“ it, and is nature's gift, but diversified by various specific 66 characters and limitations, as its active fire is blinded and " allayed by different proportions of phlegm, or reduced and “ regulated by the contrast of opposite ferments.”

But let us listen to the evidence and opinions of those, who have themselves been acknowledged to be men of superior genius, and who have also been in the habits of philosophizing upon their own mental faculties. The great Newton assures us, that he knew of no difference between himself and other men, except in his habits of attention and application : the sagacious Locke, says nearly the same thing. Poets we cannot call in evidence, because inspiration is part of their stock in trade. Their eyes roll in fine phrensy, which is something beyond reason; yet Pope, the poet both of reason and imagination, never made these pretences to inspiration ; he corrected and corrected, and has left posterity traces of the slow, patient steps, by which he attained to that elevation of excellence, which seems, at first view, unattainable but by the flights of genius. Painters are men who also talk much of inspirations; their evidence, as a body, would probably be given in favour of natural genius: but it must be considered, that artists, even the most celebrated, have not always been men habituated to reflect on the operations of their own minds, or capable of forming a judgment on a philosophical question, or able, when formed, to express it in accurate terms. The greatest English painter of the present age, however, was a man, who united literary habits of philosophical reflection and precision with those professional talents, to which none in popular language could deny the praise of genius. The evidence and opinion of Sir Joshua Reynolds must, from all these claims, be listened to with deference. Fortunately he recollected the slight circumstances, by which, in childhood, his love for his art was first excited. He attributes his early, love of drawing to the pleasure he received when he was five or six years old from the prints in an old book of emblems, lent to him by his Dutch grandmother. When he was eight years old, he met with the Jesuit's Perspective; was pleased with it, and attempted to draw an elevation of a building; showed it to his father; and was delighted to hear his father exclaim, that it was wonderful! These trivial accidents, the pleasure of occupation, success, and praise, determined the direction of his industry and talents. His opinion on the subject of natural taste and genius is distinctly given. He acknowledges, that the first time he saw the pictures of Rafaelle at the Vatican, he was both mortified and angry with himself, because he was not struck with their excellencies; this led him to reflect upon the pretensions which are made to natural taste, and he says, that, after revolving the matter frequently in his mind, he was convinced that the perception of the higher excellencies of art is an acquired taste, which no man ever possessed without long cultivation, and great labour and attention. “ Nor does painting in “ this respect differ from other arts, continues he. “A just “ poetical taste, and the acquisition of a nice discriminative “ musical ear, are equally the work of time. Even the eye, “ however perfect in itself, is often unable to distinguish be“ tween the brilliancy of two diamonds: the experienced “ jeweller will be amazed at this blindness, though his own “ powers of discrimination were acquired by slow and scarcely “ perceptible degrees.” Sir Joshua asserts “, that not only a taste for painting, but that genius is the effect of close observation and experience; and not as is commonly, not to say vulgarly, supposed to be a power of producing excellencies beyond the reach of rules ; a power, which is innate and incommunicable. It is, however, curious to observe, that the term is applied to different degrees of excellence in the course of the progress of an art. A man, who first drew and coloured a mackarel upon a board obtained the honourable appellation of a man of genius ; he or she who first drew the outline of a human figure was called a genius, and deserved the appellation; but, when it was discovered, that any person by practice, and by following certain rules, could draw an exact representation of the human figure, this was no longer honoured as a mark of genius; he only was a man of genius, who could add expression, and grace, and dignity to his figures ; and when it was found, that this also could be taught and learned by rule, then the exclusive praise of genius was reserved for the man who could go a step beyond known rules, and who, by further observations and combinations, could produce something new. In fact, genius seems to be nothing more than invention ; the power of combining ideas in a new manner; a power which must be preceded by the habit of observation and of attention; so that it is an abuse of terms to call that natural which is the result of cultivation, labour, precept, and the united experience of the individual and of past ages. If what is called genius were to be considered in the choice of any profession for a child, it should be in those arts where genius is supposed to have the greatest influence; such for instance as painting; but it has just been shown by the opinion and arguments of one of the greatest painters England can boast, that labour and observation, not genius, in the popular acceptation of the term, can ensure success and excellence in that art. And if this be allowed as to painters, how much less should parents be influenced by the notion of natural genius for the professions of law or medicine, for the church or for the army. Innate ideas of these professions, natural propensities for being bishops, or generals, or physicians, or lawyers, cannot be born with children. “ I hate,” says Dr. Johnson, “ to hear people ask children whether they will be bishops, or “ chancellors, or generals, or what profession their genius “ leads them to: do not they know, that a boy of seven years “s old has a genius for nothing but spinning a top and eating “ apple pie ?”

a Sixth Discourse on Painting.


It is well worth while, by playful raillery and sober argument, to excite parents to reason upon this subject, and thus to bring the vague notions relative to genius within some definite boundaries. Beside the advantage of being at liberty to decide early upon the choice of a profession for a child, according to local circumstances and convenience; many other good consequences would ensue, and many pernicious practices in education would be prevented, by the refutation of this fundamental error. A father who is persuaded, that there is an immeasurable difference between the natural capacities of children, and who admits all the pretensions and all the prerogatives of genius, will act in consequence of this conviction, and, in the management and education of a family, would not perhaps hold an equal hand over his children ; he probably would neglect those, whom he believed to be dunces, and thus create or confirm the inferiority that he presupposed: those, whom he fancied to be geniuses, he would on the contrary exalt so much in their own conceit, that he would run the risk of making them disdain that patient labour, which is essential to the success and utility of even the greatest natural abilities. He may be led by his erroneous opinion into a still greater danger in moral education; the danger of exciting feelings which render their victims at once odious and wretched. No intellectual attainments, nor their most splendid rewards, wealth and celebrity, can compensate for such misery. Envy and jealousy may be easily excited in the minds of children, by a parent's showing his opinion that some are born with, and some without, a genius ; none are envied for labour or perseverance; in these the competitor can be imitated, followed, and excelled. These efforts are acknowledged to depend upon the will; and the wages of industry are the same for all, by whom they are patiently earned: but if children, who have less natural vivacity than others, are taught that the success and facility of genius are the privileges, the unattainable privileges, of a favoured few, who are exempt from the necessity of perseverance and labour, this belief must induce either despair or envy, or both. The unreasonable manner, in which the predestined dunce is usually treated, increases his sense of injustice: he is exhorted to labour without motive, and even without hope to attain, what he is previously assured he never can reach. Instead of this cruel and absurd injustice, a perception of the truth would induce parents to pursue a more

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