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from regularity, uniformity, proportion, order and simplicity.
To inquire why an object, by means of these particulars, appears beautiful, would be a vain attempt: it seems that the nature of man was originally framed with a relish for them, to answer wise and good purposes. To explain these purposes or final causes, though a subject of great importance, has scarce been attempted by any writer. One thing is evident, that our relish for the particulars mentioned adds beauty to the objects that surround us, and tends to our happiness: and the Author of our nature has given many signal proofs that this final cause is not below his care. We may be confirmed in this thought upon reflecting, that our taste for these particulars is not accidental, but uniform and universal, making a branch of our nature. At the same time, it ought not to be overlooked, that regularity, uniformity, order and simplicity, contribute each of them to readiness of apprehension ; enabling us to form more distinct images of objects, than can be done with the utmost attention where these particulars are not found. to proportion, it is in some instances connected with a useful end, as in animals, where the best proportioned are the strongest and most active; but instances are still more numerous, where the proportions we relish have no connexion with utility. Writers on architecture insist much on the proportions of a column, and assign different proportions to the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian; but no architect will maintain, that accurate proportions contribute more to use than several that are less accurate and less agreeable.
With respect to the beauty of figures, we confine ourselves to the simplest. A circle and a square are cast perfectly regular; yet a square is less beautiful than a circle, because a circle is a single object, and makes one entire impression, whereas a square is composed of four sides or objects. A square is more
beautiful than a hexagon; though each is perfectly regular.
A square is more regular than a parallelogram, and its parts more uniform; and for these reasons it is more beautiful. But that holds with respect to intrinsic beauty only; for in many instances utility turns the scale on the side of the parallelogram: this figure for the doors and windows of a dwelling-house is preferred, because of utility; and here the beauty of utility prevails over that of regularity and uniformity.
A parallelogram again depends, for its beauty, on the proportion of its sides: a great inequality of sides annihilates its beauty. Approximation towards equality hath the same effect; for proportion there degenerates into imperfect uniformity, and the figure appears an unsuccessful attempt towards a square. And thus proportion contributes to beauty.
An equilateral triangle yields not to a square in regularity, nor in uniformity of parts, and it is more simple. But an equilateral triangle is less beautiful than a square, which must be owing to inferiority of order in the position of its parts; the sides of an equilateral triangle incline to each other in the same angle, being the most perfect order they are susceptible of; but this order is obscure, and far from being so perfect as the parallelism of the sides of a square. Thus order contributes to the beauty of visible objects, no less than simplicity, regularity; or proportion.
Uniformity is singular in one capital circumstance, that it is apt to disgust by excess : a number of things destined for the same use, such as windows, chairs, spoons, buttons, cannot be too uniform; for supposing their figure to be good, utility requires uniformity: but a scrupulous uniformity of parts in a large garden or field, is far from being agreeable. Uniformity among connected objects belongs not to the present subject : it is handled in the chapter of uniformity and variety.
In all the works of Nature, simplicity makes an illustrious figure. It also makes a figure in works of
art: profuse ornament in painting, gardening, or archi tecture, as well as in dress or in language, shows a mean or corrupted taste :
Poets, like painters, thus unskill’d to trace
Pope's EssAY ON CRITICISM. Simplicity in behavior has an enchanting effect, and never fails to gain our affection. And we take great delight in the laws of motion, which, with the greatest simplicity, are boundless in their operations.
In the fine arts, simplicity has degenerated into artificial refinement. In literary productions and music, the degeneracy is much greater.
To what is the term beauty originally applied ?
What is the present state of the fine arts and literature with re spect to simplicity ?
Grandeur and Sublimity. NATURE hath not more remarkably distinguished us from other animals by an erect posture, than by a capacious and aspiring mind, attaching us to things great and elevated. The ocean, the sky, seize the attention, and make a deep impression: robes of state are made large and full to draw respect: we admire an elephant for its magnitude, notwithstanding its unwieldiness.
The elevation of an object affects us no less than its magnitude: a high place is chosen for the statue of a deity or hero; a tree growing on the brink of a precipice looks charming when viewed from the plain below: a throne is erected for the chief magistrate, and a chair with a high seat for the president of a court. Among all nations, heaven is placed far above us, hell Eurid, far below us.
In some objects, greatness and elevation concur to make a complicated impression: the Alps and the Peak of Teneriffe are proper examples; with the following difference, that in the former greatness seems to prevail, elevation in the latter.
Great and elevated objects, considered with relation to the emotions produced by them, are termed grand and sublime. Grandeur and sublimity have a double signification: they commonly signify the quality or circumstance in objects by which the emotions of grandeur and sublimity are produced; sometimes the emotions themselves.
St. Peter's at Rome, the great pyramid of Egypt, the Alps, an arm of the sea, a clear sky, are all grand and beautiful. A regiment in battle array is grand, a crowd of people not so. Greatness or magnitude distinguishes grandeur from beauty ; agreeableness is the genus of which beauty and grandeur are species. The
emotion of grandeur is pleasant, and is serious rather
A large object is not so agreeable by its regularity, as a small one; nor so disagreeable by its irregularities. A towering hill is delightful, a chain of moun. tains no less so; and the bulk of objects in a natural landscape are beautiful; some of them are even grand, as a flowing river, a spreading oak, an extended plain, which all raise emotions of grandeur. We range at large amidst the magnificence of Nature, and overlook slight beauties or deformities. In a small building, irregularity is disagreeable; but in a magnificent palace, or a large gothic church, irregularities are less regarded, in an epic poem we pardon many negligences that would not be permitted in a sonnet or an epigram. Notwithstanding such exceptions, it may be justly laid down for a rule, that in works of art, order and regularity ought to be governing principles: and hence the observation of Longinus: “In works of art, we have regard to exact proportion; in those of nature, to gran. deur and magnificence."
The same reflections are in a great measure applicaple to sublimity; particularly, that, like grandeur, it is a species of agreeableness ; that a beautiful object placed high, appearing more agreeable than formerly, produces in the spectator a new emotion, termed the emotion of sublimity; and that the perfection of order, regularity, and proportion, is less required in objects placed high, or at a distance, than at hand.
The pleasant emotion raised by large objects, has not escaped the poets:
-He doth bestride the narrow world
JULIUS CÆSAR.--Act I. Sc. 2.