Mind-Travelling, Ideal Presence and the Imagination in Early Modern England
University of Melbourne
David McInnis. “Mind-Travelling, Ideal Presence and the Imagination in Early Modern England.” Early Modern Literary Studies Special Issue 19 (2009) 7.1-23 <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/si-19/mcinmind.htm>.
The present influence of Descartes on modern assumptions about these matters does not mean that earlier Western cultures located notions of selfhood exclusively in the material. To write off the discourse of immaterial selfhood as merely a fragment of the Cartesian mind/body split is to miss the varying degrees of embodiment described in the soul-body discourse of Elizabethan and Stuart England (787).Accordingly, one aim of the present paper is to further investigate the complex relationship between the imagination and the body, for as Katherine Rowe notes, “[o]ne of the things that remains so interesting about early modern physiology is the inseparability of body and soul, material and spiritual” (Floyd-Wilson et al 2). To do this, I shall concentrate on the very specific phenomenon of vicarious travel, or what the early moderns called “mind-travelling,” so that I can raise issues of how the imagination, memory, the senses and the passions participated in the relationship between the material world and the experiencing (material and immaterial) self. In particular, I shall explore how physical effects can proceed from the ostensibly disembodied act of mind-travelling, and consider whether these effects are positive or negative. A second purpose of this piece is to examine early modern travel writing from a fresh perspective that is independent of mercantile or colonial concerns; one which is instead interested in pleasure and fantasy. In a period when, as Gail Kern Paster emphasises, “the psychological had not yet become divorced from the physiological” (7), what role does mind-travelling play in the life of a sedentary traveller? Can the physical body incur loss of health through the travails of the mind? (Or conversely, can an ailing body recover through the far-ranging thoughts of the wandering imagination?) Is vicarious travel a perfect substitute for physical voyaging, or does it serve some other end? How, exactly, does the imagination work upon the body and soul?1
IF in our peregrinations and trauels, we shal obserue and note in our tables, or papers those things which doo occurre and seeme worthie of regard, we shall make our iournies and voyages in great measure, pleasant and delectable vnto vs: not thinking that our diligence can search & mark any thing in any place, which other men before vs haue not seene, but to discourse and recorde any thing, rather then to passe the way, and spend the time in idlenesse: and with all by this meanes, this commoditie is reaped, that whatsoeuer the eye seeth, is the easier and the better remembred, if it be once written. And when the time commeth, that we make an ende of our trauels, and personall view of forren parts, it will bee a singular pleasure vnto vs, whensoeuer we are so disposed to recognize, and recount those things which we haue seene, quietlie & in our chambers, without any trouble of iournie, or toile of bodie. (Meyer D3v)The extract opens with an interesting conditional: if the traveller makes observations and notes of interesting things whilst travelling, then the journey shall be “pleasant and delectable.” Whilst this is a variant of the traditional criticism of spending time “in idlenesse” (thought to lead to incontinence and degeneration), Ortelius is actually encouraging documentation for a different reason. There is, after all, nothing unusual about recording information about foreign countries during one’s travels; there are dozens of ‘instructions to travellers’ (or ars apodemica treatises) from this period that stress the importance of a young nobleman diligently recording information to benefit the state, or improve his education. But these details are factual and informative; the impetus for noting these facts was utilitarian and pedagogical. As Daniel Carey has recently observed, these advice manuals attempted to methodise travel in the hope that through regulation, travel could “produce positive effects rather than merely corrupting a country’s nobility and gentry during their time abroad” (4). The manuals called for systematic observations of chorography, geography, cosmography, topography, and the political, ecclesiastical, literary and historical backgrounds of the places visited. Ortelius, by contrast, emphasises the benefits of inscription in terms of memory (sights are “better remembred” through writing), but not for the purpose of communicating new and practical knowledge to the traveller’s countrymen at home. Ortelius is not discussing exploration voyages; he pointedly dismisses the idea that the traveller will record anything “which other men before vs haue not seene.” In fact, the “pleasant and delectable” aspect of the journey is entirely of a private nature, since the abiding memories preserved through inscription are associated with the “singular pleasure” of being able to “recount those things which we haue seene, quietlie & in our chambers, without any trouble of iournie, or toile of bodie.”3 Travel writing, then, can occasionally be directed towards the author’s private benefit: for reminiscing, and emotional (rather than physical) transportation—what William Wood called “mind-travelling.”4
That a man may better himself by travel, he ought to observe and comment: noting as well the bad, to avoid it, as taking the good into use. And without registering these things by the pen, they will slide away unprofitably. A man would not think how much the charactering of a thought in paper fastens it. Littera scripta manet, has a large sense. He that does this may, when he pleaseth, rejourney over all his voyage in his closet. (Felltham 194-95)Common to Felltham, Turler, and Ortelius is the individual experience of pleasure in travel, and the conscious foresight that predicts the desire to “rejourney” over a past voyage from the comfort of one’s closet. Although it is plausible that readers other than the author-traveller would embark on a physical voyage as the direct result of reading such memoirs—Felltham urges “the couch-stretched man” to reject idleness and embrace movement (109), after all—the fact that these writings are pointedly directed at the individual imagination undermines the notion that the documentation of travels is practiced solely for the dissemination of information. Whilst I do not claim that the model of pleasurable travel being described here is the dominant model (it is not), I do want to complicate the pragmatic model (which is still the dominant model in this period) by elucidating a virtually unacknowledged undercurrent which appreciates pleasure and the aesthetic.7
What worlds of lands and seas have I passed over,“Remarkable” refers, in this period, almost exclusively to that which is “able or worthy to be marked againe” when read or noticed a second time (see LEME, “remarkable”), but whilst Peregrine may have been concerned to have missed the chorographical, cosmographical, political or geographical concerns that the conduct manuals insisted the traveller record for the benefit of the state, I think it more likely that his thoughts are drawn instead to the elements of voyaging that recall the fantastic exploits of his hero, Sir John Mandeville, when he laments the “thousand thousand things remarkable” that he has missed. Knowing that Doctor Hughball has already been to the Antipodes, it is very likely that Peregrine would concur with Ortelius’s sentiments above about the relative futility of “thinking that our diligence can search & mark any thing in any place, which other men before vs haue not seene.” The alternative purpose of note taking available to Peregrine, then, is to enable him to re-imagine his voyage at a later date, without “toile of bodie.” Likewise, when the other Peregrine, in Volpone (1606), reads aloud Sir Politic Would-be’s notes from his personal travel diary, Jonson is clearly satirising the nouveau tendency to record personal, anecdotal detail rather than practical, utilitarian information:
Neglecting to set down my observations!
