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The first question that occurs, concerning it, is, whether it is to be considered as an internal sense, or as an exertion of reason? Reason is a very general term ; but if we understand by it, that power of the mind which in fpeculative matters discovers truth, and in practical matters judges of the fitness of means to an end, I apprehend the question may be easily answered. For nothing can be more clear, than that taste is not resolvable into any such operation of reason. It is not merely through a discovery of the understanding, or a deduction of argument, that the mind receives pleasure from a beautiful prospect or a fine poem. Such objects often strike intuitively, and make a strong impression, when we are unable to align the reasons of our being pleased. They sometimes strike in the same manner the philosopher and the peafant--the boy and the man. Hence the faculty, by which we relish such beauties, seems more nearly allied to a feeling of sense, than to a process of the understanding : and accordingly, from an external sense it has borrowed its name; that sense by which we receive and distinguish the pleasures of food, having, in several languages, given rise to the word taste, in the metaphorical meaning under which we now consider it. However, as, in all subjects which regard the operations of the mind, the inaccurate use of words is to be carefully avoided, it must not be inferred from what I have faid, that reason is entirely excluded from the exertions of taste. Though taste, beyond doubt, be ultimately founded on a certain natural and instinctive sensibility to beauty, yet reason, as I shall show hereafter, aslifts taste in many of its operations, and serves to enlarge its power*,
See dr. Gerard's Elay on Tate-D'Alembert's Reflexions on the Use and Abuse of Philosophy in matters which relate to Taste-Reflexions Critiques sur la Poelie et sur la Peinture, tome ii. ch. 22-31 --- Elements of Criticism, chap. 25-Mr.
Taste, in the sense in which I have explained it, is a faculty common in some degree to all men. Nothing, that belongs to human nature, is more general than the relish of beauty of one kind or other-of what is orderly, proportioned, grand, harmonious, new, or sprightly. In children, the rudiments of taste discover themselves very early in a thousand instances; in their fondness for regular bodies, their admiration of pictures and statues, and imitations of all kinds; and their strong attachment to whatever is new or marvellous. The most ignorant peasants are delighted with ballads and tales, and are struck with the beautiful appearances of nature, in the earth and heavens. Even in the deserts of America, where human nature shows itself in its most uncultivated state, the favages have their ornaments of dress, their war and their death fongs, their harangues, and their orators. We must, therefore, conclude the principles of taste to be deeply founded in the human mind. It is no less essential to man, to have fome discernment of beauty, than it is to possess the attributes of reason and of speech*.
Home's Eflay on the Standard of Taste--Introduction to the Ef y on the Sublime and Beautiful.
• On the fubject of taste, considered as a power or faculty of the mind, much less is to be found among the ancient, than among the modern rhetorical and critical writers. The following remarkable passage in Cicero ferves however to show, that his ideas on this subject agree perfectly with what has been said above. He is speaking of the beauties of style and numbers. “ Illud autem nequis admiretur quonam modo hæc vulgus im“peritorum in agdiendo, notet; cum in omni genere, tum in "hoc ipfo, magna quædam eft vis, incredibilisque naturæ. Om. “nes enim tacito quodam fenfu, fine ulla arte aut ratione, quæ "fint in artibus de rationibus recta et prava dijudicant : idqne "cum faciunt in picturis, et in fignis, et in aliis operibus, ad “quorum intelligentiam a natura minus habent instrumenti, “ tum multo ostendunt magis in verborum, numerorum, vo“cumque judicio ; quod ea funt in communibus infixa sensibus ; “ neque earum rerum quenquam funditus natura voluit esse But although none be wholly devoid of this faculty, yet the degrees in which it is possessed are widely different. In some men only the feeble glimmerings of taste appear; the beauties which they relish, are of the coarsest kind; and of these they have but a weak and confused impression : while in others, taste rises to an acute discernment, and a lively enjoyment of the most refined beauties. In general, we may observe, that in the powers and pleasures of taste, there is a more remarkable inequality among men, than is usually found, in point of common fense, reason, and judgment. The constitution of our nature in this, as in all other respects, discovers admirable wifdom. In the distribution of those talents which are necessary for man's well-being, nature hath made less distinction among her children. But in the distribution of those which belong only to the ornamental part of life, she hath bestowed her favours with more frugality. She hath both sown the seeds more sparingly; and rendered a higher culture requisite, for bringing them to perfection.
