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scenes of Arcadia, and the lovely descrip. deur, that we look for with still amazetions of pastoral poetry, never existed on ment and awful delight ?-But I find,
, earth, no more than Pope's shepherds or madam, we have been insensibly led into the river gods of Windsor forest: it is all subjects too abstruse and severe; I must but a charming illusion, which the mind not put the graces with whom we have first paints with celestial colours, and then been conversing to flight, and draw languishes for. Knight-errantry is another the serious air of meditation over that kind of delusion, which, though it be ficti- countenance where the smiles naturally tious in fact, yet is true in sentiment. I dwell. believe there are few people who in their I have, in consequence of your permisyouth, before they be corrupted by the sion, put together such thoughts as occurcommerce of the world, are not knight- red to me on good taste. I told you, if I errants and princesses in their hearts. T'he had leisure hereafter, I would dispose of soul, in a beauteous ecstasy, communicates them with more regularity, and add any a flame to words which they had not ; new observations that I may make. "Beand poetry, by its quick transitions, bold fore I finish, I must in justice make my figures, lively images, and the variety of acknowledgments of the assistance I reefforts to paint the latent rapture, bears ceived. I took notice, at the beginning, witness, that the confused ideas of the that Rollin's Observations on Taste gave mind are still infinitely superior, and be- occasion to this discourse. Sir Harry Beauyond the reach of all description. It is this mont's polished dialogue on beauty, called divine spirit that, when roused from its Crito, was of service to me; and I have lethargy, breathes in poble sentiments, that availed myself of the writings and senticharms in elegance, that stamps upon mar- ments of the ancients, particularly of the ble or canvass the figures of gods and he. poets and statuaries of Greece, which was roes, that inspires them with an air above the native and original country of the humanity, and leads the soul through the graces and fine arts. But I should be very enchanting meanders of music in a waking unjust, if I did not make my chief acknowvision, through which it cannot break, to ledgments where they are more peculiarly discover the near objects that charm it. due. If your modesty will not suffer me
How shall we venture to trace the ob- to draw that picture from which I borject of this surprising beauty peculiar to rowed my ideas of elegance, I am bound genius, which evidently does not come to at least, in honesty, to disclaim every methe mind from the senses ? It is not con- rit but that of copying from a bright oriveyed in sound, for we feel the sounds of ginal.
Usher. music charm us by gently agitating and swelling the passions, and setting some
$ 227. General Reflections upon what is passions afloat for which we have no name,
called Good Taste. From Rollin's
Belles Lettres. and knew not until they were awaked in the mind by harmony. This beauty does Taste, as it now falls under our consi. got arrive at the mind by the ideas of vi. deration, that is, with reference to the sion, though it be moved by them: for it reading of authors, and composition, is a evidently bestows on the mimic represen- clear, lively, and distinctly discerning of tations and images the mind makes of the all the beauty, truth, and justness of the objects of sense, an enchanting loveliness thoughts and expressions, which compose that never existed in those objects. Where a discourse. It distinguishes what is conshall the soul find this amazing beauty, formable to eloquence and propriety in whose very shadow, glimmering upon the every character, and suitable in different imagination, opens unspeakable raptures circumstances. And whilst, with a deliin it, and distracts it with languishing plea- cate and exquisite sagacity, it notes the sure? What are those stranger sentiments graces, turns, manners, and expressions, that lie in wait in the soul, until music calls most likely to please, it perceives also all them forth? What is the obscure but un- the defects which produce the contrary avoidable value or merit of virtue? or who effect, and distinguishes precisely wherein is the law-maker in the mind who gives those defects consist, and how far they are it a worth and dignity beyond all estima- removed from the strict rules of art, and tion, and punishes the breach of it with the real beauties of nature. conscious terror and despair? What is it This happy faculty, which it is more in objects of immeasurable power and gran. easy to conceive than define, is less the
effect of genius than judgment, and a kind well composed and well executed, both as
bad customs, or reigning prejudices of
I have already said, that this distin- which are the effects of a refined taste, and guishing faculty was a kind of natural by degrees draw others after them into reason wrought up to perfection by study the
same way of thinking. In reality all men bring the first princi- To be convinced of this, we need only ples of taste with them into the world, as look upon the success of certain great orawell as those of rhetoric and logic. As a tors and celebrated authors, who, by their proof of this, we may urge, that every good natural talents, have recalled these primiorator is almost always infallibly approved tive ideas, and given fresh life to these of by the people, and that there is no dif. seeds, which lie concealed in the mind of ference of taste and sentiment upon this every man. In a little time they united point, as Tully observes, between the ig- the voices of those who made the best use norant and the learned.
