the curious works of art, such as a clock, a ship, or any nice machine the pleasure which we haie in the survey, is wholly founded on this sense of beauty. It is altogether different from the perception of beauty, produced by colour, figure, variety, or any of the causes formerly mentioned. When I look at a watch, for instance, the cale of it, if finely engraved, and of curious workmanfhip, Itrikes me as beautiful in the former sense ; bright colour, exquisite polish, figures finely raisc and turned. But when I examine the spring and the wheels, and praise the beauty of the internal machinery ; my pleasure then arises wholly from the view of that admirable art, with which so many various and complicated parts are made to unite for one purpofc.

This sense of beauty, in fitness and design, has an extensive influence over many of our ideas. It is the foundation of the beauty which we discover in the proportion of doors, windows, arches, pillars, and all the orders of archite:ture. Let the ornaments of a building be ever so fine and elegant in themselves, yet if they interfere with this fense of fitness and design, they lose their beauty, and hurt the eye, like disagreeable objects. Twisted columns, for instance, are undoubtedly ornamental ; but as they have an appearance of weakness, they always difplease whicn they are made ufc of to support any part of a building that is malfy, anıl that seems to require a more substantial prop. We cannot look upon any work whatever, without being led, by a natural alsociation of ideas, to think of its end and design, and of course to examine the propriety of its parts, in relation to, this design and end. When their propriety is clearly discerned, the work seems always to have some beauty ; but when there is a total want of propriety, it never fails of appearing deformed. Our,

[ocr errors]

sense of fitness and design, therefore, is so powo erful, and holds fo high a rank among our perceptions, as to regulate, in a great measure, our other ideas of beauty : an observation which I the rather make, as it is of the utmost importance, that all who study composition should carefully attend to it. For, in an epic poem, a history, an oration, or any work of genius, we always require, as we do in other works, a fitness, or adjustment of means, to the end which the author is supposed to have in view. Let his descriptions be ever so rich, or his figures ever so elegant, yet, if they are out of place, if they are not proper parts of that whole, if they suit not the main design, they lose all their beauty ; nay, from beauties they are converted into deformities. Such power has our fense of fitness and congruity, to produce a total transformation of an object whose appearance otherwise would have been beautiful.

After having mentioned fo many various species of beauty, it now only remains to take notice of beauty as it is applied to writing or discourse ; a term commonly used in a sense altogether loose and undetermined. For it is applied to all that pleases, either in style or in sentiment, from whatever principle that pleasure flows ; and a beautiful poem or oration means,, in common language, no other than a good one, or one well composed. In this fenfe, it is plain, the word is altogether indefinite, and points at no particular fpecies or kind of beauty. There is, however, another sense, somewhat more definite, in' which beauty of writing characterises a particular manner; when it is used to signify a certain grace and amenity in the turn either of style or sentimient, for which fome authors have been peculiarly distinguished. In this fense, it denotes a manner neither remarkably sublime, nor vehemently pailionate, nor uncommonly

fparkling ; but such as raises in the reader an emotion of the gentle placid kind, similar to what is raised by the contemplation of beautiful objects in nature ; which neither lifts the mind very high, nor agitates it very much, but diffuses over the imagination an agreeable and pleasing serenity. Mr Addison is a writer altogether of this character ; ; and is one of the most proper and precise examples that can be given of it. Fenelon, the author. of the adventures of Temachus, may be given as another example. Virgil, too, though very cao pable of rising on occasions into the fublime, yet, in his general manner, is distinguished by the character of beauty and grace, rather than of fublimity. Among orators, Cicero has more of the beautiful than Demosthenes, whose genius led him wholly towards vehemence and strength.

This much it is sufficient to have said. upon the subject of beauty. We have traced it through a variety of forms; as, next to fublimity, it is the most copious source of the pleasures of taste ; and as the confideration of the different appearances, and principles of beauty, tend to the improvement of taste in many fubje&s.

But it is not only by appearing under the forms of sublime or beautiful, that objects delight the imagination. From several other principles, also, they derive their power of giving it pleasure.

Novelty, for instance, has been mentioned by mr. Addison, and by every writer on this fi bjeét An object, which has no merit to recommend it, except its being uncommon or new, by means of this quality alone, produces in the mind a vivid and an agreeable emotion. Hence that pallion of curiosity, which prevails fo generally among mankind. Objects and ideas which have teen long familiar, make too faint an impresion, to give an agreeable exercise to our faculties. New and strange Vol. I.


objects rouse the mind from its dormant state, by giving it a quick and pleasing impulse. Hence, in a great measure, the entertainment afforded us by fiction and romance. The emotion raised by novelty is of a more lively and pungent nature, than that produced by beauty ; but much shorter in its continuance. For if the object have in itself no charms to hold our attention, the shining glofs thrown upon it by novelty, foon wears off.

Besides novelty, imitation is another source of pleasure to taste. This gives rise to what mr. Addison terms, the secondary pleasures of imagination, which form, doubtless, a very extensive class. For all imitation affords some pleasure ; not only the imitation of beautiful or great objects, by recalling the original ideas of beauty or grandeur which such objects themselves exhibited; but even objects which have neither beauty nor grandeur, nay, some which are terrible or deformed, please us in a secondary or represented view.

The pleasures of melody and harmony belong also to taste. There is no agreeable sensation we receive, either from beauty or sublimity, but what is capable of being heightened by the power of musical sound. Hence the delight of poetical numbers ; and even of the more concealed and looser measures of profe. Wit, humour, and ridicule likewise open a variety of pleasures to taste, quite distinct from any that we have yet considered.

At present, it is not necessary to pursue any farther the subject of the pleasures of taste. I have opened some of the general principles ; it is time now to make the application to our chief subject. If the question be put, to what class of those pleafures of taste which I have enumerated, that pleafure is to be referred, which we receive from poetry, eloquence, or fine writing? My answer is, not to any one, but to them all. This singular advan

tage, writing and discourse possess, that they encompass fo large and rich a field on all sides, and have power to exhibit, in great perfection, not a single set of objects only, but almost the whole of those which give pleasure to taste and imagination ; whether that pleasure arise from sublimity, from beauty in its different forms, from design and art, from moral sentiment, from novelty, from harmony, from wit, humour, and ridicule. To whichfoever of these the peculiar bent of a person's taste lies, from some writer or other, he has it always in his power to receive the gratification. of it.

Now this high power, which eloquence and poetry possess, of supplying taste and imagination with such a wide circle of pleasures, they derive altogether from their having a greater capacity of imitation and description than is possessed by any other art. Of all the means which human ingenui, ty has contrived, for recalling the images of real objects, and awakening, by representation, similar emotions to those which are raised by the original, none is so full and extensive, as that which is executed by words and writing. Through the assistance of this happy invention, there is nothing, either in the natural or moral world, but what can be represented and set before the mind, in colours very strong and lively. Hence it is usual among critical writers, to speak of discourse as the chief of all the imitative or mimetic arts; they compare it with painting and with sculpture, and in many respects prefer it juftly before them.

This style was first introduced by Aristotle in his poetics ; and since his time, has acquired a, general currency among modern authors. But, as it is of consequence to introduce as much precision as poisible into critical language, I must observer

« 前へ次へ »