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LE CT. Taste discover themselves very early in a thou
sand instances; in their fondness for regular bodies, their admiration of pictures and statues, and imitations of all kinds; and their strong attachment to whatever is new or marvellous. The most ignorant peasants are delighted with ballads and tales, and are struck with the beautiful appearances of nature in the earth and heavens. Even in the desarts of America, where human nature shews itself in its most uncultivated state, the savages have their ornaments of dress, their war and their death songs, their harangues, and their orators. We must therefore conclude the principles of Taste to be deeply founded in the human mind. It is no less effential to man to have some discernment of beauty, than it is to poffefs the attributes of reason and of speech *
* On the subject of Taste considered as a power or faculty of the mind, much less is to be found among the ancient, than among the modern rhetorical and critical writers. The following remarkable paffage in Cicero serves however to shew, that his ideas on this subject agree perfectly with what has been said above. He is speaking of the beauties of style and numbers. « Illud autem ne“ quis admiretur quonam modo hæc vulgus imperitorum “ in audiendo, notet; cum in omni genere, tum in hoc
ipso, magna quædam est vis, incredibilisque naturæ. « Omnes enim tacito quodam sensu, fine ulla arte aut ra“ tione, quæ fint in artibus de rationibus recta et prava “ dijudicant: idque cum faciunt in picturis, et in fignis,
But although none be wholly devoid of this i ECT. faculty, yet the degrees in which it is poffeffed are widely different.
In some men only the feeble glimmerings of Taste appear; the beauties which they relish are of the coarsest kind; and of these they have but a weak and confused impression : while in others, Taste rises to an acute discernment, and a lively enjoyment of the most refined beauties. In general, we may observe, that in the powers and pleasures of Taste, there is a more remarkable inequality among men, than is usually found, in point of common sense; reason, and judgment. The constitution of our nature in this, as in all other respects, discovers admirable wisdom. In the distribution of those talents which are necessary for man's well
“ et in aliis operibus, ad quorum intelligentiam a natura " minus habent instrumenti, tum multo ostendunt magis “ in verborum, numerorum, vocumque judicio , quod ea " sunt in communibus infixa sensibus; neque earum re
rum quenquam funditus natura voluit effe expertem.” Cic. de Orat. lib. iii. cap. 50. Edit. Gruteri.- Quinetilian feems to include Taste (for which, in the sense which we now give to that word, the antients appear to have had ño distinct name) under what he calls judicium.
« Locus " de judicio, meâ quidem opinione adeo partibus hujus “ operis omnibus connectus ac miltus eft, ut ne a fen" tentiis quidem aut verbis faltem fingulis poffit separari,
nec magis arte traditur quam guftus aut odor. -Uc “contraria vitemus et communia, ne quid in eloquendo “corruptum obscurumque fit, referatur oportet ad sensus
qui non docentur." Institut. lib. vi. cap. 3. Edit. Obrechti.
LECT. being, Nature hath made less distinction
among her children. But in the distribution
This inequality of Taste among men is owing, without doubt, in part, to the different frame of their natures; to nicer organs, and finer internal powers, with which some are endowed beyond others. But, if it be owing in part to nature, it is owing to education and culture still more. The illustration of this leads to my next remark on this subject, that Taste is a most improveable faculty, if there be any such in human nature; a reinark which gives great encouragement to such a course of ftudy as we are now proposing to pursue. Of the truth of this asertion we may easily be convinced, by only reflecting on that immense fuperiority which education and improvement give to civilized, above barbarous nations, in refinement of Taste; and on the superiority which they give in the same nation to those who have ftudied the liberal arts, above the rude and untaught vulgar. The difference is fo great, that there is perhaps no one particuIar in which these two classes of men are so far
removed from each other, as in respect of the LECT. powers and the pleasures of Taste: and afsuredly for this difference no other general cause can be assigned, but culture and education.- I shall now proceed to shew what the means are, by which Taste becomes so reimarkably susceptible of cultivation and progress.
REFLECT first upon that great law of our nature, that exercise is the chief source of improvement in all our faculties. This holds both in our bodily, and in our mental powers. It holds even in our external senses; although these be less the subject of cultivation than any
of our other faculties. We fee how acute the senses become in persons whose trade of business leads to nice exertions of them. Touch, for instance, becomes infinitely more exquisite in men whose employment requires them to examine the polish of bodies, than it is in others. They who deal in microscopical observations, or are accustomed to engrave on precious stones, acquire surprising accuracy of sight in discerning the ininutest objects; and practice in attending to different flavours and tastes of liquors, wonderfully improves the power of distinguishing them, and of tracing their composition.
Placing internal Taste therefore on the footing of a simple sense, it cannot be doubted that frequent exercise,
· È C T. and curious attention to its proper objects,
must greatly heighten its power. Of this we have one clear proof in that part of Taste, which is called an ear for music. Experience every day shews, that nothing is more improveable. Only the fimplest and plainest compositions are relished at first; use and practice extend our pleasure ; teach us to relish finer melody, and by degrees enable us to enter into the intricate and compounded pleasures of harmony. So an eye for the beauties of painting is never all at once acquired. It is gradually formed by being conversant among pictures, and studying the works of the best masters.
Precisely in the same manner, with respect to the beauty of composition and discourse, attention to the most approved models, study of the best authors, comparisons of lower and higher degrees of the same beauties, operate towards the refinement of Taste.
When one is only beginning his acquaintance with works of genius, the sentiment which attends them is obfcure and confused. He cannot point out the several excellencies or blemishes of a performance which he peruses; he is at a loss on what to rest his judgment; all that can be expected is, that he should tell in general whether he be pleased or not. But allow him more experience in works of this kind, and his Taste becomes by degrees more exact and 8