Imágenes de páginas

nothing pleasant, except what one has found to be pleasant on a former occasion-something like telling a young lady that she has no chance of getting married until she is a widow. Dugald Stewart, in despair of ascertaining any common principle of beauty, concluded that it is only a word, a common name, whereby we designate many things totally unlike.

Brown took a most important step in the investigation, by recognizing one emotion, to which all varieties of beautiful objects are referred.

The practical objection to most of these and other theories on the subject lies in the fact, that they fail of presenting a science competent to guide and sustain the purpose of the artist through the whole field of his labor. They are all defective, exceedingly.

Of what use is it to an artist to be told, for instance, that a curve line is beautiful, if his art has nothing to do with lines; or that a combination of uniformity and variety is beauty, if left uninstructed in the proportions of that combination; or that littleness is beauty, when perhaps he is an architect, engaged to build a large and beautiful house; or to be taken out into the mid ocean of speculation, if he is left there without rudder or compass ?

There is, however, one encouraging feature presented by the common language of men, and by even the advocates of conflicting theory, when their theory is not before their eyes, in the remarkable unanimity regarding a great number of objects, that, however they come to be so, they are beautiful. The examples adduced in one essay are, in the main, the same employed in all others, however different the doctrines they advocate. Though many refuse to grant that beauty is a quality of the external world, yet none will deny that a green meadow in spring is a beautiful object, nor that its color, for some reason or other, is an ingredient going to make up its character as such. Certain outlines, as the circle, the ellipse, the waving curve, and the perfectly straight line, are also said to be beautiful; similar is the verdict upon many sounds and intervals of sound, as the first, third, and fifth of the scale, and the relations between them; upon certain shapes, a fine human figure, for example; upon such proportion of parts as appears in the structure of Grecian temples ; upon certain relations of numbers; upon the perception of eminent utility; upon clear views of truth ; upon noble, generous, or tender emotions. Now, why do all critics grant that these things are beautiful? although some have difficulty to reconcile the acknowledgment with their theories ! Evidently because compelled by consciousness, and because they know the world in general has the same consciousness, which it would be fruitless to contradict.

It is utterly futile to attempt to resolve this great fact into a figurative usage, or, rather, objectless perversion of an English word. For the same objects are characterized by the corresponding epithet in all the languages of civilized man. The Greeks called them


Kala, the Romans pulchra, the French beaux, and so on, all applying to the same things their respective words of the same meaning as the English word beautiful. The matter does not depend upon the accidents of any language, but enjoys the assent of all. It must, therefore, be due to the universal observation of some reality connected with the perception of all these objects. For it is not possible that the universal language of man should be false to the consciousness of man. If it should be advanced that the common name represents only the common feature of pleasureableness, the reply is obvious, that we already have a full supply of words for that purpose. We speak of pleasure, and pleasureable, and pleasant things, and the pleasant in things, and of the pleasant and the beautiful, as expressing different conceptions, and of the things to which they refer as frequently standing toward each other in the relation of cause and effect. The word beauty must represent something which occurs to the mind of man as a reality, however little we may have succeeded in defining it to each other as such. It is either some faculty of mind, common to all those thinkers, or some quality of things, common to all the specimens mentioned. But it cannot be the existence of any common quality in the objects. For what quality is common to

of the fields, the outline of a circle, the human figure, the proportions of arithmetic, the ideas of utility, of truth, and the emotions of gratitude and love! If not a quality of the objects, then it must be

the green

some condition of the sentient being, an emotion of the observing mind.

Taking this conclusion to be correct, we shall use the word beauty to mean an emotion; beautiful, to characterize an object calculated to awaken the emotion; and the beautiful shall be employed to designate the immediate antecedent of the emotion, whatever it may be—the unknown quantity proposed for solution.

Sensation takes cognizance of the properties of external things; but emotion always follows an intellectual state of perception or conception. The operation of perception and sensation is between the mind and the external world; but the intercourse of conception and emotion is entirely within the mind.

Now, the points demanding elucidation appear to be these: the peculiar nature of the emotion called beauty; what is its immediate intellectual antecedent; how it becomes to be connected with such a variety of objects; what is the particular feature contemplated in each class of objects; and what practical rules can be obtained.

-Lessing's Laocoon.



It does not belong to philosophy to account for the fact of existence in any part of nature. The properties and relations of things are subject to inquiry, but existence is the bottom upon which our sounding lead must rest, and beyond which it can not go. For the fact of an emotion which we call beauty, no reason can be assigned save the Creator's will; and any one may recognize and distinguish it from all other feelings, by. brief consultation with his own heart. Not that all are endued with the same susceptibility, for there is the greatest diversity; but it is difficult to conceive of any human being who has not experienced it in some degree, so as to recognize its peculiar features when mentioned.

Beauty is a highly pleasurable emotion, yet by no means to be confounded with pleasure.

There are pleasures which are turbulent, stormy, gross; but none such receive from popular language the honor of this

A beautiful object may at first excite by the surprise attendant on novelty; but, when contemplated


« AnteriorContinuar »