Imatges de pÓgina
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BOOK IL, is alike dignified in its nature, or equally

worthy of a rational being *.

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Those distinct faculties of the mind which are necessary to the production of all the works of imagination that are fitted to give rational pleasure, and the separate function of each in the composition of such works, have been most hap pily described by the philosophic pen of D'Alembert, who, at the same time, combats a mistaken notion of very general currency, That the genius which creates, and the judgment which corrects and chastises, are frequently at variance, and instead of giving mutual aid, are often destructive of each other's power and operation. “ Ajoutons qu'il n'est point à

craindre que la discussion et l'analyse émoussent le sentia "ment, ou refroidissent le génie dans ceux qui possedent d'ailleurs ces précieux dons de la nature.

Le philosophe st sait, que dans le moment de la production, le génie ne

veut aucune contrainte, qu'il aime à courir sans frein et

sans règle; à produire les monstrueux à côté du sublime, " à rouler impétueusement l'or et le limon tout ensemble. La « raison donne donc au génie qui crée une liberté entière, * elle lui permet de s'épuiser, jusqu'à ce qu'il ait besoin de “ repos ; comme ces coursiers fougueus, dont on ne vient à " bout qu'en les fatiguant. Alors il revient séverement sur “ les productions du génie, elle conserve ce qui est l'effet du * véritable enthousiasme, elle proscrit ce qui est l'ouvrage de "I la fougue, et c'est ainsi qu'elle fait éclorre les chefs-d'u

vres. Quel écrivain, s'il n'est pas entièrement dépourvu “ de talent et de goût, n'a pas remarqué que dans la chaleur “ de la composition, une partie de son ésprit reste en quel que manière à l'écart, pour observer celle qui compose, et

lui laisser un libre cours, et qu'elle marque d'avance * ce qui doit être effacé."-D'ALEMBERT Mélanges de Lite rat. et de Philos.

pour

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Nature of

taste.

I am led by the train of the preceding CHAP observations, here to take notice of a question which I have heard frequently canvas- the author's sed, namely, whether the author of Elements of Criticism was really possessed of a great portion of native sensibility, and warmly awake to the emotions excited by the productions of the fine arts ; or whether his taste was not rather the result of study, and of attention to those very rules and canons of criticism, which he had framed from a careful examination of those great produc, tions of the fine arts of which the excellence is universally acknowledged. A présumption, it must be owned, arises from the very nature of his work, which displays a continued exercise of the reasoning powers, and the most minute and patient attention to the operations of the mind, that the man thus eminently qualified for the investigation of the laws which regulate our emotions, was not himself subject to those emotions in a very acute degree, of which a too lively feeling impedes for the time all

capacity of speculating on their causes. A strong native sense of the sublime and beautiful is constantly attended with a degree of

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BOOK II. rapture and enthusiasm, which gives its tinc

ture to all the thoughts and expressions of the man who possesses it, and prompts to impassioned eloquence whenever its objects are the matter of his discourse or writings *. Now the reader of the Elements of Criticism cannot fail to remark, that this criterion of feeling is wanting in that most ingenious work. It may, no doubt, be plausibly argued, that, as the author's undertaking demanded a spirit of cool and sober thought, and an exercise of the judgment, purged, if possible, from all allay of passion or enthusiasim, he made it a law to himself to avoid all rapturous expressions, and even to suppress the emotions that prompt them : but besides that it may reasonably be questioned whether such violence to the feelings were truly necessary, and, on the con

ti The composition of Longinus, contrasted with that of Aristotle, affords an apposite illustration. The impassioned diction of the former leaves no room to doubt that he posses

strong native feelings; while the cool and sober strain of hinvestigation employed by the latter, who is never for a moment, warmed by his subject, gives equal conviction of the absence of that genuine sensibility.

5,03

102

CH AP.

IV.

trary, were not in many places rather felt as

palpable defect than as an excellence, I am inclined to believe, that such a rigorous discipline of the feelings, supposing them to have much native strength, is utterly impracticable. They must at times have manifested themselves, in spite of every effort to repress them ; Naturam expellas furca licèt, usque recurret. But when, to these presumptions, is added the positive proof arising from erroneous judgment in matters of taste, which we sometimes find in the Elements of Criticism; as, for example, the censure bestowed on the Gothic architecture, without the least notice of its striking beauties; and the equally unqualified panegyric of the Mourning Bride of Congreve, as the most perfect specimen of the English drama, without any reproof of its unnatural sentiments and bombast ; this evidence seems to be decisive of the question, and to leave no room for doubt, that the general correctness of the author's taste was more the result of study and attention, than of any extraordinary sensibility in the structure of his mind to the emotions excited by the productions of the fine arts.

ceeding from the school of Lord Kames.

BOOK 11.

The science of philosophical criticism has Works pro been, with propriety, termed a New Coun

try; and as it must be admitted that the

author of Elements of Criticism was the first Campbell's discoverer, so it may be observed to his hoof Rhetoric. nour, that he has made farther advances in

to the interior of that country than any traveller who has pursued the same track. This praise has been assigned him by one of the most able of his followers, I mean Dr CAMPBELL, the author of the Philosophy of Rhetoric *, who, in that useful work, has

on In describing the progress of the critical art, Dr Camp bell observes, " By the first step, (the examination of the “ works of genius), the critic is supplied with materials. By “ the second, these materials are distributed and classed : " the forms of argument, the tropes and figures of speech are « explained. By the third, the rules of composition are dis“ covered, or the method of combining and disposing the se“ veral materials. By the fourth, we arrive at that know" ledge of human nature, which, besides its other advantages, ** adds both weight and evidence to all precedent discoveries and rules. This last step may be said to bring us into a “ new country of which, though there have been some suc“ cessful incursions occasionally made upon its frontiers, we " are not yet in full possession. The performance, which, " of all those I happen to be acquainted with, seems to have " advanced farthest in this way, is, The Elements of Criti“ cism."

- Introduction to Philosophy of Rhetoric, p. 18.20.

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