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still more painful are contemplated with eagerness and delight: and therefore we must not be surprised to find, that many of the pleasing sensations of beauty or sublimity reeolve themselves ultimately into recollections if feelings that may appear to have a veryopposite character. The sum of the whole is, that every feeling which it is agreeable to experience, to recaí, or to witness, may become the source of beauty in external objects, when it is so connected with them as that their appearance reminds us of that feeling. Now, in real life, and from daily experience and observation, we know that it is agreeable, ni the first place, to recollect our own pleasurable sensations, or to be enabled to form a lively conception of the pleasures of other men, or even of sentient beings of any description. We know likewise, from the same sure authority, that there is a certain delight in the remembrance of our past, or the conception of our future emotions, even though attended with, great pain, provided the pain be not forced too rudely on the mind, and be eoftened by the accompaniment of any milder feeling. And finally, we know, in the same manner, that the spectacle or conception of the emotions of others, even when in a high decree painful, is extremely interesting and attractive, and draws us away, not only from the consideration of indifferent objects, but even from the pursuit of light or frivolous enjoyments. All these are plain and familiar facts; of the existence of which, however they may be explained, no one can entertain ihe slightest doubt—and into which, therelore, we shall have,made no inconsiderable progress, if we can resolve the more mysterious fact, of the emotions we receive from the contemplation of sublimity or beauty.
Our proposition then is, that these emotions ate not original emotions, nor produced directly by any material qualities in the objects which excite them; but are reflections, or images, of the more radical and familiar emotions to which we have already alluded; and are occasioned, not by any inherent virtue in the objects before u?, but by the accidents, if we may so express ourselves, by which these may have been enabled to suggest or recaí to us our own past sensations or sympathies. We might almost venture, indeed, to lay it down as an axiom, that, except in the plain and palpable case of bodily pain or pleasure, we can never be interested in any thing but the fortunes of sentient beings;— and that every thing partaking of the nature of mental emotion, must have for its object the ftarnet, past, present, or possible, of something capable of sensation. Independent, therefore, of all evidence, and without the help of any explanation, we should have been apt to conclude, that the emotions of beauty and sublimity must have for their objects the suffering* or enjoyments of sentient beings ;—and lu reject, as intrinsically absurd and incredible, the supposition, that material objects, which obviously do neither hurt nor delight Ihe body, should yet excite, by their mere ¿hraical qualities, the very powerful emotions
i which are sometimes excited by the spectacle \of beauty.
Of the feelings, by their connection with which external objects become beautiful, we do not think it necessary to speak more minutely;—and, therefore, it only remains, under this preliminary view of the subject, to explain the nature of that connection by which we conceive this effect to be produced. Here, also, there is but little need for minuteness, or fulness of enumeration. Almost every tie, I by which two objects can be bound together in the imagination, in sufch a mariner as that the presentment of the one shall recaí the memory of the other;—or, in other words, almost every possible relation which can subsist between such objects, may serve to connect the things we call sublime and beautiful, with feelings that are interesting or delightful. It may be useful, however, to class these bonds of association between mind and matter in a rude and general way.
It appears to us, then, that objects are sublime or beautiful, first) when they are the natural signs, and perpetual concomitants of pleasurable sensations, or, at any rate, of some lively feeling or emotion in ourselves or in some other sentient beings; or. secondly, when they are the arbitrary or accidental concomitants of such feelings; or, thirdly, when they bear some analogy or fanciful resemblance to things with which these emotions are necessarily connected. In endeavouring to illustrate the nature of these several relations, we shall be led to lay before our readers some proofs that appear to us satisfactory of the truth of the general theory.
