Imágenes de páginas





In the last chapter, we considered the sentiment of the beautiful on the side of its identity, as to principle, in all men. I endeavored to explain what it is that constitutes the ground of universal sympathy by which all are led to see and feel alike with regard to a certain class of objects, notwithstanding the judgment called forth is purely subjective, independent of outward rules, and free from all constraint whatsoever. Let us now proceed to consider the same principle on the side of its diversity; and here it is important to distinguish two sorts of diversity. The first is that which necessarily arises in all cases of the particularization of the universal. It belongs to the nature of every universal principle or law, to manifest diversity in its particular applications. But a freedom of this sort is the

fact that marks the force and vitality of a principle, as distinguished from the fixedness and uniformity of a mere abstract rule. The other sort of diversity is that which results from a fundamental difference of principles. Keeping this distinction in mind, we shall be prepared to understand, in regard to the


[ocr errors]

subject now before us, how widely, on the one hand, the tastes of a particular age or nation, or of indi

a viduals belonging to the same age or nation, may seem to differ, while at bottom the principle of judgment shall be essentially one ; while, on the other hand, the tastes of certain times and nations may seem not very widely different, - people may judge very much alike, — and yet the principles which determine their judgments may be very different. The first we may call natural, the second class, conventional, diversities of taste. As an illustration of the first, we may mention the well known difference between the Orientals and the Western nations generally, between the Egyptians and the Greeks. between the ancients and the moderns, between the Classicists and the Romanticists. In all these cases of diversity, the principle of judgment remains essentially the same ; and the proof of this is, that a beautiful production, whether partaking of the Oriental or the Western character, whether of the Egyptian or the Grecian, the ancient or the modern, the Classical or the Romantic, type, will still be admired and approved by all fair and unprejudiced judges alike, in all periods of time. But the case is entirely different with conventional diversities of taste. These arise from the influence of causes altogether extraneous from those which can rightfully be admitted to exert any determining influence in matters of this sort ; from the operations of the private interests, the peculiar feelings growing out of the temperament and constitution of individuals, or of national and traditional prejudices, the tendency of which is to give a wrong direction to the development of the aesthetic judgment. The several schools of art, which have been found, almost without an exception, to degenerate, by insensible degrees, into a stiff and lifeless uniformity of style, are for the most part separated from each other, and brought finally into antagonism, by the influence of such causes as I have last described. But it is evident, from one of the considerations which have already been presented with regard to the disinterested character of pure taste, that all diversity of the nature of conventionalism, and issuing from that root, must inevitably lead to corruption. While the utmost freedom, and an unlimited range, may be allowed to the efforts of artistic power and skill, so long as they are still bottomed on the same fundamental principle of judgment, seated in the common heart of humanity ; yet the least departure from this common principle, however much it may fall in with the prevailing spirit and fashions of a particular age or people, is sure to lead astray. Yet this conventional diversity of which I am now speaking is a very common thing. In the present day it prevails to an extraordinary degree. The very smallest number of those who aspire to be artists, in any of the departments of art, have the courage to rely entirely

« AnteriorContinuar »