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what is meant by a good taste ? and what by a bad one? What is the standard of taste? This, as it appears to us, the essayist should have made his first consideration. The answer which we would give to such a question is simply this ;—that taste is the best by means of which its possessor receives the greatest plea

We may talk of nature, and of criticism, and so forth; but there is an appeal from all these; and by the pleasure received must the excellency of taste be ultimately measured. There are objects around us calculated to give a pleasure which we have powers calculated to receive; taste is the carrier; and surely that taste is the best, that sensibility is the best regulated, which brings in the greatest quantity of pleasure.

It should seem, then, at first sight, that there is no standard of taste, and that, as we every day see people receiving apparently equal pleasure from very different objects, their taste must be equally good. But if it can be shown that there are certain principles, according to which nature has ordained that the sensibilities of men in general should be affected; and if, moreover, adequate and true causes may be assigned of certain anomalies in taste which are to be found in individuals, or nations at largecauses which prevent them from receiving the greatest possible pleasure from certain objects, and therefore from arriving at the perfection of taste ;-it may then be considered as sufficiently made out, that there is a standard, judging by which any given taste may be pronounced good or bad. Now, as to the first part of this proof the pointing out of the general principles, according to which nature acts upon the imagination and feelings, it is the business of every work on the belles-lettres, and of that before us, among the rest, to detect and point them out: and it is to the second part that the author confines himself in the first essay“ through which we shall now accompany him.

A person's taste may be bad, then, that is, may not communicate to his imagination such feelings as it is calculated to receive, from mere ignorance of excellency in the fine arts. A ballad-singer's voice, in the streets of London, or an anthem in a village church, is heard with pleasure, instead of contempt, by him who has never had the advantage of hearing better singing. To us they are “screaming wretchedness.” The cycles and epicycles of the ancient astronomers, no doubt, appeared sublime to those who had never known the simplicity of the Newtonian system. To us they are mere intricacy and confusion.

Again, inattention produces the same effect as ignorance. There are certain obvious beauties and curious faults, which catch the attention, and engage the admiration, of beholders, who will not take the trouble to think. There are multitudes more, we have no doubt, of the gazers in St. Paul's and Westminster Abbey,

who have been caught by drapery floating, and wings undulating, in stone, by the crisped curls of a marble wig, or by the emanation of marble rays from a marble sun, than by the nature, and elegance, and expression, of the attitudes and features of Bacon and Flaxman. Why? Simply, because they have had no one who should once make them take notice of the absurdities of the one, or the beauties of the other. Or, to borrow an instance from the essayist;

“ There is scarcely any person, who, in reading Thomson's Seasons, will not find several beauties in external nature pointed out to him, which he may perfectly recollect to have seen, though not to have attended to before; but which, now that his attention is turned to them, he feels to be productive of the most delightful emotions. A common observer over looks in a landscape a variety of charms which strike at once the eye of a painter. P. 4–5.

The principal source of bad taste, however, is the association of ideas. Undoubtedly, there are objects in nature which please by themselves, independently of any association. Such are light and colours; and such are the notes of music. And, by-the-by, if we might use an argument from analogy, the similarity of men's tastes with respect to these things might lead us to expect it elsewhere. It is not very common to meet with one whose eye is tormented with the tender green of spring, or the delicious blue of a summer's heaven, or who turns with pleasure from the melodies of the nightingale to the screeching of the peacock. But objects, in general, please by the associations which they recall to the ima. gination. Of these some are general; that is, they occur to almost all. For instance, in gazing at an extended landscape, of wood and water, gently-sloping bills and fat pasture-ground, interSected with tufted hedge-rows, and specked with neat thatched cottages, and here and there a spire peeping through the trees; the corn on the ground, perhaps, and the sun burnt sicklemen" at their work; and all seen under a bright blue summer sky: why, a very small portion of the pleasure arising from such a sight is to be resolved into the beauties of form and colour ; it springs almost entirely from the associations suggested to the mind. Our thoughts are turned to rural life and simplicity, to pastoral innocence, to the manners and pleasures of the golden age such as they are described in the poets, to the age of boyhood, when our study and our delight were in such poets and in such scenes. We think of the plenty about to be laid up in our storehouses and barns; the relief of the hungry, and the poor, and the miserable; of the large brown loaf which the cottager's wife carries home to her rosy, curly-pated children; of the beneficence of the Giver of all good; and the heart dilates with unutterable happiness.

Again, what more beautiful and picturesque than the ruins of some ancient abbey ? Very beautiful to the eye, no doubt, are the colouring laid on by time, and the grotesque shapes into which the massy walls have mouldered. Very beautiful are “the broken arches black in night,” and the imagery "edged with silver.” But is this sensual pleasure the only or the chief which the reader has received in such a scene? If it be-procul, o procul. Let him not run abbey-hunting. Let him save his money and his trouble, and comfort his eye with the solemn gloom of Lombardstreet, and the dingy glories of the mansion-house.' Let him only set himself among the magnificent ruins of Furness Abbey who can enter into the feelings of Mrs. Radcliffe there.*

It appears, then, that the association of ideas is the grand source of the pleasures of the imagination, and that whoso has most of these associations suggested, enjoys the greatest pleasure from any grand or beautiful scene. But many associations are particular; that is, are suggested to particular people, according to their particular habits of life, or the situations into which they have been thrown. These may operate indifferently upon the taste. For instance, one's birth-place, or the spot where one was educated, is endeared by a thousand recollections of sports, and follies, and boyish enterprise :

“Up springs, at every step, to claim a tear,
Some little friendship, form’d and foster'd here;
And not the lightest leaf but trembling teems
With golden visions and romantic dreams."

