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even in imagination, add a third. In the first place, it may be conceived, that an infant, having learned in its own case, that a smile is the natural effect or sign of a happy and affectionate state of mind, is induced by the principle of association, when it sees a smile on the countenance of its nurse, to ascribe it to emotions similar to those which it has itself experienced. Or, secondly, it may be thought, that, having uniformly observed the smiles of its nurse to be a prelude to the agreeable sensations it is accustomed to receive through the medium of her kindness, it comes, in process of time, to interpret their meaning, and to anticipate her tenderness, in the same manner in which it learns by experience, at a more advanced period of life, to interpret the meaning of conventional language.
With respect to the first of these theories, it seems sufficient to observe, that, in order to bestow upon it even a shadow of plausibility, it must be supposed farther, that the infant has the aid of a mirror, to enable it to know the existence of its own smiles, and what sort of appearance these smiles exhibit to the eye. That the particular modification of features connected with this expression is itself accompanied with an agreeable bodily sensation, I think highly probable; but this throws no light whatever on the present difficulty, till it is farther explained, by what process the child learns to identify what it feels, or is conscious of, in its own countenance, with what it sees on the countenance of another.
It is to the other hypothesis, however, that Dr. Priestley plainly leans, as may be inferred from the following very explicit statement given by himself. "I do not hesitate to say, "that if it were possible always to beat and terrify a child "with a placid countenance, so as never to assume that ap"pearance but in these circumstances, and always to sooth "him with what we call an angry countenance, this natural "connexion of ideas would be reversed, and we should see "the child frightened with a smile, and delighted with a "frown."*
As this view of the subject places the interpretation of Natural and Conventional signs exactly on the same footing, it obviously suggests to us the two following queries, as preliminary subjects of consideration. Till these queries are answered in a satisfactory manner, Dr. Priestley's solution of the difficulty is of no value whatsoever; and yet, he has not even alluded to either, in the course of his argument. 1st, Whence
* Priestley's Examination of Reid, &c. p. 91.
is it, that we interpret natural signs so much earlier than conventional signs? And, 2d, To what cause is it owing, that their effects are so widely different on the human frame? It is scarcely necessary for me to mention, as an additional objection, that this theory overlooks altogether that physico-moral sympathy which, through the medium of the body, harmonizes different minds with each other; and which, as it is one of the most important, so it is one of the most incontestable facts connected with the theory of our common nature.
How far the hints which I am now to offer may go towards an explanation of these phenomena, I do not pretend to judge.
As every emotion of the mind produces a sensible effect on the bodily appearance, so, upon the other hand, when we assume any strongly expressive look, and accompany it with appropriate gestures, some degree of the correspondent emotion is apt to arise within us. Mr. Burke informs us, that he has often been conscious of the passion of anger rising in his breast, in consequence of his counterfeiting its external signs; and I have little doubt, that, with most individuals, the result of a similar experiment will be the same. Campanella, too, the celebrated philosopher and physiognomist, (as Mr. Burke farther observes,) when he wished to form a judgment of what was passing in the mind of another, is said to have mimicked, as accurately as possible, his appearance at the moment, and then to have directed his attention to the state of his own feelings.* In general, I believe it will be found, that these
* The following passage contains the whole of Mr. Burke's Observations on this very curious subject.
"It appears very clearly to me, from many examples, that when the body is "disposed, by any means whatsoever, to such emotions as it would acquire by "the means of a certain passion, it will itself excite something very like that "passion in the mind."