The most obvious, and the strongest association that can be established between inward feelings and external objects is, where the object is necessarily and universally connected with the feeling by the law of nature, so that it is always presented to the senses when the feeling is impressed upon the mind —as the sight or the sound of laughter, with the feeling of gaiety—of weeping, with distress—of the sound of thunder, with ideas of danger and power. Let us dwell for a moment on the last instance.—Nothing, perhaps, in the whole range of nature, is more strikingly and universally sublime than the sound we have just mentioned; yet it seems obvious, that the sense of sublimity is produced, not by any quality that is perceived by the ear, but altogether by the impression of power and of danger that is necessarily made upon the mind, whenever that sound is heard. That it is not produced by any peculiarity in the sound itself, is certain, from the mistakes that are frequently made with regard to it. The noise of a cart rattling over the stones, ¡soften mistaken for thunder; and as long as the mistake lasts, this very vulgar and insignificant noise is actually felt to bo prodigiously sublime. It is so felt, however, it is perfectly plain, merely because it is then associated with ideas of prodigious power and undefined danger;—and the sublimity is accordingly destroyed, the moment the association is dissolved, though the sound itself
and its effect on the organ, continue exactly i of a youthful face, to the richly fretted ami
the same. This, therefore, is an instance in which sublimity is distinctly proved to consist, not in any physical quality of the object to which it is ascribed, but in its necessary connection with that vast and uncontrolled Power which is the natural object of awe and veneration.
We may now take an example a little less plain and elementary. The most beautiful object in nature, perhaps, is the countenance of a young and beautiful woman ;—and we are apt at first to imagine, that, independent of all associations, the form and colours which it displays are, in themselves, lovely and engaging; and would appear charm nig to all beholders, with whatever other qualities or impressions they might happen to be connected. A very little reflection, however, will probably be sufficient to convince us of the fallacy of this impression: and to satisfy us. that what we admire is not a combination of forms and colours, (which could never excite any mental emotion.) but a collection of signs and tokens of certain mental feelings and affections, which are universally recognised as the proper objects of love and sympathy. Laying aside the emotions arising from difference of sex, and supposing female beauty to be Contemplated by the pure and unenvying eye of a female, it seems quite obvious, that, among its ingredients, we should trace the signs of two different sets of qualities, that are neither of them the object of eight, but of a far higher faculty;—in the first place, of youth and health; and in the second place, of innocence, gaiety, sensibility, intelligence, delicacy or vivacity. Now, without enlarging upon the natural effect of these suggestions, we shall just suppose that the appearances, which must be admitted at all events to be actually siarnificant of the ualities we have enumerated, had been by
the law of nature attached to the very opposite qualities;—that the smooth forehead, the firm cheek, and the full lip, which are now so distinctly expressive to us of the gay and vigorous periods of youth—and the clear and blooming complexion, which indicates health and activity, had been in fact the forms and colours by which old age and sickness were characterised ; and that, instead of beins found united to those sources and seasons of enjoyment, they had been the badges by which mature pointed out that state of suffering and
variegated countenance of a pimpled drunk ard!
Such, we conceive, would be the inevitable effect of dissolving the subsistingconnection between the animating ideas of hope and enjoyment, and those visible appearance« which are now significant of those emotions, and derive their whole beauty from th;,t signification. But the effect would be stiil stronger, if we could suppose the mural expression of those appearances to be reversed in the same manner. If the smile, which now enchants us, as the expression of innocence and affection, were the sign attached by nature to guilt and malignity—if the blush which expresses delicacy, and the glance that speaks intelligence, vivacity, and Bolinees, had always been found united with brutal passion or idiot moodiness; is it not certain, that the whole of their beauty would be extinguished, and that our emotions from the sight ot (hem would be exactly the reverse of what they now are?
That the beauty of a living and sentient creature should depend, in a great degree, upon qualities peculiar to such a creature, rather than upon the mere physical attributes which it may possess in common with the inert matter around it, cannot indeed appear a very improbable supposition to any one. But it may be more difficult for some persone to understand how the beauty of mere dead matter should be derived from the feelings and sympathies of sentient beings. It is absolutely necessary, therefore, that we should give an instance or two of this derivation also.
