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Title: Lectures on Art
Author: Allston, Washington, 1779-1843
Language: English
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Lectures on Art


Washington Allston

Edited by Richard Henry Dana, Jr.


Preface by the Editor.

Upon the death of Mr. Allston, it was determined, by those who had
charge of his papers, to prepare his biography and correspondence, and
publish them with his writings in prose and verse; a work which would
have occupied two volumes of about the same size with the present. A
delay has unfortunately occurred in the preparation of the biography
and correspondence; and, as there have been frequent calls for a
publication of his poems, and of the Lectures on Art he is known to
have written, it has been thought best to give them to the public in
the present form, without awaiting the completion of the whole
design. It may be understood, however, that, when the biography
and correspondence are published, it will be in a volume precisely
corresponding with the present, so as to carry out the original

I will not anticipate the duty of the biographer by an extended notice
of the life of Mr. Allston; but it may be interesting to some readers
to know the outline of his life, and the different circumstances under
which the several pieces in this volume were written.

WASHINGTON ALLSTON was born at Charleston, in South Carolina, on the
5th of November, 1779, of a family distinguished in the history of
that State and of the country, being a branch of a family of the
baronet rank in the titled commonalty of England. Like most young
men of the South in his position at that period, he was sent to New
England to receive his school and college education. His school days
were passed at Newport, in Rhode Island, under the charge of Mr.
Robert Rogers. He entered Harvard College in 1796, and graduated in
1800. While at school and college, he developed in a marked manner
a love of nature, music, poetry, and painting. Endowed with senses
capable of the nicest perceptions, and with a mental and moral
constitution which tended always, with the certainty of a physical
law, to the beautiful, the pure, and the sublime, he led what many
might call an ideal life. Yet was he far from being a recluse, or from
being disposed to an excess of introversion. On the contrary, he was
a popular, high-spirited youth, almost passionately fond of society,
maintaining an unusual number of warm friendships, and unsurpassed by
any of the young men of his day in adaptedness to the elegancies and
courtesies of the more refined portions of the moving world. Romances
of love, knighthood, and heroic deeds, tales of banditti, and stories
of supernatural beings, were his chief delight in his early days. Yet
his classical attainments were considerable, and, as a scholar in the
literature of his own language, his reputation was early established.
He delivered a poem on taking his degree, which was much admired in
its day.

On leaving college, he returned to South Carolina. Having determined
to devote his life to the fine arts, he sold, hastily and at a
sacrifice, his share of a considerable patrimonial estate, and
embarked for London in the autumn of 1801. Immediately upon his
arrival, he became a student of the Royal Academy, of which his
countryman, West, was President, with whom he formed an intimate and
lasting friendship. After three years spent in England, and a shorter
stay at Paris, he went to Italy, where he spent four years devoted
exclusively to the study of his art. At Rome began his intimacy with
Coleridge. Among the many subsequent expressions of his feeling toward
this great man, none, perhaps, is more striking than the following
extract from one of his letters:--"To no other man do I owe so much,
intellectually, as to Mr. Coleridge, with whom I became acquainted
in Rome, and who has honored me with his friendship for more than
five-and-twenty years. He used to call Rome the silent city; but I
never could think of it as such while with him; for, meet him when and
where I would, the fountain of his mind was never dry, but, like the
far-reaching aqueducts that once supplied this mistress of the world,
its living stream seemed specially to flow for every classic ruin over
which we wandered. And when I recall some of our walks under the pines
of the Villa Borghese, I am almost tempted to dream that I have once
listened to Plato in the groves of the Academy." Readers of Coleridge
know in what estimation he held the qualities and the friendship of
Mr. Allston. Beside Coleridge and West, he numbered among his friends
in England, Wordsworth, Southey, Lamb, Sir George Beaumont, Reynolds,
and Fuseli.

In 1809, Mr. Allston returned to America, and remained two years
in Boston, his adopted home, and there married the sister of Dr.
Channing. In 1811, he went again to England, where his reputation as
an artist had been completely established. Before his departure, he
delivered a poem before the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Cambridge.
During a severe illness, he removed from London to Clifton, at which
place he wrote "The Sylphs of the Seasons." In 1813, he made his
first, and, with the exception of "Monaldi," twenty-eight years
afterwards, his only publication. This was a small volume, entitled
"The Sylphs of the Seasons, and other Poems," published in London;
and, during the same year, republished in Boston under the direction
of his friends, Professor Willard of Cambridge and Mr. Edmund T. Dana.
This volume was well received, and gave him a place among the first
poets of his country. The smaller poems in that edition extend as far
as page 289 of the present volume.

Beside the long and serious illness through which he passed, his
spirit was destined to suffer a deeper wound by the death of Mrs.
Allston, in London, during the same year. These events gave to his
mind a more earnest and undivided interest in his spiritual relations,
and drew him more closely than ever before to his religious duties.
He received the rite of confirmation, and through life was a devout
adherent to the Christian doctrine and discipline.

The character of Mr. Allston's religious feelings may be gathered,
incidentally, from many of his writings. It is a subject to be treated
with the reserve and delicacy with which he himself would have had it
invested. Few minds have been more thoroughly imbued with belief in
the reality of the unseen world; few have given more full assent to
the truth, that "the things which are seen are temporal, the things
which are not seen are eternal." This was not merely an adopted
opinion, a conviction imposed upon his understanding; it was of the
essence of his spiritual constitution, one of the conditions of his
rational existence. To him, the Supreme Being was no vague, mystical
source of light and truth, or an impersonation of goodness and truth
themselves; nor, on the other hand, a cold rationalistic notion of an
unapproachable executor of natural and moral laws. His spirit rested
in the faith of a sympathetic God. His belief was in a Being as
infinitely minute and sympathetic in his providences, as unlimited
in his power and knowledge. Nor need it be said, that he was a firm
believer in the central truths of Christianity, the Incarnation and
Redemption; that he turned from unaided speculation to the inspired
record and the visible Church; that he sought aid in the sacraments
ordained for the strengthening of infirm humanity, and looked for the
resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

After a second residence of seven years in Europe, he returned to
America in 1818, and again made Boston his home. There, in a circle of
warmly attached friends, surrounded by a sympathy and admiration which
his elevation and purity, the entire harmony of his life and pursuits,
could not fail to create, he devoted himself to his art, the labor of
his love.

This is not the place to enumerate his paintings, or to speak of his
character as an artist. His general reading he continued to the last,
with the earnestness of youth. As he retired from society, his taste
inclined him to metaphysical studies, the more, perhaps, from their
contrast with the usual occupations of his mind. He took particular
pleasure in works of devout Christian speculation, without, however,
neglecting a due proportion of strictly devotional literature. These
he varied by a constant recurrence to the great epic and dramatic
masters, and occasional reading of the earlier and the living
novelists, tales of wild romance and lighter fiction, voyages and
travels, biographies and letters. Nor was he without a strong interest
in the current politics of his own country and of England, as to which
his principles were highly conservative.

Upon his marriage with the daughter of the late Judge Dana, in 1830,
he removed to Cambridge, and soon afterwards began the preparation of
a course of lectures on Art, which he intended to deliver to a select
audience of artists and men of letters in Boston. Four of these he
completed. Rough drafts of two others were found among his papers, but
not in a state fit for publication. In 1841, he published his tale of
"Monaldi," a production of his early life. The poems in the present
volume, not included in the volume of 1813, are, with two exceptions,
the work of his later years. In them, as in his paintings of the
same period, may be seen the extreme attention to finish, always his
characteristic, which, added to increasing bodily pain and infirmity,
was the cause of his leaving so much that is unfinished behind him.

His death occurred at his own house, in Cambridge, a little past
midnight on the morning of Sunday, the 9th of July, 1843. He had
finished a day and week of labor in his studio, upon his great picture
of Belshazzar's Feast; the fresh paint denoting that the last touches
of his pencil were given to that glorious but melancholy monument of
the best years of his later life. Having conversed with his retiring
family with peculiar solemnity and earnestness upon the obligation and
beauty of a pure spiritual life, and on the realities of the world to
come, he had seated himself at his nightly employment of reading and
writing, which he usually carried into the early hours of the morning.
In the silence and solitude of this occupation, in a moment,
"with touch as gentle as the morning light," which was even then
approaching, his spirit was called away to its proper home.


Preface By The Editor

Lectures on Art.
  Preliminary Note.--Ideas
  Introductory Discourse

  Sentences Written by Mr. Allston on the Walls of His Studio

The Hypochondriac

Lectures on Art.

Preliminary Note.


As the word _idea_ will frequently occur, and will be found
also to hold an important relation to our present subject, we shall
endeavour, _in limine_, to possess our readers of the particular
sense in which we understand and apply it.

An Idea, then, according to our apprehension, is the highest or most
perfect _form_ in which any thing, whether of the physical, the
intellectual, or the spiritual, may exist to the mind. By form, we do not
mean _figure_ or _image_ (though these may be included in relation to the
physical); but that condition, or state, in which such objects become
cognizable to the mind, or, in other words, become objects of

Ideas are of two kinds; which we shall distinguish by the terms _primary_
and _secondary_: the first being the _manifestation_ of objective
realities; the second, that of the reflex product, so to speak, of the
mental constitution. In both cases, they may be said to be
self-affirmed,--that is, they carry in themselves their own evidence;
being therefore not only independent of the reflective faculties, but
constituting the only unchangeable ground of Truth, to which those
faculties may ultimately refer. Yet have these Ideas no living energy in
themselves; they are but the _forms_, as we have said, through or in which
a higher Power manifests to the consciousness the supreme truth of all
things real, in respect to the first class; and, in respect to the second,
the imaginative truths of the mental products, or mental combinations. Of
the nature and mode of operation of the Power to which we refer, we know,
and can know, nothing; it is one of those secrets of our being which He
who made us has kept to himself. And we should be content with the
assurance, that we have in it a sure and intuitive guide to a reverent
knowledge of the beauty and grandeur of his works,--nay, of his own
adorable reality. And who shall gainsay it, should we add, that this
mysterious Power is essentially immanent in that "breath of life," by
which man becomes "a living soul"?

In the following remarks we shall confine ourself to the first
class of Ideas, namely, the Real; leaving the second to be noticed

As to number, ideas are limited only by the number of kinds, without
direct relation to degrees; every object, therefore, having in itself
a _distinctive essential_, has also its distinct idea; while two
or more objects of the same kind, however differing in degree, must
consequently refer only to one and the same. For instance, though a
hundred animals should differ in size, strength, or color, yet, if
none of these peculiarities are essential to the species, they would
all refer to the same supreme idea.

The same law applies equally, and with the same limitation, to
the essential differences in the intellectual, the moral, and the
spiritual. All ideas, however, have but a potential existence until
they are called into the consciousness by some real object; the
required condition of the object being a predetermined correspondence,
or correlation. Every such object we term an _assimilant_.

With respect to those ideas which relate to the physical world, we
remark, that, though the assimilants required are supplied by
the senses, the senses have in themselves no _productive,
coöperating_ energy, being but the passive instruments, or medium,
through which they are conveyed. That the senses, in this relation,
are merely passive, admits of no question, from the obvious difference
between the idea and the objects. The senses can do no more than
transmit the external in its actual forms, leaving the images in the
mind exactly as they found them; whereas the intuitive power rejects,
or assimilates, indefinitely, until they are resolved into the proper
perfect form. Now the power which prescribes that form must, of
necessity, be antecedent to the presentation of the objects which it
thus assimilates, as it could not else give consistence and unity to
what was before separate or fragmentary. And every one who has
ever realized an idea of the class in which alone we compare the
assimilants with the ideal form, be he poet, painter, or philosopher,
well knows the wide difference between the materials and their result.
When an idea is thus realized and made objective, it affirms its own
truth, nor can any process of the understanding shake its foundation;
nay, it is to the mind an essential, imperative truth, then emerging,
as it were, from the dark potential into the light of reality.

If this be so, the inference is plain, that the relation between the
actual and the ideal is one of necessity, and therefore, also, is the
predetermined correspondence between the prescribed form of an
idea and its assimilant; for how otherwise could the former become
recipient of that which was repugnant or indifferent, when the
presence of the latter constitutes the very condition by which it is
manifested, or can be known to exist? By actual, here, we do not mean
the exclusively physical, but whatever, in the strictest sense, can be
called an _object_, as forming the opposite to a mere subject of
the mind.

It would appear, then, that what we call ourself must have a
_dual_ reality, that is, in the mind and in the senses, since
neither _alone_ could possibly explain the phenomena of the
other; consequently, in the existence of either we have clearly
implied the reality of both. And hence must follow the still more
important truth, that, in the _conscious presence_ of any
_spiritual_ idea, we have the surest proof of a spiritual object;
nor is this the less certain, though we perceive not the assimilant.
Nay, a spiritual assimilant cannot be perceived, but, to use the words
of St. Paul, is "spiritually discerned," that is, by a sense, so to
speak, of our own spirit. But to illustrate by example: we could not,
for instance, have the ideas of good and evil without their objective
realities, nor of right and wrong, in any intelligible form, without
the moral law to which they refer,--which law we call the Conscience;
nor could we have the idea of a moral law without a moral lawgiver,
and, if moral, then intelligent, and, if intelligent, then personal;
in a word, we could not now have, as we know we have, the idea of
conscience, without an objective, personal God. Such ideas may well be
called revelations, since, without any perceived assimilant, we find
them equally affirmed with those ideas which relate to the purely

But here it may be asked, How are we to distinguish an Idea from a mere
_notion_? We answer, By its self-affirmation. For an ideal truth, having
its own evidence in itself, can neither be proved nor disproved by any
thing out of itself; whatever, then, impresses the mind _as_ truth, _is_
truth until it can be _shown_ to be false; and consequently, in the
converse, whatever can be brought into the sphere of the understanding, as
a dialectic subject, is not an Idea. It will be observed, however, that we
do not say an idea may not be denied; but to deny is not to disprove. Many
things are denied in direct contradiction to fact; for the mind can
command, and in no measured degree, the power of self-blinding, so that it
cannot see what is actually before it. This is a psychological fact, which
may be attested by thousands, who can well remember the time when they had
once clearly discerned what has now vanished from their minds. Nor does
the actual cessation of these primeval forms, or the after presence of
their fragmentary, nay, disfigured relics, disprove their reality, or
their original integrity, as we could not else call them up in their
proper forms at any future time, to the reacknowledging their truth: a
_resuscitation_ and result, so to speak, which many have experienced.

In conclusion: though it be but one and the same Power that prescribes
the form and determines the truth of all Ideas, there is yet an
essential difference between the two classes of ideas to which we have
referred; for it may well be doubted whether any Primary Idea can ever
be fully realized by a finite mind,--at least in the present state.
Take, for instance, the idea of beauty. In its highest form, as
presented to the consciousness, we still find it referring to
something beyond and above itself, as if it were but an approximation
to a still higher form. The truth of this, we think, will be
particularly felt by the artist, whether poet or painter, whose mind
may be supposed, from his natural bias, to be more peculiarly capable
of its highest developement; and what true artist was ever satisfied
with any idea of beauty of which he is conscious? From this
approximated form, however, he doubtless derives a high degree of
pleasure, nay, one of the purest of which his nature is capable;
yet still is the pleasure modified, if we may so express it, by an
undefined yearning for what he feels can never be realized. And
wherefore this craving, but for the archetype of that which called it
forth?--When we say not satisfied, we do not mean discontented, but
simply not in full fruition. And it is better that it should be
so, since one of the happiest elements of our nature is that which
continually impels it towards the indefinite and unattainable. So
far as we know, the like limits may be set to every other primary
idea,--as if the Creator had reserved to himself alone the possible
contemplation of the archetypes of his universe.

With regard to the other class, that of Secondary Ideas, which we
have called the reflex product of the mind, their distinguishing
characteristic is, that they not only admit of a perfect realization,
but also of outward manifestation, so as to be communicated to others.
All works of imagination, so called, present examples of this. Hence
they may also be termed imitative or imaginative. For, though they
draw their assimilants from the actual world, and are likewise
regulated by the unknown Power before mentioned, yet are they but the
forms of what, _as a whole_, have no actual existence;--they are
nevertheless true to the mind, and are made so by the same Power which
affirms their possibility. This species of Truth we shall hereafter
have occasion to distinguish as Poetic Truth.

Introductory Discourse.

Next to the developement of our moral nature, to have subordinated the
senses to the mind is the highest triumph of the civilized state. Were
it possible to embody the present complicated scheme of society, so as
to bring it before us as a visible object, there is perhaps nothing
in the world of sense that would so fill us with wonder; for what is
there in nature that may not fall within its limits? and yet how small
a portion of this stupendous fabric will be found to have any direct,
much less exclusive, relation to the actual wants of the body! It
might seem, indeed, to an unreflecting observer, that our physical
necessities, which, truly estimated, are few and simple, have rather
been increased than diminished by the civilized man. But this is not
true; for, if a wider duty is imposed on the senses, it is only to
minister to the increased demands of the imagination, which is now so
mingled with our every-day concerns, even with our dress, houses, and
furniture, that, except with the brutalized, the purely sensuous wants
might almost be said to have become extinct: with the cultivated and
refined, they are at least so modified as to be no longer prominent.

But this refilling on the physical, like every thing else, has had its
opponents: it is declaimed against as artificial. If by artificial is
meant unnatural, we cannot so consider it; but hold, on the contrary,
that the whole multiform scheme of the civilized state is not only in
accordance with our nature, but an essential condition to the proper
developement of the human being. It is presupposed by the very wants
of his mind; nor could it otherwise have been, any more than could
have been the cabin of the beaver, or the curious hive of the bee,
without their preëxisting instincts; it is therefore in the highest
sense natural, as growing out of the inherent desires of the mind.

But we would not be misunderstood. When we speak of the refined
state as not out of nature, we mean such results as proceed from the
legitimate growth of our mental constitution, which we suppose to
be grounded in permanent, universal principles; and, whatever
modifications, however subtile, and apparently visionary, may follow
their operation in the world of sense, so long as that operation
diverge not from its original ground, its effect must be, in the
strictest sense, natural. Thus the wildest visions of poetry, the
unsubstantial forms of painting, and the mysterious harmonies of
music, that seem to disembody the spirit, and make us creatures of the
air,--even these, unreal as they are, may all have their foundation
in immutable truth; and we may moreover know of this truth by its own
evidence. Of this species of evidence we shall have occasion to speak
hereafter. But there is another kind of growth, which may well be
called unnatural; we mean, of those diseased appetites, whose effects
are seen in the distorted forms of the _conventional_, having no
ground but in weariness of the true; and it cannot be denied that this
morbid growth has its full share, inwardly and outwardly, both of
space and importance. These, however, must sooner or later end as they
began; they perish in the lie they make; and it were well did not
other falsehoods take their places, to prolong a life whose only
tenure is inconsequential succession,--in other words, Fashion.

If it be true, then, that even the commonplaces of life must all in
some degree partake of the mental, there can be but one rule by which
to determine the proper rank of any object of pursuit, and that is by
its nearer or more remote relation to our inward nature. Every system,
therefore, which tends to degrade a mental pleasure to the subordinate
or superfluous, is both narrow and false, as virtually reversing its
natural order.

It pleased our Creator, when he endowed us with appetites and
functions by which to sustain the economy of life, at the same time to
annex to their exercise a sense of pleasure; hence our daily food, and
the daily alternation of repose and action, are no less grateful than
imperative. That life may be sustained, and most of its functions
performed, without any coincident enjoyment, is certainly possible.
Our food may be distasteful, action painful, and rest unrefreshing;
and yet we may eat, and exercise, and sleep, nay, live thus for years.
But this is not our natural condition, and we call it disease. Were
man a mere animal, the very act of living, in his natural or healthy
state, would be to him a continuous enjoyment. But he is also a moral
and an intellectual being; and, in like manner, is the healthful
condition of these, the nobler parts of his nature, attended with
something more than a consciousness of the mere process of existence.
To the exercise of his intellectual faculties and moral attributes the
same benevolent law has superadded a sense of pleasure,--of a kind,
too, in the same degree transcending the highest bodily sensation, as
must that which is immortal transcend the perishable. It is not for us
to ask why it is so; much less, because it squares not with the
poor notion of material usefulness, to call in question a fact that
announces a nature to which the senses are but passing ministers. Let
us rather receive this ennobling law, at least without misgiving, lest
in our sensuous wisdom we exchange an enduring gift for a transient

Of the peculiar fruits of this law, which we shall here distinguish by
the general term _mental pleasures_, it is our purpose to treat
in the present discourse.

It is with no assumed diffidence that we venture on this subject; for,
though we shall offer nothing not believed to be true, we are but too
sensible how small a portion of truth it is in our power to present.
But, were it far greater, and the present writer of a much higher
order of intellect, there would still be sufficient cause for
humility in view of those impassable bounds that have ever met every
self-questioning of the mind.

But whilst the narrowness of human knowledge may well preclude all
self-exaltation, it would be worse than folly to hold as naught the
many important truths which have been wrought out for us by the mighty
intellects of the past. If they have left us nothing for vainglory,
they have left us at least enough to be grateful for. Nor is it
a little, that they have taught us to look into those mysterious
chambers of our being,--the abode of the spirit; and not a little,
indeed, if what we are there permitted to know shall have brought with
it the conviction, that we are not abandoned to a blind empiricism, to
waste life in guesses, and to guess at last that we have all our
lives been guessing wrong,--but, unapproachable though it be to the
subordinate Understanding, that we have still within us an abiding
Interpreter, which cannot be gainsaid, which makes our duty to God and
man clear as the light, which ever guards the fountain of all true
pleasures, nay, which holds in subjection the last high gift of the
Creator, that imaginative faculty whereby his exalted creature, made
in his image, might mould at will, from his most marvellous world, yet
unborn forms, even forms of beauty, grandeur, and majesty, having all
of truth but his own divine prerogative,--_the mystery of Life_.

As the greater part of those Pleasures which we propose to discuss are
intimately connected with the material world, it may be well, perhaps,
to assign some reason for the epithet _mental_. To many, we know,
this will seem superfluous; but, when it is remembered how often we
hear of this and that object delighting the eye, or of certain sounds
charming the ear, it may not be amiss to show that such expressions
have really no meaning except as metaphors. When the senses, as the
medium of communication, have conveyed to the mind either the sounds
or images, their function ceases. So also with respect to the objects:
their end is attained, at least as to us, when the sounds or images
are thus transmitted, which, so far as they are concerned, must for
ever remain the same within as without the mind. For, where the
ultimate end is not in mere bodily sensation, neither the senses nor
the objects possess, of themselves, any productive power; of the
product that follows, the _tertium aliquid_, whether the pleasure
we feel be in a beautiful animal or in according sounds, neither the
one nor the other is really the cause, but simply the _occasion_.
It is clear, then, that the effect realized supposes of necessity
another agent, which must therefore exist only in the mind. But of
this hereafter.

If the cause of any emotion, which we seem to derive from an outward
object, were inherent exclusively in the object itself, there could
be no failure in any instance, except where the organs of sense were
either diseased or imperfect. But it is a matter of fact that they
often do fail where there is no disease or organic defect. Many of us,
perhaps, can call to mind certain individuals, whose sense of hearing
is as acute as our own, who yet can by no possibility be made to
recognize the slightest relation between the according notes of the
simplest melody; and, though they can as readily as others distinguish
the individual sounds, even to the degrees of flatness and sharpness,
the harmonic agreement is to them as mere noise. Let us suppose
ourselves present at a concert, in company with one such person and
another who possesses what is called musical sensibility. How are
they affected, for instance, by a piece of Mozart's? In the sense
of hearing they are equal: look at them. In the one we perceive
perplexity, annoyance, perhaps pain; he hears nothing but a confused
medley of sounds. In the other, the whole being is rapt in ecstasy,
the unutterable pleasure gushes from his eyes, he cannot articulate
his emotion;--in the words of one, who felt and embodied the subtile
mystery in immortal verse, his very soul seems "lapped in Elysium."
Now, could this difference be possible, were the sole cause, strictly
speaking, in mere matter?

Nor do we contradict our position, when we admit, in certain
cases,--for instance, in the producer,--the necessity of a nicer
organization, in order to the more perfect _transmission_ of the
finer emotions; inasmuch as what is to be communicated in space and
time must needs be by some medium adapted thereto.

Such a person as Paganini, it is said, was able to "discourse most
excellent music" on a ballad-monger's fiddle; yet will any one
question that he needed an instrument of somewhat finer construction
to show forth his full powers? Nay, we might add, that he needed no
less than the most delicate _Cremona_,--some instrument, as it
were, articulated into humanity,--to have inhaled and respired those
attenuated strains, which, those who heard them think it hardly
extravagant to say, seemed almost to embody silence.

Now this mechanical instrument, by means of which such marvels were
wrought, is but one of the many visible symbols of that more subtile
instrument through which the mind acts when it would manifest itself.
It would be too absurd to ask if any one believed that the music we
speak of was created, as well as conveyed, by the instrument. The
violin of Paganini may still be seen and handled; but the soul that
inspired it is buried with its master.

If we admit a distinction between mind and matter, and the result we
speak of be purely mental, we should contradict the universal law
of nature to assign such a product to mere matter, inasmuch as the
natural law forbids in the lower the production of the higher. Take
an example from one of the lower forms of organic life,--a common
vegetable. Will any one assert that the surrounding inorganic elements
of air, earth, heat, and water produce its peculiar form? Though some,
or all, of these may be essential to its developement, they are so
only as its predetermined correlatives, without which its existence
could not be manifested; and in like manner must the peculiar form of
the vegetable preëxist in its life,--in its _idea_,--in order to
evolve by these assimilants its own proper organism.

No possible modification in the degrees or proportion of these
elements can change the specific form of a plant,--for instance, a
cabbage into a cauliflower; it must ever remain a cabbage, _small or
large, good or bad. _ So, too, is the external world to the
mind; which needs, also, as the condition of its manifestation, its
objective correlative. Hence the presence of some outward object,
predetermined to correspond to the preëxisting idea in its living
power, is essential to the evolution of its proper end,--the
pleasurable emotion. We beg it may be noted that we do not say
_sensation_. And hence we hold ourself justified in speaking of
such presence as simply the occasion, or condition, and not, _per
se_, the cause. And hence, moreover, may be inferred the absolute
necessity of Dual Forces in order to the actual existence of any
thing. One alone, the incomprehensible Author of all things, is
self-subsisting in his perfect Unity.

We shall now endeavour to establish the following proposition: namely,
that the Pleasures in question have their true source in One Intuitive
Universal Principle or living Power, and that the three Ideas of
Beauty, Truth, and Holiness, which we assume to represent the
_perfect_ in the physical, intellectual, and moral worlds, are
but the several realized phases of this sovereign principle, which we
shall call _Harmony_.

Our first step, then, is to possess ourself of the essential or
distinctive characteristic of these pleasurable emotions. Apparently,
there is nothing more simple. And yet we are acquainted with no single
term that shall fully express it. But what every one has more or less
felt may certainly be made intelligible in a more extended form, and,
we should think, by any one in the slightest degree competent to
self-examination. Let a person, then, be appealed to; and let him put
the question as to what passes within him when possessed by these
emotions; and the spontaneous feeling will answer for us, that what we
call _self_ has no part in them. Nay, we further assert, that,
when singly felt, that is, when unallied to other emotions as
modifying forces, they are wholly unmixed with _any personal
considerations, or any conscious advantage to the individual_.

Nor is this assigning too high a character to the feelings in question
because awakened in so many instances by the purely physical; since
their true origin may clearly be traced to a common source with those
profounder emotions which we are wont to ascribe to the intellectual
and moral. Besides, it should be borne in mind, that no physical
object can be otherwise to the mind than a mere _occasion_; its
inward product, or mental effect, being from another Power. The proper
view therefore is, not that such alliance can ever degrade the higher
agent, but that its more humble and material _assimilant_ is thus
elevated by it. So that nothing in nature should be counted mean,
which can thus be exalted; but rather be honored, since no object can
become so assimilated except by its predetermined correlation to our
better nature.

Neither is it the privilege of the exclusive few, the refined and
cultivated, to feel them deeply. If we look beyond ourselves, even to
the promiscuous multitude, the instance will be rare, if existing at
all, where some transient touch of these purer feelings has not raised
the individual to, at least, a momentary exemption from the common
thraldom of self. And we greatly err if their universality is not
solely limited by those "shades of the prison-house," which, in the
words of the poet, too often "close upon the growing boy." Nay, so
far as we have observed, we cannot admit it as a question whether any
person through a whole life has always been wholly insensible,--we
will not say (though well we might) to the good and true,--but to
beauty; at least, to some one kind, or degree, of the beautiful. The
most abject wretch, however animalized by vice, may still be able to
recall the time when a morning or evening sky, a bird, a flower, or
the sight of some other object in nature, has given him a pleasure,
which he felt to be distinct from that of his animal appetites, and
to which he could attach not a thought of self-interest. And, though
crime and misery may close the heart for years, and seal it up for
ever to every redeeming thought, they cannot so shut out from the
memory these gleams of innocence; even the brutified spirit, the
castaway of his kind, has been made to blush at this enduring light;
for it tells him of a truth, which might else have never been
remembered,--that he has once been a man.

And here may occur a question,--which might well be left to the ultra
advocates of the _cui bono_,--whether a simple flower may not
sometimes be of higher use than a labor-saving machine.

As to the objects whose effect on the mind is here discussed, it is
needless to specify them; they are, in general, all such as are known
to affect us in the manner described. The catalogue will vary both in
number and kind with different persons, according to the degree of
force or developement in the overruling Principle.

We proceed, then, to reply to such objections as will doubtless be
urged against the characteristic assumed. And first, as regards the
Beautiful, we shall probably be met by the received notion, that we
experience in Beauty one of the most powerful incentives to passion;
while examples without number will be brought in array to prove it
also the wonder-working cause of almost fabulous transformations,--as
giving energy to the indolent, patience to the quick, perseverance
to the fickle, even courage to the timid; and, _vice versâ_, as
unmanning the hero,--nay, urging the honorable to falsehood, treason,
and murder; in a word, through the mastered, bewildered, sophisticated
_self_, as indifferently raising and sinking the fascinated
object to the heights and depths of pleasure and misery, of virtue and

Now, if the Beauty here referred to is of the _human being_, we
do not gainsay it; but this is beauty in its _mixed mode_,--not
in its high, passionless form, its singleness and purity. It is not
Beauty as it descended from heaven, in the cloud, the rainbow, the
flower, the bird, or in the concord of sweet sounds, that seem to
carry back the soul to whence it came.

Could we look, indeed, at the human form in its simple, unallied
physical structure,--on that, for instance, of a beautiful woman,--and
forget, or rather not feel, that it is other than a _form_, there
could be but one feeling: that nothing visible was ever so framed to
banish from the soul every ignoble thought, and imbue it, as it were,
with primeval innocence.

We are quite aware that the doctrine assumed in our main proposition
with regard to Beauty, as holding exclusive relation to the Physical,
is not very likely to forestall favor; we therefore beg for it only
such candid attention as, for the reasons advanced, it may appear to

That such effects as have just been objected could not be from Beauty
alone, in its pure and single form, but rather from its coincidence
with some real or supposed moral or intellectual quality, or with the
animal appetites, seems to us clear; as, were it otherwise, we might
infer the same from a beautiful infant,--the very thought of which is
revolting to common sense. In such conjunction, indeed, it cannot but
have a certain influence, but so modified as often to become a mere
accessory, subordinated to the animal or moral object, and for the
attainment of an end not its own; in proof of which, we find it almost
uniformly partaking the penalty imposed on its incidental associates,
should ever their desires result in illusion,--namely, in the aversion
that follows. But the result of Beauty can never be such; when it
seems otherwise, the effect, we think, can readily be traced to other
causes, as we shall presently endeavour to show.

It cannot be a matter of controversy whether Beauty is limited to the
human form; the daily experience of the most ordinary man would answer
No: he finds it in the woods, the fields, in plants and animals,
nay, in a thousand objects, as he looks upon nature; nor, though
indefinitely diversified, does he hesitate to assign to each the same
epithet. And why? Because the feelings awakened by all are similar in
kind, though varying, doubtless, by many degrees in intenseness. Now
suppose he is asked of what personal advantage is all this beauty to
him. Verily, he would be puzzled to answer. It gives him pleasure,
perhaps great pleasure. And this is all he could say. But why should
the effect be different, except in degree, from the beauty of a human
being? We have already the answer in this concluding term. For what is
a human being but one who unites in himself a physical, intellectual,
and moral nature, which cannot in one become even an object of thought
without at least some obscure shadowings of its natural allies? How,
then, can we separate that which has an exclusive relation to his
physical form, without some perception of the moral and intellectual
with which it is joined? But how do we know that Beauty is limited
to such exclusive relation? This brings us to the great problem; so
simple and easy of solution in all other cases, yet so intricate and
apparently inexplicable in man. In other things, it would be felt
absurd to make it a question, whether referring to form, color, or
sound. A single instance will suffice. Let us suppose, then, an
unfamiliar object, whose habits, disposition, and so forth, are wholly
unknown, for instance, a bird of paradise, to be seen for the
first time by twenty persons, and they all instantly call it
beautiful;--could there be any doubt that the pleasure it produced
in each was of the same kind? or would any one of them ascribe his
pleasure to any thing but its form and plumage? Concerning natural
objects, and those inferior animals which are not under the influence
of domestic associations, there is little or no difference among men:
if they differ, it is only in degree, according to their sensibility.
Men do not dispute about a rose. And why? Because there is nothing
beside the physical to interfere with the impression it was
predetermined to make; and the idea of beauty is realized instantly.
So, also, with respect to other objects of an opposite character; they
can speak without deliberating, and call them plain, homely, ugly, and
so on, thus instinctively expressing even their degree of remoteness
from the condition of beauty. Who ever called a pelican beautiful, or
even many animals endeared to us by their valuable qualities,--such as
the intelligent and docile elephant, or the affectionate orang-outang,
or the faithful mastiff? Nay, we may run through a long list of most
useful and amiable creatures, that could not, under any circumstances,
give birth to an emotion corresponding to that which we ascribe to the

But there is scarcely a subject on which mankind are wider at
variance, than on the beauty of their own species,--some preferring
this, and others that, particular conformation; which can only be
accounted for on the supposition of some predominant expression,
either moral, intellectual, or sensual, with which they are in
sympathy, or else the reverse. While some will task their memory,
and resort to the schools, for their supposed infallible
_rules_;--forgetting, meanwhile, that ultimate tribunal to which
their canon must itself appeal, the ever-living principle which first
evolved its truth, and which now, as then, is not to be reasoned
about, but _felt_. It need not be added how fruitful of blunders
is this mechanical ground.