A thousand thousand things remarkable
Have slipped my memory, as if all had been
Mere shadowy phantasms, or fantastic dreams. (2.2.7-10)
‘Pray you, let’s see, sir. What is here? ‘Notandum,Peregrine’s barbed quip about the expedience and practicality of the notes (see OED ‘politic,’ adj. & n., 2a) emphasises the shift in aims of documentation. The evidence suggests that in addition to guarding against idleness, the form of travel writing demonstrated by these characters and by William Wood et al can intentionally be directed towards inspiring or rekindling the emotions felt whilst abroad.
A rat had gnawn my spur leathers; notwithstanding,
I put on new, and did go forth; but, first,
I threw three beans over the threshold. Item,
I went and bought two toothpicks, whereof one
I burst, immediately, in a discourse
With a Dutch merchant, ‘bout ragion’ del stato.
From him, I went and paid a moccenigo,
For piecing my silk stockings; by the way,
I cheapened sprats; and at St Marks’s, I urined’.
Faith, these are politic notes! (4.1.135-45)
By the power of memory, a thing formerly seen may be recalled to the mind with different degrees of accuracy. We commonly are satisfied with a slight recollection of the chief circumstances; and, in such recollection, the thing is not figured as in my view, nor any image formed: I retain the consciousness of my present situation, and barely remember that formerly I saw that thing. But with respect to an interesting object or event that made a strong impression, the mind, sometimes, not satisfied with a cursory review, chuses to revolve every circumstance: giving way to this inclination, I perceive every particular passing in my presence, in the same manner as when I was in reality a spectator. (80-81)He further notes, as I have been suggesting above, that “passions, as all the world know, are moved by fiction as well as by truth” (Kames 79-80). Ideal presence refers to that state of enchantment which so perfectly captivates the subject that their mind is dominated by the imagination, and reason has no opportunity to interject and evaluate the situation: “In contradistinction to real presence, ideal presence may properly be termed a waking dream; because, like a dream, it vanisheth the moment we reflect upon our present situation: real presence, on the contrary, vouched by eye-sight, commands our belief, not only during the direct perception, but in reflecting after ward upon the object” (Kames 82). The key attribute is the simulation of reality by the imagination, which need not be anchored in authentic memory:
I proceed to consider the idea of a thing I never saw, raised in me by speech, by writing, or by painting. … A lively and accurate description of an important event, raises in me ideas not less distinct than if I had been originally an eye-witness: I am insensibly transformed into a spectator; and have an impression that every incident is passing in my presence. (Kames 83-84).9Critics have attended to the possibilities of ideal presence in the context of such eighteenth-century writers as Johnson and Sterne, but the concept has not, to my knowledge, been applied to late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century texts.10 Seventeenth-century readers were not especially disposed towards creating ideal presence; the example of Fitzdottrell in Jonson’s The Devil is an Ass illustrates the commonplace sentiment that a vivid tableau in dramatic form more keenly impressed upon the mind of the experiencing subject than did the dry tedious facts of the chronicle. Fitzdottrell tells Merecraft that he is not, in fact, “cunning i’ the chronicle,” but learns his histories from “Play books,” which he thinks “are more Authentick” (2.4.12-14). There is, of course, an irony in Fitzdottrell’s humble denial of any “cunning,” since he is the fool of the play, and unable to recognise the low regard in which he is held by other characters. Nevertheless, as Martin Wiggins notes, “it should not be entirely surprising that Fabian Fitzdottrell … has learned his history from plays,” since “drama actually showed the people and exploits which history books could only report” (24).11 If it sounds surprising when Kames asserts of eighteenth-century theatre, “[o]f all the means for making an impression of ideal presence, theatrical representation is the most powerful” (88), it may seem stranger that a pointedly scenery-devoid early modern stage should be considered capable of animating history with such efficacy; but perhaps we are simply guilty of evaluating the early modern stage by our own, vastly different standards of realism.12 Is it really surprising that Faustus, who could never have seen Helen of Troy alive, should believe that the spirit Mephistopheles raises in her likeness is actually Helen? Or that the Emperor Charles should forget that Alexander the Great and his conjured company “are but shadows, not substantial”? (Faustus B-Text, 4.1.104). The conjuration is the very essence of ideal presence, of virtual reality: we are told the bodies of the dead lie so decomposed in the earth that Mephistopheles can only supply spirits or devils in the guise of the dead, in lieu of their original persons. In theory these representations of Helen and Alexander are no different than the written representations of them in books; yet something about the visual depiction captivates the audience, even when its lack of authenticity is acknowledged. Faustus (through Mephistopheles) shows his audience history in just the way that Jonson’s Fitzdottrell preferred to learn about history at plays. (That the creation of ideal presence by the illusion of exotica is most probably what drew playgoers to attend voyage drama is an argument too large to make here, though it is perhaps worth signalling).13
[a]ny theory of ideal presence must accept imaginative expansion of the text. No poetic description, after all, can be as detailed as a present object in its particularity and within its context. The reader’s imagination supplies what the poet can not, and different readers are likely to be as far apart as different illustrators of a given poetic passage or episode. (312)It is this tendency of imaginative expansion to which Theseus refers in A Midsummer Night’s Dream when he says:
