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with simplicity, is, either immediately or remotely, the fundamental quality of whatever is sublime but we have seen that amplitude is confined to one fpecies of sublime objects ; and cannot, without violent straining, be applied to them all. The author of “a philosophical enquiry into the origin of our ideas of the sublime and beautiful,” to whom we are indebted for several ingenious and original thoughts upon this subject, proposes a formal theory upon this foundation, that terror is the fource i of the fublime, and that no objects have this character, but such as produce impressions of pain and danger. It is indeed true, that inany terrible objects are highly sublime; and that grandeur docs not refuse an alliance with the idea of danger. But though this is very properly illustrated by the author (many of whose sentiments on that head I have adopted), yet he seems to stretch his theory too far, when he represents the sublime as consisting: wholly in modes of danger, or of pain. For the propei sensation of sublimity appears to be very distinguishable from the sensation of either of these; and, on several occasions, to be entircly separated from them. In many grand objects, there is no coincidence with terror at all; as in the magnificent prospect of wide-extended plains, and of the starry firmament; or in the moral dispositions and sentiments, which we view with high admiration; and in many painful and terrible objects, also, it is clear, there is no sort of grandeur. The amputation of a limb, or the bite of a snake, are exceed-.. ingly terrible ; but are destitute of all claim whatever to sublimity. I am inclined to think, that mighty force or power, whether accompanied with terror or not, whether employed in protecting or in alirming us, has a better title, than any thing that has yet been mentioned, to be the fundamental quality of the sublime ; as, after the review whici Vol. I.
we have taken, there does not occur to me any fublime object, into the idea of which, power, strength, and force, either enter not dire&ly, or are not, at least, intimately associated with the idea, by leading our thoughts to some astonishing power, as concerned in the production of the object. However, I do not insist upon this, as sufficient to found a general theory : it is enough to have given this view of the nature and different kinds of fublime objects : by which I hope to have laid a proper foundation for discussing, with greater accuracy, the sublime in writing and composition.
L E C T U R E IV.
THE SUBLIME IN WRITING.
AVING treated of grandeur or fublimity in
external objects, the way feems now to be cleared, for treating, with more advantage, of the description of such objects; or, of what is called the sublime in writing. Though I may appear to enter early on the consideration of this subject ; yet, as the sublime is a species of writing which depends less than any other on the artificial embel- : lishments of rhetoric, it may be examined with as much propriety here, as in any subsequent part of the lectures.
Many critical terms have unfortunately been employed, in a sense too loose and vague-none more fo, than that of the sublime. Every one is acquainted with the character of Cesar's commentaries, and of the style in which they are written-a style, remarkably pure, simple, and elegant-but the most remote from the fublime, of any of the classical aüthors. Yet this author has a German critic, Johannes Gulielmus Bergerus, who wrote no longer ago than the year 1720, pitched upon as the perfect model of the sublime, and has composed a quarto volume, entitled, De naturali pulchritudine Ora
tionis ; the express intention of which is to show, that Cefar's commentaries contain the most complete exemplification of all Longinus's rules relating to sublime writing. This I mention as a strong proof of the confused ideas which have prevailed, concerning this subject. The true sense of sublime writing, undoubtedly, is such a description of objects, or exhibition of sentiments, which are in themselves of a sublime nature, as shall give us strong impressions of them. But there is another very indefinite, and therefore very improper sense, which has been too often put upon it; when it is
applied to signify any remarkable and distinguishting excellency of composition ; whether it raise in
us the ideas of grandeur, or those of gentleness, elegance, or any other fort of beauty. In this fense, Cefar's commentaries may, indeed, be termed fublime, and so may many sonnets, pastorals, and love elegies, as well as Homer's Iliad. But this evidently confounds the use of words ; and marks no one fpecies, or character, of composition whatever.
I am sorry to be obliged to obterve, that the fublime is too often used in this last and improper sense, by the celebrated critic Longinus, in his treatise on this subject. He sets out, indeed, with defcribing it in its just and proper meaning; as tomething that elevates the mind above itself, and fills it with high conceptions, and a noble pride. But from this view of it he frequently departs; and substitutes in the place of it, whatever, in any strain of composition, pleases highly. Thus, many of the passages which he produces, as instances of the fublime, are merely elegant, without having the most distant relation to proper sublimity; witnels Sappho's famous ode, on which he descants at considerable length. He points out five sources of the fublime. The first is, boldneis or grandeur in the thoughts; the fecond is, the pathetic ;
the third, the proper application of figures; the fourth, the use of tropes and beautiful expresfions ; the fifth, musical structure and arrangement of words. This is the plan of one who was writing a treatise of rhetoric, or of the beauties of writing in general ; not of the sublime in particular. For of these five heads, only the two first liave any peculiar relation to the sublime ; boldness and grandeur in the thoughts, and, in some instances, the pathetic, or strong exertions of passion : the other three, tropes, figures, and musical arrangement, have no more relation to the sublime, than to other kinds of good writing ; perhaps less to the sublime than to any other species whatever ; because it requires less the assistance of ornament. From this it appears, that clear and precise ideas on this head are not to be expected from that writer. I would not, however, be understood, as if I mcant, by this censure, to represent his treatise as of small value. I know no critic, ancient or modern, that discovers a more lively relish of the beauties of fine writing, than Longinus; and he has also the merit of being himself an excellent, and, in several pafsages, a truly sublime, writer. But, as his work has been generally considered as a standard on this funject, it was incumbent on me to give my opinion concerning the benefit to be derived from it. It deserves to be consulted, not so much for distinct instruction concerning the sublime, as for excellent general ideas concerning beauty in writing.
I return now to the proper and natural idea of the sublime in composition. The foundation of it must always be laid in the nature of the object defcribed. Unless it be such an obje&t, as, if presented to our eyes, if exhibited to us in reality, would raise ideas of that elevating, that awful, and magpificent kind, which we call sublime ; the description, lowever finely drawn, is not entitled to come under