« AnteriorContinuar »
lities of a Venus and Hercules, so totally different in almost all respects, is surely a strange confusion of ideas, or abuse of words. The cause of this confusion, I imagine, proceeds from our frequently perceiving the parts of the human and other animal bodies to be at once very beautiful, and very well adapted to their purposes, and we are deceived by a sophism, which makes us take that for a cause which is only concomitant: this is the sophism of the fly, who imagined he raised a great dust because he stood upon the chariot that really raised it. The stomach, the lungs, the liver, as well as other parts, are incomparably well adapted to their purposes; yet they are far from having any beauty. Again, many things are very beautiful, in which it is impossible to discern any idea of use. And I appeal to the first and most natural feeling of mankind, whether, on beholding a beautiful eye, or a wellfashioned mouth, or a well-turned leg, any ideas of their being well-fitted for seeing, eating, or running, ever present themselves? What idea of use is it that flowers excite, the most beautiful part of the vegetable world ? It is true that the infinitely wise and good Creator has, of his bounty, frequently joined beauty to those things which he has made useful to us: but this does not prove that an idea. of use and beauty are the same thing, or that they are any way dependent on each other.
SECT. VII.--THE REAL EFFECTS OF FITNESS.
When I excluded proportion and fitness from any share in beauty, I did not, by any means, intend to say that they were of no value, or that they ought to be disregarded in works of art. Works of art are the proper sphere of their power; and here it is that they have their full effect. Whenever the wisdom of our Creator intended that we should be affected with any thing, he did not confine the exe. cution of his design to the languid and precarious operation of our reason; but he endued it with powers and properties that prevent the understanding, and even the will, which, seizing upon the senses and imagination, captivate the soul before the understanding is ready either to join with them, or to oppose them. It is by a long deduction and much study that we discover the adorable wisdom of God in his works : when we discover it, the effect is very different, not only in the manner of acquiring it, but in its own nature, from that which strikes us without any preparation from the sublime or the beautiful. How different is the satisfaction of the anatomist, who discovers the use of the muscles and of the skin, the excellent contrivance of the one for the various movements of the body, and the wonderful texture of the other, at once a general covering, and at once a general outlet as well as inlet; how different is this from the affection which possesses an ordinary man at the sight of a delicate smooth skin, and all the other parts of beauty, which require no investigation to be perceived! In the former case, whilst we look up to the Maker with admiration and praise, the object which causes it may be odious and distasteful; the latter very often so touches us by its power on the imagination, that we examine but little into the artifice of its contrivance; and we have need of a strong effort of our reason to disentangle our minds from the al. lurements of the object, to a consideration of that wisdom which invented so powerful a machine. The effect of proportion and fitness, at least so far as they proceed from a mere consideration of the work itself, produce approbation, the acquiescence of the understanding, but not love, nor any passion of that species. When we examine the structure of a watch, when we come to know thoroughly the use of every part of it, satisfied as we are with the fitness of the whole, we are far enough from perceiving any thing like beauty in the watch-work itself; but let us look on the case, the labour of some curious artist in engraving, with little or no idea of use, we shall have a much livelier idea of beauty than we ever could have had from the watch itself, though the masterpiece of Graham. In beauty, as I said, the effect is previous to any knowledge of the use; but, to judge of proportion, we must know the end for which any work is designed. According to the end, the proportion varies. Thus, there is one proportion of a tower, another of a house; one proportion of a gallery, another of a hall, another of a chamber. To judge of the proportions of these, you must be first acquainted with the purposes for which they were designed. Good sense and experience acting together, find out what is fit to be done in every work of art. We are rational creatures, and in all our works we ought to regard their end and purpose: the gratification of any passion, how innocent soever, ought only to be of secondary consideration. Herein is placed the real power of fitness and proportion; they operate on the understanding considering them, which approves the work and acquiesces in it. The passions, and the imagi. nation which principally raises them, have bere very little to do. When a room appears in its ori. ginal nakedness, bare walls and a plain ceiling, let its proportion be ever so excellent, it pleases very little; a cold approbation is the utmost we can reach; a much worse proportioned room, with elegant mouldings and fine festoons, glasses, and other merely ornamental furniture, will make the imagination revolt against the reason; it will please much more than the naked proportion of the first room, which the understanding has so much approved as admirably fitted for its purposes. What I have here said, and before, concerning proportion, is by no means to persuade people absurdly to nego lect the idea of use in the works of art. It is only to shew, that these excellent things, beauty and proportion, are not the same; not that they should either of them be disregarded.
SECT. VIII.-THE RECAPITULATION,
On the whole; if such parts in human bodies as are found proportioned, were likewise constantly found beautiful, as they certainly are not; or if they were so situated as that a pleasure might filow from the comparison, which they seldom are; or if any assignable proportions were found, either in plants or animals, which were always attended with beauty, which never was the case; orif, where parts were well adapted to their purposes, they were constantly beantiful, and when no use appeared, there was no beauty, which is contrary to all expe. rience, we might conclude that beauty consisted in proportion or utility. But since, in all respects, the case is quite otherwise, we may be sátisfied that beauty does not depend on these, let it owe its origin to what else it will.
SECT. IX.-PERFECTION NOT THE CAUSE
OF BEAUTY. There is another notion current, pretty closely allied to the former, that perfection is the constituent cause of beauty. This opinion has been made to extend much farther than to sensible objects. But in these, so far is perfection, considered as such, from being the cause of beauty, that this quality, where it is highest, in the female sex, almost always carries with it an idea of weakness and imperfection. Women are very sensible of this; for which reason they learn to lisp, to totter in their walk, to counterfeit weakness, and even sickness. In all this they are guided by nature. Beauty in distress is much the most affecting beauty. Blushing has little less power;
and modesty in general, which is a tacit allowance of imperfection, is itself considered as an amiable quality, and certainly heightens every other that is so. I know it is in every body's mouth that we ought to love perfection. This is to me a sufficient proof, that it is not the proper object of love. Whoever said we ought to love a fine woman, or even any of these beautiful animals which please us? Here to be affected, there'is no need of the concurrence of our will.
SECT. X.-HOW FAR THE IDEA OF BEAUTY
MAY BE APPLIED TO THE QUALITIES OF THE
Nor is this remark, in general, less applicable to the qualities of the mind. Those virtues which cause admiration, and are of the sublimer kind, produce terror rather than love ; such as fortitude, justice, wisdom, and the like. Never was any man,