Obrazy na stronie

common witla B; B a quality in common history of what actually happened. with C; C a quality in common with D; D The truth of the principle does not, a quality in common with E;-while at the however, at all depend on the accusame time no quality can be found which racy with which such an investigabelongs in common to any three objects in tion is conducted. Mr. Stewart may the series. Is it not conceivable that the be wrong in his conjecture respectaffinity between 1 and B may produce à transference of the nanie of the first to the word Beauty; he may be wrong in

ing the primitive meaning of the second; and that, in consequence of the other affinities which connect the remaining every step which he assigns of its objects together, the same name may pass in subsequent progress : still it remains succession from B to C; from C to D; and indisputable, that the word was oriIrom D 10 E? In this manner a coinmon ginally applied to some one object; appellation will arise between A and E, and it is, at the least, in a very high though the two objects may in their nature degree probable, that it thence traand properties be so widely distant from velled, in consequence of a variety each other, that no stretch of imagination of slight associations, through a vast can conceive how the thoughts were led from succession of different ideas to which the former to the latter. The transitions, nevertheless, may have been all so easy and which, by its application, it certainly

we find it now applied, but to gradual, that, were they successfully detected by the fortunate ingenuity of a theorist, conveyed no common principles of we should instantly recognize not only the similarity. In saying this, we do verisimilitude bul the truth of the conjec- not mean to intimate that the series ture ;—in the same way as we admit with of probable connections which Mr. the confidence of intuitive conviction the Stewart has pointed out is open to certainty of the well-known etymological pro- any considerable exceptions. On cess which connects the Latin preposition E, the contrary, we consider them, so or Es, with the English substantive stranger, far as they extend, as not only inthe monient that the intermediate links of genious, but wearing many of the the chain are submitted to our examina- characters of truth. Mr. Stewart tion.” pp. 214, 216, 217.

supposes the idea of beauty to be There is a plain good sense, as first acquired from colours ; that the well as a profound philosophy, in this word is thence applied to forms; theory, which recommends it to the and afterwards to motions. He sugunderstanding as soon as it is stated; gests, also, many plausible and satisand few, probably, of Mr. Stewart's. factory reasons for its subsequent readers will peruse the passage transference to sounds; but, though which we have here extracted, with his essay supplies many other illusout feeling some surprise that a trations of bis general principle, he truth at once so sinple and so does not systematically pursue the incontrovertible should have been progress of this word further. He very imperfectly understood by supposes the term subline to have many of our most eminent writers. been first suggested by some of the For the purpose of developing more celestial phenomena; from thence completely the principle already to have passed to space in its other stated, Mr. Stewart traces the proba. dimensions; and gradually, through ble progress of the term beauty from many very natural and almost uniits earliest meaning to some of its versal associations, which be sugmore remote applications. It is gests, to have been engrafted on a evident that any attempt to pursue variety of the most exalted moral a word employed in a very extended and physical ideas. sense through all its wanderings, The essay upon the Beautiful con. directed as they must have been" tains, besides the exposition of Mr. sometimes by accident and caprice, Stewart's doctrine upon the subject, as well as by natural associations, a variety of curious and valuable must be considered rather as a spe- remarks on the theory of Mr. Burke; címen of what is possible, than as a, on the additions proposed to be made to it by his very ingenious what enthusiasm has it been expupil and advocate, Mr. Price; and tolled by poets and orators; by also on the opinions maintained by warriors in the field, and statesmen Sir Joshua Reynolds and Father in the senate! Yet the term which Buffier.: We have not room to enter custom has thus consecrated, is inupon these criticisms, which are ex. differently applied to subjects of a ecuted with the hand of a master dissimilar and even opposite comand the spirit of a gentleman. All plexion. Courage may be mere the writers above named have un- insensibility to danger; as when doubtedly fallen into considerable Charles the Twelfth received the errors upon these subjects; but it French ambassador in the trenches, must not thence be inferred that their while the balls were tearing up the labours have been altogether fruit- earth around them. It may be noless. The alchemists had a notion thing better than a proud obstinacy; in ancient times, that there was but as in the Satan of Milton, “ Courage one great principle at the founda- never to submit or yield.” It may tion of all things; and that if they be only a disguised sort of cowardcould reach this, the whole mystery ice; as in many duels, and perof material nature would be easily haps also in suicides : Condorcet unravelled. Nothing, to be sure, poisoned himself, because he could be more fanciful than their afraid to die upon a scaffold. It hypothesis ; but the efforts that were may be the high blood and boiling made in search of this fugitive es- spirit of a hero; as in the Duke of sence enriched chymistry with Savoy at the battle of Villafranca ; much of its most valuable materials. and in Condé, when he threw his Thus it has happened also in philo- marshall's staff into the Austrian sophical criticism ; and of all those lines at Fribourg. It may be an who have gone astray in pursuit of a effort of manly reason, in choosing metaphysical quiddity, there is not the least of two dangers; as when one who can be considered as bav. Cæsar saved bis army from destruc. ing wandered in vain. All have tion in Gaul, by seizing the shield missed the object of their pursuit; and spear of a legionary, and fightbut all have returned home riching in the first ranks as a private with spoils, which are more than an soldier. Or, lastly, it may be the adequate compensation for their la- triumph of conscience and religion bours and their disappointments. over the natural fear of death; as

