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Title: Modern Painters Volume II (of V)
Author: Ruskin, John, 1819-1900
Language: English
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                               Library Edition

                             THE COMPLETE WORKS


                                JOHN RUSKIN

                             MODERN PAINTERS
                     VOLUME II--OF TRUTH AND THEORETIC
                       _Volume III_--OF MANY THINGS

                       NEW YORK             CHICAGO

                             MODERN PAINTERS.

                                VOLUME II.,


                                 PART III.,

                             SECTIONS I. AND II.


                            SYNOPSIS OF CONTENTS.

                                  PART III.

                             OF IDEAS OF BEAUTY.

                                SECTION I.

                        OF THE THEORETIC FACULTY.

CHAPTER I.--Of the Rank and Relations of the Theoretic Faculty.
  §  1. With what care the subject is to be approached.                  1
  §  2. And of what importance considered.                               2
  §  3. The doubtful force of the term "utility".                        3
  §  4. Its proper sense.                                                4
  §  5. How falsely applied in these times.                              4
  §  6. The evil consequences of such interpretation. How connected
          with national power.                                           5
  §  7. How to be averted.                                               6
  §  8. Division of the pursuits of men into subservient and objective.  8
  §  9. Their relative dignities.                                       10
  § 10. How reversed through erring notions of the contemplative
          and imaginative faculties.                                    10
  § 11. Object of the present section.                                  11

CHAPTER II.--Of the Theoretic Faculty as concerned with Pleasures of

  §  1. Explanation of the term "theoretic".                            12
  §  2. Of the differences of rank in pleasures of sense.               12
  §  3. Use of the terms Temperate and Intemperate.                     13
  §  4. Right use of the term "intemperate".                            13
  §  5. Grounds of inferiority in the pleasures which are subjects of
          intemperance.                                                 14
  §  6. Evidence of higher rank in pleasures of sight and hearing.      15
  §  7. How the lower pleasures may be elevated in rank.                16
  §  8. Ideas of beauty how essentially moral.                          17
  §  9. How degraded by heartless reception.                            17
  § 10. How exalted by affection.                                       18

CHAPTER III.--Of Accuracy and Inaccuracy in Impressions of Sense.

  §  1. By what test is the health of the perceptive faculty to be
          determined?                                                   19
  §  2. And in what sense may the terms Right and Wrong be attached
          to its conclusions?                                           20
  §  3. What power we have over impressions of sense.                   21
  §  4. Depends on acuteness of attention.                              21
  §  5. Ultimate conclusions universal.                                 22
  §  6. What duty is attached to this power over impressions of sense.  22
  §  7. How rewarded.                                                   23
  §  8. Especially with respect to ideas of beauty.                     23
  §  9. Errors induced by the power of habit.                           24
  § 10. The necessity of submission in early stages of judgment.        24
  § 11. The large scope of matured judgment.                            25
  § 12. How distinguishable from false taste.                           25
  § 13. The danger of a spirit of choice.                               26
  § 14. And criminality.                                                27
  § 15. How certain conclusions respecting beauty are by reason
          demonstrable.                                                 27
  § 16. With what liabilities to error.                                 28
  § 17. The term "beauty" how limitable in the outset. Divided
          into typical and vital.                                       28

CHAPTER IV.--Of False Opinions held concerning Beauty.

  §  1. Of the false opinion that truth is beauty, and vice versa.      30
  §  2. Of the false opinion that beauty is usefulness. Compare
          Chap. xii. § 5.                                               31
  §  3. Of the false opinion that beauty results from custom. Compare
          Chap. vi. § 1.                                                31
  §  4. The twofold operation of custom. It deadens sensation, but
          confirms affection.                                           31
  §  5. But never either creates or destroys the essence of beauty.     32
  §  6. Instances.                                                      32
  §  7. Of the false opinion that beauty depends on the association of
          ideas.                                                        33
  §  8. Association. Is, 1st, rational. It is of no efficiency as a
          cause of beauty.                                              33
  §  9. Association accidental. The extent of its influence.            34
  § 10. The dignity of its function.                                    35
  § 11. How it is connected with impressions of beauty.                 36
  § 12. And what caution it renders necessary in the examination of
          them.                                                         36

CHAPTER V.--Of Typical Beauty:--First, of Infinity, or the Type of
         Divine Incomprehensibility.

  §  1. Impossibility of adequately treating the subject.               38
  §  2. With what simplicity of feeling to be approached.               38
  §  3. The child instinct respecting space.                            39
  §  4. Continued in after life.                                        40
  §  5. Whereto this instinct is traceable.                             40
  §  6. Infinity how necessary in art.                                  41
  §  7. Conditions of its necessity.                                    42
  §  8. And connected analogies.                                        42
  §  9. How the dignity of treatment is proportioned to the expression
          of infinity.                                                  43
  § 10. Examples among the Southern schools.                            44
  § 11. Among the Venetians.                                            44
  § 12. Among the painters of landscape.                                45
  § 13. Other modes in which the power of infinity is felt.             45
  § 14. The beauty of curvature.                                        46
  § 15. How constant in external nature.                                46
  § 16. The beauty of gradation.                                        47
  § 17. How found in nature.                                            47
  § 18. How necessary in Art.                                           48
  § 19. Infinity not rightly implied by vastness.                       49

CHAPTER VI.--Of Unity, or the Type of the Divine Comprehensiveness.

  §  1. The general conception of divine Unity.                         50
  §  2. The glory of all things is their Unity.                         50
  §  3. The several kinds of unity. Subjectional. Original. Of
          sequence, and of membership.                                  51
  §  4 Unity of membership. How secured.                                52
  §  5. Variety. Why required.                                          53
  §  6. Change, and its influence on beauty.                            54
  §  7. The love of change. How morbid and evil.                        55
  §  8. The conducing of variety towards unity of subjection.           55
  §  9. And towards unity of sequence.                                  57
  § 10. The nature of proportion. 1st, of apparent proportion.          57
  § 11. The value of apparent proportion in curvature.                  60
  § 12. How by nature obtained.                                         61
  § 13. Apparent proportion in melodies of line.                        61
  § 14. Error of Burke in this matter.                                  62
  § 15. Constructive proportion. Its influence in plants.               63
  § 16. And animals.                                                    64
  § 17. Summary.                                                        64

CHAPTER VII.--Of Repose, or the Type of Divine Permanence.

  §  1. Universal feeling respecting the necessity of repose in art.
          Its sources.                                                  65
  §  2. Repose how expressed in matter.                                 66
  §  3. The necessity to repose of an implied energy.                   66
  §  4. Mental repose, how noble.                                       67
  §  5. Its universal value as a test of art.                           68
  §  6. Instances in the Laocoon and Theseus.                           69
  §  7. And in altar tombs.                                             70

CHAPTER VIII.--Of Symmetry, or the Type of Divine Justice.

  §  1. Symmetry, what and how found in organic nature.                 72
  §  2. How necessary in art.                                           72
  §  3. To what its agreeableness is referable. Various instances.      73
  §  4. Especially in religious art.                                    73

CHAPTER IX.--Of Purity, or the Type of Divine Energy.

  §  1. The influence of light as a sacred symbol.                      75
  §  2. The idea of purity connected with it.                           75
  §  3. Originally derived from conditions of matter.                   76
  §  4. Associated ideas adding to the power of the impression.
          Influence of clearness.                                       76
  §  5. Perfect beauty of surface, in what consisting.                  77
  §  6. Purity only metaphorically a type of sinlessness.               78
  §  7. Energy, how expressed by purity of matter.                      79
  §  8. And of color.                                                   79
  §  9. Spirituality, how so expressed.                                 79

CHAPTER X.--Of Moderation, or the Type of Government by Law.

  §  1. Meaning of the terms Chasteness and Refinement.                 81
  §  2. How referable to temporary fashions.                            81
  §  3. How to the perception of completion.                            81
  §  4. Finish, by great masters esteemed essential.                    82
  §  5. Moderation, its nature and value.                               84
  §  6. It is the girdle of beauty.                                     84
  §  7. How found in natural curves and colors.                         84
  §  8. How difficult of attainment, yet essential to all good.         85

CHAPTER XI.--General Inferences respecting Typical Beauty.

  §  1. The subject incompletely treated, yet admitting of general
          conclusions.                                                  86
  §  2. Typical beauty not created for man's sake.                      87
  §  3. But degrees of it for his sake admitted.                        87
  §  4. What encouragement hence to be received.                        87

CHAPTER XII.--Of Vital Beauty:--First, as Relative.

  §  1. Transition from typical to vital Beauty.                        89
  §  2. The perfection of the theoretic faculty as concerned with
          vital beauty, is charity.                           90
  §  3. Only with respect to plants, less affection than sympathy.      91
  §  4. Which is proportioned to the appearance of energy in the
          plants.                                                       92
  §  5. This sympathy is unselfish, and does not regard utility.        93
  §  6. Especially with respect to animals.                             94
  §  7. And it is destroyed by evidences of mechanism.                  95
  §  8. The second perfection of the theoretic faculty as concerned
          with life is justice of moral judgment.                       96
  §  9. How impeded.                                                    97
  § 10. The influence of moral signs in expression.                     97
  § 11. As also in plants.                                              99
  § 12. Recapitulation.                                                100

CHAPTER XIII.--Of Vital Beauty:--Secondly, as Generic.

  §  1. The beauty of fulfilment of appointed function in every
          animal.                                                      101
  §  2. The two senses of the word "ideal." Either it refers to
          action of the imagination.                                   102
  §  3. Or to perfection of type.                                      103
  §  4. This last sense how inaccurate, yet to be retained.            103
  §  5. Of Ideal form. First, in the lower animals.                    104
  §  6. In what consistent.                                            104
  §  7. Ideal form in vegetables.                                      105
  §  8. The difference of position between plants and animals.         105
  §  9. Admits of variety in the ideal of the former.                  106
  § 10. Ideal form in vegetables destroyed by cultivation.             107
  § 11. Instance in the Soldanella and Ranunculus.                     108
  § 12. The beauty of repose and felicity, how consistent with such
          ideal.                                                       108
  § 13. The ideality of Art.                                           109
  § 14. How connected with the imaginative faculties.                  109
  § 15. Ideality, how belonging to ages and conditions.                110

CHAPTER XIV.--Of Vital Beauty:--Thirdly, in Man.

  §  1. Condition of the human creature entirely different from that
          of the lower animals.                                        111
  §  2. What room here for idealization.                               111
  §  3. How the conception of the bodily ideal is reached.             112
  §  4. Modifications of the bodily ideal owing to influence of mind.
          First, of intellect.                                         113
  §  5. Secondly, of the moral feelings.                               113
  §  6. What beauty is bestowed by them.                               115
  §  7. How the soul culture interferes harmfully with the bodily
          ideal.                                                       115
  §  8. The inconsistency among the effects of the mental virtues on
          the form.                                                    116
  §  9. Is a sign of God's kind purpose towards the race.              116
  § 10. Consequent separation and difference of ideals.                117
  § 11. The _effects_ of the Adamite curse are to be
          distinguished from signs of its immediate activity.          118
  § 12. Which latter only are to be banished from ideal form.          118
  § 13. Ideal form is only to be obtained by portraiture.              119
  § 14. Instances among the greater of the ideal Masters.              119
  § 15. Evil results of opposite practice in modern times.             120
  § 16. The right use of the model. 121
  § 17. Ideal form to be reached only by love.                         121
  § 18. Practical principles deducible.                                122
  § 19. Expressions chiefly destructive of ideal character. 1st,
          Pride.                                                       122
  § 20. Portraiture ancient and modern.                                123
  § 21. Secondly, Sensuality.                                          123
  § 22. How connected with impurity of color.                          124
  § 23. And prevented by its splendor.                                 124
  § 24. Or by severity of drawing.                                     125
  § 25. Degrees of descent in this respect: Rubens, Correggio, and
          Guido.                                                       125
  § 26. And modern art.                                                126
  § 27. Thirdly, ferocity and fear. The latter how to be distinguished
          from awe.                                                    126
  § 28. Holy fear, how distinct from human terror.                     127
  § 29. Ferocity is joined always with fear. Its unpardonableness.     127
  § 30. Such expressions how sought by painters powerless and impious. 128
  § 31. Of passion generally.                                          129
  § 32. It is never to be for itself exhibited--at least on the face.  130
  § 33. Recapitulation.                                                131

CHAPTER XV.--General Conclusions respecting the Theoretic Faculty.

  §  1. There are no sources of the emotion of beauty more than those
          found in things visible.                                     133
  §  2. What imperfection exists in visible things. How in a sort by
          imagination removable.                                       134
  §  3. Which however affects not our present conclusions.             134
  §  4. The four sources from which the pleasure of beauty is derived
          are all divine.                                              134
  §  5. What objections may be made to this conclusion.                135
  §  6. Typical beauty may be æsthetically pursued. Instances.         135
  §  7. How interrupted by false feeling.                              136
  §  8. Greatness and truth are sometimes by the Deity sustained and
          spoken in and through evil men.                              137
  §  9. The second objection arising from the coldness of Christian
          men to external beauty.                                      138
  § 10. Reasons for this coldness in the anxieties of the world. These
          anxieties overwrought and criminal.                          139
  § 11. Evil consequences of such coldness.                            140
  § 12. Theoria the service of Heaven.                                 140

                                SECTION II.

                        OF THE IMAGINATIVE FACULTY.

CHAPTER I.--Of the Three Forms of Imagination.

  §  1. A partial examination only of the imagination is to be
          attempted.                                                   142
  §  2. The works of the metaphysicians how nugatory with respect
          to this faculty.                                             143
  §  3. The definition of D. Stewart, how inadequate.                  143
  §  4. This instance nugatory.                                        144
  §  5. Various instances.                                             145
  §  6. The three operations of the imagination. Penetrative,
          associative, contemplative.                                  146

CHAPTER II.--Of Imagination Associative.

