the performer, and the play is the trial of virtuous action. Luc Boltanski considers Smith’s alignment of a passionate object within the sight-line of an impartial spectator-subject as one which sets what he calls ‘a politics of pity’ firmly within an authoritarian structure, with all the options on the side of the viewer, and nothing but a petitionary role assigned the performer. The passions are managed, he says, (rather like those of the duc de Chartres) ‘in order to make of it a political argument’.113 Perhaps that is to overstate the case, since Smith is making room for the self-government of passions under the eye of a presence that is not an agent, nor even a judge, but more like a personification of self-consciousness. Nevertheless, the suggestion that the self must be groomed and adjusted for its public role carries with it the traces of hypocrisy that Mandeville and Rousseau find so typical of the regime of moral virtue in civil society. But possibly Smith is seriously entertaining the paradox of Mandeville’s Fable,


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namely that the impersonation of virtue can have truly virtuous outcomes. And once this paradox is perfected, the self has no further need to divide itself but can resume or occupy that condition of personal integrity so highly prized by Descartes, Shaftesbury and Hutcheson. In any event, this idea of the healthy and virtuous self as secure from intrusions of unexpected impressions and passions becomes a powerful orthodoxy that underwrites considerable scepticism towards sensibility among radicals such as Wollstonecraft and Godwin. Unreflective sympathy is responsible, Wollstonecraft says, for the sexual docility of women as well as other pernicious forms of languor and emotional lassitude; for if such an instinct is not strengthened by principles of reason and rights, it is deadened and corrupted.114 In Fleetwood (1805) and Caleb Williams (1794), Godwin wrote terrifying fables of the ruin caused by unchecked sympathy. This was an issue Hazlitt took very seriously. In his essay on Hobbes he makes a joke out of seventeenth-century empiricism, saying that the philosopher’s vigorous constitution ‘resisted all impressions but those which were derived from the downright blows of matter’. He goes on: ‘The external image pressed so close upon his mind that it destroyed the power of consciousness, and left no room for attention to any thing but it self ’.115 In ‘On the Principles of Human Action’ Hazlitt is serious in defending the power of consciousness. He starts out with Smith’s assumption that no one can actually share the sensation of another person: The only notice or perception which another can have of this sensation in me or which I can have a similar sensation in another is by means of the imagination … Any impression made on another can neither be the cause nor object of sensation to me.116

Tackling Burke’s attitude to sympathy as a sort of substitution by means of which one usurps or is usurped by the feelings of others, Hazlitt goes on to erect something like a Cartesian firewall around personal identity: I should like to know whether Mr. Burke, with his Sublime and Beautiful fancies, would deny that each person has a particular body and senses belonging to him, so that he feels a peculiar and natural interest in whatever affects these more than another can, and whether such a peculiar and paramount interest does not imply a direct and unavoidable right in maintaining this circle of individuality inviolate.117

It is tempting to say that things have come full circle with regard to the passions, and that Hazlitt resumes the Cartesian idea of an inviolate soul; but it is more likely that here we are witnessing the democratization of the security and privacy of the soul, now to be maintained as a common right, not as a sovereign prerogative. There is no suggestion that the circle of the individual is a theatre, where power is concentrated at a point; nor is there any hint that it is vulnerable

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to an extraneous power. In fact such an individual operates in an envelope of his or her own sensations and reflections, not wishing much to act on others nor to be acted upon by them. This is a far cry from the loose and fantastic idea of personal identity Hume presents, or from the empiricist accounts of knowledge and the passions, each arising from the bombardment of the senses with the impressions of outward things that the followers of Hobbes and Locke explore. Burke is the inheritor of this empiricist intellectual tradition, and it inclines him to be much more alert to sympathy as a set of relations governing the mind’s encounters with the world than anyone who imagines, like Hazlitt, that there is no possibility of sharing someone else’s sensations other than by imagining them. Even Smith retreats from that position by the time he gets to the end of The Theory of Moral Sentiments. What then are the politics of sympathy? On the Cartesian and neoPlatonic side Shaftesbury speaks out loudly against its tendency to demean the royal integrity of the self: ‘Miserable Sympathy!’ he calls it when he sees the honest heart seduced by its false promises of sociable commerce, ‘harmonizing in that other way … sympathizing … and … covering it with those names of natural affection and tenderness’.118 Burke suggests that they could be revolutionary, and that sublime sympathy is not so much a substitution of one mind for another as a usurpation of power by those who were formerly threatened by it. Certainly sympathy complicates the Spinozan alternatives of action and passion, for in a scene of sympathy passion is, as Locke might say, both active and passive. This means that any bid for control can be counteracted, and that no position is ever final: it is more like a game than a theatre, with a strong emphasis placed on reciprocity and uncertainty. It is important to thinkers who favour sympathy that they are not constrained by notions of the reality of identity or species. These are merely notional boundaries that easily may be crossed once the relations between the mind and the world become vital and unstable. They are hospitable to the idea of change which they do not, like Hutcheson or Shaftesbury, associate with degeneracy or corruption. So it is possible for them to entertain a range of sympathetic possibilities, or sympathies, far more radical in its implications than those would allow who stand up for the justness, integrity and genuineness of the self. So it is to the varieties of sympathy we turn now.


For if a man naturally loved his fellow man, loved him, I mean, as his fellow man, there is no reason why everyone would not love everyone equally as equally men.1

Within the political economy of the passions sympathy plays an important but equivocal role. On the one hand it is a passion as importunate as any other: It comes in either at the Eye or the Ear, or both; and the nearer and more violently the Object of Compassion strikes those Senses, the greater Disturbance it causes in us, often to such a Degree as to occasion great Pain and Anxiety.2

It exemplifies very vividly the supine condition of those who are acted upon by external objects, without any choice in the matter. On the other hand, it is the only passion which seems to be entirely disinterested, where the desire impelling it seeks solely to augment the happiness or to lessen the misery of other people, and to that extent it looks more like action than passion. Although it is triggered by a set of adventitious circumstances, it resolves itself into a state and relation different from the passivity defined by Spinoza. It seems to be a motion of the heart resembling a function of the will, impelling the individual to an act of moral virtue, and in this sense it bids to be a prime example of what the followers of Hutcheson and Shaftesbury would call the moral sense. Before going any further, however, it is useful to bundle up the ancillary feelings that are often mentioned in conjunction with sympathy, or whose names are used as synonyms for it. These include pity, compassion, fellow-feeling, commiseration and empathy. If empathy denotes a total identification with someone else’s feelings, pity perhaps suggests a much fainter engagement with them, what we can feel for a stranger or someone we scarcely know. Hume calls pity weak sympathy, and says that it is always concerned with scenes of distress, whereas true sympathy ranges through the gamut of feelings, from the painful to the pleasurable.3 Max Scheler and Luc Boltanski are agreed that pity and sympathy are quite distinct. We can pity the victims of a disaster such as war or earthquake, knowing generally what loss and suffering they must be enduring. Pity is based on some degree of prior knowledge of the condition being pitied. But parents of a child – 41 –


The Evolution of Sympathy in the Long Eighteenth Century

seriously ill feel the same intensity of woe without knowing why, and what they feel is not pity for the infant but a passion much more urgent and total.4 Boltanski explains that pity overcomes the problem of distant suffering, whereas what he calls compassion is immersed in a present particular situation.5 Pity implies not only a knowledge of what is being pitied, but also a moral inflection of emotion and a tendency towards conscious benevolence, whereas sympathy implies neither in being both sudden and unconditional. When we blush for the shameless act of someone else, or supply their insensibility with our own concern for that of which they are insensible, it is likewise pity, because there is no possibility of the feeling being shared by its object. Burke places pity among the social tendencies of sympathy, whose object is pleasure; and he assigns the more sublime and imperative sort to the instinct of self-preservation, generally accompanied not by pleasure but the state of modified pain he calls delight. He too imagines a spectrum of possibilities, ranging from pity on one side – where the beholder is pleased by the representation rather than the reality of suffering – and sublime sympathy on the other, ‘solid, strong, and severe’.6 So here in the difference between sympathy and pity the paradox of an active passion gains an extra twist, for the more we are in its grip the more likely we are to act, and the more conscious we are of its effect upon us, the more likely we are to remain still. Certainly pity attracts few strong endorsements: Descartes says, ‘Those who feel very weak and very much subject to fortune’s adversities seem to be more inclined to this Passion than others are’.7 Walter Charleton says it is esteem for what is less than ourselves, and Hobbes says it is the fear of personal misfortune triggered by the calamity of another person, therefore ‘the best men have the least Pitty’.8 Compassion is often used interchangeably with sympathy, but it appears to be different. Talking of commiseration, which I take to be the same as compassion, Scheler puts very succinctly the division between the subject and object of it when he says, ‘To commiserate is … to be sorry at another person’s sorrow, as being his’.9 This difference looms large in Smith’s account of sympathy, which for the most part he treats as a conditional arrangement, where a feeling belonging to someone else can be mine only as it were, or by analogy, or in some measure; it can never be a full exchange. But when sympathy becomes unconditional, and what takes place is a substitution of the object by the subject (as Burke defines it), then the result is what Hume calls the ‘compleat sympathy’, which these days would go by the name of empathy.10 Since it seems possible for sympathy to include a full identification with the emotions of someone, or even something, else, I would prefer to set aside the term empathy altogether. It is clearly important to distinguish pity from sympathy, however, and with that done, it is no great insult to the principle of categorical difference to place fellow-feeling, compassion and commiseration somewhere between, sometimes inclining towards pity, and sometimes towards sympathy.

Four Kinds of Sympathy


The history of sympathy runs closely parallel with the history of the passions, but as I have said its politics are different because it is less than a passive sentiment, at the same time it is not a fully active expression of free will. It comprehends the terms of an event and an action, being a feeling fortuitously aroused on which we might be said to happen to act in a socially useful way. Before the eighteenth century, according to Hannah Arendt, ‘compassion operated outside the political realm and frequently outside the established hierarchy of the church’.11 Although the English Revolution and the growth of absolutism in France offer plenty of exceptions to this claim, some of which have been reviewed in the previous chapter, it is certainly true that a political realm dominated by an ethos of courtly politeness and feudal obligation had little use for independent manifestations of sympathy because one way or another all contingencies had their etiquettes and protocols, and there was little room for autonomy among the passions which were (with the exception of those incident to love and warfare) considered demeaning or sinful and generally enfeebling. Similarly in the hierarchy of Christian duties charity took pride of place, and the giving of alms to the unfortunate and hospitality to strangers represented major institutional and personal investments in active Christianity, not to mention donations to religious houses and endowments for schools and universities. The weakening of the bonds of obligation and charity was doubtless overdetermined, but the Reformation, the English Revolution and the advances made in science all contributed to it. Scheler says Protestantism excluded charity as necessary to salvation, and also it ruled out occult forms of sympathy such as pantheism and mysticism as acceptable spheres of spiritual exercise; meanwhile science supplanted organic explanations of the natural world with mechanical ones, and was hostile to the anthropomorphization of animals, plants and matter in general.12 We shall see that this was not entirely the case, and that early theories of sympathy drew heavily on doctrines of a percipient world, where active matter finds it possible to communicate sensations because in some degree all things are aware of themselves. However, it is true that the broad consensus concerning charitable duty was under strain. In late seventeenth-century England one might include the financial revolution and the growth of capitalism as powerful factors in the weakening of social bonds and the loosening of political and spiritual controls. With the broad welcome given by the Whig ascendancy to the doctrine and practice of self-interest, the growing importance of money as an abstract influence over human affairs, combined with the growing social and legal salience of personal property, displaced values associated with custom and the heritable tenure of land. Addiction to luxury spelled anarchy in the minds of many, some of whom were moved to stem the tide of ruin with institutional bulwarks. Charity schools and foundling hospitals were handsomely subscribed, and Societies for the Reformation of


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Manners, backed by houses of correction called Bridewells, exercised a powerful influence during the early eighteenth century, particularly on the poor. It was against this backdrop, and against what he took to be the fashion for charity schools in particular, that Bernard Mandeville wrote The Fable of the Bees, whose moral he intended as a warning against this idle form of social engineering. An honest hive may exhibit all the stoic and Christian virtues it pleases, but if it means what it says it will be neither populous nor rich; so not only must we accept the bad with the good, he told his readers, we must positively acknowledge that the good springs up and pullulates from the most detestable of motives and practices. So Mandeville was obliged to consider the less peremptory forms of social harmony available to a public which was (he hoped) not to be directed by this sort of chivvying from bands of do-gooders. Like many of his contemporaries who chose to depend upon the natural equilibrium of the market for the guarantee of moral virtue, Mandeville believed that the pursuit of self-interest is consistent with the public good, and in fact crucial to it, but at the same time he was curious, in a guarded way, about the natural impulses of pity, compassion and sympathy. Well aware that every virtue and every amiable passion can be impersonated in the modern world of commercial exchange, Mandeville wanted to know under what circumstances sympathy can operate disinterestedly, having already assumed that more formal acts of benevolence do not: For when we are sincere in sharing with another in his Misfortunes, Self-Love makes us believe, that the Sufferings we feel must alleviate and lessen those of our Friend, and while this fond Reflexion is soothing our Pain, a secret Pleasure arises from our grieving for the Person we love.13

The slippage from public grief to personal pleasure rehearses almost exactly the prevarication of Descartes’s widower, the man who locates in the public performance of grief a strong impulse of secret self-delight. Is there a sympathy outside the range of the inward joy of Cartesian self-esteem? Mandeville first of all defines what he means by primitive charity, and it comes close to modern charity when he says that it is that Virtue by which part of that sincere Love we have for our selves is transferr’d pure and unmix’d to others, not tied to us by the Bonds of Friendship or Consanguinity, and even meer Strangers, whom we have no Obligation to, nor hope nor expect anything from.14

Then he imagines a scene that Rousseau thought redeemed Mandeville from the worst of his scepticism. It involves a spectator immobilized behind a grill observing a child at play in an adjoining yard, when suddenly the child is attacked by a sow, thrown to the ground and torn apart.

Four Kinds of Sympathy


To see her widely open her destructive Jaws, and the poor Lamb beat down with greedy haste; to look on the defenceless Posture of tender Limbs first trampled on, then tore asunder; to see the filthy Snout digging in the yet living Entrails suck up the smoking Blood, and now and then to hear the Crackling of the Bones, and the cruel Animal with savage Pleasure grunt over the horrid Banquet; to hear and see all this, What Tortures would it give the Soul beyond Expression! Let me see the most shining Virtue the Moralists have to boast of so manifest either to the Person possess’d of it, or those who behold his Actions: Let me see Courage, or the Love of one’s Country so apparent without any Mixture, clear’d and distinct, the first from Pride and Anger, the other from the Love of Glory, and every Shadow of Self-Interest, as this Pity would be clear’d and distinct from all other Passions.15

So here is charity in its purest form, immediately felt and directly and spontaneously expressed, free from any taint of self-love or self-reflection. But there is no moral virtue in such a passion, not simply because it is without efficacy: it is what ‘an Highwayman, an House-Breaker, or a Murderer’ must feel in the same situation. It is instinctive alarm at the sight of physical suffering, one of the two instincts (the other is self-preservation) that Mandeville and Rousseau are agreed compose the hard-wiring of the human passions in a state of nature. Mandeville had already maintained that the sight and sound of any sentient animal in pain, even a lobster squealing in a pot, will alarm our nerves and prompt the same reaction. The case he seems himself to take most seriously is the bullock in Smithfield, falling beneath the butcher’s blows: As soon as the wide Wound is made, and the Jugulars are cut asunder, what Mortal can without Compassion hear the painful Bellowings intercepted by his Blood, the bitter Sighs that speak the Sharpness of his Anguish, and the deep sounding Grones with loud Anxiety fetch’d from the bottom of his strong and palpitating Heart; Look on the trembling and violent Convulsions of his Limbs; see, while his reeking Gore streams from him, his Eyes become dim and languid, and behold his Strugglings, Gasps and last Efforts for Life … is there a Follower of Descartes so inur’d to Blood, as not to refute, by his Commiseration, the Philosophy of that vain Reasoner?16

It is an interesting challenge the former disciple extends to those still faithful to his quondam master, for it is by no means certain that he takes this scene less seriously than the overdone rhetoric of the dying child, whose ‘Prittle-Prattle’ has won our affection, and whose crackling bones and smoking entrails reduce us to compassionate prostration. There the point was that compassion was ‘clear’d and distinct’ from any other passion but also that it was valueless, any witness would experience the same mechanical reaction and so there was nothing at stake – nothing we ought or ought not to do, it being done regardless of any other consideration. But here there are certain obstacles of custom to be overcome, such as widespread meat-eating, the frequent sight of cruelty to animals and the bloody-mindedness of Descartes’s attitude to animals in pain, all to be


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accused and neutralized. So there is now definitely something at stake concerning the relation of the will to the contingency of an event. To find out more of what it is, I want to consider sympathy in four stages, or at least in four distinct categories, to trace its evolution during the next hundred years bearing these categories in mind. In some respects they conform to Scheler’s four divisions of immediate, reactive, contagious and overflowing sympathy; but I want to call them mechanical, moral, theatrical and (after Hume) ‘compleat’.17

The Machinery of Sympathy To begin with the mechanical is to begin in one sense with Descartes’s description of the mechanism of animal suffering, no different from a squealing gear or the clatter of a broken sprocket. In Cartesian terms it would be nonsense to award it any significance at all; it is just noise. ‘From this it follows that it is morally impossible that there should be sufficient diversity in any machine to allow it to act in all the events of life as our reason causes us to act’.18 If it were a human with a soul who was crying out, therefore, it would be an altogether different case, and some degree of action would be called for in order to attempt the restoration of the soul to its natural position of sovereignty. Mandeville has reversed the terms of this distinction to see how Cartesians might like it, seeking with all the arts of rhetoric to win compassion for the bullock, and treating with oblique irony or even ridicule the later hypothesis of the child. But this still leaves him with a Cartesian model of mechanism which he reinforces with some further observations on sympathy, or what he calls pity and compassion. Several times he insists that this is an empirical phenomenon that arrives at our sensorium via the senses: It comes in at the Eye or Ear, or both; and the nearer and more violently the Object of Compassion strikes those Senses, the greater Disturbance it causes in us, often to such a Degree as to occasion great Pain and Anxiety.19

Notice in the descriptions of the bullock and the child how carefully Mandeville addresses the ear and the eye. Although he says that his readers will wonder ‘at what I have said of Pity, that it comes in at the Eye or Ear’, he insists that it is not the scene itself but our proximity to it and the sensory immediacy of each detail as it appears which provokes our pain, ‘to see the Motion of the Soul … observe their Fears and Agonies’. The visible and audible distinctness of this retinue of circumstances is important, and it is what he supplies in his two set-pieces, for ‘when the Object does not strike, the Body does not feel it’.20 At a distance pity is the best you can feel, and that will be faint in proportion as the event is remote. Mandeville had read Spinoza and he is making a classic Spinozan proposition when he says, ‘Things that strike our outward Senses act more violently upon

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our Passions than what is the result of Thought and … Reason’.21 Only then are we seized by pity, and pity is a weakness; while to be overly compassionate is ‘an unpardonable Weakness’.22 Does strength lie in Cartesian reason, then? Surely not, given his challenge to Cartesians over the dying bullock. Mandeville often finds himself in a bind when trying to negotiate between culture and nature, and this is a case in point. In fact he sees no difference between our reactions to the child and the bullock considered as natural phenomena, objects striking the senses. He wants to claim for both maximum clarity and distinctness, but culture gets in the way, blunting the agony of the animal, and highlighting the pathos of the child. So he reverses the rhetorical valence in order to put nature back into the frame; but it is still a mechanical kind of nature, where weakness is caused by objects striking our senses and leaving us prey to feelings that cause us pain. But assuming that Mandeville’s aim at least in this part of the Fable is to take sympathy out of its cultural setting, to detach it from the system of reflection and reason that would make self-interest or self-esteem the primary consideration, and to view it instead clearly and distinctly from all other concerns, then relative to what standard of behaviour would it be esteemed weak? There is apparently no Cartesian motive for saying so, since Mandeville has already scornfully analysed the kind of générosité that defends the fort of the rational soul. Perhaps he means that passion so forcibly aroused disables us from acting even though we want badly to act, that we are all unable to intervene to save either the animal or the child, stuck behind an iron grill or behind the law preventing assaults on butchers. Yet it is only on these immobilizing terms that the pure and unmixed transfer of feelings can take place, and he seems to want to quarrel with our lack of choice in the matter, although choice is explicitly what he jettisons when he insists on an unreflective and immediate submission to sensory impressions – the worst and best of people would feel them equally powerfully, whether they wanted to or not. He must mean something like this: that when we feel a powerful jolt of sympathy for a sentient creature, and there is not the slightest cultural modification of the passion, then we catch sight of ourselves for a moment outside the paradoxical system of civil society acting not as a ‘Social Animal’ but simply an animal, a primitive ‘I’ (to coin Shaftesbury’s distinction) looking at ‘Me’.23 It will help to go back to the source of mechanical theories of sympathy. When Sir Kenelm Digby demanded, ‘What is likeness but an imperfect unity between a thing and that which it is said to be like to?’24 he advertised his belief not only in the principle of unity, but also in the means of its being obtained. Like Aristophanes’s strange eight-limbed creatures who were cut in half by Jove and ever since sought union in copulation, Digby’s world of matter is filled with things yearning sympathetically towards the matching part that will complete them. This sympathy is aided by the fact that matter is not satisfied with resemblance in its search for other matter; it wants the corpuscular reality of its missing


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piece, not a picture or a ghostly paradigm. In his book Of Bodies and Man’s Soul (1669) he broaches a Lucretian or Epicurean nature, where the thin film or bark of things, their envelope or skin, is constantly being darted from their surfaces to the senses, bombarding them with the actual particles of the substance: ‘Every body sends forth a continual emanation of atoms out of it self ’.25 It is a strangely thoroughgoing materialism. He says, In the actions of all our senses, there is a material and corporal participation of the things we are sensible of, viz., some atoms of the body operate on our senses, and enter into the Organs; which serve them as funnels, to conduct and carry them to the brain and imagination.26

Sense impressions are the incorporation of the material traces of things, the literal building blocks of the fancy and imagination; and these impressions are most strong when the receptive substance is cognate with the impressive one: as if Mandeville should say of the dying animal, ‘I feel beefly about this bullock’. The doctrine of sympathy on which many a hermetic, alchemical and mystical programme of research was based – for instance that there was a natural affinity between the lodestone and iron, coral and gold, hazel rods and water, or the rind of walnuts and the brain – was adapted by Digby and others for medical purposes. In an interesting gloss on sympathy as contract, H. M. Herwig wrote, Sympathy is a mutual and natural affection and combination between natural things … from which affection it proceeds, that one body attracts another to itself … Others call sympathy a consent, when certain things are joined together by a mutual marriage, as bound in a kind of league one to the other.27

If distempers and wounds were a kind of war, the breach of this league or contract, then relief and a renewal of the covenant would be obtained if the cause of acrimony could be removed and union restored. For this purpose Digby employed the ‘Sympathetick Powder’, actually sulphuric acid, to restore sundered matter to its former state. He mentions the sword-cut in the hand of James Howel which began to mortify. Digby took one of Howel’s garters, which had blood on it from the original wound, and put it in a bowl of water with the vitriol, and suddenly Howel reported in his inflamed hand a ‘pleasuring kind of freshness’.28 When the garter was removed from the liquid and held to the fire, the wound smarted once again; back in the mixture, and the pain was gone. This sympathetic powder formed the basis of Umberto Eco’s fantasy The Island of the Day Before where a wounded dog is carried into the Pacific Ocean, and the knife that wounded it is turned in Greenwich at pre-appointed intervals towards the south, whereupon the howl of the dog gives the crew a longitudinal reckoning. The Howel experiment was witnessed by J. B. Van Helmont, who explained how the ‘sovereign Balsamick Faculty’ of the powder conducted the blood and

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spirits congesting an open wound back to the heart, allowing the lips to close and knit. He praised ‘the long arm of sympathy’ for operating over distances as short as this and as long as many hundreds of miles by means of ‘invisible emissions’.29 The doctrine of physical sympathy found a powerful ally in Henry More, the Cartesian and neo-Platonist, who believed not only that a strong attraction bound wounds to weapons, but that the very organs of the body, such as the heart and stomach, were sympathetically united.30 More’s most daring move in this regard was suppose a sympathetic attraction between the body and the soul, not (he hastened to add), from any such gross Mechanical way, as when two Bodies stick one in another by reason of any toughness and viscosity, or straight commissure of parts; but from a congruity of another nature, which I know not better how to term than Vital.31

Attracted by the ‘rays or subtile reek’ of matter, the soul experiences what he calls ‘Mundane Sympathy’.32 Walter Charleton, who used More’s notion of the corporeal ‘vehicle’ of the soul to construct a synthesis of Hobbes’s materialism and Descartes’s rationalism, associated natural sympathy and antipathy with the two primary affections of aversion and desire, later so important in Hutcheson’s theory of the moral sense. The previous chapter has rehearsed the parallel intellectual history of Campanella’s ‘world-animal’ and Bacon’s system of universal perception as doctrines clearly antithetic to the perfect exercise of the Cartesian soul, and to Enlightenment attitudes to superstition and natural magic. But they all have a life in the history of sympathy, to which Bacon contributed his Historia Sympathiae & Antipathiae. The strong vein of Lucretian materialism in Charleton’s synthesis, for example, where he talks of the powerful attraction of the sensitive soul towards objects pleasurable to the senses, smooth and ‘consentaneous to the delicate contexture of the nerves’, reappears in the anti-Cartesianism of La Mettrie and D’Holbach, where we discover the degree zero of materialist sympathy.33 Here is D’Holbach: The whole of nature subsists and is conceived only by the circulation, the transmigration, the exchange, and the perpetual displacing of insensible particles … Man is a material being; he cannot have any ideas whatever, but of that which is material like himself; that is to say, of that which can act upon his organs, or of that which has qualities analogous to his own.34

La Mettrie construes the circulation of matter as the cause of our being steeped in passion, ‘which draws us towards its object in spite of our soul’.35 Sympathy is the name they give the mutual consciousness of action and passion, like Campanella’s light whose brightness is returned by the brightening of what it illuminates, or motion rebounded from what is moved.


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Perhaps the most surprising effort made to exploit the material links between the mind and the objects which strike it was Rousseau’s experiment with sympathetic ink, a story he tells in his Confessions. Rousseau resolved in that book to exhibit the secrets of his soul, to lay his insides before the public in their most transparent form. Aware of the myriad difficulties that stand in the way of such an enterprise, he said he needed to invent a new language if he were to strike the reader’s soul with his own, clearly and distinctly, without a trace of amour propre. Already he had tried to make a new kind of medium for the job, for during his spell at Chambery Rousseau concocted the ink of sympathy, supposedly an invisible liquid legible only to readers able to read with candour equal to the author’s: To which purpose I more than half-filled a bottle with quicklime, sulphide of arsenic, and water, and corked it tightly. Almost instantaneously the effervescence began most violently. I ran to the bottle to uncork it, but I was not in time; it burst in my face like a bomb. I swallowed so much of the sulphide and lime that it almost killed me. I was blinded for six weeks, and in that way I learnt not to meddle in experimental physics.36

Swift’s Tale of a Tub, an ingenious permutation of old ideas of sympathy with new, examines the techniques available for modern authors eager to let the reader into every circumstance of their lives so that the maximum of sympathy can be generated between them. Sometimes this involves an obtuse journalistic particularity, as when the Author tells us that he has been ill, occasionally hungry, that he is sitting in a garret up four pairs of stairs and letting the pen run over the sheet as it pleases because he has nothing specifically in mind to communicate except the desire for some minimal connection by means of ink between himself and the gentle, candid reader ‘brimful of that Modern Charity and Tenderness, usually annexed to his Office’.37 Sometimes he gives recipes for reading books that reproduce Digby’s vision of the literal impact of matter upon our brains, as when he recommends boiling up calf-bound folios of deep learning, reducing the liquor to an elixir and snuffing it up into the brain. In Digby’s system light is the universal medium, rebounding from surfaces and carrying traces of them to the eye. In the imagined universe of Swift’s Author it is ink, not always sympathetic because it is often used for the paper wars of Grub Street, but at its best providing the single material link between one brain and another. Experiments with sympathetic ink are imitated by other aspirants for candour in the eighteenth century, figures as far apart as Shaftesbury and Tristram Shandy, who sit pen in hand in front of a ‘vocal Looking-glass’, as Shaftesbury calls it, aiming to set down exactly what they see. But nowhere is pen and ink more assiduously used in the enterprise of a full exchange of hearts than in epistolary novels, where the league or contract is always the same: The reader says,

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‘The heart is what I want … the knowledge of the inmost recesses of your heart’. And the writer affirms, ‘I wrote my heart’. The medium of this agreement is the ink in the pen, leaving every trace of the motions of the mind on paper, even the most trivial and momentary: ‘I will lay down my pen – But can – Yet, positively, I will lay down my pen’.38 Among the many mechanical systems for inducing a common sensation or trance in Swift’s satire – smoking tobacco, humming, shaking, ululating – vibration is important, especially in gaining disciples for mad schemes of philosophy: Besides, there is something Individual in human Minds, that easily kindles at the accidental Approach and Collision of certain Circumstances, which tho’ of paltry and mean Appearance, do often flame out into the greatest Emergencies of Life … And I think the Reason is easie to be assigned: For there is a peculiar String in the Harmony of the Human Understanding, which in several individuals is exactly of the same Tuning. This if you can dexterously screw up to its right Key, and then strike gently upon it, whenever you have the Good Fortune to light among those of the same Pitch, they will by a secret and necessary Sympathy, strike exactly at the same time.39

The system of vibrations forms the core of one of the most influential theories of sensation and cognition in the eighteenth century, David Hartley’s Observations on Man (1749), written as a series of Newtonian propositions with their various corollaries. All sensation occurs by means of vibration up and down the nerves, which he supposes are solid capillaments whose pores are dilated with Newtonian ether allowing action at a distance. Vibrations caused by the impression of an object upon the nerves are conveyed to the medullary substance of the brain, and then back again to the muscles and nerves as counter-vibrations, acting and reacting just like motion or light in Campanella’s ‘world-animal’, or dashing like Charleton’s brigades of animal spirits between the nerves, the brain and the heart.40 After the initial sequence of vibration has ceased the vibrations are stored as vibratiuncles, miniatures of the original sensation, waiting to be reactivated when the corresponding pitch is heard, like an organ pipe awaiting wind. Like Hume, whose Newtonian metaphors are here literalized, Hartley believes the pitch is caused by force of custom, cause and effect or contiguity, leading a vibratiuncle to respond with another according to association, ultimately forming the musical chord of a complex idea.41 The whole nervous machine is in a perpetual potential symphony as new vibrations blend with old, triggering new chords and variations. Vibrational sympathy is frequently on show in Sterne’s fiction, where it is often described a series of alternating gestures caused by vibrations going backwards and forwards between the nerve-ends and the medulla, alternately tensing and relaxing the muscles. Nowhere is it evident in a more mechanically Hartleian manner than at the remise door in Calais in A Sentimental Journey. Yorick is


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holding a strange woman’s hand, she feeling his pulse and he hers, a mutual eavesdropping upon the telegraphy of their hearts, each throb being no sooner felt than it crosses over from one vibrational system to another: ‘The pulsations of the arteries along my fingers pressing across hers, told her what was passing within me’.42 Yorick tries the experiment again in the glove shop in Paris where he sits down to take the pulse of the shopkeeper’s wife, ‘If it is the same blood which comes from the heart, which descends to the extremes (touching her wrist), I am sure you must have one of the best pulses of any woman in the world. Feel it, said she.’43 When objects strike too hard against the senses the mechanical result can be foolish or awkward, releasing negative vibrations. When Toby, mistaking the word ‘solutions’ during his brother’s discourse on the important topic of noses, asks, ‘Can noses be dissolved?’ we read: My father thrust back his chair, – rose up, – put on his hat, – took four long strides to the door, – jerked it open, – thrust his head half way out, – shut the door again, – took no notice of the bad hinge, – returned to the table, – pluck’d my mother’s thread-paper out of Slawkenbergius’s book, – went hastily to his bureau, – walk’d slowly back, twisting my mother’s thread-paper about his thumb, – unbutton’d his waistcoat, – threw my mother’s thread-paper into the fire, – bit her satin pin-cushion in two, fill’d his mouth with bran … Had ten dozen of hornets stung him behind in so many different places all at one time, – he could not have exerted more mechanical functions in fewer seconds.44

Shaftesbury in his Letter on Enthusiasm compares the mechanical convulsions of the French Huguenot prophets to the figures in a Bartholomew Fair puppet-show, all reacting in concert to a common impulse, as if they were mere automata: ‘There, doubtless, their strange voices and involuntary agitations are well acted, by the motion of wires and the inspiration of pipes’.45 No novelist in the eighteenth century is more accomplished than Smollett at describing the mechanical motions of shock, surprise, horror and anger, where the patient is fully at the mercy of the action of objects: jaws dropped with surprise, hair erect with fear, eyes glistening with rage and so on. His appreciation of sensibility is closely linked to his fondness for enumerating symptoms of the passions. Jery Melford reports that his uncle Matthew Bramble is as tender as a man without a skin, extravagantly delicate in all his sensations. ‘His blood rises at every instance of insolence and cruelty … and ingratitude makes his teeth chatter’.46 Smollett probed the symptoms of the passions even further in his Lucretian satire The History and Adventures of an Atom, where, agreeably to the outline of material transfusion given by D’Holbach, an atom enters a succession of bodies, reporting the intimate details of the organism of which it now forms a part. A travesty of Matt Bramble’s excoriated susceptibility is found by the atom in Quambacun-dono, a character based on that of the Duke of Cumberland:

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He seemed to sentimentalize at every pore, and to have the faculty of thinking diffused all over his frame, even to his fingers ends … nay, so wonderful was his organical conformation, that, in the opinion of many Japonese philosophers, his whole body was enveloped in a kind of poultice of brain.47

In The Theory of Moral Sentiments Adam Smith spends some time considering the impact of material objects on our senses and the passions they arouse, in spite of our knowing that things themselves cannot intentionally harm us. ‘We are angry, for a moment, even at the stone that hurts us. A child beats it, a dog barks at it, a choleric man is apt to curse it.’ Smith adds that the passion soon abates when we realize that an inanimate object is not a fit object of resentment: ‘What has no feeling is a very improper object of revenge’.48 But this is not always the case, as he points out in the next two sections, where he discusses the effects of fortune, and its contribution to the irregularity of our sentiments. He says that a castaway is bound to have affection for the plank of wood which saves his life, and that we would hate any object (say a stone) that killed a friend. Smith then goes on to discuss the common law category of the deodand, the accursed thing that has been the instrument of harm and must be forfeited or destroyed, the pig that has eaten a child for example. Even the impartial spectator must ‘feel some indulgence for what may be regarded as the unjust resentment of the [victim]’.49 No matter how improperly a judgement against the deodand is made, it fits with the passions that incline us to see it as necessary. In following an irregular line of thought that ends up justifying a passionate relation to inanimate things he began by explicitly rejecting, Smith imitates Hume who, in the Treatise of Human Nature, lists the four passions (pride, humility, love and hatred) which must be activated before a thing can attach or repel us. Suppose we regard together an ordinary stone … causing of itself no emotion … ’tis evident such an object will produce none of these four passions … [Even] a stone that belongs to me … [a] trivial or vulgar object … will [never], by its property or other relations, either to ourselves or others, be able to produce the affections of pride or humility, love or hatred.50

However, Hume makes two large concessions in respect of the psychology of faultless trespass and the nature of passion itself which combine to blunt his remarks on the inertia of stones. He says, Any harm … has a natural tendency to excite our hatred, and … afterwards we seek for reasons upon which we may justify and establish the passion. When we receive harm from any person, we are apt to imagine him criminal … Here the idea of injury produces not the passion, but arises from it.51


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He points out that such a passion does not, as in his favourite examples of the double relation of impressions and ideas, involve a reflexive relationship to ideas and impressions, persons and imagination: ‘A passion is an original existence … When I am angry, I am actually possest with the passion’.52 What is more, anger is put into possession of a person by a thing, just as Mandeville says sympathy seizes us clearly and distinctly when objects of passion violently strike the senses.53 The structure of the cases of anger and sympathy is identical – our passive organism is struck by an object which raises a passion regardless of our will and reason. In contrasting two cases, of a stone touching a hand and a stone lying against a stone, Hume points out that sensation distinguishes the first from the second, and that the nerves of the hand convey an impression, whole and unmodified, to the mind.54 Put Smith’s case that his foot strikes a stone in the road, that it hurts him and that he is possessed by anger which forces him to suppose that an injury has been done him, either by the stone or its owner. The passion formed from the impression made by the stone upon his foot is entire and unconditional, and it constructs a narrative of harm with reason trailing after, doing its best to supply the evidence. Smith talks of our irrational fondness for curious tooth-picks, ear-picks and nail-scissors – ‘trinkets of frivolous utility’ that in the end are the only material expression into which our dreams of ‘a certain artificial and elegant repose’ can be resolved.55 There are many sentimental tales illustrating sympathy or love for objects that originate in their first striking us, just like the stone. Mackenzie wrote an essay for The Mirror entitled ‘Of Attachment to Inanimate Objects’ in which he describes the eccentric habits of Mr Umphraville, who refuses to be parted from an old tree stump in his garden or from his ancient elbow chair because they are his old friends.56 In his ninetieth Lounger Mackenzie turns to the family of Mrs Sensitive, which consists of a number of birds and beasts, which it is the great pleasure of Mrs Sensitive’s life to keep and fondle, and on which she is constantly exercising her sensibilities … three lap-dogs, four cats … a monkey, a flying squirrel, two parrots, a parroquet, a Virginia nightingale, a jack-daw, an owl, besides half a hundred smaller birds.57

Although Mrs Sensitive has no pity for humans in distress, and will not let objects of charity approach her house, she says she can understand her creatures, ‘their looks and their language from sympathy’.58 Here we come by a different direction back to Mandeville and the bullock. Yorick’s encounter with the starling in A Sentimental Journey is instructive, especially the opening moments, where the mechanical effect of the impression of a thing and the passion it excites, so clear and distinct, is accompanied by the impossibility of resisting or allaying it.

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The bird flew to the place where I was attempting his deliverance, and thrusting his head through the trellis, pressed his breast against it, as if impatient. I fear, poor creature! said I, I cannot set thee at liberty. ‘No,’ said the starling, ‘I can’t get out; I can’t get out’, said the starling. I vow I never had my affections more tenderly awakened; or do I remember an incident in my life, where the dissipated spirits, to which my reason had been a bubble, were so suddenly call’d home. Mechanical as the notes were, yet so true in tune to nature were they chaunted, that in one moment they overthrew all my systematic reasonings.59

The possibility that some kind of enslavement to circumstances is the condition of sympathy with things is not lost on Sterne, nor on Smith when he makes it clear (as Mandeville does not) that there is no Machiavellian technique for dealing with the vagaries of fortune. We assign guilt or proclaim sympathy where we can, in passionate desperation, because we do not know why things have happened to us as they have. Smith’s sole resource is to refer the matter to God.60 Hume does not have that resource, but when he considers sympathy and the association of ideas as two powerful forces analogous with the operation of Newtonian gravitation in the universe, ‘a gentle force which commonly prevails’, he gives us the idea of a vast machine working according to principles of which we are entirely ignorant, and producing effects which we are destined to suffer, never to control.61 In this configuration sympathy is not just the common human lot, it is the whole system: not sympathy but Sympathy, a senior god in the pantheon of personified passions.62 The only resource is to take a look at oneself in that predicament, as Mandeville does with the bullock, and Sterne with the starling.