Now we venture to assert that no mistake was ever made, even in a
single glance, concerning any natural object, not disfigured by human
caprice, or which the eye had not been trained to look at through
some conventional medium. Under this latter circumstance, there are
doubtless many things in nature which affect men very differently; and
more especially such as, from their familiar nearness, have come under
the influence of _opinion_, and been incrusted, as it were, by
the successive deposits of many generations. But of the vast and
various multitude of objects which have thus been forced from their
original state, there is perhaps no one which has undergone so many
and such strange disfigurements as the human form; or in relation to
which our "ideas," as we are pleased to call them, but in truth our
opinions, have been so fluctuating. If an Idea, indeed, had any thing
to do with Fashion, we should call many things monstrous to
which custom has reconciled us. Let us suppose a case, by way of
illustration. A gentleman and lady, from one of our fashionable
cities, are making a tour on the borders of some of our new
settlements in the West. They are standing on the edge of a forest,
perhaps admiring the grandeur of nature; perhaps, also, they are
lovers, and sharing with nature their admiration for each other, whose
personal charms are set off to the utmost, according to the most
approved notions, by the taste and elegance of their dress. Then
suppose an Indian hunter, who had never seen one of our civilized
world, or heard of our costume, coming suddenly upon them, their faces
being turned from him. Would it be possible for him to imagine what
kind of animals they were? We think not; and least of all, that he
would suppose them to be of his own species. This is no improbable
case; and we very much fear, should it ever occur, that the unrefined
savage would go home with an impression not very flattering either to
the milliner or the tailor.

That, under such disguises, we should consider human beauty as a kind
of enigma, or a thing to dispute about, is not surprising; nor even
that we should often differ from ourselves, when so much of the
outward man is thus made to depend on the shifting humors of some
paramount Petronius of the shears. But, admitting it to be an easy
matter to divest the form, or, what is still more important, our
own minds, of every thing conventional, there is the still greater
obstacle to any true effect from the person alone, in that moral
admixture, already mentioned, which, more or less, must color the
most of our impressions from every individual. Is there not, then,
sufficient ground for at least a doubt if, excepting idiots, there is
one human being in whom the purely physical is _at all times_ the
sole agent? We do not say that it does not generally predominate. But,
in a compound being like man, it seems next to impossible that the
nature within should not at times, in some degree, transpire through
the most rigid texture of the outward form. We may not, indeed, always
read aright the character thus obscurely indexed, or even be able to
guess at it, one way or the other; still, it will affect us; nay, most
so, perhaps, when most indefinite. Every man is, to a certain extent,
a physiognomist: we do not mean, according to the common acceptation,
that he is an interpreter of lines and quantities, which may be
reduced to rules; but that he is born one, judging, not by any
conscious rule, but by an instinct, which he can neither explain nor
comprehend, and which compels him to sit in judgment, whether he will
or no. How else can we account for those instantaneous sympathies and
antipathies towards an utter stranger?

Now this moral influence has a twofold source, one in the object,
and another in ourselves; nor is it easy to determine which is the
stronger as a counteracting force. Hitherto we have considered only
the former; we now proceed with a few remarks upon the latter.

Will any man say, that he is wholly without some natural or acquired
bias? This is the source of the counteracting influence which we speak
of in ourselves; but which, like many other of the secret springs,
both of thought and feeling, few men think of. It is nevertheless one
which, on this particular subject, is scarcely ever inactive;
and according to the bias will be our impressions, whether we be
intellectual or sensual, coldly speculative or ardently imaginative.
We do not mean that it is always called forth by every thing we
approach; we speak only of its usual activity between man and man; for
there seems to be a mysterious something in our nature, that, in spite
of our wishes, will rarely allow of an absolute indifference towards
any of the species; some effect, however slight, even as that of the
air which we unconsciously inhale and again respire, must follow,
whether directly from the object or reacting from ourselves. Nay, so
strong is the law, whether in attraction or repulsion, that we cannot
resist it even in relation to those human shadows projected on air by
the mere imagination; for we feel it in art only less than in nature,
provided, however, that the imagined being possess but the indication
of a human soul: yet not so is it, if presenting only the outward
form, since a mere form can in itself have no affinity with either
the heart or intellect. And here we would ask, Does not this
striking exception in the present argument cast back, as it were, a
confirmatory reflection?

We have often thought, that the power of the mere form could not be
more strongly exemplified than at a common paint-shop. Among the
annual importations from the various marts of Europe, how
many beautiful faces, without an atom of meaning, attract the
passengers,--stopping high and low, people of all descriptions,
and actually giving pleasure, if not to every one, at least to the
majority; and very justly, for they have beauty, and _nothing
else_. But let another artist, some man of genius, copy the same
faces, and add character,--breathe into them souls: from that moment
the passers-by would see as if with other eyes; the affections and
the imagination then become the spectators; and, according to the
quickness or dulness, the vulgarity or refinement, of these, would be
the impression. Thus a coarse mind may feel the beauty in the hard,
soulless forms of Van der Werf, yet turn away with apathy from the
sanctified loveliness of a Madonna by Raffaelle.

But to return to the individual bias, which is continually inclining
to, or repelling, What is more common, especially with women, than
a high admiration of a plain person, if connected with wit, or a
pleasing address? Can we have a stronger case in point than that of
the celebrated Wilkes, one of the ugliest, yet one of the most
admired men of his time? Even his own sex, blinded no doubt by their
sympathetic bias, could see no fault in him, either in mind or
person; for, when it was objected to the latter, that "he squinted
confoundedly," the reply was, "No, Sir, not more than a gentleman
ought to squint."

Of the tendency to particular pursuits,--to art, science, or any
particular course of life,--we do not speak; the bias we allude to is
in the more personal disposition of the man,--in that which gives a
tone to his internal character; nor is it material of what
proportions compounded, of the affections, or the intellect, or the
senses,--whether of some only, or the whole; that these form the
ground of every man's bias is no less certain, than the fact that
there is scarcely any secret which men are in the habit of guarding
with such sedulous care. Nay, it would seem as if every one were
impelled to it by some superstitious instinct, that every one might
have it to say to himself, There is one thing in me which is all _my
own_. Be this as it may, there are few things more hazardous than
to pronounce with confidence on any man's bias. Indeed, most men would
be puzzled to name it to themselves; but its existence in them is
not the less a fact, because the form assumed may be so mixed and
complicated as to be utterly undefinable. It is enough, however, that
every one feels, and is more or less led by it, whether definite or

This being the case, how is it possible that it should not in some
degree affect our feelings towards every one we meet,--that it should
not leave some speck of leaven on each impression, which shall
impregnate it with something that we admire and love, or else with
that which we hate and despise?

And what is the most beautiful or the most ungainly form before a
sorcerer like this, who can endow a fair simpleton with the rarest
intellect, or transform, by a glance, the intellectual, noble-hearted
dwarf to an angel of light? These, of course, are extreme cases. But
if true in these, as we have reason to believe, how formidable the

But though, as before observed, we may not read this secret with
precision, it is sometimes possible to make a shrewd guess at the
prevailing tendency in certain individuals. Perhaps the most obvious
cases are among the sanguine and imaginative; and the guess would be,
that a beautiful person would presently be enriched with all possible
virtues, while the colder speculatist would only see in it, not what
it possessed, but the mind that it wanted. Now it would be curious to
imagine (and the case is not impossible) how the eyes of each might be
opened, with the probable consequence, how each might feel when his
eyes were opened, and the object was seen as it really is. Some
untoward circumstance comes unawares on the perfect creature: a burst
of temper knits the brow, inflames the eye, inflates the nostril,
gnashes the teeth, and converts the angel into a storming fury. What
then becomes of the visionary virtues? They have passed into air, and
taken with them, also, what was the fair creature's right,--her
very beauty. Yet a different change takes place with the dry man of
intellect. The mindless object has taken shame of her ignorance; she
begins to cultivate her powers, which are gradually developed until
they expand and brighten; they inform her features, so that no one can
look upon them without seeing the evidence of no common intellect: the
dry man, at last, is struck with their superior intelligence, and what
more surprises him is the grace and beauty, which, for the first time,
they reveal to his eyes. The learned dust which had so long buried his
heart is quickly brushed away, and he weds the embodied mind. What
third change may follow, it is not to our purpose to foresee.

Has human beauty, then, no power? When united with virtue and
intellect, we might almost answer,--All power. It is the embodied
harmony of the true poet; his visible Muse; the guardian angel of his
better nature; the inspiring sibyl of his best affections, drawing him
to her with a purifying charm, from the selfishness of the world, from
poverty and neglect, from the low and base, nay, from his own frailty
or vices:--for he cannot approach her with unhallowed thoughts, whom
the unlettered and ignorant look up to with awe, as to one of a
race above them; before whom the wisest and best bow down without
abasement, and would bow in idolatry but for a higher reverence.
No! there is no power like this of mortal birth. But against the
antagonist moral, the human beauty of itself has no power, no
self-sustaining life. While it panders to evil desires, then, indeed,
there are few things may parallel its fearful might. But the unholy
alliance must at last have an end. Look at it then, when the beautiful
serpent has cast her slough.

Let us turn to it for a moment, and behold it in league with elegant
accomplishments and a subtile intellect: how complete its triumph! If
ever the soul may be said to be intoxicated, it is then, when it feels
the full power of a beautiful, bad woman. The fabled enchantments
of the East are less strange and wonder-working than the marvellous
changes which her spell has wrought. For a time every thought seems
bound to her will; the eternal eye of the conscience closes before
her; the everlasting truths of right and wrong sleep at her bidding;
nay, things most gross and abhorred become suddenly invested with
a seeming purity: till the whole mind is hers, and the bewildered
victim, drunk with her charms, calls evil good. Then, what may follow?
Read the annals of crime; it will tell us what follows the broken
spell,--broken by the first degrading theft, the first stroke of the
dagger, or the first drop of poison. The felon's eye turns upon the
beautiful sorceress with loathing and abhorrence: an asp, a toad, is
not more hateful! The story of Milwood has many counterparts.

But, although Beauty cannot sustain itself permanently against what is
morally bad, and has no direct power of producing good, it yet may,
and often does, when unobstructed, through its unimpassioned purity,
predispose to the good, except, perhaps, in natures grossly depraved;
inasmuch as all affinities to the pure are so many reproaches to the
vitiated mind, unless convertible to some selfish end. Witness the
beautiful wife, wedded for what is misnamed love, yet becoming the
scorn of a brutal husband,--the more bitter, perhaps, if she be also
good. But, aside from those counteracting causes so often mentioned,
it is as we have said: we are predisposed to feel kindly, and to think
purely, of every beautiful object, until we have reason to think
otherwise; and according to our own hearts will be our thoughts.

We are aware of but one other objection which has not been noticed,
and which might be made to the intuitive nature of the Idea. How is
it, we may be asked, that artists, who are supposed, from their early
discipline, to have overcome all conventional bias, and also to have
acquired the more difficult power of analyzing their models, so as to
contemplate them in their separate elements, have so often varied as
to their ideas of Beauty? Whether artists have really the power thus
ascribed to them, we shall not here inquire; it is no doubt, if
possible, their business to acquire it. But, admitting it as true, we
deny the position: they do not change their ideas. They can have but
one Idea of Beauty, inasmuch as that Idea is but a specific phase of
one immutable Principle,--if there be such a principle; as we shall
hereafter endeavour to show. Nor can they have of it any
essentially different, much less opposite, conceptions: but their
_apprehension_ of it may undergo many apparent changes, which,
nevertheless, are but the various degrees that only mark a fuller
conception; as their more extended acquaintance with the higher
outward assimilants of Beauty brings them, of course, nearer to a
perfect realization of the preëxisting Idea. By _perfect_, here,
we mean only the nearest approximation by man. And we appeal to every
artist, competent to answer, if it be not so. Does he ever descend
from a higher assimilant to a lower? Suppose him to have been born in
Italy; would he go to Holland to realize his Idea? But many a Dutchman
has sought in Italy what he could not find in his own country. We
do not by this intend any reflection on the latter,--a country so
fruitful of genius; it is only saying that the human form in Italy is
from a finer mould. Then, what directs the artist from one object to
another, and determines him which to choose, if he has not the guide
within him? And why else should all nations instinctively bow before
the superior forms of Greece?

We add but one remark. Supposing the artist to be wholly freed from
all modifying biases, such is seldom the case with those who criticize
his work,--especially those who would show their superiority by
detecting faults, and who frequently condemn the painter simply for
not expressing what he never aimed at. As to some, they are never
content if they do not find beauty, whatever the subject, though
it may neutralize the character, if not render it ridiculous. Were
Raffaelle, who seldom sought the purely beautiful, to be judged by
the want of it, he would fall below Guido. But his object was much
higher,--in the intellect and the affections; it was the human being
in his endless inflections of thought and passion, in which there is
little probability he will ever be approached. Yet false criticism has
been as prodigal to him in the ascription of beauty, as parsimonious
and unjust to many others.

In conclusion, may there not be, in the difficulty we have thus
endeavoured to solve, a probable significance of the responsible, as
well as distinct, position which the Human being holds in the world of
life? Are there no shadowings, in that reciprocal influence between
soul and soul, of some mysterious chain which links together the human
family in its two extremes, giving to the very lowest an indefeasible
claim on the highest, so that we cannot be independent if we would,
or indifferent even to the very meanest, without violation of an
imperative law of our nature? And does it not at least _hint_
of duties and affections towards the most deformed in body, the most
depraved in mind,--of interminable consequences? If man were a mere
animal, though the highest animal, could these inscrutable influences
affect us as they do? Would not the animal appetites be our true and
sole end? What even would Beauty be to the sated appetite? If it did
not, as in the last instance, of the brutal husband, become an object
of scorn,--which it could not be, from the necessary absence of moral
obliquity,--would it be better than a picked bone to a gorged dog?
Least of all could it resemble the visible sign of that pure idea, in
which so many lofty minds have recognized the type of a far higher
love than that of earth, which the soul shall know, when, in a better
world, she shall realize the ultimate reunion of Beauty with the
coëternal forms of Truth and Holiness.

We will now apply the characteristic assumed to the second leading
Idea, namely, to Truth. In the first place, we take it for granted,
that no one will deny to the perception of truth some positive
pleasure; no one, at least, who is not at the same time prepared to
contradict the general sense of mankind, nay, we will add, their
universal experience. The moment we begin to think, we begin to
acquire, whether it be in trifles or otherwise, some kind of
knowledge; and of two things presented to our notice, supposing one to
be true and the other false, no one ever knowingly, and for its own
sake, chooses the false: whatever he may do in after life, for some
selfish purpose, he cannot do so in childhood, where there is no such
motive, without violence to his nature. And here we are supposing the
understanding, with its triumphant pride and subtilty, out of the
question, and the child making his choice under the spontaneous sense
of the true and the false. For, were it otherwise, and the choice
indifferent, what possible foundation for the commonest acts of life,
even as it respects himself, would there be to him who should sow with
lies the very soil of his growing nature. It is time enough in manhood
to begin to lie to one's self; but a self-lying youth can have no
proper self to rest on, at any period. So that the greatest liar, even
Ferdinand Mendez Pinto, must have loved the truth,--at least at one
time of his life. We say _loved_; for a voluntary choice implies
of necessity some degree of pleasure in the choosing, however faint
the emotion or insignificant the object. It is, therefore, _caeteris
paribus_, not only necessary, but natural, to find pleasure in

Now the question is, whether the pleasurable emotion, which is, so
to speak, the indigenous growth of Truth, can in any case be free of
self, or some personal gratification. To this, we apprehend, there
will be no lack of answer. Nay, the answer has already been given from
the dark antiquity of ages, that even for her own exceeding loveliness
has Truth been canonized. If there was any thing of self in the
_Eureka_ of Pythagoras, there was not in the acclamations of
his country who rejoiced with him. But we may doubt the feeling, if
applied to him. If wealth or fame has sometimes followed in the track
of Genius, it has followed as an accident, but never preceded, as the
efficient conductor to any great discovery. For what is Genius but the
prophetic revealer of the unseen True, that can neither be purchased
nor bribed into light? If it come, then, at all, it must needs be
evoked by a kindred love as pure as itself. Shall we appeal to the
artist? If he deserve the name, he will disdain the imputation that
either wealth or fame has ever aided at the birth of his ideal
offspring: it was Truth that smiled upon him, that made light his
travail, that blessed their birth, and, by her fond recognition,
imparted to his breast her own most pure, unimpassioned emotion. But,
whatever mixed feeling, through the infirmity of the agent, may have
influenced the artist, whether poet or painter, there can be but one
feeling in the reader or spectator.

Indeed, so imperishable is this property of Truth, that it seems to
lose nothing of its power, even when causing itself to be reflected
from things that in themselves have, properly speaking, no truth. Of
this we have abundant examples in some of the Dutch pictures, where
the principal object is simply a dish of oysters or a pickled herring.
We remember a picture of this kind, consisting solely of these very
objects, from which we experienced a pleasure _almost_ exquisite.
And we would here remark, that the appetite then was in no way
concerned. The pleasure, therefore, must have been from the imitated
truth. It is certainly a curious question why this should be, while
the things themselves, that is, the actual objects, should produce no
such effect. And it seems to be because, in the latter case, there was
no truth involved. The real oysters, &c., were indeed so far true as
they were actual objects, but they did not contain a _truth_ in
_relation_ to any thing. Whereas, in the pictured oysters,
their relation to the actual was shown and verified in the mutual

If this be true, as we doubt not, we have at least one evidence, where
it might not be looked for, that there is that in Truth which is
satisfying of itself. But a stronger testimony may still be found
where, from all _à priori_ reasoning, we might expect, if not
positive pain, at least no pleasure; and that is, where we find it
united with human suffering, as in the deep scenes of tragedy. Now it
cannot be doubted, that some of our most refined pleasures are often
derived from this source, and from scenes that in nature we could
not look upon. And why is this, but for the reason assigned in the
preceding instance of a still-life picture? the only difference being,
that the latter is addressed to the senses, and the former to the
heart and intellect: which difference, however, well accounts for
their vast disparity of effect. But may not these tragic pleasures
have their source in sympathy alone? We answer, No. For who ever felt
it in watching the progress of actual villany or the betrayal of
innocence, or in being an eyewitness of murder? Now, though we revolt
at these and the like atrocities in actual life, it would be both new
and false to assert that they have no attraction in Art.

Nor do we believe that this acknowledged interest can well be traced
to any other source than the one assumed; namely, to the truth
of _relation_. And in this capacity does Truth stand to the
Imagination, which is the proper medium through which the artist,
whether poet or painter, projects his scenes.

The seat of interest here, then, being _in_ the imagination, it
is precisely on that account, and because it cannot be brought home to
self, that the pleasure ensues; which is plainly, therefore, derived
from its verisimilitude to the actual, and, though together with its
appropriate excitement, yet without its imperative condition, namely,
its call of _life_ on the living affections.

The proper word here is _interest_, not sympathy, for sympathy
with actual suffering, be the object good or bad, is in its nature
painful; an obvious reason why so few in the more prosaic world have
the virtue to seek it.

But is it not the business of the artist to touch the heart?
True,--and it is his high privilege, as its liege-lord, to sound its
very depths; nay, from its lowest deep to touch alike its loftiest
breathing pinnacle. Yet he may not even approach it, except through
the transforming atmosphere of the imagination, where alone the
saddest notes of woe, even the appalling shriek of despair, are
softened, as it were, by the tempering dews of this visionary region,
ere they fall upon the heart. Else how could we stand the smothered
moan of Desdemona, or the fiendish adjuration of Lady Macbeth,--more
frightful even than the after-deed of her husband,--or look upon the
agony of the wretched Judas, in the terrible picture of Rembrandt,
when he returns the purchase of blood to the impenetrable Sanhedrim?
Ay, how could we ever stand these but for that ideal panoply through
which we feel only their modified vibrations?

Let the imitation, or rather copy, be so close as to trench on
deception, the effect will be far different; for, the _condition_
of _relation_ being thus virtually lost, the copy becomes as
the original,--circumscribed by its own qualities, repulsive or
attractive, as the case may be. I remember a striking instance of this
in a celebrated actress, whose copies of actual suffering were so
painfully accurate, that I was forced to turn away from the scene,
unable to endure it; her scream of agony in Belvidera seemed to ring
in my ears for hours after. Not so was it with the great Mrs. Siddons,
who moved not a step but in a poetic atmosphere, through which the
fiercest passions seemed rather to _loom_ like distant mountains
when first descried at sea,--massive and solid, yet resting on air.

It would appear, then, that there is something in truth, though but
seen in the dim shadow of relation, that enforces interest,--and, so
it be without pain, at least some degree of pleasure; which, however
slight, is not unimportant, as presenting an impassable barrier to the
mere animal. We must not, however, be understood as claiming for this
Relative Truth the power of exciting a pleasurable interest in
all possible cases; there are exceptions, as in the horrible, the
loathsome, &c., which under no condition can be otherwise than
revolting. It is enough for our purpose, to have shown that its effect
is in most cases similar to that we have ascribed to Truth absolute.

But objections are the natural adversaries of every adventurer: there
is one in our path which we soon descried at our first setting
out. And we find it especially opposed to the assertion respecting
children; namely, that between two things, where there is no personal
advantage to bias the decision, they will always choose that which
seems to them true, rather than the other which appears false. To
this is opposed the notorious fact of the remarkable propensity which
children have to lying. This is readily admitted; but it does not meet
us, unless it can be shown that they have not in the act of lying an
eye to its _reward_,--setting aside any outward advantage,--in
the shape of self-complacent thought at their superior wit or
ingenuity. Now it is equally notorious, that such secret triumph will
often betray itself by a smile, or wink, or some other sign from
the chuckling urchin, which proves any thing but that the lie was
gratuitous. No, not even a child can love a lie purely for its own
sake; he would else love it in another, which is against fact. Indeed,
so far from it, that, long before he can have had any notion of what
is meant by honor, the word _liar_ becomes one of his first and
most opprobrious terms of reproach. Look at any child's face when he
tells his companion he lies. We ask no more than that most logical
expression; and, if it speak not of a natural abhorrence only to be
overcome by self-interest, there is no trust in any thing. No. We
cannot believe that man or child, however depraved, _could_ tell
an _unproductive, gratuitous lie_.

Of the last and highest source of our pleasurable emotions we need say
little; since no one will question that, if sought at all, it can
only be for its own sake. But it does not become us--at least in this
place--to enter on the subject of Holiness; of that angelic state,
whose only manifestation is in the perfect unison with the Divine
Will. We may, however, consider it in the next degree, as it is known,
and as we believe often realized, among men: we mean Goodness.

We presume it is superfluous to define a good act; for every one
knows, or ought to know, that no act is good in its true sense, which
has any, the least, reference to the agent's self. Nor is it necessary
to adduce examples; our object being rather to show that the
recognition of goodness--and we beg that the word be especially
noted--must result, of necessity, in such an emotion as shall partake
of its own character, that is, be entirely devoid of self-interest.

This will no doubt appear to many a startling position. But let it be
observed, that we have not said it will _always_ be recognized.
There are many reasons why it should not be, and is not. We all know
how easy it is to turn away from what gives us no pleasure. A long
course of vice, together with the consciousness that goodness has
departed from ourselves, may make it painful to look upon it. Nay,
the contemplation of it may become, on this account, so painful as to
amount to agony. But that Goodness can be hated for its own sake we do
not believe, except by a devil, or some irredeemable incarnation of
evil, if such there be on this side the grave. But it is objected,
that bad men have sometimes a pleasure in Evil from which they neither
derive nor hope for any personal advantage, that is, simply _because
it is evil_. But we deny the fact. We deny that an unmixed
pleasure, which is purely abstracted from all reference to self, is in
the power of Evil. Should any man assert this even of himself, he is
not to be believed; he lies to his own heart,--and this he may do
without being conscious of it. But how can this be? Nothing more
easy: by a simple dislocation of words; by the aid of that false
nomenclature which began with the first Fratricide, and has
continued to accumulate through successive ages, till it reached
its consummation, for every possible sin, in the French Revolution.
Indeed, there are few things more easy; it is only to transfer to the
evil the name of its opposite. Some of us, perhaps, may have witnessed
the savage exultation of some hardened wretch, when the accidental
spectator of an atrocious act. But is such exultation pleasure? Is it
at all akin to what is recognized as pleasure even by this hardened
wretch? Yet so he may call it. But should we, could we look into his
heart? Should we not rather pause for a time, from mere ignorance of
the true vernacular of sin. What he feels may thus be a mystery to all
but the reprobate; but it is not pleasure either in the deed or the
doer: for, as the law of Good is Harmony, so is Discord that of Evil;
and as sympathy to Harmony, so is revulsion to Discord. And where is
hatred deepest and deadliest? Among the wicked. Yet they often hate
the good. True: but not goodness, not the good man's virtues; these
they envy, and hate him for possessing them. But more commonly the
object of dislike is first stripped of his virtues by detraction; the
detractor then supplies their place by the needful vices,--perhaps
with his own; then, indeed, he is ripe for hatred. When a sinful act
is made personal, it is another affair; it then becomes a _part_
of _the man_; and he may then worship it with the idolatry of
a devil. But there is a vast gulf between his own idol and that of

To prevent misapprehension, we would here observe, that we do not
affirm of either Good or Evil any irresistible power of enforcing
love or exciting abhorrence, having evidence to the contrary in
the multitudes about us; all we affirm is, that, when contemplated
abstractly, they cannot be viewed otherwise. Nor is the fact of
their inefficiency in many cases difficult of solution, when it is
remembered that the very condition to their _true_ effect is
the complete absence of self, that they must clearly be viewed _ab
extra_; a hard, not to say impracticable, condition to the very
depraved; for it may well be doubted if to such minds any act or
object having a moral nature can be presented without some personal
relation. It is not therefore surprising, that, where the condition is
so precluded, there should be, not only no proper response to the
law of Good or Evil, but such frequent misapprehension of their true
character. Were it possible to see with the eyes of others, this might
not so often occur; for it need not be remarked, that few things, if
any, ever retain their proper forms in the atmosphere of self-love;
a fact that will account for many obliquities besides the one in
question. To this we may add, that the existence of a compulsory power
in either Good or Evil could not, in respect to man, consist with his
free agency,--without which there could be no conscience; nor does it
follow, that, because men, with the free power of choice, yet so often
choose wrong, there is any natural indistinctness in the absolute
character of Evil, which, as before hinted, is sufficiently apparent
to them when referring to others; in such cases the obliquitous choice
only shows, that, with the full force of right perception, their
interposing passions or interests have also the power of giving their
own color to every object having the least relation to themselves.

Admitting this personal modification, we may then safely repeat our
position,--that to hate Good or to love Evil, solely for their own
sakes, is only possible with the irredeemably wicked, in other words,
with devils.

We now proceed to the latter clause of our general proposition. And here
it may be asked, on what ground we assume one intuitive universal
Principle as the true source of all those emotions which have just been
discussed. To this we reply, On the ground of their common agreement. As
we shall here use the words _effect_ and _emotion_ as convertible terms,
we wish it to be understood, that, when we apply the epithet _common_ or
_same_ to _effect_, we do so only in relation to _kind_, and for the
sake of brevity, instead of saying the same _class_ of effects; implying
also in the word _kind_ the existence of many degrees, but no other
difference. For instance, if a beautiful flower and a noble act shall be
found to excite a kindred emotion, however slight from the one or deep
from the other, they come in effect under the same category. And this we
are forced to admit, however heterogeneous, since a common ground is
necessarily predicated of a common result. How else, for instance, can
we account for a scene in nature, a bird, an animal, a human form,
affecting us each in a similar way? There is certainly no similitude in
the objects that compose a landscape, and the form of an animal and man;
they have no resemblance either in shape, or texture, or color, in
roughness, smoothness, or any other known quality; while their several
effects are so near akin, that we do not stop to measure even the wide
degrees by which they are marked, but class them in a breath by some
common term. It is very plain that this singular property of
assimilating to one what is so widely unlike cannot proceed from any
similar conformation, or quality, or attribute of mere being, that is,
of any thing essential to distinctive existence. There must needs, then,
be some common ground for their common effect. For if they agree not in
themselves one with the other, it follows of necessity that the ground
of their agreement must be in relation to something within our own
minds, since only _there_ is this common effect known as a fact.

We are now brought to the important question, _Where_ and
_what_ is this reconciling ground? Certainly not in sensation,
for that could only reflect their distinctive differences. Neither can
it be in the reflective faculties, since the effect in question, being
co-instantaneous, is wholly independent of any process of reasoning;
for we do not feel it because we understand, but only because we are
conscious of its presence. Nay, it is because we neither do nor can
understand it, being therefore a matter aloof from all the powers of
reasoning, that its character is such as has been asserted, and, as
such, universal.

Where, then, shall we search for this mysterious ground but in the
mind, since only there, as before observed, is this common effect
known as a fact? and where in the mind but in some inherent Principle,
which is both intuitive and universal, since, in a greater or less
degree, all men feel it _without knowing why?_

But since an inward Principle can, of necessity, have only a potential
existence, until called into action by some outward object, it is also
clear that any similar effect, which shall then be recognized through
it, from any number of differing and distinct objects, can only arise
from some mutual relation between a _something_ in the objects
and in the Principle supposed, as their joint result and proper

And, since it would appear that we cannot avoid the admission of
some such Principle, having a reciprocal relation to certain outward
objects, to account for these kindred emotions from so many distinct
and heterogeneous sources, it remains only that we give it a name;
which has already been anticipated in the term Harmony.

The next question here is, In what consists this _peculiar relation?_ We
have seen that it cannot be in any thing that is essential to any
condition of mere being or existence; it must therefore consist in some
_undiscoverable_ condition indifferently applicable to the Physical,
Intellectual, and Moral, yet only applicable in each to certain kinds.

And this is all that we do or _can_ know of it. But of this we
may be as certain as that we live and breathe.

It is true that, for particular purposes, we may analyze certain
combinations of sounds and colors and forms, so as to ascertain their
relative quantities or collocation; and these facts (of which we shall
hereafter have occasion to speak) may be of importance both in Art and
Science. Still, when thus obtained, they will be no more than mere
facts, on which we can predicate nothing but that, when they are
imitated,--that is, when similar combinations of quantities, &c., are
repeated in a work of art,--they will produce the same effect. But
_why_ they should is a mystery which the reflective faculties do
not solve; and never can, because it refers to a living Power that is
above the understanding. In the human figure, for instance, we can
give no reason why eight heads to the stature please us better than
six, or why three or twelve heads seem to us monstrous. If we say, in
the latter case, _because_ the head of the one is too small and
of the other too large, we give no _reason_; we only state the
_fact_ of their disagreeable effect on us. And, if we make the
proportion of eight heads our rule, it is because of the fact of its
being more pleasing to us than any other; and, from the same feeling,
we prefer those statures which approach it the nearest. Suppose we
analyze a certain combination of sounds and colors, so as to ascertain
the exact relative quantities of the one and the collocation of the
other, and then compare them. What possible resemblance can the
understanding perceive between these sounds and colors? And yet a
something within us responds to both in a similar emotion. And so with
a thousand things, nay, with myriads of objects that have no other
affinity but with that mysterious harmony which began with our being,
which slept with our infancy, and which their presence only seems to
have _awakened_. If we cannot go back to our own childhood, we
may see its illustration in those about us who are now emerging into
that unsophisticated state. Look at them in the fields, among the
birds and flowers; their happy faces speak the harmony within them:
the divine instrument, which these have touched, gives them a joy
which, perhaps, only childhood in its first fresh consciousness can
know. Yet what do they understand of musical quantities, or of the
theory of colors?

And so with respect to Truth and Goodness; whose preëxisting Ideas,
being in the living constituents of an immortal spirit, need but the
slightest breath of some outward condition of the true and good,--a
simple problem, or a kind act,--to awake them, as it were, from their
unconscious sleep, and start them for eternity.

