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Kill more j owerfully serve to command our •limitation; for they are the Grecian orders; the) derive their origin from those times, and were the ornament of those countries which are most hallowed in our imaginations; and it is difficult for us to see them, even in their modem copies, without feeling them operate upon our minds as relics of those polished liatimii where they first arose, and of that preater people by whom they were afterwards borrowed/'
This analysis is to us perfectly satisfactory. But. indeed, we cannoi conceive any more complete refutation of the notion of an intrinsic and inherent beauty in the proportions of the Grecian architecture, than the fact of (he admitted beauty of such very opposite proportion» in the Gothic. Opposite as they are. however, the great elements of beauty are the same in this stvle as in the other— the impressions of religious awe and of chivalrous recollections, coming here in place of the classical associations which constitute so great a share of the interest of the former. It is well observed too by Mr. Alison, that the great durability and costliness of the productions of this art. have had the effect, in almost all regions of the world, of rendering their Fathinn permanent, after it had once attained such a degree of perfection as to fulfil its mbMantial purposes.
"Buildings," he observes, "may last, and arc intended to last for centuries. The life o; man is very inadequate to the duration of such productions; and the present period of the world, though old with respect to those arts which are employed upon perishable subject?, is yet young in relation to an art, which is employed upon so durable materials as those of architecture. Instead of a few years, therefore, centuries must probably pass before pnch productions demand to be renewed; and. long before that period is elapsed, the eaoredriess of antiquity is acquired by the subject itself, and a new motive given for the preservation of similar forms. In every country, accordingly, the same effect has taken place : and the same causes which have thus served to produce among us, for so many year?, an uniformity of taste with regard to the style of Grecian architecture, have produced also among the nations of the East, for a much longer course of time, a similar uniformity of taste with regard to their ornamental style of architecture; and have perpetuated ámonu them the same forms which were in use among their forefalhers, before th» Grecian orders were invented."
It is not necessary, we think, to carry these illustrations any farther: as the theory they are intended to explain, is now, we believe, oniversally adopted, though with some limitation! which we see no reason to retain. Those WKcsted by Mr. Alison, we have already endeavoured to dispose of in the few remarks we have made upon his publication; arid it only remains to saya word or two more upon Mr. Knight's doctrine as to the primitive and independent beauty of colours, upon which *e have a-.eady hazarded some remarks.
Agreeing as he does with Mr. Alison, and all modem inquirers, that the whole beauty of objects consists, in the far greater number of instances, in the associations to which we have alluded, he still maintains, that some few visible objects affect us with a sense of beauty hi consequence of the pleasurable impression they make upon the sense—and that our perception of beauty is, in these instances, a mere organic sensation. Now, we have already stated, that it would be something quite unexampled in the history either of mind or of language, if certain physical and bodily sensations should thus be confounded with moral and social feelings with which they had no connection, and pass familiarly under one and the same name. Beauty consists confessedly, in almost all cases, in the suggestion of moral or social emotions, mixed up and modified by a present sensation or perception; and it is this suggestion, and this identification with a present object, that constitutes its essence, and gives a common character to the whole class of feelings it produces, sufficient to justify their being designated by a common appellation. If the word beauty, in short, must mean something, and if this be very clearly what it means, in all the remarkable instances of its occurrence, it is difficult to conceive, that it should occasionally mean something quite different, and denote a mere sensual or physical gratification, unaccompanied by the suggestion of any moral emotion whatever. According to Mr. Knight, however, and, indeed, to many other writers, this is the case with regard to the beauty of colours; which depends altogether, they say, upon the delight which the eye naturally takes in their contemplation—this delight being just as primitive and sensual as that which the palate receives from the contact of agreeable flavours.
