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who have been caught by drapery floating, and wings undulating, in stone, by the crisped curls of a marble wig, or by the emanation of marble rays from a marble sun, than by the nature, and elegance, and expression, of the attitudes and features of Bacon and Flaxman. Why? Simply, because they have had no one who should once make them take notice of the absurdities of the one, or the beauties of the other. Or, to borrow an instance from the essayist;
“ There is scarcely any person, who, in reading Thomson's Seasons, will not find several beauties in external nature pointed out to him, which he may perfectly recolleet to have seen, though not to have attended to before; but which, now that his attention is turned to them, he feels to be productive of the most delightful emotions. A common observer over looks in a landscape a variety of charms which strike at once the eye of a painter. P. 4–5.
The principal source of bad taste, however, is the association of ideas. Undoubtedly, there are objects in nature which please by themselves, independently of any association. Such are light and colours; and such are the notes of music. And, by-the-by, if we might use an argument from analogy, the similarity of men's tastes with respect to these things might lead us to expect it elsewhere. It is not very common to meet with one whose eye is tormented with the tender green of spring, or the delicious blue of a summer's heaven, or who turns with pleasure from the melodies of the nightingale to the screeching of the peacock. But objects, in general
, please by the associations which they recall to the ima. gination. Of these some are general; that is, they occur to almost all.
For instance, in gazing at an extended landscape, of wood and water, gently-sloping hills and fat pasture-ground, intersected with tufted hedge-rows, and specked with neat thatched cottages, and here and there a spire peeping through the trees; the corn on the ground, perhaps, and the sun burnt sicklemen" at their work; and all seen under a bright blue summer sky: why, a very small portion of the pleasure arising from such a sight is to be resolved into the beauties of form and colour; it springs almost entirely from the associations suggested to the mind. Our thoughts are turned to rural life and simplicity, to pastoral innocence, to the manners and pleasures of the golden age such as they are described in the poets, to the age of boyhood, when our study and our delight were in such poets and in such scenes. We think of the plenty about to be laid up in our storehouses and barns; the relief of the hungry, and the poor, and the miserable; of the large brown loaf which the cottager's wife carries home to her
rosy, curly-pated children; of the beneficence of the Giver of all good; and the heart dilates with unutterable happiness.
Again, what more beautiful and picturesque than the ruins of some ancient abbey? Very beautiful to the eye, no doubt, are the colouring laid on by time, and the grotesque shapes into which the massy walls have mouldered.
Very beautiful are “ the broken arches black in night,” and the imagery "edged with silver.” But is this sensual pleasure the only or the chief which the reader has received in such a scene? If it be-procul, o procul. Let him not run abbey-hunting. Let bim save his money and his trouble, and comfort his eye with the solemn gloom of Lombardstreet, and the dingy glories of the mansion-house. Let him only set himself among the magnificent ruins of Furness Abbey who can enter into the feelings of Mrs. Radcliffe there.*
It appears, then, that the association of ideas is the grand source of the pleasures of the imagination, and that wboso has most of these associations suggested, enjoys the greatest pleasure from any grand or beautiful scene. But many associations are particular; that is, are suggested to particular people, according to their particular habits of life, or the situations into which they have been thrown. These may operate indifferently upon the taste. instance, one's birth-place, or the spot where one was educated, is endeared by a thousand recollections of sports, and follies, and boyish enterprise :
“Up springs, at every step, to claim a tear,
Such associations influence the mind through life, with respect to scenery. Again: we do not know upon what principle an unbiassed person could give the preference to the vaulted roof, the pointed arch, and clustered column of the gothic architecture, or to the elegant proportions and chaste ornaments of the corinthian: but one person
has associated with the one all that is awful in re
*“As, soothed by the venerable shades, and the view of a more venerable ruin, we rested opposite io the eastern window of the choir, where once the high altar stood, and, with five other altars, assisted the religious pomp of the scene; the images and the manners of times that were past rose to reflection. The midnight procession of monks, clothed in white, and bearing lighted tapers, appeared to the
mind's eye' issuing to the choir through the very door case, by which such processions were wont to pass from the cloisters to perform the matin service, when, at the moment of their entering the church, the deep chanting of voices was heard, and the organ swelled a solemn peal. To fancy the strain stiil echoed feebly along the arcades, and died in the breeze among the woods, the rustling leaves mingling with the closc. It was easy to image the abbot and the officiating priests seated beneath the richly-fretted canopy of the four stalls that still remain entire in the southern wall, and high over which is now perched a solitary yew tree, a black funereal me. mento to the living of those who once sat below."
ligion, and all that is romantic and mysterious in the barbarous ages; and another with the other all that is classical, all that breathes of Greece and Rome; and thus the preference of each is decided.
In such indifferent matters, then, these particular associations have their place. But there are cases in which they prove of great injury to the taste. One who had been brought up in an antique mansion, where the grounds were laid out in the old style of gardening, would, probably, if attached to the spot by a childhood agreeably spent, never shake off his affection for strait lines, cropt yews, and regular parterres. Or, to give an instance in a case of which we have bad occasion lately to speak—the difference between us and our neighbours on the subject of tragedy. We think that it can be proved, with such proof as things of this kind are capable of, that the English style of tragedy is the most adapted to lay hold of the attention, and engage the feelings; i.e. to produce the end of tragedy. How is it that the Frenchman delights in, and defends, a style of drama so different? He has associated with the formal and insipid movements of his tragedy, the heroic majesty of Corneille's poetry, the tenderness of Racine's, the splendour of Parisian theatres, and the grace and nature of some favourite actor. He forgets that these things have pleased him in spite of the absurdities they had to contend with—the rhyming and dancing Alexandrines, the monotonous harangues, and long set dialogues ;-and along with the beauties he falls in love with the absurdities.