It is easy enough to understand how the sight of a picture or statue should affect us nearly in the same way as the sight of the original: nor is it much more difficult to conceive, how the sight of a cottage should give us something of the same feeling as the sight of a peasant's family ; and the aspect ot a town raise many of the name ideas as the appearance of a multitude of persons. We may begin, therefore, with an example a little more complicated. Take, for instance, the case of a common English landscape—green meadows with grazing and ruminating cattle —canals or navigable rivers—well fenced, well cultivated fields—neat, clean, scattered cottages — humble antique churches, with church-yard elms, and crossing hedgerows—
Jecay which is now signified to us by the ' all »een under bright skies, and in good wea
livid and emaciated face of sickness, or the A-rinkled front, the quivering lip, and hollow cheek of age;—If this were the familiar law of our nature, can it bfi doubted that we should (ook upon these appearances, not wilh rapture,
ther:—There is much beauty, as every one will acknowledge, in such a scene. But in what does the beauty consist? Not certainly in the mere mixture of colours and forms ; for olours more pleasing, and lines more grace
but with aversion—and consider it as abso- ¡ ful, (according to any theory of grace that lutely ludicrous or disgusting, to speak of the j may be preferred.) might be spread upon a beauty of what was interpreted by every one board, or a painter's pallet, without engaging
as the lamented siirn of pain and decrepitude! Mr. Knight himself, though a firm believer in the intrinsic beauty of colours, is so much of this opinion, that he thinks it entirely owing to those associations that we prefer the tame
the eve to a second glance, or raising the least emotion in the mind; but in the picture of human happiness that is presented to our imaginations and affections—in the visible and unequivocal signs of comfort, and cheercure and f accessful industry that ensures its continuance—and of the piety by which it is exalted—and of the simplicity by which it is contrasied with the guilt arid the fever of a city life ;—in the images of health and temperance and plenty which it exhibits to every eye—and in the glimpses which it affords to warmer imaginations, of those primitive or fabulous times, when man was uncorrupted by luxury and ambition, and of those humble retreats in which we still delight to imagine that love and philosophy may lind an unpolluted asylum. At all events, however, it is human feeling that excites our sympathy, and forms the true object of our emotions. It is man, and man alone, that we see in the beauties of the earth which he inhabits;—or, if a more sensitive and extended sympathy connect us with the lower families of animated nature, and make us rejoice with the lambs that bleat on the uplands, or the cattle that repose in the valley, or even with the living plants that drink the bright sun and the balmy air beside them, it is still the idea of enjoyment—of feelings that animate the existence of sentient beings—that calls forth all our emotions, and is the parent of all the beauty with which we proceed to invest the inanimate creation around us.
Instead of this quiet and tame English landscape, let us now take a Welch or a Highland scene; and see whether its beauties will admit of being explained on the same principle. Here, we shall have lofty mountains, and rocky and lonely recesses— tufted woods hung over precipices—lakes intersected with castled promontories—ample solitudes of unploughed and untrodden valleys—nameless and gigantic mine—and mountain echoes repeating the scream of the eagle and the roar of tiie cataract. This, too. is beautiful;—and, to those who can interpret the language it speaks, far more beautiful than the prosperous scene with which we have contrasted it. Yet, lonely as it is, it is to the recollection of man and the *u2gi'stion of human feelings that its beauty alto is owing. The mere forms and colours that compose its visible appearance, are no more capable of exciting any emotion in the mind, than the forms and colours of a Turkey carpet. It is sympathy with the present or the past, or the imaginary inhabitants of such a resion, that alone gives it either interest or beauty; and the delight of those who behold it, will always be found to be in exact proportion to the force of their imaginations, and the warmth of their social affections. The leading impressions, here, are those of romantic seclusion, and primeval simplicity; lovers sequestered in these blissful solitudes. ': from towns and toils remote,"—and rustic poets and philosophers communing with nature, and at a distance from the low pursuits arid selfish malignity of ordinary mortals :— then there ic the sublime impression of the Alighty Pow-чг which piled the massive cliffs cp-in each other, and rent the mountains asu.ider, and scattered their giant fragment« Л their ba-»e ;—and all the images connected
