« PoprzedniaDalej »
more various, or more uniform, but in one shape or other it is unavoidable.
The natural causes which accelerate or retard this succession are these: one man is distinguished from another, by no circumstance more remarkably, than his train of perceptions : to a cold languid temper belongs a slow course of perceptions, which occasions dullness of apprehension, and sluggishness in action: to
warm temper, on the contrary, belongs a quick course of perceptions, which occasions quickness of apprehension and activity in business. În youth is observable a quicker succession of perceptions than in old age; and hence, in youth, a remarkable avidity for váriety of amusements, which in riper years give place to more uniform and more sedate occupations. This qualifies men of middle age for business where activity is required, but with a greater proportion of uniformity than variety. In old age, a slow and languid succession makes variety unnecessary; and for that reason, the aged, in all their motions, are generally governed by an habitual uniformity. Whatever be the cause, we may venture to pronounce, that heat in the imagination and temper is always connected with a brisk flow of perceptions.
The natural rate of succession depends also, in some degree, upon the particular perceptions that compose the train. Agreeable objects take a strong hold of the mind; grandeur and novelty exclude all other ideas; the mind bears a quick succession of related ideas; the present occupation has most influence: a roving disposition embraces new objects with avidity: and the passions of love and hatred cause the mind to brood over its object. The
power that nature hath given us over our train of perceptions, may be greatly strengthened by proper discipline, and by an early application to business ; witness some mathematicians, who go far beyond common nature in slowness and uniformity: and still more, persons devoted to religious exercises, who pass whole days in contemplation, and impose upon themselves long and severe penances. With respect to celerity and variety, it is not easily conceived what length a habit of activity in affairs will carry some men. Let a stranger, or let any person to whom the sight is not familiar, attend the chancellor of Great Britain through the labors but of one day, during a session of parliament: how great will be his astonishment! what multiplicity of law business, what deep thinking, and what elaborate application to matters of government ! The train of perceptions must in that great man be accelerated far beyond the ordinary course of nature; yet no confusion or hurry, but in every article the greatest order and accuracy. Such is the force of habit. How happy is man, to have the command of a principle of action that can elevate him so far above the ordinary condition of humanity!
In considering uniformity and variety in relation to the fine arts, when either ought to prevail, we may observe, that in a picture of an interesting event which strongly attaches us to a single object, the mind relishes not a multiplicity of figures, nor of ornaments; a picture representing a gay subject, admits great variety of figures and ornaments; because these are agreeable to the mind in a cheerful tone. The same observation is applicable to poetry and music.
It must at the same time be remarked, that one can bear a greater variety of natural objects, than of objects in a picture; and a greater variety in a picture than in a description. A real object presented to view, makes an impression more readily than when represented in colors, and much more readily than when represented in words. Hence it is, that the profuse variety of objects in some natural landscapes, neither breeds confusion nor fatigue; and for the same reason, there is place for greater variety of ornament in a picture than in a poem. A picture, however. like a building, ought to be so simple as to be comprehended in one view. Whether every one of Le Brun's
pictures of Alexander's history will stand this test, is submitted to judges.
From these general observations, I proceed to particulars. In works exposed continually to public view, variety ought to be studied. It is a rule accordingly in sculpture, to contrast the different limbs of a statue, in order to give it all the variety possible. Though the cone, in a single view, be more beautiful than the pyramid; yet a pyramidal steeple, because of its variety, is justly preferred. For the same reason, the oval is preferred before the circle; and painters, in copying buildings or any regular work, give an air of variety, by representing the subject in an angular view: we are pleased with the variety, without losing sight of the regularity. In a landscape representing animals, those especially of the same kind, contrast ought to prevail: to draw one sleeping, another awake; one sitting, another in motion; one moving toward the spectator, another from him, is the life of such a performance.
In every sort of writing intended for amusement, variety is necessary in proportion to the length of the work. Want of variety is sensibly felt in Davila's history of the civil wars of France; the events are indeed important and various; but the reader languishes by a tiresome monotony of character, every person engaged being figured a consummate politician, governed by interest only. It is hard to say, whether Ovid disgusts more by too great variety, or too great uniformity; his stories are all of the same kind, concluding invariably with the transformation of one being into another; and so far he is tiresome by excess in unifoi mity: he is not less fatiguing by excess in variety,
hurrying his reader incessantly from story to story. 7 Ariosto is still more fatiguing than Ovid, by exceeding
the just bounds of variety: not satisfied, like Ovid, with a succession in his stories, he distracts the reader, by jumbling together a multitude of them without any connexion. Nor is the Orlando Furioso less tiresome
by its uniformity than the Metamorphoses, though in a different manner: after a story is brought to a crisis, the reader, intent on the catastrophe, is suddenly snatched away to a new story, which makes no impression so long as the mind is occupied with the former. This tantalizing method, besides its uniformity, prevents that sympathy which is raised by an interesting event when the reader meets with no interruption.
How may the power over our train of perceptions be strengthened?
Which admits of the greater variety of ornament, a picture or a poem?
What is the rule with respect to works exposed continually to public view ?
Congruity and Propriety. Man is superior to the brute, not more by his rational faculties, than by his senses. With respect to external senses, brutes probably yield not to men; and they may also have some obscure perception of beauty; but the more delicate senses of regularity, order, uniformity, and congruity, being connected with morality
and religion, are reserved to dignify the chief of the terrestrial creation. Upon that account, no discipline is more suitable to man, nor more congruous to the dignity of his nature, than that which refines his taste, and leads him to distinguish, in every subject, what is regular, what is orderly, what is suitable, and what is fit and proper.
It is clear, from the very conception of the terms congruity and propriety, that they are not applicable to any single object; they imply a plurality, and signify a particular relation between different objects; and the perception we have of this relation, proceeds from a sense of congruity or propriety; that congruity or propriety, wherever perceived, is agreeable; and incongruity or impropriety, disagreeable. The only difficulty is, to ascertain what are the particular objects that suggest these relations; for there are many objects that do not: the sea, viewed in conjunction with a picture, or a man in conjunction with a mountain, suggest not either congruity or incongruity. We never perceive congruity nor incongruity, but among things connected by some relation; as a man and his actions, a principal and its accessories, a subject and its ornaments. We are indeed so framed by nature, among things so connected, to require a certain suitableness or correspondence termed congruity or propriety; and to be displeased when we find the opposite relation of incongruity or impropriety.
The degree of congruity is proportioned to the connexion in things connected, as in behavior and manner of living; the relation between an edifice and the ground it stands on: the congruity among members of a club ought to be as obvious as among things placed for show in the same niche.
Congruity is so nearly allied to beauty, as commonly to be held a species of it; and yet they differ so essentially, as never to coincide: beauty, like color, is placed upon a single subject; congruity upon a plurality: further, a thing beautiful in itself, may, with relation