  §  1. Of simple conception.                                          147
  §  2. How connected with verbal knowledge.                           148
  §  3. How used in composition.                                       148
  §  4. Characteristics of composition.                                149
  §  5. What powers are implied by it. The first of the three
          functions of fancy.                                          150
  §  6. Imagination not yet manifested.                                150
  §  7. Imagination is the correlative conception of imperfect
          component parts.                                             151
  §  8. Material analogy with imagination.                             151
  §  9. The grasp and dignity of imagination.                          152
  § 10. Its limits.                                                    153
  § 11. How manifested in treatment of uncertain relations. Its
          deficiency illustrated.                                      154
  § 12. Laws of art, the safeguard of the unimaginative.               155
  § 13. Are by the imaginative painter despised. Tests of imagination. 155
  § 14. The monotony of unimaginative treatment.                       156
  § 15. Imagination never repeats itself.                              157
  § 16. Relation of the imaginative faculty to the theoretic.          157
  § 17. Modification of its manifestation.                             158
  § 18. Instances of absence of imagination.--Claude, Gaspar Poussin.  158
  § 19. Its presence.--Salvator, Nicolo Poussin, Titian, Tintoret.     159
  § 20. And Turner.                                                    160
  § 21. The due function of Associative imagination with respect to
          nature.                                                      161
  § 22. The sign of imaginative work is its appearance of absolute
          truth.                                                       161

CHAPTER III.--Of Imagination Penetrative.

  §  1. Imagination penetrative is concerned not with the combining
          but apprehending of things.                                  163
  §  2. Milton's and Dante's description of flame.                     163
  §  3. The imagination seizes always by the innermost point.          164
  §  4. It acts intuitively and without reasoning.                     165
  §  5. Signs of it in language.                                       165
  §  6. Absence of imagination, how shown.                             166
  §  7. Distinction between imagination and fancy.                     166
  §  8. Fancy how involved with imagination.                           168
  §  9. Fancy is never serious.                                        169
  § 10. Want of seriousness the bar to high art at the present time.   169
  § 11. Imagination is quiet; fancy, restless.                         170
  § 12. The detailing operation of fancy.                              170
  § 13. And suggestive, of the imagination.                            171
  § 14. This suggestiveness how opposed to vacancy.                    172
  § 15. Imagination addresses itself to imagination.                   173
          Instances from the works of Tintoret.                        173
  § 16. The entombment.                                                174
  § 17. The Annunciation.                                              174
  § 18. The Baptism of Christ. Its treatment by various painters.      176
  § 19. By Tintoret.                                                   177
  § 20. The Crucifixion.                                               178
  § 21. The Massacre of innocents.                                     179
  § 22. Various works in the Scuola di San Rocco.                      181
  § 23. The Last Judgment. How treated by various painters.            181
  § 24. By Tintoret.                                                   182
  § 25. The imaginative verity, how distinguished from realism.        183
  § 26. The imagination how manifested in sculpture.                   184
  § 27. Bandinelli, Canova, Mino da Fiesole.                           184
  § 28. Michael Angelo.                                                185
  § 29. Recapitulation. The perfect function of the imagination is
          the intuitive perception of ultimate truth.                  188
  § 30. Imagination how vulgarly understood.                           190
  § 31. How its cultivation is dependent on the moral feelings.        190
  § 32. On independence of mind.                                       191
  § 33. And on habitual reference to nature.                           191

CHAPTER IV.--Of Imagination Contemplative.

  §  1. Imagination contemplative is not part of the essence, but only
          a habit or mode of the faculty.                              192
  §  2. The ambiguity of conception.                                   192
  §  3. Is not in itself capable of adding to the charm of fair
          things.                                                      193
  §  4. But gives to the imagination its regardant power over them.    194
  §  5. The third office of fancy distinguished from imagination
         contemplative.                                                195
  §  6. Various instances.                                             197
  §  7. Morbid or nervous fancy.                                       200
  §  8. The action of contemplative imagination is not to be expressed
          by art.                                                      201
  §  9. Except under narrow limits.--1st. Abstract rendering of
          form without color.                                          201
  § 10. Of color without form.                                         202
  § 11. Or of both without texture.                                    202
  § 12. Abstraction or typical representation of animal form.          203
  § 13. Either when it is symbolically used.                           204
  § 14. Or in architectural decoration.                                205
  § 15. Exception in delicate and superimposed ornament.               206
  § 16. Abstraction necessary from imperfection of materials.          206
  § 17. Abstractions of things capable of varied accident are not
          imaginative.                                                 207
  § 18. Yet sometimes valuable.                                        207
  § 19. Exaggeration. Its laws and limits. First, in scale of
          representation.                                              208
  § 20. Secondly, of things capable of variety of scale.               209
  § 21. Thirdly, necessary in expression of characteristic features on
          diminished scale.                                            210
  § 22. Recapitulation.                                                211

CHAPTER V.--Of the Superhuman Ideal.

  §  1. The subject is not to be here treated in detail.               212
  §  2. The conceivable modes of manifestation of Spiritual Beings
          are four.                                                    212
  §  3. And these are in or through creature forms familiar to us.     213
  §  4. Supernatural character may be impressed on these either by
          phenomena inconsistent with their common nature (compare
          Chap. iv. § 16).                                             213
  §  5. Or by inherent Dignity.                                        213
  §  6. 1st. Of the expression of inspiration.                         214
  §  7. No representation of that which is more than creature is
          possible.                                                    215
  §  8. Supernatural character expressed by modification of
          accessories.                                                 216
  §  9. Landscape of the religious painters. Its character is
          eminently symmetrical.                                       217
  § 10. Landscape of Benozzo Gozzoli.                                  217
  § 11. Landscape of Perugino and Raffaelle.                           218
  § 12. Such Landscape is not to be imitated.                          218
  § 13. Color, and Decoration. Their use in representations of the
          Supernatural.                                                219
  § 14. Decoration so used must be generic.                            220
  § 15. And color pure.                                                220
  § 16. Ideal form of the body itself, of what variety susceptible.    221
  § 17. Anatomical development how far admissible.                     221
  § 18. Symmetry. How valuable.                                        221
  § 19. The influence of Greek art, how dangerous.                     222
  § 20. Its scope, how limited.                                        223
  § 21. Conclusion.                                                    224

ADDENDA.                                                               225

                        LIST OF PLATES TO VOLUME II.


  Court of the Ducal Palace, Venice                         10
                     From a drawing by Ruskin.

  Tomb of the Ilaria di Caretto, Lucca                      72
                        From a photograph.

  The Adoration of the Magi                                158
            From a painting by Ruskin, after Tintoret.

  Study of Stone Pine, at Sestri                           198
                     From a drawing by Ruskin.

                               PART III.

                          OF IDEAS OF BEAUTY.

                              SECTION I.

                      OF THE THEORETIC FACULTY.

                             CHAPTER I.


§ 1. With what care the subject is to be approached.

Although the hasty execution and controversial tone of the former
portions of this essay have been subjects of frequent regret to the
writer, yet the one was in some measure excusable in a work referred to
a temporary end, and the other unavoidable, in one directed against
particular opinions. Nor are either of any necessary detriment to its
availableness as a foundation for more careful and extended survey, in
so far as its province was confined to the assertion of obvious and
visible facts, the verification of which could in no degree be dependent
either on the care with which they might be classed, or the temper in
which they were regarded. Not so with respect to the investigation now
before us, which, being not of things outward, and sensibly
demonstrable, but of the value and meaning of mental impressions, must
be entered upon with a modesty and cautiousness proportioned to the
difficulty of determining the likeness, or community of such
impressions, as they are received by different men, and with seriousness
proportioned to the importance of rightly regarding those faculties over
which we have moral power, and therefore in relation to which we
assuredly incur a moral responsibility. There is not the thing left to
the choice of man to do or not to do, but there is some sort of degree
of duty involved in his determination; and by how much the more,
therefore, our subject becomes embarrassed by the cross influences of
variously admitted passion, administered discipline, or encouraged
affection, upon the minds of men, by so much the more it becomes matter
of weight and import to observe by what laws we should be guided, and of
what responsibilities regardful, in all that we admit, administer, or

§ 2. And of what importance considered.

Nor indeed have I ever, even in the preceding sections, spoken with
levity, though sometimes perhaps with rashness. I have never treated the
subject as other than demanding heedful and serious examination, and
taking high place among those which justify as they reward our utmost
ardor and earnestness of pursuit. That it justifies them must be my
present task to prove; that it demands them has never been doubted. Art,
properly so called, is no recreation; it cannot be learned at spare
moments, nor pursued when we have nothing better to do. It is no
handiwork for drawing-room tables; no relief of the ennui of boudoirs;
it must be understood and undertaken seriously or not at all. To advance
it men's lives must be given, and to receive it their hearts. "Le
peintre Rubens s'amuse à être ambassadeur," said one with whom, but for
his own words, we might have thought that effort had been absorbed in
power, and the labor of his art in its felicity.--"E faticoso lo studio
della pittura, et sempre si fa il mare maggiore," said he, who of all
men was least likely to have left us discouraging report of anything
that majesty of intellect could grasp, or continuity of labor
overcome.[1] But that this labor, the necessity of which in all ages has
been most frankly admitted by the greatest men, is justifiable in a
moral point of view, that it is not the pouring out of men's lives upon
the ground, that it has functions of usefulness addressed to the
weightiest of human interests, and that the objects of it have calls
upon us which it is inconsistent alike with our human dignity and our
heavenward duty to disobey--has never been boldly asserted nor fairly
admitted; least of all is it likely to be so in these days of dispatch
and display, where vanity, on the one side, supplies the place of that
love of art which is the only effective patronage, and on the other, of
the incorruptible and earnest pride which no applause, no reprobation,
can blind to its shortcomings nor beguile of its hope.

And yet it is in the expectation of obtaining at least a partial
acknowledgment of this, as a truth influential both of aim and conduct,
that I enter upon the second division of my subject. The time I have
already devoted to the task I should have considered altogether
inordinate, and that which I fear may be yet required for its completion
would have been cause to me of utter discouragement, but that the object
I propose to myself is of no partial nor accidental importance. It is
not now to distinguish between disputed degrees of ability in
individuals, or agreeableness in canvases, it is not now to expose the
ignorance or defend the principles of party or person. It is to summon
the moral energies of the nation to a forgotten duty, to display the
use, force, and function of a great body of neglected sympathies and
desires, and to elevate to its healthy and beneficial operation that art
which, being altogether addressed to them, rises or falls with their
variableness of vigor,--now leading them with Tyrtæan fire, now singing
them to sleep with baby murmurings.

§ 3. The doubtful force of the term "utility."

Only as I fear that with many of us the recommendation of our own
favorite pursuits is rooted more in conceit of ourselves, than affection
towards others, so that sometimes in our very pointing of the way, we
had rather that the intricacy of it should be admired than unfolded,
whence a natural distrust of such recommendation may well have place in
the minds of those who have not yet perceived any value in the thing
praised, and because also, men in the present century understand the
word Useful in a strange way, or at least (for the word has been often
so accepted from the beginning of time) since in these days, they act
its more limited meaning farther out, and give to it more practical
weight and authority, it will be well in the outset that I define
exactly what kind of utility I mean to attribute to art, and especially
to that branch of it which is concerned with those impressions of
external beauty whose nature it is our present object to discover.

§ 4. Its proper sense.

That is to everything created, pre-eminently useful, which enables it
rightly and fully to perform the functions appointed to it by its
Creator. Therefore, that we may determine what is chiefly useful to man,
it is necessary first to determine the use of man himself.

Man's use and function (and let him who will not grant me this follow me
no farther, for this I purpose always to assume) is to be the witness of
the glory of God, and to advance that glory by his reasonable obedience
and resultant happiness.

Whatever enables us to fulfil this function, is in the pure and first
sense of the word useful to us. Pre-eminently therefore whatever sets
the glory of God more brightly before us. But things that only help us
to exist, are in a secondary and mean sense, useful, or rather, if they
be looked for alone, they are useless and worse, for it would be better
that we should not exist, than that we should guiltily disappoint the
purposes of existence.

§ 5. How falsely applied in these times.

And yet people speak in this working age, when they speak from their
hearts, as if houses, and lands, and food, and raiment were alone
useful, and as if sight, thought, and admiration,[2] were all
profitless, so that men insolently call themselves Utilitarians, who
would turn, if they had their way, themselves and their race into
vegetables; men who think, as far as such can be said to think, that the
meat is more than the life, and the raiment than the body, who look to
the earth as a stable, and to its fruit as fodder; vinedressers and
husbandmen, who love the corn they grind, and the grapes they crush,
better than the gardens of the angels upon the slopes of Eden; hewers of
wood and drawers of water, who think that the wood they hew and the
water they draw, are better than the pine-forests that cover the
mountains like the shadow of God, and than the great rivers that move
like his eternity. And so comes upon us that woe of the preacher, that
though God "hath made everything beautiful in his time, also he hath set
the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God
maketh from the beginning to the end."

§ 6. The evil consequences of such interpretation. How connected with
       national power.

This Nebuchadnezzar curse, that sends us to grass like oxen, seems to
follow but too closely on the excess or continuance of national power
and peace. In the perplexities of nations, in their struggles for
existence, in their infancy, their impotence, or even their
disorganization, they have higher hopes and nobler passions. Out of the
suffering comes the serious mind; out of the salvation, the grateful
heart; out of the endurance, the fortitude; out of the deliverance, the
faith; but now when they have learned to live under providence of laws,
and with decency and justice of regard for each other; and when they
have done away with violent and external sources of suffering, worse
evils seem arising out of their rest, evils that vex less and mortify
more, that suck the blood though they do not shed it, and ossify the
heart though they do not torture it. And deep though the causes of
thankfulness must be to every people at peace with others and at unity
in itself, there are causes of fear also, a fear greater than of sword
and sedition; that dependence on God may be forgotten because the bread
is given and the water is sure, that gratitude to him may cease because
his constancy of protection has taken the semblance of a natural law,
that heavenly hope may grow faint amidst the full fruition of the world,
that selfishness may take place of undemanded devotion, compassion be
lost in vain-glory, and love in dissimulation,[3] that enervation may
succeed to strength, apathy to patience, and the noise of jesting words
and foulness of dark thoughts, to the earnest purity of the girded loins
and the burning lamp. About the river of human life there is a wintry
wind, though a heavenly sunshine; the iris colors its agitation, the
frost fixes upon its repose. Let us beware that our rest become not the
rest of stones, which so long as they are torrent-tossed, and
thunder-stricken, maintain their majesty, but when the stream is silent,
and the storm passed, suffer the grass to cover them and the lichen to
feed on them, and are ploughed down into dust.

§ 7. How to be averted.