Sociable Sympathy Now I want to build a bridge between mechanical sympathy and sociable sympathy by using Shaftesbury as a commentator on some of the positions outlined in the previous section. More than any other thinker in the eighteenth century Shaftesbury most perfectly reproduces Descartes’s attitude to the thinking thing, being deeply sceptical of the knowledge derived from physical impressions, which he regards as impediments to the search for a true sense of his character or self – ‘that thing which only is’.63 At the same time, he is generally considered the architect of politeness, an advocate and exponent of the urbane and witty conduct recommended by Addison and Steele as the most pleasant counterweight to the awkwardness of self-interest and social engineering, and recommended by Shaftesbury himself as the infallible litmus test of truth. David Marshall and Lawrence Klein have used Shaftesbury’s Philosophical Regimen to show how anxiously and uncertainly he reached the dramatic poise of his published work, particularly the Soliloquy, and with what pain and humiliation he learned to simulate effortless mastery of his sentiments.64 I want briefly now to use the same


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source, unpublished in Shaftesbury’s lifetime, in order to probe his horror of the body, and to show how that passion infiltrates and distorts all he wants to say about sociability in general and sympathy in particular. First of all, with regard to the world of physical objects used to define a sentimental and social identity in the eighteenth century, Shaftesbury exhibits the sort of irritation we meet in Smith and Mackenzie when they talk of ‘trinkets of frivolous utility’. He catches himself thinking of a house and a garden as a seductive scene of retirement, and he cries out against these temptations (‘specious assassins’ and ‘bosom snakes’), ‘Recover, resist, repel, strive, arm. – War! War!’65 Later on he lists more of them: ‘a neat house, garden seat, apartment, pictures, trees, fabrics, models, design, ordering’, only to demand, ‘Are these propria? Are they thine? … thy very own true and certain possessions properly belonging to thee and naturally thine?’ Because if the answer is yes, then, ‘Behold, thou art become an appendix to a grange! an appurtenance to an estate and title!’66 Although widely conceived by political philosophers and legal theorists to be one of the main bulwarks of identity, property for Shaftesbury is a danger because it bleeds vitality from that which only is, and transfuses it to matter. Even when a thing does not belong to the self, it can make an impression that weakens the core: ‘To receive impressions from everything, and machine-like to be moved, and wrought upon … governed exteriorly, as if there were nothing that ruled within’. As for the example of the stone in the road that is capable of moving Adam Smith to exasperation, Shaftesbury has no patience with such transfers of guilt: ‘Revenged? – Of what? A stone or a madman? Who is so mad? – for a chance hurt, against thought or intention? Who is so unjust?’67 Shaftesbury wants to pare away these contingent things and eliminate the passions they provoke in him. In his fits of self-loathing he turns frequently to the image of amputation. He instances a tooth, a hand, a leg, and demands, ‘Is the system of self … changed if a leg or arm be lost? Is the man a quarter less himself ? A fifth, a sixth, or one bit less himself than before?’68 It is a question that recalls Locke’s single use of the word sympathy in the section on personal identity in the Essay, where he says in a manner recalling what More says about the sympathy of organs, ‘Thus the Limbs of his Body is to every one a part of himself: He sympathizes and is concerned for them’. Such physical sympathy is lost only when the part is cut off, like the amputated little finger that is no longer part of the person to whom it was attached.69 Locke does not seem to mind if the finger is on or off, although Daniel Heller-Roazen tells an astonishing tale of a limbless veteran of the American Civil War who, when finally the phantom pain in his lost limbs disappeared, felt his identity proportionately reduced, ‘a deficiency in the egoistic sentiment of individuality’.70 Shaftesbury is passionately interested in losing parts of his body, reducing the surface area of the sentient flesh, in order precisely to preserve the egoistic sentiment of individuality: ‘Let

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it be a limb. Off with it.’71 When he thinks of his swollen and inflamed flesh he is even more luridly specific. Remember how it is that the purulent matter gathers, that the part inflames, that the funguses and proud flesh arise, and yet at last the part mortifies and grows insensible. Is the feeling in the meanwhile to be indulged on this occasion? Is the itch to be satisfied, or the patient allowed to appease the eagerness of it by scratching, or even by tampering and feeling … The same as in an amputation. Either (says he) you must part with this limb or die. – I part with it.72

No powder of sympathy here, nor sympathy of any other kind. For amidst the clutter of things and the excrescences of the flesh lurks the passion that fosters the league with the social world: Cut off tenderness of a certain kind; cut off familiarity, and that sympathy of a wrong kind … See what thou has got by seeking others. Is this society? … Is this the affection that draws thee to the sociable acts and commerce with mankind? What is this but sickness of a dangerous kind?73

He hints that there are sociable feelings of a right kind, but of sympathy of a right kind there is no trace in the Regimen. He defines compassion as the performance of a machine, reacting in hopeless subjection to the sense impressions of objects, the despicable experience of animals or ‘men-animals’. He turns on himself a stream of what he calls ‘soft irony’ as he recalls a passage of tender feeling: ‘O the goodness that produced this compassion, sympathy, and what followed!’74 Evidently the benevolent impulse was specious and the outcome wide of the fancied intention. Although he begins by posing the question that these corruptions of the social passions inevitably raise, namely: ‘But if I have no sympathy with my friends, how shall I be sensible towards society, or feel any such thing as friendship?’, his answer is unconsoling, ‘Stay therefore till thou canst feel this in another way, for this is not a genuine, social feeling’.75 No feeling he mentions in the Regimen meets this standard of authenticity because all feelings belong to the material and passionate tendency to alteration, depravity and self-loss. His warning to himself is always the same, to pursue constancy at the expense of passion, integrity at the expense of pleasure. Not to sympathize is a rule requiring that he not even take seriously those who are moved by what happens to them: ‘In no way sympathize, or feel as they feel, when they take either this or that event for good or ill’.76 I said earlier that sympathy in its most social form – when we are moved by what moves others, and moved to help them as help is needed – is operating at the least passive and least mechanical level. However, we have seen that the powerful charge of self-esteem that makes Descartes feel like a god, Shaftesbury write like a king and Hutcheson perceive the very perfection of his self, is owing


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to a double sense of the self as that which acts and is capable of appreciating its having acted. What Cudworth calls the redoubling or self-comprehension of the hegemonic soul prompts self-excitements which have nothing at all to do with extraneous matters such as stones, houses, limbs or dead wives. Hutcheson points out more sedately than the Shaftesbury of the Regimen that these powerful instances of self-approval rely implicitly on our independence of external objects, things whose intransigence, pathos or beauty might seduce us into pointless fits of passionate resentment, grief or love.77 So the question is how any real or impulsive benevolence might flow from selves aggrandized by hegemonic excitements outward to the needy world. We must remember that Descartes, the architect of the system of self-inspection, never mentions sympathy, and introduces pity only to emphasize its unimportance. Hutcheson tries to engage most directly with this problem. Like Mandeville and Rousseau he begins with the proposition that ‘natural Affection and Compassion’ belong to us as human beings, ‘this Sympathy with others is the Effect of the Constitution of our Nature’. But like Descartes and Shaftesbury he lays great emphasis on our knowing solely by means of internal perceptions that this is the case, rather than by simply or directly feeling sympathetic.78 The fruit of this reflective exercise is first of all an awareness of the natural tendency towards good in our own natures, and second the power of identifying goals and achieving them. So it may be the case that sympathy originally does not depend upon our choice, but when sympathy is attached to an idea of public benevolence and a desire to compass it, then ‘the Means of our Happiness is the having a Desire of our Country’s Happiness’. This desire is an affection, as distinct from a passion, and it acts like those two powerful forces of sympathy and antipathy mentioned by Charleton, with the difference that it is exempt from any tumult that might accompany the immediate presentation of objects to our senses. This renders it effective and calm, not like ambition, lust, covetousness and revenge, which are all turbulent. At this stage, he says, ‘Compassion will engage us to succour the distressed, even with our private loss or Danger’.79 From there it is a short step to the patriot, who places love of country above all self-interest because the truest form of self-love is sympathy with one’s countrymen and nation: ‘If there be any thing amiable in human Nature, the Reflection upon which can give us pleasure, it must be kind disinterested Affections towards our Fellows’ united with ‘the Pleasure of observing the Sympathy of others’: ‘What generous Sympathy, Compassion, and Congratulation’. But this is true only for as long as sympathy is disinterested, for ‘to feign Misery to obtain Pity … is often the Fore-runner of the greatest Corruption of Mind’.80 Professing oneself a patriot became a powerful weapon in the armoury of political oratory, a fact whose political significance Lord Bolingbroke was the first fully to understand, and of which Pitt the Elder was the most brilliant

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exponent. But professing patriotism was as far as patriotism needed to go, both for Hutcheson and for Pitt, since the desire alone to do the greatest good for the greatest number is sufficient, it does not have to be warranted or proved by action. ‘The Means of our Happiness’, says Hutcheson, ‘is the having a Desire of our Country’s Happiness’.81 To delve any further into the real consequences of affection is to risk corruption. So it is the reflection not upon what we have done but upon our disinterested affection that affords us joy, rather like the widower whose reflection on the circumstances of his grief stimulates in him such powerful feelings of independence and self-esteem. As Descartes says, ‘Our good and our ill depends upon inner excitations, which are excited in the soul by the soul itself – in which respect they differ from those passions that always depend upon some motion of the spirits’.82 We have seen in the Regimen how dismally Shaftesbury fails in his attempt to negotiate the difference between a disinterested gesture towards the public and his own views of what such a gesture might amount to and where it might tend. If in Mandeville’s Fable we find the author making magisterial statements about the impossibility of magisterial action (‘They mended by Inconstancy / Faults which no Prudence could foresee’), in the Regimen we find an author mounting a passionate attack on the effects of passion: ‘Miserable Sympathy!’83 In the school of philosophy to which Shaftesbury was claiming to belong, Cudworth’s hegemonic reflexivity is all in all: the soul holding itself in its own hand, redoubled upon itself, self-viewing, self-comprehending and self-active, is least like a machine because it is most like itself.84 Self-recognition precedes self-excitement, and self-excitement (at least according to Hutcheson) goes in advance of socially useful action. The question is, how does the excitement occur? It must be triggered by an internal impression caused by something like surprise, itself the result of an apparent disparity between how the soul conceives of itself and what it actually does, I confronting Me: Is that me weeping for my dead wife? Is that me being struck by the sight of a dying beast? Cudworth and More are aware how fragile is the balance of self-excitement, and how easily the disparity can produce an unpleasant shock, as when in a state of remorse the soul sees how poorly it has framed itself.85 Even then, however, contingency is mastered and the internal circuit of the will is justified: there is no one to blame but the artificer-artefact itself. In cases of hegemonic joy and remorse what takes place is self-sympathy, for every charge of passion is fed back into the battery of the will. The passions that are dangerous are those that overload or short the circuit, like Shaftesbury’s unsuccessful experiments with sympathy, or his passionate disputes with passion. How far does hegemonic self-reflection extend in the non-Cartesian schools of thought? Charleton tries to marry the reflexive tendency of the rational soul to the action of the sensitive soul, ‘by which she is conscious of her own perception’,


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sensing that she senses, just as the other comprehends that it comprehends.86 Then passions caused by the impressions of objects are redoubled and framed by perception, and diverted from mechanical anarchy by virtue of their being self-sensed. Something like a sensitive reflexivity guides Mandeville through the sequence of animal death in Smithfield, objects being seen to strike the eye and ear, although it is the same self-sensing that makes a burlesque of the scene of the child and the pig. One of the reasons for his different treatment of the two episodes, as we have seen, is that the latter is already mortgaged to a social value, and the excitement of self-sensing is lost to automatic morality; whereas in the former it is free to play. Shaftesbury’s difficulties in the Regimen are almost symmetrically the reverse of Mandeville’s: every rising motion of his soul is lost to swelling flesh; he cannot conceive of excitement outside the memory of carnal disaster; hence his fantasies of amputation, and his deep suspicion of sympathy. We find Yorick sampling Mandeville’s kind of sympathy in the scene with the starling, and attempting something like Charleton’s synthesis towards the end of his journey through France, when his feelings are lifted up above the common level, and vibration is transferred from the mechanical-erotic sector to the spiritual. Dear Sensibility! Source inexhausted of all that’s precious in our joys, or costly in our sorrows! … I feel some generous joys and generous cares beyond myself [and] all comes from thee, great, great SENSORIUM of the world! which vibrates if a hair of our heads but falls upon the ground.87

The sensorium is the seat of the sensitive soul, similar to Hartley’s cerebellum. According to More ‘the common Sensorium’ is the junction where all nervous impulses and impressions meet.88 When Yorick personifies it he aims to give a providential and spiritual scope to a thoroughly materialist conception, in effect claiming for sense-impressions something of that redoubled or self-comprehending hegemony of the rational soul, his attention directed like Mandeville’s towards a bleeding animal, ‘the lacerated lamb of another’s flock’. In this mood he meets Maria and declares he is positive he has a soul, having experienced ‘such indescribable emotions within me, as I am sure could not be accounted for from any combinations of matter and motion’.89 What he describes however is typical of the sensitive soul which is, according to Charleton, ‘subject to a greater variety of impressions, commotions, fluctuations, inclinations, alterations and perturbations, than can possibly be observed and distinguished, even by the most curious’.90 Nevertheless Yorick is committed to the same congenial view of sensitive and spiritual activity as Charleton. It allows him to catch sight of himself in an infinite variety of surprising situations. In his published work Shaftesbury overcomes his difficulties with sociability by readjusting the technique of self-impersonation, involving ‘the same

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involution, shadow, curtain, the same soft irony’ manifestly not cultivated but occasionally described in the Regimen.91 It requires he convey simplicity in a manner not simple, and truth by speaking not truly: for instance when he owns himself a zealot and enthusiast to Lord Somers at the end of the Letter on Enthusiasm, adding, ‘You must suppose me (as with truth you may) most passionately yours’.92 He compares this kind of hyperbolic raillery to the poetic fictions of the urbane Roman poets who saluted the gods without believing in them, and feigned ecstatic encounters with muses they knew not to exist. These are all examples of ‘panic’ emotion brought to social order, mocked into impotence by wittily contrived extravagance. By the same method all the disorderly passions in Shaftesbury’s own ‘carcase’, as he calls it, are confronted with their emasculated images, as if being dared to show their real faces. These presentations of himself to himself are therefore deeply unsurprising, not sharpened by any inner joy. There is nothing at stake but the perfection of an illusion Shaftesbury directs outward, the illusion that he is demonstrating a polite and ironic interest in the truth. That is as far as he gets with feelings of sociability. Smith seems to be echoing Shaftesbury to the very note when he says, ‘I divide myself, as it were, into two persons; and that I, the examiner and judge, represents a different character from that other I, the person whose conduct is examined into and judged of ’.93 This self-critical position is achieved by means of a variant of Shaftesbury’s ‘vocal Looking-Glass’ for, says Smith, ‘by placing ourselves before a looking-glass, or by some such expedient, [we] endeavour, as much as possible, to view ourselves … with the eyes of other people’. By this exercise we train ourselves for entry into society, he says, where our passions rebound with other passions and we come to a proper sense of ourselves through vicarious self-inspection.94 The way Smith divides himself up is different from Shaftesbury’s inasmuch as there is almost nothing for his examining person to do but to observe, leaving all responsibility for action to the examined person, who is of course the victim of passion and not easily able to act. Smith mentions that a frequent cause of self-reproach among these examiners (who have perhaps by now divided themselves up into quarters) is that they feel too little what the other is experiencing, and that there is an unbridgeable gap between themselves and what they are looking at.95 By this time it is clear that the examiner, better known as the impartial spectator, is not really an internal function at all, since it would be impossible not to sympathize with oneself in some way; and that really this observer is a personification of the public gaze, a normative force with which Shaftesbury several times emphatically declares he has nothing to do. To justify this state of affairs Smith says that there can never be a restoration of two distinct persons into one, for it would blur the necessary difference between acting and being acted upon: ‘But that the judge should, in every respect, be the same with the person judged of, is as impossible as that the cause should, in


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every respect, be the same with the effect’.96 So much for the hegemonicon: the pure integrity of ‘that thing which only is’ is the whole point of Shaftesbury’s self-division into two persons; but even if we imagine that Smith is still interested in the outcome of an internal division as opposed to the consummation of a public spectacle, self-perfection is not what he has in mind. His persons start out as less than halves and are patched into seeming wholeness by means of self-improvement. If there is any social consequence to flow from the adjacency of these fractions of the self, it will be measured by the activity of the suffering party, who dissembles or sheds passions in an attempt to disinfect the will and obtain social approval. It is a stoical exercise along the lines Shaftesbury proposes but fails to fulfil in the Regimen, but it differs from his in being very public and not all predictable, as surely it is not when the unpublished Shaftesbury thinks of cutting off his flesh, and the published Shaftesbury peers into the glass and demands, ‘Tell me now, my honest heart, am I really honest?’97 I have said that Hume views humanity relative to a universal mechanism of sympathy. This is not altogether a consoling dimension for us, but in so far as all social life is determined by sympathetic exchanges, and since in his opinion a solitary existence would be intolerable and not very lengthy, sociability is a necessary and pleasant symptom of this vast force. He defines it as ‘the propensity to receive by communication the inclinations and sentiments [of others], however different from our own’.98 He is not really concerned to dispute the question of whether altruism is always secretly selfish, as Mandeville contends, for so convinced is he of the discontinuity of the self that there is nothing the vocal looking-glass could possibly discover, neither hypocrisy nor perfection; thus ‘in sympathy our own person is not the object of any passion, nor is there any thing, that fixes attention on ourselves’.99 He goes on to point out that its reach is to a degree indiscriminate, since it embraces rich and poor, vulgar enthusiasts and noble lords, and is observable among all companies of creatures that are not predatory. Sympathy is Sympathy, cause and effect are (pace Smith) identical. In drawing his fundamental distinction between the passions of pleasure and delight we have seen Burke place pity in the social sector of sympathy, and the sublime in the sphere of self-preservation: ‘Pity is a passion accompanied with pleasure, because it arises from love and social affection’. We know this, and we act on the basis of this knowledge. While there is a rationale of pleasure and consequently a moral value to feelings of love and pity there is none when it comes to the sympathetic sublime. We do not know why we are drawn to scenes of terrible cruelty and to places of danger, it is ‘antecedent to any reasoning, by an instinct that works us to its own purposes, without our concurrence’. Indeed delight persists only as long as our lack of knowledge of the impulse that possesses us. ‘It is our ignorance of things that causes all our admiration, and chiefly excites our passions … it is thus with the vulgar, and all men are as the vulgar in

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what they do not understand’.100 This is a long way from Shaftesbury, but close to Hume, who sees custom alone standing between the imbecility of the human mind and the worshipping of gods. Burke is willing, however, as Hume is not, to entertain images of solitude, pain and terror on the assumption that they can be modified into delight. His set-piece (as it is for so many discussions of sympathy and sensibility) is a scene of execution, either represented in the theatre or conducted in the public square. The appeal of the theatre is representational and social: it promises pleasure even from scenes of exquisite distress because these are imitated, not real. The execution is irresistibly attractive because no such social film separates the observer from the victim: the whole retinue of pathetic circumstances will clearly be visible, and the power of the state will be palpable and terrible. Unarmed by any sense of their relative safety or by any of the other sophisms which critics have used to explain the pleasure of tragedy, the scene is unconditionally attractive to observers who are rapt in it because they are entirely blind to their own impulses and careless of all consequences, absorbed in an event that rationally or morally they might well deplore. This is ‘the triumph of the real sympathy’.101 I think we begin to see why all scenes of royal overthrow were attractive to Burke – not because he seasoned his charitable expressions with malicious feelings, or took an aesthetic interest in the pathos of precipitous falls from power, or somehow identified with unfortunate monarchs; it was because he could not help himself. At its limit his sympathy is like Hume’s Sympathy, a force not confined to the human realm and obeying laws far beyond our comprehension. Burke’s piety inclines him to call this force God, and the riveting of our attention to the sublime scene is the discovery and proof of ‘his strength and wisdom even in our own weakness and imperfection’.102 But this is just to put afflatus back in the field of relative pressures, and to make it the subject of a reflective judgement – me then and there in relation to the sublime and me here and now in a state of delight – all of which supposes some kind of knowledge of how to position oneself and some kind of moral or social obligation, conveniently refined into devotion for a deity whose benevolence towards humans is at least supposed if not self-evident. But what if the force were as indifferent to human concerns as Lucretius’s Nature, D’Holbach’s Matter or Hume’s Sympathy, not even concerned to guarantee the conversion of evil into good or vice into virtue, as Mandeville always wants to argue? Then I think it would become apparent that scenes of distress (especially if the sufferer is a noble person subject to ‘an unworthy fortune’) exhibit thrones and princes as examples of determined and known quanta of power falling for no reason beneath the arm of Power itself, a force immeasurable and unnameable unless we want to personify our ignorance and passion and call it a god or God or Fortune.103


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Sterne’s starling supplied an example of mechanical sympathy; does it offer another of moral and sociable sympathy? When Yorick finally attends to what the bird is saying, or has been taught to say, he realizes, and not for the first time, how vulnerably he stands in relation to the absolute power of the French monarch. He calls it slavery, or rather Slavery, and then gives full scope to his imagination: I was going to begin with the millions of my fellow-creatures, born to no inheritance but slavery; but finding, however affecting the picture was, that I could not bring it near me, and that the multitude of sad groups in it did but distract me – I took a single captive, and having first shut him up in his dungeon, I then look’d through the twilight of his grated door to take his picture.104

Yorick moves from the severity of Burke’s sublime, where moral responsibility is swamped by an inconceivable pressure of numbers and by an equally inconceivable failure of justice, to a scene resembling in some respects the arrangement in which Mandeville hypothesizes the witnessing of the pig eating the child: there is an observer, a grill, and a victim. Actually taking the part of the jailer (‘I took a single captive, and … shut him up in his dungeon’), Yorick finds himself beholding someone rather like himself were he to be imprisoned in the Bastille, so the pathos of a witness immobilized first by numbers and then by a prison door is softened into a mute looking-glass, with Yorick divided into two persons, one sympathizing with the other and wondering how both are to be extricated. It is clever diminuendo played on the theme of moral responsibility, which is deftly put into abeyance while the effects of absolute power on the self are studied.

The Theatre of Sympathy Already the discussion has crossed into the territory of theatre, so it is worthwhile to recall how it has been supplying metaphors and illustrations for the discussion of sympathy. First of all there is Descartes’s soul, seated on the pineal gland, observing the representations of the passions that are arrayed before it. There is the relation of Charleton’s sensitive soul to its rational compeer, which he understands to be dramatic: ‘I invite you now from the porch into the little Theatre of the Passions’.105 There is Hume’s theatre of mind, where phantoms come and go in a drama of no beginning and no end. There is the discipline of self-impersonation which Shaftesbury compares to the conservation of character in ancient drama, and which Smith develops into a performance given by a passionate victim for the approval of an audience of one or more impartial spectators. There is Mandeville’s commedia dell’arte of dissembled passions, where everyone attempts to impersonate the self he believes that others imagine him to be. And there is Burke’s real theatre whose carefully planned tragedy, when it is

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deserted by the audience for the promised delight of the real thing in the adjoining square, exhibits by its emptiness ‘the triumph of the real sympathy’.106 I think it is plain that performance on a stage is regarded by all of these thinkers as less than satisfactory, either because it pretends to a mastery that cannot be attained, or because it is observed by a spectator in no need of such a display, or because it is regarded as mere imposture or fiction. For Descartes, Hutcheson and Shaftesbury the perfection of the self may be achieved by the self-excitation arising from reflection, and what Shaftesbury describes as its division into two persons; but it is never to be supposed that the examination discloses what is not to be deemed as whole to begin with. A performance on the other hand is merely a representation of what is real or true, not what is real and true in itself. Shaftesbury emphasizes that reality as the guarantee of risk-free self-division: ‘our real and genuine SELF’ is the origin and end of the experiment, not some substitute turned and modelled by public opinion, or changed by passion, which is mere fiction. What he finds splendid in the ancient drama is that ‘the Persons themselves had their Characters preserv’d throughout [and] in consequence pointed out real Characters and Manners’.107 Burke and Hume approach this issue from the other side, discounting any permanent consistency in the self from the start, and considering the performance as a fiction because it does not acknowledge the discontinuities and metamorphoses to which a passionate self is subject. ‘We feign the continu’d existence of the perceptions of our senses to remove the interruption that necessarily occurs in their continuity.’108 Truth and reality for Hume and Burke are the potential for the disintegration of the self under pressure from outside forces; the lie or fiction is to pretend the opposite. Mandeville stands uneasily in the middle, knowing the self can be lost in the imposture of pursuing its perfection, but at the same time reluctant to locate a primitive alternative, like Rousseau, subsisting in a state of nature. He seems to want to domesticate Lucretian flux by calling it commercial exchange and assuming with an inverted Panglossian optimism that everything shall be for the best in the worst of all possible worlds. When it comes to sympathy, Mandeville falls to the Cartesian side in so far as he is a social creature, wishing to devalue its motives and effects because it does less than it says but harms us more than we think. When he lifts the veil of culture he allows it much more breadth and purpose, but not exactly of a human sort. Smith’s attitude to the theatre of sympathy is the most complex of all. We have seen that his divided person is not like Shaftesbury’s: his observer and performer have parts to play in the construction of an equilibrium of sentiments that will foster genuine sympathy, and this can be achieved only if the performer learns to govern his passions and render them congenial to the spectator, who stands by silently to signal his approval when this stage has been reached. This is not some model of soliloquy like Shaftesbury’s turned inside out. Here there is


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an imperfection caused by passion which is removed only by social encouragement to cultivate indifference to pain – basically to become more active and less passive – at which point sympathy acquires its social value. Smith is explicitly contemptuous of pleas for sympathy on the grounds of bodily agony, and he esteems very highly the successful disguising of it.109 Whether this theatre is considered as an accosting of the self by the self, or as a model for sociable sympathy set in a public place, it makes no difference to the fact that the ravages of passion have to be mended. Philoctetes’s unlovely agony will never be attractive. He talks of the quiet glory of the prudent man and the colossal courage of the savage who defies the most hideous tortures in order to sing of his indifference to torment and death.110 But these are both examples of roles taken by actors determined not to be upset by their sensations as they confront an audience averse to being reminded of the stronger and more intemperate passions. So it is a theatre of stoical hypocrisy, to some extent. On the other hand, Smith has several times remarked upon the inconstancy of fortune and the disorder of the world, where the race is not always to the swift and outcomes fail to square with intentions. Although he refers these inequities to the final dispensation of providence, it is clear from his digression on the topic of torts that he takes very seriously the passionate but mistaken distribution of praise and blame, and the misplaced feelings of gratitude and resentment it provokes. His most powerful comments on the drama are made in the light of these injustices. He cites Sophocles’s Oedipus, Otway’s Monimia and Southerne’s Isabella as characters whose fate is to commit crimes of parricide, incest, bigamy and adultery without the least intention of doing so. The discovery of their accidental or piacular guilt provides ‘the finest and most interesting scenes’ in tragedy. He adds that the dignity of the agents ought not to be diminished by the action, for the action is what has happened to them rather than what they have done, and character is preserved by intentions, not by eventualities.111 Although this may appear to be Smith’s commentary on Hutcheson’s theory of the affections (that they are not altered by outcomes), or perhaps to be his version of a modified hegemonicon where unity of intention in the face of accident displaces the unity of the will in cases of remorse, it is really an extraordinary concession to make, for it means that the stoicism he advocates elsewhere blinds no one, least of all the sufferers, to the fact that the narratives of their lives have ceased to make any sense. Deeds have turned into events, adequate ideas into confusion, and the only resource available to the victim of these inexplicable reversals is to perceive what they also feel, and thus fully to weigh and know their passion. It is the sequence of Cartesian joy reversed. Bernard Williams paraphrases Oedipus at Colonus: ‘The terrible thing that happened to him, through no fault of his own, was that he did those things’.112 It sounds like Henry More on remorse back to front (‘And that which pinches

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us and vexes us so severely, is the sense that we have brought such an evill upon our selves, when it was in our power to have avoided it’).113 Smith’s divided tragic persons are all like Oedipus to the extent that they are not in training for some factitious scene of sympathy where they are guaranteed applause as long as they do not whine too loudly. They are reserved instead for something much more shocking, namely the full taste of the irreparable damage done by Fortune to what they thought they were doing, and to whom they thought they were. Constancy in the face of such ruin is pursued only for the sake of the knowledge of the feelings caused by such a shock. There are two remarkable novels which dramatize this state of affairs, Frances Sheridan’s The Memoirs of Miss Sidney Bidulph (1761) and Mary Brunton’s Self-Control (1811), the latter clearly written under Smith’s influence. In both the strong moral and social commitments of the heroines lead to their desertion by those whose love and sympathy they deserved, followed by painful solitude. Each tragic individual is presented with an opportunity for a hegemonic experience of passion as they observe their isolation not only from consoling company but also from an intelligible train of causes and effects, their free will disarmed and themselves possessed of nothing but the conviction that the events which have destroyed them were not theirs to direct. Let us return to our starling. When Yorick puts the captive in the cage instead of the bird, he observes through the grill a man in despair keeping a calendar of broken sticks. The captive has reached the point where the tale of his life has no other end than the completion of a sentence that never intended his days should be worth counting, yet still he puts down his stick. The sympathy Yorick feels for the captive at this point is what Smith feels for his three tragic figures, the heartbreaking sight of someone trying to keep a tally of what no longer makes any sense.

Complete Sympathy Complete sympathy is the reverse of Shaftesbury’s arrangement; instead of ‘two Persons in one individual Self ’, we have the possibility of two selves lodged in one person.114 ‘The nature of this passion is to put us in the place of another in whatever circumstances he is in, and to affect us in a like manner’; or, as Mandeville believes, it is the unconditional transfer, ‘pure and unmixed’, of our self-love to someone else with whom we have no prior connection or relation.115 This is the powerful illusion which animates many scenes of sympathy. I call it an illusion for it is seldom shown in its full extent, nor is there an extended attempt made by anyone to theorize it. Although Hume talks of complete sympathy, he means correspondence and harmony of feelings: he denies explicitly that it is possible to occupy the consciousness of someone else: ‘No force of imagination can convert us into another person, and make us fancy, that we, being that per-


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son, reap the benefit from those valuable qualities, which belong to him’.116 David Marshall calls completeness the dream of sympathy: ‘The dream of sympathy, the fiction of sympathy, is that an interplay and interchange of places, positions, persons, sentiments and points of view could cancel out the theatricality of the most theatrical of situations’.117 It is staggering to consider how many times that dream or fiction is punctured in what is generally taken to be great exemplar of sympathetic exchange, Tristram Shandy. Toby’s whistling of Lillabulero and Walter’s extravagant mechanical motions are exasperated signals of incomprehension: either they do not understand what the other is feeling, or saying, or doing, or they themselves are irritably aware that their sentiments are not finding a home in the other’s heart or mind. Toby confesses to Trim, after the misnaming of the infant Tristram, For my own part, Trim, though I can see little or no difference betwixt my nephew’s being called Tristram or Trismegistus – yet as the thing sits so near my brother’s heart, Trim, – I would freely have given a hundred pounds rather than it should have happened – A hundred pounds, an’ please your honour, replied Trim – I would not give a cherry stone to boot – Nor would I, Trim, upon my own account.118

So this is not complete sympathy, it is Scheler’s commiseration, when one person is ‘sorry at another’s person’s sorrow, as being his’.119 Sometimes it does not even get that far. When Toby and Trim are discussing the relative pain of fleshwounds to the knee and groin, each is adamant that his own wound and his own pain was worse than the other’s, until they give up their point out of sentimental courtesy.120 Like so many scenes in Tristram Shandy and A Sentimental Journey the truth of the matter seems to be that each individual, enclosed in an envelope of flesh and blood, finds enormous difficulties in communicating sentiments beyond that sphere, which is the reason Tristram finds it so difficult to give the characters of his family to the reader. Any casual or unguarded attempt to bridge the gap between the singularity of the individual and the judgement of the world results in ridicule or slander. Yorick of Tristram Shandy suffers fatally for believing that the ingenuous conduct of a private gentleman guarantees fair dealing in the world. The safest option is to avoid relying on any form of direct interpersonal communication. Tristram is as suspicious of his reader’s capacity for sympathy as Swift’s Author, although he makes the same elaborate preparations for securing it. Inter-species conversation, where there is less chance of being contradicted, is safer than any shared with a human: I generally fall into conversation with [an ass]; and surely never is my imagination so busy framing his responses from the etchings in his countenance – and where those carry me not deep enough – in flying from my own heart into his, and seeing what is natural for an ass to think … with an ass, I can commune for ever.121

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In epistolary fiction the same disqualification arises: either owing to the fact that the writer is not fully aware of her own motives, or that she is obliged to dissemble her feelings because it would be impolitic to disclose them, or that she is unaware that the circumstances she reports are false, even the most sympathetic ink does not reveal the heart in its fullest extent. It may even contribute to a tragic outcome, and certainly is the means of tragic irony, when, for example, letters are intercepted or forged, and all the coherence of a self prepared to absorb or be absorbed in another is dissipated by the subtleties of someone else’s plot. Lovelace, an addict of the tragic theatre of Rowe and Otway, delights in bringing Clarissa unwittingly to the edge of passionate despair so that he may study her exclamations with ravished attention and even a tear, as if they were performances. When what she thought she was doing begins to happen to her, sympathy for Clarissa, no matter how intense, is operating under the rubric of commiseration, where suffering is distinctly and uniquely the character’s own, not to be shared. The only person who could sympathize completely with that degree of pain is Job, whom she quotes more and more frequently. There are other genres of literature where injustice is the dominant theme and appalling suffering is the experience to be conveyed. In the eighteenth and nineteenth century this is the genre of the slave narrative, in the twentieth it is the eyewitness account of the Holocaust. In both genres complete sympathy is what appears to be demanded and what is understood to be appropriate to feel, for what other form of solace is equal to what has been endured and seen? But it is plain that in neither is it easy for the narrator to establish even a groundwork of sympathy with the reader. Mary Prince begins, What my eyes have seen I think it is my duty to relate … I have been a slave – I have felt what a slave feels, and I know what a slave knows; and I would have all the good people in England know it too.122

Who among the good people of England had been tortured, felt driven from their own species, and had to ask God to tell them who they were? It is the practically the same thing as asking who among them had been mad, or who had been treated as an animal. In his account of his life in Auschwitz, Primo Levi remembers that the SS guards would mock their prisoners with assurances that even those who escaped with their lives would never be believed when they told the story of the camp. Afterwards Levi was tormented by nightmares in which he would be talking to his family and friends of his experiences, and they would turn away in boredom, chatting and joking about other things.123 Clarissa, Mary Prince and Levi are transmitting their messages over too wide a gulf, and their voices will not carry. Changed too much by passion, they experience what any victim of metamorphosis experiences, which is the sense of having turned into something other than a human, and of having been made mute. In The Garden


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Andrew Marvell fondly supposes that Daphne ran away from Apollo because she wanted to become a tree, but the truth of metamorphosis is always the reverse of this: the final and irreversible proof of having been thoroughly transformed by passion is that she has turned into another thing. The challenge to all those who would sympathize with such an extreme degree of distress is this: Do they know what it is like to be a tree? Scheler’s examples of complete sympathy are ecstatic or tribal, where a group of people under the influence of a strong contagious excitement identify with a leader, a god or a totemic animal. He associates these states with the experience of metempsychosis and metamorphosis, and he turns Sterne’s joke about knowing what asses feel into a perfectly serious claim for the importance of a non-human component in complete sympathy. He notices in the sadomasochism of children’s pastimes a cruelty to animals, and even to things, alternating with moments of passionate identification with them. To reach this stage of intensity, he says, the participant ‘has to become something less of a human being, yet something more than an animal’. What he calls the ‘vital consciousness’ of this encounter requires a keen sense of total embodiment, complete susceptibility to ‘all organic sensations and localized feelings’, allied to ‘that intellectual-cum-spiritual personality which is the cause … for all the “higher” acts of intention’.124 Then, like Apuleius’s Lucius, or Shakespeare’s Bottom, we can know the god because we have already been an ass. Hume takes note of this paradox when he observes that the turbulent passions breeding in the wake of disorders, prodigies and miracles (‘madness, fury, rage, and an inflamed imagination’), ‘although they sink men nearest to the level of beasts, are, for a like reason, often supposed to be the only dispositions, in which we can have any immediate communication with the Deity’.125 We have seen Hume and Smith moving in this direction when talking of our being possessed by the original existence of a passion, when a stone seems to be animate, when sympathy strikes us as less than an emotional reaction as more as an ambient force, and fortune seems to be more perversely intelligent than mere chance. Similarly Mandeville and Yorick get closer to a sense of complete sympathy when they are dealing with suffering animals. Although complete sympathy seems to be the natural and most humane and loving telos of all exchanges of feeling, the closer we approach it the more disconcerting it seems to be, as if Du Bos was right when he said ‘the attraction of emotion makes us forget the first principles of humanity’.126 That the inlet into another creature’s feelings is opened by means of agony is an issue raised by Dorothy Kilner in her The Life and Perambulations of a Mouse (1783), a story that handles the cruelty shown by children towards animals. The mouse-hero has seen all sorts of torments inflicted on poor rodents, including the pastime of a boy called Charles, who has been found by his father dangling a mouse in front of a cat. His father tells him, ‘I promise you, the smallest creature

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can feel as acutely as you … I never knew a man that was cruel to animals, kind and compassionate towards his fellow creatures’, and he proceeds to a practical lesson in sympathy by horsewhipping the boy.127 It is a question whether such punishment is retaliation – pain for pain so that the injustice may not be repeated – or whether it is a kind of licence to enter the sensations of other creatures. The same weird proximity of pain to sympathy is present in the torture scene of Orwell’s 1984, where it is clear in the course of the electric shocks O’Brian is administering to Winston that he knows exactly the quality of each phase of pain, just as he knew exactly how to frame the pleasures of Winston’s illicit love affair. Indeed, the whole question of torture infiltrates eighteenth-century discussions of sympathy, usually in the form of allusions to the Native American death song sung by captives in defiance of their enemies as they are being tortured to death. This was already a topos in primitivism, introduced by Montaigne and improved by Leibniz. In discussions of sympathy it is mentioned with especial frequency by Scottish commentators. Smith introduces the death song as an example of remarkable self-command among savage nations, whose youth are trained to greet even the most extreme sensations with impassivity. Although the point he wants to underline is that under such Spartan regimes compassion has no place – ‘a savage … expects no sympathy from those about him’ – such stoicism in the face of painful death is the primary qualification for sympathy among civilized people. With the Native Americans, however, it is a perfect conspiracy of insensibility, the victims chatting of indifferent things during the pauses of their torment, while their enemies exhibit no signs of compunction or admiration. Nevertheless it provides a superb example of the ‘concerted tranquillity’ Smith expects in all successful scenes of sympathy, whose tendency is to expel all symptoms of emotion from the brilliant display of sang-froid.128 When Adam Ferguson turns to the death song he shares the warmth of Smith’s admiration for suffering nobly undergone. He takes the story of an old sachem and a young captive from Charlevoix. The old man says to the youth, I proposed to have placed you on the couch of my nephew, who was slain by your countrymen, to have transferred all my tenderness to you, and to have solaced my age in your company – but maimed and mutilated as you now appear, death is better than life: prepare yourself therefore to die like a man.129

Ferguson is sensitive to the dialectic of this kind of torture, which Lafitau (attentive to the exchange of insults that accompanied the torture) defined as ‘repousser la force par la force’.130 Milton’s Moloch has a similar grasp on the possibility of pain as a kind of weapon when he talks of ‘Turning our tortures into horrid arms / Against the torturer’.131 Ferguson softens it, introducing honour rather than scorn as the impulse for the defiance and the point of the cruelty: ‘By a strange


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kind of affection and tenderness, [they] were directed to be most cruel where they intended highest respect’.132 In her introduction to her plays (‘in which it is attempted to delineate the stronger passions of the mind’), Joanna Baillie chose the death song as the archetype of the public execution which sat at the centre of so many discussions of sympathy and Aristotelian tragedy, and deftly she restores it to the place in Smith’s theatre of sympathy where it had always really belonged, as a collaborative exercise in spectatorial pleasure and heroic constancy. She traces its evolution from vindictive rage to ritual: Revenge, no doubt, first began amongst the savages of America that dreadful custom of sacrificing their prisoners of war. But the perpetration of such hideous cruelty could never have become a permanent natural custom, but for this universal desire in the human mind to behold a man in every situation, putting forth his strength against the current of adversity, scorning all bodily anguish, or struggling with those feelings of nature, which, like a beating stream, will oft’times burst through the artful barriers of pride. Before they begin those terrible rites, they treat their prisoner kindly, and it cannot be supposed that men, alternately enemies and friends to so many neighbouring tribes, in manners and appearances so like themselves, should be so strongly actuated by a spirit of publick revenge. This custom, therefore, must be considered as a grand and terrible game, which every tribe plays against another, where they try not the strength of the arm … but the fortitude of the soul.133

