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guished from finer species of beauty. On such.colours, it would even be painful for it to rest, with that species of contemplation which the child indulges,--a contemplation, in which, if there be many dazzling bues to glitter on him, he exhibits often to those around him an intensity of delight, that, if we did not make allowance for the more violent natural expression of pleasure, in our early years, might seem even to surpass our more refined gratifications, -when the sources of this happy emotion have been rendered at once more copious and more pure, and our sensibility has been quickened by the very happiness which it has enjoyed.
The delight, it must be remembered too, arises not merely from the specific differences of colours as more or less pleasing, in which case the most pleasing could not be too widely spread, but from distributions of colours in gaudy variety, exactly as in the finer arrangements of tints, which are beauty to our maturer discernment.
I have said, that from the undoubted effect of circumstances, in modifying our original tendencies, and of circumstances that may, in some degree, have operated before we are capable of ascertaining their influence, it is only an estimate of probabilities to which our inquiry can lead. In vision, however, as far back as we can trace the emotion of beauty, some original emotion of this kind does seem to be felt in colours, and varied arrangements of colours; and if from vision we pass to that sense which is next to it in importance as a source of the feelings, that produce our emotion of beauty, we shall find another tribe of our sensations, that seem in like manner, to favour the supposition of some original beauty, however inferior to those other analogous emotions of delight which are to be the growth of our maturer years. The class to which I allude, are our sensations of sound, a class which seems to me peculiarly valuable for illustration, as shewing, I conceive at once, the influence of original tendencies, and also of the modify. ing power of contingent circumstances. In different nations, we find different casts of music to prevail; in the variety of these national melodies, therefore, we recognize the power of circumstances in diversifying the original feelings. But to this diversifying power there are limits; for, however different the peculiar spirit of the national melodies may be, we find that in all nations cerlain successions of sounds alone are regarded as pleasing,--those VOL. II.
which admit of certain mathematical proportions in their times of vibration. It is not every series of sounds, then, that is capable of exciting the emotion of beauty, but only certain series, however varied these may be. The universality of this law of beauty in one of our senses, in which delight is felt from mere arrangements or successions of sounds, is a ground of presumption, at least, that all beauty is not wholly contingent, and affords analogies, which, not as proofs, indeed, but simply as analogies, may fairly be extended to the other senses.
Even that fine species of beauty, which is to be found in the expression of character; in animated forms, at least if we admit that species of silent language, which has been called the language of natural signs, does not seem to be, in all its varieties, absolutely dependent on the mental associations of the being who beholds it. These connexions, indeed, of the corporeal signs of mental qualities, with the qualities which they have been found to express, give to the beauty that is admired by us, in our maturer years, its principal power; but though many, and, perhaps, the far greater number of these signs are unquestionably learned by experience, there seems reason to think, or at least there is no valid ground of positive disbelief, that there are at least some natural signs independent of experience, and equally universal in use and in interpretation. A smiling countenance, for example, appears, if we may judge from the language of his own little features, to be agreeable to the iufant, and a frowning countenance to be disagreeable to him, as soon as he is capable of observing the different lineaments or motions which are developed in the smile or frown; though I admit, it would be too much to say, with certainty, that even these signs, which we term natural, may not themselves be acquired by earlier observations than any which we are accustomed to take into account. Yet still, though the interpretation, even in these cases, may, however early, result from still earlier experience only, this has not been proved; nor is it necessary, from the general analogies of mind, to assume it as certain, without particular proof in the particular case. To those, therefore, whose philosophical spirit is easily alarmed by the word instinct, as if it expressed a connexion peculiarly mysterious, when in truth, every connexion of one feeling with another, is equally mysterious, or equally free from mystery, and cannot fail to be so regarded by every one who
has learned to consider accurately what is meant, even by the most regular antecedences and consequences of the events of nature;-to that class of philosophers, who think that the word experience accounts for every thing, without reflecting on what it is that experience itself must primarily have been founded, -it may seem unphilosophic thus to speak of the possible instinctive use, or instinctive interpretation of smiles, or frowns, or signs of any sort. Yet, how many cases are there, in which it is absolutely impossible to deny these very instincts ? and cases, too, in which the immediate effect of the instinct, as much as in the supposed case of beauty, is the production of emotion of some sort, or at least of the visible signs of emotion. In some of the lowest of the animals which we have domesticated, -in the cry of the hen, for example, the first time that a bird of prey is seen hovering at a distance, that cry, of which the force is so instantly, and so fully comprehended, by the little tremblers that cower beneath her wing, who does not perceive, in this immediate emotion of terror, an interpretation of natural signs, as instinctive as the language of affection that is instinctively used ? Such a cry of alarm, indeed, is not necessary to the human mother of the little creature that has a safer shelter continually around him. But there are positive signs of pleasure, of which a delightful emotion may be the immediate consequence, as there are negative signs, which are merely warnings of evil to be shunned, that are followed immediately by an emotion of a different kind; and these additional sources of enjoyment, it is not unworthy of the kindness of Heaven to have communicated to the infant, who may thus feel, in the caress, a delight of more than mere tactual softness. The cry of the parent fowl scarcely seems more quick to be understood, than the smile of the mother to awake in the little heart that throbs within her arms an answering delight; nor is there any philosophic inconsistency in supposing it, whatever error there might be in affirming it positively, to be a part of a natural language of emotion, which, like the undoubted natural language of other animals, is instinctively understood, in every age of life, as in every nation of the globe, and which is already felt as happiness or affection, before the happiDess of which it is the promise, can itself have been felt or even anticipated.