And though I believe that we have salt enough of ardent and holy mind
amongst us to keep us in some measure from this moral decay, yet the
signs of it must be watched with anxiety, in all matter however trivial,
in all directions however distant. And at this time, when the iron roads
are tearing up the surface of Europe, as grapeshot do the sea, when
their great sagene is drawing and twitching the ancient frame and
strength of England together, contracting all its various life, its
rocky arms and rural heart, into a narrow, finite, calculating
metropolis of manufactures, when there is not a monument throughout the
cities of Europe, that speaks of old years and mighty people, but it is
being swept away to build cafés and gaming-houses;[4] when the honor of
God is thought to consist in the poverty of his temple, and the column
is shortened, and the pinnacle shattered, the color denied to the
casement, and the marble to the altar, while exchequers are exhausted in
luxury of boudoirs, and pride of reception-rooms; when we ravage without
a pause all the loveliness of creation which God in giving pronounced
good, and destroy without a thought all those labors which men have
given their lives, and their sons' sons' lives to complete, and have
left for a legacy to all their kind, a legacy of more than their hearts'
blood, for it is of their souls' travail, there is need, bitter need, to
bring back, if we may, into men's minds, that to live is nothing,
unless to live be to know Him by whom we live, and that he is not to be
known by marring his fair works, and blotting out the evidence of his
influences upon his creatures, not amid the hurry of crowds and crash of
innovation, but in solitary places, and out of the glowing intelligences
which he gave to men of old. He did not teach them how to build for
glory and for beauty, he did not give them the fearless, faithful,
inherited energies that worked on and down from death to death,
generation after generation, that we, foul and sensual as we are, might
give the carved work of their poured-out spirit to the axe and the
hammer; he has not cloven the earth with rivers, that their white wild
waves might turn wheels and push paddles, nor turned it up under as it
were fire, that it might heat wells and cure diseases; he brings not up
his quails by the east wind, only to let them fall in flesh about the
camp of men: he has not heaped the rocks of the mountain only for the
quarry, nor clothed the grass of the field only for the oven.

§ 8. Division of the pursuits of men into subservient and objective.

All science and all art may be divided into that which is subservient to
life, and which is the object of it. As subservient to life, or
practical, their results are, in the common sense of the word, useful.
As the object of life or theoretic, they are, in the common sense,
useless; and yet the step between practical and theoretic science is the
step between the miner and the geologist, the apothecary and the
chemist; and the step between practical and theoretic art is that
between the bricklayer and the architect, between the plumber and the
artist, and this is a step allowed on all hands to be from less to
greater; so that the so-called useless part of each profession does by
the authoritative and right instinct of mankind assume the superior and
more noble place, even though books be sometimes written, and that by
writers of no ordinary mind, which assume that a chemist is rewarded for
the years of toil which have traced the greater part of the combinations
of matter to their ultimate atoms, by discovering a cheap way of
refining sugar, and date the eminence of the philosopher, whose life has
been spent in the investigation of the laws of light, from the time of
his inventing an improvement in spectacles.

But the common consent of men proves and accepts the proposition, that
whatever part of any pursuit ministers to the bodily comforts, and
admits of material uses, is ignoble, and whatsoever part is addressed to
the mind only, is noble; and that geology does better in reclothing dry
bones and revealing lost creations, than in tracing veins of lead and
beds of iron; astronomy better in opening to us the houses of heaven
than in teaching navigation; botany better in displaying structure than
in expressing juices; surgery better in investigating organization than
in setting limbs; only it is ordained that, for our encouragement, every
step we make in the more exalted range of science adds something also to
its practical applicabilities; that all the great phenomena of nature,
the knowledge of which is desired by the angels only, by us partly, as
it reveals to farther vision the being and the glory of Him in whom they
rejoice and we live, dispense yet such kind influences and so much of
material blessing as to be joyfully felt by all inferior creatures, and
to be desired by them with such single desire as the imperfection of
their nature may admit;[5] that the strong torrents which, in their own
gladness fill the hills with hollow thunder and the vales with winding
light, have yet their bounden charge of field to feed and barge to bear;
that the fierce flames to which the Alp owes its upheaval and the
volcano its terror, temper for us the metal vein and quickening spring;
and that for our incitement, I say not our reward, for knowledge is its
own reward, herbs have their healing, stones their preciousness, and
stars their times.

§ 9. Their relative dignities.

§ 10. How reversed through erring notions of the contemplative and
        imaginative faculties.

It would appear, therefore, that those pursuits which are altogether
theoretic, whose results are desirable or admirable in themselves and
for their own sake, and in which no farther end to which their
productions or discoveries are referred, can interrupt the contemplation
of things as they are, by the endeavor to discover of what selfish uses
they are capable (and of this order are painting and sculpture), ought
to take rank above all pursuits which have any taint in them of
subserviency to life, in so far as all such tendency is the sign of less
eternal and less holy function.[6] And such rank these two sublime arts
would indeed assume in the minds of nations, and become objects of
corresponding efforts, but for two fatal and widespread errors
respecting the great faculties of mind concerned in them.

The first of these, or the theoretic faculty, is concerned with the
moral perception and appreciation of ideas of beauty. And the error
respecting it is the considering and calling it æsthetic, degrading it
to a mere operation of sense, or perhaps worse, of custom, so that the
arts which appeal to it sink into a mere amusement, ministers to morbid
sensibilities, ticklers and fanners of the soul's sleep.

The second great faculty is the imaginative, which the mind exercises in
a certain mode of regarding or combining the ideas it has received from
external nature, and the operations of which become in their turn
objects of the theoretic faculty to other minds.

[Illustration: COURT OF THE DUCAL PALACE, VENICE. From a drawing by

And the error respecting this faculty is, that its function is one of
falsehood, that its operation is to exhibit things as they are _not_,
and that in so doing it mends the works of God.

§ 11. Object of the present section.

Now, as these are the two faculties to which I shall have occasion
constantly to refer during that examination of the ideas of beauty and
relation on which we are now entering, because it is only as received
and treated by these, that those ideas become exalted and profitable, it
becomes necessary for me, in the outset, to explain their power and
define their sphere, and to vindicate, in the system of our nature,
their true place for the intellectual lens and moral retina by which and
on which our informing thoughts are concentrated and represented.


  [1] Tintoret. (Ridolfi. Vita.)

  [2] We live by admiration, hope, and love. (Excursion, Book IV.)

  [3] Rom. xii. 9.

  [4] The extent of ravage among works of art, or of historical
    interest, continually committing throughout the continent may,
    perhaps, be in some measure estimated from the following facts, to
    which the experience of every traveller may add indefinitely:

    At Beauvois--The magnificent old houses supported on columns of
    workmanship (so far as I recollect) unique in the north of France,
    at the corner of the market-place, have recently been destroyed for
    the enlarging of some ironmongery and grocery warehouses. The arch
    across the street leading to the cathedral has been destroyed also,
    for what purpose, I know not.

    At Rouen--The last of the characteristic houses on the quay is now
    disappearing. When I was last there, I witnessed the destruction of
    the noble gothic portal of the church of St. Nicholas, whose
    position interfered with the courtyard of an hotel; the greater part
    of the ancient churches are used as smithies, or warehouses for
    goods. So also at Tours (St. Julien). One of the most interesting
    and superb pieces of middle-age domestic architecture in Europe,
    opposite the west front of the cathedral, is occupied as a café, and
    its lower story concealed by painted wainscotings; representing, if
    I recollect right, twopenny rolls surrounded by circles of admiring

    At Geneva--The wooden projections or loggias which were once the
    characteristic feature of the city, have been entirely removed
    within the last ten years.

    At Pisa--The old Baptistery is at this present time in process of
    being "restored," that is, dashed to pieces, and common stone
    painted black and varnished, substituted for its black marble. In
    the Campo Santo, the invaluable frescoes, which might be protected
    by merely glazing the arcades, are left exposed to wind and weather.
    While I was there last year I saw a monument put up against the
    lower part of the wall, to some private person; the bricklayers
    knocked out a large space of the lower brickwork, with what
    beneficial effect to the loose and blistered stucco on which the
    frescoes are painted above, I leave the reader to imagine; inserted
    the tablet, and then plastered over the marks of the insertion,
    destroying a portion of the border of one of the paintings. The
    greater part of Giotto's "Satan before God," has been destroyed by
    the recent insertion of one of the beams of the roof.

    The tomb of Antonio Puccinello, which was the last actually put up
    against the frescoes, and which destroyed the terminal subject of
    the Giotto series, bears date 1808.

    It has been proposed (or at least it is so reported) that the church
    of La Spina should be destroyed in order to widen the quay.

    At Florence--One of its most important and characteristic streets,
    that in which stands the church of Or San Michele, has been within
    the last five years entirely destroyed and rebuilt in the French
    style; consisting now almost exclusively of shops of bijouterie and
    parfumerie. Owing to this direction of public funds, the fronts of
    the Duomo, Santa Croce, St. Lorenzo, and half the others in Florence
    remain in their original bricks.

    The old refectory of Santa Croce, containing an invaluable Cenacolo,
    if not by Giotto, at least one of the finest works of his school, is
    used as a carpet manufactory. In order to see the fresco, I had to
    get on the top of a loom. The _cenacolo_ (of Raffaelle?) recently
    discovered, I saw when the refectory it adorns was used as a
    coach-house. The fresco, which gave Raffaelle the idea of the Christ
    of the Transfiguration, is in an old wood shed at San Miniato,
    concealed behind a heap of faggots. In June, last year, I saw
    Gentile da Fabriano's picture of the Adoration of the Magi,
    belonging to the Academy of Florence, put face upmost in a shower of
    rain in an open cart; on my suggesting the possibility of the rain
    hurting it, an old piece of matting was thrown over its face, and it
    was wheeled away "per essere pulita." What fate this signified, is
    best to be discovered from the large Perugino in the Academy; whose
    divine distant landscape is now almost concealed by the mass of
    French ultramarine, painted over it apparently with a common house
    brush, by the picture cleaner.

    Not to detain the reader by going through the cities of Italy, I
    will only further mention, that at Padua, the rain beats through the
    west window of the Arena chapel, and runs down _over_ the frescoes.
    That at Venice, in September last, I saw three buckets set in the
    scuola di San Rocco to catch the rain which came _through_ the
    _canvases_ of Tintoret on the roof; and that while the old works of
    art are left thus unprotected, the palaces are being restored in the
    following modes. The English residents knock out bow windows to see
    up and down the canal. The Italians paint all the _marble_ white or
    cream color, stucco the fronts, and paint them in blue and white
    stripes to imitate alabaster. (This has been done with Danieli's
    hotel, with the north angle of the church of St. Mark, there
    replacing the real alabasters which have been torn down, with a
    noble old house in St. Mark's place, and with several in the narrow
    canals.) The marbles of St. Mark's, and carvings, are being
    _scraped_ down to make them look bright--the lower arcade of the
    Doge's palace is whitewashed--the entrance porch is being
    restored--the operation having already proceeded so far as the
    knocking off of the heads of the old statues--an iron railing
    painted black and yellow has been put round the court. Faded
    tapestries, and lottery tickets (the latter for the benefit of
    charitable institutions) are exposed for sale in the council

  [5] Hooker, Eccl. Pol. Book I. chap. ii. § 2.

  [6] I do not assert that the accidental utility of a theoretic
    pursuit, as of botany for instance, in any way degrades it, though
    it cannot be considered as elevating it. But essential utility, a
    purpose to which the pursuit is in some measure referred, as in
    architecture, invariably degrades, because then the theoretic part
    of the art is comparatively lost sight of; and thus architecture
    takes a level below that of sculpture or painting, even when the
    powers of mind developed in it are of the same high order.

    When we pronounce the name of Giotto, our venerant thoughts are at
    Assisi and Padua, before they climb the Campanile of Santa Maria del
    Fiore. And he who would raise the ghost of Michael Angelo, must
    haunt the Sistine and St. Lorenzo, not St. Peter's.

                               CHAPTER II.


§ 1. Explanation of the term "theoretic."

I proceed therefore first, to examine the nature of what I have called
the Theoretic faculty, and to justify my substitution of the term
"theoretic" for æsthetic, which is the one commonly employed with
reference to it.

Now the term "æsthesis" properly signifies mere sensual perception of
the outward qualities and necessary effects of bodies, in which sense
only, if we would arrive at any accurate conclusions on this difficult
subject, it should always be used. But I wholly deny that the
impressions of beauty are in any way sensual,--they are neither sensual
nor intellectual, but moral, and for the faculty receiving them, whose
difference from mere perception I shall immediately endeavor to explain,
no term can be more accurate or convenient than that employed by the
Greeks, "theoretic," which I pray permission, therefore, always to use,
and to call the operation of the faculty itself, Theoria.

§ 2. Of the differences of rank in pleasures of sense.

Let us begin at the lowest point, and observe, first, what differences
of dignity may exist between different kinds of æsthetic or sensual
pleasure, properly so called.

Now it is evident that the being common to brutes, or peculiar to man,
can alone be no rational test of inferiority, or dignity in pleasures.
We must not assume that man is the nobler animal, and then deduce the
nobleness of his delights; but we must prove the nobleness of the
delights, and thence the nobleness of the animal. The dignity of
affection is no way lessened because a large measure of it may be found
in lower animals, neither is the vileness of gluttony and lust abated
because they are common to men. It is clear, therefore, that there is a
standard of dignity in the pleasures and passions themselves, by which
we also class the creatures capable of, or suffering them.

§ 3. Use of the terms Temperate and Intemperate.

The first great distinction, we observe, is that noted of Aristotle,
that men are called temperate and intemperate with regard to some, and
not so with respect to others, and that those, with respect to which
they are so called, are, by common consent, held to be the vilest. But
Aristotle, though exquisitely subtle in his notation of facts, does not
frequently give us satisfactory account of, or reason for them. Content
with stating the fact of these pleasures being held the lowest, he shows
not why this estimation of them is just, and confuses the reader by
observing casually respecting the higher pleasures, what is indeed true,
but appears at first opposed to his own position, namely, that "men may
be conceived, as also in these taking pleasure, either rightly, or more
or less than is right."[7] Which being so, and evident capability of
excess or defect existing in pleasures of this higher order, we ought to
have been told how it happens that men are not called intemperate when
they indulge in excess of this kind, and what is that difference in the
nature of the pleasure which diminishes the criminality of its excess.
This let us attempt to ascertain.

§ 4. Right use of the term "intemperate."