How, then, is taste to be improved? We answer, with our author and with Mr. Burke, by extending the knowledge. Thus, the two first causes of bad taste are at once done away; and, as to associations, be whose knowledge is most extensive, and most various, will have the greatest number of general ones recalled by any particular scene, and will be the least liable to the dominion of particular ones.
T'he second Essay is “On the Imagination and the Association of Ideas.” It is chiefly taken up with accouuting for the fact, that “the emotions raised by the imagination are sometimes more vivid than those of which we are conscious in real life.” A multitude of causes are brought forward; but admitting the fact, the two principal, independently of the different states of our sensibilities, appear to be, first, that the composer may select from nature those circumstances which tend to heighten the effect to be produced; and, secondly, that he may connect with the subject associations not immediately, or, however, not obviously, suggested by nature. Some remarks which we had occasion to make in a critique on Mr. Crabbe's Tales, we are glad to take this opportunity of repeating in the language, and with the authority of another.
“ But although an author ought to be extremely careful to select and bring forward the important circumstances, and to prepare for their introduction where it is necessary; yet it is not to be understood that he ought always to enter into a minute detail. On the contrary, it may often have a much greater effect, not to circumscribe the reader's imagination by painting to him every feature, but rather to give hints from which he may figure the object or the scene to himself; for the imagination, when sufficiently roused, is capable of conceiving them far more awful, sublime, beautiful, or affecting, than it is possible for words to describe, or for pencil to delineate. We would, therefore, suggest as the third general principle, that wherever it may be supposed that the reader is sufficiently roused to gather from bints enough to form a picture to himself, there it will be advisable only to set his imagination to work by means of such bints as may lead him to the proper view of the subject."
“How finely is this remark exemplified in the representation which our great poet has given of Eve in Paradise !"
“ Grace was in all her steps, Heav'n in her eye,
“ Or, to take an instance of a very different nature, in his view of the infernal regions, it may be observed how often we have nothing more than hints for figuring to ourselves every thing that is most horrible.
« Roving on
Than fables yet have feign'd, or fear conceived.” “ Painters also adopt frequently the same plan of rousing the imagination by hints. In the celebrated picture of Achilles bewailing the death of Patroclus, we do not see the face of Achilles, although it was the idea of his anguish that the painter wished to convey. Achilles is represented covering his face with his hand; and it is from this circumstance, and from the manner in which he seems to grasp his forehead, that we figure to ourselves more than it was possible to paint.” P. 38–40.
The third Essay brings us to the sublime. Our author begins, like other authors upon the subject, with an inquiry into its source. Thus, one has told us that the emotion of sublimity" is produced
by every thing terrible; another, by every thing elevated in situation; and Dr. Blair and the essayist say, that “objects are sublime, according as they exhibit or suggest extraordinary power.” We may just observe here, what a delusive simplicity of system this is. Every thing sublime comprehended under one wordpower! It is indeed one word; but it is not one idea. There is the consciousness of power in ourselves; there is the perception of power in others; there is bodily power; there is intellectual power; there is moral power. What different feelings do these things suggest! What multifarious sources of the sublime! But then it is mightily imposing to have a theory comprehended in a word-power.
The next thing that these theorists set about, is to collect a great quantity of sublime images, and, by force of subtle reasonings and whimsical associations, to show that the emotions raised thereby are strictly such as they ought to be, according to the favourite theory. Our readers shall have one or two of these associations.
“ When Thomson, a few verses before those which we have just quoted, speaks of ‘icy mountains high on mountains pild;' the awful pile instantly appears to the imagination as if it had been reared at once by some tremendous effort, even though we know that it has only been a very long and gradual accumulation of snow showers. At any rate, however it may have been formed, now that the pile is reared, we are lost in admiration at the incomparably more than human might which would be required to move it from its base.”
“We can also understand how we ascribe sublimity to sounds of uncommon loudness, as the noise of many waters, the roaring of the winds, the shouts of a great multitude, the discharge of ordnance, or thunder. It proceeds not only from the violent concussions by which we conceive them to be produced, and still more perhaps from a very natural and irresistible association of ideas. For as all the violent actions of great bodies upon each other are attended with noise, hence every sound of uncommon loudness will suggest the idea of violent action, even although we should neither see nor know in what the action consists.
“Great splendour is universally regarded as sublime; but how do we reconcile it to the theory? Shall we say that it suggests the power of the Creator, who diffuses through the universe that flood of glory which illuminates the depths of space, buried before in eternal darkness? Or shall we say that it recalls to our imagination the regions inhabited by the angels of bliss, and the heaven of heavens, where God has fixed the throne of his glory in the midst of light inaccessible ? These undoubtedly are sublime ideas—but, perhaps, the first is too refined, and the last too serious, to be always present when we are affected with splendour. Still, is there not a remarkable tendency in splendour to inspire us with joy, confidence, and courage, and thus to render us conscious of the force of our mind, and perhaps to give us a deceitful feeling of a still greater force than we actually possess ?”