« ForrigeFortsett »
is annexed to no certain measures cominon toly, several buildings are by no means of the form tho several kinds of pleasing plants and ani- of that particular square, which are notwithmals; yet that there is a certain proportion in standing planned by the best architects, and each ies absolutely essential to the beauty produce an effect altogether as good, and perof that particular kind. If we consider the ani- haps a better. And certainly nothing could be mal world in general, we find beauty confined more unaccountably whimsical, than for an ar. to no certain measures; but as some peculiar chitect to model his performance by the human measure and relation of parts is what distin- figure, since no two things can have less resemguishes each peculiar class of animals, it must blance or analogy, than a man, and an house of necessity be, that the beautiful in each kind or temple: do we need to observe, that their will be found in the measures and proportions purposes are entirely different? What I am of that kind; for otherwise it would deviate from apt to suspect is this: that these analogies its proper species, and become in some sort were devised to give a credit to the works of monstrous : however, no spccies is so strictly art, by shewing a conformity between them and confined to any certain proportions, that there the noblest works in nature; not that the latter is not a considerable variation among the in- served at all to supply hints for the perfection dividuals; and as it has been shewn of the of the former. And I am the more fully conhuman, so it may be shewn of the brute vinced, that the patrons of proportion have kinds, that beauty is found indifferently in all transferred their artificial ideas to nature, and the proportions which each kind can admit, not borrowed from thence the proportions they without quitting its common form; and it is this use in works of art; because in any discussion idea of a common form that makes the propor- of this subject they always quit as soon as postion of parts at all regarded, and not the ope- sible the open field of natural beauties, the aniration of any natural cause: indeed a little mal and vegetable kingdoms, and fortify themconsideration will make it appear, that it is not selves within the artificial lines and angles of measure but manner that creates all the beauty architecture. For there is in mankind an which belongs to shape. What light do we unfortunate propensity to make themselves, borrow from these boasted proportions, when we their views, and their works, the measure of study ornamental design? It seems amazing to excellence in every thing whatsoever. Thereme, that artists, if they were as well convinced fore having observed that their dwellings were as they pretend to be, that proportion is a prin- most commodious and firm when they were cipal cause of beauty, have not by them at all thrown into regular figures, with parts answer. times accurate measurements of all sorts of able to each other; they transferred these ideas beautiful animals to help them to proper pro- to their gardens; they turned their trees into portions, when they would contrive any thing pillars, pyramids, and obelisks; they formed elegant, especially as they frequently assert, their hedges into so many green walls, and that it is from an observation of the beautiful in fashioned their walks into squares, triangles, nature they direct their practice. I know that and other mathematical figures, with exaciness it has been said long since, and echoed back- and symmetry; and they thought, if they were ward and forward from one writer to another a not imitating, they were at least improving na thousand times, that the proportions of building ture, and teaching her to know her business have been taken from those of the human body. But nature has at last escaped from their dis To make this forced analogy complete, they cipline and their fetters; and our gardens, if represent a man with his arms raised and ex. nothing else, declare, we begin to feel thal tended at full length, and then describe a sort mathematical ideas are not the true measures of square, as it is formed by passing lines of beauty. And surely they are full as little so along the extremities of this strange figure. in the animal, as in the vegetable world. For But it appears very clearly to me, that the is it not extraordinary, that in these fine dehuman figure never supplied the architect with scriptive pieces, these innumerable odes and any of his ideas. For in the first place, men elegies which are in the mouths of all the world, are very rarely seen in this strained posture ; it and many of which have been the entertaine is not natural to them; neither is it at all be- ment of ages, that in these pieces which de coming. Secondly, the view of the human scribe love with such a passionate energy, and figure so disposed, does not naturally suggest represent its object in such an infinite variety the idea of a square, but rather of a cross; as of lights, not one word is said of proportion, if that large space between the arms and the it be, what some insist it is, the principal com.