Complete sympathy is always a worry for Locke. The transmigration of a soul into another body is a theme on which Locke expends a good deal of wit in the Essay in order to neutralize its threat. He mentions the mayor of Quinborough who was convinced the soul of Socrates shared his body with his other soul; he wonders what would happen if the soul of a prince should inhabit the body of a cobbler; he leaves unexplained the enigma of a parrot that can hold intelligent conversations with its human interrogators; and he has a wild fancy that the amputated little finger might carry off the person of the amputee leaving the rest of the body (as Tristram would say) as empty as my purse.134 He is exploiting the opening left by Descartes’s belief in pre-existence for this kind of improbable Pythagoreanism. Pythagoras himself believed that he and the soul of Euphorbus, the Greek hero killed at Troy, were co-inhabitors of his body; so Locke runs fantastic variations on the theme to show how ridiculous he finds the idea of a disembodied soul looking for lodgings wherever it can find them. Yet his own scepticism keeps a place open if not for this kind of double self then for the incommunicable nature of extreme passion. He says, ‘Happiness and Misery are the names of two extremes, the utmost bounds whereof we know not; ’tis what the Eye hath not seen, Ear hath not heard, nor hath it entred into the Heart of Man to conceive’.135 He is quoting 1 Corinthians 2:9, the same text Bottom

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mangles when he talks of the impossibility of saying what it was like to be an ass and to be loved by a goddess. Definitively by means of his appearance in the fifteenth book of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Pythagoras authorizes the most copious illustrations of complete sympathy that are to be found in literature, such as Narcissus’s with himself and Actaeon’s with a stag, followed later by Apuleius’s with an ass. The story of Cupid and Psyche, told as an inset tale in The Golden Ass, is a metamorphosis that follows the travails of a mortal’s love for a god, and his for her, consummated in a union by which finally she is made immortal. In his history of passion, which begins with a discussion of La Fontaine’s reworking of Cupid and Psyche, Niklas Luhmann says ‘Cupid does not, after all, shoot off two arrows at once’.136 La Fontaine’s Cupid shoots off none at all. In his version of the story Psyche is guilty of overweening desire, wanting to see as well as touch her invisible lover, but the price paid for seeing him is a penance Cupid enjoys watching because he is so angry with her for burning his thigh. The lesson of her tribulation is almost Cartesian: ‘True Grandeur is … to govern our Passions’.137 And once it is fully learned, Psyche is made immortal. But in Apuleius’s story two arrow-wounds are sustained, leading to a turbulent but mutual love between the god and the woman. When Psyche is to be punished for usurping her cult, Venus tells Cupid to shoot a dart into her while she is looking at the vilest kind of shape. Instead he wounds himself while looking at her, and loves her so tenderly that she loves him back before she can even see him, and when she has seen him she cuts herself deliberately with one of his arrows, ‘and thereby of her owne accord shee added love upon love’.138 Here is a curious erotic variant on the tragic confusion of action and event in Oedipus. In each case the arrow-wound ought to represent an outcome beyond the compass of the will, a misfortune or an accident, but in both lovers it serves to confirm a passion already felt. The only problem is that Cupid is invisible, not fully present, and intends to remain so: ‘Covet not to see the shape of my person’, he tells her. For her part Psyche is physically present but only as the image of love, an idol and ‘a false surmised shape of my person’ as Venus calls her. Shapes of persons are the problem then, not solved until, after a manner Walter Charleton would approve, the sensitive soul incorporates the pure spirit (‘I love and retaine you within my heart as if you were my owne spirit or Cupid himselfe’) and love is realized as Love.139 An irresistible force that commonly prevails merges with a desire that each party urgently wants to satisfy. Cause is inseparable from effect, accident from free will, the creature of love from Love itself. When the two come together they celebrate a sensuous hegemonicon. Cupid, the personification of the passion he also feels, is bound to be what he also does, loving and causing to love; and with Psyche, doubly in love with him and in her passion incorporating


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the cause of it (‘Cupid himselfe’), theirs is a union that finally expels every last contingency as each is absorbed into the other. A very strange and (given its context) untypical rewriting of Cupid and Psyche appears as an episode of chirurgical passion in Sheridan’s Sidney Bidulph. Patty, Sidney’s maidservant, has a brother called Main, a poor man who has by skill and application become a surgeon, for years in love with the daughter of a yeoman farmer who left her a substantial portion, but on condition she marry with her brother’s approval. When Main makes his proposal he is rejected by the brother on the grounds that he is not of their class, and again he is denied when he offers to take the young woman without the money. In the meantime she has received a wound to her breast by a fall, and it has been so badly treated that her surgeon prescribes amputation of the breast as the only remedy. Everything is prepared for the operation, and she extorts from her brother permission to have Main present, whom she declares in front of everybody to be her heir in the event of her death, this being her twenty-first birthday. Her bosom is then uncovered, and the surgeon is about to amputate when Main examines the breast, and finds that it can be saved. After some altercation with the angry surgeon, his judgement is confirmed by a third party, he then applies dressings, and the outcome is all that could be wished. In the meantime however the thwarted medical man challenges Main to a duel in which Main is wounded – presumably in the chest, although the story does not say. So it is in considerable agony the wounded surgeon plies his skill. His mistress recovers, they are married, and Main is translated from one class into another – a mild kind of metamorphosis.140 The Cupid and Psyche story is reversed here but in every other respect remains intact. Now it is the man who looks at the uncovered woman, not the woman at the god, and her wound is the cause of looking not the effect; nevertheless, the metaphors of true love are brought into perfect literal alignment as wounded and divided hearts are united, and effects rolled into causes as looks and wounds are symmetrically exchanged: he who studies and mends the wound feels its pangs in himself, and she who suffers it directs its disclosure to a lover who will suffer for it. These may not be two persons in one self, but they surely unite cause and effect in a manner Smith has said is impossible (‘But that the judge should, in every respect, be the same with the person judged of, is as impossible as that the cause should, in every respect, be the same with the effect’).141 There is another peculiar episode in Roxana, a book I shall return to later, in which self-sympathy is for a moment divided between two women, so that each might feel what the other has felt. Roxana’s torment later in her life arises from her inability to answer a question she frequently but vainly poses herself: ‘What was I a Whore for now?’ Having put this question to herself several times, she admits that it is a futile exercise, for it ‘made no Impressions upon me of that Kind which might be expected from a Reflection of so important a Nature’. It was a puzzle to

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her when she first became what she calls a whore by going to bed with the jeweller. Apparently eager to distinguish between a husband, who would be her own, and an adulterer, who is not her own, she wants to prove how little property she has in the man by sharing him with her maid Amy, and is not satisfied until she has put them naked into the same bed, and watched them as they copulate (‘for I stood-by all the while’).142 But her real motive seems much less rational, and it involves Amy doing and feeling what she has done and felt, and herself witnessing the performance, as if she were watching herself in a mirror. This sort of reflection is as close as she can get to considering her own actions. Godwin’s Caleb Williams (1794) is a story of sympathy so entire between a gentleman and his servant that it leads not to love, admiration or even mutual narcissism, but the grimmest persecution and deadliest hatred. The involuntary but total entry of Caleb into the secrets of Falkland’s soul is successively characterized as an alienation, at least on Caleb’s part, equal to Faust’s bargain with the devil, Lucifer’s expulsion from heaven, the condition of a slave and finally that of a Siamese twin severed from its partner. At all events it is unnatural, out of kind, a loss of the connection with species, and it is propelled by a hatred which goes well beyond a simple desire for the death of the enemy. Falkland wants to reduce Caleb to the condition of an animal before he kills him. But this persecution has its source in sympathy: ‘There was a magnetical sympathy between me and my patron’. No sooner is an emotion caused in the one than it is transfused to the other. At first this makes Falkland feel like the vulnerable party. He says to Caleb, ‘Do you think I will be an instrument to be played on at your pleasure, till you have extorted all the treasures of my soul?’ At this stage Caleb is driven by an irresistible curiosity, nothing else. But he would go to any lengths in order to satisfy it, ‘I would have submitted to the condition of a West Indian negro, or to the tortures inflicted by North American savages’.143 Once he is bound by the filaments of this relationship, and there is in effect just him and Falkland, each consumed with an intimate but repulsive awareness of the other, he compares his tortures to those of Lucifer. From this point he emphasizes again and again his expulsion from society and even from humankind. Thus was I cut off for ever from all that existence has to bestow … No language can do justice to the indignant and soul-sickening loathing that these ideas excited. My resentment … extended itself to the whole machine of society.144

He expresses his exquisite sense of isolation as the absence of all sympathy (‘I was a solitary being cut off from the expectation of sympathy … dead to every manly sympathy’, an entire stranger to ‘the delicious gifts of confidence and sympathy’, yet in every sense he is the creature of a ‘magnetical’ sympathy that has grown obsessive.145 In his strange adaptation of Aristophanes’s comical idea of all human


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creatures as originally double, with four legs and arms and two heads and impelled by an insuperable desire to reunite by copulation, Caleb describes his involuntary twinning with Falkland not as the consummation of such a desire but as its total frustration, answered by nothing but the encounter with his disgustingly divided counterpart. It is the same nausea that Gulliver feels for his wife when he gets back from the land of the horses. This is how Caleb describes it: The pride of philosophy has taught us to treat man as an individual. He is no such thing. He holds, necessarily, indispensably, to his species. He is like those twin-births, that have two heads indeed, and four hands; but, if you attempt to detach them from each other, they are inevitably subjected to miserable and lingering destruction. It was this circumstance, more than all the rest, that gradually gorged my heart with abhorrence of Mr Falkland. I could think of his name, but with a sickness and a loathing, that seemed more than human.146

As things get worse for both of them, Falkland turns into a sort of human cinder, burnt up by passion, and Caleb keeps insisting that he has been reduced to a non-human form, an animal, a stone. In the published ending of the story there are various and not very consistent apostrophes to Falkland, commemorating his noble nature so sadly corrupted by events beyond his control. But in the unpublished version, Caleb is sitting immobile, able to confess only, If I could once again be thoroughly myself, I should tell such tales! … But I never shall – never – never! – I sit in a chair in a corner, and never move hand or foot – I am like a log – I know all that very well, but I cannot help it! – I wonder which is the man, I or my chair.147

The metamorphosis that seems to be the reward or penalty of an experience of complete sympathy is brought here to a very gloomy and inert fruition, although not quite as inarticulate as the ‘author’ seems to warrant as he sits, his pen making its final futile flourishes over the paper. Godwin wrote the novel back to front, starting where Caleb ends, and perhaps that was the only way to get it told. Having used up the three options of mechanical, social and theatrical sympathy with the starling, Yorick’s last trial of complete sympathy with the bird is neatly suggested only to be set aside. Identity between the two is possible only in the form of a heraldic joke. Because so many other people have laid claim to the starling as it has passed from hand to hand, Yorick is eager that everyone should know ‘that the bird was my bird’, so he places the starling on the peak of his coat of arms to prove it. At the same time Sterne himself makes a rebus of the pun on ‘starne’ (the old name for the species) and the sound of his own name in its contemporary pronunciation.148 This way the bird may know what it is like to be part of the personal identity of an author, whether he is called Yorick, Tristram, Bramin or Sterne, but the author does not want to know what it is really like to be a bird, an experience fraught with risk.


And who are you? said he. – Don’t puzzle me; said I.1

It is generally agreed that sympathy is an exchange of feelings between two parties, one who suffers and one who observes and reacts to the suffering. The names given to these parties are more various and indistinct in meaning than those assigned to the feelings themselves. They come under the following headings: self, consciousness, individual, person, character, object, identity, substance, thinking thing and soul. The most usual term is person, and it is the one chosen almost exclusively by Smith, as in his celebrated summary of the work of sympathy given at the outset of The Theory of Moral Sentiments when he supposes a scene of torture and asks what our senses combined with our imagination are capable of performing while watching it. His answer is as follows: They [the senses] never did, and never can, carry us beyond our own person, and it is by the imagination only that we can form any conception of what are his sensations. Neither can that faculty help us to this any other way, than by representing to us what would be our own, if we were in his case.2

Here then is a limited transaction between two individuals called persons, each bounded by a history of sensations which are their very own, not to be shared other than by means of an imagined case or hypothesis, a fiction (an imagined description or narrative) of what the sympathizer’s own sensations would be in such a situation. Among the thinkers we have discussed we can see that many would agree with this principle of an unbreachable core of personhood, including Descartes, Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, and Hazlitt; for they would argue that sympathy is unlikely to succeed if the person suffering is overwhelmed by passions, unseasonably moved and indistinct, or if the person sympathizing is so far invested in the passions on show as to lose the sense of agency. In fact it is exactly on account of their commitment to a person who is really a thinking thing or a soul that they are sceptical both of the scene that attracts sympathy – objects impressing sensations and passions on human patients – and sympathy itself, which is a version – 77 –


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of the same thing. Hence their judgement that compassionate feelings, and those appealing for them, are alike exhibitions of weakness. An index of this weakness is fiction: the more an individual is under the government of feelings not selfexcited, i.e. passions rather than affections, the more deeply they are involved in unreal imaginings. When La Fontaine’s Psyche, a distinctly Cartesian soul in his rendering of Apuleius’s tale, is under the erotic influence of an invisible lover whose name means Desire, she reports, ‘He fascinates my Eyes, and makes me fancy that I am in a Palace, attended by Nymphs and encompass’d with Concerts, and my Eyes with dramatic Entertainments, and yet the whole is a Dream’.3 It is practically a commentary on Descartes’s second meditation, where he says, I have as little reason to say, ‘I shall stimulate my imagination in order to know more distinctly what I am,’ than if I were to say, ‘I am now awake … I shall go to sleep of express purpose, so that my dreams may represent the perception [of reality] with greatest truth and evidence’.4

Hobbes and Locke founded their systems of thought on empirical standards of evidence in which the sensations caused by objects, and the passions caused by sensations, were stored in the imagination. Hobbes puts it very poetically: As standing water put into motion by the stroke of a stone, or blast of wind, doth not presently give over moving as soon as the wind ceaseth, or the stone settleth: so neither does the effect cease which the object hath wrought upon the brain … the image or conception remaineth … and this obscure conception is that we call PHANTASY or IMAGINATION.5

It is from this store of images, where traces of all previous sensations are to be found, that Locke’s person is formed – out of dreams Descartes would say – and it is by means of fiction that a person in Hobbes’s Commonwealth is constructed (‘There are few things, that are uncapable of being represented by Fiction)’.6 So it is important for both he and Locke to assert a standard of probability in the invention of political or forensic fictions that keeps the person within the bounds of what can legitimately be reckoned real and true. If this standard is not proclaimed, and adhered to, then imagination becomes lawless, and will claim to find a person in an inert lump of matter, or persuade a person that he has done glorious things he never did, or convince a person that another person occupies the same body with him, and that there are ‘two Persons in one Man’.7 Such dangers to personal identity in the sphere of empirical philosophy are not taken lightly except by those who are not interested in a coherent principle of selfhood, such as Mandeville, Hume, Burke and Rousseau. Mandeville believes in the phenomenal existence of a self, but also believes that it is defended by such a ramshackle set of fictions as to be valuable only to the person intent on preserving it; hence his derision for the virtues proclaimed on public monu-

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ments, which remind him of China jars (‘They make a fine Shew … but look into a thousand of them, and you’ll find nothing in them but Dust and Cobwebs’).8 Burke argues that the grandest passions we are capable of feeling bring us to a total ignorance of why we should be in the grip of them.9 Rousseau’s opinion of sympathy in a state of nature is similar: it would be sudden, total and completely unreflective, more like usurpation than exchange.10 Even though Hume seems to defend the individuality of the person (‘No force of imagination can convert us into another person’) it is not because he has any belief in the reality of such an entity, but for the very opposite reason, that it is too evanescent to make such a substitution plausible.11 For these thinkers culture and custom are all we may rely upon for a sense of our own consistency, but they reveal no demonstrable or solid knowledge of anything, least of all the self. Martin Hollis says of Hume’s idea of the self that it is a system of coded preferences formed out of contingent impressions that achieve the look of reality by repetition, so that whatever is preferred is necessarily what is true for that person.12 Hume is the most intriguing commentator on the frailty of the person. The necessary fiction assigned to the interpersonal experience of sympathy (according to Smith’s account of it, where we can only imagine what we have not experienced) is by Hume assigned to the person itself: We feign the continu’d existence of the perceptions of our senses … and run into the notion of a soul, and self, and substance, to disguise the variation … For when we attribute identity, in an improper sense, to variable and interrupted objects, our mistake is not confin’d to the expression, but is commonly attended with a fiction, either of something invariable and uninterrupted, or of something mysterious and inexplicable, or at least with a propensity to such fictions … The identity which we ascribe to the mind of man, is only a fictitious one.13

There are two corollaries: The first is that ‘the idea of our own person’ encountering and sharing passions ‘conceived to belong to another person’ depends on parallel fictions of persons whose attributes are only imagined to belong to them, like so much fantastic property.14 The second is that the reality of sympathy, as opposed to its fictions, is that ‘in sympathy our own person is not the object of any passion’, which is say that we do not refer the scene consciously to any concern of the self because the whole event is folded into the systemic envelope of what Hume also denominates as the person.15 The person operating in Hume’s outline of sympathy is coextensive with the passion itself; there is no surprise and no change caused by the impression, and no defining relationship, just the discovery of transitory resemblances and correspondances. Susan James calls it ‘a set of relations underpinned by certain dispositions’.16 The cause of any passion beheld as an object already lies within the person and is his or her own impulse. If we are in any way possessed by the original existence of passion, it is owing to


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the mysterious universal ‘springs and principles which are not peculiar to man’ of which sympathy is the signal instance.17 The person then is indeed a fiction, or a system of coded preferences, which provides a local habitation and a name for principles and forces whose operation is as limitless as it is impenetrable. Whatever the person claims as its own property, such as a lively idea related to an impression, is a fiction; and whatever is acknowledged to be the occasion of the fantastic apparitions traversing the theatre of the mind, directed to come and go by an invisible power whose purposes remain unknown, is a reality. In the first chapter I mentioned how the discourse of the passions emerges from the radical political and economic changes taking place in the latter half of the seventeenth century. In two regards the idea of the person is crucial to theories of civil society that were then broached. The person is first of all either the creation and/or the trustee of the original contract: all power stems from the person’s consent and it is distributed through the network of relations that persons bear to one another. Second, a person thus constituted is the beneficiary of justice and fit to hold property which includes, along with land, goods and money, a personal history, a narrative of the actions that have preserved that single self. There are some important differences between Hobbes’s and Locke’s conceptions of the person which I want briefly to outline in order to come closer to the issues of artifice, property and fiction which have begun to invade the discussion of sympathizing persons. During the war that persists in a state of nature, there is, according to Hobbes, ‘no Knowledge of the face of Earth, no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society’.18 There is nothing one can call one’s own, or even remember, until a property is made. So histories of the self and nations begin only when (as Hobbes says again) ‘every man [has] his own’: for ‘where there is no Own, that is no Propriety, there is no Justice’.19 The transition from a state of war into a state of civil peace comes about when natural persons, the supposed parties to the original contract, become citizens. Then they are changed from individuals who acted insecurely on their own authority (‘Authors’) into what he calls ‘Actors’ or artificial persons, each absorbed into the body of Leviathan, the vast artificial man formed from their consent who has the authority to assign persons roles in which they function as vicars or beneficiaries of state power.20 There is no other way than this to own a thing or a history, or to be a person. Hobbes adapts civil society to various ancient models of representation of which the most important is the theatre, where a mask or prosopon indicates the character which the actor is impersonating – magistrate, priest, officer.21 All the business of civil society is transacted by a series of actors, artificial persons who are delegates of the great artificial man who represents a reality and authority that lie in the immemorial past, when authors gave up their individual rights in return for an actor’s role in the commonwealth. When Hobbes includes in

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this pattern of representative persons things that never could have been authors, such as fools, madmen, churches, hospitals and bridges, then the level of fiction necessary for the conduct of the state rises to a new level. Whoever represents things that have no authority to speak or be spoken for cannot do it otherwise than by fiction, inventing an artificial person to represent a natural person that never was. That the representation is licensed by some organ of state makes no difference to the fact that inanimate things acquire speech and agency by means of a substitution that endows them with the illusion of reality and the ghost of authority. Thus it was, Hobbes points out, that the idols worshipped by the Romans, though nothing in themselves but pieces of stone, metal or wood, acquired property and social prestige. But there are good fictions and bad fictions. The good ones are all authorized by the state and contribute one way or another to the channelling of power through the various arteries of the artificial man, Leviathan. Bad ones are not authorized. From Hobbes’s point of view Locke’s picture of the origin of property, for example, would be a bad fiction, where a thing is owned by virtue of one’s own labour and entirely on one’s own account – just picked up in a state of nature and converted to use – without any appeal being made to the authority of a magistrate. Even worse are the fictions of vainglorious men who boast of what they never did, and pretend to be who they never were, for here the whole system of vicarious representation breaks down: So when a man compoundeth the image of his own person, with the image of the actions of an other man; as when a man imagines himself a Hercules, or an Alexander … it is a compound Imagination, and properly but a Fiction of the mind.22

Hobbes returns frequently to accuse this form of boasting, which he associates chiefly with Don Quixote, who manufactures himself an identity by mimicking heroes of romance, deliberately running mad for love of Dulcinea, for instance, in imitation of the furious Orlando, who undeliberately ran mad for Angelica. Although he founds his commonwealth on a personification, a fiction of the many comprehended in the one body, Hobbes thought personification generally to be an example of bad fiction. Of the seven causes of absurdity, the second is ‘the giving of names of bodies, to accidents, and of accidents, to bodies; as they do, that say, Faith is infused, or inspired; when nothing can be powred or breathed into any thing, but body; and extension is body’.23 When the Author of A Tale of a Tub mistakes zeal and spirit for material substances, for instance, he makes this kind of mistake. The linguistic, or sixth cause, of absurdity is personification tout court. For though it be lawfull to say, (for example) in common speech, the way goeth, or leadeth hither, or thither, The Proverb says this or that (whereas wayes cannot go, nor


The Evolution of Sympathy in the Long Eighteenth Century Proverbs speak;) yet in reckoning and seeking of truth, such speeches are not to be admitted.24

So this kind of assigning of an actor’s mask to a thing, prosopopeia, is strictly figurative and not literally true, and of very scant public or political value because it is really a form of idolatry. Having demanded, ‘Can [a man] be concerned in his actions, attribute them to himself, or think them his own?’ Locke affirms that a man can and must, and so produces his definition of a forensic (as opposed to Hobbes’s theatrical) person as one which ‘extends itself beyond present existence to what is past … whereby it becomes concerned and accountable, owns and imputes to itself past actions’.25 The word ‘own’ extends itself to comprehend both the means of self-preservation, what one owns, and also the account of that experience, what one likewise owns. Such a person is not an epiphenomenon of the creation of civil society, as Hobbes’s person is, but a self-constituted agent; for society is not held together by the power derived from the sacrifice of individual rights, but from continuous renewal of free consent. ‘For Truth and keeping Faith belongs to Men as Men, and not as Members of Society’.26 The word ‘person’ for Locke derives not from an assigned role but from an internal consistency that can be publicly declared, as it were in a court of law or a political forum. It comprehends both self and consciousness and represents their conjunction, as he maintains is this very difficult sentence which, for all its convolutions, keeps the person as its subject, with consciousness and the self (‘this present thinking thing’) as its predicate: That with which the consciousness of this present thinking thing can join it self, makes the same Person, and is one self with it, and with nothing else; and so attributes to it self, and owns all the Actions of that thing, as its own, as far as the consciousness reaches, and no farther.27

That is to say, the person is the means of delivering a history of the self ’s experience that the consciousness makes possible.28 It is the ‘owner’ of it, in the sense of unifying, claiming and narrating it. Consciousness merely marks the temporal boundaries, and self the referential limits, of its operations; but agency belongs to the person. The meaning of the sentence is that the person makes the person, an extraordinary degree of latitude. Like Hobbes’s artificial person, Locke’s goes close to a kind of fiction which is based on an unacceptable alliance of a representation and a representamen; a danger which, in another extremely difficult sentence, Locke expresses like this: Why one intellectual Substance may not have represented to it, as done by it self, what it never did, and was perhaps done by some other Agent, why I say such a representation may not possibly be without reality of Matter of Fact, as well as several

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representations in Dreams are, which yet, whilst dreaming, we take for true, will be difficult to conclude from the Nature of things.29

Yet Locke’s person is a representative of a self with which it is not perfectly identical – roughly what Hobbes would call a person too. Its unity consists not in a summary of all that constitutes a self, but in a collection of those ideas filtered by our imperfect senses which are represented and ‘considered as united in one thing’.30 Considered by whom? We can only assume by the person, who has an interest in making such an assumption. A person acts as if such a summary had been made, and claims the factitious unity as its own. Consider that the difference between a person narrating its history and a self doubled by fiction – an intellectual substance represented as doing by it self what it never did – differs from the truth only in respect of what is represented, not the representation itself: An intellectual substance may have represented to it, as done by it self, what it really did, or appeared to do. And how would it know that? Because ‘a present representation of a past Action’ would be confirmed by recollection, the memory’s image of the same event.31 That is to say, one representation would keep another in countenance. Locke’s person represents the little residue of knowledge that attaches to the self as a unity of which it, the person, is both cause and instance, as if each Lockean person were a little Leviathan, representing the fruits of its own representational function as an original existence – or as Hume would say, assigning to variable and interrupted objects an invariable and uninterrupted narrative. Locke has his own quarrel with personification, which he pursues when discussing the nature of the will. Like Hobbes’s paths and ways that go in their own directions, we assume, says Locke, that the will is an original existence, a faculty with its own choices to make and its own issues to resolve – exactly what Descartes had assumed. For if it be reasonable to suppose and talk of Faculties, as distinct Beings, that can act (as we do when we say the Will orders, and the Will is free) ’tis fit that we should make a speaking Faculty, and a walking Faculty, and a dancing Faculty … And we may as properly say, that the singing Faculty sings, and the dancing Faculty dances; as that the Will chooses, or that the Understanding conceives … For powers are Relations, not Agents.32

Locke has in his eye the Cartesian claim that it is the will that judges, not the understanding, and that it is an active faculty acting at all points in conjunction with the soul, or thinking thing. He and Hobbes share a distaste for fictions which lodge power in autonomous bodies independent of persons, the only legitimate fictions. And perhaps it is because their ideas of civil society are obliged to rest on what is ultimately invented or imagined, rather than on what is known and demonstrable, that it seems to them most urgent to draw a distinction between


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fictions from which flow the real consequences of a functioning civil society and those which are the fruits of an active or subversive fancy, without anything real to declare, and destitute of useful effects. Vicky Kahn has shown how intimately questions of politics and poetics were now enmeshed. History itself started to be conceived in terms of genre and verisimilitude. Hobbes and his fellow political philosophers, she says, ‘were rewriting traditional accounts of obligation as a story that “could have been otherwise”’. She goes on, ‘Both sides [in the Civil War] … revealed their awareness that the power of contract to construct new social and political relations was inseparable from the power of the imagination’.33 It was of utmost importance therefore to discriminate between fictions worthy of belief and productive of action, and those which were incredible and as Bacon would say non-promovent. Nevertheless, Leviathan and Locke’s person might be termed personifications similar to the Cartesian faculty of will, for while they are the result of ‘authors’ or selves requiring representation in order to function politically and legally, they act as if they represented only themselves. For both Hobbes and Locke sympathy holds out the possibility of a perilous fiction, when a person claims the experience of a self it has no authority to represent. When this happens, with no referee to determine where imagined sensations start and stop, there is nothing to stop Pythagoras from claiming he is also Euphorbus; or the mayor of Quinborough from declaring that the soul of Socrates inhabits his body; or Don Quixote from saying that he is Amadis, Orlando and the seven champions of England all at once.34 But since Hobbes and Locke are both committed to fictional representation as the basis of the state and civic action, they are vulnerable to Hume’s critique of the fictionality of all form of identity – not just of persons, but of all species of animals and plants – and to his counterclaim for the reality of the imagination, where lively ideas are converted into impressions and the feelings of one self merge with those of another; and where, because we are possessed by these real existent feelings, we know them to be true. And indeed, as our passions always regard the real existence of objects, and we always judge of this reality from past instances; nothing can be more likely of itself, without any further reasoning, that that this power consists in the possibility, or probability, of any action, as discover’d by experience and the practice of the world.35

Smith’s definition of complete sympathy is modest. He calls it ‘that perfect harmony and correspondence of sentiments which constitutes approbation’, by which he means the tally of feelings with standards of propriety, a very personate form of theatre where it is important to the agreeableness of the performance that the performer’s mask not be seen to slip.36 His attachment to the boundaries of the person is evident in his early assertion, quoted before, that the membrane dividing one person from another cannot be perforated, imagination being lim-

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ited to the hypothesis of what my feelings might be were I in the situation of a victim on the rack, therefore not a complete but a conditional form of sympathy. Consistent with this notion of the person as a bounded entity, limited to the sensations he can properly call his own, is a phrase that Smith uses again and again to denote the success of an imagined hypothesis of pain: he calls it bringing the case home to our own breast.37 Here Smith’s idea of propriety overflows, like Hobbes’s, the idea of property, and whatever is won from the imagined scene of a comely or proper grief is acquired and owned as if it were some kind of sentimental goods: ‘Upon bringing the case home to our own breast, we find that the sentiments … coincide and tally with our own’; ‘When we bring the case home to ourselves, we either can or cannot entirely sympathize with the sentiments and motives which directed it’.38 He distinguishes the propriety of the male sympathizer from the humanity of the female, inasmuch as propriety is manifest in sensations that are one’s very own (‘every man feels his own pleasures and his own pains more sensibly than those of other people’), and in the gracefulness with which these feelings are experienced: ‘the becoming use of what is our own’. Humanity on the other hand requires ‘no great exertion of the sense of propriety’, and consists in doing only ‘what this exquisite sympathy would of its own accord prompt us to do’.39 By leaving open this avenue to feelings that are not one’s own but which seem instead to belong to the action of sympathy itself, Smith allows himself a set of alternatives to the case of personate sympathy brought home to the breast of the proper sympathizer. One of them is provided by Robinson Crusoe who, on his island, enjoys exquisite feelings unlimited by propriety. External bodies which either pleased or hurt him, would occupy his whole attention. The passions themselves, the desires or aversions, the joys or sorrows which those objects excited … would scarce be the objects of his thoughts.40

Smith clearly has in mind Crusoe’s experience of making a pot that will bear the fire, which produces exuberance out of all proportion to the event: ‘No Joy at a Thing of so mean a Nature was ever equal to mine’.41 At this moment Defoe’s hero is thoroughly absorbed in what Campanella calls the sense of things, the intuition of their original existence that Smith had already discussed with reference to stones and other objects that seem to hurt or please us, and which we sometimes address as persons. Crusoe has an alarming intimation of this relation to things when he observes the hat, three caps and two non-matching shoes washed up on the shore of his island, items once owned and worn, and now on the loose, self-subsistent and impressing upon him with implacable force a feeling of his own irrelevance and mortality. Impressions such as these afford more pleasant sensations to another of Defoe’s characters, Roxana, a self-confessed receptacle of ‘the Sence of things’. She declares this sense was so powerful


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it ‘fortifie[d] my Mind against all Reflection’, and although she affects to despise her reaction as a lethargy of the soul, the stupidity of her intellectual part, it excites in her voluptuous sensations, enjoyed most fully standing in front of looking-glasses, or watching Amy, her double, re-enact her own copulation with the jeweller.42 When she considers her own reflection in mirrors such as these, where often another person participates as viewer or image, she experiences pleasure not because she finds herself divided into two persons she can reflect upon and judicially assess, as Shaftesbury might seem to suggest and which Smith seems certainly to require, but because the sight of her own body is like a delicious event over which she has no control. She is not seeing it as an image but as something external to herself that is happening to her, impressing a sensation upon her nerves and raising a passion in her heart. She remembers how once she blushed when looking at herself, how the sight of her rising colour set her on fire again, and how she began ‘to wonder what it was that was coming to me’.43 David Marshall says, ‘Roxana is inflamed by the sight, as if she were looking at someone else’.44 Talking of the passion of love as a grand accident to which the victim totally succumbs, the narrator of Eliza Haywood’s Love in Excess points out the irrelevance of personhood to a condition which amounts in effect to enslavement as perfect freedom: ‘That passion is not to be circumscribed; and being not only, not subservient, but absolutely controller of the will, it would be mere madness, as well as ill nature, to say a person was blame-worthy for what was unavoidable’.45 In looking at her image in the glass Roxana reacts to it in the same way, a promise of something ineluctable and out of her control which is, for that very reason, delicious. Having talked of deodands and offensive stones, and now of Robinson Crusoe’s unreflective joys and sorrows, Smith himself makes room for those delightful and shocking intimations of a force operating outside the bounds of personal propriety and prudence which finally he personifies as Fortune: Fortune the governor of the world; Fortune who ‘never exerted more cruelly her empire over mankind, than when she subjected those nations of hero [on the west coast of Africa] to the refuse of the jails of Europe’.46 The irregularities of Fortune noted here are observed again in those tragedies of unintended moral harm where the heroes and heroines are guilty of crimes they never intended to commit; likewise they are to be found in examples of passion where no propriety is observed, and we stamp and rage because things themselves seem to have turned against us. Perhaps the weight of these exceptions to propriety explains why Smith should make such a substantial alteration to his definition of personal sympathy towards the end of his treatise. At the outset, we remember, he said this: They [the senses] never did, and never can, carry us beyond our own person, and it is by the imagination only that we can form any conception of what are his sensations.

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Neither can that faculty help us to this any other way, than by representing to us what would be our own, if we were in his case.47

But when he is trying much later in his argument to protect his kind of sympathy from Mandeville’s imputation of self-interest, he makes a very different point about the relation of persons to feelings, and of feelings to property: Sympathy … cannot … be regarded as a selfish principle … though sympathy is very properly said to arise from an imaginary change of situations with the person chiefly concerned, yet this imaginary change is not supposed to happen to me in my own person and character, but in that of the person with whom I sympathize … I not only change circumstances with you, but I change persons and characters. My grief, therefore, is entirely upon your account, and not in the least upon my own.48

Sympathy was not formerly supposed to arise from a change of situations: the imagination was charged with constructing a set of circumstances appropriate to me, not you, since I could never enter into your passions other than as a hypothesis of my situation. Only on these terms can I bring your sentiments home to my bosom and call them mine. So even under that limited concession to the reality of your grief, where I might imagine myself suffering as you do, there is no question of a change of persons. But now there is: circumstances, persons and characters are all changed, and nothing I feel is felt upon the score of propriety, or of what is my own. Sympathy cannot be ‘properly said’ to arise from an exchange of person and character. Even the division of persons mentioned earlier, where it might be conceived that I make room internally for the difference between the spectator and sufferer, the surveying man within and the man possessed by feelings who is surveyed, transferring feelings from one to the other, is faint compared to this engagement on another person’s account, where feelings that belong to him or her have nothing at all to do with me, and yet I share them and am changed by them.49 This was further than Hume was prepared to go, probably because he had less reliance on the solidity of the person than Smith. It harks back to Mandeville’s idea of primitive charity as the wholesale transfer of love from oneself to another; but it also suggests that the fiction that allows one person to imagine another’s situation is no longer a hypothesis but a fully furnished alternative to reality, like Don Quixote’s decision to go mad in imitation of Orlando. This is not an easy shift for Smith to make, evident in his determination to stick with the word ‘person’ even while dismantling what belongs to it. This results in an odd doubling when he says that ‘this imaginary change is not supposed to happen to me in my own person and character, but in that of the person with whom I sympathise’.50 What he says in effect is that things are happening to me in the person of the person with whom I sympathize, a sort of third person standing between his and the other’s who provides a common ground for feelings that otherwise could not be owned, and would have no other imaginable


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home to which they could be fetched. Who or what is responsible for the person of the person, however, is a puzzle since it is plain that it emerges from some other quarter than the civil consensus that composes society and propriety. We have three options so far, and these are the personification of Fortune, the governor of the world; the exquisite but non-personate self-moving sympathy typical of female humanity; and the immediate sense of things. These seem variously to outline what Hume calls an original existence operating outside the bounds of prescribed social norms, exorbitant to the standards of propriety required by Smith’s theatre of sympathy. No matter how exotic or improper, however, the person of the person prevents the self from dissipating as it would if it were entirely absorbed by the sense of things. It is what allows Roxana to see her fate in the form of a surprising image of herself, and it is what allows Monimia and Isabella to see that what has happened to them is what they are, negative instances of self-activity. In similar straits Clarissa says farewell to her original proper person and greets the person of the person, when she says after the rape, ‘I have escaped, but I, my best self, have not escaped’. Commenting from the boxes in what he still mistakenly appreciates as a tragic drama plotted by himself, Lovelace says, ‘Her whole person was informed by her sentiments’; but he and Clarissa would disagree about which person he is referring to, and how whole it might be.51 It is clear in the course of these arguments over the function of the person and the nature of sympathy that fiction is not defined in relation to some absolute reality, but according to degrees of probability or passion appropriate to certain situations. Descartes accuses defenders of the empirical imagination of mistaking a dream for reality; truth being found only in relative security from the impact of random objects. Spinoza and Locke tell Cartesians that the belief in an active faculty of the will is a categorical error that makes us dream with our eyes open, mistaking a relation for an entity, a power for an intelligence.52 Hume tells advocates of the representative person that its continuity is a fiction, a false unity of fragments that never possibly could constitute a whole. Locke says that without that unity, no matter how specious, no one could impute actions to themselves or take responsibility for what they had done. Hobbes says that mental autonomy of the kind Descartes recommends sets no limit to self-esteem, you can (like the grieving widower) play any part you want, and glory in it as much as you please. Mandeville says that role-playing is inevitable once civil society expects from us the appearance of virtue: you strain your faculties to appear (first fiction) what you imagine (second fiction) people believe you to be (third fiction).53 If you want to lose yourself, he says, then just believe that one or more of these fictions is true. If you want to lose yourself, says Shaftesbury, believe that they are false. That the soul is an immutable immaterial substance is the cardinal doctrine of Cartesian identity; but as far as Locke is concerned it leads directly to fictions of transmigration. On one side are arrayed a set of thinkers convinced

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that the impressions and passions caused by objects weaken and deprave the person by rendering it fantastic; on the other are those who say that we are persons aware of what is real only in so far as we allow those impressions to some degree to affect and change us. At the heart of this debate about the relation of will to knowledge, knowledge to passion and passion to fiction, lies a question about self-activity. At its two extremes stand Shaftesbury and Hume: Shaftesbury saying that any senseimpression is a measurable diminution and alternation of the thing which only is, a lie told at the expense of being; Hume saying that the passions that possess us, being original existences, are the only introductions we get to the reality of objects. Somewhere in the middle is Mandeville, who believes powerfully enough in the integrity of the self to show what peril it is in from people who want to improve it; and at the same time he is convinced that we are all to a greater or lesser extent involved in the fictions that breed from what Spinoza calls ‘the privation of knowledge which is involved by inadequate ideas’.54 That is why, according to Mandeville, people are seldom told ‘what they really are’ and why shame and pride, the two primary passions, ‘are Realities in our Frame, and not imaginary Qualities’.55 The debate seems to have three levels. On the first, an individual feels self-active owing to an integrity of a self that is impervious to sense impressions and whose independence is guaranteed by the freedom of the will. On the second, an individual is influenced by political forces, and the integrity of the self is represented, not guaranteed, by the person. And on the third, the individual is under the influence of passion, and the self is the sum of the impressions and associations provoked by each successive situation. At each level there is a different model of self-activity. At the first it is the soul or thinking thing; at the second it is the person; at the third it is the force that controls the situation or possibly (as Sterne thought) the situation itself.56 Although proponents of levels one and three are pretty adamant that it is either the self or the situation which is important, and that reality or truth is available to any individual candid enough to own either that they act, or that they are acted upon, neither extreme is immune from the criticisms levelled against it. The Cartesians have to admit that passion as self-excitation is an ingredient of self-activity, and Humeans have to concede that the fiction of identity is necessary and useful, within certain limits. In fact, defenders of these two extreme positions are obliged at various points to make assumptions commonly made at the second, namely that some capacity for looking at the self as if it were something else – say a person – is necessary if power is to be achieved or reality encountered. The intensity and complexity of this moment of self-recognition, when it is necessary for individuals to suppose that an image or secondary person is acting as their vicar or substitute, is owing to the surprise caused by seeing oneself momentarily as someone else, and as it were for the first time. This inter-