Such tricks hath strong imaginationSupplied only with the description of “some joy,” the imagination extrapolates and infers the context (its “bringer”) too. Although the episodic nature of travel narratives invites readers to supply their own bridging details to sustain a narrative, early modern travel writers tend not to deliberately leave their accounts incomplete to invite imaginative completion. In this regard, whilst the authors of early modern travel texts merely anticipate Kames’s ideal presence, rather than deliberately seek to provoke it, there remains the possibility that the reception side of textual production functions analogously to Kames’s model: the reader’s imagination supplies what the travel text does not, by virtue of the affective power of the subject matter if not the author’s skill. In the specific domain of travel writing, subject matter arguably does trump style thus, and exotic accounts of “cannibals that each other eat, / The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads / Do grow beneath their shoulders” would presumably enchant the average reader as much as they enchanted Desdemona’s “greedy ear” (Othello 1.3.144-46, 50). Hence in Barten Holyday’s Technogamia, or The Marriages of the Arts (1618), a traveller-character named Geographus (accompanied, tellingly, by a servant-character so fantastical that he is actually named Phantastes) counters Poeta’s inability to see the necessity of travel with the boasts, “I could tell you such wonders, as would inflame you with a desire,” and “I can impart such rarities of relation vnto you, as would amaze you; and yet they are familiar to a Trauailour” (E4v-F). Unlike the eighteenth-century texts intentionally written to encourage the creation of ideal presence by “controlling the flow of stimuli from which readers will develop images,” the travel texts I am concerned with appear primitive in comparison, containing the vaguest of gestures in this direction (they do appear, after all, over a century before Kames’s ideal presence becomes more commonplace).14
That if it would but apprehend some joy
It comprehends some bringer of that joy. (5.1.18-20)
Who is he that is now wholly overcome with idleness, or otherwise involved in a labyrinth of worldly cares, troubles, and discontents, that will not be much lightened in his mind by reading of some enticing story, true or feigned, where as in a glass he shall observe what our forefathers have done, the beginnings, ruins, falls, periods of commonwealths, private men’s actions displayed to the life, etc. (2.87)The phrase, “as in a glass,” is particularly suggestive of an ocular virtual reality being presented to the mind’s eye, as does the adjective “enticing” used to describe the story. Like Kames, Burton does not discriminate between whether the passions are moved by something “true or feigned,” since the outcome is identical.15 The ideal breeding ground for this phenomenon is the realm of travel, where writers and audiences who appreciated the creation of something akin to ideal presence were beginning to emerge in the early seventeenth century, motivated not by the simple pleasure of animating a tale, but out of the desire to see and experience lands beyond their reach. Judging by the enthusiastic praise showered on authors of texts which enabled mind-travelling, consumers in London valued the opportunity to experience what was otherwise impossible—be that because travel anywhere was prohibitive for the individual, or because the hardships of the journey (the pun on travel/travail was a popular one) meant that Faustus’ ability to view the entire earth “within the compass of eight days” (3.1.68) was a not uncommon fantasy. In his commendatory verse to Richard Zouch’s The Dove: or Passages of Cosmography (1613), Richard Yong praises Zouch “who in an houre / Flyest o’re the forrest of the spatious earth” (A3v). In The Gouernour (1531), Thomas Elyot recommends students “beholde the olde tables of Ptholemee, where in all the worlde is paynted” rather than only reading dry histories, and wistfully declares,
[W]hat pleasure is it, in one houre, to beholde those realmes, cities, sees, ryuers, and mountaynes, that vneth [scarcely] in an olde mannes life can not be iournaide and pursued: what incredible delite is take[n] in beholding the diuersities of people, beastis, foules, fishes, trees, frutes, and herbes … and that in a warme studie or perler [parlour], without perill of the see, or daunger of longe and paynfull iournayes: I can not tell, what more pleasure shulde happen to a gentil witte, than to beholde in his owne house euery thynge that with in all the worlde is contained. (E5-E5v)William Cunningham’s The Cosmographical Glasse (1559) similarly waxes lyrical about the convenience and safety of mind-travelling, praising cosmography because “she deliuereth vs from greate and continuall trauailes. For in a pleasaunte house, or warme study, she sheweth vs the hole face of all th’Earthe” (A6)—sentiments echoed by Richard Eden in the preface to his 1572 translation of Münster’s Cosmography: “The worke of itselfe is not greate but the examples and varieties are mani so that in a short and smal time, the reader may wander through out the whole world, and fil his head with many strange and memorable things” (*3). It seems, then, that whilst some travellers made notes to assist their own reminiscences, others did so with a more community-oriented mindset, for “such as are desirous to know the situation and customes of forraine Cities without trauelling to see them” (Lewkenor A1).
I haue knowen some that haue trauelled no further then their owne closet, which could both teach and correct the greatest Traueller, after all his tedious and costly pererrations, what doe wee but lose the benefit of so many iournals, maps, hystoricall descriptions, relations, if we cannot with these helps, trauell by our owne fire-side? (33-34)Hall emphasises the instrumental value of reading as an end to knowledge-acquisition—predictable sentiments from the man who attacked the aesthetics of Tamburlaine and similarly licentious indulgences of the theatre, a pastime of which he did not approve. By contrast, ‘travel’ without ‘travail’ (an idle pursuit by definition) was the purpose of reading these texts.16 The authors’ provision of detail differs from that on offer a century later, and the demands made on the reader are greater in the Jacobean period, but the seeds (at least) of ideal presence are sewed in travel texts where, for various reasons, real presence could not be guaranteed and ideal presence had to supply its want.