must be filled with some ing before it ponent of beauty; whilst at the ime, can make any body think of a square. Third- several other qualities are very frequently and
warmiy mentioned? But if proportion has not no means wait until custom had settled an idea this power, it may appear odd how men came of proportion, before we decided concerning its originally to be so prepossessed in its favour. beauty or ugliness: which shews that the geIt arose, I imagine, from the fondness I have neral idea of beauty can be no more owing to just mentioned, which men bear so remarkably customary than to natural proportion. Deforto their own works and notions ; it arose from mity arises from the want of the common profalse reasonings on the effects of the customary portions; but the necessary result of their exfigure of animals; it arose from the Platonic istence in any object is not beauty. If we theory of fitness and aptitude. For which rea- suppose proportion in natural things to be relason, in the next section, I shall consider the tive to custom and use, the nature of use and effects of custom in the figure of animals; and custom will shew, that beauty, which is a posiafterwards the idea of fitness: since if propor- tive and powerful quality, cannot result from it. tion does not operate by a natural power attend We are so wonderfully formed, that, whilst we ing some measures, it must be either by custom, are creatures vehemently desirous of novelty, or the idea of utility; there is no other way. we are as strongly attached to habit and custom.
But it is the nature of things which hold us by custom, to affect us very little whilst
possession of them, but strongly when they are SECTION V.
absent. I remember to have frequented a cer
tain place, every day for a long time together; PROPORTION FURTHER CONSIDERED,
and I may truly say, that so far from finding IF I am not mistaken, a great deal of the pleasure in it, I was affected with a sort of prejudice in favour of proportion has arisen, weariness and disgust; I came, I went, I renot so much from the observation of any certain turned, without pleasure; yet if by any means measures found in beautiful bodies, as from a I passed by the usual time of my going thither, wrong idea of the relation which deformity bears I was remarkably uneasy, and was not quiet to beauty, to which it has been considered as till I had got into my old track. They who use the opposite; on this principle it was conclud- snuff, take it almost without being sensible that ed, that where the causes of deformity were they take it, and the acute sense of smell is removed, beauty must naturally and necessarily deadened, so as to feel hardly any thing from be introduced. This I believe is a mistake. so sharp a stimulus; yet deprive the snuff-taker For deformity is opposed not to beauty, but to of his box, and he is the most uneasy mortal in the complete, common form. If one of the legs the world. Indeed so far are use and habit of a man be found shorter than the other, the from being causes of pleasure, merely as such, man is deformed; because there is something that the effect of constant use is to make ali wanting to complete the whole idea we form of things of whatever kind entirely unaffecting. a man; and this has the same effect in natural For as use at last takes off the painful effect of faults, as maiming and mutilation produce from many things, it reduces the pleasurable effect accidents. So if the back be humped, the man in others in the same manner, and brings both is deformed; because his back has an unusual to a sort of mediocrity and indifference. Very figure, and what carries with it the idea of justly is use called a second nature ; and our some disease or misfortune; so if a man's neck natural and common state is one of absolute be considerably longer or shorter than usual, indifference, equally prepared for pain or pleawe say he is deformed in that part, because But when we are thrown out of this men are not commonly made in that manner. state, or deprived of any thing requisite to But surely every hour's experience may con- maintain us in it; when this chance does not vince us, that a man may have his legs of an happen by pleasure from some mechanical equal length, and resembling each other in all cause, we are always hurt. It is so with the respects, and his neck of a just size, and his second nature, custom, in all things which reback quite straight, without having at the same
late to it. Thus the want of the usual proportime the least perceivable beauty. Indeed beau- tions in men and other animals is sure to disty is so far from belonging to the idea of custom, gust, though their presence is by no means any that in reality what affects us in that manner is cause of real pleasure. It is true, that the proextremely rare and uncommon. The beautiful portions laid down as causes of beauty in the striker us as much by its novelty as the deform- human body, are frequently found in beąutiful ed itsef. It is thus in those species of animals ones, because they are generally found in all with which we are acquainted ; and if one of nd; but if it can be shewn too, that they a new species were represented, we should by are found without beauty, and that beauty free
FITNESS NOT THE CAUSE OF BEAUTY.