It must be admitted, we think, in the first place, (hat such an allegation is in itself extremely improbable, and contrary to all analogy, and all experience of the structure of language, or of the laws of thought. It ie farther to be considered, too. that if the pleasures of the senses are ever to be considered as beautiful, those pleasures which are the most lively and important would be the most likely to usurp this denomination, and to take rank with the higher gratifications that result from the perception of beauty. Now, it admits of rio dispute, that the mere organic pleasures of the eye (if indeed they have any existence) are far inferior to those of the palate, the touch, and indeed almost all the other senses—none of which, however, are in any case confounded with the sense of beauty. In the next place, it should follow, that if what affords organic pleasure to the eye be properly called beautiful, what offends or gives pain to it, should be called ugly. Now, excessive or dazzling light is offensive to the eye—but, considered by itself, it is never called ugly, but only painful or disagreeable. The moderate excitement of light; on the other hand, or the soothing of certain bright but temperate colours, when considered in this primary aspect, are not called beautiful, but only agreeable or refreshing. So far as the direct offence or comfort of the organ, in short, is referred to, the language which we use relates strictly to physical or bodily sensation, and is not confounded with that which relates to mental emotion; and we really see no ground for supposing that there is any exception to this rule.
It is very remarkable, indeed, that the sense whose organic gratification is here supposed to constitute the primary feeling of beauty, should be one, in the first place, whose direct organic gratifications are of very little force or intensity ;—and, in the next place, one whose office it is, almost exclusively, to make us acquainted with the existence and properties of those external objects which are naturally interesting to our inward feelings and affections. This peculiarity makes it (at the very least) extremely probable, that ideas of emotion should be associated with the perceptions of this sense; but extremely improbable, that its naked and unassociatcd sensations should in any case be classed with such emotions. If the name of beauty were given to what directly gratifies any sense, such as that of tasting or smelling, Which does not make us acquainted with the nature or relations of outward objects, there would be less room for such an explanation. But when it is the business of a particular sense or organ to introduce to our knowledge those objects which are naturally connected with ideas of emotion, it is easy to understand how ¿is perceptions should be associated with these emotions, and an interest and importance thus extended to them, that belong to the intimations of no other bodily organ. But. for those very reasons, we should be prepared •to suspect, that all the interest they possess is derived from this association; and to distrust the accuracy of any observations that might lead us to conclude that its mere organic impulses ever pro luced any thing akin to those associated emotions, or entitled to pass under their name. This caution will appear still more reasonable, when it is considered, that all the other qualities of visible objects, except only thoir colours, are now admitted to be perfectly indifferent in themselves, and to possess no other beauty than they may derive from their associations with our ordinary affections. There are no forms. for example, even in Mr. Knight's opinion, that have any intrinsic beauty, or any power of pleasing or affecting Up, except through their associations, or affinities to mental affections, either as expressive of fitness and utility, or as types and symbols of certain moral or intellectual qualities, in which the sources of our interest aro obvious. Yet the form of an object is as conspicuous an ingredient of its boauty as its colour; and a property, too, which seems at first view to be as intrinsically and independently pleasins. Why, then, should we persist in holding that colour.?, or combinations of colours, please from being natural'y agreeable to the organ of eight, when it is admitted that other visible qualities,
which seem to possess the same power of pleasing, are found, upon examination, to owe it entirely to the principle of association 1
The only reason that can be assigned, or that actually exists for this distinction, is, that it has been supposed more difficult to account for the beauty of colours, upon the principles which have accounted for other beauties, or to specify the particular associations by virtue of which they could acquire this quality. Now, it appears to us that there is no such difficulty: and that there is no reason whatever for holding that one colour, or combination of colours, is more pleasing than another, except upon the same grounds of association which recommend particular forms, motions, or proportions. It appears to us, that the organic pleasures of the eye are extremely few and insignificant. It is hurt, no doubt, by an excessive glare of light; and it is in some degree gratified, perhaps, by a moderate degree of it. But it is only by the quantity or intensity of the light, we think, that it is so affected. The colour of it, we take it, is, in all cases, absolutely indifferent. But it is the colour only that is called beautiful or otherwise; and these qualities we think it тегу plainly derives from the common fountain of association.