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vening figure dramatizes a paradox of loss and gain, action and passion, that culminates in a moment of affective cognition, where knowledge is inseparable from a powerful charge of what I have called, for want of a better term, self-sympathy. The hegemonicon of Cudworth is the most sophisticated account of this, where he talks of the self-contemplating soul ‘holding itself, as it were, in its own hand, as if redoubled upon itself ’, at once its own artificer and artefact.57 The self-activity of the soul seems to be the most overweening claim that Cartesians make for it, the portion of divinity in mortals that elevates human will to a kind of providence, sure to accomplish all that it intends. But in Descartes’s example of the widower there is a caesura in the sequence leading from artificial woe to real joy, as if there were an element in it that neither he nor Descartes fully understands, one which nevertheless passionately testifies to his recognition in himself of what he had not seen there before. Contingency has to be harmonized with the will if his joy is to achieve its full intensity. It is interesting that Cudworth and More give this accidental element in patterns of intention an importance of its own. They talk of the self-impairing power of the hegemonic soul by instancing cases where the will causes events that look like accident or ill-fortune, unpleasant outcomes that are certainly the result of the individual’s own act and intention, but which are so far from being agreeable to them that they seem to have happened to them. Occasions ‘whereby men become to themselves the causes of their own evil’ resemble closely the predicaments of Oedipus, Monimia and those other figures of drama that Smith says provide the most interesting moments in tragedy, when finally they learn that what they have done is not what they thought were doing.58 They seem implicated in events instead of deeds, and as a result behold themselves as different from what they imagined they were. Roxana is different from them only because she begins like this, in a mood of elation and blind surmise, her tragedy being reserved for later. The structures of these reflexive situations are the same: whether for glory, remorse or despair persons shape themselves, or acknowledge that they have shaped themselves, acting like personifications. The simplest definition of a personification is that it is the cause of itself, that it is what it does. Death, the most familiar of personifications in popular iconography, deals out mortality in the shape of one of its own victims: a corpse or a skeleton. In Johnson’s The Vanity of Human Wishes Observation makes observations, she is the force of viewing and what is viewed. What Death and Observation do is identical with what each is, a state of affairs so far from the temporal sequences in which the human mind generally operates that Steven Knapp defines it as follows: ‘If the personification knows anything at all, it knows itself, with a symmetrical purity unmatched by anything in empirical consciousness’.59 Such limited knowledge as personifications acquire is closely implicated in passion – joy, adoration, misery or, in Death’s dealing out of death, hilarity. The combination of passion and self-

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accomplishment was well understood by exponents of the early sublime such as Dryden and Rowe, who were mocked for it by the Scriblerians in The Art of Sinking in Poetry and by Buckingham in The Rehearsal. There we find singular virtues celebrated in redoubled conceits, such as a hero of whom it is said, ‘None but himself can be his parallel’; or an elephant which is the greatest elephant in the world, except himself; or a stag running in terror because it thinks its own hind feet are chasing it.60 However ridiculous such hyperboles are made to seem, they are fundamental not only to the tragically unintended outcomes singled out by Smith, but also to the passion of sublime delight Burke says accompanies the removal of the threat of annihilation, where power is suddenly transferred from the agent to the patient, and produces a swelling and triumph that is extremely grateful to the human mind; and this swelling is never more perceived, nor operates with more force, than when without danger we are conversant with terrible objects, the mind always claiming to itself some of the dignity and importance of the things which it contemplates.61

The person who was about to be circumscribed by the effect of limitless power is now put in possession of it, feeling ready to do what was nearly done to him. In the realm of politics as well as aesthetics the same redoubling is to be observed. Hobbes’s Leviathan is a single person fashioned from a multitude of smaller persons, an icon that gives shape to the formation of a commonwealth. But in every respect this person of the artificial man, a person which is borne again by the sovereign, and then again by all his officers and magistrates, is a personification inasmuch as it comprises both effect and cause, being made by the people who are then absorbed and directed by it. This brings Hobbes into difficulties whenever he reviews the sequence by which a contract (which he says is nothing but empty breath unless it is enforced by sovereign power) comes to install by its own deed the very power that makes the deed possible. Similarly with Locke’s person, which is the effect of a union of self and consciousness that it is supposed faithfully to represent; but in making the representation it becomes what it stands for, claiming the actions and the history of the self as its own. When Smith’s person becomes by sympathy the person of another person the same confusion is bred from the union, for who can say on whose account the change of persons and characters is undertaken, now that the doing I and the done-to Me are the same, or how true this imaginary change might be? If such sympathy were to be complete and true, then it would contradict Smith’s own doctrine, which is as averse to personification as Hobbes’s and Locke’s: ‘That the judge should, in every respect, be the same with the person judged of, is as impossible, as that the cause should, in every respect, be the same with the effect’.62 Yet this is what he seems to say, ‘this imaginary change is not supposed


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to happen to me in my own person and character, but in that of the person with whom I sympathise’. Hume explains personification as part of the history of religion, which is also a history of the passions. Having said that idolatry is the faith of uninstructed mankind, Hume goes on, ‘If we trace the footsteps of invisible power in the various and contrary events of human life, we are necessarily led into polytheism’.63 The forces and powers we do not understand inspire in us the strongest passions, leading us to personify them, and to represent them in various materials and shapes, hailing them as gods in order to appease them. In civil society these forces and powers – credit, public opinion, the unpredictable ratios of supply and demand, the vagaries of money and bullion – are human inventions that advance into autonomy until, like Leviathan, they direct human life as if they were fate, or the gods. Never has personification been more aptly applied to the metamorphosis of human artefacts than in commercial society, where they become so impossible to understand or manipulate that not only are they treated like deities, their priesthood is careful never to violate their mystery with an explanation. The events overwhelming the banking system of the present day are owing, we say, not to what we have done but what Credit has done, making us first the beneficiaries of our own aggregated acts of belief, and then the victims of them. Commenting on Hume’s achievement of ‘making possible the notion of self or person [by] disseminating figures of persons throughout the text’s accounts of mental operations’, Adela Pinch conceives of the Treatise as a modern instance of Smith’s short history of polytheism, where he describes the ancient gods as personifications of the passions and desires, ‘propagated by sympathy, and confirmed by education’.64 But Pinch draws a conclusion different from his regarding the tendency of the imagination to turn passions into idols by means of prosopopeia. Instead of assuming that it is a projection of the symptoms of our own ignorance, she considers the possibility that the conscious rhetorical personification of the passions is a way of knowing them. ‘Personifications of emotions, as they appear in poetry and other elevated discourses’, she says ‘are justified with implicit claims about the knowability of emotions’. She goes on to suggest that personification focuses on an oscillation between a convention that recognizes feeling as form, and a more impulsive and personal intuition of feeling as the animation of form.65 I want to argue now that in this oscillation is included the role of the person, and the person of the person, and that the knowledge gained from personified passion comes not so much from an oscillation between allegorical convention and the impulsive rhetoric of passion, as from the sequence leading from the personified passion to a dream come true. There is a remarkable specimen of personifications in Hume’s History of England, identified by Cynthia Wall as an analysis of a troubled mind. The subject is Oliver Cromwell’s growing paranoia. Clarendon simply records what

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Cromwell did – growing uneasy in the presence of strangers, choosing different routes and times for his excursions, seldom spending two nights in the same bedroom, and so on. And this is Hume’s account: ‘Death … was ever present to his terrified apprehension, and haunted him in every scene … Society terrified him … Solitude astonished him’.66 Wall talks of these verbs as ‘vivisection of the Cromwellian soul’, a particularization authorized by ‘the certainty of active verbs’.67 Joseph Priestley calls it an illusion in which ‘the personification is neither made nor helped out by the speaker, but it obtrudes itself upon him; and, while the illusion continues, the passions are as strongly affected, as if the object of them really had the power of thought’.68 To put it in Spinoza’s terms, passions formed as the result of the impression of objects are themselves transformed into objects with the power of intensifying themselves. John Donaldson chimes with Locke who says that passions and motions cannot gain this kind of independence, such as a speaking faculty that speaks, or a dancing faculty that dances, and with Smith who says that effects and causes cannot be identical.69 Likewise Donaldson says, ‘Neither can we suppose passion to be impassioned, or affection itself to be affected’; but if the faculty of representation (i.e. the person) can represent itself, why cannot passions passionate, or Love fall in love like Apuleius’s Cupid?70 I think the answer is that they can, but if the person is not to be overwhelmed by their redoubled force (as Psyche and Cromwell nearly are) then it is not rhetorical convention that has to prevail but the person, who will do so in the form of the person of a person. Cromwell died before he was able to do this, but not Robinson Crusoe. After he is struck with fright by the sight of the footprint in the sand he is pursued by fears personified by a personified imagination: ‘Nor is it possible to describe how many various Shapes affrighted Imagination represented Things to me in, how many wild Ideas were found every Moment in my Fancy, and what strange unaccountable Whimsies came into my Thoughts’. Fear banishes the memory of his salvation, and closes off his future, leaving him in a very painful condition of unreflective susceptibility to vagrant impressions that menace him: ‘I foresaw nothing at that Time, more than my meer Fear suggested me’.71 Gradually Crusoe is able to reduce this legion of troubled emotions to some kind of order by imagining various defensive and offensive schemes to save him from the cannibals who visit his island. Eventually these imaginings take the form of a dream which except in one detail exactly predicts the events of their next landing, when he will rescue Friday and commence the last stage of his sojourn on the island. This is not the first or last time that Crusoe’s imagination decrees what is real. When he is bringing his first raft-full of goods ashore from the wreck he imagines from the drift of the current that there must be a creek close by, and ‘as I imagined it, so it was, there appear’d before me a little opening of the Land’. Much later, when he is trying to trap the mutineers, he expects that they


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will desert their missing companions and return to their boats: ‘As soon as I perceiv’d them go towards the Shore, I imagin’d it to be as it really was, That they had given over their Search, and were for going back again’.72 Imagination acquires this prophetic power as his passions are transformed by his memory into narratives. Before the great dream he tells us how he was caught up in ‘the innumerable Crowd of Thoughts that whirl’d through that great thorow-fare of the Brain, the Memory, in this Night’s Time’. And it is while traversing that highway he looses his imagination and hatches the contrivances that shape what is about to happen.73 His control over these outcomes becomes greater as he begins drawing up contracts with the officers of the mutinied ship, and ultimately with the mutineers themselves. This requires that he construct another fiction that will turn out to be true, namely that there is a Governor of the island whom everyone must obey. ‘This is all a Fiction’, he says, and it depends for its success on the Governor’s not being seen until the plot is perfect, and this requires in turn that Crusoe appear as the person of his person: When I shew’d my self to the two Hostages, it was with the Captain, who told them, I was the Person the Governor had order’d to look after them … as we never suffered them to see me as Governour, so I now appear’d as another Person, and spoke of the Governour.74

Then, when his plan has fully taken effect and power is restored to the proper persons, ‘I came thither dress’d in my new Habit, and now I was call’d Governour’ – and so what he imagined, now he is.75 This is how the sequence works for Defoe: personified passions, the result of feelings of overwhelming anxiety, fright and fear, cause his hero to construct fictions that are empirically verified, investing him with power and authority – ‘How like a King I look’d’ – and filling him with sensations of pleasure.76 Passions become objects of thought, and then part of his experience, known and possessed. The sequence describes an arc between an abject condition where Crusoe is reduced to a merely animal state of fear, a terrified hybrid of a human and a goat, and a transcendence of ordinary humanity, where he is greeted as a governor and, if not the arm of providence, then certainly a higher kind of being. This process cannot be completed unless the person he imagines himself to be is projected into the social arena he is about to enter as the person of the person, the junction between what passion has forced him to dream and what chance has thrown him and which will allow him to confirm the empirical truth of what affectively he cognized. That this is a scene of sympathy mediated by persons half-formed, wraiths and apparitions gradually solidifying each other’s fictions, is evident in the meeting between Crusoe and the ship’s officers. He beholds in them himself as he was, ‘very pensive … like Men in Despair’ and the sight of

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them takes him back to when he came ashore and ‘lodg’d in a Tree all Night for fear’. In him they see a spectral figure dressed like an animal whom they instantly admire as the deputy of a higher power come to save them. ‘Am I talking to God, or Man!’ cries one of them, ‘Is it a real Man, or an Angel!’77 The nature of the sympathy they are about to share is described by Crusoe as follows: Let no Man despise the secret Hints and Notices of Danger, which sometimes are given him, when he may think there is no Possibility of its being real. That such Hints and Notices are given us, I believe few that have made any Observations of things, can deny; that they are certain Discoveries of an invisible World, and a Converse of Spirits, to warn us of Danger, why should we not suppose they are from some friendly Agent … and that they are given for our Good?78

His experience of fictions turned to realities by means of figures who stand first for the alarm and then for the creative power of imagination is about to be shared by the captain and his companions. To them Crusoe appears as just such a friendly agent operating between worlds – savage and civilized, material and immaterial – personifying benevolence and goodwill. The proof of the community they are about to establish will not be by law or contract, it will be lodged in the common bond of passion turned into imaginings, and imaginings made real. It is not hard to see this part of Robinson Crusoe as an allegory of Locke’s second Treatise of Government, tracing the emergence of a solitaire from a state of nature into civil society by means of consent, or what Locke would call men keeping faith. But it is impossible to ignore the fictional elements necessary to these mutual promises. They have first to be dreamed and only then may they be authenticated by their consequences, according to the principle of preposterous realism that Kahn has suggested lies at the foundation of the modern state. If we set Crusoe’s experience alongside that of Descartes’s widower we find that these two persons arrive at a similar destination – feeling glorious as a god or a king – but by different routes. Toying with an insipid feeling of grief, the widower wonders why he is indulging it and at that instant of self-admonition is apprised of the autonomy of the thinking thing. What he knows is that he thinks, and in the exclusive priority of that act of cognition he feels a great joy. For Crusoe the journey from personified fears to imagined scenes that then take place in the real world ends in an empirical understanding of the work of the passions in which he feels a corresponding joy; but at no point in the sequence is thinking independent of passion, and this is what makes him a social being. Like Hobbes’s person he is translated from fear to fiction and then from fiction to the manifest material relations of social facts; but the Cartesian widower recovers an absolute power that has always been his, and to which fiction – the fiction that he feels any grief for his wife – is alien. There is no suggestion that he has to make


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his way to this power by means of a rhetoric that seriously empowers any force but that of his own mind. It is simply a matter of re-recognizing that fact, and eliminating the impediments in the way of it. We have seen how this hegemonicon of the thinking thing is modified by the Cambridge Platonists so that self-damage and feelings of remorse may be incorporated into an appreciation of its range. But it takes considerable ingenuity for them to fashion something that might look like a person because a person is really a fiction and therefore an obstacle to self-recognition. So is sympathy because as person-to-person it relies on the mutuality of that fiction. Henry More has an idea about personification that takes him somewhat further in the direction of personhood. He confronts Hobbes on apparitions, who called them creatures of the fancy that are mistaken for real substances, by instancing the river that spoke to Pythagoras, and the tree that saluted Apollonius. ‘It is evident, I say, That there was something there that was neither River nor Tree, to which these salutations must be attributed, no Tree nor River having any Faculty of Speech’. What this extra vocal element might be is a question he returns to later, when he suggests that the vital congruity between the soul and matter, a bond he calls by the name of sympathy, is capable of projecting effigies or spectres of embodied souls in the figure of ghosts, daemons and genii.79 Defoe himself was not far from such a belief when he wrote the narrative of Mrs Veal, who visited a close friend the day after she died, or when he has Crusoe suppose that the figures formed by imagination might be the actual ‘Converse of Spirits’. Charleton’s account of the function of the sensitive soul is much more promising, for his sensitive soul is immersed in passions (‘impressions, commotions, fluctuations, inclinations, alterations and perturbations’), all of which congregate under the general headings of Pleasure and Displeasure.80 However, Charleton introduces another factor which neither Cudworth nor More care to admit, even in their discussions of self-impairment and remorse, and that is the medium of time. When we anticipate the good which will please us, we are in a state of desire Charleton calls Cupidity. What he says about it reads like a short gloss on Cupid and Psyche: It may be conceived that from Love ariseth the Cupidity, or Desire, whereby the Soul is disposed to covet for the time to come, those things which she represents to herself as convenient and likely to afford her pleasure. For in Cupidity or Desire of any thing whatsoever, which the Soul judges to be wanting to herself; she alwaies looketh forward to the time to come.81

In Apuleius’s story Psyche’s curiosity about the body of Cupid is not sexual. She longs to see him, having already fully felt him, and by looking at him to fetch a lover who has afforded gratification to only one of her senses into her full knowledge and possession. This sets on foot an adventure in which Cupid’s person

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is mis-imagined by Psyche as some revolting kind of serpent. Then he appears – literally – as Love who has made himself to love, except that the price paid for seeing him is that he becomes invisible once again. Finally he emerges into the light as the immortal element that completes the union of the soul with what it wanted – what it lacked and also wished for. Meanwhile Psyche goes through various phases of personhood, at first ‘a false surmised shape of my person’ as Venus calls her, ‘the Vicar of my name’,82 then as the abject slave of an enraged goddess. So Psyche’s is a narrative of desire operating in a temporal sequence, adapted to the same principle that governs Crusoe’s re-entry into community. That is to say, she wins her Cupid not by fidelity to a marriage contract, for they are married before their trials begin, but by keeping faith with the personification of the love she feels. Just as Crusoe spans the levels below and above humanity, so Apuleius’s lovers advance from degrees of abasement to immortality. Crusoe the goat-man, Cupid the strangely coloured winged creature, Psyche the idol of a false cult, are all propelled to a rank well above the one they held: Crusoe from the thoughtless mariner to the Governor; Cupid from the agent of universal anarchy to a respectable godship, and Psyche from a mere idol into a real divinity. Their stories disentangle the paradox of animality and divinity that Hume presents as the only distinct result of our passionate experience of the unaccountable: Convulsions in nature, disorders, prodigies, miracles, though the most opposite to the plan of a wise superintendent, impress mankind with the strongest sentiments of religion; the causes of events seeming then the most unknown and unaccountable. Madness, fury, rage, and an inflamed imagination, though they sink men nearest to the level of beasts, are, for a like reason, often supposed to be the only dispositions, in which we can have any immediate communication with the Deity.83

We have seen that person has an equivocal role to play in Shaftesbury’s lexicon of identity. Although he divides himself up into two persons in order to study himself, he tends to associate the person with change and corruption. ‘Few persons in the world grow better, and many grow worse every day’.84 The division between an ‘immediate and real self ’ and its ‘person and likeness’ is like that between ‘Justness of Character’ founded on the ‘TRUTH OF THINGS’ and the vagaries that occur whenever ‘the Passion or Humour of a known Person changes’.85 ‘I and me are something else … I (the real I) am not a certain figure, nor mass, nor, hair, nor nails, nor flesh, nor limbs, nor body, but mind’.86 This sounds very like the kind of distinction Clarissa wishes to draw between I as her best self and I the self she has ended up with. There is a terrible Manichean denial of the body involved in drawing them, as when she says that her coffin is soon to be filled with viler earth than any it can be covered by. Any passions associated with ‘me’, that other I, are bastard joys, says Shaftesbury.87 In cases such as these the person of the person leads only to agitation or despair. The Philosophical


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Regimen begins with exactly the same reflexive gesture as the Soliloquy, but it is cast in the form of a bitter rebuke: ‘How long is it that thou wilt continue thus to act two different parts and be two different persons … Be one entire and selfsame Man’.88 In his hostility to the flesh, society and sympathy Shaftesbury seems to have anticipated the definition of person given by Annette Baier and found it horrifying. She says that the history of persons is a history of changes caused by contact with other persons, and consequently that all persons are to some extent as fictitious as they are social, the creations of other persons.89 Character, on the other hand, is stable and fixed, being warranted by your community as a name, a reputation, not subject to accident and change, otherwise it is irretrievably broken or lost.90 John Grahame of Claverhouse explains this remarkable quality of character to Henry Morton in Old Mortality. ‘It is the memory which the soldier leaves behind him, like the long train of light that follows the sunken sun – that is all which is worth caring for, which distinguishes the death of the brave or the ignoble’.91 But it is clear that the public dimension of character is no less fictitious than personate joy for the early Shaftesbury: ‘Reputation, fame? – bastard! My country? – bastard still’. And placing his agony before the public is no less illegitimate, ‘a spectacle or beggar-like to move pity’.92 David Marshall says this reduces Shaftesbury to a very strange relation to speech, which he wants to be silent, and to ink, which, rather like Rousseau’s ink of sympathy, he wants to be invisible: ‘Why writing? Why this flourishing? … If this be inwardly spoken and not aloud, if this be in the closet or study, in retiring time … it is excellent’,93 saying in effect, like Cupid, ‘Covet not to see the shape of my person’.94 He needs company so very sensitive to his shame of nakedness that authoring becomes exactly a private act, and the idea of a reader as a conversible person attenuates into nothing. There is nothing to imagine, and nothing to be faithful to except a notion of character so remote from what he feels himself to be, that it is an impossibility and a reproach. ‘Shaftesbury proposes a response which might approximate to silent speech … Written as if in invisible ink, this writing would withdraw from reading’.95 To manage the business properly the relation between I and Me has to be adjusted. Marshall points out that it is performed in the Characteristics as an alternation between first and third persons: The author of the third volume speaks of the author of the first volumes in the third person, as if he were someone else … In other words, Shaftesbury – if we can call him that – is personating someone else who personates Shaftesbury in order to soliloquize about what constitutes the ‘I’.96

At this point Shaftesbury’s investment in character as the distillate of being has to be mediated through irony. He resolves to make conversation with himself in

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words that can be overheard, a sort of public secret, in which an author person and a social person will conspire to represent the non-personate core of being that claims to be free of flesh, property and desire. The effect is in some respects not unlike that of Crusoe acquiring the person of a person by means of representing his figured passions as fictions, for there is no doubt that Shaftesbury’s published self relies implicitly on the passionate self-apostrophes of the Regimen. However, the status of empirical reality is not one that Shaftesbury will ever recognize, even in his subtlest reflections upon his first person. For a man committed to the technical business of autobiography he offers very little but oblique apostrophes and smothered regrets as evidence of life lived and commitments made, as if all real life were a squalid tale that had to be laughed at or shut down: ‘Why tell thy tale, why sing thy ditty (wretch!)?’97 What he focuses on instead, as the public test of personate personhood, is writing, and specifically ink. He goes to extraordinary lengths on his title-page to extinguish his publisher as a dealer in print so that he can accost him in the body of the work as his amanuensis or scribe, who merely copies by hand a soliloquy that has been written by hand. Even in his most despairing moments, writing is the fulcrum of whatever negotiation he makes with himself or a hypothesized public. ‘Why writing? Why this flourishing, drawing, figuring, over and over, the same still?’98 The answer he supplies in the Soliloquy is that it is more closely attached to him, more directly linked to the self, than any other form of selfexpression. ‘I am no-wise more an AUTHOR, for being in Print’, he declares; and it is of no concern to him, he avers further, how his private amusements reach the public, or what judgement is made of them. There is no preferment or sanction that comes of being published. ‘I am conscious of no additional Virtue, or dangerous Quality, from having laid at any time under the weight of that alphabetick Engine called the Press. I know no Conjuration in it.’99 He uses that engine for one purpose only, which is to reproduce his handwriting in a legible form, like a pentagraph. And his publisher is no different in this respect from a secretary: ’Tis requisite, that my Friends, who peruse these Advices, shou’d read ’em in better Characters than my own Hand-writing. And by good luck I have a very fair Hand offer’d, which may save me the trouble of re-copying, and can readily furnish me with as many handsom Copys as I wou’d desire, for my own and Friends Service.100

As Marshall notes, the shift from character as a measure of solidity of reputation, or the external warrant of the truth of things, is now transferred to the mark on the page.101 Still, writing of this sort fills up the gap between ‘I’ and ‘Me’ with friends instead of the terrifying vacuum of the Regimen, and friends – personate friends like Lord Somers, of whom he is ‘passionately’ fond – help him to a


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perspective on the authorial relationship between ‘I’ and ‘he’, and to something akin to literary sympathy. Because Shaftesbury’s experiment with writing is not historically conceived, and never represented as an empirical proof of imaginative fiction, he has no destination where his very delicate approach to the world can be tested, or his desires consummated. His is a very aesthetic and momentary success, obtained outside a temporal sequence, that needs constant attention, combing and whetting, if it is not to break down into the kinds of lamentations that fill the Regimen. His vocal looking-glass has more in common with Roxana’s pier-glass in this respect than to Crusoe’s metamorphosis into a governor, or Psyche’s metamorphosis into a goddess. Roxana’s moment of wonder in front of her reflection is like Eve’s in Paradise Lost, or Narcissus’s in the Metamorphoses, good for the moment but with no claim on the future. Always the threat embedded in that kind of selfsympathy is that it will disintegrate into frustration or self-hatred once the image of self no longer grants the viewer the feeling of delighted surprise, and instead stands as a challenge, reproach or mockery. Autobiographies built on this plan are peculiarly inchoate, liable to stop in what would be termed the middle if they had anything like a real narrative structure to desert. John Dunton’s Voyage round the World (1691), Francis Kirkman’s The Unlucky Citizen (1773), Swift’s A Tale of a Tub (1704), together with Sterne’s two novels, exhibit the same characteristics of rampant egoism and discontinuity, as if there were no fiction worth realizing, just a collection of situations to relish. Roxana’s is an unfinished story. She gives up her narrative before she tells how she conspired with Amy to kill her own daughter. In the century’s great romance of unintended consequences, the Memoirs of Miss Sidney Bidulph, the heroine’s best intentions lead her to collude in a rape and a murder, whereupon she enters a bigamous union with her lover Faulkland, believing (mistakenly as it turns out) that his previous wife is dead at his hands, along with her paramour. At this point Sidney can no longer recognize herself as the person or character her actions were meant to prove; the difference is so wide she can no longer go on writing the narrative of her life, so she lays down her pen. Shaftesbury’s experiment with the ink of sympathy is entirely an improvisational affair that could easily collapse back into what he fears most, the glimpse of his nakedness. In a famous essay considering the hindrances to complete sympathy with other creatures entitled ‘What is it Like to be a Bat?’ Thomas Nagel says it is no use trying to answer this question by imagining what it is like to hang upside down and to navigate by bouncing high frequency screams off the objects around you; you have to be able to say what it is like for a bat to be a bat.102 There is something that it is like to be a bat, bat-consciousness or maybe the bat-person, which the imagination has to compass if sympathy is to take place; a feat he believes is impossible in respect of bats, or any other creature not human. In the

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sphere of human relations this quality of likeness emerges as personhood, the fictional representation of the history of the self based on passions that may, via the imagination, be understood and then shared. It is possible for one person to know or say what another’s experience is like only when that person is able ‘to understand the ascription in the first person as well as in the third, so to speak’.103 This is what Smith means when he talks of the person of ‘the person with whom I sympathize’ as one upon whose account the work of imagination is unconditionally performed.104 Does all sympathy except self-sympathy stop when the relation of first and third persons breaks down? Smith believes that it does not, and produces his most remarkable example of disinterested imagining: sympathy with the dead. This comes in two forms. There is sympathy with those who have been unjustly killed, and with whose imagined passions of resentment and revenge we identify.105 Then there are simply those who are dead, of whose long sojourn in the grave they are unconscious but which we who are living can imagine as an unending and miserable confinement: The idea of that dreary and endless melancholy, which the fancy naturally ascribes to their condition, arises altogether from our joining to the change which has been produced upon them, our own consciousness of that change, from our putting ourselves in their situation, and from our lodging, if I may be allowed to say so, our own living souls in their inanimated bodies, and thence conceiving what would be our emotions in this case.106

This is the familiar of substitution that Smith argues early in his book is the only form of sympathy available for compassionating privations and pains of which we have no experience of our own. We put our persons in the place of the suffering persons, and then having brought home to our own breasts what we imagine we would feel in the same predicament, we project those feelings upon them and say we share them. But here there is no person, only a corpse. There is nothing with which to sympathize except our own imaginings. How would Smith’s later form of sympathy work, where this imaginary change is not supposed to happen to me in my own person and character, but in that of the person with whom I sympathise … I consider what I should suffer if I was really you, and I not only change circumstances with you, but I change persons and characters?107

He cannot become the person of the person of a corpse for the reason just alleged: corpses lack persons. But were he to consider the dead not as former persons who have lost life and now have no persons left, but as persons who had lives to lose (and he does in fact point out that it the ‘foresight of our own dissolution’ which makes this sympathetic exercise terrible), then his experience of


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it would be more like Ulysses’s when he hears the tale of his own deeds coming from the mouth of Demodocus:108 This the divine Expressor did so give Both act and passion that he made it live, And to Ulysses’ facts did breath a fire So deadly quickning that it did inspire Old death with life, and renderd life so sweet And passionate that all there felt it fleet – Which made him pitie his owne crueltie, And put into that ruth so pure an eie Of human frailtie, that to see a man Could so revive from Death, yet no way can Defend from death, his owne quicke powers it made Feele there death’s horrors, and he felt life fade.109

In one of the most searching recent investigations of sympathy, J. M. Coetzee’s The Lives of Animals, the protagonist Elizabeth Costello takes up Smith’s position against Nagel, arguing that if she knows what it is like to be a corpse she knows what it is like to be a bat, or anything at all. This is what she says: There are no bounds to the sympathetic imagination … If I can think my way into the existence of a being who has never existed, then I can think my way into the existence of a bat or a chimpanzee or an oyster, any being with whom I share the substrate of life … For instants at a time … I know what it is like to be a corpse … We live the impossible: we live beyond our death, look back on it, yet look back as only a dead self can. When I know, with this knowledge, that I am going to die, what is it, in Nagel’s terms, that I know? Do I know what it is like for me to be a corpse, or do I know what it is like for a corpse to be a corpse. The distinction seems to me trivial. What I know is what a corpse cannot know: that it is extinct, that it knows nothing and will never know anything any more. For an instant, before my whole structure of knowledge collapses in panic, I am alive inside that contradiction, dead and alive at the same time.110

It is not entirely clear what Costello is saying. Is she making a claim for the power of imagination, much like Smith, and saying that by substituting a fancied for a real situation it can bring home to our hearts the feelings that belong to others? Is she on the other hand taking a sturdy literalist view of sympathy, rejecting what she takes to be the figurative element in Nagel’s insistence that there must be something which it is like to be a bat, an as that precedes an is, a metaphor that liberates the secret of another’s being? After all, in an earlier version of this story called ‘Realism’ Costello announced herself an enemy to all forms of words that do not mean what they say, and when recalling that story in this one, she says, ‘I say what I mean. I am an old woman. I do not have time any longer to say things I do not mean.’ Nevertheless, she enforces that trivial distinction between the literal extinction of a corpse and what she knows of what it is like to be a corpse.

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She calls this knowledge an embodied knowledge, not a figure or metaphor but an actual event: ‘for moment we are that knowledge’.111 Here she seems to be reaching for a formulation that is neither imaginative (or figurative) nor realist (or literalist) but more like the symmetry of personified knowledge, where being is what you are doing, and what you are doing is what is happening to you. Inside the contradiction of being alive and dead at the same time, Costello mingles her first and third persons so thoroughly that no second person can properly be admitted to what she is saying of what she felt. But whatever she means by saying it, it comes close to what we have found in figures as diverse as Narcissus and Robinson Crusoe, Psyche and Sidney Bidulph when a person recognizes the physical fact of their own metamorphosis. Smith calls the force of this metamorphosis Fortune, whose irregularities disturb the law of moral consequences in civil society and produce the most interesting passages of tragedy. Inside all these debates about sympathy as a personate exercise lies another of enormous significance to the history of the novel, for it has become clear that the empiricist approach to sympathy based on the reality of sense-impressions is by no means the unchallenged criterion of truth among those who have an interest in the closed circuit of first and third persons. When Elizabeth Costello, a novelist, says there is no limit to sympathy, she means that there is no limit to fiction either. In her account the difference between what is illusory and what is real has less to do with the impact of objects upon the nerve-ends than with the internal operations of the mind, and its capacity to excite or terrify itself with what it has imagined as happening. Should these self-aroused passions culminate in something like Costello’s embodied knowledge, it is by no means certain that this restores what is imagined to the solid world of things – as Chapman says, Ulysses’s facts need poetic fire to live, but when restored to life they have scant relevance to the memory where they were allegedly buried. Another boundary pushed to the limit in this approach to the sense of things concerns the human. Costello’s knowledge of extinction traverses the difference between the living and the dead in the interests of obliterating another between humans and nonhumans. If we are looking for the next step in the evolution of sympathy, it is along these lines that we shall have to follow it.


The contemplation of the infirm and lonely steed overcame him. Jostled, but obstinate, he would remain there, trying to express the view newly opened to his sympathies of the human and equine misery in close association. But it was very difficult. ‘Poor brute, poor people!’ was all he could repeat. It did not seem forcible enough, and he came to a stop with an angry splutter. ‘Shame!’ Stevie was no master of phrases, and perhaps for this very reason his thoughts lacked clearness and precision. But he felt with greater completeness and some profundity. That little word contained all his sense of indignation and horror at one sort of wretchedness having to feed upon the anguish of the other.1

It is evident that there is a sliding scale of sympathy. Relative to the reality and consistency of the self, sympathy is easily measured: it is weak in proportion as the self is strong and undivided, and extensive in proportion as the self is phantasmal or ill-conditioned. Crevecoeur noticed that the American settling the frontier had not much use for it: ‘He demands full price for his grain, and prompt payment of debt for he has never seen objects that required the benefits of his simpathy’.2 We have seen that Descartes has a low opinion of pity and no concept of sympathy outside the internal operation of the mind that results in enlarged self-esteem. Hume on the other hand invests nothing in the wholeness of the self, and treats sympathy as a universal principle, like gravitation, under whose influence humans, animals and things are carried on tides of feeling into new relations with one another. Descartes exemplifies for Hume life lived as a fiction, and Hume, had Descartes known him, would have represented for him an equally unreal existence. The nature of Hume’s universal principle is what concerns us now, since he makes clear that it embraces all sentient beings, not just humans. Hume anticipates Darwin’s conclusion that the expression of emotion confirms that ‘man is derived from some lower animal form’.3 He is not alone in believing that creatures with the same central nervous system feel, and express the feelings, as we do; leaving no reason to suppose that we are not capable of sympathizing with them, or they with us.4 Mandeville’s picture of the bullock dying beneath the pole-axe at Smithfield is a powerful example, more compelling as a sympathetic spectacle as far as he is concerned than his lurid scene of a – 105 –


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child being eaten by a pig. Sentimental novelists are fond of these exchanges of feelings between humans and animals, reading their gestures and responding in kind: Tristram Shandy with an ass, Yorick with a starling, George Keate with his horse, Mackenzie’s Harley with a dog. Poets are not far behind, with Cowper writing fondly of his pet hare, Gray of the cat Selina, and Smart singing in the scriptural sublime of the ‘spraggle upon waggle’ of his cat Geoffrey. But like other forms of sympathy this with animals can veer between a sort of superficial wit and something much more serious – more like madness. The eighteenth century was fascinated by animal fables: Mandeville’s first book was a translation of a selection of La Fontaine’s, and he turns to the fable form not only for the verse of his The Fable of the Bees but also in the remarks – for example the fable of the lion and the merchant in the important Remark P – to make a point about the urgency and directness of animal appetites compared with the sophistication of the human palate and human culture. Machiavelli, who wrote his own version of The Golden Ass and cast The Prince loosely as a fable of the lion and the fox, exerted a strong influence on Mandeville’s fablewriting, which seems to have been as hospitable to illustrations of the doctrine of reason of state as it was to emphasizing the difference between human imposture and animal candour. La Fontaine had borrowed from Marcus Aurelius the story of the wargus or man-beast from the Danube, as misshapen as Aesop himself (cross-eyed, broken-nosed, blubber lipped), who comes to Rome fresh from the wilderness, dressed like Crusoe in goatskins and talking with such powerful simplicity of the corruptions he sees around him, that he convinces the Romans to change their ways.5 Like Mandeville, La Fontaine had a bone to pick with Descartes over the question of animal reason. Having cited Descartes on animals as soulless machines, he concedes that he is not sure they have souls, but he is quite certain that they can reason (he instances beavers, partridges and deer), indicating a relationship between mind and body which neither he nor Descartes understands. In his fables ‘The Philosopher and the Pheasants’ and ‘Pythagoras and the Countrymen’ John Gay joins the anti-Cartesian camp of La Fontaine and Mandeville, arguing that beasts are poorly requited for the services they perform for us; and in ‘The Gardener and the Hog’ and ‘The Goat without a Beard’ he shows how friendships between species seldom do either side any good. His snail opts out of the whole system of fabular representation, saying, ‘Snail I was born, and Snail shall end’.6 In the novel fables are often told when the story reaches a crisis. Caleb Williams tells the story of the alligator and the silly traveller; Clarissa tells another of the ill-advised person who died trying to tame a lion. Perhaps one of the most poignant is found in Jane Collier’s mock-conduct book for the mistresses of governesses and companions, The Art of Ingeniously Tormenting (1753), in which she chronicles with painful exactness the techniques of psychological torture

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used to humiliate and madden poor dependent women. She mentions a fable written by an animal whose name begins with L that treats of ‘the misery that is endured, from the entrance of teeth and claws into living flesh’.7 Readers suppose it must be a lion, a lynx or a leopard, creatures given to this sort of violence; but it turns out to be a lamb. Collier was a correspondent of Richardson who was well apprised of the value of fables, not only using them freely in Pamela and Clarissa, but also publishing his own collection – as Locke did too, emphasizing the importance of their illustrations to young readers. He said, ‘There is added … the Pictures of the several Beasts treated of in these Fables, to make it still more taking to Children, and made the deeper impression of the same upon their Minds’.8 Richardson too was keen that the drift of these stories not be lost, inserting copper-plate engravings and presuming ‘to alter, and put a stronger Point to, several of the Fables themselves, which we thought capable of more forcible Morals’.9 Rousseau was notorious for taking quite another view of fables and their effect on children. La Fontaine was far too subtle and paradoxical for children, he pointed out, and even if they could grasp the meaning, it would do them no good. I shall never forget seeing a little girl weeping bitterly over this tale [‘The Sleek Dog and the Starving Wolf ’] which had been told her as a lesson in obedience. The poor child hated to be chained up … she was crying because she was not a wolf.10

No doubt remembering Mandeville’s bullock, he outlines Emile’s lesson in sympathy as a direct experience of animal suffering, seen and heard and not minced up into an oblique and contradictory allegory of human affairs: The convulsions of a dying animal will cause him I know not what anguish before he knows the source of these impulses … so pity is born … how can we be stirred by pity unless we go beyond ourselves and identify ourselves with the suffering animal, by leaving so to speak our own nature and taking his. We only suffer so far as we suppose he suffers; the suffering is not ours, but his.11

Thus Rousseau finds a way past the specious fictions of fable to a position on inter-species compassion that reorients Adam Smith’s idea of person-to-person sympathy. As Gay’s snail complains, fables are not often concerned with what an ass or a lion might really feel, or really want to express: their job is to represent them as disguised humans. The French fabulist Antoine Houdart de La Motte said of fable, ‘Its very essence is symbolical, and consequently is to signify somewhat more than what it literally imports’.12 In his Life of Gay, Johnson defined it as a narrative in which animals are ‘feigned to act and speak with human interests and passions’.13 But as Rousseau complains, fables can contradict or even turn on themselves, mocking the emptiness of their own symbols and letting animals