quently exists without them, and that this beau- need say little on the trunk of the elephant, of ty, where it exists, always can be assigned to such various usefulness, and which is so far other less equivocal causes, it will naturally from contributing to his beauty. How well ead us to conclude, that proportion and beauty fitted is the wolf for running and leaping! how are not ideas of the same nature. The true admirably is the lion armed for battle! but will opposite to beauty is not disproportion or de- any one therefore call the elephant, the wolf, formity, but ugliness ; and as it proceeds from and the lion, beautiful animals? I believe no causes opposite to those of positive beauty, we body will think the form of a man's leg so well cannot consider it until we come to treat of adapted to running, as those of an horse, a that. Between beauty and ugliness there is a dog, a deer, and several other creatures, at sort of mediocrity, in which the assigned pro- least they have not that appearance: yet, I beportions are most commonly found; but this lieve, a well-fashioned human leg will be allowhas no effect upon the passions.
able far to exceed all these in beauty. If the fitness of parts was what constituted the loveliness of their form, the actual employment of
them would undoubtedly much augment it; but SECTION VI.
this, though it is sometimes so upon another principle, is far from being always the case A bird on the wing is not so beautiful as when
it is perched; nay, there are several of the doIt is said that the idea of utility, or of a part's mestic fowls which are seldom seen to fly, and being well adapted to answer its end, is the which are nothing the less beautiful on that cause of beauty, or indeed beauty itself. If it account; yet birds are so extremely different were not for this opinion, it had been impossi- in their form from the beast and human kinds, ble for the doctrine of proportion to have held that you cannot, on the principle of fitness, its ground very long; the world would be soon allow them any thing agreeable, but in considweary of hearing of measures which related to eration of their parts being designed for quite nothing, either of a natural principle, or of a other purposes. I never in my life chanced to fitness to answer some end; the idea which see a peacock fly; and yet before, very long mankind most commonly conceive of propor- before I considered any aptitude in his form for tion, is the suitableness of means to certain the aërial life, I was struck with the extreme ends, and, where this is not the question, very beauty which raises that bird above many of seldom trouble themselves about the effect of the best flying fowls in the world; though, for different measures of things. Therefore it any thing I saw, his way of living was much was necessary for this theory to insist that not like that of the swine, which fed in the farmonly artificial, but natural objects took their yard along with him. The same may be said beauty from the fitness of the parts for their of cocks, hens, and the like; they are of the several purposes. But in framing this theory, flying kind in figure: in their manner of moI am apprehensive that experience was not suf- ving not very different from men and beasts. ficiently consulted. For, on that principle, the To leave these foreign examples; if beauty in wedge-like snout of a swine, with its tough our own species was annexed to use, men cartilage at the end, the little sunk eyes, and would be much more lovely than women ; and the whole make of the head, so well adapted to strength and agility would be considered as the its offices of digging and rooting, would be only beauties. But to call strength by the extremely beautiful. The great bag hanging name of beauty, to have but one denomination to the bill of a pelican, a thing highly useful to for the qualities of a Venus and Hercules, so this animal, would be likewise as beautiful in totally different in almost all respects, is surely our eyes.
