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sidered extravagant to talk in this acquire authority in matters of taste manner, to what conclusion are we formed ? Why is it necessary that the unavoidably led ? To prevent mistakes, person to whom we reser as a standard, what observation is it necessary, in the should live under circumstances fanext place, to make? How does it ap-vourable to the exertions of taste? To pear that the tastes of men may differ the inhabitants of what nations do we, very considerably in their object, and therefore, refer? Among nations at such still none of them be wrong? Though a period of society, in what different all differ, yet upon what do all pitch? ways may the proper operations of How is this illustrated ? To explain this taste be warped ? What appearance matter thoroughly, what observation is do such casual circumstances give to necessary ? When does this disagree- the judgments of taste? How is that ment among men cease to be diversity appearance easily corrected? Of the of taste; and what follows? How is currency which these may have for a this remark illustrated from the pre-while, what is remarked? To what ference given by some men to Homer, does our author not pretend ; and what and by others to Virgil ? How long illustrative remarks follow? What conmay our diversity be considered natu- clusion is given, upon which it is sufral and allowable? What assertions ficient for us to rest? Of its foundation would induce us to consider a man's what is remarked; and upon what is taste corrupted in a miserable degree; it built ? When these sentiments are and to what do we appeal? What do perverted by ignorance and prejudice, we,on any subject, consider a standard? how may they be rectified? How is What illustrations are given ? How far their sound and natural state ultimatemay nature be regarded as a standard? | ly determined ? Though men declaim In what cases does nature afford a full concerning the caprice of taste, yet and distinct criterion of what is truly what is found by experience to be true? beautiful ? Of reason, in such cases, How is this illustrated; and hence what is said ? Why are we sometimes what follows ? For an indifferent poet, under the necessity of searching for or a bad artist, what may authority or something that can be rendered more prejudice do ? But when will his faults clear and precise than nature, as a be discerned, and the genuine taste of standard of taste ? On what is taste mankind appear? ultimately founded ? A person of what description might be considered a standard of taste? But as there is no such
ANALYSIS. living standard, what follows; and hence what is the ultimate standard ? 1. Introductory remarks. How is this illustrated ? How would 2. The definition of Taste. the taste of such a person be regarded; 3. The nature of Taste. why; and what follows? What inter A. Instinct and Reason. rogations follow; and to them what B. Its universality. reply is given; and why? Of the ad c. Its degrees. mirer or censurer of any work of D. Sources of its improvement. genius, what remark follows? Though
a. Exercise. reason can carry us a certain length in
b. Reason and good sense. judging concerning works of taste, yet
c. Morals. what must not be forgotten? Concern- 4. The characters of Taste. ing what may we speculate and argue?! A. Delicacy. On this subject, what will just reason- ' B. Correctness. ing correct? At the same time, to what 5. The variations of Taste. do these reasonings always appeal? 6. The standard of Taste. On what foundation do they rest ? A. Arguments for, and against a Upon this ground, what receives our standard. preference ? How are principles which! B. The conclusion.
CRITICISM....GENIUS...PLEASURES OF TASTE....
SUBLIMITY IN OBJECTS.
TASTE, criticism, and genius, are words currently employed, without distinct ideas annexed to them. In beginning a course of lectures where such words must often occur, it is necessary to ascertain their meaning with some precision. Having in the last lecture treated of taste, I proceed to explain the nature and foundation of criticism. True criticism is the application of taste and of good sense to the several fine arts. The object which it proposes is, to distin. guish what is beautiful and what is faulty in every performance ; from particular instances to ascend to general principles; and so to form rules or conclusions concerning the several kinds of beauty in works of genius. ' ·
The rules of criticism are not formed by any induction à priori, as it is called; that is, they are not formed by a train of abstract reasoning, independent of facts and observations. Criticism is an art founded wholly on experience; on the observations of such beauties as have come nearest to the standard which I before established; that is, of such beauties as have been found to please mankind most generally. For example: Aristotle's rules concerning the unity of action in dramatic and epic composition, were not rules first disco.. vered by logical reasoning, and then applied to poetry; but they were drawn from the practice of Homer and Sophocles: they were founded upon observing the superior pleasure which we receive from the relation of an action which is one and entire, beyond what we receive from the relation of scattered and unconnected facts. Such observations taking their rise at first from feeling and experience, were found on examination to be so consonant to reason and to the principles of human nature, as to pass into established rules, and to be conveniently applied for judging of the excellency of any performance This is the most natural account of the origin of criticism.