We may venture to assert, that no philosopher, however ingenious,
could communicate to a child the abstract idea of Right, had the
latter nothing beyond or above the understanding. He might, indeed, be
taught, like the inferior animals,--a dog, for instance,--that, if he
took certain forbidden things, he would be punished, and thus do
right through fear. Still he would desire the forbidden thing,
though belonging to another; nor could he conceive why he should not
appropriate to himself, and thus allay his appetite, what was held by
another, could he do so undetected; nor attain to any higher notion of
right than that of the strongest. But the child has something higher
than the mere power of apprehending consequences. The simplest
exposition, whether of right or wrong, even by an ignorant nurse, is
instantly responded to by something _within him_, which, thus
awakened, becomes to him a living voice ever after; and the good and
the true must thenceforth answer its call, even though succeeding
years would fain overlay them with the suffocating crowds of evil and

We do not say that these eternal Ideas of Beauty, Truth, and Goodness
will, strictly speaking, always act. Though indestructible, they may
be banished for a time by the perverted Will, and mockeries of the
brain, like the fume-born phantoms from the witches' caldron in
Macbeth, take their places, and assume their functions. We have
examples of this in every age, and perhaps in none more startling than
in the present. But we mean only that they cannot be _forgotten_:
nay, they are but, too often recalled with unwelcome distinctness.
Could we read the annals which must needs be scored on every
heart,--could we look upon those of the aged reprobate,--who will
doubt that their darkest passages are those made visible by the
distant gleams from these angelic Forms, that, like the Three which
stood before the tent of Abraham, once looked upon his youth?

And we doubt not that the truest witness to the common source of these
inborn Ideas would readily be acknowledged by all, could they return
to it now with their matured power of introspection, which is, at
least, one of the few advantages of advancing years. But, though
we cannot bring back youth, we may still recover much of its purer
revelations of our nature from what has been left in the memory. From
the dim present, then, we would appeal to that fresher time, ere
the young spirit had shrunk from the overbearing pride of the
understanding, and confidently ask, if the emotions we then felt from
the Beautiful, the True, and the Good, did not seem in some way to
refer to a common origin. And we would also ask, if it was then
frequent that the influence from one was _singly_ felt,--if it
did not rather bring with it, however remotely, a sense of something,
though widely differing, yet still akin to it. When we have basked in
the beauty of a summer sunset, was there nothing in the sky that spoke
to the soul of Truth and Goodness? And when the opening intellect
first received the truth of the great law of gravitation, or felt
itself mounting through the profound of space, to travel with the
planets in their unerring rounds, did never then the kindred Ideas of
Goodness and Beauty chime in, as it were, with the fabled music,--not
fabled to the soul,--which led you on like one entranced?

And again, when, in the passive quiet of your moral nature, so predisposed
in youth to all things genial, you have looked abroad on this marvellous,
ever teeming Earth,--ever teeming alike for mind and body,--and have felt
upon you flow, as from ten thousand springs of Goodness, Truth, and
Beauty, ten thousand streams of innocent enjoyment; did you not then
_almost hear_ them shout in confluence, and almost _see_ them gushing
upwards, as if they would prove their unity, in one harmonious fountain?

But, though the preceding be admitted as all true in respect to
certain "gifted" individuals, it may yet be denied that it is equally
true with respect to all, in other words, that the Principle assumed
is an inherent constituent of the human being. To this we reply, that
universality does not necessarily imply equality.

The universality of a Principle does not imply _everywhere_ equal
energy or activity, or even the same mode of manifestation, any more
than do the essential Faculties of the Understanding. Of this we have
an analogous illustration in the faculty of Memory; which is almost
indefinitely differenced in different men, both in degree and mode. In
some, its greatest power is shown in the retention of thoughts, but
not of words, that is, not of the original words in which they were
presented. Others possess it in a very remarkable degree as to forms,
places, &c., and but imperfectly for other things; others, again,
never forget names, dates, or figures, yet cannot repeat a
conversation the day after it took place; while some few have the
doubtful happiness of forgetting nothing. We might go on with a long
list of the various modes and degrees in which this faculty, so
essential to the human being, is everywhere manifested. But this is
sufficient for our purpose. In like manner is the Principle of Harmony
manifested; in one person as it relates to Form, in another to Sound;
so, too, may it vary as to the degrees of truth and goodness. We say
degrees; for we may well doubt whether, even in the faculty of memory,
its apparent absence as to any one essential object is any thing more
than a feeble degree of activity: and the doubt is strengthened by the
fact, that in many seemingly hopeless cases it has been actually, as
it were, brought into birth. And we are still indisposed to admit its
entire absence in any one particular for which it was bestowed on man.
An imperfect developement, especially as relating to the intellectual
and moral, we know to depend, in no slight measure, on the _will_
of the subject. Nay, (with the exception of idiots,) it may safely be
affirmed, that no individual ever existed who could not perceive the
difference between what is true and false, and right and wrong. We
here, of course, except those who have so ingeniously _unmade_
themselves, in order to reconstruct their "humanity" after a better
fashion. As to the "_why_" of these differences, we know nothing;
it is one of those unfathomable mysteries which to the finite mind
must ever be hidden.

Though it has been our purpose, throughout this discourse, to direct
our inquiries mainly to the essential Elements of the subject, it may
not be amiss here to take a brief notice of their collateral product
in those mixed modes from which we derive so large a portion of our
mental gratification: we allude to the various combinations of the
several Ideas, which have just been examined, with each other as well
as with their opposites. To this prolific source may be traced much
of that many-colored interest which we take in their various forms as
presented by the imagination,--in every thing, indeed, which is true,
or even partially true, to the great Principle of Harmony, both in
nature and in art. It is to these mixed modes more especially, that we
owe all that mysterious interest which gives the illusion of life to a
work of fiction, and fills us with delight or melts with woe, whether
in the happiness or the suffering of some imagined being, uniting
goodness with beauty, or virtue with plainness, or uncommon purity and
intellect even with deformity; for even that may be so overpowered in
the prominent harmony of superior intellect and moral worth, as to be
virtually neutralized, at least, to become unobtrusive as a discordant
force. Besides, it cannot be expected that _complete_ harmony is
ever to be realized in our imperfect state; we should else, perhaps,
with such expectation, have no pleasures of the kind we speak of:
nor is this necessary, the imagination being always ready to supply
deficiencies, whenever the approximation is sufficiently near to
call it forth. Nay, if the interest felt be nothing more than mere
curiosity, we still refer to this presiding Principle; which is no
less essential to a simple combination of events, than to the higher
demands of Form or Character. But its presence must be felt, however
slightly. Of this we have the evidence in many cases, and, perhaps,
most conclusive where the partial harmony is felt to verge on a
powerful discord; or where the effort to unite them produces that
singular alternation of what is both revolting and pleasing: as in the
startling union of evil passions with some noble quality, or with a
master intellect. And here we have a solution of that paradoxical
feeling of interest and abhorrence, which we experience in such a
character as King Richard.

And may it not be that we are permitted this interest for a deeper
purpose than we are wont to suppose; because Sin is best seen in the
light of Virtue,--and then most fearfully when she holds the torch to
herself? Be this as it may, with pure, unintellectual, brutal evil
it is very different. We cannot look upon it undismayed: we take no
interest in it, nor can we. In Richard there is scarce a glimmer of
his better nature; yet we do not despise him, for his intellect and
courage command our respect. But the fiend Iago,--who ever followed
him through the weaving of his spider-like web, without perpetual
recurrence to its venomous source,--his devilish heart? Even the
intellect he shows seems actually animalized, and we shudder at its
subtlety, as at the cunning of a reptile. Whatever interest may have
been imputed to him should be placed to the account of his hapless
victim; to the first striving with distrust of a generous nature; to
the vague sense of misery, then its gradual developement, then the
final overthrow of absolute faith; and, last of all, to the throes
of agony of the noble Moor, as he writhes and gasps in his accursed

To these mixed modes may be added another branch, which we shall term the
class of Imputed Attributes. In this class are concerned all those natural
objects with which we connect (not by individual association, but by a
general law of the mind) certain moral or intellectual attributes; which
are not, indeed, supposed to exist in the objects themselves, but which,
by some unknown affinity, they awaken or occasion in us, and which we, in
our turn, impute to them. However this be, there are multitudes of objects
in the inanimate world, which we cannot contemplate without associating
with them many of the characteristics which we ascribe to the human being;
and the ideas so awakened we involuntarily express by the ascription of
such significant epithets as _stately, majestic, grand_, and so on. It is
so with us, when we call some tall forest stately, or qualify as majestic
some broad and slowly-winding river, or some vast, yet unbroken waterfall,
or some solitary, gigantic pine, seeming to disdain the earth, and to hold
of right its eternal communion with air; or when to the smooth and
far-reaching expanse of our inland waters, with their bordering and
receding mountains, as they seem to march from the shores, in the pomp of
their dark draperies of wood and mist, we apply the terms _grand_ and
_magnificent_: and so onward to an endless succession of objects,
imputing, as it were, our own nature, and lending our sympathies, till the
headlong rush of some mighty cataract suddenly thunders upon us. But how
is it then? In the twinkling of an eye, the outflowing sympathies ebb back
upon the heart; the whole mind seems severed from earth, and the awful
feeling to suspend the breath;--there is nothing human to which we can
liken it. And here begins another kind of emotion, which we call Sublime.

We are not aware that this particular class of objects has hitherto
been noticed, at least as holding a distinct position. And, if we
may be allowed to supply the omission, we should assign to it the
intermediate place between the Beautiful and the Sublime. Indeed,
there seems to be no other station so peculiarly proper; inasmuch as
they would thus form, in a consecutive series, a regular ascent from
the sensible material to the invisible spiritual: hence naturally
uniting into one harmonious whole every possible emotion of our higher

In the preceding discussion, we have considered the outward world
only in its immediate relation to Man, and the Human Being as the
predetermined centre to which it was designed to converge. As the
subject, however, of what are called the sublime emotions, he holds a
different position; for the centre here is not himself, nor, indeed,
can he approach it within conceivable distance: yet still he is drawn
to it, though baffled for ever. Now the question is, Where, and
in what bias, is this mysterious attraction? It must needs be in
something having a clear affinity with us, or we could not feel it.
But the attraction is also both pure and pleasurable; and it has just
been shown, that we have in ourselves but one principle by which
to recognize any corresponding emotion,--namely, the principle of
Harmony. May we not then infer a similar Principle without us, an
Infinite Harmony, to which our own is attracted? and may we not
further,--if we may so speak without irreverence,--suppose our own to
have emanated thence when "man became a living soul"? And though this
relation may not be consciously acknowledged in every instance, or
even in one, by the mass of men, does it therefore follow that it does
not exist? How many things act upon us of which we have no knowledge?
If we find, as in the case of the Beautiful, the same, or a similar,
effect to follow from a great variety of objects which have no
resemblance or agreement with one another, is it not a necessary
inference, that for their common effect they must all refer to
something without and distinct from themselves? Now in the case of
the Sublime, the something referred to is not in man: for the emotion
excited has an outward tendency; the mind cannot contain it; and the
effort to follow it towards its mysterious object, if long continued,
becomes, in the excess of interest, positively painful.

Could any finite object account for this? But, supposing the Infinite,
we have an adequate cause. If these emotions, then, from whatever
object or circumstance, be to prompt the mind beyond its prescribed
limits, whether carrying it back to the primitive past, the
incomprehensible _beginning_, or sending it into the future, to
the unknown _end_, the ever-present Idea of the mighty Author of
all these mysteries must still be implied, though we think not of it.
It is this Idea, or rather its influence, whether we be conscious of
it or not, which we hold to be the source of every sublime emotion. To
make our meaning plainer, we should say, that that which has the power
of possessing the mind, to the exclusion, for the time, of all other
thought, and which presents no _comprehensible_ sense of a whole,
though still impressing us with a full apprehension of such as a
reality,--in other words, which cannot be circumscribed by the forms
of the understanding while it strains them to the utmost,--that we
should term a sublime object. But whether this effect be occasioned
directly by the object itself, or be indirectly suggested by its
relations to some other object, its unknown cause, it matters not;
since the apparent power of calling forth the emotion, by whatever
means, is, _quoad_ ourselves, its sublime condition. Hence, if a
minute insect, an ant, for instance, through its marvellous instinct,
lift the mind of the amazed spectator to the still more inscrutable
Creator, it must possess, as to _him_, the same power. This is,
indeed, an extreme case, and may be objected to as depending on the
individual mind; on a mind prepared by cultivation and previous
reflection for the effect in question. But to this it may be replied,
that some degree of cultivation, or, more properly speaking, of
developement by the exercise of its reflective faculties, is obviously
essential ere the mind can attain to mature growth,--we might almost
say to its natural state, since nothing can be said to have attained
its true nature until all its capacities are at least called into
birth. No one, for example, would refer to the savages of Australia
for a true specimen of what was proper or natural to the human mind;
we should rather seek it, if such were the alternative, in a civilized
child of five years old. Be this as it may, it will not be denied
that ignorance, brutality, and many other deteriorating causes, do
practically incapacitate thousands for even an approximation, not only
to this, but to many of the inferior emotions, the character of
which is purely mental. And this, we think, is quite sufficient to
neutralize the objection, if not, indeed, to justify the application
of the term to all cases where the _immediate_ effect, whether
directly or indirectly, is such as has been described. But, to reduce
this to a common-sense view, it is only saying,--what no one will
deny,--that a man of education and refinement has not only more, but
higher, pleasures of the mind than a mere clown.

But though the position here advanced must necessarily exclude many
objects which have hitherto, though, as we think, improperly, been
classed with the sublime, it will still leave enough, and more than
enough, for the utmost exercise of our limited powers; inasmuch as, in
addition to the multitude of objects in the material world, not only
the actions, passions, and thoughts of men, but whatever concerns the
human being, that in any way--by a hint merely--leads the mind, though
indirectly, to the Infinite attributes,--all come of right within the
ground assumed.

It will be borne in mind, that the conscious presence of the Infinite
Idea is not only _not_ insisted on, but expressly admitted to be, in
most cases, unthought of; it is also admitted, that a sublime effect is
often powerfully felt in many instances where this Idea could not truly
be predicated of the apparent object. In such cases, however, some kind
of resemblance, or, at least, a seeming analogy to an infinite
attribute, is nevertheless essential. It must _appear_ to us, for the
time, either limitless, indefinite, or in some other way beyond the
grasp of the mind: and, whatever an object may _seem_ to be, it must
needs _in effect_ be to _us_ even that which it seems. Nor does this
transfer the emotion to a different source; for the Infinite Idea, or
something analogous, being thus imputed, is in reality its true cause.

It is still the unattainable, the _ever-stimulating_, yet
_ever-eluding_, in the character of the sublime object, that
gives to it both its term and its effect. And whence the conception of
this mysterious character, but from its mysterious prototype, the Idea
of the Infinite? Neither does it matter, as we have said, whether
actual or supposed; for what the imagination cannot master will master
the imagination. Take, for instance, but a single _passion_, and
clothe it with this character; in the same instant it becomes sublime.
So, too, with a single thought. In the Mosaic words so often quoted,
"Let there be light, and there was light," we have the sublime of
thought, of mere naked thought; but what could more awe the mind with
the power of God? Of like nature is the conjecture of Newton, when he
imagined stars so distant from the sun that their coeval light has not
yet reached us. Let us endeavour for one moment to conceive of this;
does not the soul seem to dilate within us, and the body to shrink
as to a grain of dust? "Woe is me! unclean, unclean!" said the holy
Prophet, when the Infinite Holiness stood before him. Could a more
terrible distance be measured, than by these fearful words, between
God and man?

If it be objected to this view, that many cases occur, having the same
conditions with those assumed in our general proposition, which are
yet exclusively painful, unmitigated even by a transient moment of
pleasure,--in Despair, for instance,--as who can limit it?--to this we
reply, that no emotion having its sole, or circle of existence in
the individual mind itself, can be to that mind other than a
_subject_. A man in despair, or under any mode of extreme
suffering of like nature, may, indeed, if all interfering sympathy
have been removed by time or after-description, be to _another_
a sublime object,--at least in one of those suggestive forms just
noticed; but not to _himself_. The source of the sublime--as all
along implied--is essentially _ab extra_. The human mind is not
its centre, nor can it be realized except by a contemplative act.

Besides, as a mental pleasure,--indeed the highest known,--to
be recognized as such, it must needs be accompanied by the same
_relative character_ by which is tested every other pleasure
coming under that denomination; namely, by the entire absence
of _self_, that is, by the same freedom from all personal
consideration which has been shown to characterize the true effect of
the Three leading Ideas already considered. But if to this also it be
further objected, that in certain particular cases, as of
personal danger,--from which the sublime emotion has often been
experienced,--some personal consideration must necessarily be
involved, as without a sense of security we could not enjoy it; we
answer, that, if it be meant only that the mind should be in such a
state as to enable us to receive an unembarrassed impression, it seems
to us superfluous,--an obvious truism placed in opposition to an
absurd impossibility. We needed not to be told, that no pleasurable
emotion is likely to occur while we are unmanned by fear. The same
might be said, also, in respect to the Beautiful: for who was ever
alive to it under a paroxysm of terror, or pain of any kind? A
terrified person is in any thing but a fit state for such emotion. He
may indeed _afterwards_, when his fear is passed off, contemplate
the circumstance that occasioned it with a different feeling; but the
object of his dismay is _then_ projected, as it were, completely
from himself; and he feels the sublimity in a contemplative state:
he can feel it in no other. Nor is that state incompatible with a
consciousness of peril, though it can never be with personal terror.
And, if it is meant that we should have a positive, present
conviction that we are in no danger, this we must deny, as we find it
contradicted in innumerable instances. So far, indeed, is a sense of
security from being essential to the condition of a sublime emotion,
that the sense of danger, on the contrary, is one of its most exciting
accompaniments. There is a fascination in danger which some persons
neither can nor would resist; which seems, as it were, to disenthral
them of self;--as if the mysterious Infinite were actually drawing
them on by an invisible power.

Was it mere scientific curiosity that cost the elder Pliny his life?
Might it not have been rather this sublime fascination? But we have
repeated examples of it in our own time. Many who will read this may
have been in a storm at sea. Did they never feel its sublimity while
they knew their danger? We will answer for ourselves; for we have been
in one, when the dismasted vessels that surrounded us permitted no
mistake as to our peril; it was strongly felt, but still stronger was
the sublime emotion in the awful scene. The crater of Vesuvius is even
now, perhaps for the thousandth time, reflecting from its lake of fire
some ghastly face, with indrawn breath and hair bristling, bent, as by
fate, over its sulphurous brink.

Let us turn to Mont Blanc, that mighty pyramid of ice, in whose shadow
might repose all the tombs of the Pharaohs. It rises before the
traveller like the accumulating mausoleum of Europe: perhaps he looks
upon it as his own before his natural time; yet he cannot away from
it. A terrible charm hurries him over frightful chasms, whose blue
depths seem like those of the ocean; he cuts his way up a polished
precipice, shining like steel,--as elusive to the touch; he creeps
slowly and warily around and beneath huge cliffs of snow; now he looks
up, and sees their brows fretted by the percolating waters like a
Gothic ceiling, and he fears even to whisper, lest an audible breath
should awaken the avalanche: and thus he climbs and climbs, till the
dizzy summit fills up his measure of fearful ecstasy.

Now, though cases may occur where the emotion in question is attended
with a sense of security, as in the reading or hearing the description
of an earthquake, such as that of 1768 in Lisbon, while we are safely
housed and by a comfortable fire, it does not therefore follow, that
this consciousness of safety is its essential condition. It is merely
an accidental circumstance. It cannot, therefore, apply, either as a
rule or an objection. Besides, even if supported by fact, we might
well dismiss it on the ground of irrelevancy, since a sense of
personal safety cannot be placed in opposition to and as inconsistent
with a disinterested or unselfish state; which is that claimed for
the emotion as its true condition. If there be not, then, a sounder
objection, we may safely admit the characteristic in question; for
the reception of which we have, on the other hand, the weight of
experience,--at least negatively, since, strictly speaking, we cannot
experience the absence of any thing.

But though, according to our theory, there are many things now called
sublime that would properly come under a different classification, such
as many objects of Art, many sentiments, and many actions, which are
strictly human, as well in their _end_ as in their origin; it is not to
be inferred that the exclusion of any work of man is _because_ of _its
apparent origin_, but of its _end_, the end only being the determining
point, as referring to its _Idea_. Now, if the Idea referred to be of
the Infinite, which is _out_ of his nature, it cannot strictly be said
to originate with man,--that is, absolutely; but it is rather, as it
were, a reflected form of it from the Maker of his mind. If we are led
to such an Idea, then, by any work of imagination, a poem, a picture, a
statue, or a building, it is as truly sublime as any natural object.
This, it appears to us, is the sole mystery, without which neither
sound, nor color, nor form, nor magnitude, is a true correlative to the
unseen cause. And here, as with Beauty, though the test of that be
within us, is the _modus operandi_ equally baffling to the scrutiny of
the understanding. We feel ourselves, as it were, lifted from the earth,
and look upon the outward objects that have so affected us, yet learn
not how; and the mystery deepens as we compare them with other objects
from which have followed the same effects, and find no resemblance. For
instance; the roar of the ocean, and the intricate unity of a Gothic
cathedral, whose beginning and end are alike intangible, while its
climbing tower seems visibly even to rise to the Idea which it strives
to embody,--these have nothing in common,--hardly two things could be
named that are more unlike; yet in relation to man they have but one
end: for who can hear the ocean when breathing in wrath, and limit it in
his mind, though he think not of Him who gives it voice? or ascend that
spire without feeling his faculties vanish, as it were with its
vanishing point, into the abyss of space? If there be a difference in
the effect from these and other objects, it is only in the intensity,
the degree of impetus given; as between that from the sudden explosion
of a volcano and from the slow and heavy movement of a rising
thunder-cloud; its character and its office are the same,--in its awful
harmony to connect the created with its Infinite Cause.

But let us compare this effect with that from Beauty. Would the
Parthenon, for instance, with its beautiful forms,--made still more
beautiful under its native sky,--seeming almost endued with the breath
of life, as if its conscious purple were a living suffusion brought
forth in sympathy by the enamoured blushes of a Grecian sunset;--would
this beautiful object even then elevate the soul above its own roof?
No: we should be filled with a pure delight,--but with no longing to
rise still higher. It would satisfy us; which the sublime does not;
for the feeling is too vast to be circumscribed by human content.

On the supernatural it is needless to enlarge; for, in whatever form
the beings of the invisible world are supposed to visit us, they are
immediately connected in the mind with the unknown Infinite; whether
the faith be in the heart or in the imagination; whether they bubble
up from the earth, like the Witches in Macbeth, taking shape at will,
or self-dissolving into air, and no less marvellous, foreknowing
thoughts ere formed in man; or like the Ghost in Hamlet, an
unsubstantial shadow, having the functions of life, motion, will,
and speech; a fearful mystery invests them with a spell not to be
withstood; the bewildered imagination follows like a child, leaving
the finite world for one unknown, till it aches in darkness,
trackless, endless.

Perhaps, as being nearest in station to the unsearchable Author of
all things, the highest example of this would be found in the
Angelic Nature. If it be objected, that the poets have not always so
represented it, it rests with them to show cause why they have not.
Milton, no doubt, could have assigned a sufficient reason in _the
time chosen for his poem_,--that of the creation of the first man,
when his intercourse with the highest order of created beings was not
only essential to the plan of the poem, but according with the express
will of the Creator: hence, he might have considered it no violation
of the _then_ relation between man and angels to assign even the
epithet _affable_ to the archangel Raphael; for man was then
sinless, and in all points save knowledge a fit object of regard, and
certainly a fit pupil to his heavenly instructor. But, suppose the
poet, throughout his work, (as in the process of his story he was
forced to do near the end,)--suppose he had chosen, assuming the
philosopher, to assign to Adam the _altered relation of one of his
fallen posterity_, how could he have endured a holy spiritual
presence? To be consistent, Adam must have been dumb with awe,
incapable of holding converse such as is described. Between sinless
man and his sinful progeny, the distance is immeasurable. And so, too,
must be the effect on the latter, in such a presence; and for this
conclusion we have the authority of Scripture, in the dismay of the
soldiers at the Saviour's sepulchre, on which more directly. If there
be no like effect attending the other angelic visits recorded in
Scripture, such as those to Lot and Abraham, the reason is obvious in
the _special mission_ to those individuals, who were doubtless
_divinely prepared_ for their reception; for it is reasonable
to suppose the mission had else been useless. But with the Roman
soldiers, where there was no such qualifying circumstance, the case
was different; indeed, it was in striking contrast with that of the
two Marys, who, though struck with awe, yet being led there, as
witnesses, by the Spirit, were not so overpowered.

And here, as the Idea of Angels is universally associated with every
perfection of _form_, may naturally occur the question so often
agitated,--namely, whether Beauty and Sublimity are, under any
circumstances, compatible. To us it seems of easy solution. For we see
no reason why Beauty, as the condition of a subordinated object or
component part, may not incidentally enter into the Sublime, as well
as a thousand other conditions of opposite characters, which pertain
to the multifarious assimilants that often form its other components.

When Beauty is not made _essential_, but enters as a mere
contingent, its admission or rejection is a matter of indifference. In
an angel, for instance, beauty is the condition of his mere form; but
the angel has also an intellectual and moral or spiritual nature,
which is essentially paramount: the former being but the condition, so
to speak, of his visibility, the latter, his very life,--an Essence
next to the inconceivable Giver of life.

Could we stand in the presence of one of these holy beings, (if to
stand were possible,) what of the Sublime in this lower world would so
shake us? Though his beauty were such as never mortal dreamed of,
it would be as nothing,--swallowed up as darkness,--in the awful,
spiritual brightness of the messenger of God. Even as the soldiers
in Scripture, at the sepulchre of the Saviour, we should fall before
him,--we should "become," like them, "as dead men."

But though Milton does not unveil the "face like lightning"; and
though the angel Raphael is made to hold converse with man, and the
"severe in youthful beauty" gives even the individual impress to
Zephon, and Michael and Abdiel are set apart in their prowess; there
is not one he names that does not breathe of Heaven, that is not
encompassed with the glory of the Infinite. And why the reader is not
overwhelmed in their supposed presence is because he is a beholder
_through_ Adam,--through him also a listener; but whenever he is
made, by the poet's spell, to forget Adam, and to see, as it were in
his own person, the embattled hosts....

If we dwell upon Form _alone_, though it should be of surpassing
beauty, the idea would not rise above that of man, for this is
conceivable of man: but the moment the angelic nature is touched, we
have the higher ideas of supernal intelligence and perfect holiness,
to which all the charms and graces of mere form immediately
become subordinate, and, though the beauty remain, its agency is
comparatively negative under the overpowering transcendence of a
celestial spirit.

As we have already seen that the Beautiful is limited to no particular
form, but possesses its power in some mysterious _condition_,
which is applicable to many distinct objects; in like manner does the
Sublime include within its sphere, and subdue to its condition, an
indefinite variety of objects, with their distinctive conditions; and
among them we find that of the Beautiful, as well as, to a _certain
degree_, its reverse, so that, though we may truly recognize their
coexistence in the same object, it is not possible that their effect
upon us should be otherwise than unequal, and that the higher law
should not subordinate the lower. We do not deny that the Beautiful
may, so to speak, mitigate the awful intensity of the Sublime; but it
cannot change its character, much less impart its own; the one will
still be awful, the other, of itself, never.

When at Rome, we once asked a foreigner, who seemed to be talking
somewhat vaguely on the subject, what he understood by the Sublime.
His answer was, "Le plus beau"; making it only a matter of degree. Now
let us only imagine (if we can) a beautiful earthquake, or a beautiful
hurricane. And yet the foreigner is not alone in this. D'Azzara,
the biographer of Mengs, speaking of Beauty, talks of "this sublime
quality," and in another place, for certain reasons assigned, he says,
"The grand style is beautiful." Nay, many writers, otherwise of high
authority, seem to have taken the same view; while others who could
have had no such notion, having used the words Beauty and the
Beautiful in an allegorical or metaphorical sense, have sometimes been
misinterpreted literally. Hence Winckelmann reproaches Michael Angelo
for his continual talk about Beauty, when he showed nothing of it
in his works. But it is very evident that the _Bellà_ and
_Bellezza_ of Michael Angelo were never used by him in a literal
sense, nor intended to be so understood by others: he adopted the
terms solely to express abstract Perfection, which he allegorized as
the mistress of his mind, to whose exclusive worship his whole life
was devoted. Whether it was the most appropriate term he could have
chosen, we shall not inquire. It is certain, however, that the literal
adoption of it by subsequent writers has been the cause of much
confusion, as well as vagueness.

For ourselves, we are quite at a loss to imagine how a notion so
obviously groundless has ever had a single supporter; for, if a
distinct effect implies a distinct cause, we do not see why distinct
terms should not be employed to express the difference, or how the
legitimate term for one can in any way be applied to signify a
particular degree of the other. Like the two Dromios, they sometimes
require a conjurer to tell which is which. If only Perfection, which
is a generic term implying the summit of all things, be meant,
there is surely nothing to be gained (if we except _intended_
obscurity) by substituting a specific term which is limited to a few.
We speak not here of allegorical or metaphorical propriety, which is
not now the question, but of the literal and didactic; and we may
add, that we have never known but one result from this arbitrary
union,--which is, to procreate words.

In further illustration of our position, it may be well here to notice
one mistaken source of the Sublime, which seems to have been sometimes
resorted to, both in poems and pictures; namely, in the sympathy
excited by excruciating bodily suffering. Suppose a man on the rack
to be placed before us,--perhaps some miserable victim of the
Inquisition; the cracking of his joints is made frightfully audible;
his calamitous "Ah!" goes to our marrow; then the cruel precision
of the mechanical familiar, as he lays bare to the sight his whole
anatomy of horrors. And suppose, too, the executioner _compelled_
to his task,--consequently an irresponsible agent, whom we cannot
curse; and, finally, that these two objects compose the whole scene.
What could we feel but an agony even like that of the sufferer, the
only difference being that one is physical, the other mental? And this
is all that mere sympathy has any power to effect; it has led us to
its extreme point,--our flesh creeps, and we turn away with almost
bodily sickness. But let another actor be added to the drama in the
presiding Inquisitor, the cool methodizer of this process of torture;
in an instant the scene is changed, and, strange to say, our feelings
become less painful,--nay, we feel a momentary interest,--from an
instant revulsion of our moral nature: we are lost in wonder at the
excess of human wickedness, and the hateful wonder, as if partaking of
the infinite, now distends the faculties to their utmost tension; for
who can set bounds to passion when it seizes the whole soul? It is as
the soul itself, without form or limit. We may not think even of the
after judgment; we become ourselves _justice_, and we award a
hatred commensurate with the sin, so indefinite and monstrous that we
stand aghast at our own judgment.

_Why_ this extreme tension of the mind, when thus outwardly
occasioned, should create in us an interest, we know not; but such is
the fact, and we are not only content to endure it for a time, but
even crave it, and give to the feeling the epithet _sublime_.

We do not deny that much bodily suffering may be admitted with effect
as a subordinate agent, when, as in the example last added, it is made
to serve as a necessary expositor of moral deformity. Then, indeed,
in the hands of a great artist, it becomes one of the most powerful
auxiliaries to a sublime end. All that we contend for is that sympathy
alone is insufficient as a cause of sublimity.

There are yet other sources of the false sublime, (if we may so call
it,) which are sometimes resorted to also by poets and painters; such
as the horrible, the loathsome, the hideous, and the monstrous: these
form the impassable boundaries to the true Sublime. Indeed, there
appears to be in almost every emotion a certain point beyond which we
cannot pass without recoiling,--as if we instinctively shrunk from
what is forbidden to our nature.

It would seem, then, that, in relation to man, Beauty is the extreme
point, or last summit, of the natural world, since it is in that that
we recognize the highest emotion of which we are susceptible from the
purely physical. If we ascend thence into the moral, we shall find its
influence diminish in the same ratio with our upward progress. In the
continuous chain of creation of which it forms a part, the link above
it where the moral modification begins seems scarcely changed, yet the
difference, though slight, demands another name, and the nomenclator
within us calls it Elegance; in the next connecting link, the moral
adjunct becomes more predominant, and we call it Majesty; in the next,
the physical becomes still fainter, and we call the union Grandeur; in
the next, it seems almost to vanish, and a new form rises before us,
so mysterious, so undefined and elusive to the senses, that we turn,
as if for its more distinct image, within ourselves, and there, with
wonder, amazement, awe, we see it filling, distending, stretching
every faculty, till, like the Giant of Otranto, it seems almost to
burst the imagination: under this strange confluence of opposite
emotions, this terrible pleasure, we call the awful form Sublimity.
This was the still, small voice that shook the Prophet on
Horeb;--though small to his ear, it was more than his imagination
could contain; he could not hear it again and live.

It is not to be supposed that we have enumerated all the forms of
gradation between the Beautiful and the Sublime; such was not our
purpose; it is sufficient to have noted the most prominent, leaving
the intermediate modifications to be supplied (as they can readily be)
by the reader. If we descend from the Beautiful, we shall pass in like
manner through an equal variety of forms gradually modified by the
grosser material influences, as the Handsome, the Pretty, the Comely,
the Plain, &c., till we fall to the Ugly.