Men are held intemperate ([Greek: akolastoi]) only when their desires
overcome or prevent the action of their reason, and they are indeed
intemperate in the exact degree in which such prevention or interference
takes place, and so are actually [Greek: akolastoi], in many instances,
and with respect to many resolves, which lower not the world's
estimation of their temperance. For so long as it can be supposed that
the reason has acted imperfectly owing to its own imperfection, or to
the imperfection of the premises submitted to it, (as when men give an
inordinate preference to their own pursuits, because they cannot, in the
nature of things, have sufficiently experienced the goodness and benefit
of others,) and so long as it may be presumed that men have referred to
reason in what they do, and have not suffered its orders to be disobeyed
through mere impulse and desire, (though those orders may be full of
error owing to the reason's own feebleness,) so long men are not held
intemperate. But when it is palpably evident that the reason cannot have
erred but that its voice has been deadened or disobeyed, and that the
reasonable creature has been dragged dead round the walls of his own
citadel by mere passion and impulse,--then, and then only, men are of
all held intemperate. And this is evidently the case with respect to
inordinate indulgence in pleasures of touch and taste, for these, being
destructive in their continuance not only of all other pleasures, but
of the very sensibilities by which they themselves are received, and as
this penalty is actually known and experienced by those indulging in
them, so that the reason cannot but pronounce right respecting their
perilousness, there is no palliation of the wrong choice; and the man,
as utterly incapable of will,[8] is called intemperate, or [Greek:

It would be well if the reader would for himself follow out this
subject, which it would be irrelevant here to pursue farther, observing
how a certain degree of intemperance is suspected and attributed to men
with respect to higher impulses; as, for instance, in the case of anger,
or any other passion criminally indulged, and yet is not so attributed,
as in the case of sensual pleasures; because in anger the reason is
supposed not to have had time to operate, and to be itself affected by
the presence of the passion, which seizes the man involuntarily and
before he is aware; whereas, in the case of the sensual pleasures, the
act is deliberate, and determined on beforehand, in direct defiance of
reason. Nevertheless, if no precaution be taken against immoderate
anger, and the passions gain upon the man, so as to be evidently wilful
and unrestrained, and admitted contrary to all reason, we begin to look
upon him as, in the real sense of the word, intemperate, or [Greek:
akolastos], and assign to him, in consequence, his place among the
beasts, as definitely as if he had yielded to the pleasurable
temptations of touch or taste.

§ 5. Grounds of inferiority in the pleasures which are subjects of

We see, then, that the primal ground of inferiority in these pleasures
is that which _proves_ their indulgence to be contrary to reason; namely
their destructiveness upon prolongation, and their incapability of
co-existing continually with other delights or perfections of the

And this incapability of continuance directs us to the second cause of
their inferiority; namely, that they are given to us as subservient to
life, as instruments of our preservation--compelling us to seek the
things necessary to our being, and that, therefore, when this their
function is fully performed, they ought to have an end; and can be only
artificially, and under high penalty, prolonged. But the pleasures of
sight and hearing are given as gifts. They answer not any purposes of
mere existence, for the distinction of all that is useful or dangerous
to us might be made, and often is made, by the eye, without its
receiving the slightest pleasure of sight. We might have learned to
distinguish fruits and grain from flowers, without having any superior
pleasure in the aspect of the latter. And the ear might have learned to
distinguish the sounds that communicate ideas, or to recognize
intimations of elemental danger without perceiving either music in the
voice, or majesty in the thunder. And as these pleasures have no
function to perform, so there is no limit to their continuance in the
accomplishment of their end, for they are an end in themselves, and so
may be perpetual with all of us--being in no way destructive, but rather
increasing in exquisiteness by repetition.

§ 6. Evidence of higher rank in pleasures of sight and hearing.

Herein, then, we find very sufficient ground for the higher estimation
of these delights, first, in their being eternal and inexhaustible, and
secondly, in their being evidently no means or instrument of life, but
an object of life. Now in whatever is an object of life, in whatever may
be infinitely and for itself desired, we may be sure there is something
of divine, for God will not make anything an object of life to his
creatures which does not point to, or partake of, Himself. And so,
though we were to regard the pleasures of sight merely as the highest of
sensual pleasures, and though they were of rare occurrence, and, when
occurring, isolated and imperfect, there would still be a supernatural
character about them, owing to their permanence and self-sufficiency,
where no other sensual pleasures are permanent or self-sufficient. But
when, instead of being scattered, interrupted, or chance-distributed,
they are gathered together, and so arranged to enhance each other as by
chance they could not be, there is caused by them not only a feeling of
strong affection towards the object in which they exist, but a
perception of purpose and adaptation of it to our desires; a perception,
therefore, of the immediate operation of the Intelligence which so
formed us, and so feeds us.

Out of which perception arise joy, admiration, and gratitude.

Now the mere animal consciousness of the pleasantness I call æsthesis;
but the exulting, reverent, and grateful perception of it I call
theoria. For this, and this only, is the full comprehension and
contemplation of the beautiful as a gift of God, a gift not necessary to
our being, but added to, and elevating it, and twofold, first of the
desire, and secondly of the thing desired.

§ 7. How the lower pleasures may be elevated in rank.

And that this joyfulness and reverence are a necessary part of theoretic
pleasure is very evident when we consider that, by the presence of these
feelings, even the lower and more sensual pleasures may be rendered
theoretic. Thus Aristotle has subtly noted, that "we call not men
intemperate so much with respect to the scents of roses or herb-perfumes
as of ointments and of condiments," (though the reason that he gives for
this be futile enough.) For the fact is, that of scents artificially
prepared the extreme desire is intemperance, but of natural and
God-given scents, which take their part in the harmony and pleasantness
of creation, there can hardly be intemperance; not that there is any
absolute difference between the two kinds, but that these are likely to
be received with gratitude and joyfulness rather than those, so that we
despise the seeking of essences and unguents, but not the sowing of
violets along our garden banks. But all things may be elevated by
affection, as the spikenard of Mary, and in the Song of Solomon, the
myrrh upon the handles of the lock, and that of Isaac concerning his
son. And the general law for all these pleasures is, that when sought in
the abstract and ardently, they are foul things, but when received with
thankfulness and with reference to God's glory, they become theoretic;
and so I can find something divine in the sweetness of wild fruits, as
well as in the pleasantness of the pure air, and the tenderness of its
natural perfumes that come and go as they list.

§ 8. Ideas of beauty how essentially moral.

It will be understood why I formerly said in the chapter respecting
ideas of beauty, that those ideas were the subject of moral and not of
intellectual, nor altogether of sensual perception; and why I spoke of
the pleasures connected with them as derived from "those material
sources which are agreeable to our moral nature in its purity and
perfection." For, as it is necessary to the existence of an idea of
beauty, that the sensual pleasure which may be its basis, should be
accompanied first with joy, then with love of the object, then with the
perception of kindness in a superior Intelligence, finally with
thankfulness and veneration towards that Intelligence itself, and as no
idea can be at all considered as in any way an idea of beauty, until it
be made up of these emotions, any more than we can be said to have an
idea of a letter of which we perceive the perfume and the fair writing,
without understanding the contents of it, or intent of it; and as these
emotions are in no way resultant from, nor obtainable by, any operation
of the intellect, it is evident that the sensation of beauty is not
sensual on the one hand, nor is it intellectual on the other, but is
dependent on a pure, right, and open state of the heart, both for its
truth and for its intensity, insomuch that even the right after action
of the intellect upon facts of beauty so apprehended, is dependent on
the acuteness of the heart feeling about them; and thus the Apostolic
words come true, in this minor respect as in all others, that men are
alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them,
having the understanding darkened because of the hardness of their
hearts, and so being past feeling, give themselves up to lasciviousness;
for we do indeed see constantly that men having naturally acute
perceptions of the beautiful, yet not receiving it with a pure heart,
nor into their hearts at all, never comprehend it, nor receive good from
it, but make it a mere minister to their desires, and accompaniment and
seasoning of lower sensual pleasures, until all their emotions take the
same earthly stamp, and the sense of beauty sinks into the servant of

§ 9. How degraded by heartless reception.

§ 10. How exalted by affection.

Nor is what the world commonly understands by the cultivation of taste,
anything more or better than this, at least in times of corrupt and
over-pampered civilization, when men build palaces and plant groves and
gather luxuries, that they and their devices may hang in the corners of
the world like fine-spun cobwebs, with greedy, puffed-up, spider-like
lusts in the middle. And this, which in Christian times is the abuse and
corruption of the sense of beauty, was in that Pagan life of which St.
Paul speaks, little less than the essence of it, and the best they had;
for I know not that of the expressions of affection towards external
nature to be found among Heathen writers, there are any of which the
balance and leading thought cleaves not towards the sensual parts of
her. Her beneficence they sought, and her power they shunned, her
teaching through both, they understood never. The pleasant influences of
soft winds and ringing streamlets, and shady coverts; of the violet
couch, and plane-tree shade,[9] they received, perhaps, in a more noble
way than we, but they found not anything except fear, upon the bare
mountain, or in the ghostly glen. The Hybla heather they loved more for
its sweet hives than its purple hues. But the Christian theoria seeks
not, though it accepts, and touches with its own purity, what the
Epicurean sought, but finds its food and the objects of its love
everywhere, in what is harsh and fearful, as well as what is kind, nay,
even in all that seems coarse and commonplace; seizing that which is
good, and delighting more sometimes at finding its table spread in
strange places, and in the presence of its enemies, and its honey coming
out of the rock, than if all were harmonized into a less wondrous
pleasure; hating only what is self-sighted and insolent of men's work,
despising all that is not of God, unless reminding it of God, yet able
to find evidence of him still, where all seems forgetful of him, and to
turn that into a witness of his working which was meant to obscure it,
and so with clear and unoffended sight beholding him forever, according
to the written promise,--Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall
see God.


  [7] [Greek: hôs dei, kai kath' hyperbolên kai elleipsin.]

  [8] Comp. Hooker, Eccl. Pol. Book i. chap. 8.

  [9] Plato, Phædrus, § 9.

                         CHAPTER III.


§ 1. By what test is the health of the perceptive faculty to be

Hitherto we have observed only the distinctions of dignity among
pleasures of sense, considered merely as such, and the way in which any
of them may become theoretic in being received with right feeling.

But as we go farther, and examine the distinctive nature of ideas of
beauty, we shall, I believe, perceive something in them besides æsthetic
pleasure, which attests a more important function belonging to them than
attaches to other sensual ideas, and exhibits a more exalted character
in the faculty by which they are received. And this was what I alluded
to, when I said in the chapter already referred to (§ 1), that "we may
indeed perceive, as far as we are acquainted with the nature of God,
that we have been so constructed as in a healthy state of mind to derive
pleasure from whatever things are illustrative of that nature."

This point it is necessary now farther to develop.

Our first inquiry must evidently be, how we are authorized to affirm of
any man's mind, respecting impressions of sight, that it is in a healthy
state or otherwise. What canon or test is there by which we may
determine of these impressions that they are or are not _rightly_
esteemed beautiful? To what authority, when men are at variance with
each other on this subject, shall it be deputed to judge which is right?
or is there any such authority or canon at all?

For it does not at first appear easy to prove that men ought to like one
thing rather than another, and although this is granted generally by
men's speaking of bad or good taste, it is frequently denied when we
pass to particulars, by the assertion of each individual that he has a
right to his opinion--a right which is sometimes claimed even in moral
matters, though then palpably without foundation, but which does not
appear altogether irrational in matters æsthetic, wherein little
operation of voluntary choice is supposed possible. It would appear
strange, for instance, to assert, respecting a particular person who
preferred the scent of violets to roses, that he had no right to do so.
And yet, while I have said that the sensation of beauty is intuitive and
necessary, as men derive pleasure from the scent of a rose, I have
assumed that there are some sources from which it is rightly derived,
and others from which it is wrongly derived, in other words that men
have no right to think some things beautiful, and no right to remain
apathetic with regard to others.

§ 2. And in what sense may the terms Right and Wrong be attached to its

Hence then arise two questions, according to the sense in which the word
right is taken; the first, in what way an impression of sense may be
deceptive, and therefore a conclusion respecting it untrue; and the
second, in what way an impression of sense, or the preference of one,
may be a subject of will, and therefore of moral duty or delinquency.

To the first of these questions, I answer that we cannot speak of the
immediate impression of sense as false, nor of its preference to others
as mistaken, for no one can be deceived respecting the actual sensation
he perceives or prefers. But falsity may attach to his assertion or
supposition, either that what he himself perceives is from the same
object perceived by others, or is always to be by himself perceived, or
is always to be by himself preferred; and when we speak of a man as
wrong in his impressions of sense, we either mean that he feels
differently from all, or a majority, respecting a certain object, or
that he prefers at present those of his impressions, which ultimately he
will not prefer.

To the second I answer, that over immediate impressions and immediate
preferences we have no power, but over ultimate impressions, and
especially ultimate preferences we have; and that, though we can neither
at once choose whether we shall see an object, red, green, or blue, nor
determine to like the red better than the blue, or the blue better than
the red, yet we can, if we choose, make ourselves ultimately susceptible
of such impressions in other degrees, and capable of pleasures in them
in different measure; and because, wherever power of any kind is given,
there is responsibility attached, it is the duty of men to prefer
certain impressions of sense to others, because they have the power of
doing so, this being precisely analogous to the law of the moral world,
whereby men are supposed not only capable of governing their likes and
dislikes, but the whole culpability or propriety of actions is dependent
upon this capability, so that men are guilty or otherwise, not for what
they do, but for what they desire, the command being not, thou shalt
obey, but thou shalt love, the Lord thy God, which, if men were not
capable of governing and directing their affections, would be the
command of an impossibility.

§ 3. What power we have over impressions of sense.

I assert, therefore, that even with respect to impressions of sense, we
have a power of preference, and a corresponding duty, and I shall show
first the nature of the power, and afterwards the nature of the duty.

Let us take an instance from one of the lowest of the senses, and
observe the kind of power we have over the impressions of lingual taste.
On the first offering of two different things to the palate, it is not
in our power to prevent or command the instinctive preference. One will
be unavoidably and helplessly preferred to the other. But if the same
two things be submitted to judgment frequently and attentively, it will
be often found that their relations change. The palate, which at first
perceived only the coarse and violent qualities of either, will, as it
becomes more experienced, acquire greater subtilty and delicacy of
discrimination, perceiving in both agreeable or disagreeable qualities
at first unnoticed, which on continued experience will probably become
more influential than the first impressions; and whatever this final
verdict may be, it is felt by the person who gives it, and received by
others as a more correct one than the first.

§ 4. Depends on acuteness of attention.

So, then, the power we have over the preference of impressions of taste
is not actual nor immediate, but only a power of testing and comparing
them frequently and carefully, until that which is the more permanent,
the more consistently agreeable, be determined. But when the instrument
of taste is thus in some degree perfected and rendered subtile, by its
being practised upon a single object, its conclusions will be more rapid
with respect to others, and it will be able to distinguish more quickly
in other things, and even to prefer at once, those qualities which are
calculated finally to give it most pleasure, though more capable with
respect to those on which it is more frequently exercised; whence
people are called judges with respect to this or that particular object
of taste.