Of a still finer species of emotion, perhaps, than even that
which arises from looks or features of the living countenance, may
variations of it in various circumstances,-it is far from certain, that we shall find it more lively in manhood, than in the early years of the unreflecting boy. It is not to be expected, indeed, that moral beauty is to be felt, before the consequences of actions, which render them to our conception moral, can be appreciated,—or that it is to be felt, but in those very cases, in which such consequences can be known. There are many offences, therefore, that excite our instant abhorrence, of which a boy cannot feel the moral atrocity,—as there are many virtues, of which he is incapable of feeling the moral charm. But, in virtuous actions, of which the nature can be distinctly conceived by him, he is not the dullest to feel what is lovely,—nor the dullest to feel, mixed with his indignation and his pity, disgust at actions of a different sort. In the ballad which he exults or weeps to hear, he loves and hates with a love and hatred, at least as strong as are felt by those to whom he listens; and it seems as if, far from requiring any slow growth of circumstances, to mature or develope his emotions, there were nothing more necessary to his feeling of the beauty of an heroic sacrifice, than his knowledge that an act was truly heroic,--and nothing more necessary to his emotions of an opposite kind, than his knowledge that there was cruelty, or ingratitude on earth.
The observations which I have now made on different species of beauty, are not urged by me, as of evidence sufficient to prove, positively, that we have feelings of beauty, which may be said to be original or independent of accidental associations of every sort; since this point, as I have already stated, is beyond our power to determine with perfect accuracy, because the mind cannot be a subject of our distinct examination, till many accidental causes, of the power of which, in the peculiar circumstances of the infant mind, we may be without the slightest suspicion, may have modified its original tendencies in the most important respects. The burthen of proof, however, does not rest with the believers, but with the deniers of original beauty; and, since the inquiry has not for its object what may be affirmed with certainty, but merely what
may be regarded as more or less probable, even these very slight remarks may perhaps have been sufficient to shew the greater probability to be on the side of that opinion, which supposes that all objects are not originally to the mind the same in beauty or deformity, or, to speak more accurately, that all objects are not originally equally incapable of exciting either of these emotions,—but, on the contrary, that though accidental circumstances may produce one or other of these emotions, when, but for the mere accidents, neither of them would have been produced, or may variously modify, or even reverse in some cases, the original tendencies, there yet are in the mind some original tendencies, independent of all association,-tendencies to feel the emotion of beauty on the contemplation of certain objects, and the emotion opposite to that of beauty, on the contemplation of certain other objects.
This latter supposition, which,-doubtful as the question must, from the very nature of the circumstances, always be seems to my own belief the more reasonable, is rendered, I think, not less, but more certain, by the arguments which are urged against it-arguments that seem to me founded on a very false view of the circumstances that should be expected to follow, if the doctrine against which they are urged were just, or which, at least, are not applicable to the particular view which I have given you of beauty as an emotion, not a direct sensation.
It is not a sense of beauty, you must have remarked, for which I have contended—a sense, which, like our other senses, must force upon the mind constantly, or almost constantly, a particular feeling, when a particular object is present. The feeling of beauty, according to my view of it, is not a sensation, but an emotion, a feeling subsequent to the perception or conception of the object termed beautiful; and which, like other emotions, may, or may not, follow the particular perception or conception, according to the circumstances in which those primary feelings, to which it is only secondary, may have arisen.
It is vain, therefore, to deny,* that objects, which previously impressed us with no feeling of their beauty, may become beautiful to us, in consequence of associations; that is to
say, former pleasing or unpleasing feelings, peculiar to ourselves
* Contend, Edin. Edit.