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CONGRUITY AND PROPRIETY.
M AN is superior to the brute, not more by
VI 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 de. licate 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 dif. cipline is more suitable to man, nor more congruous to the dignity of his nature, and 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
* Nec vero illa parva vis naturæ eft rationisque, quod unum hoc animal sentit quid fit ordo, quid fit quod deceat in factis di&isque, qui modus. Itaque eorum ipfo. rum, quæ afpectu fentiuntur, nullum aliud animal, pul. chritudinem, venuftatem, convenientiam partium fentit. Quam fimilitudinem natura ratioque ab oculis ad ani. mum transferens, multo etiam magis pulchritudinem,
conftantiam, applicable to any single object : they imply a plurality, and obviously signify a particular relation between different objects. Thus we say currently, that a decent garb is suitable or proper for a judge, modest behaviour for a young woman, and a lofty style for an epic poem : and, on the other hand, that it is unsuitable or in. congruous to see a little woman sunk in an overgrown farthingale, a coat richly embroidered covering coarse and dirty linen, a mean subject in an elevated style, an elevated subject in a mean style, a first minister darning his wife's stocking, or a reverend prelate in lawn sleeves dancing a hornpipe.
The perception we have of this relation, which seems peculiar to man, cannot proceed from any other cause, but from a sense of congruity or propriety; for, supposing us destitute of that sense, the terms would be to us unintelligible *.
It is matter of experience, that congruity or propriety, wherever perceived, is agreeable ; and
that conftantiam, ordinem, in confiliis factisque conservandum putat, cavetque ne quid indecore effeminateve faciat; tum in omnibus et opinionibus et factis ne quid libidinose aut faciat aut cogitet. Quibus ex rebus conflatur et efficitur id, quod quærimus, honeftum. Cicero de Officiis, l. 1.
* From many things that pass current in the world without being generally condemned, one at first view would imagine, that the sense of congruity or propriety hath scarce any foundation in nature; and that it is ra
that incongruity or impropriety, wherever perceived, is disagreeable. The only difficulty is, to ascertain what are the particular objects that in conjunction suggest these relations ; for there are many objects that do not : the sea, for example, viewed in conjunction with a picture, or a man viewed in conjunction with a mountain, suggest not either congruity or incongruity. It seems natural to infer, what will be found true by induction, that we never perceive congruity nor incongruity but among things that are connected by some relation ; such as a man and his actions, a principal and its accessories, a sub
ther an artificial refinement of those who affect to diftin. guish themselves from others. The fulsome panegyrics bestowed upon the great and opulent, in epiftles dedicatory and other such compositions, would incline us to think so. Did there prevail in the world, it will be said, or did nature fuggeft, a taste of what is suitable, decent, or proper, would any good writer deal in such compofi: tions, or any man of sense receive them without disguft? Can it be supposed that Lewis XIV. of France was en.. dued by nature with any senfe of propriety, when, in a dramatic performance purposely composed for his entertainment, he suffered himself, publicly and in his pre. sence, to be styled the greatest king ever the earth produ, ced? These, it is true, are strong facts; but luckily they do not prove the sense of propriety to be artificial: they only prove, that the sense of propriety is at times overpowered by pride and vanity; which is no angular case, for that sometimes is the fate even of the sense of justice.
ject and its ornaments. We are indeed so framed by nature, as, among things so connected, to require a certain suitableness or correspondence, termed congruity or propriety; and to be difpleased when we find the opposite relation of incongruity or impropriety *. · If things connected be the subject of congrui. ty, it is reasonable beforehand to expect a degree of congruity proportioned to the degree of the connection. And, upon examination we find our expectation to be well founded : where the relation is intimate, as between a cause and its effect, a whole and its parts, we require
* In the chapter of beauty, qualities are distinguished into primary and secondary: and to clear some obscurity that may appear in the text, it is proper to be observed, that the same distinction is applicable to relations. Resemblance, equality, uniformity, proximity, are relations that depend not on us, but exist equally whether perceived or not; and upon that account may justly be termed primary relations. But there are other relations, that only appear such to us, and that have not any external existence like primary relations ; which is the case of congruity, incongruity, propriety, impropriety: thele may be properly termed secondary relations. Thus it appears from what is said in the text, that the secondary relations mentioned arife from objects connected by some primary relation. Property is an example of a secondary relation, as it exists no where but in the mind, I purchase a field or a horse : the covenant makes the primary relation; and the secondary relation built on it, is property.
the strictest congruity; but where the relation is flight, or accidental, as among things jumbled together, we require little or no congruity : the strictest propriety is required in behaviour and manner of living ; because a man is connected with these by the relation of cause and effect : the relation between an edifice and the ground it stands upon is of the most intimate kind, and therefore the situation of a great house ought to be lofty : its relation to neighbouring hills, rivers, plains, being that of propinquity only, demands but a small share of congruity : among members of the same club, the congruity ought to be considerable, as well as among things placed for show in the same niche: among passengers in a stage-coach we require very little congruity ; and less still at a public spectacle.
Congruity is so nearly allied to beauty, as commonly to be held a species of it; and yet they differ fo effentially, as never to coincide : beauty, like colour, is placed upon a single subject; congruity upon a plurality: further, a thing beautiful in itself, may, with relation to other things, produce the strongest sense of incongruity.
Congruity and propriety are commonly reckoned synonymous terms; and hitherto in opening the subject they have been used indifferently: but they are distinguishable ; and the precise meaning of each must be ascertained. ConVol. I,