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The confident assertions of such a man as I consider the late Mr. Barry to have been, have that weight of authority in them which staggers, at first hearing, even a long preconceived opinion. When I read his pathetic admonition concerning the shortness of life, and how much better the little leisure of it were laid out upon “ that species of art which is employed about the amiable and the admirable ;” and Hogarth’s “ method” proscribed as a
dangerous or worthless pursuit,” I began to think there was something in it; that I might have been indulging all my life a passion for the works of this artist, to the utter prejudice of my taste and moral sense; but my first convictions gradually re. turned, a world of good-natured English faces came up one by one to my recollection, and a glance at the matchless Election Entertainment, which I have the happiness to have hanging up in my parlour, subverted Mr. Barry's whole theory in an instant.
In that inimitable print, (which in my judgment as far exceeds the more known and celebrated March to Finchley, as the best Comedy exceeds the best Farce that ever was written,) let a person look till he be saturated, and when he has done wondering at the inventiveness of genius which could bring so many characters (more than thirty distinct classes of face) into a room, and set them down at table together, or otherwise dispose them about, in 80 natural a manner, engage them in so many easy sets and occupations, yet all partaking of the spirit of the occasion which brought them together, so that we feel that nothing but an elec. tion time could have assembled them; having no central figure or principal group, (for the hero of the piece, the Candidate, is properly set aside in the levelling indistinction of the day, one must look for him to find him) nothing to detain the eye from passing from part to part, where every part is alike instinct with life,for here are no furniture-faces, no figures brought in to fill up the scene like stage choruses, but all dramatis personæ : when he shall have done wondering at all these faces so strongly charactered, yet finished with the accuracy of the finest miniature; when he shall have done admiring the numberless appendages of the scene, those gratuitous doles which rich genius flings into the heap when it has already done enough, the over-measure which it delights in giving, as if it felt its stores were exhaustless; the dumb rhetoric of the scenery—for tables, and chairs, and jointstools in Hogarth, are living and significant things; the witticisms that are expressed by words, (all artists but Hogarth have failed when they have endeavoured to combine two mediums of expres. sion, and have introduced words into their pictures,) and the un. written numberless little allusive pleasantries that are scattered about; the work that is going on in the scene, and beyond it, as is made visible to the " eye of mind,” by the mob which choaks
up the door-way, and the sword that has forced an entrance beu fore its master: when he shall have sufficiently admired this wealth of genius, , let him fairly say what is the result left on his mind. Is it an impression of the vileness and worthlessness of his species? or is not the general feeling which remains, after the individual faces have ceased to act sensibly upon his mind, a kindly one in favour of his species? was not the general air of the scene wholesome? did it do the heart hurt to be among it? Something of a riotous spirit to be sure is there, some worldly-mindedness in some of the faces, a Doddingtonian smoothness which does not promise any superfluous degree of sincerity in the fine gentleman who has been the occasion of calling so much good company to. gether: but is not the general cast of expression in the faces, of the good sort ? do they not seem cut out of the good old rock, substantial English honesty ? would one fear treachery among characters of their expression ? or shall we call their honest mirth and seldom-returning relaxation by the hard names of vice and profligacy? That poor country fellow, that is grasping his staff, (which, from that difficulty of feeling themselves at home which poor men experience at a feast, he has never parted with since he came into the room,) and is enjoying with a relish that seems to fill all the capacities of his soul the slender joke, which that fa. cetious wag his neighbour is practising upon the gouty gentleman, whose eyes the effort to suppress pain has made as round as rings does it shock the “ dignity of human nature” to look at that man, and to sympathise with him in the seldom-heard joke which has unbent his care-worn hard-working visage, and drawn iron smiles from it? or with that full-hearted cobler, who is honouring with the grasp of an honest fist the unused palm of that annoyed patrician, whom the licence of the time has seated next him. , I can see nothing “dangerous" in the contemplation of such scenes as this, or the Enraged Musician, or the Southwark Fair, or twenty other pleasant prints which come crowding in upon my recollection, in which the restless activities, the diversified bents and humours, the blameless peculiarities of men, as they deserve to be called, rather than their “vices and follies,” are held up in a laughable point of view. All laughter is not of a dangerous or soul-hardening tendency. There is the petrifying Sneer of a Demon wbich excludes and kills Love, and there is the cordial Laughter of a Man which implies and cherishes it. "What heart was ever made the worse by joining in a hearty laugh at the sim, plicities of Sir Hugh Evans or Parson Adams, where a sense of the ridiculous mutually kindles and is kindled by a perception of the amiable ? That tumultuous harmony of Singers that are roaring out the words, “ The world shall bow to the Assyrian throne,” from the opera of Judith, in the third plate of the series, called the Four Groups of Heads, which the quick eye of Ho. garth must have struck off in the very infancy of the rage for sacred oratorios in this country, while - Music yet was young," when we have done smiling at the deafening distortions, which these tearers of devotion to rags and tatters, these takers of Heaven by storm, in their boisterous mimicry of the occupation of angels, are making,—what unkindly impression is left behind, or what more of harsh or contemptuous feeling, than when we quietly leave Uncle Toby and Mr. Shandy riding their hobby-horses about the room? The conceited, long-backed Sign-painter, that with all the self-applause of a Raphael or Corregio (the twist of body which his conceit has thrown him into has something of the Corregiesque in it) is contemplating the picture of a bottle which be is drawing from an actual bottle that hangs beside him, in the print of Beer Street,--while we smile at the enormity of the selfdelusion, can we help loving the good-humour and self-complacency of the fellow ? would we willingly wake him from his dream?