In the first place, we would ask, whether there is any colour that is beautiful in all situations'! and, in the next place, whelher there is any colour that is not beautiful in some situation 1 With regard to the first, take the colours that are most commonly referred to as intrinsically beautiful—bright and soft green—clear blue—bright pink, or vermilion. The first is unquestionably beautiful in vernal woods and summer meadows;—and, we humbly conceive, is beautiful, because it is the natural sign and concomitant of those scenes and seasonsof enjoyment. Blue, again, is beautiful in the vernal sky;—and, as we believe, for the sake of the pleasures of which such skies are prolific; and pink is beautiful on the cheeks of a young woman or the leaves of a rose, for reasons too obvious to be stated. We have associations enough, therefore, to recommend all those colours, in the situations in which they are beautiful: But. strong as these associations are. they are unable to make them universally beautiful—or beautiful, indeed, in any other situations. Greon would not be beautiful in the sky—nor bine on the cheek—nor vermilion on the grass. It may be said, indeed, that, though they are always recognised as beautiful in themselves, their obvious unlitness in such situations counteracts the effect of their beauty, and irtuke an opposite impression, as of something monstrous and unnatural; and that, accordircly, they are all beautiful in indifferent situations, where there is no such antagonist principle— in furniture, dress, and ornaments. Now tho fact, in the first place, is not so :—these bright colours being but seldom and sparingly admitted in ornaments or works of art; and no man, for example, choosing to have a blue house, or a green ceiling, or a pink coat. But, in the second place, if the facts were admitted we think it obvious, that the general beauty of those colours would be sufficiently accounted for by the very interesting arid jxnverful associations under which all of them are so frequently presented by the hand of Nature. 'I'll-: interest we take in female beauty,—in venial delights,—in unclouded skies,—is far too lirelv and too constantly recurring, not to !:^irap a kindred interest upon the colours that are naturully associated with such ob!'.4"s : and to make us regard with some affect;on and delight those hues that remind us of them, although we should only meet them 'jpuii a fan, or a dressing-box, the lining of a curtain, or the back of a screen. Finally, we bes leave to observe, that all bright and clear «•¡ours are naturally typical of cheerfulness and purity of mind, and are hailed as emblems of moral qualities, to which no one can be indifferent.
With regard to ugly colours again, we really are not aware of any to which that epithet can be safely applied. Dull and dingy hues are usually mentioned as in themselves the least pleasing. Yet these are the prevailing tints iu many beautiful landscape?, and many admired pictures. They are also the most common colours that are chosen for dress (male dress at least),—for building,—for furniture,—where the consideration of beauty is the only motive for the choice. In fact, the vtoíífi parts of all coloured objects pass into tans of this description :—nor can we at preaont recollect any one colour, which we could «pecify as in itself disagreeable, without runkins counter to the feelings and the practice of the srreat mass of mankind. If the fact, however, were otherwise, and if certain muddy ami dull colours were universally allowed to be disagreeable, we should think there could !*? no .difficulty in referring these, too, to natural associations. Darkness, and all that approaches it, is naturally associated with ideas 'l melancholy,—of helplessness,and danger; —and the gloomy hues that remind us of it, or r«em to draw upon it. must share in the <=ame associations. Lurid skies, too, it should be observed, and turbid waters, and unfruitful swamps, and dreary morasses, are the natural пгЛ most common wearers of these dismal liveries. It is from these that we first become acquainted with them; and it is needless, therefore, to say: that such objects are necessarily associated with ideas of discomfort, and ^vlness, and danger; and that the colours that remind us of them, can scarcely fail to recaí Mme of the same disagreeable sensations.