There ends the chain of pleasurable excitement; but not the chain of
Forms; which, taking now as if a literal curve, again bends upward,
till, meeting the descending extreme of the moral, it seems to
complete the mighty circle. And in this dark segment will be found the
startling union of deepening discords,--still deepening, as it rises
from the Ugly to the Loathsome, the Horrible, the Frightful,[1] the

As we follow the chain through this last region of disease, misery,
and sin, of embodied Discord, and feel, as we must, in the mutilated
affinities of its revolting forms, their fearful relation to this
fair, harmonious creation,--how does the awful fact, in these its
breathing fragments, speak to us of a fallen world!

As the living centre of this stupendous circle stands the Soul of Man;
the _conscious Reality_, to which the vast inclosure is but the
symbol. How vast, then, his being! If space could measure it, the
remotest star would fall within its limits. Well, then, may he tremble
to essay it even in thought; for where must it carry him,--that winged
messenger, fleeter than light? Where but to the confines of the
Infinite; even to the presence of the unutterable _Life_, on
which nothing finite can look and live?

Finally, we shall conclude our Discourse with a few words on the
master Principle, which we have supposed to be, by the will of the
Creator, the realizing life to all things fair and true and good: and
more especially would we revert to its spiritual purity, emphatically
manifested through all its manifold operations,--so impossible
of alliance with any thing sordid, or false, or wicked,--so
unapprehensible, even, except for its own most sinless sake. Indeed,
we cannot look upon it as other than the universal and eternal witness
of God's goodness and love, to draw man to himself, and to testify
to the meanest, most obliquitous mind,--at least once in life, be it
though in childhood,--that there _is_ such a thing as _good
without self_. It will be remembered, that, in all the various
examples adduced, in which we have endeavoured to illustrate the
operation of Harmony, there was but one character to all its effects,
whatever the difference in the objects that occasioned them; that it
was ever untinged with any personal taint: and we concluded thence
its supernal source. We may now advance another evidence still more
conclusive of its spiritual origin, namely, in the fact, that it
cannot be realized in the Human Being _quoad_ himself. With the
fullest consciousness of the possession of this principle, and with
the power to realize it in other objects, he has still no power in
relation to himself,--that is, to become the object to himself.

Now, as the condition of Harmony, so far as we can know it through its
effect, is that of _impletion_, where nothing can be added or
taken away, it is evident that such a condition can never be realized
by the mind in itself. And yet the desire to this end is as evidently
implied in that incessant, yet unsatisfying activity, which, under all
circumstances, is an imperative, universal law of our nature.

It might seem needless to enlarge on what must be generally felt as an
obvious truth; still, it may not be amiss to offer a few remarks, by
way of bringing it, though a truism, more distinctly before us. In all
ages the majority of mankind have been more or less compelled to some
kind of exertion for their mere subsistence. Like all compulsion, this
has no doubt been considered a hardship. Yet we never find, when by
their own industry, or any fortunate circumstance, they have been
relieved from this exigency, that any one individual has been
contented with doing nothing. Some, indeed, before their liberation,
have conceived of idleness as a kind of synonyme with happiness; but a
short experience has never failed to prove it no less remote from that
desirable state. The most offensive employments, for the want of
a better, have often been resumed, to relieve the mind from the
intolerable load of _nothing_,--the heaviest of all weights,--as
it needs must be to an immortal spirit: for the mind cannot stop,
except it be in a mad-house; there, indeed, it may rest, or rather
stagnate, on one thought,--its little circle, perhaps of misery. From
the very moment of consciousness, the active Principle begins to
busy itself with the things about it: it shows itself in the infant,
stretching its little hands towards the candle; in the schoolboy,
filling up, if alone, his play-hour with the mimic toils of after age;
and so on, through every stage and condition of life; from the wealthy
spend-thrift, beggaring himself at the gaming-table for employment, to
the poor prisoner in the Bastile, who, for the want of something to
occupy his thoughts, overcame the antipathy of his nature, and found
his companion in a spider. Nay, were there need, we might draw out the
catalogue till it darkened with suicide. But enough has been said to
show, that, aside from guilt, a more terrible fiend has hardly been
imagined than the little word Nothing, when embodied and realized as
the master of the mind. And well for the world that it is so; since to
this wise law of our nature, to say nothing of conveniences, we owe
the endless sources of innocent enjoyment with which the industry and
ingenuity of man have supplied us.

But the wisdom of the law in question is not merely that it is a
preventive to the mind preying on itself; we see in it a higher
purpose,--no less than what involves the developement of the human
being; and, if we look to its final bearing, it is of the deepest
import. It might seem at first a paradox, that, the natural condition
of the mind being averse to inactivity, it should still have so
strong a desire for rest; but a little reflection will show that this
involves no real contradiction. The mind only mistakes the _name_
of its object, neither rest nor action being its real aim; for in a
state of rest it desires action, and in a state of action, rest. Now
all action supposes a purpose, which purpose can consist of but one
of two things; either the attainment of some immediate object as its
completion, or the causing of one or more future acts, that shall
follow as a consequence. But whether the action terminates in an
immediate object, or serves as the procreating cause of an indefinite
series of acts, it must have some ultimate object in which it
ends,--or is to end. Even supposing such a series of acts to be
continued through a whole life, and yet remain incomplete, it would
not alter the case. It is well known that many such series have
employed the minds of mathematicians and astronomers to their last
hour; nay, that those acts have been taken up by others, and continued
through successive generations: still, whether the point be arrived at
or no, there must have been an end in contemplation. Now no one can
believe that, in similar cases, any man would voluntarily devote all
his days to the adding link after link to an endless chain, for
the mere pleasure of labor. It is true he may be aware of the
wholesomeness of such labor as one of the means of cheerfulness; but,
if he have no further aim, his being aware of this result makes an
equable flow of spirits a positive object. Without _hope_,
uncompelled labor is an impossibility; and hope implies an object. Nor
would the veriest idler, who passes a whole day in whittling a stick,
if he could be brought to look into himself, deny it. So far from
having no object, he would and must acknowledge that he was in
fact hoping to relieve himself of an oppressive portion of time by
whittling away its minutes and hours. Here we have an extreme instance
of that which constitutes the real business of life, from the most
idle to the most industrious; namely, to attain to a _satisfying

But no one will assert that such a state was ever a consequence of the
attainment of any object, however exalted. And why? Because the motive
of action is left behind, and we have nothing before us.

Something to desire, something to look forward to, we _must_
have, or we perish,--even of suicidal rest. If we find it not here in
the world about us, it must be sought for in another; to which, as we
conceive, that secret ruler of the soul, the inscrutable, ever-present
spirit of Harmony, for ever points. Nor is it essential that the
thought of harmony should even cross the mind; for a want may be
felt without any distinct consciousness of the form of that which is
desired. And, for the most part, it is only in this negative way that
its influence is acknowledged. But this is sufficient to account
for the universal longing, whether definite or indefinite, and the
consequent universal disappointment.

We have said that man cannot to himself become the object of
Harmony,--that is, find its proper correlative in himself; and we have
seen that, in his present state, the position is true. How is it,
then, in the world of spirit? Who can answer? And yet, perhaps,--if
without irreverence we might hazard the conjecture,--as a finite
creature, having no centre in himself on which to revolve, may it not
be that his true correlative will there be revealed (if, indeed, it be
not before) to the disembodied man, in the Being that made him? And
may it not also follow, that the Principle we speak of will cease to
be potential, and flow out, as it were, and harmonize with the
eternal form of Hope,--even that Hope whose living end is in the
unapproachable Infinite?

Let us suppose this form of hope to be taken away from an immortal
being who has no self-satisfying power within him, what would be
his condition? A conscious, interminable vacuum, were such a thing
possible, would but faintly image it. Hope, then, though in its nature
unrealizable, is not a mere _notion_; for so long as it continues
hope, it is to the mind an object and an object _to be_ realized;
so, where its form is eternal, it cannot but be to it an ever-during
object. Hence we may conceive of a never-ending approximation to what
can never be realized.

From this it would appear, that, while we cannot to ourselves become
the object of Harmony, it is nevertheless certain, from the universal
desire _so_ to realize it, that we cannot suppress the continual
impulse of this paramount Principle; which, therefore, as it seems to
us, must have a double purpose; first, by its outward manifestation,
which we all recognize, to confirm its reality, and secondly, to
convince the mind that its true object is not merely out of, but
above, itself,--and only to be found in the Infinite Creator.


In treating on Art, which, in its highest sense, and more especially
in relation to Painting and Sculpture, is the subject proposed for
our present examination, the first question that occurs is, In
what consists its peculiar character? or rather, What are the
characteristics that distinguish it from Nature, which it professes to

To this we reply, that Art is characterized,--

First, by Originality.

Secondly, by what we shall call Human or Poetic Truth; which is the
verifying principle by which we recognize the first.

Thirdly, by Invention; the product of the Imagination, as grounded on
the first, and verified by the second. And,

Fourthly, by Unity, the synthesis of all.

As the first step to the right understanding of any discourse is a
clear apprehension of the terms used, we add, that by Originality we
mean any thing (admitted by the mind as _true_) which is peculiar
to the Author, and which distinguishes his production from that of
all others; by Human or Poetic Truth, that which may be said to exist
exclusively in and for the mind, and as contradistinguished from the
truth of things in the natural or external world; by Invention, any
unpractised mode of presenting a subject, whether by the combination
of entire objects already known, or by the union and modification
of known but fragmentary parts into new and consistent forms; and,
lastly, by Unity, such an agreement and interdependence of all the
parts, as shall constitute a whole.

It will be our attempt to show, that, by the presence or absence of
any one of these characteristics, we shall be able to affirm or deny
in respect to the pretension of any object as a work of Art; and also
that we shall find within ourselves the corresponding law, or by
whatever word we choose to designate it, by which each will be
recognized; that is, in the degree proportioned to the developement,
or active force, of the law so judging.

Supposing the reader to have gone along with us in what has been said of
the _Universal_, in our Preliminary Discourse, and as assenting to the
position, that any faculty, law, or principle, which can be shown to be
_essential_ to _any one_ mind, must necessarily be also predicated of
every other sound mind, even where the particular faculty or law is so
feebly developed as apparently to amount to its absence, in which case
it is inferred potentially,--we shall now assume, on the same grounds,
that the originating _cause_, notwithstanding its apparent absence in
the majority of men, is an essential reality in the condition of the
Human Being; its potential existence in all being of necessity affirmed
from its existence in one.

Assuming, then, its reality,--or rather leaving it to be evidenced
from its known effects,--we proceed to inquire _in what_ consists
this originating power.

And, first, as to its most simple form. If it be true, (as we hope to
set forth more at large in a future discourse,) that no two minds were
ever found to be identical, there must then in every individual mind
be _something_ which is not in any other. And, if this unknown
something is also found to give its peculiar hue, so to speak,
to every impression from outward objects, it seems but a natural
inference, that, whatever it be, it _must_ possess a pervading
force over the entire mind,--at least, in relation to what is
external. But, though this may truly be affirmed of man generally,
from its evidence in any one person, we shall be far from the fact,
should we therefore affirm, that, otherwise than potentially, the
power of outwardly manifesting it is also universal. We know that it
is not,--and our daily experience proves that the power of reproducing
or giving out the individualized impressions is widely different in
different men. With some it is so feeble as apparently never to act;
and, so far as our subject is concerned, it may practically be said
not to exist; of which we have abundant examples in other mental
phenomena, where an imperfect activity often renders the existence of
some essential faculty a virtual nullity. When it acts in the higher
decrees, so as to make another see or feel _as_ the Individual
saw or felt,--this, in relation to Art, is what we mean, in its
strictest sense, by Originality. He, therefore, who possesses the
power of presenting to another the _precise_ images or emotions
as they existed in himself, presents that which can be found nowhere
else, and was first found by and within himself; and, however light or
trifling, where these are true as to his own mind, their author is so
far an originator.

But let us take an example, and suppose two _portraits_; simple
heads, without accessories, that is, with blank backgrounds, such as
we often see, where no attempt is made at composition; and both by
artists of equal talent, employing the same materials, and conducting
their work according to the same technical process. We will also
suppose ourselves acquainted with the person represented, with whom
to compare them. Who, that has ever made a similar comparison, will
expect to find them identical? On the contrary, though in all respects
equal, in execution, likeness, &c., we shall still perceive a certain
_exclusive something_ that will instantly distinguish the one
from the other, and both from the original. And yet they shall both
seem to us true. But they will be true to us also in a double sense;
namely, as to the living original and as to the individuality of
the different painters. Where such is the result, both artists must
originate, inasmuch as they both outwardly realize the individual
image of their distinctive minds.

Nor can the truth they present be ascribed to the technic process,
which we have supposed the same with each; as, on such a supposition,
with their equal skill, the result must have been identical. No;
by whatever it is that one man's mental impression, or his mode of
thought, is made to differ from another's, it is that something, which
our imaginary artists have here transferred to their pencil, that
makes them different, yet both original.

Now, whether the medium through which the impressions, conceptions, or
emotions of the mind are thus externally realized be that of colors,
words, or any thing else, this mysterious though certain principle is,
as we believe, the true and only source of all originality.

In the power of assimilating what is foreign, or external, to our own
particular nature consists the individualizing law, and in the power
of reproducing what is thus modified consists the originating cause.

Let us turn now to an opposite example,--to a mere mechanical copy of
some natural object, where the marks in question are wholly wanting.
Will any one be truly affected by it? We think not; we do not say that
he will not praise it,--this he may do from various motives; but his
_feeling_--if we may so name the index of the law within--will
not be called forth to any spontaneous correspondence with the object
before him.

But why talk of feeling, says the pseudo-connoisseur, where we should
only, or at least first, bring knowledge? This is the common cant of
those who become critics for the sake of distinction. Let the Artist
avoid them, if he would not disfranchise himself in the suppression
of that uncompromising _test_ within him, which is the only sure
guide to the truth without.

It is a poor ambition to desire the office of a judge merely for
the sake of passing sentence. But such an ambition is not likely to
possess a person of true sensibility. There are some, however, in
whom there is no deficiency of sensibility, yet who, either from
self-distrust, or from some mistaken notion of Art, are easily
persuaded to give up a right feeling, in exchange for what they may
suppose to be knowledge,--the barren knowledge of faults; as if there
could be a human production without them! Nevertheless, there is
little to be apprehended from any conventional theory, by one who is
forewarned of its mere negative power,--that it can, at best, only
suppress feeling; for no one ever was, or ever can be, argued into
a real liking for what he has once felt to be false. But, where the
feeling is genuine, and not the mere reflex of a popular notion, so
far as it goes it must be true. Let no one, therefore, distrust it, to
take counsel of his head, when he finds himself standing before a work
of Art. Does he feel its truth? is the only question,--if, indeed, the
impertinence of the understanding should then propound one; which we
think it will not, where the feeling is powerful. To such a one, the
characteristic of Art upon which we are now discoursing will force
its way with the power of light; nor will he ever be in danger of
mistaking a mechanical copy for a living imitation.

But we sometimes hear of "faithful transcripts," nay, of fac-similes.
If by these be implied neither more nor less than exists in their
originals, they must still, in that case, find their true place in
the dead category of Copy. Yet we need not be detained by any inquiry
concerning the merits of a fac-simile, since we firmly deny that a
fac-simile, in the true sense of the term, is a thing possible.

That an absolute identity between any natural object and its represented
image is a thing impossible, will hardly be questioned by any one who
thinks, and will give the subject a moment's reflection; and the
difficulty lies in the nature of things, the one being the work of the
Creator, and the other of the creature. We shall therefore assume as a
fact, the eternal and insuperable difference between Art and Nature. That
our pleasure from Art is nevertheless similar, not to say equal, to that
which we derive from Nature, is also a fact established by experience; to
account for which we are necessarily led to the admission of another fact,
namely, that there exists in Art a _peculiar something_ which we receive
as equivalent to the admitted difference. Now, whether we call this
equivalent, individualized truth, or human or poetic truth, it matters
not; we know by its _effects_, that some such principle does exist, and
that it acts upon us, and in a way corresponding to the operation of that
which we call Truth and Life in the natural world. Of the various laws
growing out of this principle, which take the name of Rules when applied
to Art, we shall have occasion to speak in a future discourse. At present
we shall confine ourselves to the inquiry, how far the difference alluded
to may be safely allowed in any work professing to be an imitation of

The fact, that truth may subsist with a very considerable admixture
of falsehood, is too well known to require an argument. However
reprehensible such an admixture may be in morals, it becomes in Art,
from the limited nature of our powers, a matter of necessity.

For the same reason, even the realizing of a thought, or that which
is properly and exclusively human, must ever be imperfect. If Truth,
then, form but the greater proportion, it is quite as much as we may
reasonably look for in a work of Art. But why, it may be asked, where
the false predominates, do we still derive pleasure? Simply because of
the Truth that remains. If it be further demanded, What is the minimum
of truth in order to a pleasurable effect? we reply, So much only as
will cause us to feel that the truth _exists_. It is this feeling
alone that determines, not only the true, but the degrees of truth,
and consequently the degrees of pleasure.

Where no such feeling is awakened, and supposing no deficiency in the
recipient, he may safely, from its absence, pronounce the work false;
nor could any ingenious theory of the understanding convince him to
the contrary. He may, indeed, as some are wont to do, make a random
guess, and _call_ the work true; but he can never so _feel_
it by any effort of reasoning. But may not men differ as to their
impressions of truth? Certainly as to the degrees of it, and in this
according to their sensibility, in which we know that men are not
equal. By sensibility here we mean the power or capacity of receiving
impressions. All men, indeed, with equal organs, may be said in a
certain sense to see alike. But will the same natural object,
conveyed through these organs, leave the same impression? The fact is
otherwise. What, then, causes the difference, if it be not (as before
observed) a peculiar something in the individual mind, that modifies
the image? If so, there must of necessity be in every true work of
Art--if we may venture the expression--another, or distinctive, truth.
To recognize this, therefore,--as we have elsewhere endeavoured to
show,--supposes in the recipient something akin to it. And, though it
be in reality but a _sign_ of life, it is still a sign of which
we no sooner receive the impress, than, by a law of our mind, we feel
it to be acting upon our thoughts and sympathies, without our knowing
how or wherefore. Admitting, therefore, the corresponding instinct,
or whatever else it may be called, to vary in men,--which there is no
reason to doubt,--the solution of their unequal impression appears at
once. Hence it would be no extravagant metaphor, should we affirm that
some persons see more with their minds than others with their eyes.
Nay, it must be obvious to all who are conversant with Art, that
much, if not the greater part, in its higher branches is especially
addressed to this mental vision. And it is very certain, if there were
no truth beyond the reach of the senses, that little would remain to
us of what we now consider our highest and most refined pleasure.

But it must not be inferred that originality consists in any
contradiction to Nature; for, were this allowed and carried out, it
would bring us to the conclusion, that, the greater the contradiction,
the higher the Art. We insist only on the modification of the natural
by the personal; for Nature is, and ever must be, at least the
sensuous ground of all Art: and where the outward and inward are
so united that we cannot separate them, there shall we find the
perfection of Art. So complete a union has, perhaps, never been
accomplished, and _may_ be impossible; it is certain, however,
that no approach to excellence can ever be made, if the _idea_ of
such a union be not constantly looked to by the artist as his ultimate
aim. Nor can the idea be admitted without supposing a _third_ as
the product of the two,--which we call Art; between which and Nature,
in its strictest sense, there must ever be a difference; indeed, a
_difference with resemblance_ is that which constitutes its
essential condition.

It has doubtless been observed, that, in this inquiry concerning the
nature and operation of the first characteristic, the presence of the
second, or verifying principle, has been all along implied; nor could
it be otherwise, because of their mutual dependence. Still more will
its active agency be supposed in our examination of the third, namely,
Invention. But before we proceed to that, the paramount index of the
highest art, it may not be amiss to obtain, if possible, some distinct
apprehension of what we have termed Poetic Truth; to which, it will be
remembered, was also prefixed the epithet Human, our object therein
being to prepare the mind, by a single word, for its peculiar sphere;
and we think it applicable also for a more important reason,
namely, that this kind of Truth is the _true ground of the
poetical_,--for in what consists the poetry of the natural world,
if not in the sentiment and reacting life it receives from the human
fancy and affections? And, until it can be shown that sentiment and
fancy are also shared by the brute creation, this seeming effluence
from the beautiful in nature must rightfully revert to man. What, for
instance, can we suppose to be the effect of the purple haze of a
summer sunset on the cows and sheep, or even on the more delicate
inhabitants of the air? From what we know of their habits, we
cannot suppose more than the mere physical enjoyment of its genial
temperature. But how is it with the poet, whom we shall suppose
an object in the same scene, stretched on the same bank with the
ruminating cattle, and basking in the same light that flickers from
the skimming birds. Does he feel nothing more than the genial warmth?
Ask him, and he perhaps will say,--"This is my soul's hour; this
purpled air the heart's atmosphere, melting by its breath the sealed
fountains of love, which the cold commonplace of the world had frozen:
I feel them gushing forth on every thing around me; and how worthy of
love now appear to me these innocent animals, nay, these whispering
leaves, that seem to kiss the passing air, and blush the while at
their own fondness! Surely they are happy, and grateful too that they
are so; for hark! how the little birds send up their song of praise!
and see how the waving trees and waving grass, in mute accordance,
keep time with the hymn!"

This is but one of the thousand forms in which the human spirit is
wont to effuse itself on the things without, making to the mind a
new and fairer world,--even the shadowing of that which its immortal
craving will sometimes dream of in the unknown future. Nay, there
is scarcely an object so familiar or humble, that its magical touch
cannot invest it with some poetic charm. Let us take an extreme
instance,--a pig in his sty. The painter, Morland, was able to convert
even this disgusting object into a source of pleasure,--and a pleasure
as real as any that is known to the palate.

Leaving this to have the weight it may be found to deserve, we turn
to the original question; namely, What do we mean by Human or Poetic

When, in respect to certain objects, the effects are found to be
uniformly of the same kind, not only upon ourselves, but also upon
others, we may reasonably infer that the efficient cause is of one
nature, and that its uniformity is a necessary result. And, when we also
find that these effects, though differing in degree, are yet uniform in
their character, while they seem to proceed from objects which in
themselves are indefinitely variant, both in kind and degree, we are
still more forcibly drawn to the conclusion, that the _cause_ is not
only _one_, but not inherent in the object.[2] The question now arises,
What, then, is that which seems to us so like an _alter et idem_,--which
appears to act upon, and is recognized by us, through an animal, a bird,
a tree, and a thousand different, nay, opposing objects, in the same
way, and to the same end? The inference follows of necessity, that the
mysterious cause must be in some general law, which is absolute and
_imperative_ in relation to every such object under certain conditions.
And we receive the solution as true,--because we cannot help it. The
reality, then, of such a law becomes a fixture in the mind.

But we do not stop here: we would know something concerning the
conditions supposed. And in order to this, we go back to the effect.
And the answer is returned in the form of a question,--May it not
be something _from ourselves_, which is reflected back by the
object,--something with which, as it were, we imbue the object, making
it correspond to a _reality_ within us? Now we recognize the
reality within; we recognize it also in the object,--and the affirming
light flashes upon us, not in the form of _deduction_, but of
inherent Truth, which we cannot get rid of; and we _call_ it
Truth,--for it will take no other name.

It now remains to discover, so to speak, its location. In what part,
then, of man may this self-evidenced, yet elusive, Truth or power be
said to reside? It cannot be in the senses; for the senses can impart
no more than they receive. Is it, then, in the mind? Here we are
compelled to ask, What is understood by the mind? Do we mean the
understanding? We can trace no relation between the Truth we would
class and the reflective faculties. Or in the moral principle? Surely
not; for we can predicate neither good nor evil by the Truth in
question. Finally, do we find it identified with the truth of
the Spirit? But what is the truth of the Spirit but the Spirit
itself,--the conscious _I_? which is never even thought of in
connection with it. In what form, then, shall we recognize it? In
its own,--the form of Life,--the life of the Human Being; that
self-projecting, realizing power, which is ever present, ever acting
and giving judgment on the instant on all things corresponding with
its inscrutable self. We now assign it a distinctive epithet, and call
it Human.

It is a common saying, that there is more in a name than we are apt
to imagine. And the saying is not without reason; for when the name
happens to be the true one, being proved in its application, it
becomes no unimportant indicator as to the particular offices for
which the thing named was designed. So we find it with respect to the
Truth of which we speak; its distinctive epithet marking out to us, as
its sphere of action, the mysterious intercourse between man and man;
whether the medium consist in words or colors, in thought or form, or
in any thing else on which the human agent may impress, be it in a
sign only, his own marvellous life. As to the process or _modus
operandi_, it were a vain endeavour to seek it out: that divine
secret must ever to man be an humbling darkness. It is enough for him
to know that there is that within him which is ever answering to that
without, as life to life,--which must be life, and which must be true.

We proceed now to the third characteristic. It has already been
stated, in the general definition, what we would be understood to mean
by the term Invention, in its particular relation to Art; namely, any
unpractised mode of presenting a subject, whether by the combination
of forms already known, or by the union and modification of known
but fragmentary parts into a new and consistent whole: in both cases
tested by the two preceding characteristics.

We shall consider first that division of the subject which stands first
in order,--the Invention which consists in the new combination of known
forms. This may be said to be governed by its exclusive relation either
to _what is_, or _has been_, or, when limited by the _probable_, to what
strictly may be. It may therefore be distinguished by the term Natural.
But though we so name it, inasmuch as all its forms have their
prototypes in the Actual, it must still be remembered that these
existing forms do substantially constitute no more than mere _parts_ to
be combined into a _whole_, for which Nature has provided no original.
For examples in this, the most comprehensive class, we need not refer
to any particular school; they are to be found in all and in every
gallery: from the histories of Raffaelle, the landscapes of Claude and
Poussin and others, to the familiar scenes of Jan Steen, Ostade, and
Brower. In each of these an adherence to the actual, if not strictly
observed, is at least supposed in all its parts; not so in the whole, as
that relates to the probable; by which we mean such a result as _would
be_ true, were the same combination to occur in nature. Nor must we be
understood to mean, by adherence to the actual, that one part is to be
taken for an exact portrait; we mean only such an imitation as precludes
an intentional deviation from already existing and known forms.

It must be very obvious, that, in classing together any of the
productions of the artists above named, it cannot be intended to
reduce them to a level; such an attempt (did our argument require it)
must instantly revolt the common sense and feeling of every one at all
acquainted with Art. And therefore, perhaps, it may be thought that
their striking difference, both in kind and degree, might justly call
for some further division. But admitting, as all must, a wide, nay,
almost impassable, interval between the familiar subjects of the lower
Dutch and Flemish painters, and the higher intellectual works of the
great Italian masters, we see no reason why they may not be left to
draw their own line of demarcation as to their respective provinces,
even as is every day done by actual objects; which are all equally
natural, though widely differenced as well in kind as in quality. It
is no degradation to the greatest genius to say of him and of the most
unlettered boor, that they are both men.

Besides, as a more minute division would be wholly irrelevant to the
present purpose, we shall defer the examination of their individual
differences to another occasion. In order, however, more distinctly to
exhibit their common ground of Invention, we will briefly examine a
picture by Ostade, and then compare it with one by Raffaelle, than
whom no two artists could well be imagined having less in common.

The interior of a Dutch cottage forms the scene of Ostade's work,
presenting something between a kitchen and a stable. Its principal
object is the carcass of a hog, newly washed and hung up to dry;
subordinate to which is a woman nursing an infant; the accessories,
various garments, pots, kettles, and other culinary utensils.

The bare enumeration of these coarse materials would naturally
predispose the mind of one, unacquainted with the Dutch school, to
expect any thing but pleasure; indifference, not to say disgust, would
seem to be the only possible impression from a picture composed of
such ingredients. And such, indeed, would be their effect under the
hand of any but a real Artist. Let us look into the picture and follow
Ostade's _mind_, as it leaves its impress on the several objects.
Observe how he spreads his principal light, from the suspended carcass
to the surrounding objects, moulding it, so to speak, into agreeable
shapes, here by extending it to a bit of drapery, there to an earthen
pot; then connecting it, by the flash from a brass kettle, with his
second light, the woman and child; and again turning the eye into
the dark recesses through a labyrinth of broken chairs, old baskets,
roosting fowls, and bits of straw, till a glimpse of sunshine, from
a half-open window, gleams on the eye, as it were, like an echo, and
sending it back to the principal object, which now seems to act on the
mind as the luminous source of all these diverging lights. But the
magical whole is not yet completed; the mystery of color has been
called in to the aid of light, and so subtly blends that we can hardly
separate them; at least, until their united effect has first been
felt, and after we have begun the process of cold analysis. Yet even
then we cannot long proceed before we find the charm returning; as we
pass from the blaze of light on the carcass, where all the tints of
the prism seem to be faintly subdued, we are met on its borders by the
dark harslet, glowing like rubies; then we repose awhile on the white
cap and kerchief of the nursing mother; then we are roused again by
the flickering strife of the antagonist colors on a blue jacket and
red petticoat; then the strife is softened by the low yellow of a
straw-bottomed chair; and thus with alternating excitement and repose
do we travel through the picture, till the scientific explorer loses
the analyst in the unresisting passiveness of a poetic dream. Now
all this will no doubt appear to many, if not absurd, at least
exaggerated: but not so to those who have ever felt the sorcery of
color. They, we are sure, will be the last to question the character
of the feeling because of the ingredients which worked the spell,
and, if true to themselves, they must call it poetry. Nor will they
consider it any disparagement to the all-accomplished Raffaelle to say
of Ostade that he also was an Artist.

We turn now to a work of the great Italian,--the Death of Ananias.
The scene is laid in a plain apartment, which is wholly devoid of
ornament, as became the hall of audience of the primitive Christians.
The Apostles (then eleven in number) have assembled to transact the
temporal business of the Church, and are standing together on a
slightly elevated platform, about which, in various attitudes, some
standing, others kneeling, is gathered a promiscuous assemblage of
their new converts, male and female. This quiet assembly (for we still
feel its quietness in the midst of the awful judgment) is suddenly
roused by the sudden fall of one of their brethren; some of them turn
and see him struggling in the agonies of death. A moment before he was
in the vigor of life,--as his muscular limbs still bear evidence;
but he had uttered a falsehood, and an instant after his frame is
convulsed from head to foot. Nor do we doubt for a moment as to the
awful cause: it is almost expressed in voice by those nearest to
him, and, though varied by their different temperaments, by terror,
astonishment, and submissive faith, this voice has yet but one
meaning,--"Ananias has lied to the Holy Ghost." The terrible words, as
if audible to the mind, now direct us to him who pronounced his doom,
and the singly-raised finger of the Apostle marks him the judge; yet
not of himself,--for neither his attitude, air, nor expression has
any thing in unison with the impetuous Peter,--he is now the simple,
passive, yet awful instrument of the Almighty: while another on the
right, with equal calmness, though with more severity, by his elevated
arm, as beckoning to judgment, anticipates the fate of the entering
Sapphira. Yet all is not done; lest a question remain, the Apostle on
the left confirms the judgment. No one can mistake what passes within
him; like one transfixed in adoration, his uplifted eyes seem to ray
out his soul, as if in recognition of the divine tribunal. But the
overpowering thought of Omnipotence is now tempered by the human
sympathy of his companion, whose open hands, connecting the past with
the present, seem almost to articulate, "Alas, my brother!" By this
exquisite turn, we are next brought to John, the gentle almoner of the
Church, who is dealing out their portions to the needy brethren. And
here, as most remote from the judged Ananias, whose suffering seems
not yet to have reached it, we find a spot of repose,--not to pass by,
but to linger upon, till we feel its quiet influence diffusing itself
over the whole mind; nay, till, connecting it with the beloved
Disciple, we find it leading us back through the exciting scene,
modifying even our deepest emotions with a kindred tranquillity.

This is Invention; we have not moved a step through the picture but at
the will of the Artist. He invented the chain which we have followed,
link by link, through every emotion, assimilating many into one; and
this is the secret by which he prepared us, without exciting horror,
to contemplate the struggle of mortal agony.

This too is Art; and the highest art, when thus the awful power,
without losing its character, is tempered, as it were, to our
mysterious desires. In the work of Ostade, we see the same inventive
power, no less effective, though acting through the medium of the
humblest materials.

We have now exhibited two pictures, and by two painters who may be
said to stand at opposite poles. And yet, widely apart as are their
apparent stations, they are nevertheless tenants of the same ground,
namely, actual nature; the only difference being, that one is
the sovereign of the purely physical, the other of the moral and
intellectual, while their common medium is the catholic ground of the

We do not fear either skeptical demur or direct contradiction, when
we assert that the imagination is as much the medium of the homely
Ostade, as of the refined Raffaelle. For what is that, which has just
wrapped us as in a spell when we entered his humble cottage,--which,
as we wandered through it, invested the coarsest object with a
strange charm? Was it the _truth_ of these objects that we there
acknowledged? In part, certainly, but not simply the truth that
belongs to their originals; it was the truth of his own individual
mind superadded to that of nature, nay, clothed upon besides by his
imagination, imbuing it with all the poetic hues which float in the
opposite regions of night and day, and which only a poet can mingle
and make visible in one pervading atmosphere. To all this our own
minds, our own imaginations, respond, and we pronounce it true to
both. We have no other rule, and well may the artists of every age and
country thank the great Lawgiver that there _is no other_. The
despised _feeling_ which the schools have scouted is yet the
mother of that science of which they vainly boast. But of this we may
have more to say in another place.

