Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

must differ, not on account of error, but of age. Right must give way to novelty, and solid merit to startling effect; tricks of style become his study, and truth is sacrificed to a silly legerdemain of execution. Thus sincerity of character, all foundations upon which moral as well as æsthetic excellence must be built, are in his mind unsettled. The man becomes incapable of distinguishing right from wrong, and without rudder or compass is hurried over the billows of excess by the gust of every passion. He may flash into notoriety for a season ; but it is only like the rocket, to fall into darkness. No great moral good forms a stable ground for his productions, no correct principle sustains them. And thus a mere ästhetic mistake leads down to not only intellectual ruin, but also to temporal, and often, we have reason to fear, to eternal death.

In attempting to define the true notion of Originality, we shall set out from the meaning of the word origin, the beginning of anything, that from which anything primarily proceeds. Original, then, means possessing the qualities of an origin ; and Originality the state or quality of being original. The latter derivative is used in both an active and passive sense, as it is applied to the mind which produces, or to the work produced. Originality means, therefore, the quality of being new; or the faculty of giving rise to some new existence. Thus, the idea of novelty is involved in it; but novelty of what? Of facts, principles, or the manner in which they are viewed and employed ? For

answer to that question we must have recourse to the authorized use of the term.

In science, original discovery means only the developement of some fact not previously known; and originality in that case will apply, not so much to the mind as to the objects of its cognizance—a meaning after which we are not now enquiring. For the same philosopher who announces his discovery of some new metal, or mineral, or plant, may present no claim to originality as an author. The newspapers every day. furnish us with something new in the way of facts; yet among writers of news, originality subjective appears as seldom as anywhere else. The news may be properly called original, because not borrowed from any other writer; but the bare statement of a fact which has not been previously told, does not entitle a man to the praise of original thought. Another, without communicating any fact, which could not be learned elsewhere, receives that praise by universal consent. Goldsmith deals often with the commonest of facts; and Wordsworth carefully avoids the strange and singular. In the songs of Robert Burns does the freshness lie in anything recondite—in anything which does not speak a language well known to the heart of man? Moreover, if the merit lay in novelty of facts, every work would be original to that man whom it presents with anything he did not know before. That is, the quality would lie in the reader, not in the writer; every painter, or sculptor, would be original who chooses odd subjects. Artistic originality is subjective, always implying the exertion of peculiar power, characteristic of the producer. It does not, therefore, consist in novelty of the facts presented, and can not apply to any of the materials of art, which do not belong to the mind itself.

It has been sufficiently proved, that no care in education can produce in two minds precisely the same character; that every man has something peculiar in his intellectual structure, whereby his mind is as easily distinguished from all other minds as his body from all other bodies. The holders of certain philosophical systems may deny this position. They are welcome to do so in theory, while they are compelled to grant it in practice. For it is a truth that can not be eradicated from the daily and hourly convictions of mankind. In conversing with any person on any subject on which he has thought for himself, we find points of view more or less different from our own. And the more thoroughly both have mastered the subject, the more distinctly different will be the lights we view it in. The facts may be such as to preclude variety of opinion concerning them, and we may entirely agree as to the objective truths, and yet they will appear in different hues, as presented by one mind or the other-a fact of such universal notoriety that it would be deemed remarkable if even a demonstration of the same mathematical truth should be made out exactly in the same way by two minds acting independently. The external world is, in itself, the same to all; yet the same feelings in relation to it do not exist in all. Intellectual character is the most marked feature of identity. At the same time, all minds, even the most original, draw the materials of their fabric from the common field. Originality, therefore, as it can not belong to external things, and cannot exist in common qualities of mind, in the great prominent features of human intellect, must consist in the finer shades of character, whereby one mind is distinguished from another; and in those alone: consequently, it is not a quality to be acquired. One can not dash off at a tangent from the common circle of things, and henceforth become original, merely because he has taken a notion to be so. It is of the essential character of the individual mind, the Creator's gift, which the man can neither acquire, nor yet entirely destroy.

In looking upon external nature, all men do not notice exactly the same things. The same general features, indeed, appear to all ; but the millions of minor things, going to make up those general features, are not all thought over by any one mind. The remarks of a man who thinks for himself, are always interesting. He has, in obedience to his peculiar intellectual disposition, and aptitude, observed features which all have seen, but never noticed or thought of for more than an instant; and he clothes them in the style of association and of feeling peculiar to himself. All, therefore, recognize his remarks as new, while

they acknowledge their truth; for the subjects, though not by them previously thought of in that manner, are not unknown. Any one of those whom he addresses might again equally interest him by an equally true account of his observation. For every one is informed by his senses, of myriads of things of which his thoughts are only momentary; and to many things around he never directs his senses at all. He takes notice of, or pays attention to, only those items which consist with bis own spiritual disposition, or habits of observation ; but will readily recognize the truth of the observations of another mind, when attention is called to them. For their subjects are not beyond the range of his capacity: he only has not thought about them in a way to interest him. Thus nature is forever new, as beheld through the lens of a new mind; and every man who will only observe, and think, and utter his own thoughts in his own way, is capable of setting her in a new light before all the rest of his fellow-men. In this individuality itself, however, there is something which we can never entirely explain to others. The nature and internal operation of what is peculiar to the individual, the individual alone can understand. Though the great field of humanity and nature is common property, there is assigned to each person a small, exclusive, and unalienable possession, to which his fellow-men are utter strangers, and which they can no more enter than if a charmed circle had been drawn around it. To that extent every human being is

« AnteriorContinuar »