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which forms the basis of the foregoing speculations concerning the Beautiful, I resolved to resume the consideration of it more deliberately, as soon as my necessary engagements should permit; in the hope that the two discussions might reflect additional lights on each other. In this I flatter myself that I have not been altogether disappointed; and, accordingly, I have placed them together, in arranging the materials of this volume; although without any direct references in either to the parallel train of thought pursued in the other. An attentive reader will be able easily to collect for himself the general results to which they lead. The Essay on the Beautiful has been lying by me for several years, much in the same state in which it now appears. The greater part of that on the Sublime (with the exception of a few pages, which I have copied very nearly from the notes transmitted to Mr Price) was written last summer, during a short residence in a distant part of the country, where I had no opportunity whatever of consulting books. I mention this merely to account for the selection of my illustrations, many of which, I am sensible, may appear too hackneyed to be introduced into a disquisition, which it would have been desirable to enliven and adorn by examples possessing something more of the zest of novelty and variety. At first, I intended to have corrected this fault, as far as I was able, in transcribing my papers for the press; but, on more mature reflection, it struck me forcibly, that the quotations which had offered themselves spontaneously to my memory, while engaged in the consideration of general principles, were likely, from the very circumstance of their triteness, to possess some important advantages over any that I could substitute in their place. They shew, at least, by their familiarity to every ear, that I have not gone far out of my way, in quest of instances to support a preconceived hypothesis; and afford a presumption, that the conclusions to which I have been led are the natural result of impressions and associations not confined to a small number of individuals. Whether indolence may not have contributed somewhat to fortify me in these opinions, it is now too late for me to consider.
ON THE SUBLIME.
OF SUBLIMITY, IN THE LITERAL SENSE OF THE won D.
Among the writers who have hitherto attempted to ascertain the nature of the Sublime, it has been very generally, if not universally, taken for granted, that there must exist some common quality in all the various objects characterized by this common epithet. In their researches, however, concerning the essential constituent of Sublimity, the conclusions to which they have been led are so widely different from each other, that one would scarcely suppose, on a superficial view, they could possibly relate to the same class of phenomena;-a circumstance the more remarkable, that, in the statement of these phemomena, philosophical critics are, with a few trifling exceptions, unanimously agreed. Mr Burke seems disposed to think, that the essence of the sublime is the terrible, operating either openly or more latently." Helvetius has adopted the same general idea, but has expressed it (in my opinion) rather more precisely ; asserting, that “the sublime “ of imagery always supposes an emotion of terror “ begun ; and that it cannot be produced by any “other cause.”” Dr Blair, with great diffidence, has hazarded a conjecture, that the solution of the problem is to be found in the idea of mighty power or force ; and Mr Knight has lately contended for a theory which ascribes the effect in question to the influence of mental energy, exciting a sympathetic energy in the mind of the spectator or of the reader. According to Lord Kames, “a beautiful object, “placed high, appearing more agreeable than for“merly, produces in the spectator a new emotion, “ termed the emotion of sublimity; and every other “emotion, resembling this emotion of elevation, is “called by the same name.” T Longinus, who confined his attention to the Sublime in writing, contented himself with remarking one of its characteristical effects ; “that it fills the reader with a glory
* In one passage, he asserts this in very unqualified terms: “Terror is, in all cases whatsoever, either more openly or latent“ly, the ruling principle of the sublime.”—Part ii. Sect. 2.
In other instances he expresses himself more guardedly; speaking of Terror as only one of the sources, though one of the chief sources, of Sublimity.
* De l'Homme, de ses Facultés, et de son Education.
t “Thus generosity is said to be an elevated emotion, as well as “great courage; and that firmness of soul which is superior to mis“fortunes, obtains the peculiar name of magnanimity. On the “other hand, every emotion that contracts the mind, and fixeth “it upon things trivial or of no importance, is termed low, by its “resemblance to a little or low object of sight: thus an appetite “for trifling amusements is called a low taste. Sentiments, and “even expressions, are characterized in the same manner: an “expression or sentiment that raises the mind is denominated “great or elevated: and hence the SUBLIME in poetry.”—Ele
ments of Criticism. #
“ing, and sense of inward greatness:”—A remark which has been sanctioned by the concurrent approbation of all succeeding critics, however widely they have differed in their conclusions concerning the specific cause with which the effect is connected. In consequence of these attempts to resolve all the different kinds of Sublimity into one single princi. ple, a great deal of false refinement has been displayed in bending facts to preconceived systems. The speculations of Mr Burke himself are far from being invulnerable in this point of view; although he may justly claim the merit of having taken a more comprehensive survey of his subject, and of having combined, in his induction, a far more valuable collection of particular illustrations, than any of his predecessors. It appears to me, that none of these theorists have paid sufficient attention to the word Sublime in its literal and primitive sense; or to the various natural associations founded on the physical and moral concomitants of great Altitude. " It is surely a pro
* As for the etymology of Sublime (sublimis), I leave it willingly to the conjectures of lexicographers. The common one which we meet with in our Latin dictionaries (q. supra limum) is altogether unworthy of notice.
[I have allowed the foregoing sentence to remain as it stood in the former edition of this work, although I have since been satisfied, by some observations kindly sent me by my very learned, philosophical, and revered friend, Dr Parr, that the opinion which I have here pronounced with so much confidence is unsound. The mortification I feel in making this acknowledgment is to me much more than compensated by the opportunity afford