of their reason, in their favour; and soon The case is the same with music and after gained the applause of every age and painting. A concert, that has all its parts condition, both ignorant and learned. It
would be easy to point out amongst us same symmetry, and the same order, in the date of the good taste, which pow the disposition of the parts ; which inreigns in all arts and sciences; by tracing clines us to noble simplicity, to natural each up to its original, we should see that beauties, and a judicious choice of ornaa small number of men of genius have ae- ments. On the other hand, the depravaquired the nation this glory and advan- tion of taste in arts has been always a tage.
mark and consequence of the depravation Even those who live in the politer of taste in literature. The heavy, conages, without any application to learning fused, and gross ornaments of the old Go. or study, do not fail to gain some tincture thic buildings, placed usually without eleof the prevailing good taste, which has a gance, contrary to all good rules, and out share, without their perceiving it them- of all trųe proportions, were the image of selves, in their conversation, letters, and the writings of the authors of the same behaviour. There are few of our soldiers age. at present, who would not write more cor- The good taste of literature reaches also recily and elegantly than Ville-Hardouin, to public customs and the manner of livand the other officers who lived in a ruder ing. An habit of consulting the best rules and more barbarous age.
upon one subject, naturally leads to the From what I have said, we may con, doing it also upon others. Paulus Æmiclude, that rules and precepts may be laid lius, whose genius was so universally exdown for the improvement of this dis- tensive, having made a great feast for the cerning faculty; and I cannot perceive entertainment of all Greece upon the con. why Quinctilian, who justly set such a quest of Macedon, and observing that his value upon it, should say that it is no guests looked upon it as conducted with more to be obtained by art, than the taste more elegance and art than might be exor smell ; Non magis arte traditur, quam 'pected from a soldier, told them they were gustus aut odor ; unless he means, that much in the wrong to be surprised at it; some persons are so stupid, and have so for the same genius, which taught how to little use of their judgment as might tempt draw up an army to advantage, naturally one to believe that it was in reality the pointed out the proper disposition of a gift of nature alone.
Neither do I think that Quinctilian is But by a strange, though frequent revoabsolutely in the right in the instance he lution, which is one great proof of the produces, at least with respect to taste. weakness, or rather the corruption of huWe need only imagine what passes man understanding, this very delicacy and tain nations, in which long custom has in- elegance, which the good taste of literatroduced a fondness for certain odd and ture and eloquence usually introduces into extravagant dishes. They readily com- common life, for buildings for instance, mend good liquors, elegant food, and and entertainments, coming by little and good cookery. They soon learn to dis. little to degenerate into excess and luxury, cern the delicacy of the seasoning, when introduces in its turn the bad taste of litea skilful master in that way has pointed rature and eloquence. This Seneca informs it out to them, and to prefer it to the us, in a very ingenious manner, in one of grossness of their former diet. When I his epistles, where he seems to have drawn Talk thus, I would not be understood to a good description of himself, though he think those nations had great cause to did not perceive it. complain, for the want of knowledge and One of his friends had asked him, ability in what is become so fatal to us. whence the alteration could possibly arise But we may judge from hence the resem- which was sometimes observable in elo. blance there is between the taste of the quence, and which carried most people into body and mind, and how proper the first certain general faults; such as the affecis 10 describe the character of the second. tation of bold and extravagant figures, me