[W]ill not he that hath read of the great ouerthrowe of the Romaines at Thrasimenum, and their foule discomfiture at Cannas, when hee shall with hys owne eyes beholde the places, where the regentes, and great dominators of the worlde were shamefully foyled, will he not (I say) be greatly affected with a certain compassion? on the other side wil he not be greatly delighted with the goodly view of thos famous, & delicious places of Albania, Tibur, and the renowmed Bathes? What a pleasure will it be to see the house, where Plinie dwelt, the countrey wherein the famous Virgill, or the renowmed Ouid was borne? the signes, and monumentes of the noble conquerours? what a delightfull sight will it be to behold so manie ancient buildinges? so manie stately Churches: so manie huge Theators: so manie high pillers: so manie sumptuous sepulchres? Sureley I knowe not howe, but it is so, the minde of man beginnes to reuiue, and lift vp his selfe aboue it selfe, and to affect and meditate on excellent, and noble thinges, at the verie sight, and consideration of these so great, and glorious monumentes of antiquitie … (B4v-C)Lipsius here links involuntary, positive emotional affects or passions to the experience of first-hand contact with exotic landmarks, in a bid to encourage his reader to actually travel—but it is interesting that his description of this elevation or transportation of the mind is strictly speaking a superfluous detail in a travel book with ostensibly utilitarian aims. Its presence here indicates a desire to revel in the “surplus value” of travel. Lipsius’s comments are noteworthy because they draw attention to what is, in this period of utilitarian and pragmatic travelling, usually only a latent potential for travel (and subsequently, travel writing) to animate the imagination. His words suggest that this superfluous facet of pleasure holds intrinsic value in its own right: for travellers and for readers. Ordinary, factual travel accounts could of course generate similar effects, for it is the participation of the active reader, more than the instruction of the author, which is of greater importance here.17 Without walking the reader through this process, Lipsius nevertheless implicitly starts them on the road to fantastical wanderings and ideal presence; a road embraced by Thomas Coryate, whose own Coryats Crudities (1611) “played a formative role in the popularisation and novelisation of travel for [the] domestic market” (O’Callaghan 144), and in whose works Richmond Barbour locates the birth of tourism (115-145). In Coryat’s Crudities, the author makes the following observation about travel and fancy:
[The] ruines of the houses wherin those famous men liued, as Cicero, Varro, Virgil, Liuie, &c. that are to this day shewed in sundry places of Italie, strike no small impression in the heart of an obseruatiue traueller. Likewise the places wherein diuers famous battels haue beene fought, so much celebrated partly by the ancient Roman historiographers … when they are suruayed by a curious traueller, doe seem to present to the eyes of his mind a certain Idea of the bloudy skirmishes themselues. (b3-b3v)That Coryate attempts to communicate a personal response to a sight, rather than objectively describe the sight itself, points to an interesting development in travel writing. Surveying celebrated sights enables the observer to feel immersed in history; it evokes the “phenomenological notion of space” alluded to by Rhonda Lemke Sanford as she discusses how “objects or places perceived become invested by one’s gaze” (12). As the Coryate quotation testifies, the mind’s eye is almost involuntarily overwhelmed by the need to imaginatively reconstruct the events which lend significance to an experienced site—and this exquisite feeling of transportation and enrapture is singularly difficult to communicate, for it is of necessity a uniquely individual phenomenological response, “different for each gazer” (Sanford 12). Coryate tries to communicate the essence of this ideal presence moment though, for he is (perhaps more than any traveller before him) intensely aware of the possibilities of publishing, and the reading market for his work. Claiming he is “no statesman” relieves Coryate of the onerous duty of surveying and recording the political state of the destinations he visits, and permits him to make his own “hungrie and high reaching desire of Trauell,” his “longing appetite to suruey exoticke Regions” the central focus of his writing (Coryate, Crudities A2v-A3). The kind of interest he hopes to generate in his reading public is the type of interest that would later appreciate texts that deliberately seek to create ideal presence.
In tender years he always loved to readBy reading Mandeville, Peregrine has become utterly absorbed in a world of fictional travels, to the point that he has not even consummated his marriage of three years. Certainly there is an element of the melancholy scholar about him: Peregrine has obvious affinities with Faustus and even Prospero, for that matter—rapt in secret studies as the latter is. But whilst “[e]xcessive bookishness” was, as Anthony Parr notes, “a proverbial cause of melancholy” (Antipodes 1.1.127n), Peregrine’s condition appears to owe more to the nature of his readings, and to the effects of his fetishised texts (primarily Mandeville’s Travels) on both his body and soul. Burton would classify him amongst “such inamoratoes as read nothing but play-books, idle poems, jests, Amadis de Gaul, the Knight of the Sun, the Seven Champions, Palmerin de Oliva, Huon of Bordeaux, etc.” (2.92-93). Those engrossed in such romances and fantasies suffer delusions of the mind in addition to the excess of black bile which inactivity generates.18
Reports of travels and of voyages.
And when young boys like him would tire themselves
With sports and pastimes, and restore their spirits
Again by meat and sleep, he would whole days
And nights (sometimes by stealth) be on such books
As might convey his fancy round the world. (1.1.131-37)
Byplay: My lord, the mad young gentleman—Although a humorous episode (in both senses of the word), there is something deeply unsettling about Peregrine’s inability to see through the charade. His declaration of kingship constitutes a monumental triumph of the imagination over reason at precisely the moment that fiction’s stranglehold on the mind should be broken. It is this kind of behaviour which leads Burton to conclude that “strong conceit or imagination is astrum hominis [a man’s guiding star], and the rudder of this our ship, which reason should steer, but, overborne by phantasy, cannot manage, and so suffers itself and this whole vessel of ours to be overruled, and often overturned” (1.257). Peregrine ought to recognise that he is not truly a spectator of the antipodes, but merely has “a perception of the object similar to what a real spectator hath” (Kames 81-82). His “waking dream,” like Kames’s ideal presence, should “vanisheth the moment we reflect upon our present situation” (Kames 82), but it does not. In asking why madmen “should think themselves kings, lords, cardinals” (perhaps as Peregrine does here), Burton cites André Du Laurens’s answer that “the imagination, inwardly or outwardly moved, represents to the understanding, not enticements only, to favour the passion or dislike, but a very intensive pleasure follows the passion or displeasure, and the will and reason are captivated by delighting in it” (1.421-22). Peregrine’s fantasy persists precisely because it represents the culmination of his long-harboured desires (which are not easily dismissed), and because as such, it is genuinely pleasurable, despite the fictional genesis of its stimulus. (Fictionality did not trouble Kames or Burton as a valid source of stimulus, after all). Recalling Kames’s description of ideal presence as a waking dream, Peregrine in his final lines admits being thoroughly confused and unable to distinguish betwixt dream and reality:
Joyless: What of him?
