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cumstance in external appearance, which is debased by low and common ufe; and they are led to exercife their invention, in the introduction of fome new peculiarities, which first become fashionable, then common, and laft of all, are abandoned as vulgar.

It has been often remarked, that after a certain period in the progrefs of fociety, the public Tafte be comes corrupted; and the different productions of the fine arts begin to degenerate from that fimplicity, which they had attained in their state of greatest perfection. One reafon of this decline is fuggefted by the foregoing obfervations.

From the account which has been given of the natural progress of Tafte, in feparating the genuine principles of beauty from fuperfluous and from offenfive concomitants, it is evident, that there is a limit, beyond which the love of fimplicity cannot be carried. No bounds, indeed, can be set to the creations of genius; but as this quality occurs feldom in an eminent degree, it commonly happens, that after a period of great refinement of Tafte, men begin to gratify their love of variety, by adding fuperfluous circumstances to the finished models exhibited by their predeceffors, or by making other trifling alterations on them, with a view merely of diverfifying the effect. These additions and alterations, indifferent, perhaps, or even in fome degree offenfive in themfelves, acquire foon a borrowed beauty, from the con nexion in which we fee them, or from the influence of fashion: the fame caufe which at firft produced them, continues perpetually to increase their number;



and Taste returns to barbarism, by almost the same fteps which conducted it to perfection.

The truth of these remarks will appear ftill more ftriking to those who confider the wonderful effect which a writer of fplendid genius, but of incorrect taste, has in misleading the public judgment. The peculiarities of fuch an author are confecrated by the connexion in which we see them, and even please, to a certain degree, when detached from the excellencies of his compofition, by recalling to us the agreeable impreffions with which they have been formerly affociated. How many imitations have we feen, of the affectations of Sterne, by men who were unable to copy his beauties? And yet these imitations of his defects; of his abrupt manner; of his minute fpecification of circumftances; and even of his dashes, produce, at firft, fome effect on readers of fenfibility, but of uncultivated tafte, in confequence of the exquifite ftrokes of the pathetic, and the fingular vein of humour, with which they are united in the original.

From what has been faid, it is obvious, that the circumftances which please, in the objects of Tafte, are of two kinds: First, thofe which are fitted to please by nature, or by affociations which all mankind are led to form by their common condition; and Secondly, those which please in confequence of afsociations arifing from local and accidental circumftances. Hence, there are two kinds of Taste : the one enabling us to judge of thofe beauties which have a foundation in the human conftitution; the other, of fuch objects as derive their principal recommendation from the influence of fashion.


These two kinds of Taste are not always united in the fame perfon: indeed, I am inclined to think, that they are united but rarely. The perfection of the one, depends much upon the degree in which we are able to free the mind from the influence of cafual affociations; that of the other, on the contrary, depends on a facility of affociation, which enables us to fall in, at once, with all the turns of the fafhion, and (as Shakefpeare expreffes it)" to catch the tune of the times."

I shall endeavour to illustrate some of the foregoing remarks, by applying them to the subject of language, which affords numberless instances to exemplify the influence which the affociation of ideas has on our judgments in matters of Taste.

In the fame manner in which an article of dress acquired an appearance of elegance or of vulgarity from the perfons by whom it is habitually worn; so a particular mode of pronunciation acquires an air of fashion or of rufticity, from the perfons by whom it is habitually employed. The Scotch accent is furely in itself as good as the English; and with a few exceptions, is as agreeable to the ear: and yet how offenfive does it appear, even to us, who have been accustomed to hear it from our infancy, when compared with that which is used by our fouthern neighbours !-No reason can be given for this, but that the capital of Scotland is now become a provincial town, and London is the feat of our court.

The diftinction which is to be found, in the languages of all civilifed nations, between low and polite modes of expreffion, arifes from fimilar caufes. It is, indeed, amufing to remark, the folicitude with which the higher Bb 4


orders, in the monarchies of modern Europe, avoid every circumstance in their exterior appearance and manner, which, by the most remote affociation, may, in the minds of others, connect them with the idea of the multitude. Their whole drefs and deportment and conversation are studiously arranged to convey an impofing notion of their confequence; and to recal to the fpectator, by numberless flight and apparently unintentional hints, the agreeable impreffions which are affociated with the advantages of fortune.

To this influence of affociation on language, it is neceffary for every writer to attend carefully, who wishes to express himself with elegance. For the attainment of correctnefs and purity in the use of words, the rules of grammarians and of critics may be a fufficient guide; but it is not in the works of this class of authors, that the higher beauties of ftyle are to be studied. As the air and manner of a gentleman can be acquired only by living habitually in the best fociety, fo grace in compofition must be attained by an habitual acquaintance with claffical writers. It is indeed neceffary for our information, that we should perufe occafionally, many books which have no merit in point of expreffion; but I believe it to be extremely useful to all literary men, to counteract the effect of this mifcellaneous reading, by maintaining a conftant and familiar acquaintance with a few of the most faultlefs models which the language affords. For want of fome standard of this fort, we frequently fee an author's tafte in writing alter much to the worse in the courfe of his life; and his later productions fall below the level of his early effays. D'Alembert tells us, that Voltaire had always lying


on his table, the Petit Carême of Maffillon, and the tragedies of Racine; the former to fix his tafte in profe compofition, and the latter in poetry.

In avoiding, however, expreffions which are debafed by vulgar use, there is a danger of running into the other extreme, in queft of fashionable words and phrases. Such an affectation may, for a few years, gratify the vanity of an author, by giving him the air of a man of the world; but the reputation it beftows, is of a very tranfitory nature. The works which continue to please from age to age, are written with perfect fimplicity; while thofe which captivate the multitude by a difplay of meretricious ornaments, if, by chance, they should furvive the fashions to which they are accommodated, remain only to furnish a fubject of ridicule to pofterity. The portrait of a beautiful woman, in the fashionable dress of the day, may please at the moment it is painted; nay, may perhaps please more than in any that the fancy of the artift could have fuggefted; but it is only in the plaineft and fimpleft drapery, that the most perfect form can be tranfmitted with advantage to future times.


The exceptions which the hiftory of literature seems to furnish to thefe obfervations, are only apparent. That, in the works of our best authors, there are many beauties which have long and generally been admired, and which yet owe their whole effect to affociation, cannot be difputed; but in fuch cafes, it will always be found, that the affociations which are the foundation of our pleasure, have, in confequence of fome peculiar combination of circumstances, been more widely diffused, and more permanently established among man

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