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Elements of Criticism, Volume I.

Elements of Criticism, Volume I.
Title: Elements of Criticism, Volume I.
Release Date: 2018-08-12
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
Count views: 46
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Printed for A. Millar, London;
A. Kincaid & J. Bell, Edinburgh,



K   I   N   G.


THe fine arts have ever been encouraged by wise princes, not singly forprivate amusement, but for their beneficial influence in society. Byuniting different ranks in the same elegant pleasures, they promotebenevolence: by cherishing love of order, they inforce submission togovernment: and by inspiring delicacy of feeling, they make regular{iv}government a double blessing.

These considerations embolden me to hope for your Majesty’s patronage inbehalf of the following work, which treats of the fine arts, andattempts to form a standard of taste by unfolding those principles thatought to govern the taste of every individual.

It is rare to find one born with such delicacy of feeling, as not toneed instruction: it is equally rare to find one so low in feeling, asnot to be capable of instruction. And yet, to refine our taste withrespect to beauties of art or of nature, is scarce endeavoured in anyseminary of learning; a lamentable defect, considering how early in lifetaste is susceptible of culture, and how difficult to reform it ifunhappily perverted. To furnish materials for supplying that defect, was{v}an additional motive for the present undertaking.

To promote the fine arts in Britain, has become of greater importancethan is generally imagined. A flourishing commerce begets opulence; andopulence, inflaming our appetite for pleasure, is commonly vented onluxury and on every sensual gratification: Selfishness rears its head;becomes fashionable; and infecting all ranks, extinguishes the amorpatriæ and every spark of public spirit. To prevent or to retard suchfatal corruption, the genius of an Alfred cannot devise any means moreefficacious, than venting opulence upon the fine arts. Riches soemploy’d, instead of encouraging vice, will excite both public andprivate virtue. Of this happy effect, ancient Greece furnishes oneshining instance; and why should we despair of another in Britain?

In the commencement of an auspicious reign, and even in that early{vi}period of life when pleasure commonly is the sole pursuit, your Majestyhas uniformly display’d to a delighted people, the noblest principles,ripened by early culture; and for that reason, you will be the moredisposed to favour every rational plan for advancing the art of trainingup youth. Among the many branches of education, that which tends to makedeep impressions of virtue, ought to be a fundamental measure in awell-regulated government: for depravity of manners will renderineffectual the most salutary laws; and in the midst of opulence, whatother means to prevent such depravity but early and virtuous discipline?The British discipline is susceptible of great improvements; and if wecan hope for them, it must be from a young and accomplished Prince,eminently sensible of their importance. To establish a complete system{vii}of education, seems reserved by providence for a Sovereign who commandsthe hearts of his subjects. Success will crown the undertaking, andendear George the Third to our latest posterity.

The most elevated and most refined pleasure of human nature, is enjoy’dby a virtuous prince governing a virtuous people; and that, byperfecting the great system of education, your Majesty may very longenjoy this pleasure, is the ardent wish of


Your Majesty’s
Devoted Subject,
Henry Home.




Ch.1.Perceptions and ideas in a train,121
Ch.2.Emotions and passions,142
Ch.4.Grandeur and sublimity,1264
Ch.5.Motion and force,1309
Ch.6.Novelty, and the unexpected appearance of objects,1319
Ch.7.Risible objects,1337
Ch.8.Resemblance and contrast,1345
Ch.9.Uniformity and variety,1380
Ch.10Congruity and propriety,22
Ch.11Dignity and meanness,227
Ch.14Custom and habit,280
Ch.15External signs of emotions and passions,2116
Ch.17Language of passion,2204
Ch.18{x}Beauty of language,2234
Ch.21Narration and description,3169
Ch.22Epic and dramatic compositions,3218
Ch.23The three unities,3259
Ch.24Gardening and architecture,3294
Ch.25Standard of taste,3351
Index to Volume I.

In describing the scale of sounds made in pronouncing the five vowels,vol. 2. p. 239. it ought to have been mentioned, that the letter imust be pronounced as in the word interest, and other words beginningwith the syllable in; the letter e as in persuasion; and theletter u as in number.