§ 5. Ultimate conclusions universal.

Now that verdicts of this kind are received as authoritative by others,
proves another and more important fact, namely, that not only changes of
opinion take place in consequence of experience, but that those changes
are from variation of opinion to unity of opinion; and that whatever may
be the differences of estimate among unpractised or uncultivated tastes,
there will be unity of taste among the experienced. And that therefore
the operation of repeated trial and experience is to arrive at
principles of preference in some sort common to all, and which are a
part of our nature.

I have selected the sense of taste for an instance, because it is the
least favorable to the position I hold, since there is more latitude
allowed, and more actual variety of verdict in the case of this sense
than of any other; and yet, however susceptible of variety even the
ultimate approximations of its preferences may be, the authority of
judges is distinctly allowed, and we hear every day the admission, by
those of unpractised palate, that they are, or may be wrong in their
opinions respecting the real pleasurableness of things either to
themselves, or to others.

§ 6. What duty is attached to this power over impressions of sense.

The sense, however, in which they thus use the word "wrong" is merely
that of falseness or inaccuracy in conclusion, not of moral delinquency.
But there is, as I have stated, a duty, more or less imperative,
attached to every power we possess, and therefore to this power over the
lower senses as well as to all others.

And this duty is evidently to bring every sense into that state of
cultivation, in which it shall both form the truest conclusions
respecting all that is submitted to it, and procure us the greatest
amount of pleasure consistent with its due relation to other senses and
functions. Which three constituents of perfection in sense, true
judgment, maximum sensibility, and right relation to others, are
invariably co-existent and involved one by the other, for the true
judgment is the result of the high sensibility, and the high sensibility
of the right relation. Thus, for instance, with respect to pleasures of
taste, it is our duty not to devote such inordinate attention to the
discrimination of them as must be inconsistent with our pursuit, and
destructive of our capacity of higher and preferable pleasures, but to
cultivate the sense of them in that way which is consistent with all
other good, by temperance, namely, and by such attention as the mind at
certain resting moments may fitly pay even to so ignoble a source of
pleasure as this, by which discipline we shall bring the faculty of
taste itself to its real maximum of sensibility; for it may not be
doubted but that health, hunger, and such general refinement of bodily
habits as shall make the body a perfect and fine instrument in all
respects, are better promoters of actual sensual enjoyment of taste,
than the sickened, sluggish, hard-stimulated fastidiousness of

§ 7. How rewarded.

So also it will certainly be found with all the senses, that they
individually receive the greatest and purest pleasure when they are in
right condition and degree of subordination to all the rest; and that by
the over cultivation of any one, (for morbid sources of pleasure and
correspondent temptations to irrational indulgence, confessedly are
attached to all,) we shall add more to their power as instruments of
punishment than of pleasure.

We see then, in this example of the lowest sense, that the power we have
over sensations and preferences depends mainly on the exercise of
attention through certain prolonged periods, and that by this exercise,
we arrive at ultimate, constant, and common sources of agreeableness,
casting off those which are external, accidental, and individual.

§ 8. Especially with respect to ideas of beauty.

That then which is required in order to the attainment of accurate
conclusions respecting the essence of the beautiful, is nothing more
than earnest, loving, and unselfish attention to our impressions of it,
by which those which are shallow, false, or peculiar to times and
temperaments, may be distinguished from those that are eternal. And this
dwelling upon, and fond contemplation of them, (the anschauung of the
Germans,) is perhaps as much as was meant by the Greek theoria; and it
is indeed a very noble exercise of the souls of men, and one by which
they are peculiarly distinguished from the anima of lower creatures,
which cannot, I think, be proved to have any capacity of contemplation
at all, but only a restless vividness of perception and conception, the
"fancy" of Hooker (Eccl. Pol. Book i. Chap. vi. 2). And yet this
dwelling upon them comes not up to that which I wish to express by the
word theoria, unless it be accompanied by full perception of their being
a gift from and manifestation of God, and by all those other nobler
emotions before described, since not until so felt is their essential
nature comprehended.

§ 9. Errors induced by the power of habit.

But two very important points are to be observed respecting the
direction and discipline of the attention in the early stages of
judgment. The first, that, for many beneficent purposes, the nature of
man has been made reconcilable by custom to many things naturally
painful to it, and even improper for it, and that therefore, though by
continued experience, united with thought, we may discover that which is
best of several, yet if we submit ourselves to authority or fashion, and
close our eyes, we may be by custom made to tolerate, and even to love
and long for, that which is naturally painful and pernicious to us,
whence arise incalculable embarrassments on the subject of art.

§ 10. The necessity of submission in early stages of judgment.

The second, that, in order to the discovery of that which is best of two
things, it is necessary that both should be equally submitted to the
attention; and therefore that we should have so much faith in authority
as shall make us repeatedly observe and attend to that which is said to
be right, even though at present we may not feel it so. And in the right
mingling of this faith with the openness of heart, which proves all
things, lies the great difficulty of the cultivation of the taste, as
far as the spirit of the scholar is concerned, though even when he has
this spirit, he may be long retarded by having evil examples submitted
to him by ignorant masters.

The temper, therefore, by which right taste is formed, is first,
patient. It dwells upon what is submitted to it, it does not trample
upon it lest it should be pearls, even though it look like husks, it is
a good ground, soft, penetrable, retentive, it does not send up thorns
of unkind thoughts, to choke the weak seed, it is hungry and thirsty
too, and drinks all the dew that falls on it, it is an honest and good
heart, that shows no too ready springing before the sun be up, but fails
not afterwards; it is distrustful of itself, so as to be ready to
believe and to try all things, and yet so trustful of itself, that it
will neither quit what it has tried, nor take anything without trying.
And that pleasure which it has in things that it finds true and good, is
so great that it cannot possibly be led aside by any tricks of fashion,
nor diseases of vanity, it cannot be cramped in its conclusions by
partialities and hypocrisies, its visions and its delights are too
penetrating, too living, for any whitewashed object or shallow fountain
long to endure or supply. It clasps all that it loves so hard, that it
crushes it if it be hollow.

§ 11. The large scope of matured judgment.

Now, the conclusions of this disposition are sure to be eventually
right, more and more right according to the general maturity of all the
powers, but it is sure to come right at last, because its operation is
in analogy to, and in harmony with, the whole spirit of the Christian
moral system, and that which it will ultimately love and rest in, are
great sources of happiness common to all the human race, and based on
the relations they hold to their Creator.

These common and general sources of pleasure are, I believe, a certain
seal, or impress of divine work and character, upon whatever God has
wrought in all the world; only, it being necessary for the perception of
them, that their contraries should also be set before us, these divine
qualities, though inseparable from all divine works, are yet suffered to
exist in such varieties of degree, that their most limited manifestation
shall, in opposition to their most abundant, act as a foil or contrary,
just as we conceive of cold as contrary to heat, though the most extreme
cold we can produce or conceive is not inconsistent with an unknown
amount of heat in the body.

§ 12. How distinguishable from false taste.

Our purity of taste, therefore, is best tested by its universality, for
if we can only admire this thing or that, we may be sure that our cause
for liking is of a finite and false nature. But if we can perceive
beauty in everything of God's doing, we may argue that we have reached
the true perception of its universal laws. Hence, false taste may be
known by its fastidiousness, by its demands of pomp, splendor, and
unusual combination, by its enjoyment only of particular styles and
modes of things, and by its pride also, for it is forever meddling,
mending, accumulating, and self-exulting, its eye is always upon itself,
and it tests all things around it by the way they fit it. But true
taste is forever growing, learning, reading, worshipping, laying its
hand upon its mouth because it is astonished, casting its shoes from off
its feet because it finds all ground holy, lamenting over itself and
testing itself by the way that it fits things. And it finds whereof to
feed, and whereby to grow, in all things, and therefore the complaint so
often made by young artists that they have not within their reach
materials, or subjects enough for their fancy, is utterly groundless,
and the sign only of their own blindness and inefficiency; for there is
that to be seen in every street and lane of every city, that to be felt
and found in every human heart and countenance, that to be loved in
every road-side weed and moss-grown wall, which in the hands of faithful
men, may convey emotions of glory and sublimity continual and exalted.

§ 13. The danger of a spirit of choice.

Let therefore the young artist beware of the spirit of choice,[10] it is
an insolent spirit at the best and commonly a base and blind one too,
checking all progress and blasting all power, encouraging weaknesses,
pampering partialities, and teaching us to look to accidents of nature
for the help and the joy which should come from our own hearts. He draws
nothing well who thirsts not to draw _every_thing; when a good painter
shrinks, it is because he is humbled, not fastidious, when he stops, it
is because he is surfeited, and not because he thinks nature has given
him unkindly food, or that he fears famine.[11] I have seen a man of
true taste pause for a quarter of an hour to look at the channellings
that recent rain had traced in a heap of cinders.

§ 14. And criminality.

And here is evident another reason of that duty which we owe respecting
impressions of sight, namely, to discipline ourselves to the enjoyment
of those which are eternal in their nature, not only because these are
the most acute, but because they are the most easily, constantly, and
unselfishly attainable. For had it been ordained by the Almighty that
the highest pleasures of sight should be those of most difficult
attainment, and that to arrive at them it should be necessary to
accumulate gilded palaces tower over tower, and pile artificial
mountains around insinuated lakes, there would have been a direct
contradiction between the unselfish duties and inherent desires of every
individual. But no such contradiction exists in the system of Divine
Providence, which, leaving it open to us, if we will, as creatures in
probation, to abuse this sense like every other, and pamper it with
selfish and thoughtless vanities as we pamper the palate with deadly
meats, until the appetite of tasteful cruelty is lost in its sickened
satiety, incapable of pleasure unless, Caligula like, it concentrate the
labor of a million of lives into the sensation of an hour, leaves it
also open to us, by humble and loving ways, to make ourselves
susceptible of deep delight from the meanest objects of creation, and of
a delight which shall not separate us from our fellows, nor require the
sacrifice of any duty or occupation, but which shall bind us closer to
men and to God, and be with us always, harmonized with every action,
consistent with every claim, unchanging and eternal.

§ 15. How certain conclusions respecting beauty are by reason

Seeing then that these qualities of material objects which are
calculated to give us this universal pleasure, are demonstrably constant
in their address to human nature, they must belong in some measure to
whatever has been esteemed beautiful throughout successive ages of the
world (and they are also by their definition common to all the works of
God). Therefore it is evident that it must be possible to reason them
out, as well as to feel them out; possible to divest every object of
that which makes it accidentally or temporarily pleasant, and to strip
it bare of distinctive qualities, until we arrive at those which it has
in common with all other beautiful things, which we may then safely
affirm to be the cause of its ultimate and true delightfulness.

§ 16. With what liabilities to error.

Now this process of reasoning will be that which I shall endeavor to
employ in the succeeding investigations, a process perfectly safe, so
long as we are quite sure that we are reasoning concerning objects which
produce in us one and the same sensation, but not safe if the sensation
produced be of a different nature, though it may be equally agreeable;
for what produces a different sensation must be a different cause. And
the difficulty of reasoning respecting beauty arises chiefly from the
ambiguity of the word, which stands in different people's minds for
totally different sensations, for which there can be no common cause.

When, for instance, Mr. Alison endeavors to support his position that
"no man is sensible to beauty in those objects with regard to which he
has not previous ideas," by the remark that "the beauty of a theory, or
of a relic of antiquity, is unintelligible to a peasant," we see at once
that it is hopeless to argue with a man who, under his general term
beauty, may, for anything we know, be sometimes speaking of mathematical
demonstrability and sometimes of historical interest; while even if we
could succeed in limiting the term to the sense of external
attractiveness, there would be still room for many phases of error; for
though the beauty of a snowy mountain and of a human cheek or forehead,
so far as both are considered as mere matter, is the same, and traceable
to certain qualities of color and line, common to both, and by reason
extricable, yet the flush of the cheek and moulding of the brow, as they
express modesty, affection, or intellect, possess sources of
agreeableness which are not common to the snowy mountain, and the
interference of whose influence we must be cautious to prevent in our
examination of those which are material and universal.[12]

§ 17. The term "beauty" how limitable in the outset. Divided into
        typical and vital.

The first thing, then, that we have to do, is accurately to discriminate
and define those appearances from which we are about to reason as
belonging to beauty, properly so called, and to clear the ground of all
the confused ideas and erroneous theories with which the misapprehension
or metaphorical use of the term has encumbered it.

By the term beauty, then, properly are signified two things. First, that
external quality of bodies already so often spoken of, and which,
whether it occur in a stone, flower, beast, or in man, is absolutely
identical, which, as I have already asserted, may be shown to be in
some sort typical of the Divine attributes, and which, therefore, I
shall, for distinction's sake, call typical beauty; and, secondarily,
the appearance of felicitous fulfilment of function in living things,
more especially of the joyful and right exertion of perfect life in man.
And this kind of beauty I shall call vital beauty.

Any application of the word beautiful to other appearances or qualities
than these, is either false or metaphorical, as, for instance, to the
splendor of a discovery, the fitness of a proportion, the coherence of a
chain of reasoning, or the power of bestowing pleasure which objects
receive from association, a power confessedly great, and interfering, as
we shall presently find, in a most embarrassing way with the
attractiveness of inherent beauty.

But in order that the mind of the reader may not be biassed at the
outset by that which he may happen to have received of current theories
respecting beauty, founded on the above metaphorical uses of the word,
(theories which are less to be reprobated as accounting falsely for the
sensations of which they treat, than as confusing two or more
pleasurable sensations together,) I shall briefly glance at the four
erroneous positions most frequently held upon this subject, before
proceeding to examine those typical and vital properties of things, to
which I conceive that all our original conceptions of beauty may be


  [10]                "Nothing comes amiss,--
               A good digestion turneth all to health."--G. HERBERT.

  [11] Yet note the difference between the choice that comes of pride,
    and the choice that comes of love, and compare Chap. xv. § 6.

  [12] Compare Spenser. (Hymn to Beauty.)

               "But ah, believe me, there is more than so,
                That works such wonders in the minds of men."

                           CHAPTER IV.


§ 1. Of the false opinion that truth is beauty, and vice versa.

I purpose at present to speak only of four of the more current opinions
respecting beauty, for of the errors connected with the pleasurableness
of proportion, and of the expression of right feelings in the
countenance, I shall have opportunity to treat in the succeeding
chapters; (compare Ch. VI. Ch. XVI.)

