Imágenes de página

although of inestimable value, leave much to be done. by an inventive imagination. In the mind of a man who feels and judges for himself, a large proportion of the rules which guide his decisions exist only in his own understanding. Many of them he probably never thought of clothing with language even to himself; and some of them would certainly, if he should attempt to embody them in words, elude all his efforts to convey their import to others. “What we call genius,” says Reynolds, “be“gins, not where rules, abstractedly taken, end; “but where known, vulgar, and trite rules have no. “longer any place.”—“It is true, these refined: “principles cannot be always made palpable, like “the more gross rules of art; yet it does not follow, “but that the mind may be put in such a train, that “it shall perceive, by a kind of scientific sense, that “propriety, which words can but very feebly sug“gest.” All this will be found to apply literally to original. or inventive Taste, and to suggest matter for very curious and useful reflection.—But some other views of this power appear to me to form a more natural sequel to the foregoing observations; and to these, accordingly, I shall confine myself at present, in the farther prosecution of the subject of this Essay.



From the account formerly given of the origin and progress of our notions with respect to the Beautiful, it appeared, that the circumstances which please in objects of Taste are of two very different kinds. :First, those which derive their effect from the organical adaptation of the human frame to the external universe; and Secondly, those which please in consequence of associations gradually formed by experience. Among the various particulars belonging to this second class (a class which comprehends by far the most important elements which, in such an age as ours, enter into the composition of the beautiful), a very obvious distinction may be made. (1.) Such beauties as owe their existence to associations resulting necessarily from the common circumstances of the human race; and, therefore, extending their influence, more or less, to all mankind. Examples of these universal associations occur in the uniformity of language (remarked in the two preceding Essays) among various civilized nations, in speaking

of Beauty and of Sublimity. (2.) Beauties which have no merit but what depends on custom and fashion; or on certain peculiarities in the situation and history of the individual. Of the two last descriptions of beauty, the former, it is evident, agree in one very essential respect, with the organical beauties first mentioned. Both of them have their source in the principles of Human Nature (comprehending, under this phrase, not only the natural constitution, but the natural condition of man); and, accordingly, they both fall under the consideration of that sort of criticism which forms a branch of the Philosophy of the Human Mind. The associations on which they are founded have equally a claim to a place among the elements of the Beautiful; nor can any theory of Beauty be admitted as sufficiently comprehensive, in which either the one or the other is overlooked. As an illustration of this, I shall mention only Mr Burke's theory, which excludes from the idea of Beauty all considerations of proportion, fitness, and utility. In order to justify such exclusions as these, it surely is not sufficient to shew, that the qualities just mentioned cannot be brought under a particular and arbitrary definition. The question for the philosopher to consider is, what has led mankind, in ancient as well as in modern times, to class together these, and a variety of other qualities, under one common name; and frequently to employ the name of some one of them to comprehend the whole. A passage formerly quoted from Cicero attords an instance in point: “Itaque eorum ipsorum, qua.


“adspectu sentiuntur, nullum aliud animal pulchri“tudinem, venustatem, convenientiam partium sen“tit; quam similitudinem natura ratioque ab oculis “ad animum transferens, multo etiam magis pul“chritudimen, constantiam, ordinem in consiliis “factisque conservandum putat,” &c. &c.—“For“mam quidem ipsam, Marce fili, et tanquam faciem “Homesti vides; quae, si oculis cerneretur, mira“biles amores (ut ait Plato) excitaret sapientiae.”

In favour of Mr Burke's opinion, it must indeed be admitted, that those systems are completely erroneous, which would resolve the whole of Beauty into any one of the three qualities which he excludes from the idea of it, or even into all the three combined, without the co-operation of anything else. But it is going, at least, as far into the opposite extreme, to say that none of these is entitled to a place among the elements which can possibly belong to its composition. *

According to this view of the subject, it would be quite unnecessary to distinguish, in our subsequent reasonings, that species of Beauty which results from the physical relation between our organs of perception and external objects, from that which depends on natural and universal associations; and I shall therefore apply to them the common appellation of Universal Beauties, in opposition to those Arbitrary Beauties, the admiration of which has been confined to particular places, or to particular periods. **


* Note (Q q.)

Among the associations, however, on which these arbitrary beauties depend, there are some varieties, of which it may be proper to take notice, before we proceed to consider the various appearances which Taste may assume in different minds. The following list seems to comprehend those which are chiefly entitled to our attention.

1. Classical Associations:—Inspired by the remains of ancient Greece and Rome; and, of course, extending to all who receive the advantages of a learned education in every quarter of the civilized world. The authority of these is, in all cases, great; and, in some cases (particularly in sculpture and in architecture), is now so consecrated by established opinion, as almost to preclude all criticism or discussion. In poetry, also, they have added immensely to our natural resources, particularly by the beautiful system of mythology with which they are interwoven ; but they have, at the same time, warped our Taste in various instances; and have certainly no claims to our servile imitation, where they happen to deviate from the standard of Nature. In every instance where there is no such deviation, their authority seems justly entitled to the next place (but a very subordinate place) after those associations which belong universally to our species. It must not, however, be imagined, that, in any instance, they furnish us with principles from which there lies no appeal; nor should it be forgotten, that their influence does not reach to the most

numerous class of the people, in the most refined soçieties. 11 A . - * *

« AnteriorContinuar »