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literal sense, has ceased to have a meaning. In this case, a very pleasing arrangement of Nature is exhibited ; the qualities of Mind which insensibly stole, in the first instance, those flattering epithets which are descriptive of a fair eaterior, now restoring their borrowed embellishments, and keeping alive, in the eye of conjugal affection, that Beauty which has long perished to every other. The progress just remarked, in the instance of Colours, admits of an easy and complete illustration, in the gradual transference of the painter's admiration (in proportion as his taste is exercised and improved), from the merely organical charms of his art, to its sublimer beauties. It is not that he is less delighted with beautiful colouring than before; but because his Imagination can easily supply its absence, when excellencies of a superior order engage his attention.” It is for the same reason, that a masterly sketch with chalk, or with a pencil, gives, to a practised eye, a pleasure to which nothing could be added by the hand of a common artist; and that the relics of ancient statuary, which are beheld with comparative indifference by the vulgar of all countries, are surveyed by men of cultivated taste with still greater rapture, than the forms which live on the glowing canvas of the painter. Hence, too, it happens, that, in the progress of Taste, the word Beautiful comes to be more peculiarly appropriated (at least by critics and philosophers) to Beauty in its most complicated and impressive form. In this sense we plainly understand it, when we speak of analysing beauty. To Colour, and to the other simple elements which enter into its composition, although we may still, with the most unexceptionable propriety, apply this epithet, we more commonly (as far as I am able to judge) apply the epithet pleasing, or some equivalent expression.
* See Note (Y.).
I shall only remark farther, on this head, that, in the imitative arts, the most beautiful colours, when they are out of place, or when they do not harmonize with each other, produce an effect which is peculiarly offensive; and that, in articles of dress or of furniture, a passion for gaudy decoration is justly regarded as the symptom of a taste for the Beautiful, which is destined never to pass the first stage of infancy.
CHAPTER SEVENTH. “
goNTINUATION of THE SUBJECT-oBJECTIONs To A THEORY OF BEAUTY PROPOSED BY FATHER BUFFIER AND SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS.
Before concluding these disquisitions concerning the influence of Association on our ideas of the Beautiful, I think it proper to take some notice of a theory upon the subject, adopted by two very emiment men, Father Buffier and Sir Joshua Reynolds, according to which we are taught, that “the effect “of Beauty depends on Habit alone; the most “customary form in each species of things being in“variably the most beautiful.” “A beautiful nose,” for example (to borrow Mr Smith's short, but masterly illustration of Buffier's principle), “is one that is neither very long nor very “short; neither very straight nor very crooked; “but a sort of middle among all these extremes, and “less different from any one of them, than all of “ them are from one another. It is the form which “nature seems to have aimed at in them all; which, “however, she deviates from in a great variety of “ways, and very rarely hits exactly, but to which “all these deviations still bear a very strong resem“blance. In each species of creatures, what “is most beautiful bears the strongest characters of “the general fabric of the species, and has the “strongest resemblance to the greater part of the “individuals with which it is classed. Monsters, “on the contrary, or what is perfectly deformed, “are always most singular and odd, and have the “least resemblance to the generality of that species “to which they belong. And thus, the beauty of “each species, though, in one sense, the rarest of “all things, because few individuals hit the middle “form exactly, yet, in another, is the most common, “because all the deviations from it resemble it more “than they resemble one another.” " The same opinion has been since stated in much stronger and more explicit terms, by a still higher authority than Buffier, Sir Joshua Reynolds. “Every species,” he observes, “ of the animal “ as well as the vegetable creation, may be said to “have a fixed or determinate form, towards which “Nature is continually inclining, like various lines * terminating in the centre ; and, as these lines all “cross the centre, though only one passes through “any other point, so it will be found, that perfect “beauty is oftener produced by nature than de“formity : I do not mean than deformity in ge“neral, but than any one kind of deformity. To “instance, in a particular part of a feature, the line “that forms the ridge of the nose is beautiful when
, “it is straight. This, then, is the central form, “which is oftener found than either concave, con“vex, or any other irregular form that shall be pro“posed. As we are then more accustomed to beau“ty than to deformity, we may conclude that to be “the reason why we approve and admire it, as we “approve and admire customs and fashions of dress, “for no other reason than that we are used to “them ; so that, though habit and custom cannot “be said to be the cause of beauty, it is certainly “ the cause of our liking it: And I have no doubt, “but that, if we were more used to deformity than “beauty, deformity would then lose the idea now “annexed to it, and take that of beauty; as if the “whole world should agree, that yes and no should “change their meaning; yes would then deny, and “ no would affirm.” " As this theory has plainly taken its rise from a misconception of the manner in which the principle of Association operates, the objections to it which I have to offer form a natural sequel to the discussions contained in the preceding/chapter. Among these objections, what strikes myself with the greatest force is, -that, granting the theory to be just, so far as it goes, it does not at all touch the main difficulty it professes to resolve. Admitting it to be a fact (as I very readily do, in the sense in which the proposition is explained by Reynolds), “That in each species of things, the most custom“ary form is the most beautiful ;” and supposing,
* Idler, No. 82. See also Reynolds's Works by Malone, 2d edit. p. 237. I