The reference intended, vol. 2. p. 419. is to p. 404. of the samevolume.{1}


THe five senses agree in the following particular, that nothing externalis perceived till it first make an impression upon the organ of sense;the impression, for example, made upon the hand by a stone, upon thepalate by sugar, and upon the nostrils by a rose. But there is adifference as to our consciousness of that impression. In touching,tasting, and smelling, we are conscious of the impression. Not so inseeing and hearing. When I behold a tree, I am not sensible of theimpression made upon my eye; nor of the impression made upon my ear,when I listen to a song[1]. This difference in the manner of perception,distinguishes remarkably hearing and seeing from the other senses; anddistinguishes still more remarkably the feelings of the former fromthose of the latter. A feeling pleasant or painful cannot exist but inthe mind; and yet be{2}cause in tasting, touching, and smelling, we areconscious of the impression made upon the organ, we naturally placethere also, the pleasant or painful feeling caused by that impression.And because such feelings seem to be placed externally at the organ ofsense, we, for that reason, conceive them to be merely corporeal. Wehave a different apprehension of the pleasant and painful feelingsderived from seeing and hearing. Being insensible here of the organicimpression, we are not misled to assign a wrong place to these feelings;and therefore we naturally place them in the mind, where they reallyexist. Upon that account, they are conceived to be more refined andspiritual, than what are derived from tasting, touching, and smelling.

The pleasures of the eye and ear being thus elevated above those of theother external senses, acquire so much dignity as to make them alaudable entertainment. They are not, however, set upon a level withthose that are purely intellectual; being not less inferior in dignityto intellectual pleasures, than superior to the organic or corporeal.{3}They indeed resemble the latter, being like them produced by externalobjects: but they also resemble the former, being like them producedwithout any sensible organic impression. Their mixt nature and middleplace betwixt organic and intellectual pleasures, qualify them toassociate with either. Beauty heightens all the organic feelings, aswell as those that are intellectual. Harmony, though it aspires toinflame devotion, disdains not to improve the relish of a banquet.

The pleasures of the eye and ear have other valuable properties besidethose of dignity and elevation. Being sweet and moderately exhilerating,they are in their tone equally distant from the turbulence of passion,and languor of inaction; and by that tone are perfectly well qualified,not only to revive the spirits when sunk by sensual gratification, butalso to relax them when overstrained in any violent pursuit. Here is aremedy provided for many distresses. And to be convinced of its salutaryeffects, it will be sufficient to run over the following particulars.Organic pleasures{4} have naturally a short duration: when continued toolong, or indulged to excess, they lose their relish, and beget satietyand disgust. To relieve us from that uneasiness, nothing can be morehappily contrived than the exhilerating pleasures of the eye and ear,which take place imperceptibly, without much varying the tone of mind.On the other hand, any intense exercise of the intellectual powers,becomes painful by overstraining the mind. Cessation from such exercisegives not instant relief: it is necessary that the void be filled withsome amusement, gently relaxing the spirits[2].Organic pleasure, whichhath no relish but while we are in vigour, is ill qualified for thatoffice: but the finer pleasures of sense, which occupy withoutexhausting the mind, are excellently well qualified to restore its usualtone after severe application to study or business, as well as aftersatiety from sensual gratification.

Our first perceptions are of external ob{5}jects, and our firstattachments are to them. Organic pleasures take the lead. But the mind,gradually ripening, relisheth more and more the pleasures of the eye andear; which approach the purely mental, without exhausting the spirits;and exceed the purely sensual, without danger of satiety. The pleasuresof the eye and ear have accordingly a natural aptitude to attract usfrom the immoderate gratification of sensual appetite. For the mind,once accustomed to enjoy a variety of external objects without beingconscious of the organic impression, is prepared for enjoying internalobjects where there cannot be an organic impression. Thus the author ofnature, by qualifying the human mind for a succession of enjoyments fromthe lowest to the highest, leads it by gentle steps from the mostgroveling corporeal pleasures, for which solely it is fitted in thebeginning of life, to those refined and sublime pleasures which aresuited to its maturity.

This succession, however, is not governed by unavoidable necessity. TheGod of nature offers it to us, in order to advance{6} our happiness; andit is sufficient, that he hath enabled us to complete the succession.Nor has he made our task disagreeable or difficult. On the contrary, thetransition is sweet and easy, from corporeal pleasures to the morerefined pleasures of sense; and not less so, from these to the exaltedpleasures of morality and religion. We stand therefore engaged inhonour, as well as interest, to second the purposes of nature, bycultivating the pleasures of the eye and ear, those especially thatrequire extraordinary culture[3], such as are inspired by poetry,painting, sculpture, music, gardening, and architecture. This chiefly isthe duty of the opulent, who have leisure to improve their minds andtheir feelings. The fine arts are contrived to give pleasure to the eye{7}and the ear, disregarding the inferior senses. A taste for these arts isa plant that grows naturally in many soils; but, without culture, scarceto perfection in any soil. It is susceptible of much refinement; and is,by proper care, greatly improved. In this respect, a taste in the finearts goes hand in hand with the moral sense, to which indeed it isnearly allied. Both of them discover what is right and what is wrong.Fashion, temper, and education, have an influence upon both, to vitiatethem, or to preserve them pure and untainted. Neither of them arearbitrary or local. They are rooted in human nature, and are governed byprinciples common to all men. The principles of morality belong not tothe present undertaking. But as

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