The principle which Mr. Stewart in the confessions of the saints, and has stated and illustrated in his “victorious agonies” of the niartyrs. Essay on the Beautiful, is one of The same word, it is plain, is emvery general application, and of ployed to denote a virtue, a vice, great practical importance. It af- and an instinct, which is neither the fects, in a greater or less degree, one nor the other. To do homage, every part of language ; and of then, to every thing that is called course therefore, as language is the courage, is to allow ourselves to be great instrument of thought and cheated of our understandings by a communication among men, it con- sound. Yet this imposture is neither nects itself with the most considera- uncommon nor unimportant. It is ble and the most ordinary concerns capable of affecting, in a wonderful of human life. This is a fact which manner, the daily sentiments and it is not difficult, and may perhaps actions of men, so as exceedingly to be useful, to establish. Take then, disarrange the moral order of things. by way of example, a quality which Thus, during several periods of the all admire, and most wish to have French history, the consideration the credit of possessing—courage, in which a nobleman was held de. Who, in ancient or modern days, pended, in no trifling degree, on has hesitated 10 applaud it? With ihe number of duels that he had fought. And even to the present a general principle in the bistory of day, while courage is universally language, that the identity of the admired and exacted in men, timi- term employed to express certain dity is thought to be not only par- ideas, by no means proves that donable, but even graceful, in the there is a radical similarity in the softer sex;-a confusion of ideas ideas themselves. Because they bear that evidently has arisen out of the the same name, it does not follow ambiguous meaning of the term that they belong to the same family. courage; for though a high bouil- Affinities, merely apparent or accilant spirit may not be very becom- dental, are frequently sufficient to ing in women, a rational superiority account for their being assembled w infirm fears, and self-possession in under a common appellation ; so danger, are equally rirtuous, and that it is impossible for us to be nearly equally valuable, in both secure of thioking, speaking, or actsexes.