We shall now ascend from the _probable_ to the _possible_,
to that branch of Invention whose proper office is from the known but
fragmentary to realize the unknown; in other words, to embody the
possible, having its sphere of action in the world of Ideas. To this
class, therefore, may properly be assigned the term _Ideal_.

And here, as being its most important scene, it will be necessary to
take a more particular view of the verifying principle, the agent, so
to speak, that gives reality to the inward, when outwardly manifested.

Now, whether we call this Human or Poetic Truth, or _inward
life_, it matters not; we know by _its effects_, (as we have
already said, and we now repeat,) that some such principle does exist,
and that it acts upon us, and in a way analogous to the operation of
that which we call truth and life in the world about us. And that the
cause of this analogy is a real affinity between the two powers seems
to us confirmed, not only _positively_ by this acknowledged
fact, but also _negatively_ by the absence of the effect above
mentioned in all those productions of the mind which we pronounce
unnatural. It is therefore in effect, or _quoad_ ourselves, both
truth and life, addressed, if we may use the expression, to that
inscrutable _instinct_ of the imagination which conducts us to
the knowledge of all invisible realities.

A distinct apprehension of the reality and of the office of this
important principle, we cannot but think, will enable us to ascertain
with some degree of precision, at least so far as relates to art,
the true limits of the Possible,--the sphere, as premised, of Ideal

As to what some have called our _creative_ powers, we take it
for granted that no correct thinker has ever applied such expressions
literally. Strictly speaking, we can _make_ nothing: we can
only construct. But how vast a theatre is here laid open to the
constructive powers of the finite creature; where the physical eye is
permitted to travel for millions and millions of miles, while that of
the mind may, swifter than light, follow out the journey, from star to
star, till it falls back on itself with the humbling conviction that
the measureless journey is then but begun! It is needless to dwell on
the immeasurable mass of materials which a world like this may supply
to the Artist.

The very thought of its vastness darkens into wonder. Yet how much
deeper the wonder, when the created mind looks into itself, and
contemplates the power of impressing its thoughts on all things
visible; nay, of giving the likeness of life to things inanimate; and,
still more marvellous, by the mere combination of words or colors, of
evolving into shape its own Idea, till some unknown form, having no
type in the actual, is made to seem to us an organized being. When
such is the result of any unknown combination, then it is that we
achieve the Possible. And here the Realizing Principle may strictly be
said to prove itself.

That such an effect should follow a cause which we know to be purely
imaginary, supposes, as we have said, something in ourselves which
holds, of necessity, a predetermined relation to every object either
outwardly existing or projected from the mind, which we thus recognize
as true. If so, then the Possible and the Ideal are convertible terms;
having their existence, _ab initio_, in the nature of the mind.
The soundness of this inference is also supported negatively, as just
observed, by the opposite result, as in the case of those fantastic
combinations, which we sometimes meet with both in Poetry and
Painting, and which we do not hesitate to pronounce unnatural, that
is, false.

And here we would not be understood as implying the preëxistence of
all possible forms, as so many _patterns_, but only of that
constructive Power which imparts its own Truth to the unseen
_real_, and, under certain conditions, reflects the image or
semblance of its truth on all things imagined; and which must be
assumed in order to account for the phenomena presented in the
frequent coincident effect between the real and the feigned. Nor does
the absence of consciousness in particular individuals, as to this
Power in themselves, fairly affect its universality, at least
potentially: since by the same rule there would be equal ground for
denying the existence of any faculty of the mind which is of slow or
gradual developement; all that we may reasonably infer in such cases
is, that the whole mind is not yet revealed to itself. In some of the
greatest artists, the inventive powers have been of late developement;
as in Claude, and the sculptor Falconet. And can any one believe that,
while the latter was hewing his master's marble, and the former making
pastry, either of them was conscious of the sublime Ideas which
afterwards took form for the admiration of the world? When Raffaelle,
then a youth, was selected to execute the noble works which now live
on the walls of the Vatican, "he had done little or nothing," says
Reynolds, "to justify so high a trust." Nor could he have been
certain, from what he knew of himself, that he was equal to the task.
He could only hope to succeed; and his hope was no doubt founded on
his experience of the progressive developement of his mind in former
efforts; rationally concluding, that the originally seeming blank
from which had arisen so many admirable forms was still teeming with
others, that only wanted the occasion, or excitement, to come forth at
his bidding.

To return to that which, as the interpreting medium of his thoughts
and conceptions, connects the artist with his fellow-men, we remark,
that only on the ground of some self-realizing power, like what
we have termed Poetic Truth, could what we call the Ideal ever be

That some such power is inherent and fundamental in our nature, though
differenced in individuals by more or less activity, seems more
especially confirmed in this latter branch of the subject, where the
phenomena presented are exclusively of the Possible. Indeed, we cannot
conceive how without it there could ever be such a thing as true Art;
for what might be received as such in one age might also be overruled
in the next: as we know to be the case with most things depending on
opinion. But, happily for Art, if once established on this immutable
base, there it must rest: and rest unchanged, amidst the endless
fluctuations of manners, habits, and opinions; for its truth of
a thousand years is as the truth of yesterday. Hence the beings
described by Homer, Shakspeare, and Milton are as true to us now, as
the recent characters of Scott. Nor is it the least characteristic
of this important Truth, that the only thing needed for its full
reception is simply its presence,--being its own evidence.

How otherwise could such a being as Caliban ever be true to us? We have
never seen his race; nay, we knew not that such a creature _could_
exist, until he started upon us from the mind of Shakspeare. Yet who
ever stopped to ask if he were a real being? His existence to the mind
is instantly felt;--not as a matter of faith, but of fact, and a fact,
too, which the imagination cannot get rid of if it would, but which must
ever remain there, verifying itself, from the first to the last moment
of consciousness. From whatever point we view this singular creature,
his reality is felt. His very language, his habits, his feelings,
whenever they recur to us, are all issues from a living thing, acting
upon us, nay, forcing the mind, in some instances, even to speculate on
his nature, till it finds itself classing him in the chain of being as
the intermediate link between man and the brute. And this we do, not by
an ingenious effort, but almost by involuntary induction; for we
perceive speech and intellect, and yet without a soul. What but an
intellectual brute could have uttered the imprecations of Caliban? They
would not be natural in man, whether savage or civilized. Hear him, in
his wrath against Prospero and Miranda:--

  "A wicked dew as e'er my mother brushed
  With raven's feather from unwholesome fen,
  Light on you both!"

The wild malignity of this curse, fierce as it is, yet wants the moral
venom, the devilish leaven, of a consenting spirit: it is all but

To this we may add a similar example, from our own art, in the Puck,
or Robin Goodfellow, of Sir Joshua Reynolds. Who can look at this
exquisite little creature, seated on its toadstool cushion, and not
acknowledge its prerogative of life,--that mysterious influence which
in spite of the stubborn understanding masters the mind,--sending
it back to days long past, when care was but a dream, and its most
serious business a childish frolic? But we no longer think of
childhood as the past, still less as an abstraction; we see it
embodied before us, in all its mirth and fun and glee; and the grave
man becomes again a child, to feel as a child, and to follow the
little enchanter through all his wiles and never-ending labyrinth of
pranks. What can be real, if that is not which so takes us out of
our present selves, that the weight of years falls from us as a
garment,--that the freshness of life seems to begin anew, and the
heart and the fancy, resuming their first joyous consciousness, to
launch again into this moving world, as on a sunny sea, whose pliant
waves yield to the touch, yet, sparkling and buoyant, carry them
onward in their merry gambols? Where all the purposes of reality are
answered, if there be no philosophy in admitting, we see no wisdom in
disputing it.

Of the immutable nature of this peculiar Truth, we have a like
instance in the Farnese Hercules; the work of the Grecian sculptor
Glycon,--we had almost said his immortal offspring. Since the time of
its birth, cities and empires, even whole nations, have disappeared,
giving place to others, more or less barbarous or civilized; yet these
are as nothing to the countless revolutions which have marked
the interval in the manners, habits, and opinions of men. Is it
reasonable, then, to suppose that any thing not immutable in its
nature could possibly have withstood such continual fluctuation?
But how have all these changes affected this _visible image of
Truth_? In no wise; not a jot; and because what is _true_ is
independent of opinion: it is the same to us now as it was to the men
of the dust of antiquity. The unlearned spectator of the present day
may not, indeed, see in it the Demigod of Greece; but he can never
mistake it for a mere exaggeration of the human form; though of mortal
mould, he cannot doubt its possession of more than mortal powers; he
feels its _essential life_, for he feels before it as in the
stirring presence of a superior being.

Perhaps the attempt to give form and substance to a pure Idea was
never so perfectly accomplished as in this wonderful figure. Who has
ever seen the ocean in repose, in its awful sleep, that smooths it
like glass, yet cannot level its unfathomed swell? So seems to us the
repose of this tremendous personification of strength: the laboring
eye heaves on its slumbering sea of muscles, and trembles like a skiff
as it passes over them: but the silent intimations of the spirit
beneath at length become audible; the startled imagination hears it
in its rage, sees it in motion, and sees its resistless might in
the passive wrecks that follow the uproar. And this from a piece of
marble, cold, immovable, lifeless! Surely there is that in man, which
the senses cannot reach, nor the plumb of the understanding sound.

Let us turn now to the Apollo called Belvedere. In this supernal
being, the human form seems to have been assumed as if to make visible
the harmonious confluence of the pure ideas of grace, fleetness, and
majesty; nor do we think it too fanciful to add celestial splendor;
for such, in effect, are the thoughts which crowd, or rather rush,
into the mind on first beholding it. Who that saw it in what may be
called the place of its glory, the Gallery of Napoleon, ever thought
of it as a man, much less as a statue; but did not feel rather as if
the vision before him were of another world,--of one who had just
lighted on the earth, and with a step so ethereal, that the next
instant he would vault into the air? If I may be permitted to recall
the impression which it made on myself, I know not that I could better
describe it than as a sudden intellectual flash, filling the whole
mind with light,--and light in motion. It seemed to the mind what the
first sight of the sun is to the senses, as it emerges from the ocean;
when from a point of light the whole orb at once appears to bound from
the waters, and to dart its rays, as by a visible explosion, through
the profound of space. But, as the deified Sun, how completely is the
conception verified in the thoughts that follow the effulgent original
and its marble counterpart! Perennial youth, perennial brightness,
follow them both. Who can imagine the old age of the sun? As soon
may we think of an old Apollo. Now all this may be ascribed to the
imagination of the beholder. Granted,--yet will it not thus be
explained away. For that is the very faculty addressed by every work
of Genius,--whose nature is _suggestive_; and only when it
excites to or awakens congenial thoughts and emotions, filling the
imagination with corresponding images, does it attain its proper end.
The false and the commonplace can never do this.

It were easy to multiply similar examples; the bare mention of a
single name in modern art might conjure up a host,--the name of
Michael Angelo, the mighty sovereign of the Ideal, than whom no one
ever trod so near, yet so securely, the dizzy brink of the Impossible.

Of Unity, the fourth and last characteristic, we shall say but little;
for we know in truth little or nothing of the law which governs
it: indeed, all that we know but amounts to this,--that, wherever
existing, it presents to the mind the Idea of a Whole,--which is
itself a mystery. For what answer can we give to the question, What
is a Whole? If we reply, That which has neither more nor less than it
ought to have, we do not advance a step towards a definite notion; for
the _rule_ (if there be one) is yet undiscovered, by which
to measure either the too much or the too little. Nevertheless,
incomprehensible as it certainly is, it is what the mind will not
dispense with in a work of Art; nay, it will not concede even a right
to the name to any production where this is wanting. Nor is it a sound
objection, that we also receive pleasure from many things which seem
to us fragmentary; for instance, from actual views in Nature,--as we
shall hope to show in another place. It is sufficient at present,
that, in relation to Art, the law of the imagination demands a whole;
in order to which not a single part must be felt to be wanting; all
must be there, however imperfectly rendered; nay, such is the craving
of this active faculty, that, be they but mere hints, it will often
fill them out to the desired end; the only condition being, that the
part hinted be founded in truth. It is well known to artists, that a
sketch, consisting of little more than hints, will frequently produce
the desired effect, and by the same means,--the hints being true so
far as expressed, and without an hiatus. But let the artist attempt to
_finish_ his sketch, that is, to fill out the parts, and suppose
him deficient in the necessary skill, the consequence must be, that
the true hints, becoming transformed to elaborate falsehoods, will
be all at variance, while the revolted imagination turns away with
disgust. Nor is this a thing of rare occurrence: indeed, he is a most
fortunate artist, who has never had to deplore a well-hinted whole
thus reduced to fragments.

These are facts; from which we may learn, that with less than a whole,
either already wrought, or so indicated that the excited imagination
can of itself complete it, no genuine response will ever be given to
any production of man. And we learn from it also this twofold truth;
first, that the Idea of a Whole contains in itself a preëxisting law;
and, secondly, that Art, the peculiar product of the Imagination, is
one of its true and predetermined ends.

As to its practical application, it were fruitless to speculate. It
applies itself, even as truth, both in action and reaction, verifying
itself: and our minds submit, as if it had said, There is nothing
wanting; so, in the converse, its dictum is absolute when it announces
a deficiency.

To return to the objection, that we often receive pleasure from many
things in Nature which seem to us fragmentary, we observe, that nothing in
Nature can be fragmentary, except in the seeming, and then, too, to the
understanding only,--to the feelings never; for a grain of sand, no less
than a planet, being an essential part of that mighty whole which we call
the universe, cannot be separated from the Idea of the world without a
positive act of the reflective faculties, an act of volition; but until
then even a grain of sand cannot cease to imply it. To the mere
understanding, indeed, even the greatest extent of actual objects which
the finite creature can possibly imagine must ever fall short of the vast
works of the Creator. Yet we nevertheless can, and do, apprehend the
existence of the universe. Now we would ask here, whether the influence of
a _real_,--and the epithet here is not unimportant,--whether the influence
of a real Whole is at no time felt without an act of consciousness, that
is, without thinking of a whole. Is this impossible? Is it altogether out
of experience? We have already shown (as we think) that no _unmodified
copy_ of actual objects, whether single or multifarious, ever satisfies
the imagination,--which imperatively demands a something more, or at least
different. And yet we often find that the very objects from which these
copies are made _do_ satisfy us. How and why is this? A question more
easily put than answered. We may suggest, however, what appears to us a
clew, that in abler hands may possibly lead to its solution; namely, the
fact, that, among the innumerable emotions of a pleasurable kind derived
from the actual, there is not one, perhaps, which is strictly confined to
the objects before us, and which we do not, either directly or indirectly,
refer to something beyond and not present. Now have we at all times a
distinct consciousness of the things referred to? Are they not rather more
often vague, and only indicated in some _undefined_ feeling? Nay, is its
source more intelligible where the feeling is more definite, when taking
the form of a sense of harmony, as from something that diffuses, yet
deepens, unbroken in its progress through endless variations, the melody
as it were of the pleasurable object? Who has never felt, under certain
circumstances, an expansion of the heart, an elevation of mind, nay, a
striving of the whole being to pass its limited bounds, for which he could
find no adequate solution in the objects around him,--the apparent cause?
Or who can account for every mood that thralls him,--at times like one
entranced in a dream by airs from Paradise,--at other times steeped in
darkness, when the spirit of discord seems to marshal his every thought,
one against another?

Whether it be that the Living Principle, which permeates all things
throughout the physical world, cannot be touched in a single point
without conducting to its centre, its source, and confluence, thus
giving by a part, though obscurely and indefinitely, a sense of the
whole,--we know not. But this we may venture to assert, and on no
improbable ground,--that a ray of light is not more continuously
linked in its luminous particles than our moral being with the
whole moral universe. If this be so, may it not give us, in a faint
shadowing at least, some intimation of the many real, though unknown
relations, which everywhere surround and bear upon us? In the deeper
emotions, we have, sometimes, what seems to us a fearful proof of it.
But let us look at it negatively; and suppose a case where this chain
is broken,--of a human being who is thus cut off from all possible
sympathies, and shut up, as it were, in the hopeless solitude of
his own mind. What is this horrible avulsion, this impenetrable
self-imprisonment, but the appalling state of _despair?_ And what
if we should see it realized in some forsaken outcast, and hear his
forlorn cry, "Alone! alone!" while to his living spirit that single
word is all that is left him to fill the blank of space? In such a
state, the very proudest autocrat would yearn for the sympathy of the
veriest wretch.

It would seem, then, since this living cement which is diffused
through nature, binding all things in one, so that no part can be
contemplated that does not, of necessity, even though unconsciously to
us, act on the mind with reference to the whole,--since this, as we
find, cannot be transferred to any copy of the actual, it must needs
follow, if we would imitate Nature in its true effects, that recourse
must be had to another, though similar principle, which shall so
pervade our production as to satisfy the mind with an efficient
equivalent. Now, in order to this there are two conditions required:
first, the personal modification, (already discussed) of every
separate part,--which may be considered as its proper life; and,
secondly, the uniting of the parts by such an interdependence that
they shall appear to us as essential, one to another, and all to each.
When this is done, the result is a whole. But how do we obtain
this mutual dependence? We refer the questioner to the law of
Harmony,--that mysterious power, which is only apprehended by its
imperative effect.

But, be the above as it may, we know it to be a fact, that, whilst
nothing in Nature ever affects us as fragmentary, no unmodified copy
of her by man is ever felt by us as otherwise.

We have thus--and, we trust, on no fanciful ground--endeavoured to
establish the real and distinctive character of Art. And, if our
argument be admitted, it will be found to have brought us to the
following conclusions:--first, that the true ground of all originality
lies in the _individualizing law_, that is, in that modifying
power, which causes the difference between man and man as to their
mental impressions; secondly, that only in a _true_ reproduction
consists its evidence; thirdly, that in the involuntary response from
other minds lies the truth of the evidence; fourthly, that in order
to this response there must therefore exist some universal kindred
principle, which is essential to the human mind, though widely
differenced in the degree of its activity in different individuals;
and finally, that this principle, which we have here denominated
Human or Poetic Truth, being independent both of the will and of the
reflective faculties, is in its nature _imperative_, to affirm
or deny, in relation to every production pretending to Art, from the
simple imitation of the actual to the probable, and from the probable
to the possible;--in one word, that the several characteristics,
Originality, Poetic Truth, Invention, each imply a something not
inherent in the objects imitated, but which must emanate alone from
the mind of the Artist.

And here it may be well to notice an apparent objection, that will
probably occur to many, especially among painters. How, then, they may
ask, if the principle in question be universal and imperative, do we
account for the mistakes which even great Artists have sometimes made
as to the realizing of their conceptions? We hope to show, that, so
far from opposing, the very fact on which the objection is grounded
will be found, on the contrary, to confirm our doctrine. Were such
mistakes uniformly permanent, they might, perhaps, have a rational
weight; but that this is not the case is clearly evident from the
additional fact of the change in the Artist's judgment, which almost
invariably follows any considerable interval of time. Nay, should
a case occur where a similar mistake is never rectified,--which is
hardly probable,--we might well consider it as one of those exceptions
that prove the rule,--of which we have abundant examples in other
relations, where a true principle is so feebly developed as to be
virtually excluded from the sphere of consciousness, or, at least,
where its imperfect activity is for all practical purposes a mere
nullity. But, without supposing any mental weakness, the case may
be resolved by the no less formidable obstacle of a too inveterate
memory: and there have been such,--where a thought or an image once
impressed is never erased. In Art it is certainly an advantage to be
able sometimes to forget. Nor is this a new notion; for Horace, it
seems, must have had the same, or he would hardly have recommended so
long a time as nine years for the revision of a poem. That Titian
also was not unaware of the advantage of forgetting is recorded by
Boschini, who relates, that, during the progress of a work, he was
in the habit of occasionally turning it to the wall, until it had
somewhat faded from his memory, so that, on resuming his labor, he
might see with fresh eyes; when (to use his expression) he would
criticize the picture with as much severity as his worst enemy. If,
instead of the picture on the canvas, Boschini had referred to that in
his mind, as what Titian sought to forget, he would have been, as
we think, more correct. This practice is not uncommon with Artists,
though few, perhaps, are aware of its real object.

It has doubtless the appearance of a singular anomaly in the judgment,
that it should not always be as correct in relation to our own works
as to those of another. Yet nothing is more common than perfect truth
in the one case, and complete delusion in the other. Our surprise,
however, would be sensibly diminished, if we considered that the
reasoning or reflective faculties have nothing to do with either case.
It is the Principle of which we have been speaking, the life, or truth
within, answering to the life, or rather its sign, before us, that
here sits in judgment. Still the question remains unanswered; and
again we are asked, Why is it that our own works do not always respond
with equal veracity? Simply because we do not always _see_
them,--that is, as they are,--but, looking as it were _through
them_, see only their originals in the mind; the mind here acting,
instead of being acted upon. And thus it is, that an Artist may
suppose his conception realized, while that which gave life to it in
his mind is outwardly wanting. But let time erase, as we know it often
does, the mental image, and its embodied representative will then
appear to its author as it is,--true or false. There is one case,
however, where the effect cannot deceive; namely, where it comes upon
us as from a foreign source; where our own seems no longer ours. This,
indeed, is rare; and powerful must be the pictured Truth, that, as
soon as embodied, shall thus displace its own original.

Nor does it in any wise affect the essential nature of the Principle
in question, or that of the other Characteristics, that the effect
which follows is not always of a pleasurable kind; it may even be
disagreeable. What we contend for is simply its _reality_; the
character of the perception, like that of every other truth, depending
on the individual character of the percipient. The common truth of
existence in a living person, for instance, may be to us either a
matter of interest or indifference, nay, even of disgust. So also may
it be with what is true in Art. Temperament, ignorance, cultivation,
vulgarity, and refinement have all, in a greater or less degree, an
influence in our impressions; so that any reality may be to us either
an offence or a pleasure, yet still a reality. In Art, as in Nature,
the True is imperative, and must be _felt_, even where a timid, a
proud, or a selfish motive refuses to acknowledge it.

These last remarks very naturally lead us to another subject, and one
of no minor importance; we mean, the education of an Artist; on this,
however, we shall at present add but a few words. We use the word
_education_ in its widest sense, as involving not only the growth
and expansion of the intellect, but a corresponding developement of
the moral being; for the wisdom of the intellect is of little worth,
if it be not in harmony with the higher spiritual truth. Nor will a
moderate, incidental cultivation suffice to him who would become a
great Artist. He must sound no less than the full depths of his being
ere he is fitted for his calling; a calling in its very condition
lofty, demanding an agent by whom, from the actual, living world, is
to be wrought an imagined consistent world of Art,--not fantastic,
or objectless, but having a purpose, and that purpose, in all its
figments, a distinct relation to man's nature, and all that pertains
to it, from the humblest emotion to the highest aspiration; the circle
that bounds it being that only which bounds his spirit,--even the
confines of that higher world, where ideal glimpses of angelic forms
are sometimes permitted to his sublimated vision. Art may, in truth,
be called the _human world_; for it is so far the work of man,
that his beneficent Creator has especially endowed him with the powers
to construct it; and, if so, surely not for his mere amusement, but
as a part (small though it be) of that mighty plan which the Infinite
Wisdom has ordained for the evolution of the human spirit; whereby is
intended, not alone the enlargement of his sphere of pleasure, but of
his higher capacities of adoration;--as if, in the gift, he had said
unto man, Thou shalt know me by the powers I have given thee. The
calling of an Artist, then, is one of no common responsibility; and it
well becomes him to consider at the threshold, whether he shall assume
it for high and noble purposes, or for the low and licentious.


The subject proposed for the following discourse is the Human Form; a
subject, perhaps, of all others connected with Art, the most obscured
by vague theories. It is one, at least, of such acknowledged
difficulty as to constrain the writer to confess, that he enters
upon it with more distrust than hope of success. Should he succeed,
however, in disencumbering this perplexed theme of some of its useless
dogmas, it will be quite as much as he has allowed himself to expect.

The object, therefore, of the present attempt will be to show, first,
that the notion of one or more standard Forms, which shall in all
cases serve as exemplars, is essentially false, and of impracticable
application for any true purpose of Art; secondly, that the only
approach to Science, which the subject admits, is in a few general
rules relating to Stature, and these, too, serving rather as
convenient _expedients_ than exact guides, inasmuch as, in most
cases, they allow of indefinite variations; and, thirdly, that
the only efficient Rule must be found in the Artist's mind,--in
those intuitive Powers, which are above, and beyond, both the senses
and the understanding; which, nevertheless, are so far from precluding
knowledge, as, on the contrary, to require, as their effective
condition, the widest intimacy with the things external,--without
which their very existence must remain unknown to the Artist himself.

Supposing, then, certain standard Forms to have been admitted, it may
not be amiss to take a brief view of the nature of the Being to whom
they are intended to be applied; and to consider them more especially
as auxiliaries to the Artist.

In the first place, we observe, that the purpose of Art is not to
represent any given number of men, but the Human Race; and so that the
representation shall affect us, not indeed as living to the senses,
but as true to the mind. In order to this, there must be _all_ in
the imitation (though it be but hinted) which the mind will recognize
as true to the human being: hence the first business of the Artist is
to become acquainted with his subject in all its properties. He then
naturally inquires, what is its general characteristic; and his own
consciousness informs him, that, besides an animal nature, there is
also a moral intelligence, and that they together form the man. This
important truism (we say important, for it seems to have been
not seldom overlooked) makes the foundation of all his future
observations; nor can he advance a step without continual reference
to this double nature. We find him accordingly in the daily habit of
mentally distinguishing this person from that, as a moral being, and
of assigning to each a separate character; and this not voluntarily,
but simply because he cannot avoid it. Yet, by what does he presume
to judge of strangers? He will probably answer, By their general
exterior. And what is the inference? There can be but one; namely,
that there must be--at least to him--some efficient correspondence
between the physical and the moral. This is so plain, that the wonder
is, how it ever came to be doubted. Nor is it directly denied, except
by those who from habitual disgust reject the guesswork of the various
pretenders to scientific systems; yet even these, no less than others,
do practically admit it in their common intercourse with the world.
And it cannot be otherwise; for what the Creator has joined must have
some affinity, although the palpable signs may elude our cognizance.
And that they do elude it, except perhaps in a very slight degree,
is actually the case, as is well proved by the signal failure of all
attempts to reduce them to a science; for neither diagram nor axiom
has ever yet corrected an instinctive impression. But man does not
live by science; he feels, acts, and judges right in a thousand things
without the consciousness of any rule by which he so feels, acts, or
judges. And, happily for him, he has a surer guide than human science
in that unknown Power within him,--without which he had been without
knowledge. But of this we shall have occasion to speak again in
another part of our discourse.

Though the medium through which the soul acts be, as we have said, elusive
to the senses,--in so far as to be irreducible to any distinct form,--it
is not therefore the less real, as every one may verify by his own
experience; and, though seemingly invisible, it must nevertheless,
constituted as we are, act through the physical, and a physical medium
expressly constructed for its peculiar action; nay, it does this
continually, without our confounding for a moment the soul with its
instrument. Who can look into the human eye, and doubt of an influence not
of the body? The form and color leave but a momentary impression, or, if
we remember them, it is only as we remember the glass through which we
have read the dark problems of the sky. But in this mysterious organ we
see not even the signs of its mystery. We see, in truth, nothing; for what
is there has neither form, nor symbol, nor any thing reducible to a
sensuous distinctness; and yet who can look into it, and not be conscious
of a real though invisible presence? In the eye of a brute, we see only a
part of the animal; it gives us little beyond the palpable outward; at
most, it is but the focal point of its fierce, or gentle, affectionate, or
timorous character,--the character of the species, But in man, neither
gentleness nor fierceness can be more than as relative conditions,--the
outward moods of his unseen spirit; while the spirit itself, that daily
and hourly sends forth its good and evil, to take shape from the body,
still sits in darkness. Yet have we that which can surely reach it; even
our own spirit. By this it is that we can enter into another's soul, sound
its very depths, and bring up his dark thoughts, nay, place them before
him till he starts at himself; and more,--it is by this we _know_ that
even the tangible, audible, visible world is not more real than a
spiritual intercourse. And yet without the physical organ who can hold it?
We can never indeed understand, but we may not doubt, that which has its
power of proof in a single act of consciousness. Nay, we may add that we
cannot even conceive of a soul without a correlative form,--though it be
in the abstract; and _vice versâ_.

For, among the many impossibilities, it is not the least to look upon
a living human form as a thing; in its pictured copies, as already
shown in a former discourse, it may be a thing, and a beautiful thing;
but the moment we conceive of it as living, if it show not a soul, we
give it one by a moral necessity; and according to the outward will be
the spirit with which we endow it. No poetic being, supposed of our
species, ever lived to the imagination without some indication of the
moral; it is the breath of its life: and this is also true in the
converse; if there be but a hint of it, it will instantly clothe
itself in a human shape; for the mind cannot separate them. In the
whole range of the poetic creations of the great master of truth,--we
need hardly say Shakspeare,--not an instance can be found where this
condition of life is ever wanting; his men and women all have souls.
So, too, when he peoples the air, though he describe no form, he never
leaves these creatures of the brain without a shape, for he will
sometimes, by a single touch of the moral, enable us to supply one.
Of this we have a striking instance in one of his most unsubstantial
creations, the "delicate Ariel." Not an allusion to its shape or
figure is made throughout the play; yet we assign it a form on its
very first entrance, as soon as Prospero speaks of its refusing to
comply with the" abhorred commands" of the witch, Sycorax. And again,
in the fifth act, when Ariel, after recounting the sufferings of the
wretched usurper and his followers, gently adds,--

          "Your charm so strongly works them,
  That, if you now beheld them, your affections
  Would become tender."

On which Prospero remarks,--

  "Hast thou, which art but air, a touch, a feeling
  Of their afflictions?"

Now, whether Shakspeare intended it or not, it is not possible after
this for the reader to think of Ariel but in a human form; for slight
as these hints are, if they do not indicate the moral affections, they
at least imply something akin to them, which in a manner compels us to
invest the gentle Spirit with a general likeness to our own physical
exterior, though, perhaps, as indistinct as the emotion that called
for it.

We have thus considered the human being in his complex condition, of
body and spirit, or physical and moral; showing the impossibility of
even thinking of him in the one, to the exclusion of the other. We
may, indeed, successively think first of the form, and then of
the moral character, as we may think of any one part of either
analytically; but we cannot think of the _human being_ except
as a _whole_. It follows, therefore, as a consequence, that no
imitation of man can be true which is not addressed to us in this
double condition. And here it may be observed, that in Art there is
this additional requirement, that there be no discrepancy between the
form and the character intended,--or rather, that the form _must_
express the character, or it expresses nothing: a necessity which is
far from being general in actual nature. But of this hereafter.

Let us now endeavour to form some general notion of Man in his various
aspects, as presented by the myriads which people the earth. But whose
imagination is equal to the task,--to the setting in array before it
the countless multitudes, each individual in his proper form, his
proper character? Were this possible, we should stand amazed at the
interminable differences, the hideous variety; and that, too, no less
in the moral, than in the physical; nay, so opposite and appalling in
the former as hardly to be figured by a chain of animals, taking for
the extremes the fierce and filthy hyena and the inoffensive lamb.
This is man in the concrete,--to which, according to some, is to be
applied the _abstract Ideal!_

Now let us attempt to conceive of a being that shall represent all the
diversities of mind, affections, and dispositions, that fleck this
heterogeneous mass of humanity, and then to conceive of a Form that
shall be in such perfect affinity with it as to indicate them all. The
bare statement of the proposition shows its absurdity. Yet this must
be the office of a Standard Form; and this it must do, or it will be
a falsehood. Nor should we find it easier with any given number, with
twenty, fifty, nay, an hundred (so called) generic forms. We do not
hesitate to affirm, that, were it possible, it would be quite as easy
with one as with a thousand.

But to this it may be replied, that the Standard Form was never
intended to represent the vicious or degraded, but man in his most
perfect developement of mind, affections, and body. This is certainly
narrowing its office, and, unfortunately, to the representing of but
_one_ man; consequently, of no possible use beyond to the Painter
or Sculptor of Humanity, since every repetition of this perfect form
would be as the reflection of one multiplied by mirrors. But such
repetitions, it may be further answered, were never contemplated, that
Form being given only as an exemplar of the highest, to serve as a
guide in our approach to excellence; as we could not else know to a
certainty to what degree of elevation our conceptions might rise.
Still, in that case its use would be limited to a single object, that
is, to itself, its own perfectness; it would not aid the Artist in the
intermediate ascent to it,--unless it contained within itself all the
gradations of human character; which no one will pretend.

But let us see how far it is possible to _realize_ the Idea of a
_perfect_ Human Form.

