Page images

that the dubious colour in the necks and tails of peacocks, and about the heads of drakes, is so very agreeable. In reality, the beauty both of shape and colouring are as nearly related, as we can well suppose it possible for things of such different natures to be.

SECT. XVIII.—RECAPITULATION. 1. On the whole, the qualities of beauty, as they are merely sensible qualities, are the following: First, to be comparatirely small. Secondly, to be smooth. Thirdly, to have a variety in the direction of the parts; but, fourthly, to have those parts not angular, but melted as it were into each other. Fifthly, to be of a delicate frame, without any remarkable appearance of strength. Sixthly, to have its colours clear and bright, but not very strong and glaring. Seventhly, or if it should have any glaring colour, to have it diversified with others. These are, I believe, the properties on which beauty depends; properties that operate by nature, and are less liable to be altered by caprice, or confounded by a diversity of tastes, than any other.


THE physiognomy has a considerable share in beauty, especially in that of our own species. The manners give a certain determination to the countenance; which, being observed to correspond pretty regularly with them, is capable of joining the effect of certain agreeable qualities of the mind to those of the body. So that to form a finished human beauty, and to give it its full influence, the face must be expressive of such gentle and amiable qualities as correspond with the softness, smoothness, and delicacy of the outward forin.

[ocr errors]

I HAVE hitherto purposely omitted to speak of the eye, which has so great a share in the beauty of the animal creation, as it did not fall so easily under the foregoing heads, though in fact it is reducible to the same principles. I think, then,

that the beauty of the eye consists, first, in its clearness;
what coloured eye shall please most, depends a good deal on
particular fancies; but none are pleased with an eye whose
water (to use that term) is dull and muddy. We are pleased
with the eye in this view, on the principle upon which we
like diamonds, clear water, glass, and such like transparent
substances. Secondly, the motion of the eye contributes to
its beauty, by continually shifting its direction; but a slowl.
and languid motion is more beautiful than a brisk one; the
latter is enlivening; the former lovely. Thirdly, with re-
gard to the union of the eye with the neighbouring parts, it
is to hold the same rule that is given of other beautiful ones;
it is not to make a strong deviation from the line of the
neighbouring parts ; nor to verge into any exact geometrical
figure. Besides all this, the eye affects, as it is expressive of
some qualities of the mind, and its principal power generally
arises from this; so that what we have just said of the phy-
siognomy is applicable here.

It may perhaps appear like a sort of repetition of what we
have before said, to insist here upon the pature of ugliness;
as I imagine it to be in all respects the opposite to those
qualities which we have laid down for the constituents of
beauty. But though ugliness be the opposite to beauty, it!
is not the opposite to proportion and fitness. For it is
possible tbat a thing may be very ugly with any proportions,
and with a perfect fitness to any uses. Ugliness I imagine
likewise to be consistent enough with an idea of the sublime.
But I would by no means insinuate that ugliness of itself is
a sublime idea, unless united with such qualities as excite a
strong terror.

Gracefulness is an idea not very different from beauty; it
consists in much the same things. Gracefulness is an idea
belonging to posture and motion. In both these, to be

graceful, it is requisite that there be no appearance of diffi. [ culty; there is required a small inflection of the body; and

1 Part IV, sect. 25.

a composure of the parts in such a inanner, as not to encumber each other, not to appear divided by sharp and sudden angles. In this ease, this roundness, this delicacy of attitude and motion, it is that all the magic of grace consists, and what is called its je ne sçai quoi ; as will be obvious to any observer, who considers attentively the Venus de Medicis, the Antinous, or any statue generally allowed to be graceful in a high degree.


SECT. XXIII.-ELEGANCE AND SPECIOUSNESS. WHEN any body is composed of parts smooth and polished, without pressing upon each other, without showing any ruggedness or confusion, and at the same time affecting some regular shape, I call it elegant. It is closely allied to the beautiful, differing from it only in this regularity; which, however, as it makes a very material difference in the affection produced, may very well constitute another species. Under this head I rank those delicate and regular works of art, that imitate no determinate object in nature, as elegant buildings, and pieces of furniture. When any object par

takes of the above-mentioned qualities, or of those of beautivful bodies, and is withal of great dimensions, it is full as re

mote from the idea of mere beauty; I call it fine or specious.