ing with correctness, unless we acBy means of a similar analysis it custom ourselves to look into the might be shewn, that a considerable nature of things, and employ the number of those terms which are siga only to conduct us to the thing employed to express moral quali- signified. We are all partially acties, become, from the latitude and quainted with this truth. Our ordioccasional inaccuracy with which nary intercourse with men forces it they are used, the sources of practi- upon our attention, and we hear cal error. Good-nature is univer- abundant complaints of the inaccusally approved ; yet the shades of racy of most of those around us. our approbation, perhaps, are not But few, comparatively, are aware always distinguished by a reference how deeply the foundations of error to the real merit of the quality are laid in the nature of language itwhich it expresses. Frequently it self; and bow much diligence and means only a certain unresisting fa- attention are requisite, in order to cility of nature, which, though in be tolerably correct in our notions, sonie respects engaging, is weak and even where there is a hearty desire dangerous. It is occasionally used to avoid deceiving, or being deceivto express a general cheerfulness of ed. The truth is, that language, temper. Sometimes it means an in- though an instrument so beautiful, stinctive sweetness of disposition, that it is difficult not to suppose it which is very amiable. Sometimes of Divine invention, is, and always it is applied to an habitual self-re- must be, essentially imperfect. Nor straint, controuling every unkind is this a matter which ought at all to emotion; which is more respecta surprise us. It is plainly a characble, though less lovely, than the teristic feature in the works and quality last mentioned. And some ways of God, that they are not untimes it is confounded with that derstood upou a slight inspection. genuine Christian love, which is the The truths of natural religion are so noblest of virtues and best of bless- far from presenting themselves to ings. It is impossible, in the same the understanding at the first survey manner, not to be struck with the of the material and moral world, variety of meanings in which the that it was with difkculty the most highly important words, Faith and renowned masters of wisdom, in anGrace, are used by the writers of cient days, reached a few of the the New Testament; though to fol- more important of them. The evi low these and other expressions, to dences of revealed religion are open which the like observation is ap- to many plausible exceptions; and plicable, through their ditferent ac

its true meaning, ils sublime docceptations, would require a long trines, its spiritual precepts, its anidissertation.

mating promises, its heavenly conIt may, then, safely be stated, as solations, are to be understood only

according to the measure of sincere celebrated writers, are those with anxiety with which they are investi- whom they are most intimate. The gated. To the thoughtless and in- unstudied effusions of an author preattentive, the Bible is almost a sealed sent us with a far better history of book. Revelation is not to be trifled his mind, and furnish a much iruer with. In the providential dispensa. indication of what are his real tastes tions of God in this world, the same and preferences, than his elaborate character appears : all is contra- performances. Those must be indiction and mystery to the careless curious, indeed, who have no desire inspector; to him who diligently to have some acquaintance with watches, and faithfully obeys, much Mr. Stewart's literary predilections ; is unveiled. The great Author of and none, we think, can be aware all things sits (as the poet sublimely of the extent and variety of his acexpresses it) " unseen, behind his quirements, without wishing that own creation.” And St. Paul ex- he had more frequently indulged plains to us a part of the reason for himself in the privilege of citing, this mystery;

" that we should without the fatigue of research, the seek the Lord ; if haply we may passages which are most fainiliar to feel after him and find him; als his imagination. though he be not far from any of In the Gifth chapter of this Essay, us." Can it, then, be a matter of Mr. Stewart intimates an opinion, astonishment to find, that the great which none, doubtless, who are cuinstrument afforded to us by Provi- rious in matters of taste, will omit dence for reflection and mutual in- to notice. We say intimates, for his tercourse, partakes of the same na-' 'expressions are cautious; but, the ture with his other works and dis- passages which we are about to expensations; and is it not our mani.' iract seem to imply, that, in his fest duty to cultivate habits of judgment, at least as much, and vigilance, assiduity, and a practical perhaps rather more, of the true love of truth, when everything sublime is connected with natural within us and around us so plainly objects, than with sentiments and calls for them?

actions which possess a moral digThe Essay on the Sublime was, nity. Mr. Stewart informs us, with the exception of a few pages, written

Although I have attenipted to shew, at during a summer's residence in

some length, that there is a specific pleasure

connected with the simple idea of sublimity distant part of the country, where

or elevation, I am far from thinking that he had no opportunity of consulting the impressions produced by such adjuncts books ;” and he has thought it ne

as eteruity or power, or even by the physical cessary to apologise to his readers adjuncts of horizontal extent und of depth, for the selection of his illustrations; are wholly resolvable into their association which he apprehends" may appear with this common and central conception. too hackneyed to be introduced into I own, however, I am of opinion, that ia a disqaisition, which it would have most cases the pleasure attached to the conbeen desirable to enliven and adorn ception of literal sublimity, identified, as it by examples possessing something which are inseparable from Ihe human mind,

comes to be, with those religious impressions more of the zest of novelty and is one of the chiet ingredients in the com. variety." We certainly are not plicated emotion, and that in every case is among the number of those to whom either palpably or latenily contributes to the it could be necessary to address such effect. p. 411. an apology. We are particularly