with the monuments of ancient magnificence and extinguished hostility—the feuds, and the combats, and the triumphs of its wild and primitive inhabitants, contrasted with the stillness and desolation of the scenes where they lie interred ;—arid the romantic ideas attached to their ancient traditions, and the peculiarities of the actual life of their descendants—their wild and enthusiastic poetry —their gloomy superstitions—their attachment to their chiefs—the dangers, and the hardships and enjoyments of their lonely huntings and fishings—their pastoral shielings on the mountains in summer—and the tales and the sports that amuse the little groups that are frozen into their vast and trackless valleys in the winter. Add to all this, the traces of vast and obscure antiquity that are impressed on the language and the habits of the people, and on the cliffs, and caves, and gulfy torrents of the land; and the solemn and touching reflection, perpetually recurring, of the weakness and insignificance of perishable man, whose generations thus pass away into oblivion, with all their toils and ambition; while nature holds on her unvarying course, and pours out her streams, and renews her forests, with undecaying activity, regardless of the fate of her proud and perishable sovereign.
We have said enough, we believe, to let our readers understand what we mean by external objects being the natural signs or concomitants of human sympathies or emotions. Yet we cannot refrain from adding one other illustration, and asking on what other principle we can account for the beauty of Spring? Winter has shades as deep, and colours as brilliant; and the great foimsof nature are substantially the same through all the revolutions of the year. We shall seek in vain, therefore, in the accidents of mere organic matter, fur the sources of that "vernal delight and joy," which subject all finer spirits to an annual intoxication, and strike home the sense of beauty even to hearts that seem proof against it under all other aspects. And it is not among the Dead but among the Living, that this beauty originates. It is the renovation of life and of joy to all animated beings, that constitutes this great jubilee of nature ;—the young of animals bursting into existence—the simple and universal pleasures which are diffused by the mere température of the air, and the profusion of sustenance— the pairing of birds—the cheerful resumption of rustic toils—the great alleviation of all the miseries of poverty and sickness—our sympathy with the young life, and the promise and the hazards of the vegetable creation— the solemn, yet cheering, impression of the constancy of nature to her great periods of renovation—and the hopes that dart spontaneously forward into the new circle of exertions and enjoyments that is opened up by her hand and her example. Such are some of the conceptions that are forced upon us by the appearances of returning spring; and that seem to account foi the emotions of delight with which these appearances are hailed, hv every mind endowed with any degree of sensibility, somewhat better than the brightness of the colours, or the agreeableness of the smells that are then presented to our senses.
They are kindred conceptions that constitute all the beauty of childhood. The forms and colours that are peculiar to that age, are not necessarily or absolutely beautiful in themselves; for, in a grown person, the same forms and colours would be either ludicrous or disgusting. It is their indestructible connection with the engaging ideas of innocence —of careless gaiety—of unsuspecting confidence ;—made still more tender and attractive by the recollection of helplessness, and blameless and happy ignorance—of the anxious affection that watches over all their ways —and of the hopes and fears that seek to pierce futurity, for those who have neither tears nor cares nor anxieties for themselves.
