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descendants—Romances relating to the imaginary family of the
s—Tirante the White-Parte-
nopex de Blois
HE art of fictitious narrative appears to have its origin
in the same principles of selection by which the fine arts in general are created and perfected. Among the vast variety of trees and shrubs which are presented to his view, a savage finds, in his wanderings, some which peculiarly attract his notice by their beauty and fragrance, and these he at length selects, and plants them round his dwelling: In like manner, among the mixed events of human life, he experiences some which are peculiarly grateful, and of which the narrative at once pleases himself, and excites in the minds of his hearers a kindred emotion. Of this kind are unlooked-for occurrences, successful enterprise, or great and unexpected deliverance from signal danger and distress. As he collected round his habitation those objects with which he had been pleased, in order that they might afford him a frequent gratification, so he rests his fancy on those incidents which had formerly awaked the most powerful emotions; and the remembrance of which most strongly excites his tenderness, or pride, or gratitude.
Thus, in process of time, a mass of curious narrative is collected, which is communicated from one individual to another. In almost every occurrence of human life, however, as in almost every scene of nature, something intervenes of a mixed, or indifferent description, tending to weaken the agreeable emotion, which, without it, would be more pure and forcible. For example,—in the process of forming the garden, the savage finds that it is not enough merely to collect a variety of agreeable trees or plants; he discovers that more than this is necessary, and that it is also essential that he should grub up from around his dwelling the shrubs which are useless or noxious, and which weaken or impair the pure delight which he derives from others. He is careful, accordingly, that the rose should no longer be placed beside the thistle, as in the wild, but that it should flourish in clear, and sheltered, and romantic situation, where its sweets may be undiminished, and where its form can be contemplated without any attending circumstances of uneasiness or disgust. The collector of agreeable facts finds, in like manner, that the sympathy they excite can be heightened by removing from their detail every thing that is not interesting, or that tends to weaken
the principal emotion, which it is his intention to raise. He renders, in this
way, the occurrences more unexpected, the enterprises more successful, the deliverance from danger and distress more wonderful. “As the active world,” says Lord Bacon, “ is inferior to the rational soul, so Fiction gives to mankind what history denies, and, in some measure, satisfies the mind with shadows when it cannot enjoy the substance: For, upon a narrow inspection, Fiction strongly shows that a greater variety of things, a more perfect order, a more beautiful variety, than can any where be found in nature, is pleasing to the mind. And as real history gives us not the success of things according to the deserts of vice and virtue, Fiction corrects it, and presents us with the fates and fortunes of persons rewarded or punished according to merit. And as real history disgusts us with a familiar and constant similitude of things, Fiction relieves us by unexpected turns and changes, and thus not only delights, but inculcates morality and nobleness of soul. It raises the mind by accommodating the images of things to our desires, and not, like history and reason, subjecting the mind to things." 1
From this view of the subject, it is obvious that the fictions framed by mankind, or the narratives with which they are delighted, will vary with their feelings, and with the state of society. Since Fiction may be regarded as select and highly coloured history, those adventures would
1 De Aug. Scient. lib. ii. p. 1.