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sense of the word, is that faculty by which we distinguish beauty and excellence in the works of art; as the palate distinguishes what is pleasant in meat and drink. This latter faculty is natural; the former, so far as it signifies judgment, is the result of education and experience, and can be found only in a cultivated mind.”
Whatever it may be understood, in its various differences of acceptation, to mean, it doubtless involves a certain condition of the critical faculty. Refinement of the taste implies a maturing and sharpening of the powers of judgment, and a gradual widening of the basis upon which its operations are conducted. Whether taste be in itself and in its origin a natural gift, whether it be altogether denied to some while it is possessed by others in a state of original perfection, this is a question with which we do not meddle. We contend, that in so far as it is capable of cultivation, it depends for its growth upon a corresponding activity of mind in relation to the subject-matter of which it is cognizant. This may seem to imply no more than that, as taste is confessedly an attribute of the reasoning faculty or the understanding, it grows with its growth and strengthens with its strength. Even so; but that is not the view of taste which is implied in the notion of those who would claim for it a status superior to and independent of the colder region of intellect, and who would subject it only to the arbitrary and self-regulated conditions of its own consciousness,—who would claim it as an exclusive attribute of genius, akin to the creative genius of poet, or painter, or sculptor. We need scarcely say that much of the affectation and arrogance which accompanies the want of true taste has its origin in absurd individual misconceptions of this character. We mention such only to reject them as unworthy of anything like a true estimate of taste.
Doubtless there is such a thing as the instinctive judgment of high genius,—that téxvn årexvoç which is here and there met with in the world; but this proves only that taste admits of various degrees of development, from that in which the successive stages of its growth are distinctly observable to that in which they seem blended in one simultaneous act of thought and judgment. Whether the former of these conditions be only a faltering and abnormal exhibition of that which is seen in its true character only in the genius of intuition, is an interesting question, but it does not affect the assumption that taste is capable of cultivation and refinement.
In claiming for taste a connection with the active exercise of intellect, we separate it off sharply from dilettanteism, and from that desultory state which would enfeeble the mind and lay the subject of taste open to grave moral objections. It is in virtue, therefore, of its striet amenability to the rules which apply to other studies, that we claim for it a distinct disciplinal value.
The refinement of the critical faculty is doubtless the result of a combination of influences. The power of interpreting impressions produced upon the senses by the contemplation of external objects in a language intelligible to the mind itself is not a simple matter.*
* The power of interpreting such impressions in a language intelligible to other minds is quite another thing. It is a singular gift--far rarer than the taste which simply “appreciates,” or the “ ardent sympathy" of enthusiasm, which is too often Before proper discipline has been exerted, the balance necessary to be established between the operation of the senses and of the mind is imperfect. The mind is liable to be imposed upon until its jurisdiction is fairly established. When the judgment too readily assents to the appeal of the senses, the result is commonly an undue arrogation of authority, without anything like ground for such confidence. The man of confident, as well as hasty judgment, in matters of taste, is little likely to succeed in the attempt really to cultivate and refine his powers.
We contend that there must be a patient and unassuming spirit of beginning at the beginning in this as in every other matter appertaining to education. The critical faculty in man is one which requires most time to mature, and will least of all bear to be precipitated into maturity, inasmuch as it is the business of this faculty to pronounce, as well as to form, judgments on matters of taste. There may well be a certain deliberativeness and hesitancy about the development of powers so large, and which require so little encouragement to declare themselves in the majority. Time and pains bestowed upon the several degrees in their attainment will, after all, seem to be most valuably bestowed.
The habit of accurate observation, then, will lie at the foundation of that growth of the critical faculty which we have described as complex in its nature. How does the critical faculty develop itself out of this origin, and where does the complexity in its character begin ?
In talking this part of our subject over with a friend for whose taste we bave a deep respect, we obtained the following account of his experience, which we think of value and of greater interest than an entirely abstract answer to the question proposed.
