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Q. Do all men possess the faculty of Taste, in the same degree?
A. No. In some men only faint glimmerings of it are visible; beauties of the coarsest kind only are discerned and relished by them : while, in others, taste rises to an acute discernment, and a lively enjoyment of beauties the most refined.
Q. To what is this inequality to be attributed?
A. In part, to a difference in their natural constitution; but chiefly, to culture and education.
Q. How does it appear that Taste is an improveable faculty?
A. From the immense superiority of civilized over barbarous nations, in refinement of Taste; and of those who have studied the liberal arts, over the rude and untaught, in the same nation.
Q. How does Taste receive its improvement?
A. By frequent exercise; and the application of good sense and reason, to the objects of Taste.
Q. What influence has the heart over a just Taste?
A. Great. A corrupt heart can never relish moral beauties, which are the highest, of eloquence and poetry.
Q. What are the characters of good Taste? A. Delicacy and correctness.
Q. What does Delicacy of Taste respect?
A. The perfection of that natural sensibility on which Taste is founded.
Q. What does Correctness of Taste respect?
A. The improvement which that faculty receives, through its connexion with the understanding.
Q. In what is the power of each chiefly seen?
A. In discerning the true merit of a work; and in rejecting false pretensions to merit. Delicacy, leans more to feeling; Correctness, more to judgment. The former, is chiefly the gift of nature; the latter, the product of culture and art.
Q. What critical writers have afforded a high example of Delicate Taste?
A. Longinus, among the Ancients; and Addison, among the Moderns.
Q. Who have possessed most correctness? A. Aristotle and Dean Swift:
Q. Have mankind uniformly approved of the same things?
A. No. In architecture, the Grecian models long prevailed; then the Gothic; afterwards, the Grecian revived. In eloquence and poetry, the Asiatics were fond of gaudy ornament; while the Greeks admired only chaste and simple beauties. Writings, admired two or three centuries ago, have now fallen into disrepute and oblivion.
Q. What conclusion should we naturally draw from this fact?
A. That Taste, in its operations, is fluctuating and capricious; and has no standard. Q. Is this actually the case?
A. No. For there is a standard of good Taste, by appealing to which, we may distinguish between a good and a bad Taste. Q. Upon what is Taste built?
A. Upon sentiments and perceptions which belong to our nature.
Q. What occasions a corrupt Taste? A. The perversion of these sentiments and perceptions by ignorance and prejudice. Q. What is the standard of good Taste? A. These sentiments and perceptions uncorrupted.
Q. Where are these to be found?
A. They cannot fail to be developed in the course of time, and to gain ascendency over any corrupted modes of Taste which may be introduced. Ignorance and prejudice may rule for a season, but must ultimately yield to knowledge and truth.
Q. What two works have been approved throughout ages, and become standards of poetical composition?
A. The Iliad of Homer, and the Eneid of Virgil.
TASTE-SUBLIMITY IN OBJECTS.
Q. What is Criticism?
A. The application of taste and good sense to the fine arts.
Q. What is the design of Criticism?
A. To distinguish what is beautiful and faulty in every performance.
Q. On what is it founded?
A. On experience; on the observation of such beauties as have been found to please mankind most generally.
Q. What is its importance?
A. Great; for no genius is perfect, and every writer and artist may receive assistance from critical observations upon the beauties and faults of those who have gone before them.
Q. Are not Critics great abridgers of the native liberty of genius?
A. No. For every good writer will be pleased to have his work examined by the principles of sound understanding and true
Q. Have not some works been admired which have transgressed the rules of Critics?
A. Yes. Such are the plays of Shakespeare; which, considered as dramatic poems, are very irregular; but they possess beauties so great as to overpower all censure.
Q. What is Genius ?
A. It is that talent or aptitude which we receive from nature, for excelling in some one thing.
Q. How does it differ from Taste?
A. Taste consists, in the power of judging: Genius, in the power of executing.
Q. Which is the most limited in the sphere of its operations?
A. Genius. Many have an excellent taste in music, poetry, painting, and eloquence; but a finished performer, in all these arts, is seldom found.
Q. What may be said of an Universal Genius ?
A. That he is not likely to excel in any thing.
Q. What practical lesson may be learned from this?
A. That young persons should pursue, with ardour, that path which nature has marked out for their peculiar exertions.
Q. Who first instituted a regular inquiry into the source of the pleasures of Taste?
A. Mr. Addison, in his essay on the pleasures of the imagination.
Q. How did he arrange these pleasures? A. Under three heads-Beauty, Grandeur, and Novelty.
Q. What have been the advances in this subject, since his time?
Q. To what is this owing?
A. To that thinness and subtilty which are