These few illustrations will probably be sufficient to give our readers a general conception of the character and the grounds of that theory of beauty which we think affords the only true or consistent account of its nature. They are all examples, it will be observed, of the First and most important connection which we think may be shown to exist between external objects and the sentiments or emotions of the mind; or cases, in which the visible phenomena are the natural and universal accompaniments of the emotion, and are consequently capable of reviving that emotion, in some degree, in the breast of every beholder. If the tenor of those illustrations has been such as to make any impression in favour of the general theory, \ve conceive that it must be very greatly confirmed by the slightest consideration of the Second class of cases, or those in which the external object is not the natural and necessary, but only the occasional or accidental concomitant of the emotion which it recals. In the former instances, some conception of beauty seems to be inseparable from the appearance of the objects; and being impressed, in some degree, upon all persons to whom they are presented, there is evidently room for insinuating that it is an independent and intrinsic quality of their nature, and does not arise from association with any thing else. In the instances, however, to which we are now to allude, this perception of beauty is not universal, but entirely dependent upon the opportunities which each individual has had to associate ideas of emotion with the object to which it is ascribed :—the same thing appearing beautiful to those who have been exposed to the influence of such associations, and indifferent to those who have not. Such instances, therefore, really afford an ezperimentnm crncis as to the truth of the theory in question; nor is it easy to conceive any more completo evidence, both that there is no such thing as absolute or intrinsic beauty, and that it depends altogether on those associations with which it is thus found to come and to disappear.
The accidental or arbitrary relations that may thus be established between natural
sympathies or emotions, and external object», may be either such as occur to whole classes of men, or are confined to particular individuals. Among the former, those that apply to different nations or races of men. are 'the most important and remarkable; and constitute the basis of those peculiarities by which national tastes are distinguished.— Take again, for example, the instance of female beauty—and think what différent and inconsistent standards would be fixed for it in the different regions of the world;—in Africa, in Asia, and in Europe ;—in Tartary and in Greece; in Lapland, Patagonia, and Circassia. If there was any thing absolutely or intrinsically beautiful, in any of the forms thus distinguished, it is inconceivable that men should differ so outrageously in their conceptions of it: if beauty were a real and independent quality, it seems impossible that it should be distinctly and clearly felt by one set of persons, where another set, altogether as sensitive, could see nothing but its opposite; and if it were actually and inseparably attached to certain forms, colours, or proportions, it must appear utterly inexplicable lhat it should be feu and perceived in the most opposite forms and proportion, in objects of the same description. On the other hand, if all beauty consist in reminding us of certain natural sympathies and objects of emotion, with which they have been habitually connected, it is easy to perceive how the most different forms should be felt to be equally beautiful. If female beauty, for instance, consist in the visible signs and expressions of youth and health, and of gentleness, vivacity, and kindness; then it will necessarily happen, that the forms, and colours and proportions which nature may have connected with those qualities, in the different climates or regions of the world, will all appear equally beautiful to those who have been accustomed to recognise them as the signs of such qualities; while they will be respectively indifferent to those who have not learned to interpret them in this sense, and displeasing to those whom experience has led to consider them as the signs of opposite qualities.
The case is the same, though, perhaps to a smaller degree, as to the peculiarity of national ¡ taste in other particulars. The style of dress ¡ and architecture in every nation, if not adopted t from mere want of skill, or penury of materials, always appears beautiful to the natives, and somewhat monstrous and absurd to foreigners ;—and the general character and 'aspect of their landscape, in like manner, if not associated with substantial evils and inconveniences, always appears more beautiful and enchanting than iho scenery of any other 'region. The fact is still more striking, perhaps, in the case of music ;—in the effects of those national airs, with which even the most uncultivated imaginations have connected so many interesting recollections; and in the delight with which all persons of sensibility catch the strains of their native melodies in strange or in distant lands. It is owing chiefly to the same sort of arbitrary and national asstation, that white is thought a gay colour i ¡a Europe, where it is used at weddings— ¡ and a dismal colour in China, where it is used for mourning ',—that we think yew-trees gloomy, because they are planted in churchyard?—and large masses of powdered horsehair majestic, because we see them on the heads ot judges and bishops.
Next to those curious instances of arbitrary or limited associations that are exemplified in the diversities of national taste, are those that are produced by the differences of instruction or education. It external objects were sublime a:id beautiful in themselves, it is plain, that they would appear equally so to those who « ere acquainted with their origin, and to those to whom it was unknown. Yet it is not easy, perhaps, to calculate the degree to which our notions of beauty and sublimity are now influenced, over all Europe, by the study of classical literature; or the number of impressions of this sort which the well-educated consequently receive, from objects that are utterly indifferent to uninstructed persons of the same natural sensibility. We gladly avail ourselves, upon this subject, of the beautiful expressions of Mr. Alison.