“I owe the early growth of my taste," he said, “to my boyish familiarity with the noble church of my native town—à gem of architectural beauty and interest ; and this not in the way of sentimental influences such as are commonly ascribed to what is old and historical, but in a practical matter-of-fact fashion. The moment I began really to observe, I set to work to sketch portions of the church, the ruined chapter-house, the mouldings, the decorated windows, but particularly the altar-tombs, with their recumbent effigies of Crusaders. My object was to produce exact copies of the different objects which attracted me. I bestowed the most minute attention upon details, was never tired of my work, but again and again drew from the same models ; at last I began to study what I had so often reproduced, and with more careful study came a certain intelligence of judgment in relation to these various objects. I set to work to ascertain their historical and architectural value, and finding this to be high, I carried with me some fastidiousness and boyish jealousy into my observation of the remains of other ancient buildings. I began to compare styles, and to acquire an appreciation of minute differences in the characteristic features of various periods. The critical faculty had started all at once into vigorous life, without my being conscious of so high-sounding an acquisition. This very want of
mistaken for inspiration. "The stimulus which impels a young or inexperienced fancy to expression is a very different thing from that thorough realization of a great action or stirring incident, which alone enables one mind to imprint its own impressions in sharp and vigorous outline on another."- Article on “ Poetry of the Past Year,”—Christian Remembrancer, April, 1856.
consciousness favoured the growth of a quality of judgment which I afterwards recognized and acknowledged as cultivated taste. But first in order, I repeat, was the dogged and accurate devotion to details in the objects with which I had been so long familiar ; this was the first step in the analysis of those vague impressions which so far had manifested themselves only in an undefined regard for the old church the first spelling out of the charm which constituted its attractions. Then, when I had well-nigh wearied myself with the effort to acquire the power of accurate rendering, the interest began to assume a more intelligent and complex character. There was an unskilful and imperfect balancing of many considerations, such as I have described. As this effort became more continuous, and the adjustment of the balance a matter of greater nicety, judgment developed into taste, and an intuitive faculty—or rather what was really the result of discipline, but what, from having become habitual, seemed to bear the semblance of intuition-was the result. This was the case, at the same time, with other objects of study-coins and the like. This I conceive to be the history of the little that I possess in the way of taste.”
This account our experience indorses as a true analysis. When the growth of taste has advanced thus far, how may we describe its further progress ? Being what we have described it, we believe that it assumes steadiness and breadth in proportion as knowledge increases. The larger the grounds which are presented to the observation of the critical faculty,—the more sound and precise the acquaintance with the facts which form the subject-matter of judgment, the more likely the taste is to gather strength and delicacy of action. Here, however, come in other considerations ; the analytical process soon claims assistance from the synthetical. The desire for system for order in the mass of evidence examined, in the various objects which have been subjected to analysis the discrimination of principles only, half-separated from a perplexing substratum of facts ; these all lead the mind on to philosophical cousiderations and to its severest labour. The great desire is for simplicity and for a proper adjustment and subordination of principles ; the mind begins to see that in all beauty and grandeur of conception the element of simplicity is paramount. It is here, then, that we witness most frequent failures in studies connected with taste, a failure incident to the difficulties of this stage of the progress, and due to the fact, that whilst there are many men capable of fulfilling the conditions of the study thus far, there are few possessed of a philosophic appreciation of first principles-few who can discern the unity which reigns amid the varied and complex forms in which beauty is presented to the mind — few who can, in the words of an old friend's Latin prize poem at Oxford,
“ Multiplicem rerum cognoscere simplicitatem.” . But just in proportion as the study increases in difficulty does it furnish ground for the legitimate discipline of the higher mental faculties. It is to be observed, that we have in some measure subjected the domain of imagination to the jurisdiction of intellect ; by which we do not mean that the poet or the painter is to proceed upon the idea that his fancy must wear the bridle and the bit of the logical regimen,* but only that
* “ Dabitur licentia sumpta pudenter.”-Hor. Art. Poet. 51.