Those erring or inconsistent positions which I would at once dismiss
are, the first, that the beautiful is the true, the second, that the
beautiful is the useful, the third, that it is dependent on custom, and
the fourth, that it is dependent on the association of ideas.

To assert that the beautiful is the true, appears, at first, like
asserting that propositions are matter, and matter propositions. But
giving the best and most rational interpretation we can, and supposing
the holders of this strange position to mean only that things are
beautiful which appear what they indeed are, and ugly which appear what
they are not, we find them instantly contradicted by each and every
conclusion of experience. A stone looks as truly a stone as a rose looks
a rose, and yet is not so beautiful; a cloud may look more like a castle
than a cloud, and be the more beautiful on that account. The mirage of
the desert is fairer than its sands; the false image of the under heaven
fairer than the sea. I am at a loss to know how any so untenable a
position could ever have been advanced; but it may, perhaps, have arisen
from some confusion of the beauty of art with the beauty of nature, and
from an illogical expansion of the very certain truth, that nothing is
beautiful in art, which, professing to be an imitation, or a statement,
is not as such in some sort true.

§ 2. Of the false opinion that beauty is usefulness. Compare Chap. xii.
       § 5.

That the beautiful is the useful, is an assertion evidently based on
that limited and false sense of the latter term which I have already
deprecated. As it is the most degrading and dangerous supposition which
can be advanced on the subject, so, fortunately, it is the most
palpably absurd. It is to confound admiration with hunger, love with
lust, and life with sensation; it is to assert that the human creature
has no ideas and no feelings, except those ultimately referable to its
brutal appetites. It has not a single fact nor appearance of fact to
support it, and needs no combating, at least until its advocates have
obtained the consent of the majority of mankind, that the most beautiful
productions of nature are seeds and roots; and of art, spades and

§ 3. Of the false opinion that beauty results from custom. Compare Chap.
       vi. § 1.

Somewhat more rational grounds appear for the assertion that the sense
of the beautiful arises from familiarity with the object, though even
this could not long be maintained by a thinking person. For all that can
be alleged in defence of such a supposition is, that familiarity
deprives some objects which at first appeared ugly, of much of their
repulsiveness, whence it is as rational to conclude that familiarity is
the cause of beauty, as it would be to argue that because it is possible
to acquire a taste for olives, therefore custom is the cause of
lusciousness in grapes. Nevertheless, there are some phenomena resulting
from the tendency of our nature to be influenced by habit of which it
may be well to observe the limits.

§ 4. The twofold operation of custom. It deadens sensation, but confirms

§ 5. But never either creates or destroys the essence of beauty.

Custom has a twofold operation: the one to deaden the frequency and
force of repeated impressions, the other to endear the familiar object
to the affections. Commonly, where the mind is vigorous, and the power
of sensation very perfect, it has rather the last operation than the
first; with meaner minds, the first takes place in the higher degree, so
that they are commonly characterized by a desire of excitement, and the
want of the loving, fixed, theoretic power. But both take place in some
degree with all men, so that as life advances, impressions of all kinds
become less rapturous owing to their repetition. It is however
beneficently ordained that repulsiveness shall be diminished by custom
in a far greater degree than the sensation of beauty, so that the
anatomist in a little time loses all sense of horror in the torn flesh,
and carous bone, while the sculptor ceases not to feel to the close of
his life, the deliciousness of every line of the outward frame. So then
as in that with which we are made familiar, the repulsiveness is
constantly diminishing, and such claims as it may be able to put forth
on the affections are daily becoming stronger, while in what is
submitted to us of new or strange, that which may be repulsive is felt
in its full force, while no hold is as yet laid on the affections, there
is a very strong preference induced in most minds for that to which they
are not accustomed over that they know not, and this is strongest in
those which are least open to sensations of positive beauty. But however
far this operation may be carried, its utmost effect is but the
deadening and approximating the sensations of beauty and ugliness. It
never mixes nor crosses, nor in any way alters them; it has not the
slightest connection with nor power over their nature. By tasting two
wines alternately, we may deaden our perception of their flavor; nay, we
may even do more than can ever be done in the case of sight, we may
confound the two flavors together. But it will hardly be argued
therefore that custom is the cause of either flavor. And so, though by
habit we may deaden the effect of ugliness or beauty, it is not for that
reason to be affirmed that habit is the cause of either sensation. We
may keep a skull beside us as long as we please, we may overcome its
repulsiveness, we may render ourselves capable of perceiving many
qualities of beauty about its lines, we may contemplate it for years
together if we will, it and nothing else, but we shall not get ourselves
to think as well of it as of a child's fair face.

§ 6. Instances.

It would be easy to pursue the subject farther, but I believe that every
thoughtful reader will be perfectly well able to supply farther
illustrations, and sweep away the sandy foundations of the opposite
theory, unassisted. Let it, however, be observed, that in spite of all
custom, an Englishman instantly acknowledges, and at first sight, the
superiority of the turban to the hat, or of the plaid to the coat, that
whatever the dictates of immediate fashion may compel, the superior
gracefulness of the Greek or middle age costumes is invariably felt, and
that, respecting what has been asserted of negro nations looking with
disgust on the white face, no importance whatever is to be attached to
the opinions of races who have never received any ideas of beauty
whatsoever, (these ideas being only received by minds under some
certain degree of cultivation,) and whose disgust arises naturally from
what they may suppose to be a sign of weakness or ill health. It would
be futile to proceed into farther detail. I pass to the last and most
weighty theory, that the agreeableness in objects which we call beauty
is the result of the association with them of agreeable or interesting

§ 7. Of the false opinion that beauty depends on the association of

Frequent has been the support, and wide the acceptance of this
supposition, and yet I suppose that no two consecutive sentences were
ever written in defence of it, without involving either a contradiction
or a confusion of terms. Thus Alison, "There are scenes undoubtedly more
beautiful than Runnymede, yet to those who recollect the great event
that passed there, there is no scene perhaps which so strongly seizes on
the imagination." Here we are wonder-struck at the audacious obtuseness
which would prove the power of imagination by its overcoming that very
other power (of inherent beauty) whose existence the arguer denies. For
the only logical conclusion which can possibly be drawn from the above
sentence is, that imagination is _not_ the source of beauty, for
although no scene seizes so strongly on the imagination, yet there are
scenes "more beautiful than Runnymede." And though instances of
self-contradiction as laconic and complete as this are to be found in
few writers except Alison, yet if the arguments on the subject be fairly
sifted from the mass of confused language with which they are always
encumbered and placed in logical form, they will be found invariably to
involve one of these two syllogisms, either, association gives pleasure,
and beauty gives pleasure, therefore association is beauty. Or, the
power of association is stronger than the power of beauty, therefore the
power of association _is_ the power of beauty.

§ 8. Association. Is, 1st, rational. It is of no efficiency as a cause
       of beauty.

Nevertheless it is necessary for us to observe the real value and
authority of association in the moral system, and how ideas of actual
beauty may be affected by it, otherwise we shall be liable to
embarrassment throughout the whole of the succeeding argument.

Association is of two kinds. Rational and accidental. By rational
association I understand the interest which any object may bear
historically as having been in some way connected with the affairs or
affections of men; an interest shared in the minds of all who are aware
of such connection: which to call beauty is mere and gross confusion of
terms, it is no theory to be confuted, but a misuse of language to be
set aside, a misuse involving the positions that in uninhabited
countries the vegetation has no grace, the rock no dignity, the cloud no
color, and that the snowy summits of the Alps receive no loveliness from
the sunset light, because they have not been polluted by the wrath,
ravage, and misery of men.

§ 9. Association accidental. The extent of its influence.

By accidental association, I understand the accidental connection of
ideas and memories with material things, owing to which those material
things are regarded as agreeable or otherwise, according to the nature
of the feelings or recollections they summon; the association being
commonly involuntary and oftentimes so vague as that no distinct image
is suggested by the object, but we feel a painfulness in it or pleasure
from it, without knowing wherefore. Of this operation of the mind (which
is that of which I spoke as causing inextricable embarrassments on the
subject of beauty) the experience is constant, so that its more
energetic manifestations require no illustration. But I do not think
that the minor degrees and shades of this great influence have been
sufficiently appreciated. Not only all vivid emotions and all
circumstances of exciting interest leave their light and shadow on the
senseless things and instruments among which or through whose agency
they have been felt or learned, but I believe that the eye cannot rest
on a material form, in a moment of depression or exultation, without
communicating to that form a spirit and a life, a life which will make
it afterwards in some degree loved or feared, a charm or a painfulness
for which we shall be unable to account even to ourselves, which will
not indeed be perceptible, except by its delicate influence on our
judgment in cases of complicated beauty. Let the eye but rest on a rough
piece of branch of curious form during a conversation with a friend,
rest, however, unconsciously, and though the conversation be forgotten,
though every circumstance connected with it be as utterly lost to the
memory as though it had not been, yet the eye will, through the whole
life after, take a certain pleasure in such boughs which it had not
before, a pleasure so slight, a trace of feeling so delicate as to
leave us utterly unconscious of its peculiar power, but undestroyable by
any reasoning, a part, thenceforward, of our constitution, destroyable
only by the same arbitrary process of association by which it was
created. Reason has no effect upon it whatsoever. And there is probably
no one opinion which is formed by any of us, in matters of taste, which
is not in some degree influenced by unconscious association of this
kind. In many who have no definite rules of judgment, preference is
decided by little else, and thus, unfortunately, its operations are
mistaken for, or rather substituted for, those of inherent beauty, and
its real position and value in the moral system is in a great measure

§ 10. The dignity of its function.

For I believe that mere pleasure and pain have less associative power
than duty performed or omitted, and that the great use of the
associative faculty is not to add beauty to material things, but to add
force to the conscience. But for this external and all-powerful witness,
the voice of the inward guide might be lost in each particular instance,
almost as soon as disobeyed; the echo of it in after time, whereby,
though perhaps feeble as warning, it becomes powerful as punishment,
might be silenced, and the strength of the protection pass away in the
lightness of the lash. Therefore it has received the power of enlisting
external and unmeaning things in its aid, and transmitting to all that
is indifferent, its own authority to reprove or reward, so that, as we
travel the way of life, we have the choice, according to our working, of
turning all the voices of nature into one song of rejoicing, and all her
lifeless creatures into a glad company, whereof the meanest shall be
beautiful in our eyes, by its kind message, or of withering and
quenching her sympathy into a fearful, withdrawn, silence of
condemnation, or into a crying out of her stones, and a shaking of her
dust against us. Nor is it any marvel that the theoretic faculty should
be overpowered by this momentous operation, and the indifferent appeals
and inherent glories of external things in the end overlooked, when the
perfection of God's works is felt only as the sweetness of his promises,
and their admirableness only as the threatenings of his power.

§ 11. How it is connected with impressions of beauty.

But it is evident that the full exercise of this noble function of the
associative faculty is inconsistent with absolute and incontrovertible
conclusions on subjects of theoretic preference. For it is quite
impossible for any individual to distinguish in himself the unconscious
underworking of indefinite association, peculiar to him individually,
from those great laws of choice under which he is comprehended with all
his race. And it is well for us that it is so, the harmony of God's good
work is not in us interrupted by this mingling of universal and peculiar
principles; for by these such difference is secured in the feelings as
shall make fellowship itself more delightful, by its inter-communicate
character, and such variety of feeling also in each of us separately as
shall make us capable of enjoying scenes of different kinds and orders,
instead of morbidly seeking for some perfect epitome of the beautiful in
one; and also that deadening by custom of theoretic impressions to which
I have above alluded, is counterbalanced by the pleasantness of acquired
association; and the loss of the intense feeling of the youth, which
"had no need of a remoter charm, by thought supplied, or any interest,
unborrowed from the eye," is replaced by the gladness of conscience, and
the vigor of the reflecting and imaginative faculties, as they take
their wide and aged grasp of the great relations between the earth and
its dead people.

§ 12. And what caution it renders necessary in the examination of them.

In proportion therefore to the value, constancy, and efficiency of this
influence, we must be modest and cautious in the pronouncing of positive
opinions on the subject of beauty. For every one of us has peculiar
sources of enjoyment necessarily opened to him in certain scenes and
things, sources which are sealed to others, and we must be wary on the
one hand, of confounding these in ourselves with ultimate conclusions of
taste, and so forcing them upon all as authoritative, and on the other
of supposing that the enjoyments of others which we cannot share are
shallow or unwarrantable, because incommunicable. I fear, for instance,
that in the former portion of this work I may have attributed too much
community and authority to certain affections of my own for scenery
inducing emotions of wild, impetuous, and enthusiastic characters, and
too little to those which I perceive in others for things peaceful,
humble, meditative, and solemn. So also between youth and age there will
be found differences of seeking, which are not wrong, nor of false
choice in either, but of different temperament, the youth sympathizing
more with the gladness, fulness, and magnificence of things, and the
gray hairs with their completion, sufficiency and repose. And so,
neither condemning the delights of others, nor altogether distrustful of
our own, we must advance, as we live on, from what is brilliant to what
is pure, and from what is promised to what is fulfilled, and from what
is our strength to what is our crown, only observing in all things how
that which is indeed wrong, and to be cut up from the root, is dislike,
and not affection. For by the very nature of these beautiful qualities,
which I have defined to be the signature of God upon his works, it is
evident that in whatever we altogether dislike, we see not all; that the
keenness of our vision is to be tested by the expansiveness of our love,
and that as far as the influence of association has voice in the
question, though it is indeed possible that the inevitable painfulness
of an object, for which we can render no sufficient reason, may be owing
to its recalling of a sorrow, it is more probably dependent on its
accusation of a crime.

                              CHAPTER V.


§ 1. Impossibility of adequately treating the subject.

The subject being now in some measure cleared of embarrassment, let us
briefly distinguish those qualities or types on whose combination is
dependent the power of mere material loveliness. I pretend neither to
enumerate nor perceive them all, for it may be generally observed that
whatever good there may be, desirable by man, more especially good
belonging to his moral nature, there will be a corresponding
agreeableness in whatever external object reminds him of such good,
whether it remind him by arbitrary association or by typical
resemblance, and that the infinite ways, whether by reason or experience
discoverable, by which matter in some sort may remind us of moral
perfections, are hardly within any reasonable limits to be explained, if
even by any single mind they might all be traced. Yet certain palpable
and powerful modes there are, by observing which, we may come at such
general conclusions on the subject as may be practically useful, and
more than these I shall not attempt to obtain.

§ 2. With what simplicity of feeling to be approached.