We have already seen that the mere physical structure is not man, but
only a part; the Idea of man including also an internal moral being.
The external, then, in an _actually disjoined_ state, cannot,
strictly speaking, be the human form, but only a diagram of it. It is,
in fact, but a partial condition, becoming human only when united with
the internal moral; which, in proof of the union, it must of necessity
indicate. If we would have a true Idea of it, therefore, it must be as
a whole; consequently, the perfect physical exterior must have, as an
essential part, the perfect moral. Now come two important questions.
First, In what consists Moral Perfection? We use the word _moral_
here (from a want in our language) in its most comprehensive sense,
as including the spiritual and the intellectual. With respect to that
part of our moral being which pertains to the affections, in all their
high relations to God and man, we have, it is true, a sure and holy
guide. In a Christian land, the humblest individual may answer as
readily as the most profound scholar, and express its perfection in
the single word, Holiness. But what will be the reply in regard to the
Intellect? For what is a perfect Intellect? Is it the Dialectic, the
Speculative, or the Imaginative? Or, rather, would it not include them

We proceed next to the Physical. What, then, constitutes its
Perfection? Here, it might seem, there can be no difficulty, and the
reply will probably be in naming all the excellent qualities in our
animal nature, such as strength, agility, fleetness, with every other
that can be thought of. The bare enumeration of these few qualities
may serve to show the nature of the task; yet a physically perfect
form requires them all; none must be omitted; it would else be
imperfect; nay, they must not only be there, but all be developed in
their highest degrees. We might here exclaim with Hamlet, though in a
very different sense,

  "A combination and a form indeed!"

And yet there is no other way to express physical perfection. But
can it be so expressed? The reader must reply for himself. We will,
however, suppose it possible; still the task is incomplete without the
adjustment of these to the perfect Moral, in the highest known degrees
of its several elements. To those who can imagine _such_ a form
as shall be the sure exponent of _such_ a moral being,--and such
it must be, or it will be nothing,--we leave the task of constructing
this universal exemplar for multitudinous man. We may add, however,
one remark; that, supposing it possible thus to concentrate, and
with equal prominence, all the qualities of the species into one
individual, it can only be done by supplanting Providence, in other
words, by virtually overruling the great principle of subordination
so visibly impressed on all created life. For although, as we have
elswhere observed, there can be no sound mind (and the like may be
affirmed of the whole man), which is deficient in any one essential,
it does not therefore follow, that each of these essentials may not be
almost indefinitely differenced in the degrees of their developement
without impairing the human integrity. And such is the fact in actual
nature; nor does this in any wise affect the individual unity,--as
will be noticed hereafter.

We will now briefly examine the pretensions of what are called the
Generic Forms. And here we are met by another important characteristic
of the human being, namely, his essential individuality.

It is true that the human family, so called, is divided into many
distinct races, having each its peculiar conformation, color, and so
forth, which together constitute essential differences; but it is
to be remembered that these essentials are all physical; and _so
far_ they are properly generic, as implying a difference in kind.
But, though a striking difference is also observable in their moral
being, it is by no means of the same nature with that which marks
their physical condition, the difference in the moral being only of
degree; for, however fierce, brutal, stupid, or cunning, or gentle,
generous, or heroic, the same characteristics may each be paralleled
among ourselves; nay, we could hardly name a vice, a passion, or
a virtue, in Asia, Africa, or America, that has not its echo in
civilized Europe. And what is the inference? That climate and
circumstance, if such are the causes of the physical variety, have no
controlling power, except in degree, over the Moral. Does not this
undeniable fact, then, bring us to the fair conclusion, that the moral
being has no genera? To affirm otherwise would be virtually to
deny its responsible condition; since the law of its genus must be
paramount to all other laws,--to education, government, religion. Nor
can the result be evaded, except by the absurd supposition of generic
responsibilities! To us, therefore, it seems conclusive that a moral
being, as a free agent, cannot be subject to a generic law; nor
could he now be--what every man feels himself to be, in spite of
his theory--the fearful architect of his own destiny. In one sense,
indeed, we may admit a human genus,--such as every man must be in his
individual entireness.

Man has been called a microcosm, or little world. And such, however
mean and contemptible to others, is man to himself; nay, such he must
ever be, whether he wills it or not. He may hate, he may despise, yet
he cannot but cling to that without which he is not; he is the centre
and the circle, be it of pleasure or of pain; nor can he be other.
Touch him with misery, and he becomes paramount to the whole
world,--to a thousand worlds; for the beauty and the glory of the
universe are as nothing to him who is all darkness. Then it is that he
will _feel_, should he have before doubted, that he is not a mere
part, a fraction, of his kind, but indeed a world; and though little
in one sense, yet a world of awful magnitude in its capacity of
suffering. In one word, Man is a whole, _an Individual_.

If the preceding argument be admitted, it will be found to have
relieved the student of two delusive dogmas,--and the more delusive,
as carrying with them a plausible show of science.

As to the flowery declamations about Beauty, they would not here be
noticed, were they not occasionally met with in works of high merit,
and not unfrequently mixed up with philosophic truth. If they have
any definite meaning, it amounts to this,--that the Beautiful is the
summit of every possible excellence! The extravagance, not to say
absurdity, of such a proposition, confounding, as it does, all
received distinctions, both in the moral and the natural world, needs
no comment. It is hardly to be believed, however, that the writers in
question could have deliberately intended this. It is more probable,
that, in so expressing themselves, they were only giving vent to an
enthusiastic feeling, which we all know is generally most vague when
associated with admiration; it is not therefore strange that the
ardent expression of it should partake of its vagueness. Among the
few critical works of authority in which the word is so used, we may
mention the (in many respects admirable) Discourses of Sir Joshua
Reynolds, where we find the following sentence:--"The _beauty_ of
the Hercules is one, of the Gladiator another, of the Apollo another;
which, of course, would present three different Ideas of Beauty." If
this had been said of various animals, differing in _kind_, the
term so applied might, perhaps, have been appropriate. But the same
term is here applied to objects of the same kind, differing not
essentially even in age; we say _age_, inasmuch as in the three
great divisions, or periods, of human life, namely, childhood,
youth, and maturity, the characteristic conditions of each are so
_essentially_ distinct, as virtually to separate them into
positive kinds.

But it is no less idle than invidious to employ our time in
overturning the errors of others; if we establish Truth, they will
fall of themselves. There cannot be two right sides to any question;
and, if we are right, what is opposed to us must of necessity he
wrong. Whether we are so or not must be determined by those who admit
or reject what has already been advanced on the subject of Beauty, in
the first Discourse. It will be remembered, that, in the course of our
argument there, we were brought to the conclusion, that Beauty was
the Idea of a certain physical _condition_, both general and
ultimate; general, as presiding over objects of many kinds, and
ultimate, as being the _perfection_ of that peculiar condition in
each, and therefore not applicable to, or representing, its degrees
in any; which, as approximations only to the one supreme Idea, should
truly be distinguished by other terms. Accordingly, we cannot,
strictly speaking, say of two persons of the same age and sex,
differing from each other, that they are equally beautiful. We hear
this, indeed, almost daily; it is nevertheless not the true expression
of the actual impression made on the speaker, though he may not take
the trouble to examine and compare them. But let him do so, and we
doubt not that he would find the one to rise (in however slight a
degree) above the other; and, if he did not assign a different term
to the lower, it would be only because he was not in the habit of
marking, or did not think it worth his while to note, such nice

If there is a _first_ and a _last_ to any thing, the
intermediates can be neither one nor the other; and, if we so name
them, we speak falsely. It is no less so with Beauty, which, being at
the head, or first in a series, admits no transference of its title.
We mean, if speaking strictly; which, however, we freely acknowledge,
no one can; but that is owing to the insufficiency of language, which
in no dialect could supply a hundredth part of the terms needed to
mark every minute shade of difference. Perhaps no subject requiring a
wider nomenclature has one so contracted; and the consequence is,
that no subject is more obscured by vague expressions. But it is the
business of the Artist, if he cannot form to himself the corresponding
terms, to be prepared at least to perceive and to note these various
shades. We do not say, that an actual acquaintance with all the nice
distinctions is an essential requisite, but only that it will not be
altogether useless to be aware of their existence; at any rate, it
may serve to shield him from the annoyance of false criticism, when
censured for wanting beauty where its presence would have been an

Before we quit the subject, it may not be amiss to observe, that, in
the preceding remarks, our object has been not so much to insist on
correct speaking as correct thinking. The poverty of language,
as already admitted, has made the former impossible; but, though
constrained in this, as in many other cases where a subordinate is put
for its principal, to apply the term Beautiful to its various degrees,
yet a right apprehension of what Beauty _is_ may certainly
prevent its misapplication as to other objects having no relation to
it. Nor is this a small matter where the avoiding of confusion is an
object desirable; and there is clearly some difference between an
approach to precision and utter vagueness.

We have now to consider how far the Correspondence between the
outward form and the inward being, which is assumed by the Artist, is
supported by fact.

In a fair statement, then, of facts, it cannot be denied that with
the mass of men the outward intimation of character is certainly very
faint, with many obscure, and with some ambiguous, while with others
it has often seemed to express the very reverse of the truth. Perhaps
a stronger instance of the latter could hardly occur than that cited
in a former discourse in illustration of the physical relation of
Beauty; where it was shown that the first and natural impression from
a beautiful form was not only displaced, but completely reversed, by
the revolting discovery of a moral discrepancy. But while we admit, on
the threshold, that the Correspondence in question cannot be sustained
as universally obvious, it is, nevertheless, not apprehended that this
admission can affect our argument, which, though in part grounded
on special cases of actual coincidence, is yet supported by other
evidences, which lead us to regard all such discrepancies rather as
exceptions, and as so many deviations from the original law of our
nature, nay, which lead us also rationally to infer at least a future,
potential correspondence in every individual. To the past, indeed, we
cannot appeal; neither can the past be cited against us, since little
is known of the early history of our race but a chronicle of their
actions; of their outward appearance scarcely any thing, certainly not
enough to warrant a decision one way or the other. Should we assume,
then, the Correspondence as a primeval law, who shall gainsay it? It
is not, however, so asserted. We may nevertheless hold it as a matter
of _faith_; and simply as such it is here submitted. But faith of
any kind must have some ground to rest on, either real or supposed,
either that of authority or of inference. Our ground of faith, then,
in the present instance, is in the universal desire amongst men to
_realize_ the Correspondence. Nothing is more common than,
on hearing or reading of any remarkable character, to find this
instinctive craving, if we may so term it, instantly awakened, and
actively employed in picturing to the imagination some corresponding
form; nor is any disappointment more general, than that which follows
the detection of a discrepancy on actual acquaintance. Indeed, we can
hardly deem it rash, should we rest the validity of this universal
desire on the common experience of any individual, taken at
random,--provided only that he has a particle of imagination. Nor
is its action dependent on our caprice or will. Ask any person of
ordinary cultivation, not to say refinement, how it is with him,
when, his imagination has not been forestalled by some definite fact;
whether he has never found himself _involuntarily_ associating
the good with the beautiful, the energetic with the strong, the
dignified with the ample, or the majestic with the lofty; the refined
with the delicate, the modest with the comely; the base with the
ugly, the brutal with the misshapen, the fierce with the coarse and
muscular, and so on; there being scarcely a shade of character to
which the imagination does not affix some corresponding form.

In a still more striking form may we find the evidence of the law
supposed, if we turn to the young, and especially to those of a poetic
temperament,--to the sanguine, the open, and confiding, the creatures
of impulse, who reason best when trusting only to the spontaneous
suggestions of feeling. What is more common than implicit faith in
their youthful day-dreams,--a faith that lives, though dream after
dream vanish into common air when the sorcerer Fact touches their
eyes? And whence this pertinacious faith that _will_ not die, but
from a spring of life, that neither custom nor the dry understanding
can destroy? Look at the same Youth at a more advanced age, when the
refining intellect has mixed with his affections, adding thought and
sentiment to every thing attractive, converting all things fair to
things also of good report. Let us turn, at the same time, to one
still more advanced,--even so far as to have entered into the
conventional valley of dry bones,--one whom the world is preparing,
by its daily practical lessons, to enlighten with unbelief. If we see
them together, perhaps we shall hear the senior scoff at his younger
companion as a poetic dreamer, as a hunter after phantoms that never
were, nor could be, in nature: then may follow a homily on the virtues
of experience, as the only security against disappointment. But there
are some hearts that never suffer the mind to grow old. And such we
may suppose that of the dreamer. If he is one, too, who is accustomed
to look into himself,--not as a reasoner,--but with an abiding faith
in his nature,--we shall, perhaps, hear him reply,--Experience, it is
true, has often brought me disappointment; yet I cannot distrust those
dreams, as you call them, bitterly as I have felt their passing off;
for I feel the truth of the source whence they come. They could not
have been so responded to by my living nature, were they but phantoms;
they could not have taken such forms of truth, but from a possible

By the word _poetic_ here, we do not mean the visionary or
fanciful,--for there may be much fancy where there is no poetic
feeling,--but that sensibility to _harmony_ which marks the
temperament of the Artist, and which is often most active in his
earlier years. And we refer to such natures, not only as being more
peculiarly alive to all existing affinities, but as never satisfied
with those merely which fall within their experience; ever striving,
on the contrary, as if impelled by instinct, to supply the deficiency
wherever it is felt. From such minds proceed what are called romantic
imaginings, but what we would call--without intending a paradox--the
romance of Truth. For it is impossible that the mind should ever have
this perpetual craving for the False.

But the desire in question is not confined to any particular age or
temperament, though it is, doubtless, more ardent in some than in
others. Perhaps it is only denied to the habitually vicious. For who,
not hardened by vice, has ever looked upon a sleeping child in its
first bloom of beauty, and seen its pure, fresh hues, its ever
varying, yet according lines, moulding and suffusing, in their playful
harmony, its delicate features,--who, not callous, has ever looked
upon this exquisite creature, (so like what a poet might fancy of
visible music, or embodied odors,) and has not felt himself carried,
as it were, out of this present world, in quest of its moral
counterpart? It seems to us perfect; we desire no change,--not a line
or a hue but as it is; and yet we have a paradoxical feeling of a
want,--for it is all _physical_; and we supply that want by
endowing the child with some angelic attribute. Why do we this? To
make it a _whole_,--not to the eye, but to the mind.

Nor is this general disposition to find a coincidence between a fair
exterior and moral excellence altogether unsupported by facts of, at
least, a partial realization. For, though a perfect correspondence
cannot be looked for in a state where all else is imperfect, he
is most unfortunate who has never met with many, and very near,
approximations to the desired union. But we have a still stronger
assurance of their predetermined affinity in the peculiar activity of
this desire where there is no such approximation. For example, when we
meet with an instance of the higher virtues in an unattractive form,
how natural the wish that that form were beautiful! So, too, on
beholding a beautiful person, how common the wish that the mind
it clothed were also good! What are these wishes but unconscious
retrospects to our primitive nature? And why have we them, if they be
not the workings of that universal law, which gathers to itself all
scattered affinities, bodying them forth in the never-ending forms of
harmony,--in the flower, in the tree, in the bird, and the animal,--if
they be not the evidence of its continuous, though fruitless, effort
to evolve too in _man_ its last consummate work, by the perfect
confluence of the body and the spirit? In this universal yearning (for
it seems to us no less) to connect the physical with its appropriate
moral,--to say nothing of the mysterious intuition that points to
the appropriate,--is there not something like a clew to what was
originally natural? And, again, in the never-ceasing strivings of the
two great elements of our being, each to supply the deficiencies of
the other, have we not also an intimation of something that _once
was_, that is now lost, and would be recovered? Surely there must
be more in this than a mere concernment of Art;--if, indeed, there be
not in Art more of the prophetic than we are now aware of. To us
it seems that this irrepressible desire to find the good in the
beautiful, and the beautiful in the good, implies an end, both
beyond and above the trifling present; pointing to deep and dark
questions,--to no less than where the mysteries which surround us will
meet their solution. One great mystery we see in part resolving itself
here. We see the deformities of the body sometimes giving place to
its glorious tenant. Some of us may have witnessed this, and felt
the spiritual presence gaining daily upon us, till the outward shape
seemed lost in its brightness, leaving no trace in the memory.

Whether the position we have endeavoured to establish be disputed or
not, the absolute correspondence between the Moral and the Physical
is, at any rate, the essential ground of the Plastic arts; which could
not else exist, since through _Form alone_ they have to convey,
not only thought and emotion, but distinct and permanent character.
For our own part, we cannot but consider their success in this as
having settled the question.

From the view here presented, what is the inference in relation to
Art? That Man, as a compound being, cannot be represented without an
indication as well of Mind as of body; that, by a natural law which we
cannot resist, we do continually require that they be to us as mutual
exponents, the one of the other; and, finally, that, as a responsible
being, and therefore a free agent, he cannot be truly represented,
either to the memory or to the imagination, but as an Individual.

It would seem, also, from the indefinite varieties in men, though
occasioned only by the mere difference of degrees in their common
faculties and powers, that the coincidence of an equal developement of
all was never intended in nature; but that some one or more of them,
becoming dominant, should distinguish the individual. It follows,
therefore, if this be the case, that only through the phase of such
predominance can the human being ever be contemplated. To the Artist,
then, it becomes the only safe ground; the starting-point from
whence to ascend to a true Ideal,--which is no other than a partial
individual truth made whole in the mind: and thus, instead of one
Ideal, and that baseless, he may have a thousand,--nay, as many as
there are marked or apprehensible _individuals_.

But we must not be understood as confining Art to actual portraits.
Within such limits there could not be Art,--certainly not Art in its
highest sense; we should have in its place what would be little better
than a doubtful empiricism; since the most elevated subject, in the
ablest hands, would depend, of necessity, on the chance success of a
search after models. And, supposing that we bring together only the
rarest forms, still those forms, simply as circumscribed portraits,
and therefore insulated parts, would instantly close every avenue
to the imagination; for such is the law of the imagination, that it
cannot admit, or, in other words, recognize as a whole, that which
remains unmodified by some imaginative power, which alone can give
unity to separate and distinct objects. Yet, as it regards man,
all true Art does, and must, find its proper object in the
_Individual_: as without individuality there could not be
character, nor without character, the human being.

But here it may be asked, In what manner, if we resort not to actual
portrait, is the Individual Man to be expressed? We answer, By
carrying out the natural individual predominant _fragment_ which
is visible to us in actual Form, to its full, consistent developement.
The Individual is thus idealized, when, in the complete accordance of
all its parts, it is presented to the mind as a _whole_.

When we apply the term _fragment_ to a human being, we do not
mean in relation to his species, (in regard to which we have already
shown him to be a distinct whole,) but in relation to the Idea, to
which his predominant characteristic suggests itself but as a
partial manifestation, and made partial because counteracted by
some inadequate exponent, or else modified by other, though minor,

How this is effected must be left to the Artist himself. It is
impossible to prescribe a rule that would be to much purpose for any
one who stands in need of such instruction; if his own mind does not
suggest the mode, it would not even be intelligible. Perhaps our
meaning, however, may be made more obvious, if we illustrate it by
example. We would refer, then, to the restoration of a statue, (a
thing often done with success,) where, from a single fragment, the
unknown Form has been completely restored, and so remoulded, that the
parts added are in perfect unity with the suggestive fragment. Now the
parts wanting having never been seen, this cannot be called a mere
act of the memory. Nevertheless, it is not from nothing that man can
produce even the _semblance_ of any thing. The materials of the
Artist are the work of Him who created the Artist himself; but over
these, which his senses and mind are given him to observe and collect,
he has a _delegated power_, for the purpose of combining and
modifying, as unlimited as mysterious. It is by the agency of this
intuitive and assimilating Power, elsewhere spoken of, that he is able
to separate the essential from the accidental, to proceed also from a
part to the whole; thus educing, as it were, an Ideal nature from the
germs of the Actual.

Nor does the necessity of referring to Nature preclude the
Imaginative, or any other class of Art that rests its truth in the
desires of the mind. In an especial manner must the personification
of Sentiment, of the Abstract, which owe their interest to the common
desire of rendering permanent, by embodying, that which has given us
pleasure, take its starting-point from the Actual; from something
which, by universal association or particular expression, shall recall
the Sentiment, Thought, or Time, and serve as their exponents; there
being scarcely an object in Nature which the spirit of man has not, as
it were, impressed with sympathy, and linked with his being. Of this,
perhaps, we could not have a more striking example than in the Aurora
of Michael Angelo: which, if not universal, is not so only because
the faculty addressed is by no means common. For, as the peculiar
characteristic of the Imaginative is its suggestive power, the effect
of this figure must of necessity differ in different minds. As in many
other cases, there must needs be at least some degree of sympathy with
the mind that imagined it, in order to any impression; and the degree
in which that is made will always be in proportion to the congeniality
between the agent and the recipient. Should it appear, then, to any
one as a thing of no meaning, it is not therefore conclusive that the
Artist has failed. For, if there be but one in a thousand to whose
mind it recalls the deep stillness of Night, gradually broken by the
awakening stir of Day, with its myriad forms of life emerging into
motion, while their lengthened shadows, undistinguished from their
objects, seem to people the earth with gigantic beings; then the dim,
gray monotony of color transforming them to stone, yet leaving them
in motion, till the whole scene becomes awful and mysterious as with
moving statues;--if there be but one in ten thousand who shall have
thus imagined, as he stands before this embodied Dawn, then is it, for
every purpose of feeling through the excited imagination, as true and
real as if instinct with life, and possessing the mind by its living
will. Nor is the number so rare of those who have thus felt the
suggestive sorcery of this sublime Statue. But the mind so influenced
must be one to respond to sublime emotions, since such was the
emotion which inspired the Artist. If susceptible only to the gay and
beautiful, it will not answer. For this is not the Aurora of golden
purple, of laughing flowers and jewelled dew-drops; but the dark
Enchantress, enthroned on rocks, or craggy mountains, and whose proper
empire is the shadowy confines of light and darkness.

How all this is done, we shall not attempt to explain. Perhaps the
Artist himself could not answer; as to the _quo modo_ in every
particular, we doubt if it were possible to satisfy another. He may
tell us, indeed, that having imagined certain appearances and effects
peculiar to the Time, he endeavoured to imbue, as it were, some
_human form_ with the sentiment they awakened, so that the
embodied sentiment should associate itself in the spectator's mind
with similar images; and further endeavoured, that the _form_
selected should, by its air, attitude, and gigantic proportions, also
excite the ideas of vastness, solemnity, and repose; adding to this
that indefinite expression, which, while it is felt to act, still
leaves no trace of its indistinct action. So far, it is true, he may
retrace the process; but of the _informing life_ that quickened
his fiction, thus presenting the presiding Spirit of that ominous
Time, he knows nothing but that he felt it, and imparted it to the
insensible marble.

And now the question will naturally occur, Is all that has been done
by the learned in Art, to establish certain canons of Proportion,
utterly useless? By no means. If rightly applied, and properly
considered,--as it seems to us they must have been by the great
artists of Antiquity,--as _expedient fictions_, they undoubtedly
deserve at least a careful examination. And, inasmuch as they are the
result of a comparison of the finest actual forms through successive
ages, and as they indicate the general limits which Nature has been
observed to assign to her noblest works, they are so far to be valued.
But it must not be forgotten, that, while a race, or class, may be
generally marked by a certain average height and breadth, or curve and
angle, still is every class and race composed of _Individuals_,
who must needs, as such, differ from each other; and though the
difference be slight, yet is it "the little more, or the little less,"
which often separates the great from the mean, the wise from the
foolish, in human character;--nay, the widest chasms are sometimes
made by a few lines: so that, in every individual case, the limits in
question are rather to be departed from, than strictly adhered to.

The canon of the Schools is easily mastered by every student who has
only memory; yet of the hundreds who apply it, how few do so to any
purpose! Some ten or twenty, perhaps, call up life from the quarry,
and flesh and blood from the canvas; the rest conjure in vain with
their canon; they call up nothing but the dead measures. Whence the
difference? The answer is obvious,--In the different minds they each
carry to their labors.

But let us trace, with the Artist, the beginning and progress of a
successful work; a picture, for instance. His method of proceeding may
enable us to ascertain how far he is assisted by the science, so called,
of which we are speaking. He adjusts the height and breadth of his figures
according to the canon, either by the division of heads or faces, as most
convenient. By these means, he gets the general divisions in the easiest
and most expeditious way. But could he not obtain them without such aid?
He would answer, Yes, by the eye alone; but it would be a waste of time
were he so to proceed, since he would have to do, and undo, perhaps twenty
times, before he could erect this simple scaffolding; whereas, by applying
these rules, whose general truth is already admitted, he accomplishes his
object in a few minutes. Here we admit the use of the canon, and admire
the facility with which it enables his hand, almost without the aid of a
thought, thus to lay out his work. But here ends the science; and here
begins what may seem to many the work of mutilation: a leg, an arm, a
trunk, is increased, or diminished; line after line is erased, or
retrenched, or extended, again and again, till not a trace remains of the
original draught. If he is asked now by what he is guided in these
innumerable changes, he can only answer, By the feeling within me. Nor can
he better tell _how_ he knows when he has _hit the mark_. The same feeling
responds to its truth; and he repeats his attempts until that is

It would appear, then, that in the Mind alone is to be found the true
or ultimate Rule,--if, indeed, that can be called a rule which
changes its measure with every change of character. It is therefore
all-important that every aid be sought which may in any way contribute
to the due developement of the mental powers; and no one will doubt
the efficiency here of a good general education. As to the course of
study, that must be left in a great measure to be determined by the
student; it will be best indicated by his own natural wants. We
may observe, however, that no species of knowledge can ever be
_oppressive_ to real genius, whose peculiar privilege is that of
subordinating all things to the paramount desire. But it is not likely
that a mind so endowed will be long diverted by any studies that do
not either strengthen its powers by exercise, or have a direct bearing
on some particular need.

If the student be a painter, or a sculptor, he will not need to be
told that a knowledge of the human being, in all his complicated
springs of action, is not more essential to the poet than to him. Nor
will a true Artist require to be reminded, that, though _himself_
must be his ultimate dictator and judge, the allegiance of the world
is not to be commanded either by a dreamer or a dogmatist. And
nothing, perhaps, would be more likely to secure him from either
character, than the habit of keeping his eyes open,--nay, his very
heart; nor need he fear to open it to the whole world, since nothing
not kindred will enter there to abide; for

  "Evil into the mind ...
  May come and go, so unapproved, and leave
  No spot or blame behind."

And he may also be sure that a pure heart will shed a refining light
on his intellect, which it may not receive from any other source.

It cannot be supposed that an Artist, so disciplined, will overlook
the works of his predecessors,--especially those exquisite remains of
Antiquity which time has spared to us. But to his own discretion must
be left the separating of the factitious from the true,--a task of
some moment; for it cannot be denied that a mere antiquarian respect
for whatever is ancient has preserved, with the good, much that is
worthless. Indeed, it is to little purpose that the finest forms are
set before us, if we _feel_ not their truth. And here it may be
well to remark, that an injudicious _word_ has often given a
wrong direction to the student, from which he has found it difficult
to recover when his maturer mind has perceived the error. It is a
common thing to hear such and such statues, or pictures, recommended
as _models_. If the advice is followed,--as it too often is
_literally_,--the consequence must be an offensive mannerism;
for, if repeating himself makes an artist a mannerist, he is still
more likely to become one if he repeat another. There is but one model
that will not lead him astray,--which is Nature: we do not mean what
is merely obvious to the senses, but whatever is so acknowledged by
the mind. So far, then, as the ancient statues are found to represent
her,--and the student's own feeling must be the judge of that,--they
are undoubtedly both true and important objects of study, as
presenting not only a wider, but a higher view of Nature, than might
else be commanded, were they buried with their authors; since, with
the finest forms of the fairest portion of the earth, we have also in
them the realized Ideas of some of the greatest minds. In like manner
may we extend our sphere of knowledge by the study of all those
productions of later ages which have stood this test. There is no
school from which something may not be learned. But chiefly to the
Italian should the student be directed, who would enlarge his views
on the present subject, and especially to the works of Raffaelle and
Michael Angelo; in whose highest efforts we have, so to speak,
certain revelations of Nature which could only have been made by her
privileged seers. And we refer to them more particularly, as to the
two great sovereigns of the two distinct empires of Truth,--the
Actual and the Imaginative; in which their claims are acknowledged
by _that_ within us, of which we know nothing but that it
_must_ respond to all things true. We refer to them, also, as
important examples in their mode of study; in which it is evident
that, whatever the source of instruction, it was never considered as a
law of servitude, but rather as the means of giving visible shape to
their own conceptions.

From the celebrated antique fragment, called the Torso, Michael Angelo
is said to have constructed his forms. If this be true,--and we have
no reason to doubt it,--it could nevertheless have been to him little
more than a hint. But that is enough to a man of genius, who stands
in need, no less than others, of a point to start from. There was
something in this fragment which he seems to have felt, as if of a
kindred nature to the unembodied creatures in his own mind; and he
pondered over it until he mastered the spell of its author. He then
turned to his own, to the germs of life that still awaited birth,
to knit their joints, to attach the tendons, to mould the
muscles,--finally, to sway the limbs by a mighty will. Then emerged
into being that gigantic race of the Sistina,--giants in mind no less
than in body, that appear to have descended as from another planet.
His Prophets and Sibyls seem to carry in their persons the commanding
evidence of their mission. They neither look nor move like beings to
be affected by the ordinary concerns of life; but as if they could
only be moved by the vast of human events, the fall of empires, the
extinction of nations; as if the awful secrets of the future had
overwhelmed in them all present sympathies. As we have stood before
these lofty apparitions of the painter's mind, it has seemed to us
impossible that the most vulgar spectator could have remained there

With many critics it seems to have been doubted whether much that
we now admire in Raffaelle would ever have been but for his great
contemporary. Be this as it may, it is a fact of history, that, after
seeing the works of Michael Angelo, both his form and his style
assumed a breadth and grandeur which they possessed not before.
And yet these great artists had little, if any thing, in common;
a sufficient proof that an original mind may owe, and even freely
acknowledge, its impetus to another without any self-sacrifice.

As Michael Angelo adopted from others only what accorded with his
own peculiar genius, so did Raffaelle; and, wherever collected, the
materials of both could not but enter their respective minds as their
natural aliment.

The genius of Michael Angelo was essentially _Imaginative_. It
seems rarely to have been excited by the objects with which we are
daily familiar; and when he did treat them, it was rather as things
past, as they appear to us through the atmosphere of the hallowing
memory. We have a striking instance of this in his statue of Lorenzo
de' Medici; where, retaining of the original only enough to mark the
individual, and investing the rest with an air of grandeur that should
accord with his actions, he has left to his country, not a mere
effigy of the person, but an embodiment of the mind; a portrait
for posterity, in which the unborn might recognize Lorenzo the

But the mind of Raffaelle was an ever-flowing fountain of human
sympathies; and in all that concerns man, in his vast varieties and
complicated relations, from the highest forms of majesty to the
humblest condition of humanity, even to the maimed and misshapen, he
may well be called a master. His Apostles, his philosophers, and most
ordinary subordinates, are all to us as living beings; nor do we feel
any doubt that they all had mothers, and brothers, and kindred. In
the assemblage of the Apostles (already referred to) at the Death of
Ananias, we look upon men whom the effusion of the Spirit has equally
sublimated above every unholy thought; a common power seems to have
invested them all with a preternatural majesty. Yet not an iota of the
_individual_ is lost in any one; the gentle bearing and amenity
of John still follow him in his office of almoner; nor in Peter does
the deep repose of the erect attitude of the Apostle, as he deals the
death-stroke to the offender by a simple bend of his finger, subdue
the energetic, sanguine temperament of the Disciple.

If any man may be said to have reigned over the hearts of his fellows,
it was Raffaelle Sanzio. Not that he knew better what was in the
hearts and minds of men than many others, but that he better
understood their relations to the external. In this the greatest names
in Art fall before him; in this he has no rival; and, however derived,
or in whatever degree improved by study, in him it seems to have risen
to intuition. We know not how he touches and enthralls us; as if he
had wrought with the simplicity of Nature, we see no effort; and we
yield as to a living influence, sure, yet inscrutable.

It is not to be supposed that these two celebrated Artists were at all
times successful. Like other men, they had their moments of weakness,
when they fell into manner, and gave us diagrams, instead of life.
Perhaps no one, however, had fewer lapses of this nature than
Raffaelle; and yet they are to be found in some of his best works. We
shall notice now only one instance,--the figure of St. Catherine in
the admirable picture of the Madonna di Sisto; in which we see an
evident rescript from the Antique, with all the received lines of
beauty, as laid down by the analyst,--apparently faultless, yet
without a single inflection which the mind can recognize as allied to
our sympathies; and we turn from it coldly, as from the work of an
artificer, not of an Artist. But not so can we turn from the intense
life, that seems almost to breathe upon us from the celestial group of
the Virgin and her Child, and from the Angels below: in these we have
the evidence of the divine afflatus,--of inspired Art.

In the works of Michael Angelo it were easy to point out numerous
examples of a similar failure, though from a different cause; not from
mechanically following the Antique, but rather from erecting into
a model the exaggerated _shadow_ of his own practice; from
repeating lines and masses that might have impressed us with grandeur
but for the utter absence of the informing soul. And that such is the
character--or rather want of character--of many of the figures in his
Last Judgment cannot be gainsaid by his warmest admirers,--among whom
there is no one more sincere than the present writer. But the failures
of great men are our most profitable lessons,--provided only, that we
have hearts and heads to respond to their success.

