Edmund Burke in his works ‘On the Sublime and Beautiful’ gives us great insight into many ways the human mind interacts with human emotions. His writings deal with a wide range of ideas that are all applied in some manner towards his impression of the true Sublime. For our focus on the Victorian Era and how the politics interacted with the lives of common people, Burke gives us some angles of perception to concentrate on. First we should look at his writings in Part II Section VI, Power.
In this section Burke describes how certain aspects of power can cause an emotional reaction that either brings out or suppresses the sublime. He includes examples of animals such as the Ox, who as an animal of strength is towards the top of its class. However he dives into the idea that sense most Oxen are able to be domesticated and are ‘innocent creatures’ it is ‘by no means grand’ (Power, Burke). Thus it is not sublime. Further along we see he continues to use the examples of animals that have strength and power who inflict terror in us, have a footing in the definition of the sublime. For instance Burke uses tigers, bulls, and wolves to accomplish this idea of a power animal that terrorizes the human mind via fear. It is this fear that we see in our Victorian Era monarchs upon their subjects that we can relate back to Burke’s sublime. Edmund Burke pronounces perfectly this idea later in his writing Power, “Thus we are affected by strength, which is natural power. The power which arises from institution in kings and commanders, has the same connexion with terror. Sovereigns are frequently addressed with the title of dread majesty” (Power, Burke).
During this time the common person would have had little idea as to the on goings of the political agenda of their country. Burke’s works, ‘Obscurity’ shows just how much power the unknown can have and the effects of this power if used in the correct way. He discusses the idea of feeling a more full extent of danger when we can’t fully grasp its entirety, classically using the example of being more afraid of things during the night. Other aspects are based on the same thought process, for instance, using the concept of forming something in your mind like ghosts, which you can’t truly visualize. It is this method of fear via lack of knowledge that the reigning governments at the time were able to not only maintain power but twist the masses to their will. Put simply, “Those despotic governments, which are founded on the passions of men, and principally upon the passion of fear, keep their chief as much as may be from the public eye” states Burke (Obscurity, Burke).
“Burke, Edmund. 1909Â14. On the Sublime and Beautiful. Vol. 24, Part 2. The Harvard Classics.” Burke, Edmund. 1909Â14. On the Sublime and Beautiful. Vol. 24, Part 2. The Harvard Classics. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Sept. 2012. <http://www.bartleby.com/24/2/>.