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appear as animals. Aesop’s ‘The Camel and the Driftwood’, which he told at Delphi at the cost his life, describes how sticks floating on the sea look to the camel at a distance like a large and interesting piece of flotsam, but closer to shore the mystery proves to be nothing but a clump of sticks. The Delphians thought he was talking about their city and threw him off a cliff, but he might just as well have been talking of genre of fable itself, whose promise of a definite or hidden meaning is not always met. In Phaedrus’s ‘The Fox and the Mask’ the animal turns over an actor’s mask, and says, ‘What an impressive sight, but no brain at all’. John Henderson comments: ‘Fable looks deep into Fable’s brain and finds there’s nothing there’.14 In these examples fables mock the idea that the surface is anything more than a surface, and that it might bear signs of some deeper meaning. Their preference for literalism goes hand in hand with a resistance to the representing of human interests and passions. In Gay’s ‘The Elephant and the Bookseller’ the animal demands whether humans learned fawning from the spaniel, plundering from the fox, destruction from the wolf; or might it be the other way round? In words that echo the lion’s to the merchant’s in Mandeville’s story, the elephant observes, ‘But is not man to man a prey? / Beasts kill for hunger, men for pay’ – a point made frequently by humans themselves in The Beggar’s Opera.15 The song sung by Lucy Lockit in that play after she has set her lover loose from her father’s prison, beginning ‘I like the fox shall grieve’, is remarkable for its lack of sententious coding – under what system of emblematic lore are foxes in fables notable for their grief ? – and it opens a passage for feelings that are like a fox’s because they are immediate and unconditional, not at all symbolic, social or exclusively human. This is the theme of Swift’s The Beast’s Confession, his riposte to Aesop’s and La Fontaine’s ‘The Ass and the Little Dog’, where an ass wanting the same treatment as a lapdog jumps into his master’s lap and rubs his chin with its hoof to show its winning ways. The Ass was never known so stupid To act the Part of Tray or Cupid; Nor leaps upon his Master’s Lap, There to be stroak’d and fed with Pap; As Esop would the World perswade.16

Gay and Swift were specialists in dismantling fabular symbolism, literalizing and particularizing it, and masking singular assertions or improbable similes as bywords. Swift wrote to Stella, ‘Our frost holds like a dragon … Now I am writing on like a fish’.17 It is a game that achieves greatness in Lewis Carroll’s fable-cum-ballad of sympathy gone wrong and rather horrid, The Walrus and the Carpenter. In Hogarth’s Four Stages of Cruelty (1751) he means us to be shocked at the widespread maltreatment of animals, and to understand that indifference to their

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pain leads towards a general moral failure: murder, execution, public anatomy of the murderer’s corpse, a dog chewing on a human heart. Dorothy Kilner’s story of the boy Charles, whipped by his father into rough sympathy with the mouse he has been tormenting, is awkwardly trying to teach the same lesson, but is hindered by a kind of sympathy which is itself already implicated in the cruelty it deplores. As the eighteenth century advanced there were widespread efforts to protect animals from the agony of bloodsports and baiting, but the value of animal experience was inevitably ambiguously cited. Humans cruel to brutes were brutes, but then humans sympathetic to animals – were they not trying to be brutes too, as Rousseau suggested? On the one hand kindness to animals was a source and proof of humanity (Sheridan said, ‘Many of the most striking lessons to man were to be learned from animals’), but on the other it was the measure of depravity: Wilberforce described baiting as ‘a practice which degraded human nature to a level with the brutes’.18 It was a sign of how far opinion had shifted in terms of human-animal sympathy when early in the nineteenth century a majority of the fellows of the Royal Society walked out of a lecture by the anatomist Alexander Philip and subsequently refused to elect him to the Society because they thought his experiments barbarous. Thomas Knight described the event as follows: The cause of this has been the stile in which his paper on the experiment tried on Rabbits by Severing the Nerves on which digestion &c depend: these cruel experiments were detailed with all the particulars of the tortures experienced by the animals, exactly as if the audience were to be composed of none but Butchers and Surgeons.19

Sir Joseph Banks huffed and puffed (‘the nonsense of the meeting on this occasion overpowered the sense, so will the nonsense of the world most assuredly overpower the sense in case any public justification of the System of operating upon living animals is attempted’), and he was angry when Philip was turned down for a fellowship a second time.20 But he was thoroughly advised of the common sense of this affair, and wrote to Knight, I shall take the hint thus given to me, & in future guard the Society from the danger of incurring popular odium, by taking more care than I have hitherto done in concealing the suffering of animals subjected to the experiments of Surgeons.21

In the 1802 parliamentary debate on bull-baiting Sir Richard Hill rose to speak, as he put it, ‘in behalf of a race of poor friendless beings who certainly cannot speak for themselves’, and he went on to call the words he was using ‘the voice of humanity’.22 Title to humanity was evidently as ambiguous as title to brutality: was the humane person one whose generous heart vibrated in tune with his own kind, or was humanity a quality won from compassionating with mute animals, as Sir Richard and Charles’s father seem to think? What comes first, sympathy


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for your own species, or for another? There is a print by George Cruikshank showing a knacker’s yard filled with dead and dying horses: driving them into the yard and waiting to skin and bone the carcasses are several men. The title of the piece is ‘The Voice of Humanity’, but no voice with that name seems to be issuing from any point in the picture: not from the dumb animals, nor from their tormentors. Possibly it might be heard in the future, but not yet. Its absence puts humanness at some distance from humanity, then; for humanity is either a virtue that has been lost and not recovered or one that has never been acquired. Thomas Marryott makes the former case: How long shall sweet humanity, That best of virtues, slighted be! The Word’s a compliment that suits But ill with men, say all the brutes.23

In his ‘Ode to Humanity’, part of the dedicatory apparatus of Thomas Young’s An Essay on Humanity to Animals (1798), Charles Hoyle puts the latter case. He calls upon the amiable personification of Humanity to visit ‘Man’. He cries, ‘O come, Humanity! To this fell race / Thy soul-subduing gifts impart’. The plea is made necessary by the pain and ruin visited upon animate nature by the race of Man, the dismal ‘trophies of [whose] frantic mood’ are littered everywhere.24 As far as Hoyle is concerned, humanity is not the essence of human beings; it is a moral attribute that comes to us, like civility, only after certain changes have taken place in human nature. Either way, Marryot mourning a lost virtue or Young personifying one we never had, they bring up an issue that is fundamental both to the debate about sympathy and the companion debate about human-animal relations that grows around it in the latter half of the century, and it is the question of change. On the sliding scale mentioned earlier, susceptibility to sympathy is equated with proneness to alteration: ‘It comes in at the Eye or Ear, or both; and the nearer and more violently the Object of Compassion strikes those Senses, the greater Disturbance it causes in us’.25 As Spinoza says, ‘Weakness consists in this alone, that man allows himself to be led by things which are outside him’.26 If the self can be modified by the impressions made by objects, and if those objects happen to be suffering animals, a Cartesian objection instantly occurs: Why should a thing without a soul affect us who have souls? It is a thought that makes Locke uncomfortable, and he tries to pass it off in a series of jokes or ‘wild fancies’ of ridiculous metamorphoses – a parrot invested with the faculty of rational speech, a sheep that becomes part of Meliboeus, Heliogabalus that becomes part of a pig, an amputated finger that becomes the person of the body to which it was attached, and so on. The best way to deal with the Cartesian objection is Mandeville’s or Hume’s. Mandeville says, go look at what your dinner costs a sentient creature.

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Hume, who is as careful as Locke not to allow the word soul any importance in the discussion of identity, leaves himself free to consider animals and humans alike as the objects and subjects of sympathy. The instinctive horror we share with animals at the prospect of our death and annihilation is for Hume decisive: what we have in common with beasts is mortality and the fear of it, the most powerful passion of all.27 So nothing is to be lost by entering into sympathetic exchange with other creatures: it may change us for the better; it could not possibly change us for the worse. Primitivism was a powerful myth before Bougainville and Cook sailed into the South Seas and discovered what they thought was a terrestrial paradise, where men and women went naked without shame and bread grew upon trees. When Cook saw, only one voyage later, the ravages of venereal disease on Tahiti, he drew a dismal parallel between the discoveries of the New World and of Oceania. The belief that we are all in corrupt descent from an original innocence, of which Rousseau was the most powerful evangelist, gathered currency. There was of course a rival doctrine of modernist optimism which set such pessimism aside, celebrating evidence of progress in all fields of human activity, but particularly in navigation, trade and science that together promised a future free from the privations and constraints which had made us barbarous and savage in Hobbes’s fictional state of nature. The dilemma of descent is really an argument about change, whether we are for better or worse the same as we always have been, or whether (as Ovid suggests in the first book of Metamorphoses) we declined from the golden age into the age of iron once we had built ships, travelled to distant lands, and started trading goods and accumulating wealth. The dilemma finds its darkest and most troubling expression in Swift’s fiction of South Seas navigation, Gulliver’s Travels, where the origin of the Yahoos is left in doubt, whether they derive from marooned Europeans who degenerated over time, or whether they are the autochthonous inhabitants of the island, vile from the very start. Julia Douthwaite has shown how thoroughly these alternative views of an original and an evolved species entered into the intellectual life of the Enlightenment, affecting theories of education, politics, emigration, horticulture, and stock-breeding. Jefferson, Hume and de Sade believed powerfully (although for very different reasons) in the stable and unchangeable forms of human nature, while Montesquieu, Condillac, Buffon and Monboddo used Ovidian parallels to argue the opposite, that change of circumstances leads to irreversible changes of nature.28 In their voyages through the Pacific Philibert Commerson, Joseph Banks and later Charles Darwin identified an abundance of new species, many more than Linnaeus had thought possible; and more importantly they began to demonstrate how these species had evolved, altering according to differences in climate and geology, sometimes radically and swiftly. Such evidence bore out the intui-


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tions of the Scots naturalist James Burnet, Lord Monboddo, who had foretold that the metamorphosis of species would be confirmed by austral discoveries. In a book with that very title, La Découverte australe (1781), Restif de la Bretonne celebrated the genetic proximity of humans and orang-utans, an idea for which Monboddo himself had been pilloried earlier by eminent conservatives such as Samuel Johnson. Monboddo had cited Alexander Selkirk, Crusoe’s real-life model, as an example of how degeneration occurs under the effects of solitude on an island, with loss of language combining with improvements in physical agility to make a former civil subject appear more like an animal, as Crusoe does when dressed in goatskins, appearing like the hybrid German in Marcus Aurelius and La Fontaine. Monboddo was fascinated by the story of the wild girl of Chalons, another example of a human in the wild exhibiting all the attributes of a feral beast, for it made his case (later to be made more successfully by Darwin) that there are no impermeable or essential divisions between the higher animals and humans. Peter the Wild Boy, an inarticulate young human who had been discovered in a German forest, was brought to England in 1726, the year Swift published Gulliver’s Travels, and was examined with great interest by Swift’s fellow Scriblerian, John Arbuthnot. The field of natural history drew on political economy as well as new discoveries for some of its most important conceptual models. Darwin and A. R. Russel admitted that the idea of the struggle for life had been suggested to them by reading Thomas Malthus, for instance, while the process of speciation was indebted for some of its most vivid exemplars to the Encantadas or Enchanted Isles, otherwise known as the Galapagos group, and to what became known as the Wallace Line in the Malay Archipelago. The question of change divided thinkers into two camps, one under Linnaeus arguing from an a priori position for a stable world filled with species of a definite number and description, each essentially different from the other; and another under Buffon, who argued (as Locke had done before) that species were convenient and provisional groupings without any greater reality or truth than that; and that what had belonged to one species might under certain circumstances be found to belong to another. An ardent Linnaean for most of his life, Joseph Banks despised Buffon and could not conceive of the fact of extinction, nor of speciation. Buffon had written in the opening statement of his Histoire Naturelle, La Nature marche par des gradations inconnues, & par conséquent elle ne peut pas se prêter totalement a ces divisions, puisque’elle passe d’une espèce à une autre espèce, & souvent d’un genre a une autre genre, par des nuances imperceptibles; de sorte qu’il se trouve un grand nombre d’espèces moyennes & des objets mi-partis … qui dérangent necessairement le projet du système générale.29

For his part Banks told Bishop Percy,

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The real Abolition of a Species of Animal once created & necessary to the harmony of the works of Creation is a matter which I hesitate most considerably to believe … The duration of species, while the individuals of it moulder into decay, Continualy renovated by all the operations as it were of one Soul animating the separated individual conveys to me the best Idea I am capable of forming to Express to myself Eternity.30

Here then in natural history is an opposition of ideas equal and analogous to that which engaged Descartes and Hume over the soul. There was no reason for Banks to lament the sufferings of Alexander Philips’s rabbit, for all individuals were vindicated by the renovations of their species made by the world-soul. But for Buffon all there was, at any given moment in time, was the individual. He defined natural history as an infinite number of particular things that commonly people ignore.31 As for animals, he observed rather like Mandeville, Dans le réel, peut-on douter que les animaux dont l’organisation est semblable a la notre, n’éprouvent des sensations semblables? … La pitie [est] moins [un] passion de l’âme que des affections naturalles, que dépendent de la sensibilite du corps & la similitude de la conformation.32

A close collaborator of Buffon’s (and for a time associated with Banks) was Peter Camper, who wrote Discours sur the moyen de representer les diverses passions, mentioned by Darwin as a foundational text on emotional expression at the start of his Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals, an enquiry in which, as he commences to illustrate his axiom ‘that the lower animals are excited by the same emotions as ourselves’, he says, ‘we trench upon the subject of sympathy’.33 In The Descent of Man he wrote, Many animals … certainly sympathise with each other’s distress or danger … I myself have seen a dog, who never passed a great friend of his, a cat which lay sick in a basket, without giving her a few licks with his tongue.34

In trying to specify what kind of sympathy belongs to ‘humanity’ it is worth pointing out that of the four kinds discussed so far, humanity, if it means the exchange of feelings between an animal and a human, has less to do with the sociable or the theatrical than with the mechanical and the complete kinds of sympathy. Clearly sympathy with animals is mechanical to a degree, as Mandeville and Buffon claim, a function of the organism and not subject to the will or reflection, and rather like the ‘triumph of the real sympathy’ of Burke’s, most evident when we are involuntarily transported from the theatre to the public square in order to view the real event of suffering. And that it might entail substitution of the viewer by the viewed, precipitating the temporary loss of identity that always seems to attend the consummation of complete sympathy, is a possibility that cannot be excluded. In The Golden Ass Apuleius tells the story of Thrasyleon, a bandit who dresses up for a robbery in the skin of bear that has died of disease,


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and who, when surrounded by his enemies and pierced with their weapons, dies not like a man but like a bear, growling and snarling as the bear itself would have done had it lived long enough to be slaughtered in the arena. Swift tells the story of Gulliver, who sympathized so heartily with the commonwealth of horses that he believed he had become a horse, trotting and ambling when he went down the street and neighing when he spoke. In the seventeenth century sympathy that crossed the boundaries separating individuals or species – sympathy that for one reason or another seemed to go too far – was distinguished as horrid. In William Sales’s Theophania Demetrius sees his dear friend Alexander coming to embrace him, and falls backward on his pillow as if he were expiring, demanding with what appears to be his last breath, ‘Is this sympathie, that produces such horrid effects?’35 Twelve years later the same word was applied to a different case of sympathy. In the tenth book of Paradise Lost Satan returns in triumph to hell, having beguiled Eve in the shape of a serpent and ruined paradise. God’s punishment is to turn him and his associates into serpents in earnest. As the rebel angels look at one another, poised to celebrate their victory over God’s creation, they see the change in others that is overtaking them. They saw, but other sight instead, a crowd Of ugly serpents, horror on them fell, And horrid sympathie; for what they saw, They felt themselves now changing.36

This is not one of the many occasions for a rueful sense of fellow-feeling in Hell. It is an Ovidian metamorphosis on a vast scale, an especially vivid and multiple example of the misrecognition discussed in the previous chapter when the outcomes of a person’s actions are suddenly perceived by them as disturbing events, and they are estranged from their own persons. Ann Yearsley and Shelley both use the phrase ‘horrid sympathy’ to denote a shared agony (in ‘Addressed to Revenge’ and The Revolt of Islam); but Joanna Baillie reserves the term for a linkage of different spheres and states of being. In Orra the heroine, trapped in a Gothic castle, has a presentiment of meeting a ghost: I know not how, A horrid sympathy jarr’d on my heart, And forced into mine eyes these icy tears. A fearful kindredship there is between The living and the dead – an awful bond!37

Similarly in The Martyrs the Roman legionary Cordenius Maro is converted to Christianity, and then explains why marriage to his beloved Portia would tie her to someone entirely committed elsewhere:

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His mind would dwell by ceaseless meditation, In other worlds of blessedness or woe; Lost to the one, and to the other link’d By horrid sympathy.38

Baillie is faithful to Milton’s sense of horrid sympathy as a rupture in the scheme of resemblance. It is the experience of being like what you have never before resembled. You are suddenly made to know what it is like to be a snake, a corpse, a spirit, a bear or a horse; and to that degree you are absorbed in the person of another person or the personification of a thing, no longer yourself. Adam Smith was handling horrid sympathy in his discussion of our sympathy for the dead, and he was circling the same topic when he talked or the irrational anger or love we feel for inanimate things, such as stones and planks of wood. The watershed for these Gothic experiments with horrid sympathy is Godwin’s Caleb Williams. The involuntary but total entry of Caleb into the secrets of Falkland’s soul is successively characterized as an alienation equal to Faust’s bargain with the devil, Lucifer’s expulsion from heaven, the condition of a slave, and finally that of a Siamese twin. At all events it is unnatural, out of kind, a loss of the connection with the species, and it is propelled by a hatred which goes well beyond a simple desire for the death of the enemy. Caleb believes Falkland wants to reduce him to the condition of an animal before he kills him; and at the end Caleb can scarcely distinguish between himself and a chair. He emphasizes his loss of relation to what he is like: ‘I was a solitary being cut off from the expectation of sympathy … dead to every manly sympathy’, an entire stranger to ‘the delicious gifts of confidence and sympathy’, yet it was from sympathy that his misery emerged.39 He is the creature of a ‘magnetical’ sympathy grown horrid. In Fleetwood, which Godwin subtitled ‘The New Man of Feeling’, horrid sympathy is passionate love curdled by jealousy, and it culminates in a dinner Fleetwood holds for his wife, her presumed lover and her baby. He offers her food while on a barrel organ he plays her favourite songs; but she, the lover and the baby are models made by a Florentine specialist in waxwork. So real does the model of his wife appear to him that it seems to move and speak, an illusion that strengthens until all the figures in the room are consumed by a travesty of sympathetic communion: She grinned and chattered at me. I looked from her to the other figure; that grinned and chattered too. Instantly a full and proper madness seized me; I grinned and chattered, in turn, to the figures before me. It was not words that I heard or uttered; it was murmurs, and hissings, and lowings, and howls.40

Horrid sympathy need not always be ghastly. When Psyche lifts a lamp over Cupid, thinking to kill him because she believes him to be a serpent, and sees for the first time a creature strangely hued and feathered, she is filled with ten-


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derness for her non-human lover whose child she is carrying, and it is then that she takes her first steps towards the rigorous purgation that will change her into what he is, an immortal. It an example of what Scheler identifies as the ecstatic identification with the god-animal.41 The retelling of the Cupid and Psyche story in Sidney Bidulph forms one of the very few triumphs of true love in that novel. However it is possible that an overwhelming desire for horrid sympathy may remain unsatisfied, as it is in Frankenstein, with worse than horrid results. In the next century, Melville offered two remarkable examples of horrid sympathy. In the Encantadas he handles the theme of sympathy among the islands of the Galapagos which, though they struck Darwin as a scene of huge creative force, are seen by the narrator as an example of geological ruin so starkly repellent that its inhabitants, whether human or animal, appeal in vain for some sign of compassion. He mentions the turtles: ‘Lasting sorrow and penal hopelessness are in no animal form so suppliantly expressed as in them’.42 But it is a vain appeal, for there is nothing in this fag-end of the creation fit to respond. In the eighth story, set on Norfolk Island, Hunilla has joined her brother and her husband who have come to hunt the turtles and turn them into oil. The two men are lost at sea when their small boat capsizes, and she is left a female Robinson Crusoe, her solitude outraged by passing whalers, who inflict on her nameless acts of violence and humiliation. Her only company has been her dogs, ten small silken creatures, only two of which she is allowed to take with her when she is rescued. As the boat puts off the remaining animals run howling across the beach, and scrabble vainly to get in the boat, but Hunilla evinces no sign of trouble or concern: She seemed as one who, having experienced the sharpest of mortal pangs, was henceforth content to have all lesser heartstrings riven, one by one. To Hunilla, pain seemed so necessary, that pain in other beings, though by love and sympathy made her own, was unrepiningly to be borne. A heart of yearning in a frame of steel.43

Only when agony is raised to the full value in the other party is Hunilla’s kind of sympathy triggered, and then with terrifying impassivity. In Moby Dick Ishmael imagines some kind of affective link between himself and the whale, and he fashions out of spume a version of Rousseau’s sympathetic ink. First he considers the spout. This distinctive acrid product of a whale’s lungs he fancies is also the physical emanation of its incommunicable thoughts, more dramatic than the Chaldean script carved into its forehead, and pulsing visibly in time to the rhythm of cetaceous reflection, rising and spreading like a notion, and in moments of inspiration illuminated by the glory of iridescence. A whale seen in this state of refulgent meditation is the property of no one not fit to represent it, Ishmael declares. ‘For unless you own the whale, you are but a provincial and sentimentalist in Truth. But clear Truth is a thing for salaman-

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der giants only to encounter’.44 Owning the whale means equalling it by doing as it does, and thinking the same thoughts: sympathizing in short. The poet of leviathan establishes his credentials in a congruent image of creative thought, for while writing of the whale, he reports, ‘I had the curiosity to place a mirror before me; and ere long saw reflected there, a curious involved worming and undulation in the atmosphere over my head … a certain semi-visible steam’.45 It is his spout, his brain coming out of his head as a pulsing film, and then transferred to paper by means of ink. I want to return to the eighteenth century and, with the framework of horrid sympathy in mind, offer a reading of Swift’s remarkable fable of South Seas discovery, Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World (1726), now generally knows as Gulliver’s Travels. First of all I want to tackle its treatment of the paradox of humanity, the name given to a moral virtue proved in human treatment of the non-human, in the context of two other important and related ideas, namely degeneration and sympathy. Then I aim to point out how many difficulties the hero faces when he tries to govern his experience of nations that are not human according to standards of humanity, constancy and fellow-feeling. In the second of his voyages, Gulliver visits the land of the giants, Brobdingnag, and he offers to teach the king the secret of gunpowder and artillery. Having described with some enthusiasm the effects of a barrage – the destruction of ramparts and capital ships, the bodies of soldiers torn to pieces by flying metal – he reports that the king was amazed how so impotent and groveling an Insect as I (these were his Expressions) could entertain such inhuman Ideas, and in so familiar a Manner as to appear wholly unmoved at all the Scenes of Blood and Desolation which I had painted as the common Effects of those destructive Machines; whereof he said, some evil Genius, Enemy to Mankind, must have been the first Contriver.

This is the same king who says, whoever could make two Ears of Corn, or two Blades of Grass to grow upon a Spot of Ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of Mankind, and do a more essential service to his Country, than the whole Race of Politicians put together.46

It is not entirely clear what the king means by ‘Mankind’, whether he refers to the giants he rules or to the Europeans Gulliver has described, or somehow to both. But there is no doubt that the inhuman behaviour of some humans puts them outside the range of its definition as far as he is concerned, leaving them not just enemies to their own kind but out of kind altogether, more like insects and vermin. The indignation of this generous non-human giant is fuelled by love of ‘Mankind’, whatever that category embraces for him. In his view people like Gulliver, with his homicidal schemes, have no humanity at all; so it is a quality that


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belongs – in Brobdingnag at least – not to what we would call a human being but to a monster, one of a nation of monsters who are humane because they defend the value of life from Gulliver’s promise of violence with the same sort of alarm as Hoyle in his ‘Ode to Humanity’ or Cruikshank in his picture ‘The Voice of Humanity’. If you want to enjoy the reputation of humanity, they all seem to say, you have to stop being human. In the fourth book of his travels Gulliver achieves this transformation by becoming as far as it is possible for him to do so a horse, judging human beings as the king of Brobdingnag once judged him, with repugnance and horror as a species of animal. Of the Portuguese mariners who pick him up on the coast of New Holland, he says, ‘When they began to talk, I thought I never heard or saw anything so unnatural, for it appeared to me as monstrous as if a Dog or a Cow should speak in England’. But oddly enough even here the principle of humanity makes an odd migration, for he is compelled to add, ‘They spoke to me with great Humanity’.47 Gulliver is indebted for both insights – into the animality and the humanity of the Portuguese – to the moral triumph associated with something like a double metamorphosis since the days of Brobdingnag. Then the king said, ‘I cannot but conclude the Bulk of your Natives, to be the most pernicious Race of little odious Vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the Surface of the Earth’, pronouncing humans to be animals; but now Gulliver has turned into a horse and can see exactly what he meant.48 En route to the metamorphosis of the fourth book, where his sense of personhood and kind will be entirely changed, Gulliver is forced into a series of positions in which humanity is relativized, being found where it ought not to be, and observed to be absent where it ought to be present. In the three voyages prior to the fourth, his attempts to fix the difference between himself and the people he meets are keyed to a number of factors of which size, perspective, aesthetics and time are the most obvious, but underlying these are urgent and fundamental problems of likeness and language. Physical likeness, moral likeness and imagined likeness to humanity in its various manifestations comprises his experiences in Lilliput, Brobdingnag and Laputa respectively. The resemblance in physique if not scale between himself and the tiny Lilliputians has made it possible for Gulliver to fancy the possibility of sentimental and sexual links between himself and these creatures of little size. Indignantly and with much corroboration he denies the charge that he committed adultery with Flimnap’s wife. But eventually he has to recover his sense of the difference in size and use it to escape the inhuman punishment that has been planned for him by these miniature humans. The same resemblance in reverse between himself and the giants of Brobdingnag leads to his being treated as a slave and recognized only as a thing (a weasel, an unnatural birth, an automaton); and while he believes he is entitled to the rights and privileges of what the king calls ‘Mankind’, he is denied them – and denied them what is more by the most humane individual he ever meets – until an accident sets him

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free. As for the sexual games the maids of honour play with him, he finds them repellent. In Laputa and the other islands of the third book he is a much more liminal figure, and Swift seems to be reviewing some of the issues of the quarrel between the Ancients and Moderns that dominated his mind twenty years before. Gulliver’s magical experience of the past in Glubbdubdrib, combined with the disgusting picture presented by the Struldbrugs in Luggnagg of an endless future of dementia and malice, enlarges theme that has been present in the earlier two books and which will become dominant in the last: this is the question of time and human nature, whether it discloses a perfect origin from which we have fallen away, or whether it reveals a constant mixture of cunning and nastiness to which we have always been prone. The theme was introduced in Lilliput, where Gulliver discovered a neglected utopian constitution governing the institutions of education, law and marriage; and it arose again in Brobdingnag where historians and antiquarians were convinced that long ago the stature of the people was once much greater than the present diminutive patriots, a mere thirty feet tall. As for the Houyhnhnms, they are in no doubt about the preservation of their kind, but they are not certain whether the Yahoos are the decayed descendants of castaways or slime-bred autochthons of the island. In the third book the issue is never really settled either. Although setting the Roman Senate alongside a modern Parliament may be like comparing demigods to pickpockets, even in ancient Rome the seeds of the corruption so abundant in the modern world were evidently already sprung, as the commander of the ship at Actium makes clear. These experiences of imperfect likeness between Gulliver and his hosts are calibrated to corresponding differences in their language. In Lilliput the language of the court is extravagant in its flattery of power. The six-inch emperor is hailed, ‘Monarch of all Monarchs: Taller than the Sons of Men; whose Feet press down to the Center, and whose Head strikes against the Sun’.49 So far does this rhetoric veer from the truth of the case that it often states the very opposite, such as the decrees sentencing subjects to cruel executions that are prefaced with eulogies to the lenity and mercy of the man who ordered them. If the Lilliputians say more than they mean, the terse giants say a good deal less. In Brobdingnag the laws are never more than twenty-two words long, and it is a capital crime to write a commentary on them. ‘They avoid nothing more than multiplying unnecessary Words, or using various Expressions’, consequently their conversations are laconic, their libraries small, and their books short.50 On the flying island language is purely formal, the reduction of spoken words to equations and theorems, ensuring an irreconcileable difference between what is thought or conceived and what is actually done and achieved. In the country below the flying island a habit of legislating impossible innovations such as water-mills built on mountain-tops has left practical farming in ruins, of which the estate of Gulliver’s friend Lord Munodi is a sad example. The linguistic symptom of this


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habit of imagining what is not possible to accomplish is found in an addiction to allegorical and anagrammatic interpretation, by whose means messages that were never intended can be wrestled from beneath the surface of script, either by word machines or by ingenious readers, and every literal phrase may on the same principle be discovered to be pregnant with figurative and subversive meanings, rather like Burke’s speeches about ruined kings. So we find that the problem of physical likeness in the first book being paired with words that are extravagantly and wilfully figurative; the problem of moral likeness in the second with words that are too few and too confined; and the problem of imagined likeness in the third with words too rarefied ever to match the facts. There is a further parity to be observed between these three failures of likeness and the first three kinds of sympathy which in the second chapter I have treated under the headings of mechanical, social and theatrical. Mechanical sympathy is occasioned by physiological similarities close enough for us to recognize the symptoms of our own emotions in others. This fails to occur in Lilliput because no one, not even Gulliver, preserves a sense of physical difference before acting as if they were much bigger than they are or, in his case, much smaller, so what might have been sympathy turns out to be self-delusion. The second kind of sympathy based on social obligations and political rights is unavailable in Brobdingnag because the sense of difference is too great: Gulliver is not allowed to belong to ‘Mankind’ so his feelings are never taken seriously, and he begins to view himself as a toy. The third kind of sympathy, brought home to the heart by means of imagination, is corrupted from the start by the imaginative contempt for empirical reality evinced in Laputa and the figurative perversity practised in the Lagado academy. In the fourth book Gulliver jettisons all loyalty to the physical, moral and imagined principles of likeness that might define a common ground of humanity and sympathy between different branches of ‘Mankind’. And along with that he sheds his interest in words that do not mean what they say. Identity is now for him not a matter of proclaiming his humanness and trying to bridge the difference by means of words that never hit their mark, or by trying to share feelings that were always misunderstood. After several conferences with his Houyhnhnm master Gulliver levels with his reader who, he says, ‘may be disposed to wonder how I could prevail on my self to give so free a Representation of my own Species, among a Race of Mortals who were already too apt to conceive the vilest Opinion of Human Kind’. And this is his explanation: I must freely confess, that the many Virtues of those excellent Quadrupeds placed in opposite View to human Corruptions, had so far opened my Eyes, and enlarged my Understanding, that I began to view the Actions and Passions of Man in a very different Light; and to think the Honour of my own Kind not worth managing, which, besides, it was impossible for me to do before a Person of so acute a Judgment as my

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Master, who daily convinced me of a thousand Faults in my self, whereof I had not the least Perception before, and which with us would never be numbered even among human Infirmities. I had likewise learned from his Example an utter Detestation of all Falsehood or Disguise; and Truth appeared so amiable to me, that I determined upon sacrificing every thing to it … I had not been a Year in this Country, before I contracted such a Love and Veneration for the Inhabitants, that I entered on a firm Resolution never to return to human Kind, but to pass the rest of my Life among these admirable Houyhnhnms in the Contemplation and Practice of every Virtue.51

In effect he is saying to his master-horse, I know what it is like to be you, without reservation – not because I have the same physical outline and make, or because a system of rights and duties decrees I ought to feel as you do, or because it is as if I were you and can imagine what you think and feel – but because to all intents and purposes I am you. So Gulliver sets aside the physical and mechanical basis of sympathy proposed by Mandeville, even though it included sympathy between humans and animals. The public and social dimension of sympathy pursued by the moral sense philosophers such as Francis Hutcheson has been seen not to work, even when entrusted to the most enlightened agents. The theatre of sympathy proposed by Adam Smith, where imagination supplies the bridge between cases that are always ultimately different here entails too great a difference between the mind and the world, and between the different people in it. Gulliver comes at last to the complete or unlimited sympathy which forms the basis of Hume’s and Burke’s idea of it: ‘For sympathy must be considered as a sort of substitution, by which we are put into the place of another man’; only it is not with a man that Gulliver has this experience.52 We have seen how Sterne experimented with these four degrees of sympathy in the starling episode of A Sentimental Journey, establishing an effective parable of slavery out of the first three, and then suddenly bringing identity back to questions of property and the person, and proving his ownership of the bird with a heraldic joke, as if to skirt the issue of human-animal identity that Swift chose to confront when he had Gulliver claim that he neighs and ambles, thinks and feels like a horse. Along with his identity as a horse and his sympathetic feelings for his master goes a commitment to language which is neither too full nor too spare, neither overfigurative nor too literal, but which will represent reality exactly at every point by saying only ‘the thing which is’. I have pointed out that Swift enjoyed literalizing or otherwise undermining the moral symbolism of fables. The fourth book of Gulliver’s Travels recalls the fable which Swift later rewrote, of the ass that wanted to wanton like a puppy, so sat on his master’s knee and stroked his chin with its hoof. In The Beast’s Confession, we remember, Swift roundly asserted that real animals would not be so stupid as to do this: but since Aesop was foolish enough to imagine it, humans


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might. When Gulliver is about to leave the land of the horses in his small craft made of Yahoo skins, he prepares to say farewell to his master. As I was going to prostrate myself to kiss his Hoof, he did me the Honour to raise it gently to my Mouth. I am not ignorant how much I have been censured for mentioning this last Particular. Detractors are pleased to think it improbable, that so illustrious a Person should descend to give so great a Mark of Distinction to a Creature so inferior as I.53

A hoof is put to a human mouth, but now the value of the gesture is quite reversed. The clumsy caress of an animal that was violently rejected by the man in the fable is now reverently and gratefully received as the highest mark of condescension a horse of rank could pay a mere human. Nevertheless it places Gulliver in a difficult relation to his reader, who plainly cannot take this story seriously, although for reasons quite different from those Gulliver suspects (namely that he has been vainglorious, claiming an importance way beyond his merits, and so on). What is worse, this offer of the hoof does not inaugurate a league with Houyhnhnms, it terminates it absolutely, leaving Gulliver with no community but his readers of the human kind, with whom he had already meant to part company. This is not the first time that Gulliver has been caught between the incompatible standards of his readers and his horse hosts, and found himself cut off from both sides of the dialogue he is trying to run. When telling his master about the treatment of horses in Britain, where they are handled as brutes by their human masters and the voice of humanity is seldom heard, he sees evident signs of the horse’s incredulity and can only say by way of palliation that if he were to tell the story of this very conversation back home, he would be accused of what his master is presently suspecting, namely that he is saying the thing which is not, and in short lying.54 No matter which way he turns, Gulliver, who has explicitly sacrificed everything to truth, is condemned to say what is believed not to be, whether he is affirming a truth he loathes (that he is a Yahoo who has lived his life among Yahoos) or one that he exalts above all others (that these horses he has discovered govern themselves in such perfect harmony and candour that he desires no company but theirs for the rest of his life). This is his fate notwithstanding his insistence on using a prose style adapted to saying exactly what he means, without prevarication. His bookseller says, ‘It became a sort of Proverb among his Neighbours at Redriff, when any one affirmed a Thing, to say, it was as true as if Mr Gulliver had spoke it’.55 What is more this dilemma of telling truth in such a way that both the animal and human audience are bound to greet it as an untruth is compounded when we readers remember that it is represented in what we know to be a fictional mariner’s journal, a work of imagination, completely made up. Somewhere in this mise-en-abyme of fictions some kind of truth, or some kind of fidelity to reality, has to be lodged.

