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If so little regard is paid to nature when she knocks so powerfully at the breast, she must be altogether neglected and despised in her calmer mood of serene tranquillity, when nothing appears to recommend her but simplicity, propriety, and innocence. A person must have delicate feelings that can taste the celebrated repartee in Terence: Homo sum; nihil humani a me alienum puto: «I am a man; therefore think I have an interest in every thing that concerns humanity.» A clear blue sky, spangled with stars, will prove an insipid object to eyes accustomed to the glare of torches and tapers, gilding and glitter; eyes that will turn with disgust from the green mantle of the spring, so gorgeously adorned with buds and foliage, flowers and blossoins, to contemplate a gaudy silken robe, striped and intersected with unfriendly tints, that fritter the masses of light, and distract the vision, pinked into the most fantastic forms, flounced, and furbelowed, and fringed with all the littleness of art unknown to elegance.
Those ears that are offended by the notes of the thrush, the blackbird, and the nightingale, will be regaled and ravished by the squeaking fiddle touched by a musician, who has no other genius than that which lies in his fingers ; they will even be entertained with the rattling of coaches, and the alarming knock, by which the doors of fashionable people are so loudly distinguished. The sense of smelling, that delights in the scent of excrementitious animal juices, such as musk, civet, and urinous salts, will loath the fragrance of new-mown hay, the sweet-brier, the honey-suckle, and the rose.
The organs that are gratified with the taste of sickly veal bled into a palsy, crammed fowls, and dropsical brawn, peas without substance, peaches without taste, and pine-apples without flavour, will certainly nauseate the native, genuine, and salutary taste of Welsh beef,
Banstead mutton, and barn-door fowls, whose juices are concocted by a natural digestion, and whose flesh is consolidated by free air and exercise. In such a total perversion of the senses, the ideas must be misrepresented; the powers of the imagination disordered; and the judgment, of consequence, unsound. The disease is attended with false appetite, which the natural food of the mind will not satisfy. It will prefer Ovid to Tibullus, and the rant of Lee to the tenderness of Otway. The soul sinks into a kind of sleepy idiotism, and is diverted by toys and baubles, which can only be pleasing to the most superficial curiosity. It is enlivened by a quick succession of trivial objects, that glisten and dance before the eye; and, like an infant, is kept awake and inspirited by the sound of a rattle. It must not only be dazzled and aroused, but also cheated, hurried, and perplexed, by the artifice of deception, business, intricacy, and intrigue; a kind of low juggle, which may be termed the legerdemain of genius.
In this state of depravity the mind cannot enjoy, nor indeed distinguish the charms of natural and moral beauty and decorum. The ingenuous blush of native innocence, the plain language of ancient faith and sincerity, the cheerful resignation to the will of Heaven, the mutual affection of the charities, the voluntary respect paid to superiour dignity or station, the virtue of beneficence, extended even to the brute creation, nay the very crimson glow of health, and swelling lines of beauty, are despised, detested, scorned, and ridiculed, as ignorance, rudeness, rusticity, and superstition. Thus we see how, moral and natural beauty are connected; and of what importance it is, even to the formation of taste, that the manners should be severely superintended. This is a task which ought to take the Jead of science; for we will venture to say, that virtue is the foundation of taste; or rather, that virtue and taste are built upon the same foundation of sensibility, and cannot be disjoined without offering violence to both. But virtue must be informed, and taste instructed, otherwise they will both remain imperfect and ineffectual:
Qui didicit patriæ quid debeat, et quid amicis,
The critic, who with nice discernment knows,
Thus we see taste is composed of nature improved by art; of feeling, tutored by instruction.
Having explained what we conceive to be true taste, and in some measure accounted for the prevalence of vitiated taste, we should proceed to point out the most effectual manner, in which a natural capacity may be improved into a delicacy of judgment, and an intimate acquaintance with
the Belles Lettres. We shall take it for granted, that proper means have been used to form the manners, and attach the mind to virtue. The heart, cultivated by precept and warmed by example, improves in sensibility, which is the foundation of taste. By distinguishing the influence and scope of morality, and cherishing the ideas of benevolence, it acquires a habit of sympathy, which tenderly feels responsive, like the vibration of unisons, every touch of moral beauty Hence it is that a man of a social heart, entendered by the practice of virtue, is awakened to the most pathetic emotions by every uncommon instance of generosity, compassion, and greatness of soul. Is there any man so dead to sentiment, so lost to humanity, as to read unmoved the generous behaviour of the Romans to the states of Greece, as it is recounted by Livy, or embellished by Thomson in his poem of Liberty? Speaking of Greece in the decline of her power, when her freedom no longer existed, he says:
As at her Isthmian games, a fading pomp!
sport alone their unambitious hearts
The crowd, astonish'd half, and half inform'd,
To one acquainted with the genius of Greece, the character and disposition of that polished people, admired for science, renowned for an unextinguishable love of freedom, nothing can be more affecting than this instance of generous magnanimity of the Roman people, in restoring them unasked to the full fruition of those liberties which they had so unfortunately lost.
The mind of sensibility is equally struck by the generous confidence of Alexander, who drinks without hesitation the potion presented by his physician Philip, even after he had received intimation that poison was contained in the cup; a noble and pathetic scene! which hath acquired new dignity and expression under the inimitable pencil of a Le Sueur. Humanity is melted into tears of tender admiration, by the deportment of Henry IV. of France, while his rebellious subjects compelled him to form the blockade of his capital. In chastising his enemies, he could not but