صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

PART II. know not, however, frequently, how otherwife to express the



pleasure we take in any fubject, than by pronouncing it excellent or beautiful; nor how to exprefs the difpleasure we feel, otherwise than by pronouncing the cause of it, ugly or defective. The wonderful organ of human language does not always ferve the purpose of difcrimination, even where it is of the most real importance to state the fubjects of confideration apart.

We may, nevertheless, endeavour, in this place, to confider beauty and excellence, as diftinguishable from other causes of pleasure, by the specific accompanyment of esteem or preference, to which, even if no one should admire, we conceive the object entitled; and to confider deformity and defect as diftinguishable from other caufes of pain by a peculiar fentiment of disapprobation or contempt; of which we conceive them to be proper objects, even if the world should not perceive the defect or the deformity.

These specific fentiments, differing either in respect to the occafion on which they arife, or the degrees of intensity with which they are felt, have, in every language, a variety of appellations or names. In our language, approbation and disapprobation, esteem or admiration, oppofed to indifference, difguft, or contempt, make a part of the terms by which we exprefs them.

The ingenious author of fome Effays on the Nature and Principles of Tafte, has observed, that material fubjects give fenfation and perception of reality; but no emotion or sentiment of beauty or deformity, except fo far as they are affociated with fome object of affection, whether character or disposition of mind; chearfulness or melancholy, wifdom, goodness, or power,

*Mr Alifon,

If a subject please, in confequence of its being affociated with fome object of esteem, the delight it affords is properly enough claffed with the species of sentiment which we are now confidering; but if it be affociated only with utility, fafety, or joy, it may please in confequence of this affociation: But the compound fo made up is not any more a subject of admiration or esteem, than is the pleasurable circumstance by which it is recommended.

Attempts have been made to resolve this principle of esteem or admiration into fome of the other principles or forms of proceeding, equally familiar in the operations of the human mind; and confequently, to account for the use of these terms, without the neceffity of fuppofing that there is in nature any distinction of excellence, or in us any distinctive faculty by which it is known. And it should follow, from any theory of this fort, that, in reality, we mistake for esteem some other operation or affection of mind: but, in such substitutions of one species of affection for another, it does not appear that any advantage is gained. We neither can refolve the fentiment of admiration or efteem into any thing better known than itself, nor the good qualities of mind, into any thing that, being more in our power, may fhew us a readier way to the improvement of our nature.

We fhall, therefore, be contented with giving to the sentiments which beauty or excellence occafions, fome one of their ordinary names of preference, whether delight, approbation, or esteem. The fubjects of beauty and excellence themfelves, in the mean VOL. II. D time,




PART. II. time, though thus agreeing in the clafs of fentiments to which they give occafion, feem to be disjoined in nature; or by us, at leaft, to be conceived apart. Beauty is fometimes faid to cover defects; and excellent qualities are faid to be concealed under apparent deformities. Beauty frequently ftrikes, from the first and more obvious afpect of things; excellence is to be collected by obfervation of their effential qualities. Every perfon, that enters a room, prefents at once the beauty of which he is poffeffed. His excellence, in the mean time, or effential good qualities, are to be known only upon farther acquaintance. These epithets, however, in proportion as the fubjects of them come to be underftood, gradually approach in their applications, and feem at last to unite in the fame thing. When apparent beauty is found to conceal defects, it ceafes to be admired, or even incurs contempt. When apparent deformities are found to conceal effential good qualities, we not only ceafe to contemn, but, from a principle of retributive juftice, are the more inclined in the fequel to admire that we at firft overlooked the value of our object, whether perfon or thing: So that the progrefs of intelligence in the difcernment of excellence and beauty feems to terminate in a point, which unites thefe epithets into one general ground of preference; and which, in that cafe, we fhall perhaps be more inclined to exprefs in the terms of perfection and excellence, than in that of elegance or beauty, which ftill carry a reference to first and external appearances.

In the fyftem of nature, there is a beauty that belongs to the mechanical, to the vegetable, the animal, and intellectual kingdoms.

In the mechanical kingdom, the principal, if not the fole conftituent


stituent of beauty, as the Pere Buffier has well obferved, is order; PART II.
or, as the fame author farther explains this term, the apt combina-
tion of parts, whether fimultaneous or fucceffive, for the attainment
of a beneficent purpose.

Mere matter, though perceivable by fenfe, is in itself indifferent to any affection of the mind, except fo far as fome object of afection is affociated with it. With an apt combination of parts for a beneficent purpose, are affociated the fupreme objects of admiration, love, and refpect; viz. wisdom, goodness, and power. The affociation is not cafual, or derived from mere analogy or likeness, but from the effential and infeparable relation of caufe and effect.

The system of nature is fublime in respect to the might of its Author. It is beautiful, with respect to the regular fitness of parts for the attainment of their ends, and in respect to the beneficent purpose which they are fitted to ferve. The latter circumstance, above all, is effential to their beauty.

The fruits of continual exertion, without the regularity that proceeds from a well-concerted defign, as in the meaningless activity of children and restless animals, overturning and displacing whatever comes in their way, produces diforder, confufion, and extreme deformity: The regular tradefman fhudders at their being admitted into his work-fhop.

A defign at the fame time may be perceptible; but, if directed by folly or malice, it is an object of disgust or of reprobation, not of admiration or esteem. The figures of birds, beafts, cones, or pyramids, cut out of an evergreen, in the antiquated garden, have

D 2



marks of defign; but frivolous, and contemptible. The piece of SECT. III. ftatuary, of which we are told, in the bull of Phalaris, or in the


Apiga or spouse of Nubis, may have been exquifite in the workmanfhip; but the defign was hideous or cruel: And, as the mere indication of mind is ambiguous, the indication of perfidy and malice is horrid; beneficence alone, directed by wisdom, is fupremely beautiful.

In the material fyftem of nature, the beneficent purpose of its Author is manifeft in the accommodations provided for beings diftinguished by their organization, or beings endowed with life. Thefe, in our terrestrial world, are plants, animals, and men. The elements are difpofed to promote the vegetation of plants; and thefe to furnifh their fubfiftence and place of abode to animals; and the whole to furnish the materials of fupply, and the fubjects of thought and contemplation to the living and intelligent nature of man.

In the living kingdom of animals, the fame beneficent purpose, while it extends to the general fyftem, partly terminates alfo in the animal himself. He is made that he may be gratified, as well as that he may gratify others; and both are effential to the excellence and beauty of his frame: For this his organization is admired, and the profperous ftate of that organization is so much valued, under the denomination of health.

With refpect to man, alfo, the beneficent purpofe of nature, fo far as we are yet qualified to discern it, terminates in himself; not in the individual confidered apart, but in the fubferviency of many to the common caufe of the whole. The individual is made that he may be gratified; but his chief gratification is made


« السابقةمتابعة »