« AnteriorContinuar »
founded in the supposed connection between learning and the arts, for the arts do not perhaps at all derive themselves from learning as their source, and in their
derive a very inconsiderable part of their utmost improvement therefrom.
The elements of the arts, and many of the most valuable discoveries on which the practice of the arts depends, are derived from unlearned men, or are traced up to unlearned and, what at this day we call, barbarous periods.
Who can naine the learned day, in which the lever, the moveable pulley, the wheel, the inclined plane, and the screw have been introduced to the knowledge and to the use of men? The arch, the pillar, the roof, and much perhaps of the stability, proportion and ornament of architecture, are probably indebted for their first conception to unlearned and unscientific men. The Greeks do not appear to have considered the Persians as a lettered and scientific nation, and though the vanity of the Greeks may render them very justly sus,
pected in their estimate of foreign merit, yet it is probable that in this instance they erred not much from the truth. But the ruins of Persepolis present the idea of a structure, which might have rivaled the proudest monument of Grecian architecture. They are at this day the admiration of European artists, to whose judgement and taste the highest deference is paid. To rude ancestors we owe the first idea of a ship, and no inconsiderable progress to that complex and wonderful state in which it now exists. To the Greeks and Romans in their more rude and unlearned state we are indebted, if a debt it may be deemed, for the discipline, the order, the combinations, the evolutions and the general tactics of war; nor, unless perhaps in the application of gunpowder, has all the science and ingenuity of the moderns much surpassed them in this dangerous art. The practice of astronomy, though without a sufficient knowledge of its theory, yet founded on principles derived from an observance of the motion of the planetary boo
dies, is of very remote antiquicy, and has been applied with considerable accuracy by nations of no scientific character, and but in a moderate degree removed from barbarism. If a simple elementary language, wherein from a few characters infinite com, binations are formed, be a necessary instrument to the progress of science, the Chinese can have no pretensions to the character of a learned nation, although for no other reasons this attribute should be refused to them. For as language is the vehicle of ideas, how slow must be the progress of literary improvement, where only to know the language itself requires the application of a whole life. Yet on the first visit of the Europeans the Chinese were found to be
pos. sessed of the elements of almost all the arts, those very elements, which under the culture of the more ardent European have so exalted him amongst men. be observed of the Mexicans and Peruvians, who had no form of written language whatever. The date of their empires was indeed
The same may
retic artist. The fact appears to be 124 ON LEARNING AND THE ARTS. comparatively. of yesterday, but at the period of the'r highest improvement they could support no claim to the character of learned nations. Yet many of their productions of art; magnificence and-taste, were objects of admiration to the more improved European. The practical principles of chemistry have been known, and successively acted on, by many of the rudest and most ignorant nations of the earth, and the communication of some of their processes would be a valuable acquisition to the European artist of the present day. Indeed, without disparagement to the present state of scientific improvement, it must be acknowledged that the valuable arts of mechanics and chemistry have been indebted for discoveries of high estimation to rude and unlettered practitioners, which had eluded all the penetration of the theo
that mere accidental observation, excited by the continually working hand of nature, and agreeably to those eternal dawsowhich go vern her operațions, has revealed to man;
in every state and condition, the fundamental principles of all the arts; that they are thus brought home to his very feeling, and that, the discovery being made, the necessities and interests of man seize the discovery, and apply it to his use, , Man, in a state of literary culture, digests these experimental discoveries, compares them, reasons upon them, and reduces them into an orderly and harmonious system, which is without doubt of great assistance, in apply, ing the practice of the arts to progressive improvement and utility. Sensible of this truth, the ingenious theorist will acknowledge that the arts, in the whole extent of their subservience to the use of man, have derived their richest treasures from the discoveries and operations of rude and unlearned men.
Rousseau therefore fails in every view in which it can be attempted to fix the odium of luxury and its concomitant vices upon learning. There is no necessary connection between the arts and luxury; and the arts,