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on this supposition, is unmeaning and ridiculous; for what is the value of principles, the application of which depend on something which is thus arbitrary and mutable : The critick, if there is no standard of taste, is only the legislator of caprice, and the lord chancellor of whim. The praise, which he and the world give to the writings, which taste has embalmed and consecrated, is puerile and groundless ; our admiration is aii traditionary and inherited, and we only repeat raptures already a thousand years old. To say, however, there exists no standard of taste, seems little less than to affirm, that there are no common feelings in our nature,and nothing similar in the construction of our minds. It does not require much philosophy to perceive, that beauty exists in the mind, and not in the object of its contemplation. It is then obvious that as the grand and prominent appearances of external nature do not change, if there were an essential diversity in our relish for them, it could arise only from the variety and mutability of our perceptions. But the rose is as sweet to you as to me. We differ not in our wonder at what is sublime, or our delight in what is beautiful in nature ; though there is not equality in our feelings, there is no discordance. If then our perceptions of pleasure are similar, though unequal, we must believe, that there are some common principles of judging of the perfection of those arts, which profess to imitate the objects that produce our perceptions. If we grant any identity in the formation of our minds, can we forbear to conclude, that mankind must retain these principles as long as nature, which it is the
province of poetry and painting to depicture, and the passions, which it is their province to analyze and unfold, remain invariable and the same 2 But this conclusion is not merely authorized by speculation. It is only on the supposition of a standard of taste, that we can account for the fact, that there are principles of judging, which have continued permanent and established. The origin of these principles will not account for it, for that is just what we should suppose it would be on the theory we advocate. La génie, says La Harpe, a consideré la nature, & l’embellig en l'imitant, des esprits observateurs out considéré le génie, & out dévoilé par analyse le secret de des merveilles. That we should acquiesce in the principles thus collected, that the decisions of criticism in one age should be submitted to and affirmed in another, is surely inconsistent with an other supposition, than that they are founded on the constitution of our common nature. It is unnecessary to attempt to prove that there is such acquiscence, for who will deny, that Longinus and Quintilian are arbiters of elegance now, equally as among the ancients, and that whatever was sublime or beautiful to them continues so to us. It is however in taste, as it is, in some degree, in morals ; though its general and essential principles are immutable and unquestionable, yet their application to individual instances is not a little fluctuating. We shall accordingly be told of the opposing sentiments, and still agitated controversies among men of taste; and that deep fixed as these principles may be, they do not secure even criticks from deception. We shall be told of the success of the forgery of Sigonius," and reminded that a boy of eighteen,t in the eighteenth century, when the idolatry of Shakespeare was at its height, successfully imposed Vortigern on Parr and half the English nation, as a genuine relick of the bard of Avon. If, indeed, in the days of Cicero, they disputed on the nature of Atticism, and the orator was accused of a style vitiated and Asiatick ; if Seneca and Tacitus are pronounced the corruptors of Roman taste, and Fontenelle in France, and Johnson and Gibbon in England, receive a similar sentence from criticks of no vulgar rank, he must be a strongnerved controversialist, who will assert that the philosophy of taste is completely understood. Still, because their application is not unerring, it is no proof that principles are not fixed, and if this diversity can be accounted for, the theory will remain unshaken. The common notion of the nature of taste, that it is an original and distinct faculty, or rather a certain indefinable instinct, which discriminates by feeling and decides by impulse, is not perhaps very philosophical. We will not undertake to puzzle our readers and ourselves with a metaphysical refutation of the opinion from the construction and laws of the mind, The palpable fact, that taste is matured and perfected by experience, as it accounts for the production of it on principles exactly analogous to that of all the other powers of the mind, is of itself sufficient. The fact, which is here assumed, will I presume be conceded, but, to destroy the possibility of doubt, I will produce a proof as decisive
as it is indisputable. Sir Joshua
Reynolds" relates of himself, that