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Apart from the king of Brobdingnag, who would believe everything Gulliver was prepared to tell him about not being human and about his physical and moral resemblance to four-footed animals, Pedro de Mendez represents his best available listener, not incredulous and willing to listen to strange testimony; but even he is incapable of appreciating the realism that flows from an unlimited sympathy with another species. He expects, like the average reader of a fable, that there must be a meaning relevant to humans in a story about horses. Likewise Gulliver’s friends deem him like a horse only in the sense that he performs horse, just as Snug the joiner performs lion in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. To go any further than this is to end up like Bottom, discoursing of things past the wit of man to understand: what the eye of man hath not heard and the ear hath not seen, and so on into deeper synaesthetic murk. Like Bottom, Gulliver is caught in a position that immemorially has been considered the very icon of impossibility, the blend of equine with the human uttering speech that no one can understand. Lucretius emphasized the absolute fidelity between primordial rudiments and the things that grow from them, ‘I say this that you may not believe that Centaurs can be formed or be, composed of man and the seed of the burden-bearing horse’.56 The essence of fantasy, says Locke, is the union of ideas that were never united in nature, ‘e.g. a rational Creature, consisting of a Horse’s Head, joined to a body of humane shape’.57 For whatever reason, Swift chooses to stage a mammoth misalliance of the principles of realism and fiction, empirical accuracy and outrageous fiction, under the icon of the human-turned-horse. In the last chapter it was evident in the work of Defoe, Hume and Smith that there was room for a kind of realism in what is imagined and felt, rather than what is determined by reasoning on the empirical qualities of things. In the passions, specifically those precipitated by sympathy, there lies the possibility of an affective knowledge. It comes about when what is imagined is what happens, and reality finds a source not in the sense of impressions of objects but in dreams like Crusoe’s dream of Friday’s arrival. Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello is committed like Gulliver to an exacting standard of literal language, saying nothing but what she means, but she is also convinced that the real emerges not from the encounter with facts, but from the completeness and limitlessness of the sympathetic imagination. Talking of herself as a novelist who invents characters who never lived, she says, ‘If I can think my way into the existence of a being who has never existed, then I can think my way into the existence of a bat or a chimpanzee or an oyster, any being with whom I share the substrate of life’.58 When she says she feels like Red Peter the performing ape in Kafka’s short story, ‘Report to an Academy’, this is exactly what she means. Even if it is an imagined identity she announces, based on an imagined figure in a story, she is not being ironical or offering a loose approximation to another case. Her word ‘like’ refers to shared identity, not resemblance. But it is as hard for her to put this into words as it is


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for Gulliver to talk of being like a horse. This is what Costello says when her son wonders if the shortness of her visit is the reason why he has not been able to make sense of her passion for suffering animals: A better explanation … is that I have not told you why, or dare not tell you. When I think of the words, they seem so outrageous that they are best spoken into a pillow or into a hole in the ground.59

The words in Ovid’s story of Midas reveal his partial transformation into an ass – not an ‘ass’ but the embodiment of the very idol of improbability, the humanas-ass – and they are kept secret until reeds grow from the hole in the ground where they were buried and whisper them audibly in the breeze. This is as close as Costello gets to identifying as an animal and saying farewell to humankind. In an extraordinarily acute treatment of Costello’s dilemma called ‘The Difficulty of Reality and the Difficulty of Philosophy’, Cora Diamond has observed the importance of Swift to Coetzee’s story, particularly Gulliver’s Travels and A Modest Proposal, and she owns she is surprised at how little attention this has received from Coetzee’s readers.60 One of the reasons for this neglect is that Costello and Coetzee alike are assumed to be making a claim for identity with animals that is not literal, and a claim for sympathy that is not infinite. When Costello talks of sympathy and says that it is limitless, she means a faculty ‘that allows us to share at times the being of another’.61 And by ‘another’ she means specifically an animal, bird or corpse. Explicitly she rejects the other three degrees of likeness Gulliver experiences so unsuccessfully, saying the question is not whether we share a physiology or a soul with animals, or whether the teachings of Porphyry and Bentham adequately handle the nature of the duties owed by humans to animals, or whether animals figuratively represent conditions of human existence.62 No, the real question is, ‘What is it like to be a bat?’ – or a horse, or an ass. When she says things like this she keeps being mistaken for an ironist and a moralist, just like Swift who is commonly believed not to mean what he says about eating babies in A Modest Proposal. But like him she means every word, and will never be understood if that commitment to the literal statement of the scarcely imaginable is not appreciated and sympathized with. When the college president asks, ‘But your own vegetarianism, Mrs Costello … it comes out of moral conviction, does it not?’ she replies, ‘No, I don’t think so … It comes out of a desire to save my soul’.63 So in her case the link between saying only the thing which is, and the health of what Shaftesbury calls the thing which only is, is very close indeed. Diamond identifies Costello’s problem as one of testimony in the face of something like a miracle, which she defines via R. F. Holland as ‘the occurrence of something which is at one and the same time empirically certain and conceptually impossible’64 – water being turned into wine at Cana, God’s son being

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incarnated as a human baby at Bethlehem. The difficulty of reality is the difficulty of conveying the wonder – the passion – caused by an event which strikes the witness as out of proportion and sequence with all other events on account of its unexampled horror, energy or mercy. For Costello this is the sensation of feeling like Red Peter, or feeling like a corpse, or feeling how a bird struggles for its life. For Gulliver it is his feeling that he is a human who has become a horse. In the course of the previous chapters it has been the sense of wonder that invades the mind of someone whose own deeds have turned into the most unpredictable of events, like the disorders, prodigies, miracles which inflame the imagination, says Hume, and, ‘though they sink men nearest to the level of beasts, are, for a like reason, often supposed to be the only dispositions, in which we can have any immediate communication with the Deity’.65 Diamond has two examples of miracles: Ted Hughes’s poem about a photograph of six young men in 1914, all of whom will be dead six months later; and Ruth Kluger’s memory of Auschwitz and of how, when she arrived there at the age of twelve, she was coached by a fellow prisoner to tell a lie which saved her life.66 In each case miracle can seem entirely mundane – soldiers die in wars, people are sometimes loving and kind even in the most unpromising circumstances. To sense the wonder the difficult and contradictory union has to be preserved between what did and did not happen, or between what is and what is not. The six men in Hughes’s photograph are as alive as the friend you have just shaken by the hand, and as dead as a prehistoric beast. In a general culture of death Kluger was saved, saved by someone who had no need or reason to do so. Costello has known for seconds at a time what it is like to be alive and dead. St John expresses the miracle of the creation in John 1:3 by saying, ‘All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made’. It is as if there were a shadow of not-all falling across every thing. When it comes to testifying, Costello is conscious that her words cannot do explicit justice to the experience; they flicker on and off like a failing radio, alternating between a futile volubility and an awkward or remorseful silence. She says, in a phrase to which Diamond pays close attention, ‘I am not a philosopher of mind but an animal exhibiting, yet not exhibiting, to a gathering of scholars, a wound’.67 The difficulty of the contradiction lodged in the wonder of reality is heard as words simultaneously affirming and denying, being uttered and not uttered, a perpetual alternation between saying the thing which is, and not saying it at all. At the rim of the devastating imaginings prompted by miracles, speech will no longer behave efficiently, and must be muffled and bitted if it is not to leap into mad accumulations and unforgivable insults. Here for example is Gulliver finding out that he cannot say the thing which is, he can only say the thing which is not not:


The Evolution of Sympathy in the Long Eighteenth Century Here was neither Physician to destroy my Body, nor Lawyer to ruin my Fortune: No Informer to watch my Words and Actions, or forge Accusations against me for Hire; Here were no Gibers, Censurers, Backbiters, Pickpockets, Highwaymen, Housebreakers, Attorneys, Bawds, Buffoons, Gamesters, Politicians, Wits, Spleneticks, tedious Talkers, Controvertists, Ravishers, Murderers, Robbers Virtuoso’s, no Leaders or Followers of Party and Faction; no Encouragement of Vice, by Seducement or Examples: No Dungeon, Axes, Gibbets, Whipping-posts, or Pillories …68

The list goes on: it needs to be as long as the empirical phenomenon of vice in England, as multifarious and exhaustively particular, because it is not within the compass of Gulliver’s tongue to say (at least to us humans) otherwise. What is remarkable about it, however, is not its failure to make a positive statement of the thing which is, so much as the passion that gathers behind the accumulation of negative instances, conveying a feeling as intense as the list is loose. If he is saying anything that is not just not, it concerns passion not action. To turn from likeness as identity to likeness as resemblance or metaphor is, despite the failure of these ghosts of identity, a way of easing the difficulty in so far as it concerns words. Costello and Gulliver both mean what they say and say what they mean, but they also retreat under pressure to resemblance and hypothesis: ‘like King Midas’, or ‘it is as if I were to visit friends’, or ‘I descended to treat him like an Animal that had some little Portion of Reason’.69 Words that are only ‘about’ the reality of things acquire a minimally figurative coating that turns their edge and spills their energy, like Midas’s whisper or Aesop’s stammer. Towards the end of the fourth book Gulliver relies with increasing frequency upon this kind of figure, usually a litotes in which something is affirmed by denying its opposite: ‘My Acquaintance were pleased to think my poor Endeavours might not be unacceptable to my Country’; ‘I am not a little pleased that this Work of mine can possibly meet with no Censurers’, ‘I am not altogether out of Hopes in some Time to suffer a neighbour Yahoo in my Company’.70 The phrasing is awkward, responding to palliations Gulliver does not mean, or accusations that he cannot explicitly level. The most tortuous of all his litotes occurs in the last two sentences of his narrative, in which he is trying to explain why humans are not and never will be like horses. Words of unequivocal assertion get trapped inside a series of double negatives: But the Houyhnhnms … are no more proud of the good Qualities they possess than I should be for not wanting a Leg or an Arm, which no Man in his Wits would boast of, although he must be miserable without them. I dwell the longer upon this Subject from the Desire I have to make the Society of an English Yahoo by any means not insupportable.71

The horses are not proud for not wanting what humans do not possess, while humans, taking pride in their privation, indulge a vice (for which the Houyh-

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nhnms have no name) that will prevent their becoming ‘by any means not insupportable’ to someone best described as ‘no Man in his Wits’. I want to instance one more example of figuration which dramatizes most clearly the obstructions to metaphor-free language that challenge and refine Coetzee’s brand of sympathetic realism as well as Swift’s. The ‘Postscript’ to Elizabeth Costello’s eight lessons is Coetzee’s version of Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s A Letter, supposed to be written by the distracted Philip Lord Chandos to Francis Bacon. The letter we read is written by his wife Elizabeth Lady Chandos (‘E.C’.) covering much the same ground as the original. Chandos has been bewitched by the charms of metamorphosis, desiring to enter the glistening bodies of Narcissus, Proteus, Perseus and Actaeon. But this transformation has not occurred. Instead he has found his language degenerating, becoming resistant equally to abstract nouns and metaphors; meanwhile his attention has become focused on ordinary items randomly displayed, such as watering cans and dogs. These things have supplanted his speech, saying and meaning whatever is left to mean and say in a world of minimal symmetry. ‘Everything’, he says, ‘seems to mean something’.72 Central to Chandos’s altered consciousness has been his powerful intuition of the death of the rats in his cellars, poisoned on his orders – the smell, the shrilling, the writhing heaps of bodies, the bared teeth, the desperate search for a way out. His wife Elizabeth takes up the complaint from a very different angle. Everything experienced by her husband as an embodied meaning has turned for her into a metaphor, particularly the plague of rats which now stands as the metaphor of all metaphors. ‘It is like a contagion, saying one thing always for another (like a contagion, I say; barely did I hold back from saying, a plague of rats)’.73 Everywhere in her letter this trick of speech protrudes, ‘I say’, as if in a vain effort to keep the words from figuring whatever they want: Always it is not what I say but something else … words give way beneath your feet like rotting boards (like rotting boards I say again, I cannot help myself, not if I am to bring home to you my distress and my husband’s, bring home, I say).74

The italics mark words that have turned into figures. ‘I say’ is borrowed from Defoe, his way of affirming the real: ‘The decoy men … fail not to go secretly to the pond’s side, I say secretly’; ‘It ended where it begun, in a meer common Flight of Joy, or as I may say, being glad I was alive’; ‘I … found her, on all Occasions, the faithfullest Creature to me, that ever Woman had; I say, faithful to me; for however wicked she was, still she was true to me’.75 If Philip has been drawn into a world of speaking things, Elizabeth has been overwhelmed with multiplying metaphors and an infinitely self-extending allegory, caught as if in a mill race: ‘I yield myself to the figures, do you see, Sir, how I am taken over?’76 Most clearly demarcated then is the division between the bald empiricism of the language of things, and the inevitably figurative tendency of language itself (or at least


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the English language). Her resource lies in the meta-metaphor of contagion and plague, for no sooner does she yield to a figure, than the figure itself yields to another and is forced to say something else again: Yet as I am that (a wayfarer in a mill) I am also not that; nor is it a contagion that comes continually upon me or a plague of rats or flaming swords, but something else. Always it is not what I say but something else.77

The realism of this language of involuntary metaphor refers exclusively, like Longinus’s and Burke’s sublime, to the passions. In words strangely reminiscent of Adam Smith’s, Costello talks in agitation of her need to bring home her distress to her reader, and the circumstances of that distress are also the means of delivering it intact to another bosom: the sense of being taken over by an emotion she cannot control, and of writing not what she wants to say of what actually is the case but something else, something imagined that takes place, like Crusoe’s dream. Usually reserved for the impossibilities of utopias, litotes and litotic logic are used by Gulliver and Costello for a whispered or muttered statement of the case of metamorphosis that arises from unlimited sympathy with animals. It is a strangely durable figure in this context. In her recent Companion Species Manifesto, in which she describes with what pleasure she kisses her dog, Donna Haraway observes, ‘No account of the appearance of dogs on earth goes unchallenged, and none goes unappropriated by its partisans’.78 It inclines me to conclude that there is no way of saying the thing that is or of venturing upon an experiment in complete sympathy that does rely on the presence of the thing which is not, and that there is no definition of humanity of which this is not true.


But cursed are dullards whom no cannon stuns, That they should be as stones. Wretched are they, and mean With paucity that never was simplicity. By choice they made themselves immune To pity and whatever moans in man Before the last sea and the hapless stars; Whatever mourns when many leave these shores; Whatever shares The eternal reciprocity of tears.1

Sympathy is generally considered in terms of space rather than time: two individuals occupying a portion of the same ground are able to beam their emotions at each other, and share them. This space, as we have seen, is most easily figured as a theatre or a scaffold, with a performer in general view and spectators who respond as single persons to the conduct of the person suffering, or seeming to suffer, in front of them. But what if the theatre or the square were to be exchanged for an event in the past, with the lapse of time made to substitute for the arena, and a historical narrative to take the place of a tableau? Passions that were transfused as Mandeville points out by the immediacy of sight, sound or touch, the object striking directly on the sensorium, would now require some other medium to bring it close: language, costume, mimic scenes or music. The weakness of tragedy compared with an actual execution is owing, in Burke’s opinion, to the feebler power of representation when set against the pressure of the thing itself, which ensures the inevitable ‘triumph of the real sympathy’.2 The only form of representation he allows into his canon is the sublime in its Longinian, Hebrew and Miltonic modes, all three capable of enacting the tumult or murk of the original by figures so daring they seem to affect the senses like the very objects themselves. Longinus praises Homer for change of persons, when in the description of Hector urging his men to attack the Greek ships the narrative moves suddenly from the third into the first person and subdues the listener with its force.3 We have seen an example of this in Demodocus’s song of the sack – 129 –


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of Troy, sung in the court of Alcinous, where Ulysses is regaled with the story of his own deeds, and they are described with a specificity, energy and pathos so far surpassing the images of his own memory that sympathy for the dead overwhelms him like an event. Here is a double change of persons: Demodocus recites what Homer has already told, and Ulysses relives what he has already experienced. Demodocus assumes first the person of Homer then of his hero, usurping each so totally that the ensuing encounter with the past is a history of the Trojan War that has never been witnessed or told before. Some of the elements of Demodocus’s performance and of Longinus’s figurative élan have already been evident in the history of sympathy I am trying to tell. In any sympathetic experience that relies upon the passage of time for its full effect, certain structural symmetries will be evident. In Robinson Crusoe, for example, we have noticed how an unparalleled event produces passions so powerful that they are personified, whereupon the imagination, charged with this energy, is able to shape a dream or fiction that then happens, and takes place as something real. The history of civil society outlined by Hobbes moves in a parallel fashion, beginning with a situation fraught with fear that provokes a fiction of consent which is turned into historical reality by the person who framed (and was framed by) the fiction. The reason Shaftesbury is so sceptical of fictions of the original contract is that they resemble too closely his own susceptibility to empirical facts, which then create passions (‘Miserable Sympathy!’) that transform the memory of his social life into a troubling carnal fantasy. Hume’s history of religion is not so different from this, beginning with prodigies and miracles productive of passions that are resolved into various personifications and fictions which we believe are responsible for what has happened. Elizabeth Costello is moved by the horrors of mass death to make up alternative consciousnesses, the fiction of knowing what it is like to be dead, for instance, that she inhabits and speaks of as a reality. In all of these examples the categories of miracle, passion, person, fiction and reality are shuffled and reordered, but evident in all of them is a kind of preposterous realism that reverses the relation of what is to what was, and what is true to what is imagined. Instead of empirical facts shaping a consciousness capable of recognizing various representations as probable, i.e. as conforming to our prior experience of them, and reducing (as Samuel Johnson thought it was the duty of the novel to reduce) our expectations and passions to levels consistent with custom and sobriety, we have a sequence that is much less stable and which tells a tale not of rational conduct but of our enslavement to our feelings. As Vicky Kahn points out in respect of Hobbes’s narrative of civil society, it told a history of honour and obligation in a totally different way, putting fear first and probability last, at the same time as leaving itself open to being told differently too. Histories like these revel in contradiction: Cora Diamond’s contradiction

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between a manifest fact and a conceptual impossibility, Hume’s between the levels of animal and god, Costello’s between being and not-being, Gulliver’s between the thing which is and the thing which is not, Demodocus’s between the living and the dead. Here we have the kernel of a kind of affective history that has become increasingly popular these days by means of various techniques of re-enactment, although Mark Phillips reminds us that the reduction of historical distance is a technique that has been longer in use than maybe we suspect. It was an axiom of Enlightenment historiography that the emotions of the audience ought to be engaged in any representation of past events, which ought therefore to be sufficiently particular and vivid in order to fix the attention of the reader. Hume considered it odd that Clarendon should hurry over the death of Charles I without giving a single circumstance of the execution, as if he ‘felt a pain from subjects, which an historian and a reader of another age would regard as the most pathetic and most interesting, and, by consequence, the most agreeable’.4 For his own part, he paused in his History of England to give a detailed description of the death of Mary Queen of Scots, a scene so vivid one of his readers was able to form a miniature waxwork of it, and to report, ‘I had the sorrow of seeing the Queen, her two female domesticks … the executioner, the coffin, scaffold etc. all under a glass case, and compleating a most affecting scenery’.5 Lord Kames was an enthusiast for this proximate and highly sympathetic approach to history. He called it ‘ideal presence’ or ‘waking dream’, the effect procured upon a reader by a historian who appeals to the eye, and ‘represent[s] every thing as passing in our sight; and from readers or hearers, transform us, as it were, into spectators … in a word every thing becomes dramatic as much as possible’.6 There were various machines built in the eighteenth century designed to excite the sensations to the point where representation would become indistinguishable from the event itself, a dramatic transformation that fetches the past into the present moment. Philippe Jacques De Loutherbourg’s Eiduphysikon was the most elaborate, and it specialized in re-enactments of grand or horrifying events as it were in real time, such as the Spithead Review with first-rate ships catching the breeze and moving in a line, and the wreck of the East Indiaman Halsewell, with crashing waves and survivors clinging to a rock. In the next century these efforts to reduce the distance between the audience and the past were regarded as hopelessly jejune. Probably because Hume had always coolly been balancing cognitive and affective elements in his negotiation of historical distance, John Stuart Mill found in his history no trace of flesh and blood: Does Hume throw his own mind into the mind of an Anglo-Saxon, or an AngloNorman? Would not the sight, if it could be had, of a single table or pair of shoes


The Evolution of Sympathy in the Long Eighteenth Century made by an Anglo-Saxon, tell us, directly and by inference, more of his whole way of life … than Hume … has contrived to tell us?’7

Ever since, historians have been trying to reconcile cognitive impartiality with affective interest by writing histories that respond to the pressures of the lives of ordinary people, not distantly but immediately, domesticating whatever might have seemed exotic about history. Perhaps the most astonishing examples of this are provided by Benedetto Croce and R. G. Collingwood, for Croce places sympathy – and sympathy of a peculiarly formal sort – at the heart of the historiographical enterprise: Do you wish to understand the true history of a neolithic Ligurian? … Try if you can to become a neolithic Ligurian in your mind … Do you wish to understand the true history of a blade of grass? Try to become a blade of grass.8

As for Collingwood, while carefully avoiding the imputation of sympathy in his conception of re-enactment, he enjoins upon the historian the duty of such a complete identification with the historical object that it is indistinguishable from sympathy. To write the true history of Thomas Becket is to become Becket: For Becket, in so far as he was a thinking mind, being Becket was also knowing that he was Becket; and for myself, on the same showing, to be Becket is to know that I am Becket, that is, to know that I am my own present self re-enacting Becket’s thought, myself being in that sense Becket.9

And it is to Collingwood we owe the name of this intimate exercise: historical re-enactment. So the history of history looks like a continuous reduction of historical distance, the dismantling of the obstacles that divide us from knowledge of the past. This history is told of the people for the people, and sometimes seems indistinguishable from public memory: what all of us may recall, given the right mnemonic jogs. Some historians have warned against the consequences of supposing no obstacles to exist in historical work. Eric Hobsbawm, who has noted the perils of mistaking history for memory, believes that, ‘The destruction of the past … is one of the most eerie phenomena of the late twentieth century’.10 Inga Clendinnen has written an essay critical of historians who invite their readers into an identification with historical figures by means of what she calls ‘untutored empathy’.11 Entitled ‘The History Question: Who Owns the Past?’ it is a piece unsettling in its failure to answer its own question, for it is clearly not the historian, nor yet the public. It may be the dead, or the most popular living writer of past events, or myth; but Clendinnen suspects politicians are keenest of all to get their hands on it.

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In the meantime, there has been a spate of re-enacted documentary histories that supply the demand for particularity, immediacy, intimacy, pain, domesticity and sympathy by focusing on real people who have volunteered to inhabit reconstructed dwellings of the past – 1900s House, 1940s House, Frontier House, Regency House, Iron-Age Fort, Outback House, and so on – and to endure all the rigours and privations of the originals. This is only a part of the boom industry of history. British historians are celebrities, such as Simon Schama, David Starkey, Michael Wood and Niall Ferguson, all bidding for control of the public imagination, all eager to tell us what the past was really like from their point of view. Ken Burns is the sole trustee of the iconic moments of the American past: the Civil War, the Jazz Age and the Second World War. In Britain the sixtieth anniversary of the D-Day landings in 2004 was a celebration not only of the event, but also of the variety of modes in which history can be replayed. There were talking heads, re-enactments of training and landing, dramatizations intercut with archival footage that resembled remarkably the opening scenes of Stephen Spielberg’s movie Saving Private Ryan, there was ritual state-pageantry at Arromanches, with heads of state rubbing shoulders with old infantrymen, and there were heartwarming personal stories, such as the old soldier from New Zealand who missed his bus and got a lift back to Paris in M. Chirac’s entourage. The varieties of history’s presentational styles betoken a widespread desire to have history returned to the imagination of ordinary people, taken out of the hands of an elite and democratized. So domesticating historical events in a vivid and recognizable way, bringing them home literally to the house, like the gentleman who brought Mary Queen of Scots into his parlour – this is what reenactment does best, and what popular historians think it is best to do. In Northanger Abbey Jane Austen has her heroine Catherine Morland raise these issues just at the time when Hume’s treatment of historical distance was beginning to be found too remote. Catherine’s dialogue with Henry Tilney and his sister Elinor on the relative merits of fiction and history brings up the problem of pain and the representation of pain – a problem that is never very far from the affective presentation of the past. According to Catherine history always chronicles painful events (‘wars or pestilences’) and it transfers a portion of that pain to the reader. She imagines historians ‘labouring only for the torment of little boys and girls’.12 Henry assumes that in saying so Catherine is using torment as a synonym for instruction, but this may not be so. In the Gothic novels she prefers to read, Catherine expects to be moved to sympathy by ‘awful memorials of some injured and ill-fated nun’ usually adjacent to instruments of torture, or by horrors such as those that lie beneath the black veil of Udolpho.13 She has an appetite for everything that is horrid in fiction, and a disgust for everything that is painful in history. Elinor Tilney understands that it is not any exclusive commitment to factuality that makes a historian’s torment unequal to a novelist’s in


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Catherine’s eyes, for Catherine is aware that history is partly fiction, with embellished scenes that never took place as they are represented and speeches that were never actually spoken as they are written. No, it is (as Elinor surmises) that historians ‘are not happy in their flights of fancy’.14 But if they were, Catherine might be as happily tormented by them as she is by Mrs Radcliffe. For it is while she is immersed in her historical novels that she experiences Kames’s ideal presence, for the images in them are so complete, they have ‘the effect to transport the reader as by magic into the very place and time of the important action’.15 ‘Oh! I am delighted with the book. I should like to spend my life reading it … While I have Udolpho to read, I feel as if nobody could make me miserable. Oh! The dreadful black veil!’ cries Catherine.16 Here then is the relation between past violence and present agreeableness that Hume defended from Clarendon’s laconic pen. It focuses on a question Catherine has been framing to herself, and will soon be able to answer, but not in the way she thinks: in effect the question is, ‘What was it like to be Mrs Tilney?’ The story that unfolds with her inside is not the one she was trying to tell. She will become Mrs Tilney herself, and in an unexpected way experience the identification with a figure from the past described and recommended by Croce and Collingwood. The proper adjustment of pain to sympathy seems to provide the affective basis of historical re-enactment, and I want to probe this aspect of it further. The Enlightenment turned often to the question of why we delight in scenes of suffering, first of all by way of commentary on Aristotle’s view of tragedy as a purgative of the passions, and second as an opportunity of analysing sympathy. We have seen that roughly there were four divisions into which sympathy fell in the eighteenth century. If we exclude horrid sympathy, only two of these were responsive to Aristotle’s theory of tragedy. There was mechanical sympathy, a reaction of our organism to scenes of distress which we cannot avoid feeling; and it found patrons in Mandeville, Hume and Burke and to some extent Sterne, as well as in seventeenth-century exponents of the power of sympathy. There was moral sympathy, an instinctive desire to seek the good of others that provides the sentimental foundation of society and virtue, according to Francis Hutcheson. Theatrical sympathy of the sort recommended by Adam Smith required a degree of self-control from the victim in order to win the audience’s compassion, for untutored agony is always unattractive and hard to share; but when successful such a performance achieves an equilibrium between the degree of self-control that is needed to keep the attention of the audience and the degree of approval the audience feels for it. Then lastly there was what Hume called ‘compleat sympathy’ – something like the full substitution of person for person defined not by Hume but by Smith, in which passions on both sides reach the same pitch, and the one knows exactly what the other is feeling. Aristotelian tragedy could easily co-opt the second and third; but the first is purely spontaneous, ungovern-

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able, and so is the fourth, being (as Elizabeth Costello points out) unlimited in extent. Neither is adapted for the modifications of effect necessary if the sight of pain is to stay within the boundary of pleasure or social utility. Mandeville examined the torments of mechanical sympathy in the notorious scene of a pig eating a child in The Fable of the Bees, whose moral value was nil, he said, because even the greatest villain on earth would not be able to behold it unmoved. Godwin dramatized the horrors of complete sympathy in Caleb Williams, where the agony of having someone else entirely familiar with the secrets of one’s soul is explored through every agonizing phase. Given the priority awarded by historical re-enactment to the affective rather than the cognitive capture of the past, it is intriguing to find that it falls roughly into the same divisions as eighteenth-century sympathy. Mechanical, social, theatrical and unlimited sympathy correspond to the four chief divisions of reenactment that I name here house, pageant, theatre and real. ‘House’ is shorthand for all re-enactments which consist of private particulars literally and copiously assembled in a closed space. Lacking a public or theatrical dimension, or any claim to virtuoso performance, house re-enactment concentrates on the awkward little things that define a historical moment. Its interest for a viewing public lies in the accumulating frustrations suffered by the re-enactors, who are often found weeping or shouting with exasperation at their inability to control what they are doing or where they are. House has a lot in common in this respect with reality television, for the spectator eavesdrops upon those incalculable accidents which constitute the interest of the scene, for there is scarcely any story. The Ship, a re-enactment of Cook’s first voyage performed by a crew of enthusiasts and experts in 2001, was a sort of house, exemplified in the conflict between the appeal of unexpected accidents and an intentional narrative. The drama the voyage was supposed (at least at first) to re-enact was Cook’s dilemma with the Great Barrier Reef, whether he was to sail inside it and make discoveries at the risk of his ship, or to sail beyond it, safely and ignorantly. Basically his job was to see if Australia was joined by the hip or shoulder to the Great Southern Continent. The drama of this search encapsulated the great paradox of Cook’s career as Cook saw it: whether he was to be damned for temerity when he lost his ship or damned for timorousness when he lost Australia. With a global positioning system to supplement the lunar observations of the navigators, and scant interest shown by any but the historians in the niceties of eighteenth-century charts, this drama never took off as the continuous re-enactment of an earlier voyage. For history to become vivid at all on The Ship, there needed always to be some sort of excitement in the present which corresponded purely by chance with the historical facts, and which suddenly authorized their importance. Without that contingent sentimental aperture, history remained invisible. Nostalgia, sickness, a landing at a remote island, or 9/11, these were the contingent stimuli to sympathy with the past. Although the


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producer began the voyage by emphasizing that what he called ‘extreme history’ had nothing to do with reality television, in fact it had a great deal in common with it. In both cases the interest is kept up by the crises that develop from moment to moment; and these are owing almost exclusively to the artificial restrictions of the house – the ship, the island, the room. Certainly it is no exaggeration to call these restrictions extreme, or the feelings they arouse intense. Nor does there seem to be any limit to this extremity. On British television in 2004 a fight took place in Channel 4’s Big Brother house when two evicted contestants were reintroduced after spending a week spying on their former housemates. David Wilson, a professor of criminology, resigned as a consultant to the programme, saying he could no longer be associated with a show that ‘provoked interpersonal violence for entertainment’.17 But this high degree of tension is the magnet for the spectator, and it generates a powerful mechanical sympathy between the human object and the viewer. Here is a viewer’s account of watching Emma, who had a fierce row with Victor during the brawl on the Big Brother set, as she brooded in the aftermath. ‘Emma is shown sitting alone, watching a screen, eating crisps with a ravenous, mechanical motion. “Poor sod”, I think. Then I realize that I am sitting alone, watching a screen, eating peanuts with a ravenous, mechanical motion’.18 I think Mandeville is right, however, to point out that there is no moral value in this kind of sympathy: it is as ungovernable as the scene provoking it. Perched on the matchstick of a topgallant yard during the Endeavour re-enactment, braced by my thighs against the yard, my feet on a thread of footrope, with the leach of a sail beating me on the face, I felt so bereft of presence of mind that all I could possibly represent was an object, and not a very graceful one at that. A shipmate on a safer level compared me to an ill-parked Volkswagen. A participant in Channel 4’s The Trench sued the company for post-traumatic stress disorder, unsuccessfully as it turned out. But the suit serves to show that there is no necessary or foreordained limit to extremity; and the greater the extremity, the greater the curiosity that will be shown by the audience. Jade Goody, a reality television star now diagnosed with a fatal cancer, has signed a deal with Max Clifford to have the process of her death recorded ‘live’. But what is remarkable about becoming the object of mechanical sympathy is that it is a very passionate experience. In fact it conforms very closely to the difference between action and passion, the difference between doing something and having something done to oneself, established by Spinoza in the Ethics. ‘We act when something takes place within us or outside of us whose adequate cause we are’. On the other hand, emotion or affectus arises from those modifications of the body by means of which its powers of action are augmented or diminished. ‘The essence of passion cannot be explained merely through our essence … it must necessarily be defined by the power of some external cause compared with our own’.19 Catherine Morland feels the truth of these propositions as she becomes part of

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a story she was not telling of herself. Any reactor feels it too: all those awkward little things in the house are pushing him or her into a passionate experience with events totally unplanned, and about which no coherent or adequate idea can be formed. Hence the frustration and the shouting. Hence the eager curiosity of the audience: what could possibly happen next? And will it be horrid? Pageantry includes any ritual representation of a past act or event, such as a passion play or a church mass or a public exhibition, whose purpose is the affirmation of a sense of community, whether of faith, place or nation. Here pain tends to be exemplary and sympathy is heartwarming because it unites the spectators with the participants in a public testimony of the value of shared suffering. When Hutcheson, Burke and Ferguson imagined the possibility of a scene of public sympathy, they chose a large open space where a state criminal, or a victim of state, was about to be executed. John Gay had sported with the possibilities of such a scene at the end of The Beggar’s Opera. Greg Dening is alluding to pageant when he talks of history as public knowledge of the past, ‘not public in the sense of being institutional, but public in the sense of being culturally shared’.20 In 2007 the Battle of Waterloo was re-enacted in Belgium, and in the Solent, ships (one of them made of wood) manoeuvred to represent the battle of Trafalgar. In 2004 in Hexham, in the north of England, there was a re-enactment of an event that took place 243 years earlier, when Pitt the Elder imposed conscription on the local population and fifty people were killed while resisting it – many more lives than were lost at Peterloo, as the organizers pointed out. It was run by the Hexham Community Partnership, and presumably both the sense of community and partnership were strengthened by the exercise. The theatre of history is rather more intimate, and perhaps closest to what Greg Dening calls performance and what Catherine Morland would call happy flights of fancy. A certain amount of extravagance is appropriate in order to lift history above the level of literal fact, but not quite to the height of spiritual, national or communal pageantry. In Adam Smith’s theatre of sympathy, for example, there is a careful negotiation between the needs of an individual and the inclinations or taste of the public. The art is not to suffer ritually in public, like the state criminal, but to stage one’s suffering in such a way that it will be acceptable to the audience; then and only then does a reciprocal impulse between actor and spectator ensure a degree of mutual approval that keeps lifting the art to new heights. The most successful, certainly the most esteemed, experiment in this line of theatre is Jeremy Deller’s The Battle of Orgreave, which recreated one of the most bitter encounters between miners and police during the 1984 miners’ strike. Deller used former miners and members of military re-enactment societies to produce something that was neither pageantry nor realism, rather a curiously tender attempt to frame the agony of the original, and to familiarize whatever had been unforeseen or unintelligible in it. Shortlisted


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for the Turner Prize in 2000 and then made into a film by Mike Figgis, The Battle of Orgreave qualified as a notable example of what W. G. Sebald calls ‘the repeated and virtuoso representation of suffering’.21 Similarly another artwork by Yinka Shonibare, shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2005 along with another piece by Deller called Memory Bucket, is a masked ball (based on Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera) representing the assassination of Gustav III of Sweden. Three times the murder is repeated, using exactly the same steps and gestures, and three times the victim arises, finally performing in reverse the highly ornate sequence of his entry into the palace. I want to consider now the circumstances of a limitless or complete sympathy in the historical imagination – Croce as a blade of grass, Collingwood as Becket. How might this be possible, and what would its effects look like? All four kinds of sympathy are the result of asking, ‘What is it like to be in someone’s else’s shoes?’ One answer suitable to all is, ‘It is like being in pain’. The reason the fourth kind of sympathy is so hard to imagine or compass is that the pain has to be linked to a person, or rather two persons. If Catherine Morland is to get an answer to the question revolving in her mind, ‘What was it like to be Mrs Tilney?’ there must be two people representing the person with that name. Similarly the answer to Thomas Nagel’s tougher question on the topic of sympathy, ‘What is it like to be a bat?’ requires that there be something which it is like to be a bat, whatever it is that represents the bat to itself, as well as the human who can identify with that representation. We remember that this is how Smith puts it in The Theory of Moral Sentiments: Though sympathy is very properly said to arise from an imaginary change of situation with the person chiefly concerned, yet this imaginary change is not supposed to happen to me in my own person and character, but in that of the person with whom I sympathise.22

Let us go back to Collingwood and his sympathy for Thomas Becket. What was Becket feeling when he was being hacked to death on the altar of Canterbury cathedral? Collingwood as Becket does not say. Although he adapts exactly Smith’s structure of sympathy for his interrogation of the past, Collingwood has no interest in feelings. Here let me quote again what he says of the position of his person vis-à-vis Becket’s: For Becket, in so far as he was a thinking mind, being Becket was also knowing that he was Becket; and for myself, on the same showing, to be Becket is to know that I am Becket, that is, to know that I am my own present self re-enacting Becket’s thought, myself being in that sense Becket.23

But as for any sympathetic seasoning of the thoughts he derives from this narrowing of historical distance, he is unequivocal:

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We shall never know how the flowers smelt in the garden of Epicurus, or how Nietzsche felt the wind in his hair as he walked on the mountains; we cannot relive the triumph of Archimedes or the bitterness of Marius; but the evidence of what these men thought is in our hands; and in re-creating these thoughts in our own minds … we can know … that the thoughts we create were theirs.24

So it is all a matter of thought and cognition: Collingwood’s historical re-enactment is specifically non-affective, but it is (in his view at least) entire. Demodocus gives those of us interested in re-enactment and in its most complete sympathetic form a useful hint. Unlimited sympathy is not only pain, it is sympathy for the dead. Catherine Morland embarks upon her experiment in sympathy with the past by gazing at the portrait of a dead woman. In Wilfrid Owen’s poem ‘Mental Cases’, which Jon Silkin has characterized as ‘sensuous re-enactment’, the victims are introduced as ‘men whose minds the Dead have ravished’.25 Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian commander of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Rwanda, became a mental case because his mind would fill again and again with the sounds and smells of genocide he witnessed and could not stop, and he recalls, ‘I think some part of me wanted to join the legions of the dead’.26 This desire is strongly painted in one of the best anecdotal histories of reenactment, Tony Horwitz’s Confederates in the Attic (1998). Robert Lee Hodge, his hero, performs as a corpse. He can do Civil War Bloat at the drop of a hat, a flawless counterfeit of photographs of the dead at Antietam and Gettysburg: ‘His hands curled, his cheeks puffed out, his mouth contorted in a rictus of pain and astonishment’.27 It is his party-trick, but he has learned it while closely studying Matthew Brady’s photographs of corpses, gleaning the kind of documentary evidence that will distinguish his hardcore re-enacting from that of ‘farb’ amateurs who neglect authenticity. Distinctive belt buckles, the width and colour of the piping on the trousers, the strips of carpet used as bedrolls, the corrugated tin of a canteen strapped to the waist of a dead Confederate soldier – the accuracy of such details is crucial to the success of re-enactment. It is the re-enactor’s way of only doing the thing that was, much as Gulliver resolves to say only the thing which is. Hence the necessity of marching sometimes without shoes, of slimming until you fit into the very narrow dimensions of a butternut uniform cut to the size of original Confederate States of America uniforms. The 1860s patina of the brass buttons is obtained by soaking them in urine, and the texture of the material – ‘a bit of gray cloth with just the right amount of dye and the exact number of threads’ – is kept genuine by never washing it.28 There is no limit to the pursuit of this sort of fidelity, especially if it involves discomfort or pain. Authenticity provides the evidential bridge into the past; while cold, fatigue and misery open the road to the state of intense rapture Hodge calls wargasm, peaking, rushing, being tapped, Goose-bump city and Nirvana. When he arrives at these states of feeling Hodge is able to experience himself as a person in a photograph – not as a bloated


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corpse or a generalized unknown warrior, not as an actual named individual with a history, but as an anonymous actual other person who fought and probably died at Manassas or Shiloh or Gettysburg amidst a set of historical circumstances that Hodge can partly but very accurately reproduce. At his best, that is to say at the extreme edge of his game, Hodge is the person of that person. If we speak of history through sympathy with the dead, if that is ultimately the point of the various types of sympathy which re-enactment deploys, whence do we derive the authority to speak? From the dead? I think not, for they take our person and give us none in return, or nothing but a name. Or they drive us mad. In any case, we get access to them only by passion, when we are in the grip of an idea whose adequacy we cannot possibly determine. Any story that passion invites us into is not one of our inventing or telling, as Spinoza points out, even if we spin inventions out of it. When Robinson Crusoe takes up his pen to write The Farther Adventures, it is not of his own free will: the island makes him do it, ‘My Imagination run upon it all Day; it was uppermost in all my Thoughts, and my Fancy work’d so steadily and strongly upon it, that I talk’d of it in my Sleep’.29 Mechanical and unlimited sympathy, and the re-enactments they sponsor – house and realist – are awash in incalculable chances and unforeseen contingencies for which no one is fully responsible. Authority derives then not from our representation of the fatalities of history but from History itself, and its arrangement of these unpredictable circumstances. History authorizes us as its actors to speak on its behalf, just as Hume’s Sympathy authorizes its subjects to do as it pleases. And presumably we speak and act most persuasively when there is the least of us left, when we are maximally depleted by sympathy, figured as something or someone else and most completely in service to the agency of which we speak. When we are no longer strictly ourselves and can talk with a delegate’s confidence of an inhuman power, a force whose effects we can only describe, and whose tendency is its own business, then do we achieve the kind of re-enactment of history Collingwood imagined as the basis of real historiography. But our performances are given under licence of the personifications of Sympathy, Death and History. They make the past present to us in the least consoling way by emphasizing how poorly we control its emergencies, how weakly our inadequate ideas embrace them, and how quickly and totally they can silence us. W. G. Sebald warns of this state of affairs in his essay ‘On the Literary Description of Total Destruction’. He mentions the blindness and confusion of those caught up in History, and says, ‘The autonomy of humankind in the face of the real or potential destruction that it has caused is no greater in the history of the species than the autonomy of the animal in the scientist’s cage’.30 Being the native informants of this kind of history is a shocking reversal of the position we naturally assume in historical narrative; and if this is one of the dangers of studying history too closely, then sympathizing limitlessly with the dead is no less perilous.


