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inspire it, where it is wanting; but they may often guide it into its proper channel; they may correct its extravagancies, and teach it the most just and proper imitation of nature. Critical rules are intended chiefly to point out the faults, which ought to be avoided. We must be indebted to nature for the production of eminent beauties.
GENIUS is a word, which in common acceptation extends much farther, than to objects of Taste. It signifies that talent or aptitude, which we receive from nature, in order to excel in any one thing whatever. A man is said to have a genius for mathematics as well as a genius for poetry; a genius for war, for politics, or for any mechanical employment.
Genius may be greatly improved by art and study; but by them alone it cannot be acquired. As it is a higher faculty than Taste, it is ever, according to the common frugality of nature, more limited in the sphere of its operations. There are persons, not unfrequently to be met, who have an excellent Taste in several of the polite arts; such, as music, poetry, painting, and eloquence; but an excellent performer in all these arts. is very seldom found; or rather is not to be looked for. A universal Genius, or one who is equally and indifferently inclined toward several different professions and arts, is not likely to excel in any. Although there may be some few exceptions, yet in general it is true, that, when the mind is wholly directed toward some one object exclusively of others, there is the fairest pros
pect of eminence in that, whatever it may be. Extreme heat can be produced, only when the rays converge to a single point. Young porsons are highly interested in this remark; since it may teach them to examine with care, and to pursue with ardour that path, which nature has marked out for their peculiar exertions.
The nature of Taste, the nature and importance of Criticism, and the distinction between Taste and Genius, being thus explained; the sources of the Pleasures of Taste shall next be considered. Here a very extensive field is opened; no less, than all the Pleasures of the Imagination, as they are generally called, whether afforded us by natural objects, or by imitations and descriptions of them. It is not however necessary to the purpose of the present work, that all these be examined fully; the pleasure, which we receive from discourse or writing, being the principal object of them, Our design is to give some opening into the Pleasures of Taste in general, and to insist more particularly upon Sublimity and Beauty.
We are far from having yet attained any system concerning this subject. A regular inquiry into it was first attempted by Mr. Addison in his Essay on the Pleasures of the Imagination. By him these Pleasures are ranged under three heads, Beauty, Grandeur, and Novelty. His speculations on this subject, if not remarkably profound, are very beautiful and entertaining; and he has the merit of having discovered a tract, which
was before untrodden. Since his time the advances, made in this part of philosophical criticism, are not considerable; which is owing doubtless to that thinness and subtilty, which are discovered to be properties of all the feelings of Taste. It is difficult to enume rate the several objects, which give pleasure to Taste; it is more difficult to define all those, which have been discovered, and to range them in proper classes; and, when we would proceed farther, and investigate the efficient causes of the pleasure, which we receive from such objects, here we find ourselves at the greatest loss. For example, we all learn by experience that some figures of bodies appear more beautiful than others; on farther inquiry we discover that the regularity of some figures and the graceful variety of others are the foundation of the beauty, which we discern in them; but, when we endeavour to go a step beyond this, and inquire, why regularity and variety produce in our minds the sensation of beauty; any reason, we can assign, is extremely imperfect. Those first principles of internal sensa. tion nature appears to have studiously concealed.
It is some consolation, however, that, although the efficient cause is obscure, the final cause of those sensations lies commonly more open; and here we must observe the strong impression, which the powers of Taste and Imagination are calculated to give us of the benevolence of our Creator. By these powers he hath widely enlarged the sphere of the pleasures of human life; and those too of a kind the most pure and inno
cent. The necessary purposes of life might have been answered, though our senses of seeing and hearing had only served to distinguish external objects, without giv ing us any of those refined and delicate sensations of beauty and grandeur, with which we are now so much delighted.
. The pleasure, which arises from sublimity or grandeur, deserves to be fully considered; because it has a character more precise and distinctly marked, than any other of the pleasures of the imagination, and because it coincides more directly with our main subject. The simplest form of external grandeur is seen in the vast and boundless prospects, presented to us by nature; such as widely extended plains, of which the eye can find no limits; the firmament of heaven; or the boundless expanse of the ocean. All vastness produces the impression of sublimity. Space, however, extended in length, makes not so strong an impression, as height or depth. Though a boundless plain is a grand object; yet a lofty mountain, to which we look up, or an awful precipice or tower, whence we look down on objects below, is still more so. The excessive grandeur of the firmament arises from its height, added to its boundless extent; and that of the ocean, not from its extent alone, but from the continual motion and irresistible force of that mass of waters. Wherever space is concerned, it is evident, that amplitude or greatness of extent in one dimension or other is necessary to grandeur. Remove all bounds from any object, and you immediately render it sublime.
Hence infinite space, endless numbers, and eternal duration fill the mind with great ideas.
The most copious source of sublime ideas seems to be derived from the exertion of great power and force. Hence the grandeur of earthquakes and burning moun tains; of great conflagrations; of the boisterous ocean; of the tempestuous storm; of thunder and lightning;. and of all the unusual violence of the elements. A stream, which glides along gently within its banks, is a beautiful object; but, when it rushes down with the impetuosity and noise of a torrent, it immediately becomes a sublime one. A race-horse is viewed with pleasure; but it is the war-horse," whose neck is cloth❝ed with thunder," that conveys grandeur in its idea. The engagement of two powerful armies, as it is the highest exertion of human strength, combines various sources of the sublime; and has consequently been ever considered, as one of the most striking and magnificent spectacles, which can be either presented to the eye, or exhibited to the imagination in description.
All ideas of the solemn and awful kind, and even bordering on the terrible, tend greatly to assist the sublime; such as darkness, solitude, and silence. The firmament, when filled with stars, scattered in infinite numbers and with splendid profusion, strikes the imagination with more awful grandeur, 'than when we be. hold it enlightened by all the splendour of the sun. The deep sound of a great bell, or the striking of a great clock, is at any time grand and awful; but when heard