Enouah, however, and more than enough, hi* been said about the supposed primitive ?-mi indépendant beauty of separate colours. It :» chiefly upon the intrinsic beauty of their mixture or combinations that Mr. Knight and hi« adherents have insisted; — and it is no •bubt quite true, that, among painters and connoisseurs, we hear a great deal about the harmonv and composition of tints, and the charms'and difficulties of a judicious colouring. In all this, however, we cannot help sus[•îctmg that there is no little pedantry, and no little jargon; and that these phrases, when
used without reference to the practical difficulties of the art, which must go for nothing in the present question, really mean little more than the true and natural appearance of coloured objects, seen through the same tinted or partially obscure medium that commonly constitutes the atmosphere: and for the actual optical effects of which but few artists know how to make the proper allowance. In nature, we know of no discordant or offensive colouring, except what may be referred to some accident or disaster that spoils the moral or sentimental expression of the scene, and disturbs the associations upon which all its beauty, whether of forms or of hues, seems to us very plainly dependent. We are perfectly aware, that ingenious persons have been disposed to dogmatize and to speculate very confidently upon these subjects; and have had the benefit of seeing various learned treatises upon the natural pomi/f of colours, and the inherent congruity of those that are called complementary, with reference to the prismatic spectrum. But we confess we have no faith in any of those fancies; and believe, that, if all these colours were fairly arrangea on a plain board, according to the most rigid rules of this supposed harmony, nobody, but the author of the theory, would perceive the smallest beauty in the exhibition, or be the least offended by reversing their collocation. We do not mean, however, to dispute, that the laws of colouring, insisted on bv learned artists, will produce a more pleasing effect upon trained judges of the art, than a neglect of these laws; because we have little doubt that these combinations of colour are recommended by certain associations, which render them generally pleasing to persons so trained and educated ;—all that we maintain is, that there are no combinations that are originally and universally pleasing or displeasing to the eye, independent of such associations; and it seems to us an irresistible proof of this, that these laws of harmonious colouring are perpetually and deliberately violated by great multitudes of persons, who not only have the perfect use of their sight, but are actually bestowing great pains and expense in providing for its gratification, in the very act of this violation. The Dutch trader, who paints over the outside of his country-house with as many bright colours as are to be found in his tulipbed, and garnishes his green shutters with blue facings, and his purple roof with lilac ridges, not only sees as well as the studied colourist. who shudders at the exhibition, but actually receives as much pleasure, and as strong an impression of beauty, from the finished lusthaus, as the artist does from one of his best pictures. It is impossible, then, that these combinations of colours can be naturally or intrinsically offensive to the organ of sight; and their beauty or ugliness must depend upon the associations which different individuals may have happened to form with regard to them. We contend, however, for nothing more^ and are quite willing to allow that the associations which recommend his staring tawdriness to the burgomaster, are such as could not easily have been formed in the mind of a diligent and extensive observer of nature, and that they would probably be reversed by habits of reflection and study. But the same thing, it is obvious, may be said of the notions j of beauty of any other description that pre-! vail among the rude, the inexperienced, and uninstructed ;—though, in all other instances, we take it for granted, that the beauty which is perceived depends altogether upon association, and in no degree on its power of giving a pleasurable impulse to the organ to which it addresses itselt. If any considerable numbar of persons, with the perfect use of sight, actually take pleasure in certain combinations of colours—that is complete proof that such combinations are not naturally offensive to the organ of sight, and that the pleasure of such persons, exactly like that of those who disagree with them, is derived not from the sense, but from associations with its perceptions.
With regard, again, to the effect of broken masses of light and shadow, it is proper, in the first place, to remember, that by the eye we see colour only; and that lights and shadows, as far as the mere organ is concerned, mean nothing but variations of tint. It ie very true, no doubt; that we soon learn to refer many of those variations to light and shade, and that they thus become signs to us of depth, and distance; and relief. But; is not this, of itself, sufficient to refute the idea of their affording any primitive or organic pleasure? In so far as they are mere variations of tints, they may be imitated by unmeaning daubs of paint on a pallet ;—in so far as they are signs, it is to the mind that they address themselves, and not to the organ. They are signs, too, it should be recollected, and the only signs we have, by which we can receive any correct knowledge of the existence and condition of all external objects at a distance from us, whether interesting or not interesting. Without the assistance of variety of tint, and of lights and shadows, we could never distinguish one object from another, except by the touch. These appearances, therefore, are the perpetual vehicles of almost all our interesting perceptions; and are consequently associated with all the emotions we receive from visible objects. It is pleasant to see many things in one prospect, because some of them are probably agreeable; and it is pleasant to know the relations of those things, because th» qualities or associations, by means of which they interest us, generally depend upon that knowledge. The mixture of colours and shades, however, is necessary to this enjoyment, and consequently is a sign of it, and a source of associated interest or beauty.