A masterly genius, it is true, will of himself, untaught, compose in such a manner as shall be agreeable to the most material rules of criticism: for as these rules are founded in nature, nature will often suggest them in practice. Homer, it is more than probable, was acquainted with no systems of the art of poetry. Guided by genius alone, he composed in verse a regular story, which all posterity has admired. But this is no argument against the usefulness of criticism as an art. For as no human genius is perfect, there is no writer but may receive assistance from critical observations upon the beauties and faults of those who have gone before him. No observations or rules can indeed supply the defect of genius, or inspire it where it
is wanting. But they may often direct it into its proper channel; they may correct its extravagances, and point out to it the most just and proper imitation of nature. Critical rules are designed chiefly to show the faults that ought to be avoided. To nature we must be indebted for the production of eminent beauties.
From what has been said, we are enabled to form a judgment concerning those complaints which it has long been fashionable for petty authors to make against critics and criticism. Critics have been represented as the great abridgers of the native liberty of genius; as the imposers of unnatural shackles and bonds upon writers, from whose cruel persecution they must fly to the public, and implore its protection. Such supplicatory prefaces are not calculated to give very favourable ideas of the genius of the author. For every good writer will be pleased to have his work examined by the principles of sound understanding and true taste. The declamations against criticism commonly proceed upon this supposition, that critics are such as judge by rule, not by feeling; which is so far from being true, that they who judge after this manner are pedants, not critics. For all the rules of genuine criticism I have shown to be ultimately founded on feeling; and taste and feeling are necessary to guide us in the application of these rules to every particular instance. As there is nothing in which all sorts of persons more readily affect to be judges than in works of taste, there is no doubt that the number of incompetent critics will always be great. But this affords no more foundation for a general invective against criticism, than the number of bad philosophers or reasoners affords against reason and philosophy.
An objection more plausible may be formed against criticism, from the applause that some performances have received from the public, which, when accurately considered, are found to contradict the rules, established by criticism. Now, according to the principles laid down in the last lecture, the public is the supreme judge to whom the last appeal must be made in every work of taste; as the standard of taste is founded on the sentiments that are natural and common to all men. But with respect to this, we are to observe, that, the sense of the public is often too hastily judged of. The genuine public taste does not always appear in the first applause given upon the publication of any new work. There are both a great vulgar and a small, apt to be catched and dazzled by very superficial beauties, the admiration of which in a little time passes away; and sometimes a writer may acquire great temporary reputation merely by his compliance with the passions or prejudices, with the party-spirit or superstitious notions that may chance to rule for a time almost a whole nation. In such cases, though the public may seem to praise, true criticism may with reason condemn; and it will in progress of time gain the ascendant: for the judgment of true criticism, and the voice of the public, when once become unprejudiced and dispassionate, will ever coincide at last.
Instances, I admit, there are of some works that contain gross transgressions of the laws of criticism, acquiring, nevertheless, a
general, and even a lasting admiration. Such are the plays of Shakspeare, which, considered as dramatic poems, are irregular in the highest degree. But then we are to remark, that they have gained the public admiration, not by their being irregular, not by their transgressions of the rules of art, but in spite of such transgressions. They possess other beauties which are conformable to just rules; and the force of these beauties has been so great as to overpower all censure, and to give the public a degree of satisfaction superior to the disgust arising from their blemishes. Shakspeare pleases, not by his bringing the transactions of many years into one play; not by his grotesque mixtures of tragedy and comedy in one piece, nor by the strained thoughts and affected witticisms, which he sometimes employs. These we consider as blemishes, and impute them to the grossness of the age in which he lived. But he pleases by his animated and masterly representations of characters, by the liveliness of his descriptions, the force of his sentiments, and his possessing, beyond all writers, the natural language of passion: Beauties which true criticism no less teaches us to place in the highest rank, than nature teaches us to feel. .