This inequality of taste among men, is owing, without doubt, in part, to the different frame of their natures—to nicer organs, and finer internal powers, with which some are endowed beyond others. But, if it be owing in part to nature, it is owing to education and culture still more. The illustration of this leads to my next remark on this
expertem." Cic. de Orat. lib. iii. cap. 50. edit. Gruteri.. Quinctilian seems to include taste (for which, in the sense which we now give to that word, the ancients appear to have had no diftinct name) under what he calls judicium. “ Locus de judi. “ cio, mea quidem opinione adeo partibus hujus operis omnia • bus connectus ac mistus est, ut ne a sententiis quidem ant ver« bis faltem fingulis pofit feparari, nec magis arte traditur “quam guftus ant odor. Ut contraria vitemus et communia, ne " quid in eloquendo corruptum obfcurumque fit, referatur
oportet ad fenfus qui non docentur.” Institut. lib. vi. cap. 3. edit. Obrechti.
subject, that taste is a most improvable faculty, if there be any such in human nature; a remark which gives great encouragement to such a course of study as we are now propofing to pursue, Of the truth of this assertion we may easily be convinced, by only reflecting on that immense superiority which education and improvement give to civilized, above barbarous nations, in refinement of tafte ; and on the superiority which they give in the same nation, to those who have studied the liberal arts, above the rude and untaught vulgar. The difference is so great that there is perhaps no one particular, in which these two classes of men are so far removed from each other, as in respect of the powers and the pleafures of taste : and assuredly for this difference no other general cause can be assigned, but culture and education. I shall now proceed to show what the means are, by which taste becomes so remarkably susceptible of cultivation and progress.
Reflect, first, upon that great law of our nature, that exercise is the chief source of improvement in all our faculties. This holds both in our bodily, and in our mental powers. It holds even in our external fenfes, although these be less the subject of cultivation, than any of our other faculties. We see how acute the senses become, in persons whose trade or bufiness leads to nice exertions of them. Touch, for inftance, becomes infinitely more exquisite in men whose employment requires them to examine the polifh of bodies, than it is in others. They who deal in microscopical observations, or are accustomed to engrave on precious stones, acquire furprising accuracy of sight, in difcerning the minutest objects : and practice, in attending to different flavours and tastes of liquors, wonderfully improves the power of disa tinguishing them, and of tracing their composition. Placing internal taste, therefore, on the footing of a fimple sense, it cannot be doubted, that frequent exVol. I.
ercise, and curious attention to its proper obje&s must greatly heighten its power. Of this we have one clear proof in that part of taste, which is called an ear for music. Experience every day shows, that nothing is more improvable. Only the simpleft and plainest compositions are relished at first; use and practice extend our pleasure; teach us to relish finer melody ; and by degrees enable us to enter into the intricate and compounded pleasures of harmony. So an eye for the beauties of painting is never all at once acquired. It is gradually formed by being conversant among pictures, and studying the works of the best masters.
Precisely in the same manner, with respect to the beauty of composition and discourse, attention to the most approved models, study of the best authors, comparisons of lower and higher degrees of the fame beauties, operate towards the refinement of taste. When one is only beginning his acquaintance with works of genius, the sentiment which attends them is obfcure and confused. He cannot point out the several excellencies or blemishes of a performance which he peruses; he is at a loss on what to rest his judgment; all that can be expected is, that he should tell in general whether he be pleased or not. But allow him more experience in works of this kind, and his taste becomes by degrees more exact and enlightened. He begins to perceive not only the character of the whole, but the beauties and defects of each part; and is able to describe the peculiar qualities which he praises or blames. The mist is dissipated, which seemed formerly to hang over the object ; and he can at length pronounce firmly, and without hesitation, concerning it. Thus in taste, considered as mere sensibility, exercise opens a great fource of improvement.
But although taste be ultimately founded on fenfibility, it must not be considered as instinctive senfibility alone. Reason and good sense, as I before