Imatges de pÓgina

Such refined conceptions, being connected with morality and religion, are reserved to dignify the chief of the terrestrial creation. Upon this account, no discipline is more suitable to man, or more congruous to the dignity of his nature, than that by which his taste is refined, to distinguish in every fubject, what is regular, what is orderly, what is suitable, and what is fit and


* No discerning person can be at a loss about the meaning of the terms congruity and propriety, when applied to dress, behaviour, or language; that a decent garb, for example, is proper for a judge, modest behaviour for a young woman, and a lofty

* Nec vero illa parva vis naturæ est rationisque, quod unum hoc animal fentit quid fit ordo, quid fit quod deceat in faEtis di&tifque, qui modus. Itaque eorum ipforum, quæ afpeeu fentiuntur, nullum aliud animal, pulchritudinem, venusta. tem, convenientiam partium, sentit. Quam finilitudinem natura ratioque ab oculis ad aninuum transferens, multo etiam magis pulchritudinem, conftantiam, ordinem, in confiliis faAisque conservandum putat, cavetque ne quid indecorè efferninatève faciat;, tum in omnibus et opinionibus et factis ne quid libidinosè aut faciat aut cogitet.. Quibus ex rebus conflatur et efficitur id, quod quærimus, honestum. Cicero de officiis, l. I.


Kyle for an epic poem. In the following examples every one is sensible of an unfuitableness or incongruity: a little woman sunk in an overgrown farthingale, a coat richly embroidered covering coarse and dirty linen, a mean subject in an elevated style, or 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.

But it is not sufficient that these terms be understood in practice ; the critical art requires, that their meaning be traced to its foundation in human nature. The relations that connect objects together, have been examined in more than one view. Their influence in directing the train of our perceptions, is handled in the first chapter ; and in the second, their influence in generating passion. Here they must be handled in a new view ; for they are clearly the occasion of congruity and propriety. We are fo framed by nature, as to require a certain suitableness or correspondence among things connected by any relation. This suitableness or correspondence is termed congruity

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or propriety; and the want of it, incongruity or impropriety. Among the many principles that compose the nature of man, a sense of congruity or propriety is one. De. stitute of this fense, we could have no notion of congruity or propriety: the terms to us would be unintelligible *.

As this sense is displayed upon relations, it is reasonable beforehand to expect that

* From many things that pass current in the world without being generally condemned, one at first view would ima. gine, that the sense of congruity or propriety bath scarce any foundation in nature; and that it is rather an artificial refine ment of those who affect to distinguish themselves by a certain delicacy of taste and behaviour. The fulsome panegyrics beftowed upon the great and opulent, in epistles dedicatory and other fuch compositions, lead naturally to that thought. Did there prevail in the world, it will be said, or did nature suggest, a taste of what is fuitable, decent, or proper, would any gond writer deal in such compositions, or any man of sense receive them without disgust? Can it be supposed, that: Lewis XIV. of France was endued by nature with any

sense of propriety, when, in a dramatic performance purposely composed for his entertainment, he suffered himself, publicly and in his presence, to be styled the greatest king ever the earthi produced? 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 singular cafe, for this fometimes is the fate even of the sense of justice.


we should be so formed, as to require among connected objects a degree of congruity proportioned to the degree of the relation. And upon examination we find this to hold in fact. Where the relation is strong and intimate as betwixt a cause and its effect, a body and its members, we require that the things be suited to each other in the strictest manner. On the other hand, where the relation is flight, or accidental, as among things jumbled together in the same place, we demand 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 situation of a great house ought to be lofty; for the relation betwixt an edifice and the ground it stands upon, is of the most intimate kind. 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 confiderable, as well as among things placed for show in the same niche. Among passengers in a stage-coach, we require ve


ry 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 essentially, 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 are used indifferently. But they are distinguishable; and the precise meaning of each must be afcertained. Congruity is the genus, of which propriety is a species. For we call nothing propriety, but that congruity or suitableness which ought to subsist betwixt fenfible beings and their thoughts, words, and actions.

In order to give a full view of this fubject, I shall trace it through some of the most considerable relations. The relation of a part to the whole, being extremely intimate, demands the utmost degree of congruity. For that reason, the slightest devia

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