The hedgehog, so well socured a strange confusion of ideas, or abuse of words. against all assaults by his prickly hide, and the The cause of this confusion, I imagine, proporcupine with his missile quills, would be ceeds from our frequently perceiving the parts then considered as creatures of no small ele of the human and other animal bodies to be at gance. There are few animals whose parts once very beautiful, and very well adapted to are better contrived than those of a monkey; their purposes; and we are deceived by a he has the hands of a man, joined to the springy sophism, which makes us take that for a cause limbs of a beast ; he is admirably calculated which is only a concomitant: this is the sophfor running, leaping, grappling, and climbing; ism of the fly; who imagined he raised a great and yet there are few animals which seem to dust, because he stood upon the chariot that have less beauty in the eves of all mankind. I really raised it. The stomach, the lungs, the
THE REAL EFFECTS OF FITNESS.
iver, as well as other parts, are incomparably the former case, whilst we look up to the well adapted to their purposes ; yet they are far Maker with admiration and praise, the object from having any beauty. Again, many things which causes it may be odious and distastefui; are very beautiful, in which it is impossible to the latter very often so touches us by its power discern any idea of use. And I appeal to the on the imagination, that we examine but little first and most natural feelings of mankind, into the artifice of its contrivance; and we have whether, on beholding a beautiful eye, or a need of a strong effort of our reason to disenwell-fashioned mouth, or a well-turned leg, any tangle our minds from the allurements of the ideas of their being well fitted for seeing, object, to a consideration of that wisdom which eating, or running, ever present themselves. invented so powerful a machine. The effect What idea of use is it that flowers excite, the of proportion and fitness, at least so far as they most beautiful part of the vegetable world ? It proceed from a mere consideration of the work is true, that the infinitely wise and good Crea- itself, produces approbation, the acquiescence tor has, of his bounty, frequently joined beauty of the understanding, but not love, nor any pasto those things which he has made useful to us : sion of that species. When we examine the but this does not prove that an idea of use and structure of a watch, when we come to know beauty are the same thing, or that they are any thoroughly the use of every part of it, satisfied way dependent on each other.
as we are with the fitness of the whole, we are far enough from perceiving any thing like beauty in the watch-work itself; but let us
look on the case, the labour of some curious SECTION VII.
artist in engraving, with little or no idea of use, we shall have a much livelier idea of beauty than we ever could have had from the
watch itself, though the master-piece of GraWHEN I excluded proportion and fitness from ham. In beauty, as I said, the effect is preany share in beauty, I did not by any means vious to any knowledge of the use; but to judge intend to say that they were of no value, or that of proportion, we must know the end for which they ought to be disregarded in works of art. any work is designed. According to the end, Works of art are the proper sphere of their the proportion varies. Thus there is one propower; and here it is that they have their full portion of a tower, another of an house ; one effect. Whenever the wisdom of our Creator proportion of a gallery, another of an hall, anintended that we should he affected with any other of a chamber. To judge of the proporthing, he did not confide the execution of his tions of these, you must be first acquainted with design to the languid and precarious operation the purposes for which they were designed. of our reason; but he endued it with powers Good sense and experience acting together, and properties that prevent the understanding, find out what is fit to be done in every work of and even the will, which seizing upon the art. We are rational creatures, and in all our senses and imagination, captivate the soul works we ought to regard their end and purbefore the understanding is ready either to join pose; the gratification of any passion, how with them, or to oppose them. It is by a long innocent soever, ought only to be of a seconddeduction, and much study, that we discover ary consideration. Herein is placed the real the adorable wisdom of God in his works: power of fitness and proportion; they operate when we discover it, the effect is very differe on the understanding considering them, which ent, not only in the manner of acquiring it, but approves the work and acquiesces in it.
