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of taste. The law may be just, the judge correct, and yet if the evidence is false, the decision will certainly be wrong: and fifthly, many errors of taste are introduced by habits unconsciously acquired, and by servile imitation. The latter accounts for many fashions in dress which are in very bad taste. So unthinking and imitative of their superiors in social standing are most of those who pay great attention to personal adornment, that they will follow almost any leader who is wealthy enough to secure their respect. A few persons enjoying the advantages of superior rank and wealth, may therefore, in either good or bad taste, set a fashion in dress and style of living which the giddy ranks of ton will implicitly follow; while many sensible men, regarding the matter as utterly beneath their concern, submit to be clothed as the tailor thinks best. But even here the prostration of individual taste is not complete; and the native sense of the most thoughtless would revolt against many of our fashions in dress, were the attempt made to perpetuate them. Novelty must come to the aid of authority; the only way to keep up absurdity is to vary it. Fashions in other things owe their origin to similar causes; and consequently furnish no argument against the certainty of æsthetic principles, although they contribute to show how many people may for a time support a bad taste of which they do not approve.
It is easy, therefore, to perceive how persons indulging in bad taste themselves, may be ready to testify to the superiority of a man of good taste. The intellectually obtuse and thoughtless need to have their susceptibilities awakened, the indolent aroused to observation, and the ignorant instructed in a knowledge of the properties and relations of that concerning which a judgment is to be made. In examining the works of a correct thinker, the critics learn to surmount their own faults, and to coincide with him whom they study; and thus feel and acknowledge the truth of what they might otherwise never have taken the trouble to discover the existence in themselves. For the action of taste is not like hunger and thirst, involuntary: we must give attention to its objects before we can enjoy them, and study its principles before they can guide our practice.
SECTION II.-OF THE PROPRIETY OF ORNAMENT.
The abovementioned faults are negative; but there is also another class, which may be called positive, in which the artist and writer are no less likely to sin. It arises from excessive ambition to excel, and to produce something finer than consistent with the nature of the materials and subject. The greater amount of errors, and those of the most offensive kind, which occur in literary and artistic productions, are to be ascribed to an undue and undiscriminating passion for ornament. The lover of simplicity seldom errs in matters of taste; but true simplicity is by no means a
common feature of humanity; and perhaps it may not be in vain to offer a few remarks upon the meaning of ornament, and the propriety of its introduction.
Though he who is fond of ornament, invariably degrades the art in which he labors, yet the word implies a high degree of beauty; and beauty being the chief end of the æsthetic arts, the question stands thus :—How can ornament, if beautiful in itself, ever be wrong? The word has several applications. The most common acceptation of it, is beauty additional to the essential beauty of the subject; but very often anything beautiful in itself, when added to another, is thought to be an ornament. Few, of any pretension to taste, will advocate the propriety of the latter; yet from false notions concerning the former, many are guilty of errors equally great in both their criticisms and original productions. I shall employ the word in that meaning, which implies an admissible principle in art, for no advantage could accrue from the discussion of a verbal abuse. Let us understand then by ornament, that which is conceived of as adding a grace to something else, though not essential to its integrity.
With this understanding let us look upon a fine house, and consider how we could make it finer, without adding to its essentials. We observe its chief component parts, the basement, walls, and pillars and roof. The first being little exposed to the eye, is hardly a proper place for ornament. The second has for its object the inclosure of the area of the house and support of the roof. All that can be called essential to it is that it be strong and tight enough for those purposes, and the essential beauty of it must lie in the perfectness of its adaptation. But then this part of the house may consist of any of a variety of materials. It may be wood, or stone, or brick, or metal. If wood, there may be a beauty consulted in the grain or color of the wood, in the shape of the beams or boards, or the manner of their disposal, which, while it affects not the main object of the wall or pillar, may very pleasantly affect the eye of the observer. Suppose it a pillar. It may be of requisite strength to support the incumbent weight and not more, and may not occupy more space than proper; and thus be without fault; but in addition to this essential excellence, it may be of a smooth or fluted surface, at the option of the owner, nothing in the nature of things demanding the one rather than the other. It may have a base with a molding, or not. It may have a simple slab at the top, or a voluted capital, with equal fitness for the object of its erection. The volute is evidently a proper ornament. For while not more essential than the rough slab, it occupies the place with equal appropriateness, and is in itself more beautiful. So, of the incumbent parts: the beams resting upon the pillars may be plain, or may be covered with sculpture, while the most fastidious critic might find it difficult to give a satisfactory reason for the condemnation of either.
But there is a limit, beyond which ornament in architecture is faulty. Few persons can look with unmingled pleasure upon a pillar cut into the figure of a human being. Because it is not the proper office of a man or a woman to stand all the days of their lives supporting the roof of a house; and the very thought of such a thing is painful. Neither can we behold without some degree of uneasiness, the figures of human beings perched upon the most dangerous pinnacles of the roof. Such are false ornaments; because at variance with the object of a house, which is erected, not for men to stand upon, nor to be carried upon their heads, but for them to dwell in. Thus the limit to ornament in architecture is the design of a house, and the nature of the materials employed, as well as the particular kind of house, between which and its ornaments a certain propriety must be maintained.
As architecture, so dress is imitative of nothing in nature, being a creation for the convenience of man, which nature has not supplied. Provided the chief end of dress is kept in view, and nothing is introduced at variance with that, no objection can be presented to any article of dress in itself graceful. No reason can be drawn from the nature of things why a man should wear pantaloons and coat, rather than the toga, hyke, or highland plaid, unless we say that they are respectively best adapted to the habits of the people who use them. But, the leading articles once chosen, no ornament can be proper which does not appear to conduce