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human mind. I shall next consider how far it is an improveable faculty. I shall shew the sources of its improvement, and the characters of Taste in its most perfect state. I shall then examine the various fluctuations to which it is liable, and enquire whether there be any standard to which we can bring the different tastes of men, in order to distinguish the corrupted from the true.

Taste may be defined, “ The power of receiving “ pleasure from the beauties of nature and of art.” The first question that occurs concerning it is, whether it is to be considered as an internal sense, or as an exertion of reason. Reason is a very gene. ral term; but if we understand by it that

power of the mind which in speculative matters discovers truth, and in practical matters judges of the fitness of means to an end, I apprehend the question may be easily answered. For nothing can be more clear, than that Taste is not resolvable into any such operation of Reason. It is not merely through a discovery of the understanding, or a deduction of argument, that the mind receives pleasure from a beautiful prospect or a fine poem. Such objects often strike us intuitively, and make a strong impression, when we are unable to assign the reasons of our being pleased. They sometimes strike in the same manner the philosopher and the peasant; the boy and the

Hence the faculty by which we relish such beauties, seems more nearly allied to a feeling of sense, than to a process of the understanding; and accordingly, from an external sense it has borrowed its name; that sense by which we receive and distinguish the pleasures of food having, in several languages, given rise to the word Taste in the metaphorical meaning under which we now. consider it. However, as, in all subjects which regard the operations of the mind, the inaccurate use of words is to be carefully avoided, it must not be inferred from what I have said that Reason is entirely excluded from the exertions of Taste. Though Taste, beyond doubt, be ultimately founded on a certain natural and instinctive sensibility to beauty, yet Reason, as I shall shew hereafter, assists Taste in many of its operations, and serves to enlarge its power. *


Taste, in the sense in which I have explained it, is a faculty common 'in some degree to all men. Nothing that belongs to human nature is more general than the relish of beauty of one kind or other; of what is orderly, proportioned, grand, harmonious, new, or sprightly. In children, the rudiments of Taste discover themselves very early in a thousand instances; in their fondness for regular bodies, their admiration of pictures and statues, and imitations of all kinds; and their strong attachment to whatever is new or marvellous. The most ignorant peasants are delighted with ballads and tales, and are struck with the beautiful appearance of nature in the earth and heavens. Even in the deserts of America, where human nature shews itself in its most uncultivated state, the savages have their ornaments of dress, their war and their death songs, their harangues, and their

* See Dr. Gerard's Essay on Taste. -D'Alembert's Reflections on the Use and Abuse of Philosophy in Matters which relate to Taste.— Reflections Critiques sur la Poesië et sur la Peinture, tome ii. ch. 22–31. Elements of Criticism, c. 25.

Mr. Hume's Essay on the Standard of Taste. Introduction to the Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful. :


orators. We must, therefore, conclude the principles of Taste to be deeply founded in the human mind. It is no less essential to man to have some discernment of beauty, than it is to possess the attributes of reason and of speech. *

But although none be wholly devoid of this faculty, yet the degrees in which it is possessed are widely different. In some men only the feeble glimmerings of Taste appear; the beauties which they relish are of the coarsest kind; and of these they have but a weak and confused impression: while in others,

* On the subject of Taste, considered as a power or faculty of the mind, much less is it to be found among the ancient than among the modern rhetorical and critical writers. The following remarkable passage in Cicero serves however to shew, that his ideas on this subject agree perfectly with what has been said above. He is speaking of the beauties of style and numbers.

Illud autem nequis admiretur quonam modo hæc vulgus im“ peritorum in audiendo, notet ; cum in omni genere, tum in 6. hoc ipso, magna quædam est vis, incredibilisque, naturæ, , * Omnes enim tacito quodam sensu, sine ulla arte aut ratione, · quæ sínt in artibus de rationibus recta et prava dijudicant: «. idque cum faciunt in picturis, et in signis, et in aliis operibus, " ad quoram intelligentiam a natura minus habent instrumenti, 66. tum multo ostendunt magis in verborum, numerorum, vo

cumque judicio ; quod ea sunt in communibus infixa sensibus ;

neque earum rerum quenquam funditus naturæ voluit esse « expertem.” Cic. de Orat. lib. iii. cap. 50. edit. Gruteri.

Quintilian seems to include Taste (for which, in the sense which we now give to that word, the ancients appear to have had no distinct name) under what he calls judicium. “ Locus si de judicio, meâ quidem opinione adeo partibus hujus operis 6 omnibus connectus ac mistus est, ut ne a sententiis quidem aut “ verbis saltem singulis possit separari, nec magis arte traditur

quam gustus aut odor. - Ut contraria vitemus et communia, “ ne quid in eloquendo corruptum obscurumque sit, referatur

oportet ad sensus qui non docentur,” Institut. lib. vi. cap. 3, edit. Obrechti.


Taste rises to an acute discernment, and a lively enjoyment of the most refined beauties. In general we may observe, that in the powers and pleasures of Taste, there is a more remarkable inequality among men, than is usually found, in point of common sense, reason and judgment. The constitution of our nature in this, as in all other respects, discovers admirable wisdom. In the distribution of those talents which are necessary for man's well-being, Nature hath made less distinction among her children. But in the distribution of those which belong only to the ornamental part of life, she hath bestowed her favours with more frugality. She hath both sown the seeds more sparingly, and rendered a higher culture requisite for bringing them to perfection,

This inequality of Taste among men is owing, without doubt, in part, to the different frame of their natures; to nicer organs, and finer internal powers, with which some are endowed beyond others. But, if it be owing in part to nature, it is owing to. education and culture still more. The illustration of this leads to my next remark on this subject, that taste is a most improveable faculty, if there be any such in human nature; a remark which gives great encouragement to such a course of study as we are now proposing to pursue. Of the truth of this assertion we may easily be convinced, by only reflecting on that immense superiority which education and improvement give to civilised above barbarous nations, in refinement of taste; and on the superiority which they give in the same nation to those who have studied the liberal arts, above the rude and untaught vulgar. The difference is so great, that,

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there is perhaps no one particular in which these two classes of men are so far removed from each other, as in respect of the powers and the pleasures of

Taste : and assuredly for this difference no other general cause can be assigned but culture and education. I shall now proceed to shew what the means are by which Taste becomes so remarkably susceptible of cultivation and progress.

Reflect first upon that great law of our nature that exercise is the chief source of improvement in all our faculties. This holds both in our bodily, and in our mental powers. It holds even in our external senses ; although these be less the subject of cul tivation than any of our other faculties. We see how acute the senses become in persons whose trade or business leads to nice exertions of them. Touch, for instance, becomes infinitely more exquisite in men whose employment requires them to examine the polish of bodies, than it is in others. They who deal in microscopical observations, or are accustomed to engrave on precious stones, acquire surprising: accuracy of sight in discerning the minutest objects ; and practice in attending to different flavours and tastes of liquors, wonderfully improves the power of distinguishing them, and of tracing their composition. Placing internal Taste therefore on the footing of a simple sense, it cannot be doubted that frequent exercise and curious attention to its proper objects, must greatly heighten its power. Of this we have one clear proof in that part of Taste which is called an ear for music. Experience every day shews, that nothing is more improveable. Only the simplest and plainest compositions are relished at first; use

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