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10 decide whether the emotion excited be an emotion of beauty, of grandeur, or of sublimity. These three classes of emotions are alike objects of the attention of taste; and the principles and rules established in reference to one class, admit of application to the others. Hence the attention is principally directed to emotions of beauty, and emotions of each class are sometimes called emotions of taste.
I return now to the definition of taste. Every instance of judgment implies knowledge of those subjects, on which it is exercised. The chemist cannot form his mixture, that shall possess certain required properties, without a knowledge of the properties of the several simples which are ingredients. In those instances of judgment also which are included under taste, there is in the same manner knowledge implied; but as this is the knowledge of emotions, and can be acquired only by experience, taste is said to be founded on the experience of past emotions.
Though taste, in the definition which has now been explained, is called judgment, it is not meant, that in the exercise of taste, the mind is ordinarily conscious of deliberation or of the balancing of reasons, as in some other instances of judgment. It is true, that this deliberation may® be rapidly passed through in all instances, and in some, as in the case of the artist employed in designing and executing
his work, there may be a consciousness of the process But most frequently, judgment on objects of taste seems to be passed instantaneously. As the result of past experience of emotions, certain principles seem fixed in the mind, and when taste is called into exercise, it is the immediate application of these principles to particular instances. The analogy is close between the exercise of taste in the works of the fine arts, and of taste, as the word is literally applied to the sense of taste. Take for example the case of wines. The wine merchant is able at once to decide as to the qual
ity of the wine presented to him, and to detect any foreign ingredient. He has acquired his ability to do this by past experience, and he brings the results of this past experience, which seem to exist in his mind as certain fixed principles, to the particular instance in which his judgment is required.
Sensibility as connected with taste.
From the definition that has been given of taste, we may learn in what way sensibility is connected with its attainment. By sensibility, is meant a high degree of susceptibility of the emotions of beauty. And since taste is founded on the experience of these emotions, sensibility, as thus defined, must aid in the formation of a good taste. It must be supposed, that so far as the emotions of beauty result from original tendencies of the mind to be pleased in view of certain objects, they are in some degree common to all men in their earliest years. But it is a well known fact respecting all our emotions, that if neglected, they lose their strength, and if entirely disregarded, they will soon cease to be felt. On the contrary they are strengthened by being regarded and cherished. Hence it is, that while some men are susceptible of emotions of beauty in view of objects and scenes around them, others, the circumstances of whose life have been different, look upon the same objects and scenes without any emotion of this nature. So far, too, as these emotions result from associated thoughts and feelings, there is an equal cause of diversity among different indi. viduals. One, from the scenes and events that have fallen under his observation, may have many associations connect ed with a particular object, which another may have never formed.
These remarks admit of illustration. Addison, when he
went forth in the evening, and gazed upon the starry heavens and the moon walking in her majesty, felt emotions of sublimity. In accounting for the rise of these emotions, we might say, that he was a man of sensibility -- from the original constitution of his mind he was susceptible of emotions of taste to a high degree. His intellectual habits also, and the circumstances of his life, were such as to cherish and strengthen these original tendencies of his mind. Astronomy had taught him something of the size and number and uses of these heavenly bodies; and in this way, or in other ways, many associations were connected with them. On the same evening, perhaps, and in the same neighborhood, the laborer returning from his daily toil, looked upon the same starry and moon-lit firmament, but felt no emotion of beauty or sublimity. Still this individual might have been originally constituted with as much sensibility as Addison; but such has been his lot in life, that this sensibility has been lost, and he thinks of the moon and stars only as lighting him homewards from his toil.
Standard of taste.
The inquiry here arises, whether a sensibility to emotions of beauty may not exist, and still the individual possessing it be destitute of good taste? And if this inquiry be answered in the affirmative, as it must be in accordance with facts, it may be still further asked, how this want of taste is consistent with the statement, that taste is founded on the experience of emotions of beauty and sublimity? The resolution of this apparent difficulty brings to view what is termed the STANDARD OF TASTE. It is the case, as we have seen, that from the peculiar circumstances of individuals, their original tendencies to emotions of beauty may be perverted and blunted, or strengthened and increased. The
associations also connected with the same objects and scenes may be very different in different minds. From both of these causes, and froin others not mentioned, the emotions, excited in the minds of different individuals in the view of the same objects, will differ, and consequently, their experience as to emotions will vary. In this count for diversities of taste among individuals, and here is the ground of the maxim so often quoted, de gustibus non disputandum. But amidst all these diversities, there are some objects and scenes, which do uniformly excite emotions of beauty in the great majority of those, who have any degree of sensibility. And where there are cases of exception, some sufficient reason may generally be assigned. In the assertion then that taste is founded on the experience of past emotions, reference is made to this common experience, and not to the experience of individuals, or of any particular country or age. Hence then we infer, that the standard of taste is the agreeing voice of such as are susceptible of emotions of beauty, both of those who lived in past ages, and of those now existing.
To illustrate these remarks, I may refer the student to the statue of Washington, which has been recently placed in the metropolis of New England, and which represents him in the drapery of a Roman hero. Should it be asked, why he is thus represented, rather than in the dress, which as a military commander, or a civil leader, he was accustomed to wear ? or in such attire as was used by military and civil leaders in Europe two hundred, or five hundred, years ago ? it might be answered, that though such drapery might have been approved at the period when it was worn, and thus have been in agreement with the taste of the age, at the present time it would appear unbecoming to the human form. But such is not the case with the Roman toga. This is a drapery, which at all times, and to all men, ap
pears graceful and excites emotions of beauty. This fact, then, both proves, that there is a standard of taste, and illustrates what is meant by it.
Hence we learn one object and use of models of excellence in the fine arts. It is principally by means of these, that we obtain a knowledge of the standard of taste, or rather they are the standard, since in them the decisions of men in different periods and portions of the world are found embodied. To illustrate this by an example, I will refer to West's painting of Christ in the exercise of the charities. We know that this painting was universally admired in England. It has been regarded with like admiration in
All those who are susceptible of emotions of taste, have felt these emotions when looking upon this production of art. Here, then, is found the united voice of men of the present age; and the artist knows, that so far as his production exhibits what excites emotions of beauty in this painting, it is in agreement with the generał opinion of men now living, or the standard of the taste of the age. Had this picture existed through successive ages, and been uniformly admired, this would give it higher authority, and the artist, in conforming his work to it, would know, that what he produces, is in agreement with the opinions of men of different ages of the world. He might then hope, that his work, being conformed to this general standard of taste, would please all men every where, and of every age, who are susceptible of emotions of beauty, and whose minds are not under the influence of some particular bias. In models of excellence, then, in the fine arts, is expressed the experience of mankind respecting emotions of beauty; and in studying these models, the man of sensibility learns to correct any peculiar influence which circumstances may have nad on his own emotions, and thus acquires a taste which is in conformity with the general standard of taste.