I proceed next to explain the meaning of another term, which there will be frequent occasion to employ in these lectures; that is, genius.
Taste and genius are two words frequently joined together; and therefore hy inaccurate thinkers, confounded. They signify, however, two quite different things. The difference between them can be clearly pointed out; and it is of importance to remember it. Taste consists in the power of judging; genius, in the power of executing. One may have a considerable degree of taste in poetry, eloquence, or any of the fine arts, who has little or hardly any genius for composition or execution in any of these arts: but genius cannot be found without including taste also. Genius, therefore, deserves to be considered as a higher power of the mind than taste. Genius always imports something inventive or creative; which does not rest' in mere sensibility to beauty where it is perceived, but which can, moreover, produce new beauties, and exhibit them in such a manner as strongly to impress the minds of others. Refined taste forms a good critic; but genius is farther necessary to form the poet, or the orator.
It is proper also to observe, that genius is a word, which, in common acceptation, extends much farther than to the objects of taste. It is used to signify that talent or aptitude which we receive from nature, for excelling in any one thing whatever. Thus we speak of a genius for mathematics, as well as a genius for poetry; of a genius for war, for politics, or for any mechanical employment.
This talent or aptitude for excelling in some one particular, is, I have said, what we receive from nature. By art and study, no doubt, it may be greatly improved; but by them alone it cannot be acquired. As genius is a higher faculty than taste, it is ever, according to the usual frugality of nature, more limited in the sphere of its operations. It is not uncommon to meet with persons who have an excel
lent taste in several of the polite arts, such as music, poetry, painting, and eloquence, altogether: but, to find one who is an excellent performer in all these arts, is much more rare; or rather, indeed, such an one is not to be looked for. A sort of universal genius, or one who is equally and indifferently turned towards several different professions and arts, is not likely to excel in any. Although there may be some few exceptions, yet in general it holds, that when the bent of the mind is wholly directed towards some one object, exclusive in a manner of others, there is the fairest prospect of eminence in that, whatever it be. The rays must converge to a point, in order to glow intensely. This remark I here choose to make, on account of its great importance to young people; in leading them to examine with care, and to pursue with ardour, the current and pointing of nature towards those exertions of genius in which they are most likely to excel.
A genius for any of the fine arts, as I before observed, always supposes taste; and it is clear, that the improvement of taste will serve both to forward and to correct the operations of genius. In proportion as the taste of a poet, or orator, becomes more refined with respect to the beauties of composition, it will certainly assist him to produce the more finished beauties in his work. Genius, however, in a poet or orator, may sometimes exist in a higher degree than taste; that is, genius may be bold and strong, when taste is neither very delicate, nor very correct. This is often the case in the infancy of arts; a period, when genius frequently exerts itself with great vigour, and executes with much warmth; while taste, which requires experience, and improves by slower degrees, hath not yet attained to its full growth. Homer and Shakspeare are proofs of what I now assert; in whose admirable writings are found instances of rudeness and indelicacy, which the more refined taste of later writers, who had far inferior genius to them, would have taught them to avoid. As all human perfection is limited, this may very probably be the law of our nature, that it is not given to one man to execute with vigour and fire, and, at the same time, to attend to all the lesser and more refined graces that belong to the exact perfection of his work: while, on the other hand, a thorough taste for those inferior graces is for the most part, accompanied with a diminution of sublimity and force.
Having thus explained the nature of taste, the nature and importance of criticism, and the distinction between taste and genius; I am now to consider the sources of the pleasures of taste. Here opens a very extensive field; no less than all the pleasures of the imagination, as they are commonly called, whether afforded us by natural objects, or by the imitations and descriptions of them. But it is not necessary to the purpose of my lectures, that all these should be examined fully; the pleasure which we receive from discourse, or writing, being the main object of them. All that I propose is to give some openings into the pleasures of taste in general ; and to insist more particularly upon sublimity and beauty.