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years that have passed since Mr. Locke drew the altention of Europe to this study, and the very extraordinary genius and talents of those who have since addicted themselves to it, are far more than enough to have brought it, if not to perfection, at least to such a degree of excellence, as no longer to leave it a matter of dispute, whether it was really destined to add to our knowledge and our power, or to produce any sensible effects upon the happiness and condition of mankind. That society has made great advances in comfort and intelligence during that period, is indisputable; but we do not find that Mr. Stewart himself imputes any great part of this improvement to our increased knowledge of our mental constitution; and indeed it is quite obvious, that it is an effect resulting from the increase of political freedom, --the influences of reformed Christianity, the invention of printing, and that improvement and multiplication of the mechanical arts, that have rendered the body of the people far more busy, wealthy, inventive, and independent, than they ever were in any former period of society.
To us, therefore, it certainly does appear, that the lofty estimate which Mr. Stewart has again made of the practical importance of his favourite studies, is one of those splendid visions by which men of great genius have been so often misled, in the enthusiastic pursuit of science and of virtue. That these studies are of a very dignified and interesting pature, we admit most cheerfully ;-that they exercise and delight the understanding, by reasonings and enquiries, at once subtle, cautious, and profound, and either gratify or exalt a keen and aspiring curiosity, must be acknowledged by all who have been initiated into their elements. Those who have had the good fortune to be so initiated by the writings of Mr. Stewart, will be delighted to add, that they are blended with so many lessons of gentle and of ennobling virtue, --so many striking precepts and bright examples of liberality, high-mindedness, and pure taste, -as to be calculated, in an eminent degree, to make men love goodness and aspire to elegance, and to improve at once the understanding, the imagination, and the heart. This, however, must be the limit of our praise; and therefore, while we admire the eloquence and are warmed with the spirit of the following noble passage, in which Mr. Stewart winds up the praises of his favoured studies, we cannot help regarding it as a piece of splendid declamation on the merits of a subject that required no such recommendation.
“I have only to repeat once more,” says Mr. Stewart, “ before the close of this Dissertation, that the correction of one single prejudice has often been attended with consequences more important and extensive than could be produced by any positive accession to the stock of our scientific information. Such is the condition of man, that a great part of a philosopher's life must necessarily be spent, not in enlarging the circle of his knowledge, but in unlearning the errors of the crowd, and, the prelended wisdom of the schools; and that the most substantial benefit he can bestow on his' fellow-creatures, as well as the noblest species of power to which he can aspire, is to impart lo cthers the lights he has siruck out by his meditations, and to encourage human reason, by his example, to assert its liberty. To what did the discoveries made by Luther amouat, but to detection of the impostures of the Romish church, and of absurdities sanctioned by the authority of Aristotle? Yet, how vast the space which is filled by his name in the subsequent history of Europe ! and how proud his rank among the benefactors of mankind! I am doubtful if Bacon himself did so much by the logical rules he gave for guiding the enquiries of his followers, as by the resolution with which he inspired them to abandon the bearen path of their predecessors, and to make excursions into regions untrodden before; or if any of his suggestions concerning the plan of experimenting, can be compared in value to his classification and illustration of the various prejudices or idols which mislead us from the pure worship of Truth. If the ambition of Aristotle has been compared, in the vastness of its aim, and the plenitude of its success (and who can say that it has been compared unjustly ?) to that of his royal pupil who conquered the world; why undervalue the efforts of those who first rai-ed the standard of revelt against his universal and undisputed despotism? Speedily after the death of Alexander, the Macedonian empire was dismembered among his prin: cipal oficer's. The empire founded by the philosopher continued one and undivided for ihe period of two thousand years; and, even at this day, fallen as it is from its former grandeur, a lew faithful and devoted veterans, shut up in its remaining fortresses, still bid proud defiance, in their master's name, to all the arrayed strength of human reason. In consequence of this slow and gradual emancipation of the mind, the means by which the final result has been accomplished attract the notice only of the reflecting enquirer; resembling, in their silent, but irresistible operation, the laten! and imperceptible influence of the rools, which, by insinuating themselves into the crevices of an ancient edifice, prepare its infallible ruin, ages before its fall; or that of the apparently ident inoisture, which is concealed in the fissures of a rock, when enabled, by the expansive force of cos. gelation, to rend asunder its mass, or to heave it from its basis.
