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2. National or local Associations. Where these are not widely at variance with universal associations, they exert over the heart a power greater, perhaps, than that of any other associations whatsoever ; and sometimes (as seems to have happened in the case of most French critics) they acquire an ascendant even over the impressions of Naturę herself. But this influence being confined necessarily within the national pale (however ample the resources are which it furnishes for local and fugitive Poetry), is much more likely to mislead than to guide our researches concerning the principles of Philosophical Criticism.
3. Personal Associations:-Such as those which arise from the accidental style of natural beauty in the spot where we have passed our childhood and early youth ; from the peculiarities in the features of those whom we have loved ; and other circumstances connected with our own individual feelings. Of these it is necessary that every man, who aspires to please or to instruct others, should divest himself to the utmost of his power ; or, at least, that he should guard against their undue ascendant over his mind, when he exercises either his Imagination or his Taste, in works addressed to the public.
Under this head, I must not omit to mention the influence of vanity and selfishness on the judgments of some men, even concerning the beauties of nature ;--the interest which the attachment to property creates, rendering them alive to every trifling recommendation belonging to what is their own, while it blinds them to the most prominent beauties
in the property of their neighbours. Gresset has seized happily this intellectual and moral weakness, in his charming comedy of the Méchant. But, as it is more connected with the study of Character, than with that of Philosophical Criticism, I shall not enlarge upon it farther at present.
Corresponding to the distinction which I have been attempting to illustrate between Universal and Arbitrary Beauties, there are two different modifications of Taste; modifications which are not always united (perhaps seldom united) in the same person. The one enables a writer or an artist to rise superior to the times in which he lives, and emboldens him to trust his reputation to the suffrages of the human race, and of the ages which are yet to
The other is the foundation of that humbler, though more profitable sagacity, which teaches the possessor how to suit his manufactures to the market; to judge before-hand of the reception which any new production is to meet with, and to regulate his exertions accordingly. The one must be culti. vated by those habits of abstraction and study, which, withdrawing the thoughts from the unmeaning particularities of individual perception, and the capricious drapery of conventional manners, familiarize the mind to the general forms of beautiful nature , ; or to Beauties which the classical genius of antiquity has copied from these, and which, like these, are anfading and immortal. The proper sphere of the other is such a capital as London or Paris. It is there that the judges are to be found from whose decision it acknowledges no appeal, and it is in
such a situation alone that it can be cultivated with advantage. Dr Johnson has well described (in a prologue spoken by Garrick, when he first opened the theatre at Drury.Lane) the trifling solicitudes and the ever-varying attentions to which those are doomed, who submit thus to be the ministers and slaves of public folly :
“ Hard is his fatr, who here, by furtune plac'd,
“ And chase the new-blown bubbles of the day," The ground work of this last species of Taste (if it deserves the name) is a certain facility of association, acquired by early and constant intercourse with society; more particularly, with those classes of society who are looked up to as supreme legislators in matters of fashion ; a habit of mind, the tendency of which is to render the sense of the Beautiful (as well as the sense of what is Right and Wrong) easily susceptible of modification from the contagion of example. It is a habit by no means inconsistent with a certain degree of original sensibility; nay, it requires, perhaps, some original sensibility as its basis : but this sensibility, in consequence of the habit which it has itself contributed to establish, soon becomes transient and useless; losing all connection with Reason and the Moral Principles, and alive only to such impressions as fashion recognises and sanctions. The other species of Taste, founded on the study of Universal Beauty (and which, for the sake of distinction, I shall call Philosophical Taste), implies a sensibility, deep and
permanent, to those objects of affection, admiration, and reverence, which interested the youthful heart, while yet a stranger to the opinions and ways of the world. Its most distinguishing characteristics, accordingly, are strong domestic and local attachments, accompanied with that enthusiastic love of Nature, Simplicity, and Truth, which, in every department, both of art and of science, is the best and surest presage of Genius. It is this sensibility that gives rise to the habits of attentive observation by which such a Taste can alone be formed ; and it is this also that, binding and perpetuating the associations which such a Taste supposes, fortifies the mind against the fleeting caprices which the votaries of fashion watch and obey.
In the farther prosecution of this subject, as well as in the former part of this Essay, my observations must be understood as referring chiefly to that sort of Taste which I have now distinguished by the epithet philosophical. It may, at the same time, be proper to remark, that a great part of these observations, particularly those which I have already made on the process by which Taste acquires its discrimination and its promptitude of perception, are applicable, with some slight alterations, to that which has for its object local and temporary modes, no less than to the other, which is acquired by the study of Universal Beauty
The two distinguishing characteristics of Good Taste (it has been justly observed by different writers) are correctness and delicacy ; the former having for its province the detection of Blemishes,
the latter the perception of those more refined Beauties which cultivated minds alone can feel. This distinction has been illustrated (and I think not unhappily) by the general complexion of Swift's criticisms contrasted with that of Addison's.-Of that quality, more particularly, which is properly called delicacy of taste, no better exemplifications can anywhere be found, than occur in some critical papers on Paradise Lost, published in the Spectator.- Where this intellectual power exists in its most perfect state, both these qualities are necessarily implied.
It was remarked, in the beginning of these inquiries, concerning Taste, that although it presupposes a certain degree of sensibility, yet it is not by men whose sensibility is most exquisite, that it is commonly cultivated with the greatest success. One principal reason of this seems to be, that in such men, the pleasures which they receive from beautiful objects engross the attention too much to allow the judgment to operate coolly; and the mind is disposed to dwell passively on its own enjoyment, without indulging a speculative curiosity in analysing its sources. In all our perceptions, from the grossest to the most refined, the attention is directed to the effect or to the cause, according to the vivacity or to the faintness of the sensation.
my hand,” says Dr Reid, “ gently on the table, 6 and am asked what I feel, I naturally answer, “ that I feel the table ; if I strike it against the “ same object with such violence as to receive a pain6 ful sensation from the blow, I as naturally answer
“ If I lay