In conclusion. We have now arrived at what appears to us the
turning-point, that, by a natural reflux, must carry us back to our
original Position; in other words, it seems to us clear, that the
result of the argument is that which was anticipated in our main
Proposition; namely, that no given number of Standard Forms can with
certainty apply to the Human Being; that all Rules therefore, thence
derived, can only be considered as _Expedient Fictions_, and
consequently subject to be _overruled_ by the Artist,--in whose
mind alone is the ultimate Rule; and, finally, that without an
intimate acquaintance with Nature, in all its varieties of the moral,
intellectual, and physical, the highest powers are wanting in their
necessary condition of action, and are therefore incapable of
supplying the Rule.


The term Composition, in its general sense, signifies the union of
things that were originally separate: in the art of Painting it
implies, in addition to this, such an arrangement and reciprocal
relation of these materials, as shall constitute them so many
essential parts of a whole.

In a true Composition of Art will be found the following
characteristics:--First, Unity of Purpose, as expressing the general
sentiment or intention of the Artist. Secondly, Variety of Parts, as
expressed in the diversity of shape, quantity, and line. Thirdly,
Continuity, as expressed by the connection of parts with each other,
and their relation to the whole. Fourthly, Harmony of Parts.

As these characteristics, like every thing which the mind can
recognize as true, all have their origin in its natural desires, they
may also be termed Principles; and as such we shall consider them. In
order, however, to satisfy ourselves that they are truly such, and not
arbitrary assumptions, or the traditional dogmas of Practice, it may
be well to inquire whence is their authority; for, though the ultimate
cause of pleasure and pain may ever remain to us a mystery, yet it is
not so with their intermediate causes, or the steps that lead to them.

With respect to Unity of Purpose, it is sufficient to observe, that,
where the attention is at the same time claimed by two objects, having
each a different end, they must of necessity break in upon that free
state required of the mind in order to receive a full impression from
either. It is needless to add, that such conflicting claims cannot,
under any circumstances, be rendered agreeable. And yet this most
obvious requirement of the mind has sometimes been violated by great
Artists,--though not of authority in this particular, as we shall
endeavour to show in another place.

We proceed, meanwhile, to the second principle, namely, Variety; by
which is to be understood _difference_, yet with _relation_
to a _common end_.

Of a ruling Principle, or Law, we can only get a notion by observing the
effects of certain things in relation to the mind; the uniformity of
which leads us to infer something which is unchangeable and permanent.
It is in this way that, either directly or indirectly, we learn the
existence of certain laws that invariably control us. Thus, indirectly,
from our disgust at monotony, we infer the necessity of variety. But
variety, when carried to excess, results in weariness. Some limitation,
therefore, seems no less needed. It is, however, obvious, that all
attempts to fix the limit to Variety, that shall apply as a universal
rule, must be nugatory, inasmuch as the _degree_ must depend on the
_kind_, and the kind on the subject treated. For instance, if the
subject be of a gay and light character, and the emotions intended to be
excited of a similar nature, the variety may be carried to a far greater
extent than in one of a graver character. In the celebrated Marriage at
Cana, by Paul Veronese, we see it carried, perhaps, to its utmost
limits; and to such an extent, that an hour's travel will hardly conduct
us through all its parts; yet we feel no weariness throughout this
journey, nay, we are quite unconscious of the time it has taken. It is
no disparagement of this remarkable picture, if we consider the subject,
not according to the title it bears, but as what the Artist has actually
made it,--that is, as a Venetian entertainment; and also the effect
intended, which was to delight by the exhibition of a gorgeous
_pageant_. And in this he has succeeded to a degree unexampled; for
literally the eye may be said to _dance_ through the picture, scarcely
lighting on one part before it is drawn to another, and another, and
another, as by a kind of witchery; while the subtile interlocking of
each successive novelty leaves it no choice, but, seducing it onward,
still keeps it in motion, till the giddy sense seems to call on the
imagination to join in the revel; and every poetic temperament answers
to the call, bringing visions of its own, that mingle with the painted
crowd, exchanging forms, and giving them voice, like the creatures of a

To those who have never seen this picture, our account of its effect
may perhaps appear incredible when they are told, that it not only
has no story, but not a single expression to which you can attach a
sentiment. It is nevertheless for this very reason that we here cite
it, as a triumphant verification of those immutable laws of the mind
to which the principles of Composition are supposed to appeal; where
the simple technic exhibition, or illustration of _Principles_,
without story, or thought, or a single definite expression, has
still the power to possess and to fill us with a thousand delightful

And here we cannot refrain from a passing remark on certain
criticisms, which have obtained, as we think, an undeserved currency.
To assert that such a work is solely addressed to the senses (meaning
thereby that its only end is in mere pleasurable sensation) is to give
the lie to our convictions; inasmuch as we find it appealing to one
of the mightiest ministers of the Imagination,--the great Law of
Harmony,--which cannot be _touched_ without awakening by its
vibrations, so to speak, the untold myriads of sleeping forms that lie
within its circle, that start up in tribes, and each in accordance
with the congenial instrument that summons them to action. He who
can thus, as it were, embody an abstraction is no mere pander to the
senses. And who that has a modicum of the imaginative would assert
of one of Haydn's Sonatas, that its effect on him was no other than
sensuous? Or who would ask for the _story_ in one of our gorgeous
autumnal sunsets?

In subjects of a grave or elevated kind, the Variety will be found to
diminish in the same degree in which they approach the Sublime. In the
raising of Lazarus, by Lievens, we have an example of the smallest
possible number of parts which the nature of such a subject would
admit. And, though a different conception might authorize a much
greater number, yet we do not feel in this any deficiency; indeed, it
may be doubted if the addition of even one more part would not be felt
as obtrusive.

By the term _parts_ we are not to be understood as including the
minutiae of dress or ornament, or even the several members of a group,
which come more properly under the head of detail; we apply the term
only to those prominent divisions which constitute the essential
features of a composition. Of these the Sublime admits the fewest. Nor
is the limitation arbitrary. By whatever causes the stronger passions
or higher faculties of the mind become pleasurably excited, if they be
pushed as it were beyond their supposed limits, till a sense of the
indefinite seems almost to partake of the infinite, to these causes we
affix the epithet _Sublime._ It is needless to inquire if such
an effect can be produced by any thing short of the vast and
overpowering, much less by the gradual approach or successive
accumulation of any number of separate forces. Every one can answer
from his own experience. We may also add, that the pleasure which
belongs to the deeper emotions always trenches on pain; and the sense
of pain leads to reaction; so that, singly roused, they will rise
but to fall, like men at a breach,--leaving a conquest, not over the
living, but the dead. The effect of the Sublime must therefore be
sudden, and to be sudden, simple, scarce seen till felt; coming like
a blast, bending and levelling every thing before it, till it passes
into space. So comes this marvellous emotion; and so vanishes,--to
where no straining of our mortal faculties will ever carry them.

To prevent misapprehension, we may here observe, that, though the
parts be few, it does not necessarily follow that they should always
consist of simple or single objects. This narrow inference has often
led to the error of mistaking mere space for grandeur, especially
with those who have wrought rather from theory than from the true
possession of their subjects. Hence, by the mechanical arrangement
of certain large and sweeping masses of light and shadow, we are
sometimes surprised into a momentary expectation of a sublime
impression, when a nearer approach gives us only the notion of a vast
blank. And the error lies in the misconception of a mass. For a mass
is not a _thing_, but the condition of _things_; into which,
should the subject require it, a legion, a host, may be compressed,
an army with banners,--yet so that they break not the unity of their
Part, that technic form to which they are subordinate.

The difference between a Part and a Mass is, that a Mass may include,
_per se_, many Parts, yet, in relation to a Whole, is no more
than a single component. Perhaps the same distinction may be more
simply expressed, if we define it as only a larger division, including
several _parts_, which may be said to be analogous to what is
termed the detail of a _Part_. Look at the ocean in a storm,--at
that single wave. How it grows before us, building up its waters as
with conscious life, till its huge head overlooks the mast! A million
of lines intersect its surface, a myriad of bubbles fleck it with
light; yet its terrible unity remains unbroken. Not a bubble or a line
gives a thought of minuteness; they flash and flit, ere the eye can
count them, leaving only their aggregate, in the indefinite sense
of multitudinous motion: take them away, and you take from the
_mass_ the very sign of its power, that fearful impetus which
makes it what it is,--a moving mountain of water.

We have thus endeavoured, in the opposite characters of the Sublime
and the Gay or Magnificent, to exhibit the two extremes of Variety; of
the intermediate degrees it is unnecessary to speak, since in these
two is included all that is applicable to the rest.

Though it is of vital importance to every composition that there be
variety of Lines, little can be said on the subject in addition to
what has been advanced in relation to parts, that is, to shape and
quantity; both having a common origin. By a line in Composition is
meant something very different from the geometrical definition.
Originally, it was no doubt used as a metaphor; but the needs of
Art have long since converted this, and many other words of like
application, (as _tone_, &c.,) into technical terms. _Line_
thus signifies the course or medium through which the eye is led from
one part of the picture to another. The indication of this course is
various and multiform, appertaining equally to shape, to color, and to
light and dark; in a word, to whatever attracts and keeps the eye in
motion. For the regulation of these lines there is no rule absolute,
except that they vary and unite; nor is the last strictly necessary,
it being sufficient if they so terminate that the transition from one
to another is made naturally, and without effort, by the imagination.
Nor can any laws be laid down as to their peculiar character: this
must depend on the nature of the subject.

In the wild and stormy scenes of Salvator Rosa, they break upon us
as with the angular flash of lightning; the eye is dashed up one
precipice only to be dashed down another; then, suddenly hurried to
the sky, it shoots up, almost in a direct line, to some sharp-edged
rock; whence pitched, as it were, into a sea of clouds, bellying with
circles, it partakes their motion, and seems to reel, to roll, and to
plunge with them into the depths of air.

If we pass from Salvator to Claude, we shall find a system of lines
totally different. Our first impression from Claude is that of perfect
_unity_, and this we have even before we are conscious of a
single image; as if, circumscribing his scenes by a magic circle, he
had imposed his own mood on all who entered it. The _spell_ then
opens ere it seems to have begun, acting upon us with a vague sense of
limitless expanse, yet so continuous, so gentle, so imperceptible in
its remotest gradations, as scarcely to be felt, till, combining
with unity, we find the feeling embodied in the complete image of
intellectual repose,--fulness and rest. The mind thus disposed, the
charmed eye glides into the scene: a soft, undulating light leads it
on, from bank to bank, from shrub to shrub; now leaping and sparkling
over pebbly brooks and sunny sands; now fainter and fainter, dying
away down shady slopes, then seemingly quenched in some secluded dell;
yet only for a moment,--for a dimmer ray again carries it onward,
gently winding among the boles of trees and rambling vines, that,
skirting the ascent, seem to hem in the twilight; then emerging
into day, it flashes in sheets over towers and towns, and woods and
streams, when it finally dips into an ocean, so far off, so twin-like
with the sky, that the doubtful horizon, unmarked by a line, leaves no
point of rest: and now, as in a flickering arch, the fascinated eye
seems to sail upward like a bird, wheeling its flight through a
mottled labyrinth of clouds, on to the zenith; whence, gently
inflected by some shadowy mass, it slants again downward to a mass
still deeper, and still to another, and another, until it falls into
the darkness of some massive tree,--focused like midnight in the
brightest noon: there stops the eye, instinctively closing, and giving
place to the Soul, there to repose and to dream her dreams of romance
and love.

From these two examples of their general effect, some notion may be
gathered of the different systems of the two Artists; and though
no mention has been made of the particular lines employed, their
distinctive character may readily be inferred from the kind of motion
given to the eye in the descriptions we have attempted. In the
rapid, abrupt, contrasted, whirling movement in the one, we have an
exposition of an irregular combination of curves and angles; while the
simple combination of the parabola and the serpentine will account for
all the imperceptible transitions in the other.

It would be easy to accumulate examples from other Artists who differ
in the economy of line not only from these but from each other; as
Raffaelle, Michael Angelo, Correggio, Titian, Poussin,--in a word,
every painter deserving the name of master: for lines here may be
called the tracks of thought, in which we follow the author's mind
through his imaginary creations. They hold, indeed, the same relation
to Painting that versification does to Poetry, an element of style;
for what is meant by a line in Painting is analogous to that which
in the sister art distinguishes the abrupt gait of Crabbe from the
sauntering walk of Cowley, and the "long, majestic march" of Dryden
from the surging sweep of Milton.

Of Continuity little needs be said, since its uses are implied in the
explanation of Line; indeed, all that can be added will be expressed
in its essential relation to a _whole_, in which alone it differs
from a mere line. For, though a line (as just explained) supposes a
continuous course, yet a line, _per se_, does not necessarily
imply any relation to other lines. It will still be a line, though
standing alone; but the principle of continuity may be called
the unifying spirit of every line. It is therefore that we have
distinguished it as a separate principle.

In fact, if we judge from feeling, the only true test, it is no
paradox to say that the excess of variety must inevitably end in
monotony; for, as soon as the sense of fatigue begins, every new
variety but adds to the pain, till the succeeding impressions are at
last resolved into continuous pain. But, supposing a limit to variety,
where the mind may be pleasurably excited, the very sense of pleasure,
when it reaches the extreme point, will create the desire of renewing
it, and naturally carry it back to the point of starting; thus
superinducing, with the renewed enjoyment, the fulness of pleasure, in
the sense of a whole.

It is by this summing up, as it were, of the memory, through
recurrence, not that we perceive,--which is instantaneous,--but that
we enjoy any thing as a whole. If we have not observed it in others,
some of us, perhaps, may remember it in ourselves, when we have stood
before some fine picture, though with a sense of pleasure, yet for
many minutes in a manner abstracted,--silently passing through all its
harmonious transitions without the movement of a muscle, and hardly
conscious of action, till we have suddenly found ourselves returning
on our steps. Then it was,--as if we had no eyes till then,--that
the magic Whole poured in upon us, and vouched for its truth in an
outbreak of rapture.

The fourth and last division of our subject is the Harmony of Parts;
or the essential agreement of one part with another, and of each with
the whole. In addition to our first general definition, we may further
observe, that by a Whole in Painting is signified the complete
expression, by means of form, color, light, and shadow, of one
thought, or series of thoughts, having for their end some
particular truth, or sentiment, or action, or mood of mind. We say
_thought_, because no images, however put together, can ever
be separated by the mind from other and extraneous images, so as to
comprise a positive whole, unless they be limited by some intellectual
boundary. A picture wanting this may have fine parts, but is not a
Composition, which implies parts united to each other, and also suited
to some specific purpose, otherwise they cannot be known as united.
Since Harmony, therefore, cannot be conceived of without reference to
a whole, so neither can a whole be imagined without fitness of parts.
To give this fitness, then, is the ultimate task and test of genius:
it is, in fact, calling form and life out of what before was but a
chaos of materials, and making them the subject and exponents of the
will. As the master-principle, also, it is the disposer, regulator,
and modifier of shape, line, and quantity, adding, diminishing,
changing, shaping, till it becomes clear and intelligible, and it
finally manifests itself in pleasurable identity with the harmony
within us.

To reduce the operation of this principle to precise rules is,
perhaps, without the province of human power: we might else expect to
see poets and painters made by recipe. As in many other operations of
the mind, we must here be content to note a few of the more tangible
facts, if we may be allowed the phrase, which have occasionally been
gathered by observation during the process. The first fact presented
is, that equal quantities, when coming together, produce monotony,
and, if at all admissible, are only so when absolutely needed, at
a proper distance, to echo back or recall the theme, which would
otherwise be lost in the excess of variety. We speak of quantity here
as of a mass, not of the minutiae; for _the essential components_
of a part may often be _equal quantities_, (as in a piece of
architecture, of armour, &c.,) which are analogous to poetic feet, for
instance, a spondee. The same effect we find from parallel lines and
repetition of shapes. Hence we obtain the law of a limited variety.
The next is, that the quantities must be so disposed as to balance
each other; otherwise, if all or too many of the larger be on one
side, they will endanger the imaginary circle, or other figure, by
which every composition is supposed to be bounded, making it appear
"lop-sided," or to be falling either in upon the smaller quantities,
or out of the picture: from which we infer the necessity of balance.
If, without others to counteract and restrain them, the parts
converge, the eye, being forced to the centre, becomes stationary; in
like manner, if all diverge, it is forced to fly off in tangents:
as if the great laws of Attraction and Repulsion were here also
essential, and illustrated in miniature. If we add to these Breadth, I
believe we shall have enumerated all the leading phenomena of
Harmony, which experience has enabled us to establish as rules. By
_breadth_ is meant such a massing of the quantities, whether
by color, light, or shadow, as shall enable the eye to pass without
obstruction, and by easy transitions, from one to another, so that it
shall appear to take in the whole at a glance. This may be likened to
both the exordium and peroration of a discourse, including as well
the last as the first general idea. It is, in other words, a simple,
connected, and concise exposition and summary of what the artist

We have thus endeavoured to arrange and to give a logical permanency
to the several principles of Composition. It is not to be supposed,
however, that in these we have every principle that might be named;
but they are all, as we conceive, that are of universal application.
Of other minor, or rather personal ones, since they pertain to the
individual, the number can only be limited by the variety of the
human intellect, to which these may be considered as so many simple
elementary guides; not to create genius, but to enable it to
understand itself, and by a distinct knowledge of its own operations
to correct its mistakes,--in a word, to establish the landmarks
between the flats of commonplace and the barrens of extravagance. And,
though the personal or individual principles referred to may not with
propriety be cited as examples in a general treatise like the present,
they are not only not to be overlooked, but are to be regarded by the
student as legitimate objects of study. To the truism, that we can
only judge of other minds by a knowledge of our own, we may add
its converse as especially true. In that mysterious tract of the
intellect, which we call the Imagination, there would seem to lie
hid thousands of unknown forms, of which we are often for years
unconscious, until they start up awakened by the footsteps of a
stranger. Hence it is that the greatest geniuses, as presenting a
wider field for excitement, are generally found to be the widest
likers; not so much from affinity, or because they possess the
precise kinds of excellence which they admire, but often from the
_differences_ which these very excellences in others, as the
exciting cause, awaken in themselves. Such men may be said to be
endowed with a double vision, an inward and an outward; the inward
seeing not unfrequently the reverse of what is seen by the outward.
It was this which caused Annibal Caracci to remark, on seeing for the
first time a picture by Caravaggio, that he thought a style totally
opposite might be made very captivating; and the hint, it is said,
sunk deep into and was not lost on Guido, who soon after realized what
his master had thus imagined. Perhaps no one ever caught more from
others than Raffaelle. I do not allude to his "borrowing," so
ingeniously, not soundly, defended by Sir Joshua, but rather to his
excitability, (if I may here apply a modern term,)--that inflammable
temperament, which took fire, as it were, from the very friction
of the atmosphere. For there was scarce an excellence, within his
knowledge, of his predecessors or contemporaries, which did not in a
greater or less degree contribute to the developement of his powers;
not as presenting models of imitation, but as shedding new light on
his own mind, and opening to view its hidden treasures. Such to him
were the forms of the Antique, of Leonardo da Vinci, and of Michael
Angelo, and the breadth and color of Fra Bartolomeo,--lights that
first made him acquainted with himself, not lights that he followed;
for he was a follower of none. To how many others he was indebted for
his impulses cannot now be known; but the new impetus he was known to
have received from every new excellence has led many to believe, that,
had he lived to see the works of Titian, he would have added to his
grace, character, and form, and with equal originality, the splendor
of color. "The design of Michael Angelo and the color of Titian," was
the inscription of Tintoretto over the door of his painting-room.
Whether he intended to designate these two artists as his future
models matters not; but that he did not follow them is evidenced in
his works. Nor, indeed, could he: the temptation to _follow_,
which his youthful admiration had excited, was met by an interdiction
not easily withstood,--the decree of his own genius. And yet the
decree had probably never been heard but for these very masters. Their
presence stirred him; and, when he thought of serving, his teeming
mind poured out its abundance, making _him_ a master to future
generations. To the forms of Michael Angelo he was certainly indebted
for the elevation of his own; there, however, the inspiration ended.
With Titian he was nearly allied in genius; yet he thought rather with
than after him,--at times even beyond him. Titian, indeed, may be said
to have first opened his eyes to the mysteries of nature; but they
were no sooner opened, than he rushed into them with a rapidity and
daring unwont to the more cautious spirit of his master; and, though
irregular, eccentric, and often inferior, yet sometimes he made his
way to poetical regions, of whose celestial hues even Titian himself
had never dreamt.

We might go on thus with every great name in Art. But these examples
are enough to show how much even the most original minds, not only
may, but _must_, owe to others; for the social law of our nature
applies no less to the intellect than to the affections. When applied
to genius, it may be called the social inspiration, the simple
statement of which seems to us of itself a solution of the
oft-repeated question, "Why is it that genius always appears in
clusters?" To Nature, indeed, we must all at last recur, as to the
only true and permanent foundation of real excellence. But Nature is
open to all men alike, in her beauty, her majesty, her grandeur, and
her sublimity. Yet who will assert that all men see, or, if they see,
are impressed by these her attributes alike? Nay, so great is the
difference, that one might almost suppose them inhabitants of
different worlds. Of Claude, for instance, it is hardly a metaphor to
say that he lived in two worlds during his natural life; for Claude
the pastry-cook could never have seen the same world that was made
visible to Claude the painter. It was human sympathy, acting through
human works, that gave birth to his intellect at the age of forty.
There is something, perhaps, ludicrous in the thought of an infant of
forty. Yet the fact is a solemn one, that thousands die whose minds
have never been born.

We could not, perhaps, instance a stronger confutation of the vulgar
error which opposes learning to genius, than the simple history of
this remarkable man. In all that respects the mind, he was literally a
child, till accident or necessity carried him to Rome; for, when the
office of color-grinder, added to that of cook, by awakening his
curiosity, first excited a love for the Art, his progress through its
rudiments seems to have been scarcely less slow and painful than that
of a child through the horrors of the alphabet. It was the struggle of
one who was learning to think; but, the rudiments being mastered, he
found himself suddenly possessed, not as yet of thought, but of new
forms of language; then came thoughts, pouring from his mind, and
filling them as moulds, without which they had never, perhaps, had
either shape or consciousness.

Now what was this new language but the product of other minds,--of
successive minds, amending, enlarging, elaborating, through successive
ages, till, fitted to all its wants, it became true to the Ideal, and
the vernacular tongue of genius through all time? The first inventor
of verse was but the prophetic herald of Homer, Shakspeare, and
Milton. And what was Rome then but the great University of Art, where
all this accumulated learning was treasured?

Much has been said of self-taught geniuses, as opposed to those who
have been instructed by others: but the distinction, it appears to
us, is without a difference; for it matters not whether we learn in a
school or by ourselves,--we cannot learn any thing without in some way
recurring to other minds. Let us imagine a poet who had never read,
never heard, never conversed with another. Now if he will not be
taught in any thing by another, he must strictly preserve this
independent negation. Truly the verses of such a poet would be a
miracle. Of similar self-taught painters we have abundant examples in
our aborigines,--but nowhere else.

But, while we maintain, as a positive law of our nature, the necessity
of mental intercourse with our fellow-creatures, in order to the full
developement of the _individual_, we are far from implying that
any thing which is actually taken from others can by any process
become our own, that is, original. We may reverse, transpose,
diminish, or add to it, and so skilfully that no scam or mutilation
shall be detected; and yet we shall not make it appear original,--in
other words, _true_, the offspring of _one_ mind. A borrowed
thought will always be borrowed; as it will be felt as such in its
_effect_, even while we are ourselves unconscious of the fact:
for it will want that _effect of life_, which only the first mind
can give it[3].

Of the multifarious retailers of the second-hand in style, the class
is so numerous as to make a selection difficult: they meet us at every
step in the history of the Art. One instance, however, may suffice,
and we select Vernet, as uniting in himself a singular and striking
example of the _false_ and the _true_; and also as the least
invidious instance, inasmuch as we may prove our position by opposing
him to himself.

In the landscapes of Vernet, (when not mere views,) we see the
imitator of Salvator, or rather copyist of his lines; and these we
have in all their angular nakedness, where rocks, trees, and mountains
are so jagged, contorted, and tumbled about, that nothing but an
explosion could account for their assemblage. They have not the
relation which we sometimes find even in a random collocation, as in
the accidental pictures of a discolored wall; for the careful hand
of the contriver is traced through all this disorder; nay, the very
execution, the conventional dash of pencil, betrays what a lawyer
would call the _malice prepense_ of the Artist in their strange
disfigurement. To many this may appear like hypercriticism; but we
sincerely believe that no one, even among his admirers, has ever been
deceived into a real sympathy with such technical flourishes: they
are felt as factitious; as mere diagrams of composition deduced from

Now let us look at one of his Storms at Sea, when he wrought from his
own mind. A dark leaden atmosphere prepares us for something fearful:
suddenly a scene of tumult, fierce, wild, disastrous, bursts upon us;
and we feel the shock drive, as it were, every other thought from the
mind: the terrible vision now seizes the imagination, filling it with
sound and motion: we see the clouds fly, the furious waves one upon
another dashing in conflict, and rolling, as if in wrath, towards the
devoted ship: the wind blows from the canvas; we hear it roar through
her shrouds; her masts bend like twigs, and her last forlorn hope,
the close-reefed foresail, streams like a tattered flag: a terrible
fascination still constrains us to look, and a dim, rocky shore looms
on her lee: then comes the dreadful cry of "Breakers ahead!" the crew
stand appalled, and the master's trumpet is soundless at his lips.
This is the uproar of nature, and we _feel_ it to be _true_;
for here every line, every touch, has a meaning. The ragged clouds,
the huddled waves, the prostrate ship, though forced by contrast
into the sharpest angles, all agree, opposed as they seem,--evolving
harmony out of apparent discord. And this is Genius, which no
criticism can ever disprove.

But all great names, it is said, must have their shadows. In our Art
they have many shadows, or rather I should say, reflections; which
are more or less distinct according to their proximity to the living
originals, and, like the images in opposite mirrors, becoming
themselves reflected and re-reflected with a kind of battledoor
alternation, grow dimmer and dimmer till they vanish from mere

Thus have the great schools of Italy, Flanders, and Holland lived and
walked after death, till even their ghosts have become familiar to us.

We would not, however, be understood as asserting that we receive
pleasure only from original works: this would be contradicting
the general experience. We admit, on the contrary, that there are
hundreds, nay, thousands, of pictures having no pretensions to
originality of any kind, which still afford pleasure; as, indeed,
do many things out of the Art, which we know to be second-hand, or
imperfect, and even trifling. Thus grace of manner, for instance,
though wholly unaided by a single definite quality, will often delight
us, and a ready elocution, with scarce a particle of sense, make
commonplace agreeable; and it seems to be, that the pain of mental
inertness renders action so desirable, that the mind instinctively
surrounds itself with myriads of objects, having little to recommend
them but the property of keeping it from stagnating. And we are
far from denying a certain value to any of these, provided they
be innocent: there are times when even the wisest man will find
commonplace wholesome. All we have attempted to show is, that the
effect of an original work, as opposed to an imitation, is marked by
a difference, not of degree merely, but of kind; and that this
difference cannot fail to be felt, not, indeed, by every one, but by
any competent judge, that is, any one in whom is developed, by
natural exercise, that internal sense by which the spirit of life is

       *       *       *       *       *

Every original work becomes such from the infusion, so to speak, of
the mind of the Author; and of this the fresh materials of nature
alone seem susceptible. The imitated works of man cannot be endued
with a second life, that is, with a second mind: they are to the
imitator as air already breathed.

       *       *       *       *       *

What has been said in relation to Form--that the works of our
predecessors, so far as they are recognized as true, are to be
considered as an extension of Nature, and therefore proper objects
of study--is equally applicable to Composition. But it is not to be
understood that this extended Nature (if we may so term it) is in any
instance to be imitated as a _whole_, which would be bringing our
minds into bondage to another; since, as already shown in the second
Discourse, every original work is of necessity impressed with the mind
of its author. If it be asked, then, what is the advantage of such
study, we shall endeavour to show, that it is not merely, as some have
supposed, in enriching the mind with materials, but rather in widening
our view of excellence, and, by consequent excitement, expanding our
own powers of observation, reflection, and performance. By increasing
the power of performance, we mean enlarging our knowledge of the
technical process, or the medium through which thought is expressed;
a most important species of knowledge, which, if to be otherwise
attained, is at least most readily learned from those who have left us
the result of their experience. This technical process, which has been
well called the language of the Art, includes, of course, all that
pertains to Composition, which, as the general medium, also contains
most of the elements of this peculiar tongue.

From the gradual progress of the various arts of civilization, it
would seem that only under the action of some great _social_ law
can man arrive at the full developement of his powers. In our
Art especially is this true; for the experience of one man must
necessarily be limited, particularly if compared with the endless
varieties of form and effect which diversify the face of Nature; and
the finest of these, too, in their very nature transient, or of rare
occurrence, and only known to occur to those who are prepared to seize
them in their rapid transit; so that in one short life, and with but
one set of senses, the greatest genius can learn but little. The
Artist, therefore, must needs owe much to the living, and more to the
dead, who are virtually his companions, inasmuch as through their
works they still live to our sympathies. Besides, in our great
predecessors we may be said to possess a multiplied life, if life
be measured by the number of acts,--which, in this case, we may all
appropriate to ourselves, as it were by a glance. For the dead in Art
may well be likened to the hardy pioneers of our own country, who have
successively cleared before us the swamps and forests that would have
obstructed our progress, and opened to us lands which the efforts of
no individual, however persevering, would enable him to reach.


Sentences Written by Mr. Allston on the Walls of His Studio.

1. "No genuine work of Art ever was, or ever can be, produced but for
its own sake; if the painter does not conceive to please himself, he
will not finish to please the world."--FUSELI.

2. If an Artist love his Art for its own sake, he will delight in
excellence wherever he meets it, as well in the work of another as in
his own. This is the test of a true love.

3. Nor is this genuine love compatible with a craving for distinction;
where the latter predominates, it is sure to betray itself before
contemporary excellence, either by silence, or (as a bribe to the
conscience) by a modicum of praise.

The enthusiasm of a mind so influenced is confined to itself.

4. Distinction is the consequence, never the object, of a great mind.

5. The love of gain never made a Painter; but it has marred many.

6. The most common disguise of Envy is in the praise of what is

7. Selfishness in Art, as in other things, is sensibility kept at

8. The Devil's heartiest laugh is at a detracting witticism. Hence the
phrase "devilish good" has sometimes a literal meaning.

9. The most intangible, and therefore the worst, kind of lie is a
half truth. This is the peculiar device of a _conscientious_

10. Reverence is an ennobling sentiment; it is felt to be degrading
only by the vulgar mind, which would escape the sense of its own
littleness by elevating itself into an antagonist of what is above it.
He that has no pleasure in looking up is not fit so much as to look
down. Of such minds are mannerists in Art; in the world, tyrants of
all sorts.

11. No right judgment can ever be formed on any subject having a moral
or intellectual bearing without benevolence; for so strong is man's
natural self-bias, that, without this restraining principle, he
insensibly becomes a competitor in all such cases presented to his
mind; and, when the comparison is thus made personal, unless the odds
be immeasurably against him, his decision will rarely be impartial.
In other words, no one can see any thing as it really is through the
misty spectacles of self-love. We must wish well to another in order
to do him justice. Now the virtue in this good-will is not to blind us
to his faults, but to our own rival and interposing merits.

12. In the same degree that we overrate ourselves, we shall underrate
others; for injustice allowed at home is not likely to be corrected
abroad. Never, therefore, expect justice from a vain man; if he has
the negative magnanimity not to disparage you, it is the most you can

13. The Phrenologists are right in placing the organ of self-love in
the back of the head, it being there where a vain man carries his
intellectual light; the consequence of which is, that every man he
approaches is obscured by his own shadow.

14. Nothing is rarer than a solitary lie; for lies breed like Surinam
toads; you cannot tell one but out it comes with a hundred young ones
on its back.

15. If the whole world should agree to speak nothing but truth, what
an abridgment it would make of speech! And what an unravelling there
would be of the invisible webs which men, like so many spiders, now
weave about each other! But the contest between Truth and Falsehood
is now pretty well balanced. Were it not so, and had the latter the
mastery, even language would soon become extinct, from its very
uselessness. The present superfluity of words is the result of the

16. A witch's skiff cannot more easily sail in the teeth of the wind,
than the human _eye_ lie against fact; but the truth will oftener
quiver through lips with a lie upon them.

17. An open brow with a clenched hand shows any thing but an open

18. It is a hard matter for a man to lie _all over_. Nature
having provided king's evidence in almost every member. The hand will
sometimes act as a vane to show which way the wind blows, when every
feature is set the other way; the knees smite together, and sound the
alarm of fear, under a fierce countenance; and the legs shake with
anger, when all above is calm.

19. Nature observes a variety even in her correspondences; insomuch
that in parts which seem but repetitions there will be found a
difference. For instance, in the human countenance, the two sides of
which are never identical. Whenever she deviates into monotony,
the deviation is always marked as an exception by some striking
deficiency; as in idiots, who are the only persons that laugh equally
on both sides of the mouth.

The insipidity of many of the antique Statues may be traced to the
false assumption of identity in the corresponding parts. No work
wrought by _feeling_ (which, after all, is the ultimate rule of
Genius) was ever marked by this monotony.