And first, I would ask of the reader to enter upon the subject with me,
as far as may be, as a little child, ridding himself of all conventional
and authoritative thoughts, and especially of such associations as arise
from his respect for Pagan art, or which are in any way traceable to
classical readings. I recollect that Mr. Alison traces his first
perceptions of beauty in external nature to this most corrupt source,
thus betraying so total and singular a want of natural sensibility as
may well excuse the deficiencies of his following arguments. For there
was never yet the child of any promise (so far as the theoretic
faculties are concerned) but awaked to the sense of beauty with the
first gleam of reason; and I suppose there are few, among those who love
nature otherwise than by profession and at second-hand, who look not
back to their youngest and least-learned days as those of the most
intense, superstitious, insatiable, and beatific perception of her
splendors. And the bitter decline of this glorious feeling, though many
note it not, partly owing to the cares and weight of manhood, which
leave them not the time nor the liberty to look for their lost treasure,
and partly to the human and divine affections which are appointed to
take its place, yet has formed the subject not indeed of lamentation,
but of holy thankfulness for the witness it bears to the immortal origin
and end of our nature, to one whose authority is almost without appeal
in all questions relating to the influence of external things upon the
pure human soul.

              "Heaven lies about us in our infancy,--
               Shades of the prison-house begin to close
               Upon the growing boy.
               But he beholds the light, and whence it flows
               He sees it in his joy.
               The youth, who daily farther from the east
               Must travel, still is nature's priest,
               And by the vision splendid
               Is on his way attended.
               At length the Man perceives it die away
               And fade into the light of common day."

And if it were possible for us to recollect all the unaccountable and
happy instincts of the careless time, and to reason upon them with the
maturer judgment, we might arrive at more rapid and right results than
either the philosophy or the sophisticated practice of art have yet
attained. But we lose the perceptions before we are capable of
methodizing or comparing them.

§ 3. The child instinct respecting space.

§ 4. Continued in after life.

One, however, of these child instincts, I believe that few forget; the
emotion, namely, caused by all open ground, or lines of any spacious
kind against the sky, behind which there might be conceived the sea. It
is an emotion more pure than that caused by the sea itself, for I
recollect distinctly running down behind the banks of a high beach to
get their land line cutting against the sky, and receiving a more
strange delight from this than from the sight of the ocean: I am not
sure that this feeling is common to all children, (or would be common if
they were all in circumstances admitting it), but I have ascertained it
to be frequent among those who possess the most vivid sensibilities for
nature; and I am certain that the modification of it, which belongs to
our after years, is common to all, the love, namely, of a light
distance appearing over a comparatively dark horizon. This I have tested
too frequently to be mistaken, by offering to indifferent spectators
forms of equal abstract beauty in half tint, relieved, the one against
dark sky, the other against a bright distance. The preference is
invariably given to the latter, and it is very certain that this
preference arises not from any supposition of there being greater truth
in this than the other, for the same preference is unhesitatingly
accorded to the same effect in nature herself. Whatever beauty there may
result from effects of light on foreground objects, from the dew of the
grass, the flash of the cascade, the glitter of the birch trunk, or the
fair daylight hues of darker things, (and joyfulness there is in all of
them), there is yet a light which the eye invariably seeks with a deeper
feeling of the beautiful, the light of the declining or breaking day,
and the flakes of scarlet cloud burning like watch-fires in the green
sky of the horizon; a deeper feeling, I say, not perhaps more acute, but
having more of spiritual hope and longing, less of animal and present
life, more manifest, invariably, in those of more serious and determined
mind, (I use the word serious, not as being opposed to cheerful, but to
trivial and volatile;) but, I think, marked and unfailing even in those
of the least thoughtful dispositions. I am willing to let it rest on the
determination of every reader, whether the pleasure which he has
received from these effects of calm and luminous distance be not the
most singular and memorable of which he has been conscious, whether all
that is dazzling in color, perfect in form, gladdening in expression, be
not of evanescent and shallow appealing, when compared with the still
small voice of the level twilight behind purple hills, or the scarlet
arch of dawn over the dark, troublous-edged sea.

§ 5. Whereto this instinct is traceable.

Let us try to discover that which effects of this kind possess or
suggest, peculiar to themselves, and which other effects of light and
color possess not. There _must_ be something in them of a peculiar
character, and that, whatever it be, must be one of the primal and most
earnest motives of beauty to human sensation.

Do they show finer characters of form than can be developed by the
broader daylight? Not so; for their power is almost independent of the
forms they assume or display; it matters little whether the bright
clouds be simple or manifold, whether the mountain line be subdued or
majestic, the fairer forms of earthly things are by them subdued and
disguised, the round and muscular growth of the forest trunks is sunk
into skeleton lines of quiet shade, the purple clefts of the hill-side
are labyrinthed in the darkness, the orbed spring and whirling wave of
the torrent have given place to a white, ghastly, interrupted gleaming.
Have they more perfection or fulness of color? Not so; for their effect
is oftentimes deeper when their hues are dim, than when they are
blazoned with crimson and pale gold; and assuredly, in the blue of the
rainy sky, in the many tints of morning flowers, in the sunlight on
summer foliage and field, there are more sources of mere sensual
color-pleasure than in the single streak of wan and dying light. It is
not then by nobler form, it is not by positiveness of hue, it is not by
intensity of light, (for the sun itself at noonday is effectless upon
the feelings,) that this strange distant space possesses its attractive
power. But there is one thing that it has, or suggests, which no other
object of sight suggests in equal degree, and that is,--Infinity. It is
of all visible things the least material, the least finite, the farthest
withdrawn from the earth prison-house, the most typical of the nature of
God, the most suggestive of the glory of his dwelling-place. For the sky
of night, though we may know it boundless, is dark, it is a studded
vault, a roof that seems to shut us in and down, but the bright distance
has no limit, we feel its infinity, as we rejoice in its purity of

§ 6. Infinity how necessary in art.

Now not only is this expression of infinity in distance most precious
wherever we find it, however solitary it may be, and however unassisted
by other forms and kinds of beauty, but it is of that value that no such
other forms will altogether recompense us for its loss; and much as I
dread the enunciation of anything that may seem like a conventional
rule, I have no hesitation in asserting, that no work of any art, in
which this expression of infinity is possible, can be perfect, or
supremely elevated without it, and that in proportion to its presence,
it will exalt and render impressive even the most tame and trivial
themes. And I think if there be any one grand division, by which it is
at all possible to set the productions of painting, so far as their
mere plan or system is concerned, on our right and left hands, it is
this of light and dark background, of heaven light or of object light.
For I know not any truly great painter of any time, who manifests not
the most intense pleasure in the luminous space of his backgrounds, or
who ever sacrifices this pleasure where the nature of his subject admits
of its attainment, as on the other hand I know not that the habitual use
of dark backgrounds can be shown as having ever been co-existent with
pure or high feeling, and, except in the case of Rembrandt, (and then
under peculiar circumstances only,) with any high power of intellect. It
is however necessary carefully to observe the following modifications of
this broad principle.

§ 7. Conditions of its necessity.

The absolute necessity, for such indeed I consider it, is of no more
than such a mere luminous distant point as may give to the feelings a
species of escape from all the finite objects about them. There is a
spectral etching of Rembrandt, a presentation of Christ in the temple,
where the figure of a robed priest stands glaring by its gems out of the
gloom, holding a crosier. Behind it there is a subdued window light seen
in the opening between two columns, without which the impressiveness of
the whole subject would, I think, be incalculably brought down. I cannot
tell whether I am at present allowing too much weight to my own fancies
and predilections, but without so much escape into the outer air and
open heaven as this, I can take permanent pleasure in no picture.

§ 8. And connected analogies.

And I think I am supported in this feeling by the unanimous practice, if
not the confessed opinion, of all artists. The painter of portrait is
unhappy without his conventional white stroke under the sleeve, or
beside the arm-chair; the painter of interiors feels like a caged bird,
unless he can throw a window open, or set the door ajar; the landscapist
dares not lose himself in forest without a gleam of light under its
farthest branches, nor ventures out in rain, unless he may somewhere
pierce to a better promise in the distance, or cling to some closing gap
of variable blue above;--escape, hope, infinity, by whatever
conventionalism sought, the desire is the same in all, the instinct
constant, it is no mere point of light that is wanted in the etching of
Rembrandt above instanced, a gleam of armor or fold of temple curtain
would have been utterly valueless, neither is it liberty, for though we
cut down hedges and level hills, and give what waste and plain we
choose, on the right hand and the left, it is all comfortless and
undesired, so long as we cleave not a way of escape forward; and however
narrow and thorny and difficult the nearer path, it matters not, so only
that the clouds open for us at its close. Neither will any amount of
beauty in nearer form, make us content to stay with it, so long as we
are shut down to that alone, nor is any form so cold or so hurtful but
that we may look upon it with kindness, so only that it rise against the
infinite hope of light beyond. The reader can follow out the analogies
of this unassisted.

§ 9. How the dignity of treatment is proportioned to the expression of

But although this narrow portal of escape be all that is absolutely
necessary, I think that the dignity of the painting increases with the
extent and amount of the expression. With the earlier and mightier
painters of Italy, the practice is commonly to leave their distance of
pure and open sky, of such simplicity, that it in nowise shall interfere
with or draw the attention from the interest of the figures, and of such
purity, that especially towards the horizon, it shall be in the highest
degree expressive of the infinite space of heaven. I do not mean to say
that they did this with any occult or metaphysical motives. They did it,
I think, with the child-like, unpretending simplicity of all earnest
men; they did what they loved and felt; they sought what the heart
naturally seeks, and gave what it most gratefully receives; and I look
to them as in all points of principle (not, observe, of knowledge or
empirical attainment) as the most irrefragable authorities, precisely on
account of the child-like innocence, which never deemed itself
authoritative, but acted upon desire, and not upon dicta, and sought for
sympathy, not for admiration.

§ 10. Examples among the Southern schools.

And so we find the same simple and sweet treatment, the open sky, the
tender, unpretending, horizontal white clouds, the far winding and
abundant landscape, in Giotto, Taddeo Gaddi, Laurati, Angelico, Benozzo,
Ghirlandajo, Francia, Perogino, and the young Raffaelle, the first
symptom of conventionality appearing in Perugino, who, though with
intense feeling of light and color he carried the glory of his luminous
distance far beyond all his predecessors, began at the same time to use
a somewhat morbid relief of his figures against the upper sky. Thus in
the Assumption of the Florentine Academy, in that of l'Annunziata; and
of the Gallery of Bologna, in all which pictures the lower portions are
incomparably the finest, owing to the light distance behind the heads.
Raffaelle, in his fall, betrayed the faith he had received from his
father and his master, and substituted for the radiant sky of the
Madonna del Cardellino, the chamber-wall of the Madonna della
Sediola--and the brown wainscot of the Baldacchino. Yet it is curious to
observe how much of the dignity even of his later pictures, depends on
such portions as the green light of the lake, and sky behind the rocks,
in the St. John of the tribune, and how the repainted distortion of the
Madonna dell' Impannata, is redeemed into something like elevated
character, merely by the light of the linen window from which it takes
its name.

§ 11. Among the Venetians.

That which by the Florentines was done in pure simplicity of heart, was
done by the Venetians with intense love of the color and splendor of the
sky itself, even to the frequent sacrificing of their subject to the
passion of its distance. In Carpaccio, John Bellini, Giorgione, Titian,
Veronese, and Tintoret, the preciousness of the luminous sky, so far as
it might be at all consistent with their subject, is nearly constant;
abandoned altogether in portraiture only, seldom even there, and never
with advantage. Titian and Veronese, who had less exalted feeling than
the others, affording a few instances of exception, the latter
overpowering his silvery distances with foreground splendor, the other
sometimes sacrificing them to a luscious fulness of color, as in the
Flagellation in the Louvre, by a comparison of which with the unequalled
majesty of the Entombment opposite, the whole power and applicability of
the general principle may at once be tested.

§ 12. Among the painters of landscape.

But of the value of this mode of treatment there is a farther and more
convincing proof than its adoption either by the innocence of the
Florentine or the ardor of the Venetian, namely, that when retained or
imitated from them by the landscape painters of the seventeenth
century, when appearing in isolation from all other good, among the
weaknesses and paltrinesses of Claude, the mannerisms of Gaspar, and the
caricatures and brutalities of Salvator, it yet redeems and upholds all
three, conquers all foulness by its purity, vindicates all folly by its
dignity, and puts an uncomprehended power of permanent address to the
human heart, upon the lips of the senseless and the profane.[13]

§ 13. Other modes in which the power of infinity is felt.

§ 14. The beauty of curvature.

Now, although I doubt not that the general value of this treatment will
be acknowledged by all lovers of art, it is not certain that the point
to prove which I have brought it forward, will be as readily conceded,
namely, the inherent power of all representations of infinity over the
human heart; for there are, indeed, countless associations of pure and
religious kind, which combine with each other to enhance the impression,
when presented in this particular form, whose power I neither deny nor
am careful to distinguish, seeing that they all tend to the same Divine
point, and have reference to heavenly hopes; delights they are in seeing
the narrow, black, miserable earth fairly compared with the bright
firmament, reachings forward unto the things that are before, and
joyfulness in the apparent though unreachable nearness and promise of
them. But there are other modes in which infinity may be represented,
which are confused by no associations of the kind, and which would, as
being in mere matter, appear trivial and mean, but for their
incalculable influence on the forms of all that we feel to be beautiful.
The first of these is the curvature of lines and surfaces, wherein it at
first appears futile to insist upon any resemblance or suggestion of
infinity, since there is certainly in our ordinary contemplation of it,
no sensation of the kind. But I have repeated again and again that the
ideas of beauty are instinctive, and that it is only upon consideration,
and even then in doubtful and disputable way, that they appear in their
typical character; neither do I intend at all to insist upon the
particular meaning which they appear to myself to bear, but merely on
their actual and demonstrable agreeableness, so that, in the present
case, while I assert positively, and have no fear of being able to
prove, that a curve of any kind is more beautiful than a right line, I
leave it to the reader to accept or not, as he pleases, that reason of
its agreeableness, which is the only one that I can at all trace,
namely, that every curve divides itself infinitely by its changes of

§ 15. How constant in external nature.