Mr. Knight, however, goes much farther than this; and maintains, that the beauty which is so distinctly felt in many pictures of objects in themselves disagreeable, is to be ascribed entirely to the effect of the brilliant and harmonious tints, and the masses of light and shadow that mav be employed in the representation. The filthy and tattered rags of a beggar, he observes, and the putrifying conVnte of a dunghill, may form beautiful objects
in a picture; because, considered as mere objects of sight^ they may often present beautiful effects ot colouring and shadow; and these are preserved or heightened in the imitation, disjointed from all their offensive accompaniments. Now, if the tints and shades were the exclusive sources of our gratification, and if this gratification was diminishivl. instead of being heightened, by the suggestion which, however transiently, musí still intrude itself, that they appeared in an imitation of disgusting objects, it must certainly follow, that the pleasure and the beauty would be much enhanced if there was ло imitatton of any thing -whatever, and if the canvas merely presented the tints and shades, unaccompanied with the representation of any particular object. It is perfectly obvions, however, that it would be absurd to call such a collection of coloured spots a beautiful picture: and that a man would be laughed at who should hang up such a piece of stained canvas among the works of the great artists. Again, if it were really possible for any one, but a student of art, to confine the attention to the mere colouring and shadowing of any picture, there is nothing so disgusting but what might form, the subject of a beautiful imitation. A piece of putnd veal, or a cancerous ulcer, or the rags that are taken from it, may display the most brilliant tints, and the finest distribution of light and shadow. Does Mr. Knight, however, seriously think, that either of these experiments would succeed? Or are there, in reality, no other qualities in the pictures in question, to which their beauty can be ascribed, but the organic effect of their colours? We humbly conceive that there are; and that far less ingenuity than his might have been able to detect them.
There is, in the first place, the pleasing association of the skill and power of the artist —a skill and power which we know nay be employed to prodoce unmingled delight; whatever may be the character of the particular effort before us: and with the pride of whose possessors we sympathise. But, in the second place, we do humbly conceive that there are many interesting associations connected with the subjects which have been represented as purely disgnsting. The aspect of human wretchedness and decay is not, at all events, an indifferent spectacle; and, if presented to us without actual offence to our senses, or any call on our active beneficence, may excite a sympathetic emotion, which is known to be far from undelightfnl. Many an attractive poem has been written on the mise ries of beggars; and why should painting be supposed more fastidious? Besides, it will be observed, that the beggars of the paintfr are generally among the most interesting of that interesting order ;—either young an<! lovely children, whose health and gaiety, and sweet expression, form an affecting contrast with their squalid Garments, and the neglect and misery to which they seem to be destined—or old and venerable persons, mingling something of the dignity and reverence of ago with the broken spirit of their condition, acu •eeming to reproach mankind for exposing aeads so old and white to the pelting of the pitiless storm. While such pictures suggest images ¡ад pathetic, it looks almost like a wilful perversity, to ascribe their beauty entirely to the mixture of colours which they display, ami to the forgetfulness of these images. Even for the duii-rhill. we think it is possible to >ау something,—though, we confess, we hare never happened to see any picture, of which that useful compound formed the peculiar subject. There is the display of the painters art and power here also; and the dtm-ihill is not only useful, but is associated with many pleasing images of rustic toil and occupation, and of the simplicity, and comfort, and innocence of agricultural life. We do not know that a dunghill is at all a disagreeable object to look at, even in plain reality—provided it be so far off as not to annoy us with ¡Is odour, or to soil us with its effusions. In a picture, however, we are safe from any of these disasters; and, considering that it is usually combined, in such delineations, with other more pleasing and touching remembrancers of humble happiness and contentment, we really do not see that it was at all necessary to impute any mysterious or intrinsic beauty to its complexion, in order to account for the satisfaction with which we can then bear to behold it.