The in its own nature, from that which strikes us passions, and the imagination which princiwithout any preparation from the sublime or pally raises them, have here very little to do. the beautiful. How different is the satisfac- When a room appears in its original nakedtion of an anatomist, who discovers the use of ness, bare walls and a plain ceiling; let its the muscles and of the skin, the excellent con- proportion be ever so excellent, it pleases very trivance of the one for the various movements little ; a cold approbation is the utmost we can of the body, and the wonderful texture of the reach; a much worse-proportioned room with other, at once a general covering, and at once elegant mouldings and fine festouns, glasses, a general outlet as well as inlet ; how different and other merely ornamental furniture, will is this from the affection which possesses an make the imagination revolt against the reaordinary man at the sight of a delicate smooth son; it will please much more than the naked skin, and all the other parts of beauty, which proportion of the first room, which the under. require no investigation to be perceived! In standing has so much approved, as admirably
fitted for its purposes. What I have here said This is to me a sufficient proof, that it is not and before concerning proportion, is by no the proper object of love. Who ever said we means to persuade people absurdly to neglect ought to love a fine woman, or even any of the idea of use in the works of art. It is only these beautiful animals which please us? Here to shew that these excellent things, beauty and to be affected, there is no need of the concurproportion, are not the same; not that they rence of our will. should either of them be disregarded.
HOW FAR THE IDEA OF BEAUTY MAY BE
APPLIED TO THE QUALITIES OF THE
MIND. On the whole ; if such parts in human bodies as are found proportioned, were likewise con. Nor is this remark in general less applicastantly found beautiful, as they certainly are ble to the qualities of the mind. Those virtues not; or if they were so situated, as that a plea- which cause admiration, and are of the subsure might flow from the comparison, which limer kind, produce terrour rather than love ; they seldom are; or if any assignable propor- such as fortitude, justice, wisdom, and the like. tions were found, either in plants or animals, Never was any man amiable by force of these which were always attended with beauty, which qualities. Those which engage our hearts, never was the case; or, if, where parts were which impress us with a sense of loveliness, well adapted to their purposes, they were con- are the softer virtues; easiness of temper, comstantly beautiful, and when no use appeared, passion, kindness, and liberality; though certhere was no beauty, which is contrary to all tainly those latter are of less immediate and experience; we might conclude, that beauty momentous concern to society, and of less digconsisted in proportion or utility. But since, nity. But it is for that reason that they are so in all respects, the case is quite otherwise; we amiable. The great virtues turn principally may be satisfied that beauty does not depend on on dangers, punishments, and troubles, and are these, let it owe its origin to what else it will. exercised rather in preventing the worst mis
chiefs, than in dispensing favours; and are therefore not lovely, though highly venerable.
The subordinate turn on reliefs, gratifications, SECTION IX.
and indulgencies; and are therefore more
lovely, though inferiour in dignity. Thoso PERFECTION NOT THE CAUSE OF BEAUTY. persons who creep into the hearts of most peo
ple, who are chosen as the companions of their THERE is another notion current, pretty softer hours, and their reliefs from care and closely allied to the former; that perfection is anxiety, are never persons of shining qualities the constituent cause of beauty. This opinion or strong virtues. It is rather the soft green of has been made to extend much farther than to the soul on which we rest our eyes that are fasensible subjects. But in these, so far is per- tigued with beholding more glaring objects. fection, considered as such, from being the It is worth observing how we feel ourselves cause of beauty ; that this quality, where it affected in reading the characters of Cæsar and is highest, in the female sex, almost always Cato, as they are so finely drawn and contrastcarries with it an idea of weakness and imper- ed in Sallust. In one the ignoscendo, largiunfection. Women are very sensible of this; do; in the other, nil largiundo. In one the mic for which reason, they learn to lisp, to totter in seris perfugium; in the other, malis perniciem. their walk, to counterfeit weakness, and even In the latter we have much to admire, much to sickness. In all this they are guided by na- reverence, and perhaps something to fear; we ture. Beauty in distress is much the most respect him, but we respect him at a distance. affecting beauty. Blushing has little less pow- The former makes us familiar with him; we er; and modesty in general, which is a tacit love him, and he leads us whither he pleases. allowance of imperfection, is itself considered To draw things closer to our first and most as an amiable quality, and certainly heightens natural feelings, I will add a remark made upor: every other that is so. I know it is in every reading this section by an ingenious friend body's mouth, that we ought to love perfection. The authority of a father, so useful to our well