" In confirmation of what I have stated fond of seeing great men in their

concerning the primary or central ides or vodress; of observing what is the elevation, it may be larther remarked, that train of thoughts which presents when we are anxious to communicate the itself the most naturally io their highest possible character of sublimity to minds; and which, among the more any thing we are describing, we generally



4 Q

the range

P. 417.

P. 413,

contrive, somehow or other, either directly, “ Look then abroad through nalure, through or by means of some strong and obvious association, to introduce the image of the Of planets, suns, and adamantine spheres, heaveus or of the clouds ; or, in other words, Wheeling, unsbaken, through the vault imof sublimity literally so called. The idea of mense ; eloquence is undoubtedly sublime in itself, And speak, oh man, does this capacious being a source of the proudest and noblest scene," &c. &c. species of power which the mind of one man

We do not give the quotation at can exercise over those of others : but how length, for the sake of economising wonderfully is its sublimity increased when connected with the image of thunder; as

our space, and because it must be when we speak of the thunder of Demos familiar to the recollection of alt thenes! Demosthenis non tam vibrarent ful- our readers. mina nisi numeris contorta ferrentur.' Mil

Much of what is insisted upon by ton has fully availed bimself of both these Mr. Stewart in the above extracts, associations, in describing the orators of the is undoubtedly true. We are far Greek republic :

from agreeing with those, who think “ Resistless eloquence that objects, which are only phy. Wielded at will the fierce democracy ; sically sublime, exercise little or no Shook th’arsenial, and fulmined over Greece, influence upon the mind; or who To Macedon and Artaxerxes' thronc."

can discern no grandeur in the fine

mountain scenery of Wales or Scot“ In the concluding stauza of one of land, without the aid of Caractacus Gray's Odes, if the bard, after his apos- and Ossian. Such frigid travellers trophe to Edward, had been represented as are either deficient in sensibility, or falling on his sword, or as drowning himself eat up with an affectation of being moral sublime, so far as it arises from his vastly more intellectual than their heroical determination to conquer and to

neighbours; which they manifestly die,' would not have been in the least dimi- are not, or they would be free from nished; but how different from the com- all such pedantry. We have no plicated emotion produced by the images of doubt, too, that in almost all sublime altitude; of depth; of an impetuous and descriptions, the natural images fuaming flood; of darkness, and of eternity; which are employed to convey all of which are crowded into the two last moral ideas, assist very materially lines.

in producing the general effect; * He spoke, and headlong from the monn- and in such cases, we admit that it is tain's height

difficult to analyse the impressions, Deep in the roaring tide he planged to end- and assign to each the exact pro. hess night.

portion of its influence. Yet, all In the following well-known illustration of ibis notwithstanding, we are per. the superiority of the moral above the phy- suaded that there is a difference in sical sublime, it is remarkable, that while the nature of things between phythe author exemplifies the latter only by the sical and moral sublimity, and that magnitude and momentum of dead masses, the latter possesses an essential suand by the immensity of space considered in general, he not only bestows on the periority over the former. “The former the interest of an historical painting, material part of the creation” (says exhibiting the majestic and commanding ex

a profound and eloquent writer *} pression of a Roman form, but lends it the "was formed for the sake of the inta adventitious aid of an allusion, in which the material, and of the latter the most imagination is carried up to Jupiter armed momentous characteristic is its moral with his bolt. In fact, it is not the two and accountable nature, or, in other different kinds of sublimity which he has words, its capacity of virtue and contrasted with each other, but a few of the vice.” There is, undoubtedly, a constituents of the physical subline, which gradation in the order of created he has compared in point of effect with the powers both of the physical and moral • Discourse on the Discouragements and sublime, combined together in their joint Supports of thic Christian Minister. By operation:

Robert Hall.

« PoprzedniaDalej »