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“the same question, by saying, that I feel pain in “ my hand.” A similar observation may be applied to the pleasures which are derived from objects of Taste. Where these pleasures rise to ecstasy, they produce a state of vague enthusiasm and rapture, in which our reasoning faculties have little share : where they are more moderate and sober, they rouse the curiosity, like other physical effects ; and create insensibly those habits of observation, of comparison, and of intellectual experiment, of which I have endeavoured to shew, in the last Chapter, that the power of Taste is the gradual and slow result.
In proportion, too, as the temper of the mind inclines to extreme sensibility, the casual associations of the individual may be expected to be numerous and lasting; for nothing tends so powerfully to bind the associating tie, as the circumstance of its being originally formed when the mind was strongly agitated by pleasure or by pain. In recollecting any particular occurrence, whether prosperous or adverse, of our past lives, by which we were deeply affected at the moment,-how indelible do we find the im. pression left on the memory, by the most trifling and accidental details which distinguished the neverto-be-forgotten day on which it happened ; and how apt are similar details, if at any time they should present themselves in somewhat of the same combination, to inspire us with gaiety or with sadness, according to the complexion of the event with which they are associated! It is in the same way, that, to a mind tremblingly alive to impressions of beauty, a charm is communicated to whatever accessories or
appendages happen to invest any object of its admiration ; accessories which are likely to leave a far less permanent trace in the memory of a more indifferent spectator. The consequence will be, that in a person of the former temper, the cultivation of a eorrect taste will be a much more difficult task than in one of the latter, and a proportionally greater attention will be requisite, on the part of his instructors, to confine his habitual studies to the most faultless models.
Of the caprices and singularities of judgment to which all men are more or less liable from causes of this sort, but which are more peculiarly incident to men of very warm and lively feelings, no better illustration can be given than a noted fact, which Descartes mentions with respect to himself, in one of his letters. During the whole of his life," this philosopher tells us, “ he had a partiality for
persons who squinted ;” and he adds, that " in o his endeavour to trace the cause of a taste ap“ parently so whimsical, he at last recollected, that “when a boy, he had been fond of a girl who had “ that blemish." “The affection he had for this object of his first love,” says
says Malebranche, “ seems " to have diffused itself to all others who any way « resembled her." Hence the disposition which young and susceptible minds discover so frequently, to copy the peculiarities in dress, pronunciation, and manner, of those they admire or are attached to; the agreable impressions associated in their fancy with everything which marks the individual the most strongly to the eye or the ear, leading them to
conclude very rashly, that, by an imitation of circumstances which are to themselves so characteristical and expressive, they cannot fail to secure a similar charm to their own exterior. Among the ancients, we are told by Plutarch, there were many who imitated the stuttering of Aristotle, and the wry neck of Alexander ; nor has this strong bias of our nature escaped the all-observant eye of Shakespeare :
“ He was indeed the glass
Hence, too, the effect of those writers, who unite with any transcendent excellencies, some affected peculiarities of manner or style, in misleading and corrupting the taste of their contemporaries. “How
many great qualities,” says Mr Smith, “ must " that writer possess, who can thus render his very “ faults agreeable! After the praise of refining the “ taste of a nation, the highest eulogy, perhaps, “ which can be bestowed on any author, is to say " that he corrupted it.” Proceeding on the same idea, Dr Johnson remarks, very justly and pertinently, that “ if there is any writer whose genius “ can embellish impropriety, or whose authority can “ make error venerable, his works are the proper “ objects of critical inquisition.”—It is hardly necessary for me to add, that the business of the critic, in such cases, is to break asunder the casual associations which an unreflecting admiration of genius has established in the public judgment; and that,
in proportion to the degree of sensibility and en. thusiasm which accompanies this admiration in the mind of any individual, will be the difficulty of the task which the critic has to perform.
The foregoing observations seem sufficiently to shew, not only that a sensibility to Beauty does not necessarily imply the power of Taste ; but that, in à mind where the degree of sensibility is extreme, the acquisition of a correct taste is, in ordinary cases, next to impossible. Such a mind may indeed be conceived to have been so circumstanced, as to have been conversant alone with the best models; or it may be 60 fortified by habits of philosophical study as to resist the influence of casual associations, even while it feels their force ; but these cases occur so seldom, that the exceptions rather confirm than weaken the truth of the general conclusion.
Neither is it, perhaps, in minds where sensibility forms the principal feature, that the utmost delicacy of taste is to be looked for. The more prominent beauties of the object are apt to engross the whole soul, and to divert the attention, not only from its defects, but from those nicer touches which characterize the finer shades and gradations of art.-On the other hand, it is a self-evident truth, that where there is no sensibility, there can be no taste ; and that even where sensibility is not altogether wanting, it may exist in a degree so very trifling, as not to afford a sufficient inducement or motive for the cultivation of those habits by which taste is formed. There exists, therefore, a certain measure of sensi
bility, which at once predisposes the mind to the cultivation of Taste, and coristitutes an aptitude for its acquisition ; such a measure of it, as renders that class of our pleasures with which taste is conversant, an interesting object of examination and study; while, on the other hand, it does not rise so high as to discourage habits of observation and analysis, or to overpower the judgment, by lending irresistible force to casual combinations.
In the practical application, however, of this conclusion, it is of essential consequence to remember, that the degree of sensibility must always be estimated relatively to the state of those intellectual powers with which it is combined. A degree of sensibility which a man of vigorous understanding knows how to regulate and to control, may, in a weaker mind, not only become a source of endless inconvenience and error, but may usurp the mastery of all its faculties. The truth of this remark is daily exemplified in thát sort of sensibility which is affected by the pleasures and pains of human life; and it will be found to hold equally with respect to the feelings which enter aś elementary principles into the composition of Tastë.