at his first visit to the Vatican he walked about it for a long time, surveying with delight the various paintings which adorned it; till at length, after he had been fatigued by the toil of admiration, he inquired of his guide for the works of Raffaelle, and was coolly informed, that the first paintings he had been shown, and which he had passed by, almost without examination, were the works of that surpassing genius, who is to Angelo what Virgil is to Homer. He adds, that he was by no means induced to dispute the justice of the sentence, which had so long given Raffaelle his rank; but suspecting his own judgment, he sat down to the study of his works, and at length disciplined his mind to acquiescence in the decision. If it be granted then that taste is factitious, it is placed on the same foundation, as the other faculties of the mind, and the varieties of taste are to be explained on precisely the same principles, as the varieties of reason and judgment. We might as well say, that morals are baseless and fortuitous, because men dispute on them, as to say, that taste has no laws, because all do not assent to them. Indeed we have here a foundation for what, after all, we find true in fact, for greater permanency in the decisions of taste, when once made, than in those of reason and judgment. For the passions, on the delineation and colouring of which so much of the influence of poetry and elegance depends, are infinitely less variable in their operations, than the judgment and reason. We accordingly find,that while systems of recondite sclence fade away and are forgotten, the language of nature and of passion is eternally the same. The philosophical theories of the ancients are now neglected, or regarded only for the beauties of the style in which they are conveyed ; but their poetry and elequence still find an eche in every breast, the creations of their fancy are still warm and breathing with life, still sparkling and ruddy with undecaying youth. It would be easy to enumerate some of the secondary causes of the diversities of taste, such as the different degrees of original sensibility, and the accidental associations of peculiar situations. But I forbear, for the Remarker is already more than suspected of being rather long-breathed ; and some of our Juvenals will begin to exclaim against this indefatigable descendant of Orestes. Let me only observe, that I am far from contending for a standard so rig
* The author of the tract, De Consolatione, usuallyfood among the works of Cicero. # Ireland.
* Life by Malone. . This account is quoted from memory, but is, I believe, substantially COs (CCo.
orously limited, as to exclude from the list of fine writers Seneca or Tacitus, Fontenelle or Gibbon : still less for one which would exclude any felicity of invention, or frolick of fancy, because it departs from its laws, or which would canonize feebleness and triviality, because they do not offend them. The fine arts have some beauties, such as the French call finesses, which, from aceidental circumstances, are more or less praised in different ages, but their grand and essential beauties are, I believe, regulated by laws, as invariable as nature itself—To me this is not merely a question of curious speculation ; for if I doubted the existence of a standard of taste, I should lose much glow while I read, and all trembling when I write; I should lose too, while I meditate the great masters of taste, all the complacency, which arises from the whisper of vanity, that I may hereafter be worthy to praise them.
*URNS AND BLOOM FIELD.
THEs E two poets appeared nearly at the same time. Both combated the disadvantages of low birth, and the want of education ; and the powers of both expanded unassisted by the genial warmth of patronage, till they excited the attention, and procured the favour of the publick. But here the resemblance ceases. Bloomfield has already outlived his reputation ; but the reputation of Burns still increased, though he was himself the cause of his miserable end. His genius, full of fire and feeling, made us forget his foibles. enly on the poet, or if we remem
bered the man, it was to regret, that fortune had not been more propitious, and saved him from those temptations, which he was unable to resist. The advocates of Bloomfield advance, that the narrow cell of a cobler's stall is less propitious to the expansion of genius, than the open fields, where the mind is easily drawn by the beauties of nature to leave the plough, and walk in her flowery paths. But his poems exhibit no proof of a mind equal to conceiving those beauties, which abound in Burns. The applause of his fellow apprentices for a few happy rhymes might easily lead him to give his leisure moments to writing verses; and without possessing that genius, of whose power we hear so much, and see so little, he might produce a poem, which, considering the disadvantages under which he laboured, would produce surprise. The hand of patronage would be extended by those, who are desirous to bring forward talents and merit ; and the voice of
criticism would be silenced by a
reference to his former circumstances. But comparative merit cannot be allowed in the republick of letters. Authors must be finally judged by their works alone. The few beauties, which we find in Bloomfield, cannot palliate his faults. A momentary gleam may burst through the thick darkness ; but the prospect is gloomy, and we are eager to quit the dreary scene, Should his genius be as prolifick as was Rhea, Saturn is as insatiable as ever to destroy the offspring as soon as born ; and no deceit will now save a favourite production from his ruthless tooth. The genius of Burns struggled against poverty and the insolence of petty office ; but rose superiour to every obstacle. We labour with pleasure through a barbarous glossary, that we may fully relish his beauties. We learn his language and become his countryman, that we may enjoy the innocent pleasures of the cotter's Sato urday night. HUDIBRAs.