"To this purpose, Mr. Spon, in his Recherches d'Antiquité, gives us a curious story of the celebrated physiognomist Campanella. This man, it seems, had "not only made very accurate observations on human faces, but was very ex"pert in mimicking such as were any way remarkable. When he had a mind to "penetrate into the inclinations of those he had to deal with, he composed his
face, his gesture, and his whole body, as nearly as he could, into the exact "similitude of the person he intended to examine; and then carefully observed "what turn of mind he seemed to acquire by this, change. So that, says my au"thor, he was able to enter into the dispositions and thoughts of people, as ef
fectually as if he had been changed into the very men. I have often observed, that, on mimicking the looks and gestures of angry, or placid, or frightened, or
daring men, I have involuntarily found my mind turned to that passion whose appearance I endeavoured to imitate; nay, I am convinced it is hard to avoid it, "though one strove to separate the passion from its corresponding gestures. Our "minds and bodies are so closely and intimately connected, that one is incapable " of pain or pleasure without the other. Campanella, of whom we have been
speaking, could so abstract his attention from any sufferings of his body, that "he was able to endure the rack itself without much pain; and in lesser pains,
two talents, of mimickry and of physiognomy, have a very close connexion. They are said to be united, to a great degree, in the savages of North America; and the same remark has been repeated by some of our late navigators, with respect to the rude islanders of the South Sea.*
In farther illustration of the same principles, a well known fact obviously presents itself as entitled to particular notice, --that there is often connected with a turn for mimickry, a power of throwing one's self into the habitual train of another person's thinking and feeling, so as to be able, on a supposed or imaginary occasion, to support, in some measure, his character, and to utter his language. A remarkable instance of this kind occurred in an English comedian who lived in the earlier part of the last century. The following account of him is given by a very accurate and acute observer, who knew him well. "Estcourt" (says Colley Cibber) "was so "amazing and extraordinary a mimic, that no man or woman, "from the coquette to the privy-counsellor, ever moved or "spoke before him, but he could carry their voice, look, mien, "and motion, instantly into another company. I have heard "him make long harangues, and form various arguments, even "in the manner of thinking of an eminent pleader at the bar, "with every the least article and singularity of his utterance
every body must have observed, that when we can employ our attention on any thing else, the pain has been for a time suspended: On the other hand, if by
any means the body is indisposed to perform such gestures, or to be stimulated " into such emotions as any passion usually produces in it, that passion itself nev"er can arise, though its cause should be never so strongly in action; though it "should be merely mental, and immediately affecting none of the senses. As an "opiate or spirituous liquors shall suspend the operation of grief, or fear, or anger, in spite of all our efforts to the contrary, and this by inducing in the body 66 a disposition contrary to that which it receives from these passions."-On the Sublime and Beautiful, Part iv. Sec. iv.
For some farther particulars with respect to Campanella, see Note (A.)
* It has been often observed, that the propensity to imitation in general is peculiarly strong in the earlier stages of society, and that it seems to be a natural consequence of the low state of the inventive faculties. This general propensity, directed habitually (among its various objects) to that species of imitation which depends on the body, seems to account sufficiently for the continuance, through life, among savage and barbarous nations, of those mimic and versatile powers of face and gesture, which, in cultivated minds, are commonly confined to the period of childhood. In this respect, savages continue always to be "children of a larger growth."
It is in the earlier stages of society, besides, when government and laws are imperfectly established, and when, of consequence, the fulfilment of contracts depends chiefly on the sincerity and fidelity of the parties, that practical physiognomy, or what is commonly called, a good eye for character, is most likely to be found. If the remarks in the text have any foundation in fact, this circumstance deserves attention as an additional cause of the propensity and the talent which savages in general have for bodily imitation.
"so perfectly imitated, that he was the very alter ipse, scarce "to be distinguished from his original." The statement here given is probably somewhat exaggerated; but instances approaching more or less to the description, must have fallen in the way of every man who has mingled at all in general society.*
This class of facts opens a wide field of new and curious speculation; but on a topic which occurs so incidentally, I must not indulge myself in any discussions at present. A few slight remarks may, however, be useful in guarding some of my readers against certain conclusions, which the foregoing quotation is not unlikely to suggest to a hasty theorist. With this view, it is of importance to observe,
1st, That such imitations are confined almost entirely to the demeanour of individuals in the more trifling situations of common life; and of individuals who are distinguished by some marked and prominent peculiarities. Nobody can suppose, that, by copying the looks of a Bacon, or of a Newton, a mimic would feel himself inspired with any portion of their philosophical sagacity.