Having said so much with a view to reduce to its just value, as an ingredient of beauty, the mere organical delight which the eye i< supposed to derive from colours, we really have not patience to apply the same considerations to the alleged beauty of Sounds that are »opposed to be insignificant. Beautiful sounds, in general, we think, are beautiful from asmciation only,—from their resembling the natural tones of various passions and affection»,—or from their being originally and most frequently presented to us in scenes or on occasions of natural interest or emotion. With reiTinl. again, to successive or coexistent sounds, we do not. of course, mean to dispute, that there are such things as melody and harmony: and that most men are offended or gratified by the violation or observance of those laws' upon which they depend. This. however, it should be observed, is a faculty 'mit« tiiiiqxt, and unlike anything else in our constitution; by no means universal, as the »«riseol'beauty is. even in cultivated societies; and apparently withheld from whole commur ;ies of qnick-eared savages and barbarians. Whether the kind of gratification, which re"ihs from the mere musical arrangement of mands. would be felt tobe beautiful, or would pass under that name, if it could be presented Ttirely detached from any associated emotion« appears to us to be exceedingly doubtful. Even with thp benefit of such combinations, T? do not find, that every arrangement which ri»rely preserves inviolate the rules of compwittonj Ib considered as beautiful; and we do not think that it would be consonant, either » :h the common feeling or common language of mankind, to bestow this epithet upon pieces ¿it had no other merit. At all events, and
whatever may be thought of ire proper name of this singular gratification, of a musical ear, it seems to be quite certain, that all that rises to the dignity of an emotion in the pleasure we receive from sounds, is as clearly the gift of association, as in the case of visible beauty.— of association with the passionate tones and modulations of the human voice,—with the scenes to which the interesting sounds are native,—with the poetry to which they have been married,—or even with the skill and genius of the artist by whom they have been arranged.
Hitherto we have spoken of the beauty of external objects only. But the whole difficulty of the theory consists in its application to them. If that be once adjusted? the beauty of immaterial objects can occasion no perplexity. Poems and other compositions in words, are beautiful in proportion as they are conversant with beautiful objects—or as they suggest to us, in a more direct way, the moral and social emotions on which the beauty of all objects depends. Theorems and demonstrations again are beautiful, according as they excite in us emotions of admiration for the genius and intellectual power of their inventors, and images of the magnificent and beneficial ends to which such discoveries may be applied;—and mechanical contrivances are beautiful when they remind us of similar talents and ingenuity, and at the same time impress us with a more direct sense of their vast utility to mankind, and of the great additional conveniences with which life is consequently adorned. In all cases, therefore, there is the suggestion of some interesting conception or emotion associated with a present perception, in which it is apparently confounded and embodied—and this, according to the whole of the preceding deduction, is the distinguishing characteristic of beauty.
Having now explained, as fully as we think necessary, the grounds of that opinion as to the nature of beauty which appears to be most conformable to the truth—we have only to add a word or two as to the necessary consequences of its adoption upon several other controversies of a kindred description.
In the first place, then, we conceive that it establishes the substantial identity of the Sublime, the Beautiful, and the Picturesque; and, consequently, puts an end to all controversy that is not purely verbal, as to the difference of those several qualities. Every material object that interests us, without actually hurting or gratifying our bodily feelings, must do so, according to this theory, in one and the same manner,—that is, by suggesting or recalling some emotion or affection of ourselves, or some other sentient being, and presenting, to our imagination at least, some natural object of love, pity, admiration, orawe. The interest of material objects, therefore, is always the same: and arises, in every case, not from any physical qualities they may possess, but from their association with some idea of emotion. But, though material objects have but one means of exciting emotion, the emotions they do excite are infinite. They