THE excellence of this work is no longer questioned. , The seal of merit has been affixed to it by the hand of time ; and few are so hardy, as to question his decrees. Every one would be thought acquainted with it, yet I doubt, whether it ever produced sufficient interest to spoil a dinner for
its greatest admirer: Though full of the flashings of genius, and the observations of an acute understanding, it wants interest to keep. attention alive. The novelty of language soon wears off. The unexpected resemblance between dissimilar objects, and the peculiar mode of viewing them, at first delights, but soon fatigues ; and we look in vain for incidents, upon which to rest our wearied imagination. We find oursekves lost in a wilderness of flowers; and when satiated with admiring their singular form; and varied tints, we reflect, that we are not advancing towards the end of our journey ; our guide, instead of relieving us by pointing out the object, to which we should be advancing, only presents us with a fresh nosegay. This want of interest can but in part be attributed to the local subject of the work. The satires of Swift and Pope afford us great pleasure in the perusal, though Dennis and Wood are known to us but from these authors. And though the characters of the English revolution are uncommon, and such as are rarely exhibited upon the theatre of the world, yet the same desire of overturning every thing established by age led the French to imitate the English in their revolution ; and when everything of importance had been overthrown, to turn their zeal to things of no consequence. We therefore find many observations in Hudibras, which may with propriety be applied to the scenes, that have lately been exhibited in France. Much therefore of the want of interest in this poem must be attributed to its radical defects, aucity of incidents and to its being unconnected. The judgment of Johnson has corrected the criticism of Dryden, who thought the
work would have been improved by heroick metre. But it may still remain a doubt, whether the same talents and judgment differ. ently employed might not have Produced a more interesting picture of the manners and conduct of the fanaticks of the English revolution. IMITATION OF HUDIBRAS. Johnson says in his life of Butler, “Nor even should another Butler arise, would another HuJibras obtain the same regard.” But neither this prediction, nor the fate of all their predecessors lost in the same path, can deter many from seeking immortality by following the same footsteps. Without possessing the genius of Butler, which illumines every page of his works, his imitators assume his dress, and think," under the name of Hudibrastick verse, they may conceal poverty of thought and grossness of language. But as it is easy to ape the trifling peculiarities of great men, it should be remembered, that, as great qualities seem more conspicuous by the neglect of trifles, every thing is wanting, where those qualities are not to be found. The paintings of genius will attract admiration, whether they modestly display their beauties in simple colours, or are tricked off in a court dress; but a splendid frame must draw the eye of observation from a mere daub. Familiar language, neglected verse, and low imagery, are not sufficient to bring to our minds the muse of Butler. We may without effort be induced to glide down the silent stream of modern poetry, where we are only guided by industrious imitation. But over a rugged road some superiour power must lead us, or we Vol. III. No. 3. R
shall not be induced to follow, This mode of writing may be successfully used, where we mean to satirize on objects mean and temporary. We may caricature, though we can hardly draw a picture, in Hudibrastick verse. The passing follies of the hour may be ridiculed in this verse; and we are leased to see an author succeed n holding up to derision in it characters who, with the bad principles of the day, endanger our civil and political safety. But, not content with rendering to Caesar the things that are Cassar's, many of our criticks, with more patriotism than judgment, so surcharge with flattery every American publication, as to disgust even our vitiated palates. We were led to this remark by lately seeing in our papers a selection from the Port Folio upon Democracy Unveiled; in which Mr. Fessenden is ranked before Butler, and has Churchill and the first English satirists placed by his side. We could not but regret, that so useful an author, and one who has afforded us so much pleasure, should thus have his feelings injured by injudicious praise. He seems not to have cast a look at immortality; but to have been content with having merited the applause of his country, and of his own heart, for promoting the cause of virtue and of good government. FEMALE EDts CATION. Could one of our pious ancestors, who first landed on these shores, by some magick spell be raised from the grave, where he had reposed for years, his astonishment, at the present manners of our ladies, would no doubt be very great. He would no longer, as in his day, find ladies employed in