SECT. XXIV.—THE BEAUTIFUL IN FEELING. Ý THE foregoing description of beauty, so far as it is taken

in by the eye, may be greatly illustrated by describing the nature of objects, which produce a similar effect through the touch. This I call the beautiful in Feeling. It corresponds wonderfully with what causes the same species of pleasure to the sight. There is a chain in all our sensations; they are all but different sorts of feelings calculated to be affected by various sorts of objects, but all to be affected after the same manner. All bodies that are pleasant to the touch, are so by the slightness of the resistance they make. Resistance is either to motion along the surface, or to the pressure of the parts on one another: if the former be slight, we call the body smooth; if the latter, soft. The chief pleasure we receive by feeling, is in the one or the other of these qualities; and if there be a combination of both, our pleasure is greatly increased. This is so plain, that it is rather more fit to illustrate other things, than to be illustrated itself by an example. The next source of pleasure in this sense, as in every other, is the continually presenting somewhat new; and we find that bodies which continually vary their surface, are much the most pleasant or beautiful to the feeling, as any one that pleases may experience. The third property in such objects is, that though the surface continually varies its direction, it never varies it suddenly. The application of anything sudden, even though the impression itself have little or nothing of violence, is disagreeable. The quick application of a finger a little warmer or colder than usual, without notice, makes us start; a slight tap on the shoulder, not expected, has the same effect. Hence it is that angular bodies, bodies that suddenly vary the direction of the outline, afford so little pleasure to the feeling. Every such change is a sort of climbing or falling in miniature; so that squares, triangles, and other angular figures, are neither beautiful to the sight nor feeling. Whoever compares his state of mind, on feeling soft, smooth, variegated, unangular bodies, with that in which he finds himself, on the view of a beautiful object, will perceive a very striking analogy in the effects of both; and which may go a good way towards discovering their common cause. Feeling and sight, in this respect, differ in but a few points. The touch takes in the pleasure of softness, which is not primarily an object of sight; the sight, on the other hand, comprehends colour, which can hardly be made perceptible to the touch; the touch, again, has the advantage in a new idea of pleasure resulting from a moderate degree of warmth; but the eye triumphs in the infinite extent and multiplicity of its objects. But there is such a similitude in the pleasures of these senses, that I am apt to fancy, if it were possible that one might discern colour by feeling, (as it is said some blind men have done,) that the same colours, and the same disposition of colouring, which are found beautiful to the sight, would be found likewise most grateful to the touch. But, setting aside conjectures, let us pass to the other sense; of Hearing.

SECT. XIV.-THE BEAUTIFUL IN SOUNDS. In this sense we find an equal aptitude to be affected in a soft and delicate manner; and how far sweet or beautiful sounds agree with our descriptions of beauty in other senses, the experience of every one must decide. Milton has described this species of music in one of his juvenile poems.? I need not say that Milton was perfectly well versed in that art; and that no man had a finer ear, with a happier manner of expressing the affections of one sense by metaphors taken from another. The description is as follows:

-And ever against eating cares,
Lap me in soft Lydian airs;
In notes with many a winding bout
Of linked sweetness long drawn out;
With wanton heed, and giddy cunning,
The melting voice through mazes running;
Untwisting all the chains that tie

The hidden soul of harmony. Let us parallel this with the softness, the winding surface, the unbroken continuance, the easy gradation of the beautiful in other things; and all the diversities of the several senses, with all their several affections, will rather help to throw lights from one another to finish one clear, consistent idea of the whole, than to obscure it by their intricacy and variety.

To the above-mentioned description I shall add one or two remarks. The first is; that the beautiful in music will not bear that loudness and strength of sounds, which may be used to raise other passions; nor notes which are shrill, or harsh, or deep; it agrees best with such as are clear, even, smooth, and weak. The second is; that great variety, and quick transitions from one measure or tone to another, are contrary to the genius of the beautiful in music. Such transitions? often excite mirth, or other sudden and tumultuous passions; but not that sinking, that melting, that lan

guor, which is the characteristical effect of the beautiful as Jit regards every sense. The passion excited by beauty is in fact nearer to a species of melancholy, than to jollity and

I L'Allegro.

I ne'er am merry, when I hear sweet music.-SHAKSPEARE.

« PreviousContinue »