The argument of this book has pursued rival approaches to the passions which for want of better I have grouped under headings of the Cartesian and the Humean. The Cartesian approach is to put reason and the will at the apex of those attributes it wishes to define as human; the other puts passion in the place of reason and sympathy in the place of will, and operates with a much looser and more extensive idea of what it belongs to humanity to feel and to do. By running the discussion from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries, leaping over a few notable gaps in between, I have tried to show that this rivalry has never disappeared, although it may have been translated into different terms and idioms. No one interested in sympathy will ever have much time for a belief in the pure efficacy of the will and the irreducible core of personal identity; contrariwise someone who acts on the assumption that intentions, actions and consequences provide the basis of all intelligible narratives will not want to be seduced by sympathy into the muddle of persons and unintended outcomes it entails. We have seen how this division has inflected other disciplines such as natural history, where the Linnaean taxonomy upheld by one school as evidence of the perfection of divine will is put aside by another as a false symmetry, neglectful of the abundant surprises that natura naturans is capable of providing. On the other hand, without Linnaeus’s combination of extensive information and ingenious systematization, it is doubtful whether there would have been so much interest in fashioning alternative accounts of species. The triumph of the human will associated with various scientific and imperial enterprises has regularly been confronted by the ruin that time and chance make of the best endeavours – this is the theme of much of Swift’s satire – on the other hand, without enterprise and the use of reason there are benefits human society would have been missing sadly, as Smith points out. So the lines between the two positions have never really been drawn so definitely as to exclude elements of the other. Descartes and Hutcheson have to make an allowance for passion of a kind when they talk of the self-excitements of the soul, and Hume resists the possibility held out by his own idea of complete sympathy that one identity (no matter how insubstantial and ephemeral) might – 141 –


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be exchanged for another. The overlap between passion and reason generates a debate about the nature of the real which, although sterile when conducted in hard and fast terms, is extremely useful and exciting when it becomes dialectical. For example, Shaftesbury’s horrified rejection of sympathy in defence of the unassailable self-existence of ‘that which only is’ is unprofitable to him (although intriguing to read) until he can figure to himself by means of irony the degree of passion necessary for a functioning social identity, and then find a place where it can civilly be expressed. Alternatively, the tension between Mandeville’s defence of the reality of the passions versus the myriad fictions his social individual is constrained to invent, obliges him to defend a core of the self one never would have thought he believed in. Smith’s stoical idea of how the will manages the social exhibition of the passions, based on his indifference to physical pain and the legacy he inherits from moral sense philosophy, makes way for an account of intuitive sympathy and psychological agony that is amazingly generous as well as theoretically subtle. On the topic of inter-species sympathy, where Descartes is inevitably cast as the villain who assigns animal pain to the malfunctioning of a machine, one finds from reading Locke and Bayle that it is the Cartesian position on pre-existence that allows for a possibility of animal souls and their transmigration, a notion that Descartes is forced to admit is congenial to his system even as he is trying to repress it. Empiricists such as Hobbes and Locke are the ones who find such a supposition ridiculous and inconceivable – or, if conceivable, utterly irrelevant to the concerns of human beings. No matter how starkly the issues of empiricism seem opposed to those of Cartesian rationalism, it is evident that both sides are interested in some solution to the mind-body problem. All the way from full-dress theories of the cooperation of the sensitive soul and the immortal soul such as Charleton’s to concessions made in respect of the passions by Cartesians, and to the fictionality of persons made by empiricists, there is a continuing interest exhibited in understanding what takes place when a sixth sense or a hegemonic faculty allows the self an opportunity to take a look at its reflection. I hope it has been clear that this does not at all resemble self-fashioning such as that incompetently practised by Mandeville’s hopeful social individual, or by courtiers in the early modern period. David Marshall puts it very well when he describes Shaftesbury’s experiment with writing down his self in the Regimen as a sort of silent speech performed with invisible ink.1 The point of the exercise is not to present to the world an artificial self of which it will approve, a concession Shaftesbury loathes to see being made by other authors; it is to see how far the integrity of ‘that which only is’ can be sustained in a public forum without being lost, either through distortion, anger or shame. The ‘soft irony’ he invents for this purpose allows him to show himself while not showing himself, a feat very similar in effect, although not in its truculence, to Elizabeth Costello’s use of the person of Red Peter in order to show the



public, and yet not to show it, her wound. Exactly the same impossible rhetoric is practised some years earlier than the Regimen by John Dunton in his Voyage Round the World (1691), when he proclaims, ‘Perhaps I had never any mind you should know what I mean, nor what to make on it … to see a Man describ’d and not describ’d, playing Bo-peep with the World, and hiding himself behind his Fingers’. And if readers have a problem with that, then Dunton, whose host of cognomens includes an anagrammatized and misleading name called Hid-untonone, assures them, ‘[No] other Person[s] yet named or suspected, are the real Authors of this Book, or the real Evander, but that I, and I only am he; and who I am, is yet, and ever shall be a Secret’.2 To show the self and not to show it, and in that one paradoxical performance to become strangely excited or deeply moved, is a scene repeated many times in the history of sympathy. Descartes’s widower enacts it when he weeps in public and feels a colossal and triumphant private joy; Shaftesbury when he tells Somers publicly that he is passionately his, but behind his ironical reserve is something else entirely; Gulliver, when he can only say the thing which is by saying again and again that which is not, growing more passionate as factuality balloons into rhetoric; Sidney Bidulph, when having shown what all along she thought she was, lays down her pen because that person is not what she has turned out to be. I have tried to suggest that even in the most perfect delivery of this paradox there is an element of surprise which triggers the passion that accompanies, or plays against, the performance. One catches sight of the self that is not being shown, or the hidden part of the one that is, and it is not what one expected to see: the intensity of joy coinciding with the loss of the wife you pitied; the sinister pleasures of the wrong sort of sympathy framing the charms of civil address; the immense frustration arising from not being able to say what it was you meant to say when in the guise of a horse you decided to level with the world; or turning out to be luridly, even criminally, the opposite of everything you were planning to be. Henry Mackenzie compared it to seeing a family portrait in a stranger’s house.3 These scenes of showing the self and not showing it, or showing that there are aspects of it one cannot show, are cognate with others where the intention behind a deed is radically undercut by what is actually done. This is perversely true of Mandeville when he undertakes to concatenate causes and effects that no one else has understood, or will acknowledge, such as the dependence of good upon evil, chastity on lust, and so on; so he strides onto the stage of his Fable, master of all the paradoxes of civil society; but what he actually concatenates is the opposite of what he intended, showing not that moral virtue springs up from the practice of vice but that actually it arises from talk of virtue. Depending upon how apt one is to appreciate that one’s deed has turned on one and changed into an event, or that self-revelation is dependent on some sort of concealment, or


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that speech is best uttered figuratively or even silently, the emotion experienced by this enforced indirection has a value. Whether from the disappointment of not doing what was planned, or from the surprise of seeing what one never expected, a real phenomenon is experienced, and all the more vividly because, like the footprint in the sand of Crusoe’s island, it was utterly unpredictable, and not at all consistent with what went before. The sudden cognition of the reality of the experience, combined with the passion it arouses, brings knowledge of a truth that hitherto was itself invisible. It may be a truth about identity or the sense of self, or it may concern the narrative or history of things, or both; but what is important is that it could not be known without being felt, experienced as a passion. Descartes and Hutcheson want to package up this emotion as affection, part of the internal circuit of the will, in order to keep it out of range of contingency and the inadequate ideas that passions provoke. They would like to place it inside the pale of what Smith calls propriety, so that it never needs to be fetched home, having all the time been nowhere else. But if the action of the will were sufficient for all its ends, not even affection would be needed to confirm its efficacy. In Paradise Lost God’s anger erupts precisely at the moments when he is made aware that his providence is grating against the unexpected, as when he remembers the transgression he has just forecast and which has not yet taken place in time: So will fall Hee and his faithless Progenie: whose fault? Whose but his own? Ingrate, he had of mee All he could have.4

The surprise has to come from some disparity between the plan and the outcome, the unintended consequence. And once passion is aroused something is known as it was not before, for instance the widower knows more intimately and fully the range of his autonomy, God knows by means of a change of tense how far his own autonomy is shocking to him. Sympathy occurs when this kind of shock or surprise is aroused not from a self beholding its reflection, but from two selves mirroring each other as if they were one self. Just as action of the will can never be perfect, this reflection can never be so exact as to cause no surprise. In fact the mercury of the sympathetic mirror is passion; so the question is, why does it not multiply the number of imperfect ideas, and bring their inadequacy to a level where cognition of any kind, especially affective cognition, is impossible? The answer is that the person of each person involved in that encounter represents a reflexive margin sufficient to mark the difference between propriety, or what is known by each of the two selves to belong to each before their meeting, and its opposite, whatever it is of me that gets absorbed into you. The same alternation occurs between the proper



and the improper as between the visible and invisible aspects of the self, and between intentions and events. The person of the person is the fulcrum of that alternation, a kind of neutral point between the selves that may be imaginatively occupied by either. And from that position what is affectively registered as novel and unexpected is simultaneously known as extra to the proper self but now attached to it. When she sees Amy in bed making love to the jeweller, Roxana recognizes in objective form the difference from what she was before and what she now calls the whore in herself; and like the sight of her own reflection in the glass later, it fills her with wonder about the course her life will now take, an emotion and an insight Amy shares, initially very uncomfortably. The analogy between this intermediate person and, as Thomas Nagel puts it, the something which it is like to be a bat, or like any other animate or inanimate thing, enlarges considerably the range of sympathy. If sympathy with a bat is not to be limited to an objective understanding of how a bat flies and navigates, then the something which represents to a bat the fact that it is seeing or flying has to come into the possession of the sympathizer, or maybe possess her. Nagel says we are unable to form anything more than a schematic conception of what that is like, and Bernard Balleine and Anthony Dickinson have suggested that the challenge to students of consciousness lies in addressing ‘how and why it is, in addition to its other roles, consciousness functions as an organ of feeling’.5 This is a challenge Elizabeth Costello rises to with respect to the Holocaust, animal suffering and the dead, with various degrees of success. On the basis of what she experiences and what she says before the Midas-silence falls over her discoveries, we can affirm that somewhere between the sheer pressure of another thing’s being and the unimpeded action of consciousness, affective cognition takes place. What it is like is a miracle or a prodigy, something unexampled and yet experienced, an empirical event that is conceptually impossible, as Cora Diamond puts it. As long as one can remain alive inside that contradiction, without the whole structure of one’s knowledge collapsing in panic, then passionate knowledge governs the moment, and one knows something about the life and death of I and Me, or I and It, so powerful it cannot fully be uttered or written. It needs contradictions, oxymorons, litotes and other rhetorical figures if it is to make even half an appearance. I have pointed out that the structure of such a moment is like that of a personification in so far as an unparalleled event is experienced as one’s own action – or like the sublime in so far as a power infinitely beyond the self is appropriated by the self – so that what is felt is like what was done, and what happens like what was meant. If for any reason that balance between opposites is lost, then the person of the person gives way to an actual personification of the force that seems responsible for the loss of control, whether it is called Fortune, or Fear, or a god. Had Psyche and Cupid not fallen in love with each other, becoming mutually


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and satisfyingly the object of one another’s desire by combining what one party is doing with what the other is being, each thus acting as the means of the other’s fulfillment, then Cupid would have been nothing but the personification of his name, Desire. He would have represented the effect of his own cause, and left the world in the anarchy in which it is found at the beginning of the story. When Charleton and More talk about self-impairment and remorse, it is interesting to see how they keep the surprise at oneself within the bounds of personal action, saying in effect: this is what you have done to yourself, you are both agent and patient, the one who knows and the one who feels. But in scenes such as that in Fleetwood, where the hero starts insanely chattering to waxworks who appear to chatter back at him, until mad with jealousy and false sympathy he smashes them to pieces, the work of one’s own hands goes beyond all limits of recuperation, and passion fills the scene to the exclusion of all other agents: it is Jealousy itself, unlimited and irresistible. In our ignorance of the consequences and nature of our own passions, says Hume, prosopopeia, personification and religion all begin. When Mandeville’s bees go through their transformation from creatures of the market to masters of their destiny, there is a general emigration of personified qualities from the hive, as if making room for human agency: Hypocrisy, Justice, Physick, Honour either leave the stage or dwindle from names into mere nouns. We have seen how central fiction is to the critique mounted by both sides in the debate over the passions, as each accuses the other of living in dreams or impossibilities, and of claiming knowledge of the real and true exclusively and mistakenly for themselves. However, just as passion is made common ground for cognition, so fiction is shown to be useful for everyone, not least in the construction of artificial persons. When fiction penetrates the demanding attempt to say only the thing which is, and deliver the authentic speech of that which only is, the resulting mixture, whether we call it realist fiction or realist fiction, bears closely upon the development of the novel, and upon the fictions of state which it seems in so many ways to imitate. According to Catherine Gallagher, to whom we owe the distinction cited above between fiction which tries to be mistaken for the real, and fiction which tries to represent the real, fictionality has been more important to the novel than fidelity to empirical reality.6 It is simply the illusion provided by particularity that makes fiction attractive as fiction. When he discusses the duty of novelists in his fourth Rambler, Samuel Johnson seems oddly enough to enforce this judgement, since he recommends probable fiction as supplying proper contents for minds otherwise ill-furnished with ideas.7 That is to say, fiction will do as well as experience as long as it does not appear improbable; but there is no likelihood that the reader will attend critically to the resemblance between probable fiction and empirical knowledge, since the knowledge has not yet been obtained. The real will come about when readers act as if what they had read was real. In any event, we have seen how fictions of contract are based on no



historical reality whatsoever, their purpose being to foster the real, not imitate it – realist fictions as it were. And so might it be said for novels such as Robinson Crusoe, that what is imagined leads to what is real, not the other way round. In this respect, the early novel spreads out the moment of affective cognition over time in a sequence that leads from prodigy to passion, passion to imagination and imagination to what actually comes to pass. These are novels agreeable to the bias of the Humean account of the passions; but there are others that lean to the Cartesian, as I think we have seen in Roxana, where the heroine’s pier-glass resembles closely Shaftesbury’s vocal looking-glass, and the pleasures and pains she derives from looking at her reflection in it are as extreme as his. If Robinson Crusoe is an allegory of the entry into civil society by means of contract, no less does it allegorize the construction of reality out of fictions. The proof of its success as a fiction is that the story can be told within itself to its own characters as an utterly credible account of a man’s survival in a state of nature. When Crusoe leaves his island he leaves his tools and his own personal history as legacy for the mutineers: ‘In a Word, I gave them every Part of my own Story’.8 Once again a fiction, or a true story based upon a dream, will guarantee the production of the real, and this will consolidate a sympathetic relation of persons to persons, since one of the people to whom Crusoe tells this story is called Robinson. This is not true of Roxana. The latter part of the story consists of the drama of its suppression as Roxana thwarts every attempt made by her disowned daughter Susan to assemble the details of her story, and to tell it. There is no one, not even her friend the Quaker, who is given the whole narrative. The only persons who know it are Roxana and Amy, for the reader too is excluded from the full account. I have suggested that there is a separate genre of the eighteenth-century novel that consists of narratives like this, narratives that end in interruption, or are left incomplete, challenging the efficacy of any sympathy but self-sympathy. To this genre would belong Sterne’s two novels, Haywood’s Love in Excess, Lennox’s The Female Quixote, Sheridan’s Sidney Bidulph and Godwin’s Caleb Williams, as well as memoirs and pseudo-memoirs such as Shaftesbury’s Philosophical Regimen, Dunton’s Voyage round the World and Swift’s A Tale of a Tub. In none of these works is it possible to trace a historical series in its full extent, either because the account is suppressed, or it ends before it is finished, or it is interrupted, or the person of the author changes. If the connection between realist fiction and history relies upon a fiction which turns into truth, what relation exists here between what is invented and what is actual? I am tempted to say that it is quite the reverse of the other, and that nondisclosure of the self, combined with the neglect of a probable fictional account of it, or the subversion of probability in the form of Quixotic imitations of sheer fiction, or the failure of the law of morality to win appropriate outcomes, leave the sequence of events looking completely contingent, a train of unlikely dis-


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appointments or of equally unlikely successes. In such a state of affairs, where fiction gives no promise of the real or credible, sympathy is as hard fully to enjoy in proportion as it tends urgently to be canvassed as the sole reliable means of social connection. This is particularly true of Sterne’s fiction. Apart from sympathy, which is saluted more in the breach than in the observance, the only force that seems to rule is that which leaves history unintelligible, whether it is the personification of Chance, Illegitimacy, Fate, Fiction or maybe History itself. I live at a time when to read any serious paper, especially the financial pages, is like reading some of the richer passages of Trenchard’s and Gordon’s Cato’s Letters: those sections where they are identifying the villains behind the rout of South Sea Company stocks and the ruin of many a thriving fortune, and imagining fantastic torturous punishments appropriate for those depraved abusers of the public trust, the directors. Now the cast of characters is different but the sense of hopeless outrage is identical. There is no explanation to soothe it except the unconsoling truth that governments and the public licensed the unlimited indulgence of blind greed on the part of so-called masters of the universe who reckoned they had abolished risk. And there is no prediction to ease or contain it, just general inexplicable gloom. Because we no longer believe in what we have made, and no longer accept the credibility of the fictions we invented, history has been left to the personifications, and we have forsaken any reality for which we might claim responsibility. Credit and Money are the absconded gods whose return we pray for, capricious deities who the more they are sought, the more surely they stay away; and all that seems to nourish the minds of our leaders is a hopeless nostalgia for the orgy of speculation that preceded the crash. I think the loss of faith in the financial markets was preceded by a serious loss of faith in history, for whatever reason – there are so many to choose from: Auschwitz, 1989, global warming, the deplorable stupidity, almost sinister in its consistency, of the Bush presidency. People wanted some assurance from history, but it could not come in the form of a narrative sequence that made sense, one that linked the past to the future in a credible way, so it had to come from sympathy. And sympathy had to arise from some sort of affective bond between the living and the dead, and not, as it was after the South Sea Bubble, an affective bond with the person of one’s own person. Possibly history’s enigmas were not quite so alarming then as they are now. This ultimate sympathy with the dead is to be enjoyed, if that is the right word, principally by means of historical re-enactment in its various forms, four of which I have analogized with the four kinds of sympathy. It is interesting to note in respect of the parallels between the eighteenth and twenty-first centuries that in his pursuit of the person of his person, uncle Toby in Tristram Shandy commences his career as historical reenactor, the first to be represented in the novel.



It may be that sympathy with the dead is preparatory to an extension of affective consciousness throughout space as well as time, embracing the creatures who suffer for our convenience, either being raised in the mass only that they may be killed in millions, or who lose habitats and become extinct because they have been sacrificed to the same priorities which have cost us our principles and our sense of sequence. In which case there is every chance that sympathy will extend to an effective defence of the earth itself; but chance is all it is. If personifications of our own worst artefacts are not to rule what is left of history, then some minimum degree of will, reason and intention is going to have to be restored to the government of human affairs, because if it is not, then sympathy will not only be in vain, it will be itself vainglorious, a passionate encounter with a spectre, and nothing but a fiction.


Introduction 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20.

F. Nietzsche, ‘On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life’, in Selections from Nietzsche, ed. R. Schacht (New York: Scribner Macmillan, 1993), p. 56. A. Pope, Essay on Criticism, l. 680, in Alexander Pope: The Major Works, ed. P. Rogers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 37. T. Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. R. Tuck (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 113. D. Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge and P. H. Nidditch (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), p. 255. B. Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, ed. F. B. Kaye, 2 vols (Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Classics, 1988), vol. 1, pp. 254–5. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 67. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 54. E. Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful, ed. J. T. Boulton (Oxford: Blackwell, 1987), pp. 45, 47. See V. Kahn, Wayward Contracts (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004), pp. 16 ff. D. Defoe, The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, ed. J. D. Crowley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), pp. 268, 271. R. Cudworth, A Treatise of Freewill, ed. J. Allen (London: John Parker, 1838), p. 36. A. Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, ed. D. D. Raphael and A. L. Mcfie (Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Classics, 1982), p. 9. Ibid., p. 317. Ibid., p. 190. Ibid., p. 110. Ibid., p. 94. Ibid., p. 107. S. Richardson, Clarissa, ed. A. Ross (London: Penguin, 1985), p. 974. Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, p. 206. Ibid., p. 105.

1 Passion and Power 1.

L. Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, ed. I. C. Ross (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), p. 332. – 151 –

152 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33.

34. 35.


Notes to pages 13–21 B. Spinoza, Ethics, trans. A. Boyle and G. H. R. Parkinson (London: Everyman, 1993), pp. 83, 84. Ibid., p. 146. Ibid., p. 164. Ibid., pp. 87–8. C. Burrow, Epic Romance (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), p. 126. T. Eagleton, The Ideology of the Aesthetic (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990), p. 15. W. Reddy, The Navigation of Feeling (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 141–72. Kahn, Wayward Contracts, p. 197. Hobbes, Leviathan, p. 33. T. Hobbes, Human Nature and De Corpore Politico, ed. J. C. A. Gaskin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), p. 50. J. J. Rousseau, The Social Contract and Discourses, ed. G. D. H. Cole (London: Everyman, 1993), pp. 95, 99. Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, p. 40. D. Lynch, ‘Personal Effects and Sentimental Fictions’, in M. Blackwell (ed.), The Secret Life of Things (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2007), pp. 63–91. Kahn, Wayward Contracts, pp. 224–7. Eagleton, The Ideology of the Aesthetic, p. 15. Reddy, The Navigation of Feeling, p. 196. E. Burke, ‘Fourth Letter on the Regicide Peace’, in Writings and Speeches, ed. R. B. MacDowell, 9 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), vol. 9, p. 99. Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, p. 415. J. Ritson, An Essay on Abstinence from Animal Food as a Moral Duty (London: Richard Phillips, 1802), p. 6. Reddy, The Navigation of Feeling, pp. 141–2. R. Descartes, The Passions of the Soul, trans. S. Voss (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1989), pp. 28, 38, 31. R. Descartes, Discourse on Method and Meditations on the First Philosophy, ed. D. Weissman (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996), p. 66. Ibid., pp. 71, 73, 89. Descartes, The Passions of the Soul, p. 34. Ibid., p. 41. Ibid., pp. 104, 49. Ibid., p. 100. Ibid., pp. 104, 103. Ibid., p. 101. Ibid., p. 19. Ibid., p. 104. See V. Kahn, ‘Happy Tears: Baroque Politics in Descartes’s Passions de l’âme’, in V. Kahn, N. Saccamano and D. Coli (eds), Politics and the Passions (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), pp. 93–110. Cudworth, R., A Treatise of Freewill, pp. 35, 36. Ibid., pp. 45, 46; see also Y. C. Zarka, ‘Critique de Hobbes et fondement de la morale chez Cudworth’, in G. A. J. Rogers, J. M. Vienne and Y. C. Zarka (eds), The Cambridge Platonists in Philosophical Context (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1997), pp. 39–52, on p. 45. H. More, The Immortality of the Soul (London: J. Flesher, 1659), p. 8.

Notes to pages 22–8


37. Ibid., p. 135. 38. A. A. Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury, The Life, Unpublished Letters and Philosophical Regimen of Anthony, Earl of Shaftesbury, ed. B. Rand (London: Swan and Sonnenschein, 1900), pp. 133, 136. 39. Descartes, Discourse on Method and Meditations on the First Philosophy, pp. 65, 66, 80; Shaftesbury, The Life, pp. 128, 133. See also Sterne, Tristram Shandy, p. 296: ‘My father had a way, a little like Job’s when things went extremely wrong with him … of wondering why he was begot, – wishing himself dead; – sometimes worse … Every word would breathe the sentiments of a soul disdaining life, and careless about all its issues.’ 40. Shaftesbury, The Life, pp. 151, 153–4. 41. D. Marshall, The Figure of Theater (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), p. 46; Shaftesbury, The Life, p. 147. 42. F. Hutcheson, An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections, ed. A. Garrett (Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, 2002), p. 125. 43. Ibid., pp. 4, 4–21. 44. Ibid., pp. 31, 49. 45. Ibid., p. 49. 46. Ibid., p. 107. 47. Ibid., p. 4. 48. Ibid., pp. 47–8. 49. W. Charleton, Natural History of the Passions (London: J. Magnes, 1670), p. 32. 50. Ibid., pp. 32, 169. 51. D. Hume, An Inquiry concerning Human Understanding (Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs Merrill, 1955), p. 23, n. 2. 52. Cited in D. Heller-Roazen, The Inner Touch (New York: Zone, 2007), pp. 171–2. 53. Bacon, De Augmentis Scientiarum, in The Works, 4 vols (London: R. Gosling, 1730), vol. 1, IV.3, I.136, cited in Heller-Roazen, The Inner Touch, p. 176. 54. Ibid., pp. 171–2. 55. Ibid., p. 173. 56. G. Strawson et al., Consciousness and its Place in Nature, ed. A. Freeman (Exeter: Imprint Academic, 2006). 57. J. O. de La Mettrie, Machine Man and other Writings, trans. and ed. A. Thomson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 71. 58. Ibid., pp. 48, 60, 65, 51. 59. P. H. T. B. D’Holbach, The System of Nature, trans. W. Hodgson, 4 vols (London: B. Crosby, 1795), vol. 1, pp. 36, 50, 150. 60. Ibid., vol. 3, pp. 27, 306. 61. Hobbes, Human Nature and De Corpore Politico, p. 50. 62. Hobbes, Leviathan, p. 70. 63. Ibid., pp. 38, 44. 64. J. Locke, An Essay concerning Human Understanding, ed. P. H. Nidditch (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979), II.21.39, II.21.55, pp. 257, 269. 65. Sterne, Tristram Shandy, p. 396. 66. Locke, An Essay concerning Human Understanding, II.21.2, II.21.15, pp. 234, 242. 67. Sterne, Tristram Shandy, p. 443. 68. Locke, An Essay concerning Human Understanding, II.21.55, p. 269. 69. Descartes, Discourse on Method and Meditations on the First Philosophy, p. 66. 70. Hobbes, Human Nature and De Corpore Politico, p. 63.


Notes to pages 28–37

71. Shaftesbury, The Life, p. 291. 72. A. A. Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury, Characteristics, ed. P. Ayres, 2 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999), vol. 1, pp. 94, 87, 93, 100. 73. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 101. 74. Ibid., vol. 1, pp. 104, 148, 147. 75. Shaftesbury, The Life, p. 112. 76. Shaftesbury, Characteristics, vol. 1, p. 173. 77. Shaftesbury, The Life, p. 112. 78. Shaftesbury, Characteristics, vol. 1, p. 94. 79. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 148. 80. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 167. 81. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 114. 82. Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, vol. 1, p. 324. 83. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 349. 84. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 54. 85. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 184. 86. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 137. 87. Ibid., vol. 1, pp. 151. 88. Ibid., vol. 1, pp. 146, 349. 89. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 25. 90. Rousseau, The Social Contract and Discourses, pp. 62, 97. 91. Reddy, The Navigation of Feeling, p. 178. 92. Ibid., p. 95. 93. D. Marshall, The Surprising Effects of Sympathy (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1988), p. 145. 94. Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, p. 253. 95. Ibid., pp. 352–3. 96. Ibid., p. 313. 97. Ibid., p. 313. 98. Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry, p. 61. 99. Ibid., pp. 1, 53. 100. Ibid., p. 45. 101. Descartes, Discourse on Method and Meditations on the First Philosophy, p. 66. 102. Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry, pp. 66–7, 68. 103. Ibid., p. 51. 104. Longinus, On the Sublime, trans. W. Smith (New York: Scholars’ Facsimiles and Reprints, 1975), pp. 3, 14. 105. Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry, p. 62; J. Milton, Paradise Lost, I.594–9, in The Poetical Works of Milton, ed. H. Darbishire (London: Oxford University Press, 1958). 106. E. Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, ed. C. C. O’Brien (London: Penguin, 1968), p. 169. 107. Cited in J. Barrell, Imagining the King’s Death (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 90; see also Milton, Paradise Lost, I.44–7. 108. M. Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Men and A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, ed. S. Tomaselli (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), p. 27. 109. Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, p. 175. 110. Barrell, Imagining the King’s Death, p. 94. 111. See Eagleton, The Ideology of the Aesthetic, p. 15.

Notes to pages 37–48


112. Barrell, Imagining the King’s Death, p. 86; Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Men and A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, p. 28. 113. L. Boltanski, Distant Suffering (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 33. 114. Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Men and A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, pp. 141, 34, 268. 115. W. Hazlitt, Collected Works, ed. A. R. Waller and A. Glover, 12 vols (London: J. M. Dent, 1904), vol. 11, pp. 28–9. 116. Ibid., vol. 7, p. 423. 117. Ibid., vol. 12, p. 413. 118. Shaftesbury, The Life, p. 128.

2 Four Kinds of Sympathy 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28.

T. Hobbes, De Cive, ed. R. Tuck and M. Silverthorne (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 22. Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, vol. 1, pp. 254–5. Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, pp. 380, 369. M. Scheler, The Nature of Sympathy, trans. P. Heath (Hamden, CT: Archon, 1970), pp. 8, 12. Boltanski, Distant Suffering, p. 6. Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry, pp. 46, 38. Descartes, The Passions of the Soul, p. 120. Charleton, Natural History of the Passions, p. 103; Hobbes, Human Nature and De Corpore Politico, p. 42. Scheler, The Nature of Sympathy, p. 37. Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry, p. 44. Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, p. 388. H. Arendt, On Revolution (New York: Viking, 1990), pp. 70–1, quoted in Boltanski, Distant Suffering, p. 6. Scheler, The Nature of Sympathy, p. 94. Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, vol. 1, p. 142. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 253. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 256. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 181. Scheler, The Nature of Sympathy, p. 12; Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, p. 388. Descartes, Discourse on Method and Meditations on the First Philosophy and Meditations on the First Philosophy, p. 35. Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, vol. 1, pp. 254–5. Ibid., vol. 1, pp. 254–5, .257. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 314; J. Israel, Radical Enlightenment (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 623. Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, vol. 1, pp. 56, 310. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 4; Shaftesbury, The Life, p. 147. K. Digby, Of Bodies and Man’s Soul, 2 vols (London: John Williams, 1669), vol. 2, p. 3. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 180. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 180. H. M. Herwig, The Art of Curing Sympathetically (London: T. Narborough, 1700), p. 21. Digby, Of Bodies and Man’s Soul, vol. 2, p. 150.


Notes to pages 49–55

29. J. B. Van Helmont, A Ternary of Paradoxes, trans. W. Charleton (London: William Lee, 1650), paras 18, 28. 30. More, The Immortality of the Soul, p. 221. 31. Ibid., p. 263. 32. Ibid., p. 283. 33. Charleton, Natural History of the Passions, p. 81. 34. D’Holbach, The System of Nature, vol. 3, pp. 289, 298. 35. La Mettrie, Machine Man and other Writings, p. 71. 36. J. J. Rousseau, The Confessions, trans. J. M. Cohen (London: Penguin, 1953), p. 209; Marshall, The Surprising Effects of Sympathy, p. 172. 37. J. Swift, A Tale of a Tub, ed. A. C. Guthkelch and D. N. Smith (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958), p. 180. 38. Richardson, Clarissa, pp. 103, 174, 65. 39. J. Swift, Journal to Stella, ed. H. Williams, 2 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1948), pp. 162, 167. 40. Charleton, Natural History of the Passions, p. 107. 41. D. Hartley, Observations on Man, 2 vols (London and Gainsville, FL: Scholars’ Facsimiles and Reprints, 1966), vol. 1, p. 501. See J. Lamb, Sterne’s Fiction and the Double Principle (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp. 64–70. 42. L. Sterne, A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy, ed. M. New and W. G. Day (Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press, 2002), p. 25. 43. Ibid., p. 71. 44. Sterne, Tristram Shandy, p. 191. 45. Shaftesbury, Characteristics, vol. 1, p. 19. 46. T. Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (London: Hutchinson, n.d.), p. 86. 47. T. Smollett, The History and Adventures of an Atom, ed. O. M. Brack (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1989), p. 23. 48. Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, p. 94. 49. Ibid., p. 104. 50. Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, pp. 333–4. 51. Ibid., p. 351. 52. Ibid., p. 415. 53. Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, vol. 1, pp. 254, 258. 54. Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, pp. 230–1. 55. Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, p. 181. 56. H. Mackenzie, ‘Of Attachment to Inanimate Objects’, The Mirror, 61, in The Mirror, 3 vols (London: A. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1786), vol. 2, p. 204. See Lynch, ‘Personal Effects and Sentimental Fictions’. 57. H. Mackenzie, The Lounger, 3 vols (London: A. Strahan, and T. Cadell, 1788), vol. 3, p. 191. 58. Ibid., vol. 3, p. 193. 59. Sterne, A Sentimental Journey, pp. 95–6. 60. Ibid., pp. 104–5. 61. Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, p. 10. 62. D. Hume, The Natural History of Religion, ed. H. E. Root (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1956), p. 38; Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, p. 164. 63. Shaftesbury, The Life, p. 133.

Notes to pages 55–66


64. Marshall, The Figure of Theater, pp. 55–64; L. Klein, Shaftesbury and the Culture of Politeness (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 83–90. 65. Shaftesbury, The Life, p. 109. 66. Ibid., pp. 120, 126–7. 67. Ibid., pp. 114, 217. 68. Ibid., p. 137. 69. Locke, An Essay concerning Human Understanding, II.27.11, II.27.18, pp. 336–7, 342. 70. Heller-Roazen, The Inner Touch, p. 258. 71. Shaftesbury, The Life, p. 137. 72. Ibid., p. 154. 73. Ibid., p. 144. 74. Ibid., pp. 158 192, 127. 75. Ibid., pp. 115–16. 76. Ibid., p. 159. 77. Hutcheson, An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions, p. 107. 78. Ibid., pp. 23, 4. 79. Ibid., pp. 25, 31, 41, 46. 80. Ibid., pp. 83, 87, 132. 81. Ibid., p. 25. 82. Descartes, The Passions of the Soul, p. 100. 83. Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, vol. 1, p. 25. Shaftesbury, The Life, p. 191. 84. Cudworth, A Treatise of Freewill, p. 36. 85. Ibid., p. 36; More, The Immortality of the Soul, p. 129. 86. Charleton, Natural History of the Passions, pp. 32–3. 87. Sterne, A Sentimental Journey, p. 151. 88. More, The Immortality of the Soul, p. 126. 89. Sterne, A Sentimental Journey, pp. 374–6, n, p. 151. 90. Charleton, Natural History of the Passions, p. 86. 91. Shaftesbury, The Life, p. 192. 92. Shafesbury, Characteristics, vol. 1, p. 33. 93. Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, p. 113. 94. Shaftesbury, Characteristics, vol. 1, p. 94; Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, pp. 112, 111. 95. Ibid., pp. 44, 47. 96. Ibid., p. 113. 97. Shaftesbury, The Life, p. 133; Shaftesbury, Characteristics, vol. 1, p. 94. 98. Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, p. 316. 99. Ibid., p. 340. 100. Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry, pp. 46, 61. 101. Ibid., p. 47. 102. Ibid., p. 52. 103. Ibid., p. 46. 104. Sterne, A Sentimental Journey, p. 97. 105. Charleton, Natural History of the Passions, p. 67. 106. Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry, p. 47. 107. Shaftesbury, Characteristics, vol. 1, pp. 147, 153, 104. 108. Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, p. 254. 109. Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, p. 30.


Notes to pages 66–74

110. Ibid., pp. 215, 205. 111. Ibid., p. 107. 112. B. Williams, Shame and Necessity (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1994), p. 70. 113. More, The Immortality of the Soul, p. 135. 114. Shaftesbury, Characteristics, vol. 1, p. 100. 115. Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry, p. 52; Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, vol. 1, p. 253. 116. D. Hume, Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975), p. 234, cited in Marshall, The Figure of Theater, p. 179. 117. Marshall, The Figure of Theater, p. 192. 118. Sterne, Tristram Shandy, p. 234. 119. Scheler, The Nature of Sympathy, p. 37. 120. Sterne, Tristram Shandy, p. 459. 121. Ibid., p. 419. 122. M. Prince, ‘The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave’, in Gates, H.L., (ed.), Classic Slave Narratives, (Bergenfield, NJ: New American Library, 1987), p. 200. 123. P. Levi, The Drowned and the Saved, trans. R. Rosenthal (London: Abacus, 1989), p. 2. 124. Scheler, The Nature of Sympathy, pp. 22, 34, 33. 125. Hume, The Natural History of Religion, p. 42. 126. Abbé J. B. Du Bos, Reflexions critiques sur la poesie et sur la peinture, 3 vols (Paris: Pierre-Jean Marette, 1740), vol. 1, pp. 20–1, cited in Marshall, The Surprising Effects of Sympathy, p. 24. 127. D. Kilner, The Life and Perambulations of a Mouse (London: John Marshall, 1984), p. 53. 128. Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, pp. 205, 206, 28. 129. A. Ferguson, An Essay on the History of Civil Society (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1995), p. 92. 130. P. Lafitau, Moeurs des Savages Americains, 2 vols (Paris: Charles Hocherau, 1724), vol. 2, p. 172. 131. Milton, Paradise Lost, I.62. 132. Ferguson, An Essay on the History of Civil Society, p. 92. 133. J. Baillie, introduction, in A Series of Plays in which it is Attempted to Delineate the Stronger Passions of the Mind, 3 vols (London: T. Cadell, Jr. and W. Davies, 1798), vol. 1, p. 7. 134. Locke, An Essay concerning Human Understanding, II.27.19, II.27.8, II.27.15, II.27.17, pp. 342, 333, 340, 341. 135. Ibid., II.21.41, p. 258. 136. N. Luhmann, Love as Passion, trans. J. Gaines and D. Jones (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986), p. 62. 137. J. La Fontaine, The Loves of Cupid and Psyche, trans. J. Lockman (London: H. Chapelle, 1744), p. 255. 138. L. Apuleius, The Golden Ass, trans. W. Adlington (London: Golden Cockerel Press, 1923), pp. 111–12. 139. Ibid., pp. 103, 97. 140. F. Sheridan, Memoirs of Miss Sidney Bidulph, ed. P. Koester and J. C. Cleary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), pp. 270–6. 141. Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, p. 113.

Notes to pages 75–82


142. D. Defoe, Roxana; or, The Fortunate Mistress, ed. J. Jack (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981), pp. 203, 47. 143. W. Godwin, Caleb Williams, ed. D. McCracken (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), pp. 112, 118, 144. 144. Ibid., p. 183. 145. Ibid., pp. 247, 255, 262. 146. Ibid., p. 303. 147. Ibid., p. 334. 148. Sterne, A Sentimental Journey, p. 100.

3 Sympathy and Persons 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.



15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21.

22. 23. 24. 25.

Sterne, Tristram Shandy, p. 421. Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, p. 9. La Fontaine, The Loves of Cupid and Psyche, p. 175. Descartes, Discourse on Method and Meditations on the First Philosophy, p. 66. Hobbes, Human Nature and De Corpore Politico, p. 27. Hobbes, Leviathan, p. 113. Locke, An Essay concerning Human Understanding, II.1.19, p. 115. Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, vol. 1, p. 168. Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry, p. 61. Rousseau, The Social Contract and Discourses, p. 75. Hume, Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, p. 179. M. Hollis, ‘Of Masks and Men’, in M. Carrithers, S. Collins and S. Lukes, The Category of the Person (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 217–33, on p. 227; Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, p. 318. Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, pp. 254, 255, 259. See R. Martin, and J. Barresi, The Naturalisation of the Soul (London: Routledge, 2004), pp. 36–42. See also D. Wahrman, The Making of the Modern Self (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004), pp. 188–9. Hume, Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, pp. 318, 319–20. See A. Pinch, Strange Fits of Passion (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996), p. 35. See also Marshall, The Figure of Theater, p. 192. Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, p. 340. S. James, Passion and Action (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003), p. 197. Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, pp. 415, 397. Hobbes, Leviathan, p. 89. T. Hobbes, A Dialogue of the Common Laws of England, ed. J. Cropsey (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1971), p. 58. Hobbes, Leviathan, p. 112. See Q. Skinner, Visions of Politics, 3 vols (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), vol. 3, Hobbes and Civil Science; Hollis, ‘Of Masks and Men’; A. Momigliano, ‘Marcel Mauss and the Quest for the Person in Greek Biography and Autobiography’, in Carrithers et al. (eds), The Category of the Person, pp. 83–92. Hobbes, Leviathan, p. 16, cited in Kahn, Wayward Contracts, p. 139. Hobbes, Leviathan, p. 34. Ibid., p. 35. Locke, An Essay concerning Human Understanding, II.27.14, II.27.26, pp. 339, 346.


Notes to pages 82–93

26. J. Locke, Two Treatises of Government, ed. P. Laslett (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963), II.14.20, p. 318. 27. Locke, An Essay concerning Human Understanding, II.27.17, p. 341. 28. See Martin and Barresi, The Naturalisation of the Soul, p. 20. 29. Locke, An Essay concerning Human Understanding, II.27.13, p. 338. 30. Ibid., II.23.14, p. 305. 31. Ibid., II.27.12, II.27.24, pp. 337, 345. 32. Ibid., II.2.17–18, pp. 242–3. 33. Kahn, Wayward Contracts, pp. 19, 85. 34. Locke, An Essay concerning Human Understanding, II.27.14, p. 339. 35. Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, p. 313. 36. Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, pp. 44, 16. 37. Ibid., pp. 18, 21, 24, 71, 73, 109, 317. 38. Ibid., pp. 18–19, 109. 39. Ibid., pp. 190, 219, 270. 40. Ibid., p. 110. 41. Ibid., p. 121. 42. Defoe, Roxana, pp. 73, 201, 69. 43. Ibid., p. 73. 44. Marshall, The Figure of the Theater, p. 138. 45. E. Haywood, Love in Excess, ed. D. Oakleaf (Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 1994), p. 191. 46. Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, pp. 104, 206. 47. Ibid., p. 9. 48. Ibid., p. 317. 49. Ibid., p. 113. 50. Ibid., p. 317. 51. Richardson, Clarissa, pp. 974, 890. 52. Spinoza, Ethics, p. 88. 53. Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, vol. 1, p. 54. 54. Spinoza, Ethics, p. 143. 55. Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, vol. 1, pp. 39, 67. 56. Sterne, Tristram Shandy, p. 475. 57. Cudworth, A Treatise of Freewill, p. 36. 58. Ibid., p. 36. 59. S. Knapp, Personification and the Sublime (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985), p. 4. 60. J. Swift, The Art of Sinking in Poetry, in Swift’s Works, ed. J. Nichols, 24 vols (London: J. Johnson et al., 1803), vol. 23, p. 45. 61. Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry, pp. 50–1. 62. Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, p. 113. 63. Hume, The Natural History of Religion, pp. 26–7. 64. Pinch, Strange Fits of Passion, p. 45; Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, p. 164. 65. Pinch, Strange Fits of Passion, pp. 45, 48. 66. D. Hume, History of England, from the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Revolution of 1688, ed. W. B. Todd, 6 vols (Indianapolis, IN: Liberty, 1983), vol. 6, p. 105, cited in C. Wall, The Prose of Things (Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press, 2006), p. 227. 67. Wall, The Prose of Things, p. 227.