Byplay: He has got into our tiring-house amongst us,
And ta’en a strict survey of all our properties:
Whether he thought ‘twas some enchanted castle,
Or temple hung and piled with monuments
Of uncouth and of various aspects,
I dive not to his thoughts. Wonder he did
A while it seemed, but yet undaunted stood;
When on the sudden, with thrice knightly force,
And thrice thrice puissant arm he snatcheth down
The sword and shield that I played Bevis with,
Rusheth amongst the foresaid properties
Kills monster after monster, takes the puppets
Prisoners, knocks down the Cyclops, tumbles all
Our jigambobs and trinkets to the wall.
Spying at last the crown and royal robes
I’th’upper wardrobe, next to which by chance
The devils’ visors hung, and their flame-painted
Skin coats, those he removed with greater fury;
And, having cut the infernal ugly faces
All into mammocks, with a reverend hand
He takes the imperial diadem and crowns
Himself King of the Antipodes, and believes
He has justly gained the kingdom by his conquest. (3.287-317)
I am what you are pleased to make me; butPeregrine here almost anticipates Descartes’ cogito argument in questioning whether, in his inability to trust his senses, he even exists (“Whether I be, or be not”). After all the elaborate machinations of Hughball and Letoy with their fake antipodes, Peregrine is finally beginning to doubt the validity of his travel experiences and seems on the brink of acknowledging that the senses do not rely on the actual existence of those things which they purportedly perceive. It would be both reasonable and satisfying to expect, at this point, that Peregrine has learned to distinguish ideal presence from real presence in the process of learning to reject the carnivalesque antipodean world he has desired for so long. But the play ends on an ambivalent note and the implication that perhaps Peregrine is doubting the veracity of real presence instead. For whilst he approaches the realisation that what’s past is but a ‘dream’, he also implies that he is no longer fit to participate in real society: “My manners can acquire no welcome…”
Withal so ignorant of mine own condition—
Whether I sleep, or wake, or talk, or dream;
Whether I be, or be not; or if I am,
Whether I do, or do not anything.
For I have had (if now I wake) such dreams,
And been so far transported in a long
And tedious voyage of sleep, that I may fear
My manners can acquire no welcome where
Men understand themselves. (5.2.307-16)
[I]f, in reading, ideal presence be the means by which our passions are moved, it makes no difference whether the subject be a fable or a reality: when ideal presence is complete, we perceive every object as in our sight; and the mind, totally occupied with an interesting event, finds no leisure for reflection of any sort. (86)But how, precisely, are the passions moved by the imagination? According to the early modern medical treatises, more than merely being entertained by his reading, Peregrine could have experienced his texts as if witnessing them in reality. Witness the thoughts of the Dominican Bishop, Nicolas Coeffeteau, in his 1621 text, A table of humane passions:
[W]hatsoeuer flatters our senses, and delights our imagination, causeth Pleasure and content. So euery kind of good, bee it that which is present, or past, or to come, doth giue a content by the presence or by the imagination; for that it delights our senses, and is pleasing to our fancy, which is a delicate power, & easily toucht with the sweeetnesse [sic] of her obiect, how small soeuer. Wherefore they that remember the good things which they haue tasted, and those which they hope for in future, hauing these things imprinted in their fancy, feele a ioy. Whereby it appears plainely, that all Pleasure and Delight consists either in the feeling of things present, or in the remembrance of things past, or in the hope of those which are to come. (268-69)Coeffeteau emphasises the experiential dimension of pleasure (they that hope for good things in the future “feele a joy”) and pointedly disregards the significance of any difference between real presence and ideal presence for engendering these physical effects (“euery kind of good … doth giue a content by the presence or by the imagination”). He refers elsewhere in his text to the manner in which the desires of men cause them to “feele a sensible content and a new ioy” (272). That the passions could solicit physiological responses from the body was inferred from such simple examples as the case of those who “when they hear any one name soure things, their tongues waxeth tart,” or when “the seeing of any filthy thing causeth nauseousness” (Agrippa 142-43)—an analogue to Hamlet’s observation of clown actors, that “there be of them that will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh too” (3.2.32-34).
So, many are transported from place to place, passing over rivers, fires and unpassable places, viz. when the species of any vehement desire, or fear, or boldness are impressed upon their spirits, and, being mixed with vapors, do move the Organ of the touch in their original, together with phantasie, which is the original of locall motion. Whence they stir up the members, and Organs of motion to motion, and are moved without any mistake unto the imagined place, not out of sight, but from the interiour fantasy. So great a power is there of the soul upon the body, that which way soever that imagines, and dreams that it goes, thither doth it lead the body. (143-44)Nor is this “power of the soul upon the body” limited to the convincing simulation of bodily sensation solely from the perspective of the experiencing subject; for some people “can weep at their pleasure,” and others “can bring up what they have swallowed” (144), thus producing visible effects which can be witnessed by independent observers. This variety of willed affect (and thus physical effect) is precisely the skill which Hamlet ascribes to the First Player:
this player here,The player, as Philip Edwards notes in his edition of Hamlet, “doesn’t pretend to cry; he pretends until he cries” (2.2.508-9n). In other words, these subjects can voluntarily will their bodies (through the faculty of imagination) to produce the kind of physiological responses which are ordinarily considered to be confined to the promptings of external stimuli (i.e. which ordinarily proceed via apprehension through the senses). The internal senses need not rely on external realities to induce physical sensation. Gail Kern Paster analyses an involuntary, negative example of this phenomenon in her discussion of Othello’s delusional jealousy (68); the positive correlation is fantasy in its desirable form (whether willed or involuntary), which in the context of this paper is exemplified by mind-travel. In Peregrine’s case, the physical effects proceed too far, his spirits are “intent to meditation above in the head, the stomach and liver are left destitute, and thence come black blood and crudities by defect of concoction, and for want of exercise the superfluous vapours cannot exhale,” resulting in scholar’s melancholy (Burton 1.302). The “distraction of the mind,” writes Burton, “alters the temperature of the body” (I.374). This latter determinant is critical, for as Burton notes, the most immediate symptoms of melancholia “proceed from the temperature itself and the organical parts, as head, liver, spleen, meseraic veins, heart, womb, stomach, etc., and most especially from distemperature of spirits (which, as Hercules de Saxonia contends, are wholly immaterial), or from the four humours in those seats” (1.398). So powerful are the effects of the mind over the body that Coeffeteau claims that the imagination can kill: “after that any one hath escaped a great danger, the very imagination to haue beene freed from so great a misfortune, is able to kill him, for that the imagination hath that force, to represent vnto vs the thing, as if it were yet present, and as if wee were in the midst of the danger” (451-52). So convincing is its creation of fear in ideal presence that the body can literally shut down—the heart, presumably, contracts or compresses unduly, or else receives an inordinate amount of blood which fear causes to be recalled from the other parts of the body (see Wright 4).