Such associations influence the mind through life, with respect to scenery. Again: we do not know upon what principle an unbiassed person could give the preference to the vaulted roof, the pointed arch, and clustered column of the gothic architecture, or to the elegant proportions and chaste ornaments of the corinthian: but one person has associated with the one all that is awful in re

• " As, soothed by the venerable shades, and the view of a more venerable ruin, we rested opposite to the eastern window of the choir, where once the high altar stood, and, with five other altars, assisted the religious pomp of the scene; the images and the manners of times that were past rose to reflection. The midnight procession of monks, clothed in white, and bearing lighted tapers, appeared to the ligion, and all that is romantic and mysterious in the barbarous ages; and another with the other all that is classical, all that breathes of Greece and Rome; and thus the preference of each is decided.

mind's eye' issuing to the choir through the very door case, by which such processions were wont to pass from the cloisters to perform the matin service, when, at the moment of their entering the church, the deep chanting of voices was heard, and the organ swelled a solemn peal. To fancy the strain stiil echoed feebly along the arcades, and died in the breeze among the woods, the rustling leaves mingling with the close. It was easy to image the abbot and the officiating priests seated beneath the richly.fretted canopy of the four stalls that still remain entire in the southern wall, and high over which is now perched a solitary yow tree, à black funereal me. mento to the living of those who once sat below."


In such indifferent matters, then, these particular associations have their place. But there are cases in which they prove of great injury to the taste. . One 'who had been brought up in an antique mansion, where the grounds were laid out in the old style of gardening, would, probably, if attached to the spot by a childhood agreeably spent, never shake off his affection for strait lines, cropt yews, and regular parterres. Or, to give an instance in a case of which we have had occasion lately to speak—the difference between us and our neighbours on the subject of tragedy. We think that it can be proved, with such proof as things of this kind are capable of, that the English style of tragedy is the most adapted to lay hold of the attention, and engage the feelings; i. e. to produce the end of tragedy. How is it that the Frenchman delights in, and defends, a style of drama so different? He has as sociated with the formal and insipid movements of his tragedy, the heroic majesty of Corneille's poetry, the tenderness of Racine's, the splendour of Parisian theatres, and the grace and nature of some favourite actor. He forgets that these things have pleased him in spite of the absurdities they had to contend with-the rhyming and dancing Alexandrines, the monotonous harangues, and long set dialogues ;-and along with the beauties he falls in love with the absurdities.

How, then, is taste to be improved? We answer, with our author and with Mr. Burke, by extending the knowledge. Thus, the two first causes of bad taste are at once done away; and, as to associations, he whose knowledge is most extensive, and most various, will have the greatest number of general ones recalled by any particular scene, and will be the least liable to the dominion of particular ones.

The second Essay is “On the Imagination and the Association of Ideas.” It is chiefly taken up with accounting for the fact, that “ the emotions raised by the imagination are sometimes more vivid than those of which we are conscious in real life.” A multitude of causes are brought forward; but admitting the fact, the two principal, independently of the different states of our sensibilities, appear to be, first, that the composer may select from nature those circumstances which tend to heighten the effect to be produced; and, secondly, that he may connect with the subject associations not immediately, or, however, not obviously, suggested by nature. Some remarks which we had occasion to make in a critique on Mr. Crabbe's Tales, we are glad to take this opportunity of repeating in the language, and with the authority of another.

“But although an author ought to be extremely careful to select and bring forward the important circumstances, and to prepare for their introduction where it is necessary; yet it is not to be understood that he ought always to enter into a minute detail. On the contrary, it may often have a much greater effect, not to circumscribe the reader's imagination by painting to him every feature, but rather to give hints from which he may figure the object or the scene to himself; for the imagination, when sufficiently roused, is capable of conceiving them far more awful, sublime, beautiful, or affecting, than it is possible for words to describe, or for pencil to delineate. We would, therefore, suggest as the third general principle, that wherever it may be supposed that the reader is sufficiently roused to gather from hints enough to form a picture to himself, there it will be advisable only to set his imagination to work by means of such hints as may lead him to the proper view of the subject."

“How finely is this remark exemplified in the representation which our great poet has given of Eve in Paradise !"

“ Grace was in all her steps, Heav'n in her eye,
In every gesture dignity and love."

“ Or, to take an instance of a very different nature, in his view of the infernal regions, it may be observed how often we have nothing more than hints for figuring to ourselves every thing that is most horrible.

“ Roving on
In confus'd march forlorn, th' advent'rous bands
With shudd'ring horror pale and eyes aghast,
View'd first their lamentable lot, and found
No rest; through many a dark and dreary vale
They pass'd, and many a region dolorous,
O’er many a fiery, many a frozen Alp,
Rocks, caves, lakes, fens, bogs, dens, and shades of Death,
A universe of Death


Than fables yet have feign'd, or fear conceived.” “Painters also adopt frequently the same plan of rousing the imagination by hints. In the celebrated picture of Achilles bewailing the death of Patroclus, we do not see the face of Achilles, although it was the idea of his anguish that the painter wished to convey. Achilles is represented covering his face with his hand; and it is from this cir-' cumstance, and from the manner in which he seems to grasp his forehead, that we figure to ourselves more than it was possible to paint." P. 38–40.

The third Essay brings us to the sublime. Our author begins, like other authors upon the subject, with an inquiry into its source. Thus, one has told us that the emotion of sublimity” is produced

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