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cessful incursions occasionally made upon its frontiers, we are not yet in full possession.
THE performance which, of all those I happened to be acquainted with, seems to have advanced farthest in this way, is the Elements of Criticism. But the subject of the learned and ingenious author of that work, is rather too multifarious to admit so narrow a scrutiny as would be necessary for a perfect knowledge of the several parts. Every thing that is an object of taste, sculpture, painting, music, architecture, and gardening, as well as poetry and eloquence, come within : his plan. On the other hand, though his subject be more multiform, it is, in respect of its connection with the mind, less extensive than that here proposed. All those particular arts are examined only on that side, wherein there is found a pretty considerable coincidence with one another; namely as objects of taste, which, by exciting sentiments of grandeur, beauty, novelty, and the like, are calculated to delight the imagination. In this view, eloquence comes no farther under consideration than as a fine art, and adapted, like the others above mentioned, to please the fancy, and to move the passions. But to treat it also as an useful art, and closely connected with the understanding and the will, would have led to a discussion foreign to his purpose.
I AM aware, that, from the deduction ; iven above, it may be urged, that the fact, as here represented, seems to subvert the principle formerly laid down, and that, as practice in the art has given the first scope for criticism, the former cannot justly be considered as deriving light and direction from the latter; that, on the contrary, the latter ought to be regarded as merely affording a sort of intellectual entertainment to speculative men. It may be said, that this science, however entertaining, as it must derive all its light and information from the actual examples in the art, can never in return be subservient to the art, from which alone it has received whatever it has to bestow. This objection, however specious, will not bear a near examination. For let it be observed, that, though in all the arts the first rough draughts, or imperfect attempts, that are made, precede every thing that can be termed criticism, they do not precede every thing that can be termed knowledge, which every human creature, that is not an idiot, is every day, from his birth, acquiring by experience and observation. This knowledge must of necessity precede even those rudest and earliest essays; and if, in the imperfect and indigested state in which knowledge must always be found in the mind that is rather self-taught than totally untaught, it deserves not to be dignified with the title of science, neither does the first awkward attempt in practice merit to be honoured with the name of Art. As is the one, such is the other. It is enough for my purpose that something must be known, before any thing in this way, with a view to an end, can be undertaken to be done.
At the same time it is acknowledged, that, as man is much more an active than a contemplative being, and as generally there is some view to action, especially in uncultivated minds, in all their observations and inquiries, it cannot be doubted that, in composition, the first attempts would be in the art, and that afterwards from the comparison of different attempts with one another, and the consideration of the success with which they had been severally attended, would arise gradually the rules of criticism. Nor can it, on the other hand, be pleaded, with any appearance of truth, that observations derived from the productions of an art, can be of no service for the improvement of that art, and consequently of no benefit to future artists. On the contrary, it is thus that every art, liberal or mechanical, elegant or useful, except those founded in pure mathematics, advances toward perfection. From observing similar but different attempts and experiments, and from comparing their effects, general remarks are made, which serve as so many rules for
directing future practice ; and, from comparing such
general remarks together, others still more general are deduced. A few individual instances serve as a foundation to those observations, which, when once sufficiently established, extend their influence to instances innumerable. It is in this way that, on experiments comparatively few, all the physiological sciences have been reared; it is in this way, that those comprehensive truths were first discovered, which have had such an unlimited influence on the most important arts, and given man so vast a dominion over the elements, and even the most refractory powers of nature. It is evident, therefore, that the artist and the critic are reciprocally subservient, and the particular province of each is greatly improved by the assistance of the other.
BUT it is not necessary here to enter farther into this subject; what I shall have occasion afterwards to advance on the acquisition of experience, and the manner of using it, will be a sufficient illustration.