“ As it is seldom, in such instances, easy to trace to particular individuals what has resulted from their exertions, with the same precision with whichi, in physics or mechanics, we refer to their respective inventors the steam engine or the thunder-rod, it is not surprising, that the attention of the multitude should be so liile attracted to the intellectual dominion of superior minds over the moral world: but the observer must be blind, indeed, who does not perceive the fastness of the scale on which speculative principles, both right and wrong, have operated on the present condition of mankind; or who does not now feel and acknowledge, how deeply the morals and the happiness of private live, as well as the order of political society, are involved in the final issue of the contest between true and false philosophy.”—Prel. Diss. Ixxi.—Ixxiv.
We have not kept our word very faithfully with our readers; and have been insensibly belrayed into a much longer discussion than we had antici
pated. We shall endeavour to make amends, however, by giving them a ! very brief abstract of the pure metaphysics that ensue.
ALISON'S THEORY OF TASTE.
We look upon this as, on the whole, the best and most pleasing work which has yet been produced on the subjects of Taste and Beauty. Less ornale and adventurous than Burke, and less lively and miscellaneous than Price or Knight, the author, we think, bas gone deeper into his subject than any of those writers; at the same time that he has been more copious (perhaps too copious) in his examples and illustrations, and more constantly awake (perhaps to an excess here also) to those feelings of enthusiastic delight which the contemplalion of such subjects is apt to excite in the minds best qualified to discuss them. His analysis, therefore, though very patient and comprehensive, has no feature of the chiliing metaphysics of the schools; and, while the love of his subject has led him into great fulness of detail, and the sensibility of his heart lent a glow of warm colouring to every part of his composition, the reader need be under no fear of encountering either the refinements of ingenious dogmatism, or the ravings of sentimental folly. The book, perhaps, is a little too long, and the style a little too verbose ; nor are the argumentalive and theoretical parts kept sufficiently distinct from the illustrative and ornamental : but the whole is, in no ordinary degree, both beautiful and instructive, and seems excellently adapted to promote both the love and the knowledge of the curious speculations on which it is employed. Of its beauty, we are afraid we shall be able to give our readers but a very inadequale impression : but, of its information, we may hope to present them with a tolerably intelligible abstract.
In all disquisitions on the subject of Taste, there are evidently lwo separate objects of enquiry,--the first relating to the nature of the Faculty;
The remainder of this admirable Essay is dezoted to an abstract of the topics embraced in Mr. Stewart's works, intermingled with many eloquent and flattering observations ou the genius, learning, and principles of the Author.
+ Essay on the Nature and Principles of Taste. By Irchibald Alison, LL.BF.R.S., Prebendary of Sarum, &c. &c. &c. 2 Vols, Svo. p. 830. Edinburgh, 1811.- Vol. xviii. page! May, 1811.
the other to the nature of its Objects. Al one time we endeavour to ascertain what it is that constitutes Taste,—at another, what it is that constitutes Beauty; and are always necessarily engaged in determining, either what is the state of our minds, when we are conscious of the peculiar emotions excited by the perception of sublimity or beauty, or what are the qualities in objects which have the power of exciting these emotions. It is the more necessary, too, to attend to this distinction, and to keep clearly in view the indispensable importance of both branches of the enquiry; because most of the theories that have hitherto been proposed upon the subject, appear to us to proceed upon a partial forgelfulness of one or other of them, and are calculated to assord an answer to one only of the two questions which we have announced as involved in the discussion. Those who have contended that beauty consists in curve lines,-in smoothness, smallness, or fragility,-in regularity; or moderate variely, or in any other fixed or physical property, -have, for the most part, neglected altogether to explain how these properties should affect the mind with a sense of sublimity or beauty, or to determine the precise nature of the emotions which they excited; while those, on the other hand, who maintain that these emotions consist merely in the perception of utility, or of relation, or of what is ordinary and true, scem some times to forget that every theory, even as to the nature of our emolions, must be ultimately verified by a careful examination of the objects that are found to produce them, and by a large induction as to the whole accompanying phenomena.