But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
Could force his soul so to his own conceit
That from her working all his visage wanned,
Tears in his eyes… (2.2.503-7)
Before Descartes, there seemed to be no trouble conceiving various ways in which the mind influenced the body in the onset, course, and cure of physical disease. Psychological states clearly affected somatic conditions. (43)Despite this abundant variety of (at times competing) accounts of how the imagination did or did not affect the body (a debate which focused largely on degrees of separation or causation), there was clearly a belief that the body and mind did interact somehow: voluntarily or involuntarily, beneficially or detrimentally, directly or indirectly, effectively or ineffectively. The most sustained early modern treatment of this subject is the now relatively neglected De viribus imaginationis (1608) by Thomas Fienus, a text described by Burton as instar omnium, the pick of the bunch (1.257).19 Fienus argues that the imagination produces change in the body via a domino-effect: it directly affects the emotions, which in turn affect the heart, which in turn leads to movement of the humours and spirits. Hence whilst the humours and spirits are ultimately responsible for bodily changes and effects, the imagination is “a very remote cause per accidens” (358). In this, Fienus concurs with the English Jesuit Thomas Wright, whose writings are more familiar to critics. Wright argues that the motions of the soul are “called Passions … because when these affections are stirring in our minds, they alter the humours of our bodies, causing some passion or alteration in them,” and unequivocally asserts that these passions are “certaine internall actes or operations of the soule” which, “drowned in corporall organs and instruments, as well as sense,” cause “some alteration in the body” though they themselves be immaterial (7-8).20 Fienus cautions that the imagination is not to be treated as the “chief and principal cause” of bodily change in the way that “the deeds of soldiers are to be ascribed to the leader of the army”; rather, the bodily change ensuing from acts of the imagination are reactionary in a manner which suggests analogy with the bodily response to external sensations:
[The imagination] moves them [the intermediate powers, i.e. emotions, the heart, the humours/spirits] as do the external sensations also, even though one step more directly. And thus for the same reason that such alterations and changes could be ascribed to the imagination, so could they be ascribed to the external senses. For just as by imagining fire, an enemy or a lion, we tremble, look pale and grow cold, so also by seeing or hearing these things. Hence just as changes of this kind are not wont to be ascribed to the external senses, so also it seems no less inappropriate and very remote for them to be ascribed to the imagination. For the appetites and the emotions are their chief causes. (358)Inasmuch as the appetites and emotions are ultimately responsible for effecting bodily changes (via the humours and organs like the heart), it matters little whether these appetites or emotions are stimulated by external sensations or the internal faculty of the imagination (this latter happening to be a step more direct by virtue of being housed within the body it acts upon): either way, the experiencing body is subject to a physiological response which manifests itself bodily and registers as a physical change (trembling, looking pale, growing cold, dilation of the heart). In Much Ado About Nothing, Friar Francis banks on the expectation that Claudio’s imagination will bring about greater physiological affect than the external senses might deliver, when he convinces Leonato to foster public belief in Hero’s supposed death:
So will it fare with Claudio.Appealing to the “eye and prospect” of Claudio’s soul—his mind’s eye, not his actual eyes—is thought to have greater purchase on his sympathy than anything Hero could physically say or do in person, in real presence. Reason, unlike, imagination, does not lead to a sensible alteration in the body: as Coeffeteau observes, “the pleasures of reason cause no other thing then a simple motion of the will, which reioyceth the minde without any alteration of the body, vnlesse it extend vnto the senses” (253-54).
When he shall hear she died upon his words,
Th’idea of her life shall sweetly creep
Into his study of imagination,
And every lovely organ of her life
Shall come apparelled in more precious habit,
More moving, delicate, and full of life,
Into the eye and prospect of his soul
Than when she lived indeed. Then shall he mourn,
If ever love had interest in his liver… (4.1.222-31)
there are some men which suffer themselues to be more transported with the images which Fancy frames in their braines, then by the true obiects of things which subsist really. (249)The description of the subject who allows themselves to become “more transported” with the images of fancy than by true objects bears an uncanny resemblance to Peregrine.
When he grew up towards twenty,Inasmuch as he is able and willing, and yet has encountered let and hindrance, his mind-travelling habits are more likely to be invested in the hope or desire to travel rather than be content to travel in “map and card” as Burton does (1.18). Coeffeteau’s definition of “hope” comes eerily close to Kames’s description of ideal presence, in fact, and has an obvious affinity with Peregrine’s situation:
His mind was all on fire to be abroad.