I say not that all the ridiculous subjects of Hogarth have necessarily something in them to make us like them; some are indifferent to us, some in their natures repulsive, and only made interesting by the wonderful skill and truth to nature in the painter, but I contend that there is in most of them that sprink. ling of the better nature, which, like holy-water, chases away and disperses the contagion of the bad. They have this in them besides, that they bring us acquainted with the every-day human face,—they give us skill to detect those gradations of sense and sirtue (which escape the careless or fastidious observer) in the countenances of the world about us; and prevent that disgust at commion life, that tædium quotidianarum formarum, which an unrestricted passion for ideal forms and beauties is in danger of produeing. In this, as in many other things, they are analogous to the best novels of Smollett or Fielding.
Aer. IX.- A General Outline of the Philosophy of Sensation and
The mode in which it had been for a long time fashionable, in dis. cussing questions of intellectual and moral philosophy, to encumber them with the barbarous phraseology of ontological metaphysics, contributed, at length, to briug about such a revolution in the public taste, as to excite a most unwarrantable prejudice
against all subjects of mental philosophy; and, indeed, against all those studies in general, which, being of a more profound nature, required greater efforts of attention, and a considerable share of abstract reasoning and thinking, in their investigation. But although the prevailing rage for physical studies, particularly since chemistry and geology have come into fashion, has given a considerable portion of new strength to this prejudice, yet its first cause is to be found in the frivolous disquisitions of the schoolmen, and of several of their followers, which mostly turned on mere verbal quibbling, and on the other essenceless subtleties of ontology; foolish and empty disquisitions, that had nothing in common with the true philosophy of mind, except, that, unfortunately for the latter, both passed under the general name of metaphysics. Many able efforts have indeed been made of late to redeem from unmerited degradation a liberal, extensive, and useful department of science; but, it is much to be regretted, that prejudices similar to those that were formerly excited by the empty obscurities and verbal cavillings of ontological metaphysics, are still pretty generally entertained against all inquiries into subjects of intellectual and moral philosophy. Considering how ineffectual several of these efforts have been, I cannot have the vanity of thinking, that I am able to stem this tide of prejudice : but in a work like the present, which professes to aim at something higher and more useful than cotemporary journals, it may not be amiss, from time to time, to enter a serious protest against a prejudice so detrimental to the true interests of science. And this I am the more disposed to do, because I am persuaded, that mental studies are most intimately connected with, and subservient, more than all others, to an accurate and comprehensive knowledge of morals, laws, politics, criticism, taste, and eloquence. With a firm conviction of the truth of this observation, it may be proper occasionally to entertain the readers of this work with philosophie cal speculations; not, however, wrapped up in the impenetrable obscurity of a barbarous phraseology, but detailed in so familiar a manner, as to be within the reach of the meanęst capacity, and in language so simple, as not to 6 overstep the modesty of nature.” In the present article, I shall begin to sketch a general outline of the doctrines of the most esteemed philosophers concerning the Senses.
Sensation and Perception have, from very remote times, so far as we can discover, engaged the attention of philosophers ;, and pery justly, for, without them, men could never know any thing of the existence of an eternal world, or of the laws and properties of matter. Without sensitive and perceptive faculties, it seems also probable, that we could never arrive at any perfection in the exercise of our mental powers; for Sensation and Perception, even
in the first instance, seem to have that effect in exciting and calling into action our dormant 'energies, which in after times contributes to their sure and progressive improvement, aided by the principles of the constitution, and by the provisions which Nature herself has made for their developement and refinement, amidst the various natural and artificial relations of civil and polished society.
But although the philosophy of mind has been, to our certain knowledge, cultivated for more than two thousand years, still the prevalence of an hypothetical mode of prosecuting philosophical inquiries, effectually hindered the philosophy of the senses, which may be correctly called the great entrance into the temple of mind, from being brought to any thing like certainty or perfection, it being only within our own times nearly, that any successful attempts have been made to unfold the phenomena of Vision, which of all the senses is one of the most important. It is true, that Pytha. goras made some happy conjectures on this, as well as on other philosophical subjects, which have been confirmed by the successful discoveries of more modern times; but among the ancients these seeds produced no fruit; they were cast away, as barren, in the gardens of the Lyceum and of the Academy; or choaked up amidst a multitude of rank and precocious weeds; whilst the seeds of a spurious and essenceless philosophy, sown principally by Plato and by Aristotle, and in after times watered by the muddy, and sacred stream of authority, continued to produce, for more than 1,500 years, all over the philosophic soil of Europe, essences and quintessences, definitions, distinctions and subdistinctions, doubts and difficulties about substance, modes and qualities, time, space and motion, abstractions, relations, and such stuff; about ideas and notions, entities, quiddities, and all the other etcæteras,—which constituted the numerous and base-born progeny of a barbarous, ontological, and merely verbal philosophy*.”
All these follies, and several other abuses of philosophy and learning, are finely ridiculed in the First Canto of Hudibras.-Thus :
“ He was in logic a great critic,