'• The delight which most men of education receive from the consideration of antiquity, and the beauty that they discover in every object which is connected with ancient times, is, in a great measure, to be ascribed to the same cause. The antiquarian, in his cabinet, surrounded by the relics of former ages, seems to himself to be removed to periods that are long since past, and indulges in the imagination of living in a world, which, by a very natural kind of prejudice, we are always willing to believe was both wiser and better than the present. All that is venerable or laudable in the history of these times, present themselves to his memory. The gallantry, the heroism, the patriotism of antiquity, rise again before his view, softened by the obscurity in which they are involved, and rendered more seducing to the imagination by that obscurity ¿¡self, which, while it mingles a sentiment of regret amid his pursuits, serves at the same time to stimulate his fancy to fill up, by its own creation, those long intervals of time of which history has preserved no record.
"And what is it that constituteslhat emotion of sublime delight, which every man of common sensibility feels upon the first prospect of Rome t It is not the scene of destruction which is before him. It is not the Tiber, diminished in his imagination to a paltry stream, flowing amid the ruins of that magnificence which it once adorned. It is not the triumph of superstition over the wreck of human greatness, and its monuments erected upon the very ("pot where the first honours of humanity have been gained. It is ancient Rome which fills his imagination. It is the country of Cœsar, and Cicero, and Virgil, which is before him. It is the Mistress of the world which he sees, and who seems to him to rise again from her tomb, to give laws to the universe. All that ihe labours of his youth, or the studies of his inaturer age have acquired, with regard to the
history of this great people, open at once before his imagination, and present him with a field of high and solemn imagery, which can never be exhausted. Take from him these associations—conceal from him that it is Rome that he sees, and how different would be his emotion!"
The influences of the same studies may be traced, indeed, through almost all our impressions of beauty—and especially in the feelings which we receive from the contemplation of rural scenery; where the images and recollections which have been associated with such objects, in the enchanting strains of the poets, are perpetually recalled by their appearance, and give an interest and a beauty to the prospect, of which the uninstructed cannot have the slightest perception. Upon this subject, also, Mr. Alison has expressed himself with his usual warmth and elegance. After observing, that, in childhood, the beauties of nature have scarcely any existence for those who have as yet but little general sympathy with mankind, he proceeds to state, that they are usually first recommended to notice by the poets, to whom we are introduced in the course of education; and who, in a manner, create them for us, by the associations which they enable us to form with their visible appearance.
'•' How different, from this period, become the sentiments with which the scenery of nature is contemplated, by those who have any imagination! The beautiful forms of ancient mythology, with which the fancy of poets peopled every element, are now ready to appear to their minds, upon the prospect of every scene. The descriptions of ancient authors, so long admired, and so deserving of admiration, occur to them at every moment^ and with them, all those enthusiastic ideas ol ancient genius and glory, which the study of so many years of youth so naturally leads them to form. Or, if the study of modem poetry has succeeded to that of the ancient, a thousand other beautiful associations are acquired, which, instead of destroying, serve easily to unite with the former, and to afford a new source of delight. The awful forms of Gothic superstition, the wild and romantic imagery, which the turbulence of the middle ages, the Crusades, and the institution of chivalry have spread over every country of Europe, arise to the imagination in every scene; accompanied with all those pleasing recollections of prowess, and adventure, and courteous manners, which distinguished those memorable times. With such images in their minds, it is not common nature that appears to surround them. It is nature embellished and made sacred by the memory of Theocritus and Virgil, and Milton and Tasso; their genius seems still to linger among the scenes which inspired it, and to irradiate every object where it dwells; and the creation of their fancy seem the fit inhabitants of that nature, which their descriptions have clothed with beauty."
It is needless, for the purpose of mere illustration, to pursue this subject of arbitrary or