Nothing but travel still was all his aim;
There was no voyage or foreign expedition
Be said to be in hand, but he made suit
To be made one in it. (1.1.138-43)
Hee which sayd that Hope was a dreame which presents it selfe to them that wake, hath excellently described the nature and effects of this Passion. For as dreames in the night fill vs with illusions and vaine formes, which abuse vs, and which make vs imagine that wee are rich in our extreamest pouerty, … in like manner, Hope, abusing our imagination, fills our soules with vaine contentments. (508)The kind of pleasure associated with hope (and thus the type of melancholy it sometimes gives rise to) is distinct from that associated with desire or enjoyment, for as Coeffeteau explains, “Hope differs from Ioy, which is a contentment of a good which we possesse,” and hope differs from desire in that:
Hope is always mixt with some feare, by reason of the obstacles which present themselues, and may hinder mans enjoying of the good hee hopes for; wherein she differs from Desire, which extends generally to all kinde of good, without any apprehension of difficulty. (516-17)His family having “opposed him still in all and, strongly / Against his will … held him in” (1.1.144-45) in a bid to restrain his “travelling thoughts” (1.1.124) by marrying him off to Martha would certainly qualify as “obstacles” which “may hinder mans enjoying of the good hee hopes for.” Peregrine has actually grown quite paranoid about the persistent attempts to prevent his departures—as he is about to embark on his antipodean odyssey with the Doctor, a letter arrives for Hughball which Peregrine fears is addressed to him: “One sent, / I fear, from my dead mother to make stop / Of our intended voyage” (1.3.212-14). Nevertheless, hope being subject to the irascible appetite (whereas desire belongs to the concupiscible), Peregrine was always likely to undertake great dangers in his pursuit of happiness: the irascible appetite, according to Coeffeteau, “doth always aime at the good which is inuironed with some difficulty” (5-6) and sometimes “makes vs to pursue things which are absolutely contrary to the concupiscible, as when with the hazard of life (which is so deere and precious to all creatures) we seeke to reuenge our selues of a powerfull enemy which hath wronged vs” (9-10).22 Peregrine has no motive for revenge, but his irascible appetite, bred from hope, encourages an analogously dangerous risk in the form of a voyage to the furthest point of the world: in response to the Doctor’s concern, “has not / The journey wearied you in the description?”, Peregrine foolhardily avers his intention to travel and urges the Doctor to “lose no time” talking further (1.3.207-8, 210).
1 The imagination has of course begun to receive greater attention in early modern studies; two of the most recent studies are by Todd Butler and D. K. Smith. Of these, Butler’s study is largely concerned with how, in the hands of Bacon, the imagination “becomes a means by which authority figures can identify their subjects’ desires and then use images and actions to transform such desires into obedience” (53), i.e. although it privileges individual imagination over reason and will, its interests are largely political. Smith’s monograph is “less concerned with the political ramifications of the new maps than with the broader epistemological implications of the new mathematical precision they embodied” (9). In eschewing colonial and mercantile paradigms in favour of the individual imagination, Smith’s concept of a “cartographic imagination” moves beyond a mere awareness of maps to a new way of imagining the world spatially, and “with the way those discourses of imagined space enable other ideas and concepts to be organized and treated” (10). Neither study approaches imagination from the psychophysiological perspective of this paper in any sustained manner.
2 Claire Jowitt, by contrast, has problematically argued that “Peregrine … has become so obsessed with imaginary travel that he is guilty of succumbing to the condition against which Jerome Turler warned his readers in his influential travel manual The Traveiller (1574) … that travellers must not forget the morals and social customs of their own society whilst abroad since promiscuous cultural intermingling will result in their no longer fitting into their home society on return. In The Antipodes, this is precisely what has happened since Peregrine has grown so demented through thinking of nothing but strange customs and countries that he has become a social misfit” (215).
3 As one of the anonymous EMLS readers reminds me, the emphasis on solitary mental rehearsals of travels may even be intended as a corrective to the stereotype of the traveller who proverbially talks too much upon his return.
4 As opposed to “mind-travelling”, which was apparently part of the early modern lexicon, the use of ‘vicarious’ to connote that which is “[e]xperienced imaginatively through another person or agency” (OED ‘vicarious, a’, 4d.) is not recorded before 1929.
5 In fact, as one of the anonymous EMLS readers reminds me, Wood addresses a third category of reader in the final chapter of his work (on the women of New England), which was purportedly added “To satsifie the curious eye of women-readers, who otherwise might thinke their sex forgotten, or not worthy a record” (p.94). Wood’s aim, of course, is to promote a New England life as a desirable possibility for English women, and he attempts to show this by illustrating how English women can help New England’s indigenous women, whose employments are arduous yet undervalued by the men of New England.
6 The title-page text of Thomas Blundeville’s A briefe description of vniuersal mappes and cardes similarly addresses itself to “those that delight in reading of Histories: and also for Traueilers by Land or Sea.”
7 Brome would again draw attention to the instructive and pleasurable aspects of travel in A Jovial Crew (c.1641), where Springlove takes leave of his master Oldrents to travel the countryside as a vagabond:
sir, y’have heard of pilgrimages, and
The voluntary travels of good men.
OLDRENTS. For penance, or to holy ends? But bring
Not those into comparison, I charge you.
SPRINGLOVE. I do not, sir. But pardon me, to think
Their sufferings are much sweetened by delights,
Such as we find by shifting place and air. (1.2.207-13)
8 Rather summarises Fienus’ psychological model thus: “According to this scheme, the common sense or, alternatively, the cogitative sense, receives species communicated by the external senses. These species are communicated to the phantasy or imagination and to the memory. The imagination, being to a degree creative, can form new species of its own. The species are cognitive, immanent, and non-material” (352).
9 Kames qualifies his assertion of ‘spectatorship’ in ideal presence by noting that he “means not that I am really a spectator, but only that I conceive myself to be a spectator, and have a perception of the object similar to what a real spectator hath” (81-82).