The good taste we speak of, which is taphors struck off without measure or cauthat of literature, is not limited to what we tion, sentences so short and abrupt, that call the sciences, but extends itself imper- they left people rather to guess what they ceptibly to other arts, such as architec- meant, than conveyed a meaning. ture, painting, sculpture, and music. 'Tis Seneca answers this question by a comthe same discerning faculty which intro- mon proverb among the Greeks; “ As is duces universally the same elegance, the their life, so is their discourse,” Talis homi
nibus fait orutio, qualis vita. As a private When you see a discourse laboured and person lets us into his character by bis dis- polished with so much carefulness and Course, so the reigoing style is oft an image study, you may conclude, says he, that it of the public manners. The heart carries comes from a mean capacity, that busies the understanding away with it, and com- itself in trifles. A writer of great genius municates its vices to it, as well as its vir- will not stand for such minute things. He tues. When men strive to be distinguished thinks and speaks with more nobleness and from the rest of the world by novelty, and grandeur, and we may discern, in all he refinement in their furniture, buildings, says, a certaio easy and natural air, which and entertainments, and a studious search argues a man of real riches, who does not after every thing that is not in common endeavour to appear so. He then compares use; the same taste will prevail in elo- this florid prioked eloquence to young peoquence, and introduce novelty and irregu. ple curled out and powdered, and continuJarity there. When the mind is once ac- ally before their glass and the toilet: Barcustomed to despise rules in manners, it ba et coma nitidos, de capsula totos. Nothing will not follow them in style. Nothing great and solid can be expected from such will then go down but what strikes by its characters. So also with orators. The being new and glaring, extraordinary and discourse is in a manner the visage of the affected. Trifling and childish thoughts mind. If it is decked out, tricked up, and will take place of such as are bold and painted, it is a sign there is some defect in overstrained to an excess. We shall affect the mind, and all is not sound within. a sleek and florid style, and an elocution So much finery displayed with so much pompous indeed, but with little more than art and study, is not the proper ornament mere sound in it.
of eloquence. Non est ornamentum virile, And this sort of faults is generally the concinnitas. effect of a single man's example, who,
Who would not think, upon hearing Sehaving gained reputation enough to be neca talk thus, that he was a declared enefollowed by the multitude, sets up for a my of bad taste, and that no one was more master, and gives the strain to others. 'Tis capable of opposing and preventing it than thought honourable to imitate him, to ob- he? And yet it was be, more than any serve and copy after him, and his style other, that contributed to the depravation becomes the rule and model of the public of taste, and corruption of eloquence. I taste.
sball take an occasion to speak upon this As then luxury in diet and dress is a subject in another place, and shall do it plain indication that the manners are not the more freely, as there is cause to fear under so good a regulation as they should lest the bad taste for bright thoughts, and be; so a licentiousness of style, when it turns of expression, which is properly the becomes public and general, shews evi- character of Seneca, should prevail in our dently a depravation and corruption of own age. And I question whether this the understandings of mankind.
be not a mark or presage of the ruin of To remedy this evil, and reform the eloquence we are threatened with, as the thoughts and expressions used in style, it immoderate luxury that now reigns more will be requisite to cleanse the spring from than ever, and the almost general decay of whence they proceed. 'Tis the mind that good manners
, are perhaps also the fatal must be cured. When that is sound and harbingers of it. vigorous, eloquence will be so too; but it One single person of reputation somebecomes feeble and languid when the times, as Seneca observes, and he himself mind is enfeebled and enervated by plea- is an instance of it, who by his eminent sures and delights. In a word, it is the qualifications shall have acquired the mind which presides and directs, and esteem of the public, may suffice to introgives motion to the whole, and all the duce this bad taste and corrupt style. rest follows its impressions.
