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overstrain it. Thus will you do justice to your talents, and become valuable members of the Republic of Letters.
But between Genius and Taste there suhsists an intimate connection which renders it necessary that they should be considered in subserviency to each other. Thus will they re. flect a mutual light, capable of aiding us in the llustration of them. Apart, they cannot be so thoroughly investigated, and therefore we are justified in rendering them subjects of joint discussion.
The term “ Taste,' applied to composition, must be understood in a figurative sense. Its original signification refers to the palate, hy which we are enabled to ascertain the qua. lity of the food presented to us for our nou. rishment and support. In a similar manner the. mind is endowed with a power of discrimination respecting the subjects which engage its atten. tion. Nothing is more generally recognised than the faculty of raste. It is in the mouth of all, though few, perhaps, have philosophi. cally investigated it. Nor is it indeed neces. sary. Providence hath wisely appointed that we should use both our faculties and our senses without being profoundly acquainted with the nature or extent of them. This measure is wisely ordered, since men were designed more for action in this present life than for contem. plation. It is, nevertheless, highly useful for those who have ability and leisure, to enquire into such things. The investigation exalts onr opinion of the Deity in the formation of Man, and proves a powerful incitement to the proper exercise of those powers with which we are furnished.
Taste hath been thus justly defined by a
writer who possessed no inconsiderable portion of it. It is,' says Dr. Blair,' the power of re. ceiving pleasure from the beauties of nature and art. Now that such a power is possessed by individuals, is obvious to every one who has the least acquaintance with mankind. Not only in the different stages of life, but in the different classes of men, variety of tastes to a very great extent prevails. What dissonance subsists between the crude perceptions of a child, and the mature judgment of a veteran in the republic of letters? How much at variance are the tastes of the rustic who has seen nature in her most rude forms, and of the polished scholar whose mind, to use the words of Akenside,
“ Is feelingly alive to each fine impulse?”.
Tastes are in reality, as various as the hu. man countenance ; under every aspect a difference obtains. Hence both in kind and degree it affords ample matter for discussion. On this account the subject distributes itself into two branches, which have been noticed by philologists. Let us consider them with some mi. nuteness.
Delicacy and Correctness are the two qua. lities ascribed to Taste in its most perfect state. Delicacy respects the sensibility with which our nature is endowed for the perception of beauty. Some minds are so torpid, that nothing can arouse them, whilst another class shall be affected by every breath of wind however gent. ly it plays upon them. These are evidently extremes which must be avoided. Now delicacy consists in a refinement of sensation easier to
be conceived than expressed. As the senses of some men are far more exquisite than those of others, so their taste equally distinguished by the various degrees of fineness which it assumes. A man of delicate taste is always un. derstood to discern beauties which escape the vulgar....some latent excellencies are disco. vered which charm the eye and conciliate the heart....
..This, nor gems, nor stores of gold,
" Correctness, the other quality of a perfect taste, respects the improvement which it has received by means of the understanding ope. rating to the formation of a just judgment. It implies the individual's possession of certain rules by which every object is to be estimated. His opinion is not formed at random. His prin. ciples of judging are not subject to a childish caprice, or to a humoursome fluctuation. He understands what, and knows why he approves. This is a valuable acquisition, and, united to delicacy of taste, constitutes the man of emi. nent genius. But it is to be remarked, that cor. rectness and delicacy are by no means constant companions. Apart are they frequently found, and numerous instances of this truth might be adduced. Hence Blair justly observes, thạt « Among the ancient writers, Longinus pos. sessed most delicacy, Aristotle most correct. ness..--Among the moderns, Addison is a high example of delicate taste; Dean Swift, bad he written on the subject of criticişm, would per.
In the Preface to the Parnassian Garland, the Editor has fully explained the nature and plan after which the Poetry and Prose have been selected. With respect to the present little Volume, information has been particularly studied in the several Extracts ; whilst those passages are avoided which have been hackneyed by appearing in almost every other collection, Upon the whole, the Editor has endeavoured to blend together topics of instruction and entertainment, and he hopes that the pains he has taken both in the In. troductory Essay and in the Selection will be found conducive to intellectual and moral im. provement. Indeed, the Parnassian and Pro. saic Garlands, the fruit of his leisure hours, are cheerfully consecrated to the best interests of the Rising Generation.
Islington, August, 1807.