2d, The description quoted from Cibber is probably (as I already hinted) considerably overcharged. The faintest imitation of the characteristical style of a public speaker, either in point of thought or of diction, if accompanied, at the same time, with an imitation of his voice and manner, will seem, even to good judges, a much more faithful copy than it is in reality; for the same reason, that the effect of an indifferent portrait is so wonderfully heightened by a minute fidelity in copying the habitual singularities of dress which distinguish the original. In such cases, the spectator is seldom aware, while he estimates the powers either of the mimic or of the painter, how very large a share is contributed by his own fanthe outline which is exhibited to his senses.t ey to fill up
3d, A considerable part of the metamorphosis produced in the mind of the mimic, by his copying the look and manner of another, may be fairly ascribed to memory and the association of ideas. The power of mental imitation, wherever it
*The account given by Cibber of Estcourt's talents, as a mimic, is confirmed by Sir Richard Steele in one of the papers of the Spectator. "What was peculiar"ly excellent in this memorable companion was, that, in the accounts he gave of
persons and sentiments he did not only hit the figure of their faces and manner "of their gestures, but he would, in his narrations, fall into their way of thinking; "and this, when he recounted passages wherein men of the best, as well as such wherein were represented men of the lowest rank in understanding."-Specta tor, Vol. VI. No. 468.
See Appendix to this chapter:
exists, necessarily implies a singularly accurate eye in marking what, I think, may, without impropriety, be called the dramatic effect of human character and of human life;* and whatever peculiarities of look, or of phraseology, remain most deeply impressed on the mimic's mind, will naturally awaken some associated circumstances of thought or of emotion, which they served to indicate at the moment when they first arrested the attention. But the effort of mimickry cannot fail, of itself, to present to the power of Conception, in the strongest and liveliest manner the original which is copied; and, therefore, it is not surprising, that, on such an occasion, the mimic should enter more completely into the ideas and feelings he wishes to seize, to identify himself in imagination for the moment (if I may use the expression) with the archetype he has in view, than he could have done, without the same exciting causes operating on his fancy.t
"Estcourt" (says Sir Richard Steele, in a paper quoted in a former note) "had so exquisite a discerning of what was defective in any object before him, "that, in an instant, he could show you the ridiculous side of what would pass for "beautiful and just, even to men of no ill judgment, before he had pointed at "the failure. This was easily to be observed in his inimitable way of telling a << story. He was no less skilful in the knowledge of beauty."-Spectator, No. 463.
This nice discernment and discrimination of the individual peculiarities, and (if I may say so) of the most significant points in the looks and manner of other men, and the superior powers of observation and of taste which this discrimination implies, are, I believe, what give the principal charm to the very amusing talent now under our consideration. The imitative faculty of the mimic is valued chiefly as it enables him to give a language to a species of characteristical criticism too fine and evanescent for the grasp of verbal description. In this respect it is entitled to a high rank among the exertions of genius. As for the mere power of corporeal imitation, (the power of copying the voice, gestures, and gait of another,) it is often possessed in the greatest perfection by children, and even by persons approaching nearly to the condition of idiots. It is well described in the words which Virgil applies to the image of Æneas, with which Juno deceived Turnus:
† Although a considerable part of the following passage (particularly the proposition with which it sets out) is to me quite unintelligible, I think it worth while to transcribe the whole. It affords a proof that the ingenious author had been struck with the same class of facts which have been now under our review, as presenting a curious and interesting field of examination to the physiologist and philosopher. "Quand on s'associe aux affections morales d'un homme, on répète 66 au moins sommairement, les opérations intellectuelles qui leur ont donné naissance; on l'imite; aussi les personnes chez qui l'on reconnoit, au plus haut "degré, le talent d'imitation, sont elles en même temps, celles que leur imagina"tion met le plus promptement, le plus facilement, et le plus complétement, à "la place des autres; ce sont elles qui tracent, avec le plus de force et de talent, “ces peintures des passions, et même tous ces tableaux de la nature inerte, qui