Notes to pages 93–102


68. J. Priestley, A Course of Lectures on Oratory and Criticism (London: J. Johnson, 1777), p. 266, cited in Pinch, Strange Fits of Passion, pp. 46–7. 69. Locke, An Essay concerning Human Understanding, II.21.17, p. 242; Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, p. 113. 70. J. Donaldson, The Elements of Beauty (Edinburgh: Charles Elliot; London: T. Cadell, 1780), p. 48, cited in Pinch, Strange Fits of Passion, p. 47. 71. Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, pp. 154, 162. 72. Ibid., pp. 51, 264. 73. Ibid., p. 196. 74. Ibid., p. 271. 75. Ibid., p. 275. 76. Ibid., p. 241. 77. Ibid., pp. 252, 254. 78. Ibid., p. 250. 79. More, The Immortality of the Soul pp. 15, 283–360. 80. Charleton, Natural History of the Passions, p. 86. 81. Ibid., p. 106. 82. Apuleius, The Golden Ass, pp. 97–8. 83. Hume, The Natural History of Religion, p. 42. 84. Shaftesbury, The Life, p. 256. 85. Shaftesbury, Characteristics, vol. 1, pp. 155, 167, 148. 86. Shaftesbury, The Life, p. 147. 87. Ibid., p. 158. 88. Ibid., p. 112. 89. A. C. Baier, Postures of the Mind (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1985), pp. 85–6. 90. A. C. Baier, A Progress of Sentiments (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991), p. 188. 91. W. Scott, Old Mortality, ed. A. Calder (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1975), p. 378. 92. Shaftesbury, The Life, pp. 158, 201. 93. Ibid., pp. 241, 202; Marshall, The Figure of Theater, pp. 55–60. 94. Apuleius, The Golden Ass, p. 103. 95. Marshall, The Figure of Theater, pp. 60, 55. 96. Ibid., p. 46. 97. Shaftesbury, The Life, p. 203. 98. Ibid., p. 241. 99. Ibid., p. 158. 100. Ibid., p. 158. 101. Marshall, The Figure of Theater, p. 55. 102. T. Nagel, Mortal Questions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), pp. 165– 80. 103. Ibid., p. 172. 104. Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, p. 317. 105. Ibid., p. 71. 106. Ibid., p. 13. 107. Ibid., p. 317. 108. Ibid., p. 13.


Notes to pages 102–11

109. Homer, The Odyssey, trans. G. Chapman (New York: Paul Dry, 2000), VIII.708–19, pp. 146–7. 110. J. M. Coetzee, The Lives of Animals (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999), in J. M. Coetzee, Elizabeth Costello (New York: Viking, 2003), pp. 80, 76–7. 111. J. M. Coetzee, ‘What is Realism?’, Salmagundi, 114–15 (Spring–Summer 1997), pp. 60–80, in Elizabeth Costello, pp. 19, 62, 77.

4 Horrid Sympathy 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27.

J. Conrad, The Secret Agent (New York: Doubleday, 1921), p. 170. J. H. St J. de Crevecoeur, More Letters from the American Farmer, ed. D. D. Moore (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1995), p. 100. C. Darwin, The Descent of Man, 2 vols (London: John Murray, 1871), vol. 2, p. 389. K. Thomas, Man and the Natural World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), p. 176. J. La Fontaine, The Fables of La Fontaine, trans. W. Thornbury (London: Cassel, n.d.), p. 688. J. Gay, Poetry and Prose, ed. Vincent A. Dearing, 2 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974), vol. 2, p. 335. J. Collier, The Art of Ingeniously Tormenting, ed. A. Bilger (Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 2003), p. 130. J. Locke, Aesop’s Fables in English and Latin (London: A & J Churchill, 1703). S. Richardson, Aesop’s Fables (London: T. and T. Longman, 1756), p. ix. J. J. Rousseau, Emile, or Education, trans. B. Foxley (London: Dent, 1928), p. 80. Ibid., p. 84. A. H. de La Motte, One Hundred New Court Fables (London: E. Curll, 1721), p. 18. S. Johnson, Lives of the Poets, 4 vols (London: J. Rivington et al., 1791), vol. 3, p. 129. J. Henderson, Aesop’s Human Zoo: Roman Stories about our Bodies (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press 2004), pp. 57–8. Gay, Poetry and Prose, vol. 2, p. 315. J. Swift, The Poems of Jonathan Swift, ed. H. Williams, 3 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958), vol. 2, p. 607. Ibid., vol. 1, pp. 180, 244. W. Cobbett, Parliamentary History, 36 vols (London: Hansard, 1817), vol. 36, pp. 851, 845. J. Banks, The Scientific Correspondence of Sir Joseph Banks 1765–1820, ed. N. Chambers, 6 vols (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2007), vol. 6, p. 200. Ibid., vol. 6, p. 203. Ibid., vol. 6, p. 203. Cobbett, Parliamentary History, vol. 36, p. 829. T. Marryott, Sentimental Fables (Belfast: T. Marryott, 1771), p. 75. C. Hoyle, ‘Ode to Humanity’, in T. Young, An Essay on Humanity to Animals (London: Thomas Cadell, 1798), pp. vii–viii. Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, vol. 1, p. 254. Spinoza, Ethics, p. 164. D. Hume, ‘Of the Immortality of the Soul’, in Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary, ed. E. Millar (Indianapolis, IN: Liberty, 1985), pp. 597–8.

Notes to pages 111–24


28. J. V. Douthwaite, The Wild Girl, Natural Man and the Monster: Dangerious Experiments in the Age of Enlightenment (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2002). 29. ‘Nature proceeds by unseen steps, and as a result she cannot conform to those [Linnaean] divisions, for she moves from one species to another, and often from one genus to another, by imperceptible degrees, in such a way that a great number of hybrids and nondescripts emerge, and these inevitably disturb the project of a universal system’, G. L. Leclerc, comte de Buffon, and L. J. M. Daubenton, Histoire Naturelle, 15 vols (Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1750–67), vol. 1, p. 13. 30. Banks, The Scientific Correspondence, vol. 2, pp. 214, 248. 31. Buffon and Daubenton, Histoire Naturelle, vol. 1, p. 8. 32. ‘Can one really doubt that animals constructed along the same lines as ourselves feel the same sensations? Pity is less a passion of the soul than a natural affection, which depends upon the sensibility of bodies and the resemblance between them’, ibid., vol. 7, pp. 8, 7. 33. C. Darwin, The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals (London: John Murray, 1904), p. 46. 34. Darwin, The Descent of Man, vol. 1, p. 77. 35. W. Sales, Theophania or, Severall Modern Histories Represented by Way of Romance and Politickly Discours’d Upon (London: T. Heath, 1655), pp. 36–7, cited in Kahn, Wayward Contracts, p. 247. 36. Milton, Paradise Lost, X.538–41. 37. Baillie, Orra, IV.4, in A Series of Plays. 38. Baillie, The Martyrs, III.3, in A Series of Plays. 39. Godwin, Caleb Williams, pp. 247, 255, 262. 40. W. Godwin, Fleetwood: or, The New Man of Feeling, ed. G. Handwerk and A. A. Markley (Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 2001), pp. 387–8. See Marshall, The Surprising Effects of Sympathy, p. 210. 41. Scheler, The Nature of Sympathy, p. 18. 42. H. Melville, ‘The Encantadas’, in The Works of Herman Melville, 10 vols (London: Constable, 1923), vol. 10, pp. 181–252, on p. 186. 43. Ibid., vol. 10, p. 235. 44. H. Melville, Moby Dick: or, The Whale (London: Everyman, 1946), pp. 324, 294. 45. Ibid., p. 324. 46. J. Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, ed. C. Rawson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 123–4. 47. Ibid., pp. 267–8. 48. Ibid., p. 121. 49. Ibid., p. 37. 50. Ibid., p. 125. 51. Ibid., p. 240. 52. Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry, p. 44. 53. Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, p. 264. 54. Ibid., p. 222. 55. Ibid., p. 11. 56. Lucretius, De Rerum Natura [On the Nature of Things], trans. W. H. D. Rouse (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992), V.890–1, p. 440. 57. Locke, An Essay concerning Human Understanding, V.22–5.23, p. 374. 58. Coetzee, Elizabeth Costello, p. 80. 59. Ibid., p. 114.


Notes to pages 124–32

60. C. Diamond, ‘The Difficulty of Reality and the Difficulty of Philosophy’, in S. Cavell, C. Diamond, J. McDowell, I. Hacking and C. Wolfe, Philosophy and Animal Life (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), pp. 43–90, on p. 51. 61. Coetzee, Elizabeth Costello, p. 79. 62. Ibid., p. 66. 63. Ibid., pp. 88–9. 64. Diamond, ‘The Difficulty of Reality’, p. 62. 65. Hume, The Natural History of Religion, p. 42. 66. Diamond, ‘The Difficulty of Reality’, pp. 44, 61. 67. Coetzee, Elizabeth Costello, p. 71; Diamond, ‘The Difficulty of Reality, p. 47. 68. Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, pp. 258–9. 69. Coetzee, Elizabeth Costello, pp. 113, 114; Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, p. 268. 70. Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, pp. 272, 273, 276. 71. Ibid., p. 277. 72. Coetzee, Elizabeth Costello, p. 125. 73. Ibid., p. 228. 74. Ibid., p. 228. 75. D. Defoe, A Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain, ed. P. N. Furbank and W. R. Owens (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991), p. 220; Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, p. 89; Defoe, Roxana, p. 313. 76. Coetzee, Elizabeth Costello, p. 229. 77. Ibid., p. 228. 78. D. Haraway, The Companion Species Manifesto (Chicago, IL: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2003), p. 27.

5 Sympathy for the Dead 1.

W. Owen, ‘Insensibility’, in Wilfred Owen; The War Poems, ed. J. Stallworthy (London: Chatto & Windus, 1994), p. 33. 2. Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry, p. 47. 3. Longinus, On the Sublime, p. 65. 4. Hume, Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary, pp. 223–4, cited in M. S. Phillips, ‘Relocating Inwardness: Historical Distance and the Transition from Enlightenment to Romantic Historiography’, PMLA, 18:3 (2003), pp. 436–49, on p. 442. 5. Gentleman’s Magazine, 59:2 (1789), p. 1100, cited in J. Lewis, ‘“The Sorrow of Seeing the Queen”: Mary Queen of Scots and the British History of Sensibility’, in M. Novak and A. Mellors (eds), Passionate Encounters in a Time of Sensibility (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2000), pp. 193–220, on p. 194. 6. H. Home, Lord Kames, Elements of Criticism, 2 vols (Edinburgh: A. Millar; London: A. Kincaid & J. Bell, 1765), p. 347, cited in Phillips, ‘Relocating Inwardness’, p. 445. 7. Cited in Phillips, ‘Relocating Inwardness’, p. 446. 8. B. Croce, Theory and History of Historiography, trans. D. Ainslie (London: George G. Harrap, 1921), pp. 134–5, cited in R. G. Collingwood, The Idea of History, ed. J. van der Dussen (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), p. 199. See also B. Croce, History as the Story of Liberty, trans. S. Sprigge (Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Press, 2000). 9. Collingwood, The Idea of History, p. 297. 10. E. Hobsbawn, cited in I. Clendinnen, ‘The History Question: Who Owns the Past’, Quarterly Essay, 26 (2006), p. 64.

Notes to pages 132–47


11. Clendinnen, ‘The History Question’, p. 20. 12. J. Austen, Northanger Abbey, ed. J. Kinsley and J. Davie (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 79. 13. Ibid., p. 102. 14. Ibid., p. 79. 15. Kames, Elements of Criticism, p. 347; cited in Phillips, ‘Relocating Inwardness’, p. 445. 16. Austen, Northanger Abbey, pp. 25–6. 17. A. Johnson, ‘Big Brother Bad for Health of Housemates’, Independent, 20 June 2004, p. 9. 18. H. Eyre, in Independent, 10 June 2004, p. 9. 19. Spinoza, Ethics, pp. 83, 146. 20. G. Dening, Performances (Melbourne: University of Melbourne Press, 1996), p. 36. 21. W. G. Sebald, On the Natural History of Destruction, trans. A. Bell (London: Hamish Hamilton, 2003), p. 158. 22. Smith, The Theory of Moral of Sentiments, p. 317. 23. Collingwood, The Idea of History, p. 297. 24. Ibid., p. 296. 25. Owen, ‘Mental Cases’, in Wilfred Owen: The War Poems, p. 56. 26. New York Review of Books, 18 November 2004, p. 9. 27. T. Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998), p. 8. 28. Ibid., p. 388. 29. D. Defoe, The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, 3 vols (London: Basil Blackwell, 1927), vol. 2, p. 112. 30. W. G. Sebald, Campo Santo (New York: Random House, 2005), pp. 89–90.

Conclusion 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

6. 7. 8.

Marshall, The Figure of Theater, p. 55. J. Dunton, A Voyage round the World; or, A Pocket Library, 3 vols (London: Richard Newcombe, 1691), vol. 2, pp. 7, 23. H. Mackenzie, Letters to Elizabeth Rose of Kilravock, ed. H. Drescher (London: Oliver and Boyd, 1967), pp. 51–2. Milton, Paradise Lost, III.95–8. B. Balleine and A. Dickinson, ‘The Interface between Affect and Cognition’, in J. Cornwell (ed.), Consciousness and Human Identity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 57–85, on p. 58. C. Gallagher, ‘The Rise of Fictionality’, in F. Moretti (ed.), The Novel, 2 vols (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), vol. 1, pp. 336–63. S. Johnson, Rambler, 4 (31 March 1750), in The Rambler, ed. W. J. Bate and A. B. Strauss, 3 vols (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1969), vol. 1, pp. 19–25. Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, p. 277.


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Actaeon, 73, 127 Addison and Steele, 55 Aesop, 106, 108, 121, 126 ‘The Camel and the Driftwood’, 108 aesthetics, 2, 17, 34, 35, 37, 63, 91, 100, 118 affection, 4, 22, 23, 26, 27, 39, 45, 48, 49, 53, 55, 57, 58, 59, 62, 64, 66, 67, 72, 78, 93, 113, 144 allegory, 8, 92, 95, 107, 120, 127, 147 alteration, 3, 9, 11, 17, 31, 57, 60, 66, 86, 96, 107, 110, 111, 127 amputation, 4, 6, 56, 57, 60, 72, 74, 110 Ancien Régime, 15, 16 Ancients and Moderns, 119 animals god-animal, 116 human-animal, 109, 110, 121 world-animal, 49, 51 animal spirits, 19, 20, 51 animate objects, 3, 70, 110, 145 annihilation, 31, 35, 37, 91, 111 anthropomorphism, 10, 13, 43 anxiety, 6, 41, 45, 46, 55, 94 Apuleius, Lucius, 3, 25, 70, 73, 78, 93, 96, 97, 113 Cupid and Psyche, 3, 73–4, 78, 96, 115, 145 The Golden Ass, 3, 73, 106, 113 Arbuthnot, John, 112 Arendt, Hannah, 43 Aristotle, 3, 24, 72, 134 De Anima, 24 Aristophanes, 46, 76 artefacts, 59, 90, 92, 149 artifice, 33, 80, 90

artificial, 4, 5, 6, 15, 54, 80, 81, 82, 90, 91, 136, 142, 146 man, 4, 5, 6, 15, 80, 81, 91 person, 4, 5, 80, 81, 82, 146 self, 142 association, 33, 51, 55, 89, 105 atoms, 10, 18, 25, 48, 52 Aurelius, Marcus, 106, 112 Auschwitz, 69, 125, 148 Austen, Jane, 133 Northanger Abbey, 133–4 authors, 4, 6, 22, 29, 30, 50, 59, 68, 80, 81, 84, 98, 99, 100, 142, 143, 147 authority, 1, 19, 37, 73, 76, 80, 84, 94, 140 authorization, 4, 6, 16, 81, 93, 135, 140 autonomy, 3, 14, 22, 24, 26, 43, 88, 92, 95, 140, 144 aversion, 4, 23, 26, 49, 66, 85, 91 Bacon, Francis, 24, 25, 49, 84, 127 Historia Sympathiae et Antipathiae, 49 Baier, Annette, 98 Baillie, Joanna, 72, 114, 115 The Martyrs, 114 Orra, 114 Balleine, Bernard, 145 Banks, Joseph, 11, 109, 111, 112, 113 Barrell, John, 36, 37 Becket, Thomas, 132, 138 being, act or state of, 2, 14, 19, 89, 98, 99, 102, 103, 114, 131, 135, 137, 145 belief, 6, 7, 14, 17, 18, 21, 22, 23, 25, 31, 34, 35, 44, 47, 49, 51, 64, 67, 69, 72, 78, 79, 84, 88, 92, 95, 96, 100, 101, 111, 113, 115, 118, 122, 123, 124, 130, 132, 141, 142, 148

– 175 –



benevolence, 42, 44, 57, 58, 63, 95 Bentham, Jeremy, 124 Big Brother, 136 blood, 19, 20, 27, 45, 48, 52, 60, 68, 109, 117, 131 body, 6, 14, 19, 21, 23, 24, 25, 38, 46, 48, 49, 53, 56, 72, 78, 80, 81, 84, 86, 96, 97, 99, 106, 110, 123, 126, 136, 142 Bolingbroke, Henry St John, Lord, 58 Boltanski, Luc, 37, 41, 42 Bougainville, Louis Antoine de, 111 Britain, 16, 18, 122, 133 Brobdingnag, 117, 118, 119, 123 Brunton, Mary, 67 Self-Control, 67 Buckingham, John Sheffield, Duke of, 91 The Rehearsal, 91 Buffon, Georges Louis Leclerc, comte de, 11, 22, 111, 112, 113 Histoire Naturelle, 112 Burke, Edmund, 7, 9, 16, 18, 34–9, 42, 62–4, 65, 78, 79, 91, 113, 120–1, 128, 129, 134, 137 Philosophical Enquiry, 7, 34 Reflections on the Revolution in France, 34, 36 Burnet, James, Lord Monboddo, 111, 112 Burns, Ken, 133

character, 5, 8, 9, 11, 15, 22, 28, 29, 30, 52, 55, 61, 64, 65, 66, 68, 69, 77, 80, 85, 87, 91, 92, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 123, 138, 147, 148 charity, 1, 16, 43, 44, 45, 50, 54, 63, 87 Charles I of England, 16, 131 Eikon Basilike, 16, 30, 36 Charleton, Walter, 24, 42, 49, 51, 58, 59, 60, 64, 73, 96, 142, 146 Chartres, Philippe Charles d’Orléans, duc de, 19–20, 37 chastity, 10, 32, 143 children, 41, 44, 45, 46, 47, 53, 60, 64, 70, 106, 107, 116, 135 Christianity, 1, 43, 44, 114 citizen, 14, 16, 80, 100 civil society, 6, 7, 8, 15, 30, 31, 33, 34, 37, 47, 80, 82, 83, 84, 88, 92, 95, 103, 130, 143, 147 Clarendon, Edward Hyde, Earl of, 92, 131, 134 Clendinnen, Inga, 132 Coetzee, J. M., 102, 123, 124, 127 ‘The Lives of Animals’, 102, 123–5 ‘Postscript’, 127–8 cognition, 18, 37, 51, 90, 95, 139, 144, 145, 146, 147 Collier, Jane, 106, 107 The Art of Ingeniously Tormenting, 106 Collingwood, R. G., 132, 134, 138, 139–40 Cambridge Platonists, 4, 96 commedia dell’arte, 33, 64 Campanella, Tommaso, 24, 25, 49, 51, 85 commerce, 17, 39, 44, 57, 92 Camper, Peter, 113 commiseration, 24, 41, 42, 45, 68, 69 Discours sur the moyen de representer les commonwealth, 4, 16, 26, 28, 32, 78, 80, 81, diverses passions, 113 91, 114 caprice, 17, 148 community, 8, 27, 32, 95, 97, 98, 122, 137 Carroll, Lewis, 108 compassion, 6, 7, 14, 15, 16, 32, 41, 42, 43, The Walrus and the Carpenter, 108 44, 45, 46, 47, 57, 58, 71, 78, 101, 107, Cartesianism, 2, 4, 5, 6, 17, 18, 21, 22, 23, 109, 110, 116, 134 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31, 33, 38, 39, 44, Condillac, Etienne Bonnot de, 111 46, 47, 49, 59, 65, 66, 73, 78, 83, 84, 88, consciousness, 3, 5, 14, 22, 24, 25, 28, 29, 31, 89, 90, 95, 106, 110, 141, 142, 147 37, 38, 42, 49, 59, 67, 70, 77, 79, 82, anti-Cartesianism, 49, 106 90, 91, 92, 99, 100, 101, 125, 127, 130, ex-Cartesianism, 2 145, 149 neo-Cartesianism, 18 self-consciousness, 5, 28, 37 post-Cartesianism, 21 consensus, 17, 43, 88 Cato’s Letters, 148 consent, 48, 49, 80, 82, 95, 130 contagion, 46, 70, 127, 128 Chapman, George, 103

Index continuity, 7, 9, 20, 25, 28, 37, 65, 82, 88, 93, 98, 132, 135, 142 contract, 7, 8, 16, 26, 30, 33, 34, 48, 50, 80, 84, 91, 94, 95, 97, 130, 146, 147 original contract, 7, 33, 34, 80, 130 Cook, James, 111, 135 creatures, 9, 11, 13, 32, 47, 54, 62, 64, 71, 76, 96, 100, 105, 107, 111, 116, 118, 146, 149 credit, 2, 3, 17, 92, 148 Crevecoeur, J. Hector St John de, 105 Croce, Benedetto, 132, 134, 138 Cromwell, Oliver, 92–3 cruelty, 16, 45, 52, 62, 70, 71, 72, 86, 102, 108, 109, 119 Cruikshank, George, 110 ‘The Voice of Humanity’, 110 Cudworth, Ralph, 4, 8, 21, 22, 23, 24, 58, 59, 90, 96 cult, 14, 36, 73, 82, 97 culture, 1, 11, 16, 31, 47, 65, 79, 106, 125, 137 Cupid, 3, 73, 74, 93, 96, 97, 98, 108, 115, 116, 145, 146 custom, 20, 33, 34, 43, 45, 51, 63, 72, 79, 130 Dallaire, Romeo, 139 Darwin, Charles, 11, 110, 111, 112, 113, 116 Descent of Man, 113 Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals, 113 natural selection, 11 Origin of Species, 11 D’Holbach, Baron Paul Henri Thiry, 25, 26, 49, 52, 63 De Loutherbourg, Philippe Jacques, 131 De Sade, marquis, 111 death, 2, 3, 16, 22, 26, 35, 36, 58, 59, 60, 66, 71, 72, 74, 75, 90, 93, 98, 100, 101, 102, 103, 110, 111, 114, 115, 125, 127, 129, 130, 131, 132, 138, 139, 140, 145, 148, 149 death song, 71, 72 debt, 17, 105 Defoe, Daniel, 8, 25, 85, 94, 96, 123, 127 Robinson Crusoe, 8, 85, 94–6, 123, 130 Roxana, 9, 25, 74, 85, 86, 88, 90, 100, 145, 147


deity, 34, 63, 92, 97, 125, 148 delight, 4, 7, 15, 20, 23, 26, 35, 36, 42, 44, 62, 63, 65, 69, 86, 92, 100, 134 self-delight, 4, 23, 44 sublime delight, 7, 35, 91 delusion, 15, 23, 24, 120 self-delusion, 120 democratization, 38 Demoducus, 102, 129–30, 139 Dening, Greg, 137 deodand, 53, 86 Descartes, Rene, 2–4, 14, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 26, 27, 30, 31, 33, 34, 37, 38, 42, 44, 45, 46, 49, 55, 57, 58, 59, 64, 65, 72, 77, 78, 83, 88, 90, 95, 105, 106, 113, 141, 142, 143, 144 The Passions of the Soul, 3, 19, 21 Deller, Jeremy, 137, 138 The Battle of Orgreave, 137 Memory Bucket, 138 desire, 4, 15, 17, 23, 24, 26, 30, 31, 32, 37, 41, 49, 50, 58, 59, 72, 73, 75, 76, 78, 85, 92, 96, 97, 99, 100, 115, 116, 122, 124, 126, 133, 134, 139, 146 despair, 67, 69, 90, 94, 97, 99 Diamond, Cora, 124, 125, 130, 145 Dickinson, Anthony, 145 Digby, Kenelm, 47, 48, 50 discontinuity, 5, 62, 65, 100 disinterestedness, 9, 23, 41, 44, 58, 59, 101 disorder, 23, 61, 66, 70, 97, 125, 136 distress, 16, 41, 54, 58, 63, 70, 113, 127, 128, 134 divinity, 2, 7, 15, 90, 97, 102, 141 Don Quixote, 26, 81, 84, 87 Donaldson, John, 93 Douthwaite, Julia, 111 Dunton, John, 100, 143, 147 Voyage round the World, 100, 143, 147 drama, 1, 4, 7, 9, 14, 19, 20, 29, 31, 36, 55, 64, 65, 66, 67, 78, 88, 90, 116, 127, 131, 133, 135, 146 Dryden, John, 91 Du Bos, Jean Baptiste, 70 Eagleton, Terry, 16 Eco, Umberto, 48 education, 32, 92, 111, 119



ego, 56, 59, 100 embodiment, 7, 15, 27, 70, 72, 96, 103, 124, 127 emotion, 6, 11, 15, 16, 26, 27, 36, 38, 42, 53, 60, 61, 70, 71, 75, 92, 93, 101, 105, 113, 120, 128, 129, 131, 136, 144, 145 empathy, 41 empire, 86 empiricism, 5, 6, 9, 13, 18, 22–3, 25, 26, 36, 37, 38, 39, 46, 78, 88, 90, 94–5, 99–100, 103, 120, 123, 124, 126, 127, 130, 142, 145, 146 energy, 15, 16, 26, 31, 125, 126, 130 England, 1, 15, 21, 43, 69, 84, 92, 112, 118, 126, 131, 137 ephemeron, 25 Epicureanism, 18, 24, 48, 139 evil, 10, 22, 23, 26, 27, 32 evolution, 2, 18, 46, 72, 103 execution, 16, 36, 63, 72, 109, 119, 129, 131, 137 fable, 2, 6, 31, 32, 37, 38, 44, 47, 59, 106–8, 117, 121, 122, 123, 135, 143 faculties, 6, 8, 18, 21, 25, 27, 31, 34, 35, 48, 53, 77, 83, 84, 87, 88, 93, 96, 110, 124, 142 fame, 98 fancy, 5, 6, 18, 21, 22, 29, 37, 38, 48, 57, 67, 72, 78, 84, 93, 96, 101, 102, 110, 116, 118, 134, 137, 140 fear, 6, 9, 15, 17, 25, 26, 32, 36, 42, 46, 52, 55, 93, 94, 95, 100, 111, 114, 130, 145 Ferguson, Adam, 71, 137 fiction, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 23, 28, 33, 51, 62, 65, 68, 69, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 87, 88, 89, 94, 95, 96, 99, 100, 101, 103, 105, 107, 111, 122, 123, 130, 133, 134, 142, 146, 147, 148, 149 fortune, 4, 9, 10, 15, 20, 21, 42, 44, 51, 53, 53, 63, 66, 67, 70, 73, 86, 88, 90, 103, 126, 145, 148 France, 15, 16, 17, 18, 25, 34, 36, 43, 52, 60, 64, 67, 107 French Revolution, 1, 16, 34, 35, 36 Louis XIV, 19–21, 31 Louis XVI, 36 Frankenstein, 116

Gallagher, Catherine, 146 Gassendi, 24 Gay, John, 106, 107, 108, 137 The Beggar’s Opera, 108, 137 générosité, 20, 23, 47 generosity, 11 genocide, 139 genre, 9, 10, 23, 69, 84, 108, 112, 147 George III of England, 36 Germany, 14, 16 ghosts, 48, 56, 64, 81, 95, 96, 105, 114, 126 Gibbon, Edward, 11 Gildon Charles, 25 The Golden Spy, 25 Glorious Revolution, 17 gloriation of mind, 6, 26 God, 4, 20, 21, 30, 34, 35, 55, 63, 69, 95, 114, 124, 144 gods, 2, 13, 31, 55, 57, 61, 63, 70, 73, 74, 92, 95, 97, 100, 116, 119, 131, 145, 148 Godwin, William, 38, 75–6, 115, 135, 147 Caleb Williams, 38, 75–6, 115, 135, 147 Fleetwood, 38, 115, 146 Goldsmith, Oliver, 15 The Vicar of Wakefield, 15 Gothic, 114, 115, 133 grief, 3, 8, 15, 19, 20, 21, 44, 58, 59, 85, 87, 86, 88, 95, 108 guilt, 4, 55, 56, 66, 73, 86 Gustav III of Sweden, 140 happiness, 10, 11, 27, 41, 58–9, 72, 134, 137 Haraway, Donna, 128 harmony, 39, 44, 51, 67, 84, 90, 113, 122 Hartley, David, 51, 60 Observations on Man, 51 hatred, 15, 19, 26, 53, 75, 100, 115 Haywood, Eliza, 86, 147 Love in Excess, 86, 147 Hazlitt, William, 38–9, 77 On the Principles of Human Action, 38 Hector, 129 Hegemonicon, 8, 21, 22, 23, 24, 62, 66, 73, 90, 96 Heller-Roazen, Daniel, 56 Henderson, John, 108 Henry VIII of England, 30

Index Herbert, Percy, 16 The Princess Gloria, 16 heroes, 15, 72, 81, 85, 86, 91, 94, 117, 130, 139, 146 heroines, 9, 67, 70, 86, 100, 114, 133, 147 Herwig, H. M., 48 hierarchy, 11, 30, 43 Hill, Richard, 109 history, 7, 8, 14, 16, 19, 28, 36, 43, 49, 52, 73, 77, 80, 82, 83, 84, 92, 98, 101, 130, 131–3, 134, 135, 136, 137, 140, 141, 143, 144, 147, 148, 149 of the novel, 8, 103 of the passions, 43, 73, 92 of religion, 92 of the self, 28, 82, 91 of sensations, 77 of sympathy, 8, 43, 49 natural history, 19, 112–13 Hobbes, Thomas, 4, 6, 14–15, 26, 30, 33, 42, 80–1, 130, 142 Leviathan, 6 Hobsbawm, Eric, 132 Hodge, Robert Lee, 139–40 Hofmannsthal, Hugo von, 127 Hogarth, William, 108 Four Stages of Cruelty, 108 Holland, R. E., 124 Hollis, Martin, 79 Holocaust, 69, 145 Home, Henry, Lord Kames, 131, 134 Homer, 129, 130 Horwitz, Tony, 139 Confederates in the Attic, 139–40 Houyhnhnms, 119–21, 122, 126 Howel, James, 48 Hoyle, Charles, 110 Hughes, Ted, 125 Hume, David, 2, 5, 7, 10, 17–18, 24, 25, 33–4, 36, 63, 67, 70, 79, 87, 111, 125, 131, 134 History of England, 92–3, 131 Treatise of Human Nature, 53–4 humanity, 109–11, 128 Hutcheson, Francis, 3–4, 26–7, 49, 57, 58–9, 134, 137, 141, 144 An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions, 22–3


idols, 34, 81, 97 images, 19, 25, 28, 61 imagination, 21, 26, 78, 93 injustice, 16, 66, 69, 71 ink of sympathy, 50, 98, 100 inner excitation, 20 irony, 4, 46, 57, 61, 69, 98, 123, 124, 142, 143 soft irony, 57, 61, 142 irrationality, 9, 17, 54, 115 James I of England, 30 James, Susan, 79 je ne sais quoi, 2, 6, 17 Jefferson, Thomas, 111 Job, 22, 35, 69 Johnson, Samuel, 90, 107, 112, 130, 146 Life of Gay, 107 Rambler, 146 The Vanity of Human Wishes, 90 joy, 3, 9, 20, 21, 22, 23, 36, 44, 59, 60, 61, 66, 85, 86, 90, 95, 97, 98, 127, 143 justice, 29, 64, 75, 80, 125, 146 Kafka, Franz, 123 ‘Report to an Academy’, 123 Kahn, Victoria, 7–8, 15, 16, 21, 84, 95, 130 Kant, Immanuel, 37 Keate, George, 106 Kilner, Dorothy, 70, 109 The Life and Perambulations of a Mouse, 70, 109 Kirkman, Francis, 100 The Unlucky Citizen, 100 Klein Lawrence, 55 Kluger, Ruth, 125 Knapp Steven, 160 Knight, Thomas, 109 knowledge, 5, 9, 13, 16, 18, 34, 39, 41, 42, 51, 55, 62, 63, 67, 79, 80, 83, 89–90, 92, 96, 102, 103, 123, 132, 137, 144, 145, 146 La Fontaine, Jean, 6, 73, 78, 106, 107, 108, 112 La Mettrie, Julien Offrey de, 25, 26, 49 La Motte, Antoine Houdart de, 107 Lamarck, Jean Baptiste de Monet de, 11



language, 16, 36, 37, 50, 54, 75, 112, 118, 119, 121, 123, 127, 128, 129 Laputa, 118, 119, 120 law, 4, 10, 11, 36, 47, 53, 63, 78, 81, 82, 95, 103, 119, 126, 147 Leibniz, Gottfried, 71 Lennox, Charlotte, 147 The Female Quixote, 9, 147 Levi, Primo, 69 likeness, 24, 47, 97, 101, 118, 119, 120, 124, 126 Lilliput, 118, 119, 120 Linnaeus, Carolus, 111, 112, 141 Locke, John, 5–6, 26–7, 82–4, 142 Essay concerning Human Understanding, 56, 72, 110 fables, 107 Longinus, 2, 34, 35, 37, 128, 129, 130 love, 4, 9, 10, 15, 16, 19, 20, 22, 26, 27, 31, 32, 41, 43, 44, 45, 53, 54, 62, 67, 71, 73–4, 78, 81, 86, 87, 93, 96, 97, 100, 108, 115, 116, 117, 121, 145, 147 self-love, 4, 10, 20, 26, 31, 44, 45, 58, 67 Lucretius, 25, 48, 49, 52, 63, 65, 123 Luhmann, Niklas, 73 madness, 26, 70, 86, 97, 106, 115 Machiavelli, Niccolo, 21, 55, 106 L’Asino d’oro, 106 The Prince, 106 machines, 19, 31, 46, 51, 55, 56, 57, 59, 75, 106, 117, 120, 131 Mackenzie, Henry, 54, 56, 106, 143 Lounge, 54 The Mirror, 54 Malthus, Thomas, 10, 11, 112 Mandeville, Bernard, 2, 6–7, 10–11, 30, 37, 87, 129, 134, 136, 142, 143 The Fable of the Bees, 31–2, 37, 41, 44–7, 59, 106, 110, 135, 146 Manichean, 97 manners, 32, 44, 65, 72 marriage, 48, 74, 97, 114, 119 Marryott, Thomas, 110 Marshall, David, 22, 55, 68, 86, 98, 99, 142 Marvell, Andrew, 70 The Garden, 69 Mary, Queen of Scots, 131, 133

materialism, 21, 24, 25–6, 48, 50 Melville, Herman, 116 Encantadas, 116 Moby Dick, 116–17 Metamorphoses see Ovid Mill, John Stuart, 131–2 Milton Paradise Lost, 36, 71, 114, 144 Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, 16 mind-body, 100–2, 124 miracle, 124–5 mirror, 20, 24, 61, 86, 117, 144 Shaftesbury’s vocal looking-glass, 50, 61, 100 Monboddo see Burnet, James Montesquieu, Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de, 111 More, Henry, 21–2, 49, 66–7, 96, 146 Nagel, Thomas, 100–1, 138, 145 Oedipus, 4, 66, 73 Orwell, George, 71 Otway, Thomas, 66 Ovid, 114 Metamorphoses, 111, 124, 126, 127 Owen, Wilfred, 139 panpsychism, 25 passion, 6, 10, 13–14, 16–18, 20, 31, 33, 43, 64, 65, 89, 93–4, 126, 141 perception, 24–5 person, 4–5, 8, 19, 22, 28–30, 61, 65, 67, 77–88, 91, 115, 129, 138, 144 artificial, 4, 91 natural, 4 personation, 28 personification, 2, 63, 90–4, 96, 115, 145, 148 Peter the Wild Boy, 112 Philip, Alexander, 109, 113 Phillips, Mark, 131 Philoctetes, 66 Pinch, Adela, 92–3 Pitt, William, 58–9 pity, 41–2, 46–7, 58, 62, 105 Porphyry, 124 Pratt, Samuel Jackson, 2

Index Priestley, Joseph, 93 primitivism, 71, 111 Prince, Mary, 69 property, 43–4, 56, 75, 85 Pythagoras, 6, 72, 106 Reddy, William, 15, 19, 33 re-enactment, 132–40 Remorse, 90, 96 Restif de la Bretonne, Nicolas Edme, 12 Richardson, Samuel, 107 Clarissa, 9, 51, 69, 88, 107 rights, 2, 38, 118 Ritson, Joseph, 18 Robespierre, Maximilien, 16 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 32–3, 44, 58 fables, 107 ink of sympathy, 50, 98, 100 Sales, William, 16 Theophania, 16 Scheler, Max, 41, 43, 46, 68, 70, 116 Sebald, W. G., 138, 140 self, 3, 7, 18, 28, 33, 39, 56, 66, 78–9 self-liking (amour propre), 50 self-love (amour de soi), 43, 44 sensorium, 60 Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of, 4, 9, 27–8, 55–62, 65, 130, 142 A Letter on Enthusiasm, 52 A Philosophical Regimen, 4, 22, 55–7, 59, 98, 99, 142 Soliloquy, or Advice to an Author, 99 Shakespeare, William, 14 A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 70, 72–3, 123 Shelley, Mary, Frankenstein, 116 Shelley, Percy Bysshe, The Revolt of Islam, 114 Sheridan, Frances, The Memoirs of Miss Sidney Bidulph, 9, 67, 100, 116, 147 Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, 109 Shonibare, Yinka, 138 Ship, The, 135–6


Silkin, Jon, 139 slave narratives, 69 Smith, Adam, 4, 8–10, 17, 37, 115, 134, 137, 142 Theory of Moral Sentiments, 8, 53, 54, 61, 86–8, 101–2, 138 Smollett, Tobias, 52 The History and Adventures of an Atom, 52–3 soft irony, 57, 61, 142 South Sea Bubble, 117 Southerne, Thomas, 66 Spinoza, Benedictus de, 3, 13–14, 21, 39, 41, 46, 110, 136 Sterne, Laurence, 10, 26, 134 A Sentimental Journey, 51–2, 60 Tristram Shandy, 9, 27, 50, 68 starling, 54–5, 64, 67, 76 Swift, Jonathan, 108, 127 The Beast’s Confession, 108, 112, 121–3 Gulliver’s Travels, 111, 114, 117–23 A Modest Proposal, 124 Tale of a Tub, 50, 68, 81, 100, 147 temporality, 129–30 Trenchard, John, and Thomas Gordon see Cato’s Letters Ulysses, 102, 130 Van Helmont, J. B., 48 vibration, 51–2 volition, 21 Wall, Cynthia, 92–3 Wilberforce, William, 109 Williams, Bernard, 66 Wilson, David, 136 Wollstonecraft, Mary, 16, 35–6, 37, 38 Wordsworth, William, 16 will, 26, 27, 37, 43, 59, 86, 88, 141, 144 Yearsley, Ann, 114 Young, Thomas, 110