Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

IV.

[ocr errors]

successfully applied to the science which he CHAP.
treats, the same method of investigation sro
which Lord Kames has prescribed and ex.
emplified in tracing out the principles of a
right judgment in all the works of genius
and imagination. The Philosophy of Rhe-
toric, is a work modelled upon the plan of
Aristotle's Treatise on that subject, in so far
as it professes to delineate the human mind,
as well in its active principles, as in its pas-
sions or moral feelings; and it involves, in
addition to this plan, the application of
these principles to the art of rhetoric, in all
its branches; in the manner in which Lord
Kames has applied them to the more com-
prehensive science of criticism in all the fine
arts *. Both authors illustrate their theo-

[ocr errors]

• Dr Campbell, in his preface, observes, “ It is his pur. pose

in this work, on the one hand, to exhibit, he does not say a correct map, but a tolerable sketch of the human “ mind; and aided by the lights which the poet and the “ orator so amply furnish, to disclose its secret movements, " tracing its principal channels of perception and action, as

near as possible to their source: And, on the other hand, “ from the science of human nature, to ascertain with greater “ precision, the radical principles of that art, whose object it “ is, by the use of language, to operate on the soul of the “ hearer, in the way of informing, pleasing, moving, or per. so suading."- Philosophy of Rhetoric, Pref. p. 7.

BOOK IL retical principles by the most copious ex

amples drawn from the works of genius; and in the fitness and beauty of those illustrations, lies, perhaps the most certain, as well as the most general utility, of their several labours. “ No criticism,” (says David Hume), “ can be instructive which descends “ not to particulars, and is not full of ex“ amples and illustrations * ;” and it may be added, that none can be devoid of instruction which is so illustrated.

I have formerly alluded, in a note, to a work which bears a high character among those which treat of philosophical criticism; I mean Mr Alison's Essay on the Nature and Principles of Taste. In this truly classical performance, the author has the merit of devising a new theory of the origin of our feelings of the sublime and beautiful. It is his opinion, that the emotions of sublimity and beauty depend altogether on the association of material with mental qualities : that no material objects are truly in them

Mr Alison's Essay on Taste.

* Hume's Essays, vol. i. Essay 20. On Simplicity and Refinement.

[blocks in formation]

selves either sublime or beautiful; but that
the emotions thence arising, proceed entire-
ly from the train of thought which those ob-
jects excite in the mind. The simple per-
ception of the object may be pleasing, but
it is insufficient to awaken those emotions
of beauty or sublimity which amount to
delight, unless it is accompanied with this
operation of the mind; unless the imagina-
tion is seized, and the fancy busied in the
contemplation of the chain of ideas which
that object suggests. Thus, the sight of the
ocean is no otherwise sublime, than as it ex-
cites in the mind a train of ideas of immen-
sity, danger and uncontrollable power, which
altogether produce the emotion of sublimi-
ty: the scenery of the country in spring, is
no otherwise beautiful, than as it suggests &
train of ideas of cheerfulness, gladness, ten- :
derness and serene enjoyments. The au-
thor brings a positive proof of his proposi-
tion from an elaborate detail of the various
trains of association which the qualities of
objects are fitted to produce; and a nega-
tive demonstration, from the invariable phe-
nomenon, that when these associations are

[merged small][ocr errors]

BOOK II. dissolved, or when the material qualities

cease to produce them, there is an end to the emotions of sublimity or beauty. On this theory, which rests upon one beautiful philosophic thought, and which is not only supported by great acuteness of reasoning, but by a surprising variety of ingenious and apposite illustrations, I shall only remark, that if there should still remain a doubt, whether the principle of association be, as the author supposes, absolutely exclusive of all others in the excitement of the emotions of beauty and sublimity, he has at least brought the most convincing evidence, that it has a very universal and powerful influence, both in the production, and in the improvement of those emotions.

Other works It were tedious to enter into a particular in philosophic criti- account of all the works of merit in the decism.

partment of criticism which have proceeded from the same school; as, the Essays of Dr Beattie on Poetry and Music, and his Nlus*trations on Sublimity; Dr Blair's Lectures on

Rhetoric and the Belles Lettres; the Observations on Modern Gardening by Mr Whately; Mr Brown's Remarks on the Poetry and

IV.

Music of the Italian Opera ; the ingenious CHAP. Essays of Professor Richardson on Shakespeare's Dramatic Characters; or the excellent specimens of similar disquisition by Mr Mackenzie, and other writers, in the Mirror and Lounger * From these and other recent works of taste, it will be seen, that criticism has of late years assumed a new character, and is now as generally associated with philosophy, as formerly it was limited to mechanical rules, or didactic precepts, resting on the sole foundation of authority, and the practice of the ancient writers.

• To these I add two works lately published, An Analytical Inquiry into the Principles of Taste, by Mr Payne Knight, printed in 1807; and Essays on the Sources of the Pleasure received from Literary Compositions, printed in 1809, both of them acute and ingenious productions, and entering deeply into the principles of Philosophical Criticism.

END OF VOLUME FIRST.

« ÎnapoiContinuați »