10 For the eighteenth-century context, see Rothstein.
11 Lord Kames appears to concur with Fabian Fitzdottrell (see 87-88 on history and the necessity of ideal presence for emotional responses): “The effect of history in point of instruction, depends in some measure upon its veracity; but history cannot reach the heart, while we indulge any reflection upon the facts: such reflection, if it engage our belief, never fails at the same time to poison our pleasure, by convincing us that our sympathy for those who are dead and gone is absurd” (88).
12 Kames continues: “That words independent of action have the same power in a less degree, every one of sensibility must have felt: a good tragedy will extort tears in private, though not so forcibly as upon the stage” (88).
13 On the “growing theatrical phenomenon of vicarious tourism in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries,” especially in the Restoration adaptations of The Tempest, see Roach. Roach’s argument is necessarily different to my own inasmuch as the impetus for his work is provided by the vastly different aesthetics and possibilities of a Restoration playhouse, with its scenic stage and elaborate costumes.
14 Of the aesthetic dimension of texts which induce ideal presence, Rothstein writes that the “flow can change in speed, rhythm, energy, capacity for associative and pathetic development, and dominance of appeal to one sense or another” (313). Such elements of style are rarely considered (or present) in travel texts purporting to be utilitarian (or inheriting that utilitarian emphasis).
15 Burton even comes quite close to anticipating Kames’s “waking dream” when he progresses from discussion of sleep-walking and night terrors to note that the “like effects almost are to be seen in such as are awake.” He observes that some ascribe vices such as “anger, revenge, lust, ambition, [and] covetousness” to “a false and corrupt imagination … which prefers falsehood before that which is right and good, deluding the soul with false shows and suppositions.” (1.253-54).
16 This indulgence of the mind at the expense of the body drew the standard criticisms for being unprofitable; see Craik on how “[t]he panegyrists [for Coryat’s Crudities] thus implicate themselves in a curious form of textual exchange: even as they willingly take in the reading matter they have described as superfluous, they imagine themselves experiencing both delight and affliction. The early modern reading experience could, it seems, be imagined by men to work profound and potentially harmful effects on their own material bodies” (92).
17 Felltham’s description of the effect of poetry on the imagination has applicability to travel texts, which similarly “kindle the reader to wonder and imitation” (153), in a means that is often disproportionate to the quality of the turgid prose that provides the stimulus.
18 A “lack of normal exercise” often led to melancholia, according to Galen (Jackson 375). Lemnius notes that “there be some that haue fallen into this Melancholike habite by watchinge in the nighte at their Studye at vnseasonable houres, by leading a peakish and solitary life, by hunger, penurie and streict fare, or els by vsing and accustoming some kinds of nourishments, whereby they brought themselues into a cold & drye distemperaunce” (144). Nor does Peregrine fall under the category of melancholics “whose mynds ranne vppon absurde imaginations and fonde Ph?tasies” though (151): he doesn’t imagine his nose to be of prodigious proportions, or his belly to contain frogs and serpents, as delusional melancholics often do (see Lemnius 151 or Burton 2.114-15). Peregrine doesn’t think he’s in the antipodes until Hughball and Letoy encourage him to believe it in their ‘cure’ for him. He isn’t delusional beforehand; just preoccupied with his readings.
19 Fienus’s text, although probably the most significant and sustained meditation on the imagination from the early-modern period, has received relatively little attention from critics—probably on account of the difficulty of obtaining an English translation of the Latin text. The partial translation I am working with in this paper is that by L. J. Rather in his 1967 article.
20 As Paster and others have noted, the passions operate principally by affecting the organs, as for example by causing the dilation of the heart when the subject experiences joy: “all Passions may be distinguished by the dilation, enlargement, or diffusion of the heart: and the contraction, collection, or compression of the same: for (as afterward shall be declared in all Passions) the heart is dilated or coarcted more or lesse” (Wright 24). Similar sentiments are expressed by Agrippa 141 and Coeffeteau 253-54. See Paster 12-13: “The language Wright uses here is not a metaphorical expression of emotional tumult but a literal expression of what he understood to happen to a heart in the throes of various passions. Its flesh became more moist and tender in the experience of love, its size enlarged in the experience of joy, it contracted in sadness, and its temperature increased in anger. While these events could not be witnessed directly, they could be felt.”
21 See Rather 353 on the opposition between Burton and Fienus’s positions.
22 Coeffeteau explains that “there are two kinds of appetites in man, that is to say, the intellectuall, which is the reasonable will, and the sensitiue, which is diuided into the irascible and concupiscible, as we haue said: the intellectual reioyceth at good things which are conformable to reason, whereof the vnderstanding is iudge” (253-54). Of these two sensitive appetites, the irascible and the concupiscible, one pursues “those things which are pleasing & agreeable to the senses, and to auoyde those which may any way anoy him: and this we call the concupiscible or desiring power; and the other, by meanes whereof hee may incounter and vanquish whatsoeuer opposeth it selfe, crosseth his inclinations, or that tends to the destruction of his being, or the decay of his contentment, which is that wee call the irascible or angry power. This differs from the concupiscible, for that the concupiscible tends to the sensible good, absolutely considered, and without any crosses; whereas the irascible doth always aime at the good which is inuironed with some difficulty, the which she striues to vanquish to the end shee may take all obstacles from the concupiscible power, which crosse her content, and hinder her from enioying the good which she desires to attaine vnto” (5-6).
23 Coeffeteau explains the process of physical pleasure: “when it is
an effect of our passion, and a signe of pleasure which our heart
receiueth from pleasing obiects, which present themselues vnto our
senses: it comes from a quicke and suddaine motion of the soule,
which desiring to expresse her ioy, excites a great abundance of hot
blood, and multiplies the vitall spirits, which agitate and stir vp
the muscles which are about the heart, & those raise vp the
muscles which are of either side of the mouth, which vpon this
occasion opens with a visible change of the whole forme of the face.
But it riseth from the pleasure and ioy which our soule conceiueth ,
by reason of the pleasing obiects which present themselues vnto our
Agrippa, Henry Cornelius. Three Books of Occult Philosophy. London, 1650. Wing A789. Print.
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