But though it be thus radically necessary to remember that there are two subjects of enquiry, it is, if possible, still more essential to recollect that they must be discussed together; that we can never ascertain what is beauty, without having clear notions of the state of mind which it produces, and in its power of producing which its essence consists; and that it is utterly impossible to ascertain what is the nature of the effect produced by beauty on the mind, till we can decide what are the common properties that are found in all the objects which produce it. All investigations, therefore, into the principles of Taste, and into the elements of Beauty, ought obviously to go together; and as the evidence must always be one and the same, by which the truth of our conjectures as to the nature of either can be determined, nothing can be more injudicious or unsatisfactory than any attempt to separate them in the discussion. Mr. Alison is not deserving of praise for any thing more than for his constant and invariable attention to ihis important considera-tion.
It is the opinion of this excellent writer, to express it in one sentence, -that the emotions which we experience from the contemplation of sublimily or beauty, are not produced by any physical or intrinsic quality in the objects which we contemplate ; but by the recollection or conception of other objects which are associated in our imaginations with those before us, and consequently suggested by their appearance, and which are interesting or affecting, on ihe common and familiar principle of being the natural objects of love, or of pity, or of fear or veneration, or some other common and lively sensation of the mind. This is the first and most important proposition in his theory,--of which, accordingly, it may be stated as the fundamental principle, that all objects are beautiful or sublime, which signify or suggest to us some simple emotion of love, pity, terror, or any other social or selfish affection of our nature; and that the beauty or sublimity which we ascribe to them, consists entirely in the power which they have acquired, by association or otherwise, of reminding us of the proper objects of these familiar affections. Mr. Alison adds, that the sensation of sublimity or beauty is not fully developed by the mere suggestion of some natural object of interest or allection; but is distinctly felt only when the imagination is stimulated to conceive a connected train or series of such objects, in unison with that which was first suggested by the particular form, which is called beautiful, only for having been the parent of such a train.
We think all this equally true and important; and are satisfied, on the whole, with the manner in which Mr. Alison has proved and illustrated it in the work before us. Yet it is a manner which is fitter for a large book, than such a short paper as we can now afford to furnish; and we think we can conduct our reader to the same conclusions by a less operose process than a detailed analysis of all Mr. Alison's speculations.
The first notion that most people have about taste, or the capacity of perceiving beauty, seems to be, that it is a peculiar sense or faculty, of which beauty is the appropriate object, -as light is of the sense of seeing, -or sound, of hearing : and this being once settled, there is, with many, an end of the whole question. Beauty is that which gratifies the faculty of taste: and taste is that by which we are made sensible of beauty : and this is all that is to be known of the one or the other! Even of those who are not perfectly contented with this definition of beauty, there are many who seem satisfied with that of taste, which it accompanies; and the majority, even of philosophical enquirers into those matters, seem to have acquiesced in the doctrine of a separate sense or faculty, the intimations of which admit of no correction or explanation. This is obviously implied, at all events, and, we rather think, is occasionally expressed, in all the theories that resolve beauty into combinations of curve lines-into relaxation of the fibres—into smoothness-proportion-fragility, or any other physical qualities; the authors of such speculations being generally satisfied with reducing all the various forms of beauty to their own favoured elements, and assuming it as a final principle and fixed law of our constitution, of which no account could be rendered, that those elements produced a distinct operation upon some inward sense or faculty, the result of which was the emotion or perception of beauty. How extremely inaccurate and unmeaning all this is, however, must be apparent to every one who will take the trouble to reflect upon it; and may be made evident, in a very few words, even lo diose who decline Thal trouble.
