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lead to any interesting conclusion, or excite any pleasant emotion. The fact seems to be (as I have observed on the same occasion), that “the mind, when once it has “felt the pleasure, has little inclination to retrace “ the steps by which it arrived at it.” It is owing to this, that Taste has been so generally ranked among our original faculties; and that so little attention has hitherto been given to the process by which it is formed. Dr Gerard and Mr Alison, indeed, have analysed, with great ingenuity and success, the most important elements which enter into its composition, as it exists in a well-informed and cultivated mind; and some very valuable observations on the same subject may be collected from Montesquieu, Voltaire, and D'Alembert: but it did not fall under the design of any of these writers to trace the growth of Taste from its first seeds in the constitution of our nature; or to illustrate the analogy which it exhibits, in some of the intellectual processes connected with it, to what takes place in various other acquired endowments of the understanding. It is in this point of view, that I propose to consider it in this Essay;-a point of view, in which I am sensible the subject by no means presents the same pleasing and inviting aspect, as when examined in its connection with the rules of philosophical criticism ; but in which it is reasonable to expect, that it may afford some new illustrations of the theory of the human mind. The two inquiries, it is obvious, are widely different from each other; resembling somewhat, in their mutuat relation, that which exists between Berkeley’s analysis of the process by which children learn to judge of distances and magnitudes, and the researches of the Optician concerning the defects to which vision is liable, and the means by which art is enabled to enlarge the sphere of its perceptions. Different, however, as these inquiries are in their aim, they may perhaps be found to reflect light on each other, in the course of our progress; and, indeed, I should distrust the justness of my own opimions, were they to lead me to any conclusions materially different from those which have been sanctioned by so many and so high authorities.



I have already said, that notwithstanding the attempts which a few philosophers have made to ascertain the nature of Taste, the prevailing notions concerning it are far from being correct or definite. Of this, no doubt can be entertained by those who have observed the manner in which it is classed by some of the latest writers on the Human Mind, in their analysis of our Intellectual Faculties; or who recollect the definitions given of it, in our most popular books of criticism. It is sufficient for me to mention that of Dr Blair, according to which, its characteristical quality is said to consist in “a power “ of receiving pleasure from the beauties of nature “ and of art.” From the following lines, too, it would appear that the idea of it entertained by Akenside was nearly the same : “What then is Taste, but these internal powers, “Active and strong, and feelingly alive “To each fine impulse?” It is in consequence of this gift that we are supposed to be susceptible of the pleasures resulting

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from a poem, a picture, a landscape, a well-propor-
tioned building, a regular set of features; and it is
to those individuals who possess it, that Nature is
understood to have confined exclusively the right of
pronouncing judgment in the fine arts, and even on
the beauties of her own productions.
If these ideas be just, it evidently follows, that
the degree of our taste is proportioned to the de-
gree of pleasure we are fitted to receive from its ap-
propriate objects. The fact, however, is certainly
different. Many whose taste is indisputably good,
contemplate with little interest what they acknow-
ledge to be beautiful; while others, in whom the
slightest pretension to taste would be justly treated
with ridicule, are affected, on the same occasion,
with rapture and enthusiasm. Nor are the words
Taste and Sensibility by any means conceived to be
synonymous in the common apprehensions of man-
kind. On the contrary, a more than ordinary share
of the latter quality is apt to be regarded as pretty
strong evidence of some deficiency in the former.
That Taste does not consist in sensibility alone,
appears farther from this, that it is susceptible of
improvement from culture, in a higher degree, per-
haps, than any other power of the mind; whereas
the acuteness of all our feelings is diminished by a
repetition of the impression.—The truth of this last
remark will be fully established in another work,
where I shall have occasion to contrast the opposite
effects of habit on our passive impressions, and on our
active principles.
These general observations are sufficient to shew,

that the definition of Taste, formerly quoted, is at least incomplete; and that this power must necessarily include other elements in its composition.

In order to ascertain what these elements are, the first step seems to be, to examine that particular class of objects with which Taste is conversant. In this part of the inquiry, the conclusions to which we have been led by the foregoing speculations will, I hope, furnish some useful principles.

From the train of thought pursued in a former

Essay, it appeared, that even in those objects of

taste which are presented to the mind, by the sense of Seeing alone, an indefinite variety of circumstances, of very different kinds, may conspire in producing that agreeable effect, to the cause of which we give the name of Beauty:-colours, forms, motion, proportion, fitness, symmetry, variety, utility, with all the modifications of which they are susceptible ;together with the numberless charms attached to moral expression, or arising from associations established by custom, between the material world and our complicated frame. It appeared farther, that in such instances, the pleasing emotion (heightened, as it frequently is, by the concomitant pleasures of Sound) continues still, as far as our consciousness can judge of it, to be simple and uncompounded, and that all the different sources from which it proceeds are naturally united, and identified in our conceptions, with the organic impressions on the eye or on the ear. *

* Voltaire furnishes an apposite illustration of this remark, in his description of the opera at Paris: "

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