the student, in dealing with the works of poet, ar paintersiar musician, . may bring a severe and well-accredited test to bear upon them. :Nor, again, would we be understood to mean that a high condition of the critical faculty is all that is needful to the critic of taste, but only, indeed, that, with all his other qualifications, he must be a man of practical logical acumen, exercised in nice distinctions, and skilled in the difficult process of simplifying and discerning the proportionate value of the subject-matter of his studies. This is the view of the matter which commends itself to our present consideration, and we think we have said enough to show that those studies which contribute to the cultivation of the taste are neither in themselves dangerous nor calculated to enfeeble the intellect of the student; on the contrary, that they are, under certain conditions, subsidiary to the severest mental discipline, and in all cases most desirable as a check upon the imagination. And here we may be permitted to call attention to a tendency in the poetry of the day to disregard those considerations which we would thus associate with works of the imagination ; that is, a tendency to carelessness and to a neglect of the fixed rules of art, as well as downright slovenliness of execution.* By fixed rules, we mean those requirements of choice, as to subject and as to care in carrying out such definite aim, which cannot be regarded as arbitrary ; such conditions, for example, as answer to the choice of subject and propriety of treatment in the painter, and which cannot be violated without manifest disregard of the principles of art. + Perhaps the most convincing evidence of the faults to which we allude, and of the necessity for discipline in those who would influence and refine the taste of their fellow-men, is the absence of simplicity and the consequent absence of charm in their poems as a whole.
A good illustration of the foregoing remarks may be drawn from the subject of music. Now we would not deny that there are some persons who possess musical taste of a high order without having anything like a scientific knowledge of the subject; but this is not to allow that such natural gifts are incapable of cultivation and refinement. Acquaintance with the principles of harmony will invest the critical qualities of high natural taste with the right and with the power of maintaining judgments on subjects of taste which, it may be, owe their origin to genius alone. Science is with such gifted persons nothing but the rationale or philosophic rendering into system of their impressions, each on its own basis, and in its relation to other parts of a laboriously-defined and wellconsidered scheme.
Most people have something for which they claim the name of musical taste, but few are in the way of ever cultivating or refining their
*“ Vos, ô
Perfectum decies non castigavit ad unguem."-16. 291-295.
« Pictoribus atque Poëtis
“ Sed in vitium libertas excidit, et vim
judgment. There are few who subject their love of music to anything like a studious discipline. It is true that the common mode of teaching music is, too often, so little calculated to affect the taste or to inform the judgment, that it becomes little else than a more or less elaborate schooling of the fingers or the voice. But this is not what we mean by the cultivation of the musical faculty, and we would predict disappointment as the natural result of this system in the case of those who take it up with any but the very commonest expectations. On the other hand, there is a pursuit of music which, we are assured, would yield the most abundant return to the student. This consists in that very same study of the first principles or grammar of the science which we have spoken of as characteristic of all study which is designed to elevate the critical faculty. It consists in an analysis of harmony, which is to the scholar in music what the study of the axioms and postulates of geometry is to one just opening Euclid, or the scheme of opposition to one commencing logic. *
And going on to speak of a kindred subject-painting ; there is here, likewise, a foundation-study of elements, or simple truths, in a certain application of which lies the art of successful colouring and delineation, and all the mechanical power of the highest artist. What it is which makes him great in his work, we shall see presently. But speaking merely of the internal appliances of art, the great painter will almost certainly be a man of great natural genius for form, or colour, or arrangement. And yet how close an apprenticeship to nature, to the study of anatomy, to the practice of chiaroscuro, &c., do really great painters and sculptors invariably serve! How laboriously do we find, from time to time, men of the highest genius in all the several arts striving after the perfection of an ideal which they alone have the power to realize in their imagination ! How do the numerous studies of great artists which have come down to us attest this! What a strange tale do the MSS. of great poets sometimes tell us of the most laborious and gradual finish! How does the extraordinary care bestowed by our great singers and musicians upon the study and practice of their compositions witness the same ! · People of ordinary musical cultivation may be content to gain some insight into the mysteries of the art through the medium of analogy and familiar illustration. We hear professors speak of the grammatical correctness of musical compositions, and, beyond this, of style, and character, and depth. Now, the analogy conveyed in the use of these terms may teach us that, to those who are ignorant of the principles of harmony, musical excellence is a thing of uncertain appreciation. It is true that we may know something of a language without being accurately acquainted with its grammar, but we know that the degree of our acquaintance with it depends upon our familiarity with its accidence and its syntax. Now, in the case of a person speaking his own language, this grammatical knowledge has become, in a measure, instinctive. Just so is it with high musical cultivation, with those whose natural genius
* We borrow this notion in respect to musical learning from a friend who has studied the first principles of the science with the most remarkable success, and to whom the knowledge thus acquired has proved an invaluable resource, as enabling him to give correct and ready expression to his own conceptions in music.