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LEC T. please, not in virtue of any one quality com
mon to them all, but by means of several different principles in human nature.
The agreeable emotion which they all raise, is somewhat of the same nature; and, therefore, has the common name of Beauty given to it; but it is raised by different causes.
Hypotheses, however, have been framed by ingenious men, for assigning the fundamental quality of Beauty in all objects. In particular, Uniforinity amidst Variety, has been insisted on as this fundamental quality. For the Beauty of many figures, I admit that this accounts in a satisfactory manner. But when we endeavour to apply this principle to Beautiful objects of some other kind, as to Colour, for instance, or Motion, we shall soon find that it has no place. And even in external figured objects, it does not hold, that their Beauty is in proportion to their mixture of Variety with Uniformity; feeing many please us as highly beautiful, which have almost no variety at all; and others, which are various to a degree of intricacy. Laying systems of this kind, therefore, aside, what I now propose is, to give an enumeration of several of those claffes of ob. jects in which Beauty most remarkably appears; and to point out, as far as I can, the separate principles of Beauty in each of them.
Colour affords, perhaps, the simplest in- L E C T.
as the feathers of several kinds of
L E C'T. favourite subjects of poetical description in all
FROM Colour we proceed to Figure, which opens to us forms of Beauty more complex and diversified. Regularity first occurs to be noticed as a source of Beauty. By a regular figure, is meant, one which we perceive to be forined according to some certain rule, and not left arbitrary, or loose, in the construction of its parts. Thus, a circle, a square, a triangle, or a hexagon, please the eye, by their regularity, as beautiful figures. We must not, however, conclude, that all figures please in proportion to their regularity; or that regularity is the sole, or the chief, foundation of Beauty in figure. On the contrary, a certain graceful variety is found to be a much more powerful principle of Beauty; and is therefore studied a great deal more than regularity, in all works that are designed merely to please the eye. I am, indeed, inclined to think, that regularity appears beautiful to us, chiefly, if not only, on account of its suggesting the ideas of fitness, propriety, and use, which have always a greater connection with orderly and proportioned forms, than with those which appear not constructed according to any certain rule. It is clear, that Nature, who is undoubtedly the most graceful artist, hath, in all her ornamental works, pursued
variety, with an apparent neglect of regu
LE C T. larity. Cabinets, doors, and windows, are made after a regular form, in cubes and parallelograms, with exact proportion of parts; and by being so formed they please the eye ; for this good reason, that, being works of use, they are, by such figures, the better suited to the ends for which they were designed. But plants, flowers, and leaves are full of variety and diversity. A straight canal is an insipid figure, in comparison of the mæanders of rivers. Cones and pyramids are beautiful ; but trees growing in their natural wildness, are infinitely more beautifulthan when trimmed into pyramids and cones. The apartments of a house must be regular in their disposition, for the conveniency of its inhabitants; but a garden, which is designed merely for Beauty, would be exceedingly disgusting, if it had as much uniformity and order in its parts as a dwelling-house,
MR. HOGARTH, in his Analysis of Beauty, has observed, that figures bounded by curve lines are, in general, more beautiful than those bounded by straight lines and angles, He pitches upon two lines, on which, according to him, the Beauty of figure principally depends; and he has illustrated, and supported his doctrine, by a surprising number of instances. The one is the Waving Line, or a curve bending backwards and
LE C T. forwards, somewhat in the form of the letter.
S. This he calls the Line of Beauty; and fhews how often it is found in shells, Aowers, and such other ornamental works of nature; as is common also in the figures designed by painters and sculptors, for the purpose of decoration. The other Line, which he calls the Line of Grace, is the former waving curve, twisted round some solid body. The curling worm of a common jack is one of the instances he gives of it.
Twisted pillars, and twisted horns, alfo exhibit it. In all the instances which he mentions, Variety plainly appears to be fo material a principle of Beauty, that he seems not to err much when he defines the art of drawing pleasing forms, to be the art of varying well. For the curve line, so much the favourite of painters, derives, according to him, its chief advantage, from its perpetual bending and variation from the stiff regularity of the straight line,
Motion furnishes another source of Beauty, distinct from Figure. Motion of itself is pleasing; and bodies in motion are, “ cæteris
paribus,” preferred to those in rest. It is, however, only gentle motion that belongs to the Beautiful; for when it is very swift, or very forcible, such as that of a torrent, it partakes of the Sublime. The motion of a bird gliding through the air, is extremely Beauti