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“great man should speak of another;” and which they who are truly great will feel a peculiar pleasure to employ, when the well-merited fame of an adversary is in question. Nor is this magnanimity without its reward in the judgment of the world. Where is the individual to be found, who, in reading the foregoing story of Æschines, does not envy the feelings he enjoyed at that proud moment of his life, far more than the palm of eloquence which he yielded to his enemy 2 * Why do not men of superior talents, if they should not always aspire to the praise of a candour so heroic, strive at least, for the honour of the arts which they love, to conceal their ignoble jealousies from the malignity of those, whom incapacity and mortified pride have leagued together, as the covenanted foes of worth and genius 2 What a triumph has been furnished to the writers who delight in levelling all the proud distinctions of humanity; and what a stain has been left on some of the fairest pages of our literary history, by the irritable passions and petty hostilities of Pope and of Addison The complete forgetfulness of every selfish passion (so beautifully exemplified in the anecdote of
- “Quo mihimelius etiam illud ab AEschine dictum “videri solet, qui clim propter ignominiam judicii cessisset “Athenis, et se Rhodum contulisset, rogatus à Rhodiis, legisse “fertur orationem illam egregiam, quam in Ctesiphontem contra “Demosthenem dixerat: qua perlecta, petitum estab eo pos“tridie, ut legeret illam etiam, quae erat contra à Demosthene “ pro Ctesiphonte edita: quam cum suavissima et maxima “voce legisset, admirantibus omnibus, Quanto, inquit, magis ad
“miraremini, si audissetis ipsum !"—Cic. de Orat. Lib. III.
AEschines), when the mind is agitated by the enthusiasm of admiration;–the sympathetic identification which then takes place of the hearer or reader with the author, was probably what Longinus felt, when he observed, in his account of the Sublime, that “it fills the mind with a glorying and sense of in“ward greatness, as if it had itself conceived what “it has only heard.” If the remark should be censured as out of place, when introduced into his statement of the characteristics of Sublimity, it must, at least, be allowed to be happily descriptive of that temper and frame which are essential to its complete enjoyment.—“Voilà le sublime ! Voilà son véri“ table caractère P’ is said to have been the exclamation of the great Condé, when Boileau read to him his translation of the above passage. Having been insensibly led into these reflections on some of the moral defects by which Taste is liable to be injured, I cannot help quoting, before I close this view of my subject, a remark of Sir Joshua Reynolds (not altogether unconnected with it), which appears to me equally refined and just. “The “same habit of mind,” he observes, “which is ac“quired by our search after truth in the more se“rious duties of life, is, in matters of taste, only “transferred to the pursuit of lighter amusements. “The same disposition, the same desire to find “something steady, substantial, and durable, on “which the mind can lean as it were, and rest “with safety. The subject only is changed. We “pursue the same method in our search after the “idea of beauty and perfection in each; of virtue,
“by looking forwards beyond ourselves, to society “ and to the whole; of arts, by extending our views “in the same manner to all ages and all times.” In farther illustration of the same idea he observes, “that the real substance of what goes under the “name of Taste is fixed and established in the mature “of things; that there are certain and regular causes “by which the imagination and passions of men are “affected; and that the knowledge of these causes “is acquired by a laborious and diligent investigation “of nature, and by the same slow process as wisdom “ or knowledge of every kind.”—I would only add (by way of limitation), that these observations apply rather to that quality of Taste which is denoted by the words justness or soundness, than to its sensibility and delicacy; which last circumstances seem to depend, in no inconsiderable degree, on original temperament. The former is unquestionably connected very closely with the love of truth, and with what is perhaps only the same thing under a different form, simplicity of character. If the account be just which has now been given, of the process by which Taste is formed, and of the various faculties and habits which contribute their share to its composition, we may reasonably expect, where it exists in its highest perfection, to find an understanding, discriminating, comprehensive, and unprejudiced ; united with a love of truth and of nature, and with a temper superior to the irritation of little passions. While it implies a spirit of accurate observation and of patient induction, ap
plied to the most fugitive and evanescent class of our mental phenomena, it evinces that power of separating universal associations from such as are local or personal, which, more than any other quality of the mind, is the foundation of good sense, both in scientific pursuits, and in the conduct of life. The intellectual efforts by which such a taste is formed are, in reality, much more nearly allied than is commonly suspected, to those which are employed in prosecuting the most important and difficult branches of the Philosophy of the Human Mind. Nor am I inclined to think, that this conclusion will, on examination, appear inconsistent with fact. That a partial taste, confined to some particular art, such as music, painting, or even poetry, may be often found united with an intellect which does not rise above the common level, I very readily grant; although I think it questionable, whether, in such an intellect, supposing example and imitation to be altogether out of the question, even a partial taste of this kind could have been originally formed. But the fair test of the soundness of the foregoing reasonings is an instance, in which the good taste of the individual has been the fruit of his own exertions; and in which it extends, more or less, to all the arts which he has made the objects of his study, and which nature has not denied him, by some organical defect in his original constitution, a capacity of enjoying. Where a good taste has been thus formed, I am fully persuaded, that the inferences which I have supposed to follow with respect to the other intellectual powers involved in its composition, will be justified, in all their extent, by an appeal to expe. I'16Ince. The subject might be prosecuted much farther, by examining the varieties of taste in connection with the varieties of human character. In studying the latter, whether our object be to seize the intellectual or the moral features of the mind, the former will be found to supply as useful and steady a light as any that we can command. To myself it appears to furnish the strongest of them all; more particularly, where the finer and more delicate shades of character are in question.—But the illustration of this remark belongs to some speculations, which I destine for a different work.