Whilst moved by a secret ambition, a man He has observed elsewhere, that a style of this character strives to distinguish himtoo studied and far-fetched is a mark of a self from the rest of the orators and writers
He would have an orator, of his age, and to open a new path, where especially when upon a grave and serious he thinks it better to march alone at the subject, be less curious about words, and head of his new disciples, than follow at the manner of placing them, than of his the heels of the old masters ; whilst he matter, and the choice of his thoughts. prefers the reputation of wit to that of so
lidity, pursues what is bright rather than whatever is most essential, suitable, or newhat is solid, and sets the marvellous above cessary to those who apply to it; how far the natural and true; whilst he chooses consequently we should carry the study of rather to apply to the fancy than to the it; what ought to be removed from it; judgment, to dazzle reason than con- what deserves a particular application and vince it, to surprise the hearer into an ap- preference before the rest. For want of probation, rather than deserve it; and by this discernment a man may fall short of a kind of delusion and soft enchantment the most es-ential part of his profession, carry off the admiration and applauses without perceiving it; nor is the case so of superficial minds (and such the multi
rare as one might inagine. An instance tude always are); other writers, seduced taken from the Cyropædia of Xenophon by the charms of novelty, and the hopes will set the matter in a clear light. of a like success, will suffer themselves in. The young Cyrus, son of Cambyses sensibly to be hurried down the stream, King of Persia, had long been under the and add strength to it, by following it. tuition of a master in the art of war, who And thus the old taste, though better in was without doubt a person of the greatest itself, shall give way to the new one with abilities and best reputation in his time. out redress, which shall presently assume One day, as Cambyses was discoursing the force of law, and draw a whole nation with his son, he took occasion to mention after it.
his master, whom the young Prince had This should awaken the diligence of the in great veneration, and from whom he masters in the university, to prevent and pretended he had learnt in general whathinder, as much as in them lies, the ruin ever was necessary for the command of an of good taste; and as they are intrusted army. Has your master, says Cambyses, with the public instruction of youth, they given you any lectures of economy; that should look upon this care as an essential is, has he taught you how to provide part of their duty. The customs, manners, your troops with necessaries, to supply and laws of the ancients have changed; them with provisions, to prevent the disthey are often opposite to our way of life, tempers that are incident to them, to cure and the usages that prevail amongst us, them when they are sick, to strengthen and the knowledge of them may be there- their bodies by frequent exercise, to raise fore less necessary for us. Their actions emulation among them, how to make are gone and cannot return; great events yourself obeyed, esteemed, and beloved have had their course, without any rea- by them? Upon all these points, anson left for us to expect the like; and the swered Cyrus, and several others, the revolutions of states and empires have per- King ran over to him, he has not spoke haps very little relation to their present one word, and they are all new to mesituation and wants, and therefore become And what has he taught you then? To of less concern to us. But good taste, which exercise my arms, replies the young Prince, is grounded upon immutable principles, to ride, to draw the bow, to cast the spear, is always the same in every age: and it is to form a camp, to draw the plan of a the principal advantage that young per- fortification, to range my troops in order sons should be taught to obtain from read. of battle, to make a review, to see that ing of ancient authors, who have ever been they march, file off, and encamp. Camlooked
upon with reason as the masters, byses smiled, and let his son see, that he depositories, and guardians of sound elo- had learnt nothing of what was most esquence and good taste. In fine, of all sential to the making of a good officer, that may anywise contribute to the culti- and an able general; and taught him far vating the mind, we may truly say this more in one conversation, which certainly is the most essential part, and what ought deserves well to be studied by young gen, to be preferred before all others.
tlemen that are designed for the army, This good taste is not confined to lite- than his famous master had done in many rature; it takes in also, as we have already years. suggested, all arts and sciences, and Every profession is liable to the same branches of knowledge. It consists there- inconvenience, either from our not being fore in a certain just and exact discernment, sufficiently attentive to the principal end which points out to us, in each of the we should have in view in our applications sciences and branches of knowledge, what., to it, or from taking custom for our guide, eyer is most curious, beautiful, and useful, and blindly following the footsteps of