20. He is but half an orator who turns his hearers into spectators.
The best gestures (_quoad_ the speaker) are those which he cannot
help. An unconscious thump of the fist or jerk of the elbow is more
to the purpose, (whatever that may be,) than the most graceful
_cut-and-dried_ action. It matters not whether the orator
personates a trip-hammer or a wind-mill; if his mill but move with the
grist, or his hammer knead the iron beneath it, he will not fail of
his effect. An impertinent gesture is more likely to knock down the
orator than his opponent.

21. The only true independence is in humility; for the humble man
exacts nothing, and cannot be mortified,--expects nothing, and cannot
be disappointed. Humility is also a healing virtue; it will cicatrize
a thousand wounds, which pride would keep for ever open. But humility
is not the virtue of a fool; since it is not consequent upon any
comparison between ourselves and others, but between what we are and
what we ought to be,--which no man ever was.

22. The greatest of all fools is the proud fool,--who is at the mercy
of every fool he meets.

23. There is an essential meanness in the wish to _get the
better_ of any one. The only competition worthy, of a wise man is
with himself.

24. He that argues for victory is but a gambler in words, seeking to
enrich himself by another's loss.

25. Some men make their ignorance the measure of excellence; these
are, of course, very fastidious critics; for, knowing little, they can
find but little to like.

26. The Painter who seeks popularity in Art closes the door upon his
own genius.

27. Popular excellence in one age is but the _mechanism_ of what
was good in the preceding; in Art, the _technic_.

28. Make no man your idol, for the best man must have faults; and his
faults will insensibly become yours, in addition to your own. This is
as true in Art as in morals.

29. A man of genius should not aim at praise, except in the form of
_sympathy_; this assures him of his success, since it meets the
feeling which possessed himself.

30. Originality in Art is the individualizing the Universal; in other
words, the impregnating some general truth with the individual mind.

31. The painter who is content with the praise of the world in respect
to what does not satisfy himself, is not an artist, but an artisan;
for though his reward be only praise, his pay is that of a
mechanic,--for his time, and not for his art.

32. _Reputation_ is but a synonyme of _popularity_;
dependent on suffrage, to be increased or diminished at the will of
the voters. It is the creature, so to speak, of its particular age, or
rather of a particular state of society; consequently, dying with that
which sustained it. Hence we can scarcely go over a page of history,
that we do not, as in a church-yard, tread upon some buried
reputation. But fame cannot be voted down, having its immediate
foundation in the essential. It is the eternal shadow of excellence,
from which it can never be separated; nor is it ever made visible but
in the light of an intellect kindred with that of its author. It is
that light which projects the shadow which is seen of the multitude,
to be wondered at and reverenced, even while so little comprehended
as to be often confounded with the substance,--the substance being
admitted from the shadow, as a matter of faith. It is the economy of
Providence to provide such lights: like rising and setting stars, they
follow each other through successive ages: and thus the monumental
form of Genius stands for ever relieved against its own imperishable

33. All excellence of every kind is but variety of truth. If we wish,
then, for something beyond the true, we wish for that which is false.
According to this test, how little truth is there in Art! Little
indeed! but how much is that little to him who feels it!

34. Fame does not depend on the _will_ of any man, but Reputation
may be given or taken away. Fame is the sympathy of kindred
intellects, and sympathy is not a subject of _willing_; while
Reputation, having its source in the popular voice, is a sentence
which may either be uttered or suppressed at pleasure. Reputation,
being essentially contemporaneous, is always at the mercy of
the envious and the ignorant; but Fame, whose very birth is
_posthumous_, and which is only known _to exist by the echo of
its footsteps through congenial minds_, can neither be increased
nor diminished by any degree of will.

35. What _light_ is in the natural world, such is _fame_
in the intellectual; both requiring an _atmosphere_ in order
to become perceptible. Hence the fame of Michael Angelo is, to some
minds, a nonentity; even as the sun itself would be invisible _in

36. Fame has no necessary conjunction with Praise: it may exist without
the breath of a word; it is a _recognition of excellence_, which _must
be felt_, but need not be _spoken_. Even the envious must feel it,--feel
it, and hate it, in silence.

37. I cannot believe that any man who deserved fame ever labored for
it; that is, _directly_. For, as fame is but the contingent of
excellence, it would be like an attempt to project a shadow, before
its substance was obtained. Many, however, have so fancied. "I write,
I paint, for fame," has often been repeated: it should have been, "I
write, I paint, for reputation." All anxiety, therefore, about Fame
should be placed to the account of Reputation.

38. A man may be pretty sure that he has not attained
_excellence_, when it is not all in all to him. Nay, I may add,
that, if he looks beyond it, he has not reached it. This is not the
less true for being good _Irish_.

39. An original mind is rarely understood, until it has been
_reflected_ from some half-dozen congenial with it, so averse
are men to admitting the _true_ in an unusual form; whilst any
novelty, however fantastic, however false, is greedily swallowed. Nor
is this to be wondered at; for all truth demands a response, and few
people care to _think_, yet they must have something to supply
the place of thought. Every mind would appear original, if every man
had the power of _projecting_ his own into the mind of others.

40. All effort at originality must end either in the quaint or the
monstrous. For no man knows himself as an original; he can only
believe it on the report of others to whom _he is made known_, as
he is by the projecting power before spoken of.

41. There is one thing which no man, however generously disposed, can
_give_, but which every one, however poor, is bound to _pay_. This is
Praise. He cannot give it, because it is not his own,--since what is
dependent for its very existence on something in another can never
become to him a _possession_; nor can he justly withhold it, when the
presence of merit claims it as a _consequence_. As praise, then, cannot
be made a _gift_, so, neither, when not his due, can any man receive it:
he may think he does, but he receives only _words_; for _desert_ being
the essential condition of praise, there can be no reality in the one
without the other. This is no fanciful statement; for, though praise may
be withheld by the ignorant or envious, it cannot be but that, in the
course of time, an existing merit will, on _some one_, produce its
effects; inasmuch as the existence of any cause without its effect is an
impossibility. A fearful truth lies at the bottom of this, an
_irreversible justice_ for the weal or woe of him who confirms or
violates it.

       *       *       *       *       *

[From the back of a pencil sketch.]

Let no man trust to the gentleness, the generosity, or seeming
goodness of his heart, in the hope that they alone can safely bear him
through the temptations of this world. This is a state of probation,
and a perilous passage to the true beginning of life, where even the
best natures need continually to be reminded of their weakness, and
to find their only security in steadily referring all their thoughts,
acts, affections, to the ultimate end of their being: yet where,
imperfect as we are, there is no obstacle too mighty, no temptation
too strong, to the truly humble in heart, who, distrusting themselves,
seek to be sustained only by that holy Being who is life and power,
and who, in his love and mercy, has promised to give to those that
ask.--Such were my reflections, to which I was giving way on reading
this melancholy story.

If he is satisfied with them, he may rest assured that he is neither
fitted for this world nor the next. Even in this, there are wrongs and
sorrows which no human remedy can reach;--no, tears cannot restore
what is lost.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Written in a book of sketches, with a pencil.]

A real debt of gratitude--that is, founded on a disinterested act of
kindness--cannot be cancelled by any subsequent unkindness on the part
of our benefactor. If the favor be of a pecuniary nature, we may,
indeed, by returning an equal or greater sum, balance the moneyed part;
but we cannot _liquidate_ the _kind motive_ by the setting off against
it any number of unkind ones. For an after injury can no more _undo_ a
previous kindness, than we can _prevent_ in the future what has happened
in the past. So neither can a good act undo an ill one: a fearful truth!
For good and evil have a moral _life_, which nothing in time can
extinguish; the instant they _exist_, they start for Eternity. How,
then, can a man who has _once_ sinned, and who has not of _himself_
cleansed his soul, be fit for heaven where no sin can enter? I seek not
to enter into the mystery of the _atonement_, "which even the angels
sought to comprehend and could not"; but I feel its truth in an
unutterable conviction, and that, without it, all flesh must perish.
Equally deep, too, and unalienable, is my conviction that "the fruit of
sin is misery." A second birth to the soul is therefore a necessity
which sin _forces_ upon us. Ay,--but not against the desperate _will_
that rejects it.

This conclusion was not anticipated when I wrote the first sentence of
the preceding paragraph. But it does not surprise me. For it is but a
recurrence of what I have repeatedly experienced; namely, that I never
lighted on _any truth_ which I _inwardly felt_ as such, however
apparently remote from our religious being, (as, for instance, in the
philosophy of my art,) that, by following it out, did not find its
illustration and confirmation in some great doctrine of the Bible,--the
only true philosophy, the sole fountain of light, where the dark
questions of the understanding which have so long stood, like chaotic
spectres, between the fallen soul and its reason, at once lose their
darkness and their terror.

The Hypochondriac.[4]

  He would not taste, but swallowed life at once;
  And scarce had reached his prime ere he had bolted,
  With all its garnish, mixed of sweet and sour,
  Full fourscore years. For he, in truth, did wot not
  What most he craved, and so devoured all;
  Then, with his gases, followed Indigestion,
  Making it food for night-mares and their foals.


It was the opinion of an ancient philosopher, that we can have no want
for which Nature does not provide an appropriate gratification. As it
regards our physical wants, this appears to be true. But there are
moral cravings which extend beyond the world we live in; and, were we
in a heathen age, would serve us with an unanswerable argument for the
immortality of the soul. That these cravings are felt by all, there
can be no doubt; yet that all feel them in the same degree would be as
absurd to suppose, as that every man possesses equal sensibility or
understanding. Boswell's desires, from his own account, seem to have
been limited to reading Shakspeare in the other world,--whether with
or without his commentators, he has left us to guess; and Newton
probably pined for the sight of those distant stars whose light has
not yet reached us. What originally was the particular craving of my
own mind I cannot now recall; but that I had, even in my boyish days,
an insatiable desire after something which always eluded me, I well
remember. As I grew into manhood, my desires became less definite; and
by the time I had passed through college, they seemed to have resolved
themselves into a general passion for _doing_.

It is needless to enumerate the different subjects which one after
another engaged me. Mathematics, metaphysics, natural and moral
philosophy, were each begun, and each in turn given up in a passion of
love and disgust.

It is the fate of all inordinate passions to meet their extremes;
so was it with mine. Could I have pursued any of these studies with
moderation, I might have been to this day, perhaps, both learned and
happy. But I could be moderate in nothing. Not content with being
employed, I must always be _busy_; and business, as every one
knows, if long continued, must end in fatigue, and fatigue in disgust,
and disgust in change, if that be practicable,--which unfortunately
was my case.

The restlessness occasioned by these half-finished studies brought
on a severe fit of self-examination. Why is it, I asked myself, that
these learned works, which have each furnished their authors with
sufficient excitement to effect their completion, should thus weary me
before I get midway into them? It is plain enough. As a reader I
am merely a recipient, but the composer is an active agent; a vast
difference! And now I can account for the singular pleasure, which
a certain bad poet of my acquaintance always took in inflicting his
verses on every one who would listen to him; each perusal being but a
sort of mental echo of the original bliss of composition. I will set
about writing immediately.

Having, time out of mind, heard the epithet _great_ coupled with
Historians, it was that, I believe, inclined me to write a history.
I chose my subject, and began collating, and transcribing, night and
day, as if I had not another hour to live; and on I went with the
industry of a steam-engine; when it one day occurred to me, that,
though I had been laboring for months, I had not yet had occasion for
one original thought. Pshaw! said I, 't is only making new clothes out
of old ones. I will have nothing more to do with history.

As it is natural for a mind suddenly disgusted with mechanic toil to
seek relief from its opposite, it can easily be imagined that my next
resource was Poetry. Every one rhymes now-a-days, and so can I. Shall
I write an Epic, or a Tragedy, or a Metrical Romance? Epics are out of
fashion; even Homer and Virgil would hardly be read in our time, but
that people are unwilling to admit their schooling to have been thrown
away. As to Tragedy, I am a modern, and it is a settled thing that no
modern _can_ write a tragedy; so I must not attempt that. Then
for Metrical Romances,--why, they are now manufactured; and, as the
Edinburgh Review says, may be "imported" by us "in bales." I will bind
myself to no particular class, but give free play to my imagination.
With this resolution I went to bed, as one going to be inspired. The
morning came; I ate my breakfast, threw up the window, and placed
myself in my elbow-chair before it. An hour passed, and nothing
occurred to me. But this I ascribed to a fit of laughter that seized
me, at seeing a duck made drunk by eating rum-cherries. I turned my
back on the window. Another hour followed, then another, and another:
I was still as far from poetry as ever; every object about me seemed
bent against my abstraction; the card-racks fascinating me like
serpents, and compelling me to read, as if I would get them by heart,
"Dr. Joblin," "Mr. Cumberback," "Mr. Milton Bull," &c. &c. I took up
my pen, drew a sheet of paper from my writing-desk, and fixed my eyes
upon that;--'t was all in vain; I saw nothing on it but the watermark,
_D. Ames_. I laid down the pen, closed my eyes, and threw my
head back in the chair. "Are you waiting to be shaved, Sir?" said
a familiar voice. I started up, and overturned my servant. "No,
blockhead!"--"I am waiting to be inspired";--but this I added
mentally. What is the cause of my difficulty? said I. Something within
me seemed to reply, in the words of Lear, "Nothing comes of nothing."
Then I must seek a subject. I ran over a dozen in a few minutes, chose
one after another, and, though twenty thoughts very readily occurred
on each, I was fain to reject them all; some for wanting pith, some
for belonging to prose, and others for having been worn out in the
service of other poets. In a word, my eyes began to open on the truth,
and I felt convinced that _that_ only was poetry which a man
writes because he cannot help writing; the irrepressible effluence
of his secret being on every thing in sympathy with it,--a kind of
_flowering_ of the soul amid the warmth and the light of nature.
I am no poet, I exclaimed, and I will not disfigure Mr. Ames with
commonplace verses.

I know not how I should have borne this second disappointment, had not
the title of a new Novel, which then came into my head, suggested a
trial in that branch of letters. I will write a Novel. Having come to
this determination, the next thing was to collect materials. They must
be sought after, said I, for my late experiment has satisfied me that
I might wait for ever in my elbow-chair, and they would never come to
me; they must be toiled for,--not in books, if I would not deal in
second-hand,--but in the world, that inexhaustible storehouse of
all kinds of originals. I then turned over in my mind the various
characters I had met with in life; amongst these a few only seemed
fitted for any story, and those rather as accessories; such as a
politician who hated popularity, a sentimental grave-digger, and a
metaphysical rope-dancer; but for a hero, the grand nucleus of my
fable, I was sorely at a loss. This, however, did not discourage me. I
knew he might be found in the world, if I would only take the trouble
to look for him. For this purpose I jumped into the first stage-coach
that passed my door; it was immaterial whither bound, my object being
men, not places. My first day's journey offered nothing better than a
sailor who rebuked a member of Congress for swearing. But at the third
stage, on the second day, as we were changing horses, I had the good
fortune to light on a face which gave promise of all I wanted. It was
so remarkable that I could not take my eyes from it; the forehead
might have been called handsome but for a pair of enormous eyebrows,
that seemed to project from it like the quarter-galleries of a ship,
and beneath these were a couple of small, restless, gray eyes, which,
glancing in every direction from under their shaggy brows, sparkled
like the intermittent light of fire-flies; in the nose there was
nothing remarkable, except that it was crested by a huge wart with a
small grove of black hairs; but the mouth made ample amends, being
altogether indescribable, for it was so variable in its expression,
that I could not tell whether it had most of the sardonic, the
benevolent, or the sanguinary, appearing to exhibit them all in
succession with equal vividness. My attention, however, was mainly
fixed by the sanguinary; it came across me like an east wind, and
I felt a cold sweat damping my linen; and when this was suddenly
succeeded by the benevolent, I was sure I had got at the secret of
his character,--no less than that of a murderer haunted by remorse.
Delighted with this discovery, I made up my mind to follow the owner
of the face wherever he went, till I should learn his history. I
accordingly made an end of my journey for the present, upon learning
that the stranger was to pass some time in the place where we stopped.
For three days I made minute inquiries; but all I could gather was,
that he had been a great traveller, though of what country no one
could tell me. On the fourth day, finding him on the move, I took
passage in the same coach. Now, said I, is my time of harvest. But I
was mistaken; for, in spite of all the lures which I threw out to
draw him into a communicative humor, I could get nothing from him but
monosyllables. So far from abating my ardor, this reserve only the
more whetted my curiosity. At last we stopped at a pleasant village
in New Jersey. Here he seemed a little better known; the innkeeper
inquiring after his health, and the hostler asking if the balls he
had supplied him with fitted the barrels of his pistols. The latter
inquiry I thought was accompanied by a significant glance, that
indicated a knowledge on the hostler's part of more than met the ear;
I determined therefore to sound him. After a few general remarks, that
had nothing to do with any thing, by way of introduction, I began by
hinting some random surmises as to the use to which the stranger might
have put the pistols he spoke of; inquired whether he was in the habit
of loading them at night; whether he slept with them under his pillow;
if he was in the practice of burning a light while he slept; and if
he did not sometimes awake the family by groans, or by walking with
agitated steps in his chamber. But it was all in vain, the man
protesting that he never knew any thing ill of him. Perhaps, thought
I, the hostler having overheard his midnight wanderings, and detected
his crime, is paid for keeping the secret. I pumped the landlord, and
the landlady, and the barmaid, and the chambermaid, and the waiters,
and the cook, and every thing that could speak in the house; still to
no purpose, each ending his reply with, "Lord, Sir, he's as honest a
gentleman, for aught I know, as any in the world"; then would come a
question,--"But perhaps _you_ know something of him yourself?"
Whether my answer, though given in the negative, was uttered in such a
tone as to imply an affirmative, thereby exciting suspicion, I cannot
tell; but it is certain that I soon after perceived a visible change
towards him in the deportment of the whole household. When he spoke to
the waiters, their jaws fell, their fingers spread, their eyes rolled,
with every symptom of involuntary action; and once, when he asked the
landlady to take a glass of wine with him, I saw her, under pretence
of looking out of the window, throw it into the street; in short, the
very scullion fled at his approach, and a chambermaid dared not
enter his room unless under guard of a large mastiff. That these
circumstances were not unobserved by him will appear by what follows.

Though I had come no nearer to facts, this general suspicion, added to
the remarkable circumstance that no one had ever heard his name (being
known only as _the gentleman_) gave every day new life to my
hopes. He is the very man, said I; and I began to revel in all the
luxury of detection, when, as I was one night undressing for bed, my
attention was caught by the following letter on my table.


    "If you are the gentleman you would be thought, you will not
    refuse satisfaction for the diabolical calumnies you have so
    unprovokedly circulated against an innocent man.

    "Your obedient servant,


    "P.S. I shall expect you at five o'clock to-morrow morning, at the
    three elms, by the river-side."

This invitation, as may be well imagined, discomposed me not a
little. Who Mr. Bub was, or in what way I had injured him, puzzled
me exceedingly. Perhaps, thought I, he has mistaken me for another
person; if so, my appearing on the ground will soon set matters right.
With this persuasion I went to bed, somewhat calmer than I should
otherwise have been; nay, I was even composed enough to divert myself
with the folly of one bearing so vulgar an appellation taking it into
his head to play the _man of honor_, and could not help a waggish
feeling of curiosity to see if his name and person were in keeping.

I woke myself in the morning with a loud laugh, for I had dreamt of
meeting, in the redoubtable Mr. Bub, a little pot-bellied man, with a
round face, a red snub-nose, and a pair of gooseberry wall-eyes. My
fit of pleasantry was far from passed off when I came in sight of the
fatal elms. I saw my antagonist pacing the ground with considerable
violence. Ah! said I, he is trying to escape from his unheroic name!
and I laughed again at the conceit; but, as I drew a little nearer,
there appeared a majestic altitude in his figure very unlike what I
had seen in my dream, and my laugh began to stiffen into a kind of
rigid grin. There now came upon me something very like a misgiving
that the affair might turn out to be no joke. I felt an unaccountable
wish that this Mr. Bub had never been born; still I advanced: but
if an aërolite had fallen at my feet, I could not have been more
startled, than when I found in the person of my challenger--the
mysterious stranger. The consequences of my curiosity immediately
rushed upon me, and I was no longer at a loss in what way I had
injured him. All my merriment seemed to curdle within me; and I felt
like a dog that had got his head into a jug, and suddenly finds he
cannot extricate it. "Well met, Sir," said the stranger; "now
take your ground, and abide the consequences of your infernal
insinuations." "Upon my word," replied I,--"upon my honor, Sir,"--and
there I stuck, for in truth I knew not what it was I was going to say;
when the stranger's second, advancing, exclaimed, in a voice which
I immediately recognized, "Why, zounds! Rainbow, are _you_ the
man?" "Is it you, Harman?" "What!" continued he, "my old classmate
Rainbow turned slanderer? Impossible! Indeed, Mr. Bub, there must be
some mistake here." "None, Sir," said the stranger; "I have it on
the authority of my respectable landlord, that, ever since this
gentleman's arrival, he has been incessant in his attempts to blacken
my character with every person at the inn." "Nay, my friend"--But I
put an end to Harman's further defence of me, by taking him aside,
and frankly confessing the whole truth. It was with some difficulty I
could get through the explanation, being frequently interrupted with
bursts of laughter from my auditor; which, indeed, I now began to
think very natural. In a word, to cut the story short, my friend
having repeated the conference verbatim to Mr. Bub, he was
good-natured enough to join in the mirth, saying, with one of his best
sardonics, he "had always had a misgiving that his unlucky ugly face
would one day or other be the death of somebody." Well, we passed the
day together, and having cracked a social bottle after dinner, parted,
I believe, as heartily friends as we should have been (which is saying
a great deal) had he indeed proved the favorite villain in my Novel.
But, alas! with the loss of my villain, away went the Novel.

Here again I was at a stand; and in vain did I torture my brains
for another pursuit. But why should I seek one? In fortune I have a
competence,--why not be as independent in mind? There are thousands in
the world whose sole object in life is to attain the means of living
without toil; and what is any literary pursuit but a series of mental
labor, ay, and oftentimes more wearying to the spirits than that of
the body. Upon the whole, I came to the conclusion, that it was a very
foolish thing to do any thing. So I seriously set about trying to do

Well, what with whistling, hammering down all the nails in the house
that had started, paring my nails, pulling my fire to pieces and
rebuilding it, changing my clothes to full dress though I dined alone,
trying to make out the figure of a Cupid on my discolored ceiling, and
thinking of a lady I had not thought of for ten years before, I got
along the first week tolerably well. But by the middle of the second
week,--'t was horrible! the hours seemed to roll over me like
mill-stones. When I awoke in the morning I felt like an Indian
devotee, the day coming upon me like the great temple of Juggernaut;
cracking of my bones beginning after breakfast; and if I had any
respite, it was seldom for more than half an hour, when a newspaper
seemed to stop the wheels;--then away they went, crack, crack, noon
and afternoon, till I found myself by night reduced to a perfect
jelly,--good for nothing but to be ladled into bed, with a greater
horror than ever at the thought of sunrise.

This will never do, said I; a toad in the heart of a tree lives a more
comfortable life than a nothing-doing man; and I began to perceive
a very deep meaning in the truism of "something being better than
nothing." But is a precise object always necessary to the mind? No: if
it be but occupied, no matter with what. That may easily be done.
I have already tried the sciences, and made abortive attempts in
literature, but I have never yet tried what is called general
reading;--that, thank Heaven, is a resource inexhaustible. I will
henceforth read only for amusement. My first experiment in this way
was on Voyages and Travels, with occasional dippings into Shipwrecks,
Murders, and Ghost-stories. It succeeded beyond my hopes; month after
month passing away like days, and as for days,--I almost fancied that
I could see the sun move. How comfortable, thought I, thus to travel
over the world in my closet! how delightful to double Cape Horn and
cross the African Desert in my rocking-chair,--to traverse Caffraria
and the Mogul's dominions in the same pleasant vehicle! This is living
to some purpose; one day dining on barbecued pigs in Otaheite; the
next in danger of perishing amidst the snows of Terra del Fuego; then
to have a lion cross my path in the heart of Africa; to run for my
life from a wounded rhinoceros, and sit, by mistake, on a sleeping
boa-constrictor;--this, this, said I, is life! Even the dangers of the
sea were but healthful stimulants. If I met with a tornado, it was
only an agreeable variety; water-spouts and ice-islands gave me no
manner of alarm; and I have seldom been more composed than when
catching a whale. In short, the ease with which I thus circumnavigated
the globe, and conversed with all its varieties of inhabitants,
expanded my benevolence; I found every place, and everybody in it,
even to the Hottentots, vastly agreeable. But, alas! I was doomed
to discover that this could not last for ever. Though I was still
curious, there were no longer curiosities; for the world is limited,
and new countries, and new people, like every thing else, wax stale on
acquaintance; even ghosts and hurricanes become at last familiar; and
books grow old, like those who read them.

I was now at what sailors call a dead lift; being too old to build
castles for the future, and too dissatisfied with the life I had
led to look back on the past. In this state of mind, I bought me a
snuffbox; for, as I could not honestly recommend my disjointed self
to any decent woman, it seemed a kind of duty in me to contract such
habits as would effectually prevent my taking in the lady I had once
thought of. I set to, snuffing away till I made my nose sore, and
lost my appetite. I then threw my snuffbox into the fire, and took to
cigars. This change appeared to revive me. For a short time I thought
myself in Elysium, and wondered I had never tried them before. Thou
fragrant weed! O, that I were a Dutch poet, I exclaimed, that I might
render due honor to thy unspeakable virtues! Ineffable tobacco! Every
puff seemed like oil poured upon troubled waters, and I felt an
inexpressible calmness stealing over my frame; in truth, it seemed
like a benevolent spirit reconciling my soul to my body. But
moderation, as I have before said, was never one of my virtues. I
walked my room, pouring out volumes like a moving glass-house. My
apartment was soon filled with smoke; I looked in the glass and hardly
knew myself, my eyes peering at me, through the curling atmosphere,
like those of a poodle. I then retired to the opposite end, and
surveyed the furniture; nothing retained its original form or
position;--the tables and chairs seemed to loom from the floor, and my
grandfather's picture to thrust forward its nose like a French-horn,
while that of my grandmother, who was reckoned a beauty in her day,
looked, in her hoop, like her husband's wig-block stuck on a tub.
Whether this was a signal for the fiends within me to begin their
operations, I know not; but from that day I began to be what is called
nervous. The uninterrupted health I had hitherto enjoyed now seemed
the greatest curse that could have befallen me. I had never had the
usual itinerant distempers; it was very unlikely that I should always
escape them; and the dread of their coming upon me in my advanced age
made me perfectly miserable. I scarcely dared to stir abroad;
had sandbags put to my doors to keep out the measles; forbade my
neighbours' children playing in my yard to avoid the whooping-cough;
and, to prevent infection from the small-pox, I ordered all my male
servants' heads to be shaved, made the coachman and footman wear tow
wigs, and had them both regularly smoked whenever they returned from
the neighbouring town, before they were allowed to enter my presence.
Nor were these all my miseries; in fact, they were but a sort of
running base to a thousand other strange and frightful fancies; the
mere skeleton to a whole body-corporate of horrors. I became dreamy,
was haunted by what I had read, frequently finding a Hottentot, or a
boa-constrictor, in my bed. Sometimes I fancied myself buried in one
of the pyramids of Egypt, breaking my shins against the bones of a
sacred cow. Then I thought myself a kangaroo, unable to move because
somebody had cut off my tail.

In this miserable state I one evening rushed out of my house. I know
not how far, or how long, I had been from home, when, hearing a
well-known voice, I suddenly stopped. It seemed to belong to a face
that I knew; yet how I should know it somewhat puzzled me, being then
fully persuaded that I was a Chinese Josh. My friend (as I afterwards
learned he was) invited me to go to his club. This, thought I, is one
of my worshippers, and they have a right to carry me wherever they
please; accordingly I suffered myself to be led.

I soon found myself in an American tavern, and in the midst of a dozen
grave gentlemen who were emptying a large bowl of punch. They each
saluted me, some calling me by name, others saying they were happy to
make my acquaintance; but what appeared quite unaccountable was my not
only understanding their language, but knowing it to be English. A
kind of reaction now began to take place in my brain. Perhaps, said I,
I am not a Josh. I was urged to pledge my friend in a glass of punch;
I did so; my friend's friend, and his friend, and all the rest, in
succession, begged to have the same honor; I complied, again
and again, till at last, the punch having fairly turned my
head topsy-turvy, righted my understanding; and I found myself

This happy change gave a pleasant fillip to my spirits. I returned
home, found no monster in my bed, and slept quietly till near noon the
next day. I arose with a slight headache and a great admiration
of punch; resolving, if I did not catch the measles from my late
adventure, to make a second visit to the club. No symptoms appearing,
I went again; and my reception was such as led to a third, and a
fourth, and a fifth visit, when I became a regular member. I believe
my inducement to this was a certain unintelligible something in three
or four of my new associates, which at once gratified and kept alive
my curiosity, in their letting out just enough of themselves while I
was with them to excite me when alone to speculate on what was kept
back. I wondered I had never met with such characters in books; and
the kind of interest they awakened began gradually to widen to others.
Henceforth I will live in the world, said I; 't is my only remedy. A
man's own affairs are soon conned; he gets them by heart till they
haunt him when he would be rid of them; but those of another can
be known only in part, while that which remains unrevealed is a
never-ending stimulus to curiosity. The only natural mode, therefore,
of preventing the mind preying on itself,--the only rational, because
the only interminable employment,--is to be busy about other people's

The variety of objects which this new course of life each day
presented, brought me at length to a state of sanity; at least, I was
no longer disposed to conjure up remote dangers to my door, or chew
the cud on my indigested past reading; though sometimes, I confess,
when I have been tempted to meddle with a very bad character, I have
invariably been threatened with a relapse; which leads me to think the
existence of some secret affinity between rogues and boa-constrictors
is not unlikely. In a short time, however, I had every reason to
believe myself completely cured; for the days began to appear of their
natural length, and I no longer saw every thing through a pair of
blue spectacles, but found nature diversified by a thousand beautiful
colors, and the people about me a thousand times more interesting than
hyenas or Hottentots. The world is now my only study, and I trust I
shall stick to it for the sake of my health.


[1] The Frightful is not the Terrible, though often confounded with it.

[2] See Introductory Discourse.

[3] There is one species of imitation, however, which, as having been
practised by some of the most original minds, and also sanctioned by the
ablest writers, demands at least a little consideration; namely, the
adoption of an attitude, provided it be employed to convey a different
thought. So far, indeed, as the imitation has been confined to a
suggestion, and the attitude adopted has been modified by the new subject,
to which it was transferred, by a distinct change of character and
expression, though with but little variation in the disposition of limbs,
we may not dissent; such imitations being virtually little more than
hints, since they end in thoughts either totally different from, or more
complete than, the first. This we do not condemn, for every Poet, as well
as Artist, knows that a thought so modified is of right his own. It is the
transplanting of a tree, not the borrowing of a seed, against which we
contend. But when writers justify the appropriation, of entire figures,
without any such change, we do not agree with them; and cannot but think
that the examples they have quoted, as in the Sacrifice at Lystra, by
Raffaelle, and the Baptism, by Poussin, will fully support our position.
The antique _basso rilievo_ which Raffaelle has introduced in the former,
being certainly imitated both as to lines and grouping, is so distinct,
both in character and form, from the surrounding figures, as to render
them a distinct people, and their very air reminds us of another age. We
cannot but believe we should have had a very different group, and far
superior in expression, had he given us a conception of his own. It would
at least have been in accordance with the rest, animated with the
superstitious enthusiasm of the surrounding crowd; and especially as
sacrificing Priests would they have been amazed and awe-stricken in the
living presence of a god, instead of personating, as in the present group,
the cold officials of the Temple, going through a stated task at the
shrine of their idol. In the figure by Poussin, which he borrowed from
Michael Angelo, the discrepancy is still greater. The original figure,
which was in the Cartoon at Pisa, (now known only by a print,) is that of
a warrior who has been suddenly roused from the act of bathing by the
sound of a trumpet; he has just leaped upon the bank, and, in his haste to
obey its summons, thrusts his foot through his garment. Nothing could be
more appropriate than the violence of this action; it is in unison with
the hurry and bustle of the occasion. And this is the figure which Poussin
(without the slightest change, if we recollect aright) has transferred to
the still and solemn scene in which John baptizes the Saviour. No one can
look at this figure without suspecting the plagiarism. Similar instances
may be found in his other works; as in the Plague of the Philistines,
where the Alcibiades of Raffaelle is coolly sauntering among the dead and
dying, and with as little relation to the infected multitude as if he were
still with Socrates in the School of Athens. In the same picture may be
found also one of the Apostles from the Cartoon of the Draught of Fishes:
and we may naturally ask what business he has there. And yet such
appropriations have been made to appear no thefts, simply because no
attempt seems to have been made at concealment! But theft, we must be
allowed to think, is still theft, whether committed in the dark, or in the
face of day. And the example is a dangerous one, inasmuch as it comes from
men who were not constrained to resort to such shifts by any poverty of

Akin to this is another and larger kind of borrowing, which, though it
cannot strictly be called copying; yet so evidently betrays a foreign
origin, as to produce the same effect. We allude to the adoption of the
peculiar lines, handling, and disposition of masses, &c., of any
particular master.

[4] First printed in 1821, in "The Idle Man," No. II p. 38.

[5] A feigned name.--_Editor_.

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