If beauty be the object of a peculiar sense or faculty, then ils nalure must be as familiarly and certainly known to all who possess that sense, as the nature of light or sound is to those who can see or hear. It must always be recognised by the same properties and effects. No two persons who possess the sense, can ever differ as to its presence or absence on any particular occasion ; and, when once admitted to exist in cerlain forms, colours, or proportions, must inevitably be discovered wherever the same forms and proportions are presented. Ilow notoriously the fact is otherwise, it is needless for us to say. Instead of consisting in one substance or element, like light, sound, or heat, it is supposed to reside entire and separate, in colours, forms, and motions; nay, in proportions, sentiments, arguments, and imitations; and to exist, conspicuous and distinct, in landscapes, buildings, animals, verses, flowers, tunes, similes, demonstrations, and a thousand other shapes anomalous. Instead of being recognised by all persons who possess the sense to which it is adapted, in every object in which it is plainly per
ceived by any one such person, it is notorious, that not only individuals, but whole nations, daily perceive the most exquisite beauty in objects where other individuals can see no traces of it; and, finally, the very same persons who have once rapturously admitted the beauty of certain forms, colours, or proportions, in one set of objects, daily confess that they can discover no sori of beauty in the very same forms and proportions, when they happen to occur in a different set of objects. The forms, colours, and proportions that are respectively beautiful in a tree, a tiger, or a mountain, are not beautiful to any eye in a temple or a woman.
These very obvious considerations appear to us to be conclusive against the supposition of an intrinsic or elementary beauty addressing itself immediately to a peculiar sense or faculty, of which it is the appropriale object; and, obvious as they are, they seem also to furnish objections, not less decisive, against almost all the other theories that have been hitherto proposed on the subject. The absurdity, however, of supposing a separate sense or faculty for the perceplion of beauty, was too glaring to be long acquiesced in, even by the most ingenious philosophers; and, accordingly, it seems to have been very early suspected that the peculiar emotion we receive from the perception of beauty, might only be a modification of some other more simple and familiar emotion; and that all the beauty might consist in suggesting this emotion. Accordingly, as many objects that are beautiful were observed to be also extremely commodious and useful, and as the ideas of use and convenience are naturally pleasing, it occurred to some ingenious persons, that beauty might perhaps consist altogether in Utility; and that the mysterious pleasure which we derive from the sight of it might be referred to those agreeable recollections, or natural sympathies, which we know to accompany the conception of convenience and comfort. Now, this, we think, was a great step, and in the right way ;-and, upon this principle, a very satisfactory explanation was given of a great part of the beauty of the proportions and forms of buildings, the limbs of animals, and other objects of this description. When applied, however, to things of a different description, this theory was found utterly to fail. Many things were eminently useful, in which even the authors of the theory could discover no beauty; and many things were indisputably beautiful, which could only be connected with utility by the most revolting and ludicrous strainings of the imagination. Ploughs, and dunghills, and bank-bills, were very useful; but no one could be persuaded to think them beautiful; and people were in raptures with the beauty of rosebuds, and statues, and idle young women, that were all red to be of no use whatsoever. It was evidenily a great mistake, therefore, to suppose, that our sense of beauty was nothing more than a perceplion of utility
Other theories, still more fantastical, were suggested by the same narrowness of view, and the same love of simplicity. Because every thing monstrous was found to excite disgust, beauty was held to consist in what was most ordinary and common; and because it was found possible to magnify every quality to a disagreeable excess, it was happily conjectured, that beauty might be nothing but mediocrity. A still more notable hypothesis was founded on the pleasure which we sometimes receive from tracing the con-nection of complicated phenomena; and the nature of beauty was marvellously elucidated, by aflirming that it arose from the perception of relation. Others proposed to clear up the mysiery, by resolving it into a feeling of