That all forms of acknowledged beauty are composed exclusively of curves
will, I believe, be at once allowed; but that which there will be need
more especially to prove, is the subtilty and constancy of curvature in
all natural forms whatsoever. I believe that, except in crystals, in
certain mountain forms admitted for the sake of sublimity or contrast,
(as in the slope of debris,) in rays of light, in the levels of calm
water and alluvial land, and in some few organic developments, there are
no lines nor surfaces of nature without curvature, though as we before
saw in clouds, more especially in their under lines towards the horizon,
and in vast and extended plains, right lines are often suggested which
are not actual. Without these we could not be sensible of the value of
the contrasting curves, and while, therefore, for the most part, the eye
is fed in natural forms with a grace of curvature which no hand nor
instrument can follow, other means are provided to give beauty to those
surfaces which are admitted for contrast, as in water by its reflection
of the gradations which it possesses not itself. In freshly-broken
ground, which nature has not yet had time to model, in quarries and
pits which are none of her cutting, in those convulsions and evidences
of convulsion, of whose influence on ideal landscape I shall presently
have occasion to speak, and generally in all ruin and disease, and
interference of one order of being with another, (as in the cattle line
of park trees,) the curves vanish, and violently opposed or broken and
unmeaning lines take their place.

§ 16. The beauty of gradation.

What curvature is to lines, gradation is to shades and colors. It is
_there_ infinity, and divides them into an infinite number of degrees.
Absolutely, without gradation no natural surface can possibly be, except
under circumstances of so rare conjunction as to amount to a lusus
naturæ; for we have seen that few surfaces are without curvature, and
every curved surface must be gradated by the nature of light, which is
most intense when it impinges at the highest angle, and for the
gradation of the few plane surfaces that exist, means are provided in
local color, aerial perspective, reflected lights, etc., from which it
is but barely conceivable that they should ever escape. Hence for
instances of the complete absence of gradation we must look to man's
work, or to his disease and decrepitude. Compare the gradated colors of
the rainbow with the stripes of a target, and the gradual concentration
of the youthful blood in the cheek with an abrupt patch of rouge, or
with the sharply drawn veining of old age.

§ 17. How found in Nature.

Gradation is so inseparable a quality of all natural shade and color
that the eye refuses in art to understand anything as either, which
appears without it, while on the other hand nearly all the gradations of
nature are so subtile and between degrees of tint so slightly separated,
that no human hand can in any wise equal, or do anything more than
suggest the idea of them. In proportion to the space over which
gradation extends, and to its invisible subtilty, is its grandeur, and
in proportion to its narrow limits and violent degrees, its vulgarity.
In Correggio, it is morbid and vulgar in spite of its refinement of
execution, because the eye is drawn to it, and it is made the most
observable and characteristic part of the picture; whereas natural
gradation is forever escaping observation to that degree that the
greater part of artists in working from nature see it not, (except in
certain of its marked developments,) but either lay down such
continuous lines and colors, as are both disagreeable and impossible,
or, receiving the necessity of gradation as a principle instead of a
fact, use it in violently exaggerated measure, and so lose both the
dignity of their own work, and by the constant dwelling of their eyes
upon exaggerations, their sensibility to that of the natural forms. So
that we find the majority of painters divided between the two evil
extremes of insufficiency and affectation, and only a few of the
greatest men capable of making gradation constant and yet extended over
enormous spaces and within degrees of narrow difference, as in the body
of a high light.

§ 18. How necessary in Art.

From the necessity of gradation results what is commonly given as a rule
of art, though its authority as a rule obtains only from its being a
fact of nature, that the extremes of high light and pure color, can
exist only in points. The common rules respecting sixths and eighths,
held concerning light and shade, are entirely absurd and conventional;
according to the subject and the effect of light, the greater part of
the picture will be or ought to be light or dark; but that principle
which is not conventional, is that of all light, however high, there is
some part that is higher than the rest, and that of all color, however
pure, there is some part that is purer than the rest, and that generally
of all shade, however deep, there is some part deeper than the rest,
though this last fact is frequently sacrificed in art, owing to the
narrowness of its means. But on the right gradation or focussing of
light and color depends in great measure, the value of both. Of this, I
have spoken sufficiently in pointing out the singular constancy of it in
the works of Turner. Part II. Sect. II. Chap. II. § 17. And it is
generally to be observed that even raw and valueless color, if rightly
and subtilely gradated will in some measure stand for light, and that
the most transparent and perfect hue will be in some measure
unsatisfactory, if entirely unvaried. I believe the early skies of
Raffaelle owe their luminousness more to their untraceable and subtile
gradation than to inherent quality of hue.

§ 19. Infinity not rightly implied by vastness.

Such are the expressions of infinity which we find in creation, of which
the importance is to be estimated, rather by their frequency than their
distinctness. Let, however, the reader bear constantly in mind that I
insist not on his accepting any interpretation of mine, but only on his
dwelling so long on those objects, which he perceives to be beautiful,
as to determine whether the qualities to which I trace their beauty, be
necessarily there or no. Farther expressions of infinity there are in
the mystery of nature, and in some measure in her vastness, but these
are dependent on our own imperfections, and therefore, though they
produce sublimity, they are unconnected with beauty. For that which we
foolishly call vastness is, rightly considered, not more wonderful, not
more impressive, than that which we insolently call littleness, and the
infinity of God is not mysterious, it is only unfathomable, not
concealed, but incomprehensible: it is a clear infinity, the darkness of
the pure unsearchable sea.


  [13] In one of the smaller rooms of the Pitti palace, over the door,
    is a temptation of St. Anthony, by Salvator, wherein such power as
    the artist possessed is fully manifested, with little,
    comparatively, that is offensive. It is a vigorous and ghastly
    thought, in that kind of horror which is dependent on scenic effect,
    perhaps unrivalled, and I shall have occasion to refer to it again
    in speaking of the powers of imagination. I allude to it here,
    because the sky of the distance affords a remarkable instance of the
    power of light at present under discussion. It is formed of flakes
    of black cloud, with rents and openings of intense and lurid green,
    and at least half of the impressiveness of the picture depends on
    these openings. Close them, make the sky one mass of gloom, and the
    spectre will be awful no longer. It owes to the light of the
    distance both its size and its spirituality. The time would fail me
    if I were to name the tenth part of the pictures which occur to me,
    whose vulgarity is redeemed by this circumstance alone, and yet let
    not the artist trust to such morbid and conventional use of it as
    may be seen in the common blue and yellow effectism of the present
    day. Of the value of moderation and simplicity in the use of this,
    as of all other sources of pleasurable emotion, I shall presently
    have occasion to speak farther.

                                 CHAPTER VI.


§ 1. The general conception of divine Unity.

"All things," says Hooker, "(God only excepted,) besides the nature
which they have in themselves, receive externally some perfection from
other things." Hence the appearance of separation or isolation in
anything, and of self-dependence, is an appearance of imperfection: and
all appearances of connection and brotherhood are pleasant and right,
both as significative of perfection in the things united, and as typical
of that Unity which we attribute to God, and of which our true
conception is rightly explained and limited by Dr. Brown in his XCII.
lecture; that Unity which consists not in his own singleness or
separation, but in the necessity of his inherence in all things that be,
without which no creature of any kind could hold existence for a moment.
Which necessity of Divine essence I think it better to speak of as
comprehensiveness, than as unity, because unity is often understood in
the sense of oneness or singleness, instead of universality, whereas the
only Unity which by any means can become grateful or an object of hope
to men, and whose types therefore in material things can be beautiful,
is that on which turned the last words and prayer of Christ before his
crossing of the Kidron brook. "Neither pray I for these alone, but for
them also which shall believe on me through their word. That they all
may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee."

§ 2. The glory of all things is their Unity.

And so there is not any matter, nor any spirit, nor any creature, but it
is capable of an unity of some kind with other creatures, and in that
unity is its perfection and theirs, and a pleasure also for the
beholding of all other creatures that can behold. So the unity of
spirits is partly in their sympathy, and partly in their giving and
taking, and always in their love; and these are their delight and their
strength, for their strength is in their co-working and army fellowship,
and their delight is in the giving and receiving of alternate and
perpetual currents of good, their inseparable dependency on each other's
being, and their essential and perfect depending on their Creator's: and
so the unity of earthly creatures is their power and their peace, not
like the dead and cold peace of undisturbed stones and solitary
mountains, but the living peace of trust, and the living power of
support, of hands that hold each other and are still: and so the unity
of matter is, in its noblest form, the organization of it which builds
it up into temples for the spirit, and in its lower form, the sweet and
strange affinity, which gives to it the glory of its orderly elements,
and the fair variety of change and assimilation that turns the dust into
the crystal, and separates the waters that be above the firmament from
the waters that be beneath, and in its lowest form; it is the working
and walking and clinging together that gives their power to the winds,
and its syllables and soundings to the air, and their weight to the
waves, and their burning to the sunbeams, and their stability to the
mountains, and to every creature whatsoever operation is for its glory
and for others good.

Now of that which is thus necessary to the perfection of all things, all
appearance, sign, type, or suggestion must be beautiful, in whatever
matter it may appear. And so to the perfection of beauty in lines, or
colors, or forms, or masses, or multitudes, the appearance of some
species of unity is in the most determined sense of the word essential.

§ 3. The several kinds of unity. Subjectional. Original. Of sequence,
       and of membership.

But of the appearances of unity, as of unity itself, there are several
kinds which it will be found hereafter convenient to consider
separately. Thus there is the unity of different and separate things,
subjected to one and the same influence, which may be called
subjectional unity, and this is the unity of the clouds, as they are
driven by the parallel winds, or as they are ordered by the electric
currents, and this the unity of the sea waves, and this of the bending
and undulation of the forest masses, and in creatures capable of will it
is the unity of will or of inspiration. And there is unity of origin,
which we may call original unity, which is of things arising from one
spring and source, and speaking always of this their brotherhood, and
this in matter is the unity of the branches of the trees, and of the
petals and starry rays of flowers, and of the beams of light, and in
spiritual creatures it is their filial relation to Him from whom they
have their being. And there is unity of sequence, which is that of
things that form links in chains, and steps in ascent, and stages in
journeys, and this, in matter, is the unity of communicable forces in
their continuance from one thing to another, and it is the passing
upwards and downwards of beneficent effects among all things, and it is
the melody of sounds, and the beauty of continuous lines, and the
orderly succession of motions and times. And in spiritual creatures it
is their own constant building up by true knowledge and continuous
reasoning to higher perfection, and the singleness and
straight-forwardness of their tendencies to more complete communion with
God. And there is the unity of membership, which we may call essential
unity, which is the unity of things separately imperfect into a perfect
whole, and this is the great unity of which other unities are but parts
and means, it is in matter the harmony of sounds and consistency of
bodies, and among spiritual creatures, their love and happiness and very
life in God.

§ 4. Unity of membership. How secured.

Now of the nature of this last kind of unity, the most important whether
in moral or in those material things with which we are at present
concerned, there is this necessary to be observed, that it cannot exist
between things similar to each other. Two or more equal and like things
cannot be members one of another, nor can they form one, or a whole
thing. Two they must remain, both in nature and in our conception, so
long as they remain alike, unless they are united by a third different
from both. Thus the arms, which are like each other, remain two arms in
our conception. They could not be united by a third arm, they must be
united by something which is not an arm, and which, imperfect without
them as they without it, shall form one perfect body; nor is unity even
thus accomplished, without a difference and opposition of direction in
the setting on of the like members. Therefore among all things which are
to have unity of membership one with another, there must be difference
or variety; and though it is possible that many like things may be made
members of one body, yet it is remarkable that this structure appears
characteristic of the lower creatures, rather than the higher, as the
many legs of the caterpillar, and the many arms and suckers of the
radiata, and that, as we rise in order of being, the number of similar
members becomes less, and their structure commonly seems based on the
principle of the unity of two things by a third, as Plato has it in the
Timæus, § II.

§ 5. Variety. Why required.

Hence, out of the necessity of unity, arises that of variety, a
necessity often more vividly, though never so deeply felt, because lying
at the surfaces of things, and assisted by an influential principle of
our nature, the love of change, and the power of contrast. But it is a
mistake which has led to many unfortunate results, in matters respecting
art, to insist on any inherent agreeableness of variety, without
reference to a farther end. For it is not even true that variety as
such, and in its highest degree, is beautiful. A patched garment of many
colors is by no means so agreeable as one of a single and continuous
hue; the splendid colors of many birds are eminently painful from their
violent separation and inordinate variety, while the pure and colorless
swan is, under certain circumstances, the most beautiful of all
feathered creatures.[14] A forest of all manner of trees is poor, if not
disagreeable in effect,[15] a mass of one species of tree is sublime. It
is therefore only harmonious and chordal variety, that variety which is
necessary to secure and extend unity, (for the greater the number of
objects, which by their differences become members of one another, the
more extended and sublime is their unity,) which is rightly agreeable,
and so I name not variety as essential to beauty, because it is only so
in a secondary and casual sense.[16]

§ 6. Change, and its influence on beauty.

§ 7. The love of change. How morbid and evil.

Of the love of change as a principle of human nature, and the
pleasantness of variety resulting from it, something has already been
said, (Ch. IV. § 4,) only as there I was opposing the idea that our
being familiar with objects was the cause of our delight in them, so
here, I have to oppose the contrary position, that their strangeness is
the cause of it. For neither familiarity nor strangeness have more
operation on, or connection with, impressions of one sense than of
another, and they have less power over the impressions of sense
generally, than over the intellect in its joyful accepting of fresh
knowledge, and dull contemplation of that it has long possessed. Only in
their operation on the senses they act contrarily at different times, as
for instance the newness of a dress or of some kind of unaccustomed food
may make it for a time delightful, but as the novelty passes away, so
also may the delight, yielding to disgust or indifference, which in
their turn, as custom begins to operate, may pass into affection and
craving, and that which was first a luxury, and then a matter of
indifference, becomes a necessity:[17] whereas in subjects of the
intellect, the chief delight they convey is dependent upon their being
newly and vividly comprehended, and as they become subjects of
contemplation they lose their value, and become tasteless and
unregarded, except as instruments for the reaching of others, only that
though they sink down into the shadowy, effectless, heap of things
indifferent, which we pack, and crush down, and stand upon, to reach
things new, they sparkle afresh at intervals as we stir them by throwing
a new stone into the heap, and letting the newly admitted lights play
upon them. And both in subjects of the intellect and the senses it is to
be remembered, that the love of change is a weakness and imperfection of
our nature, and implies in it the state of probation, and that it is to
teach us that things about us here are not meant for our continual
possession or satisfaction, that ever such passion of change was put in
us as that "custom lies upon us with a weight, heavy as frost, and deep
almost as life," and only such weak back and baby grasp given to our
intellect as that "the best things we do are painful, and the exercise
of them grievous, being continued without intermission, so as in those
very actions whereby we are especially perfected in this life we are not
able to persist." And so it will be found that they are the
weakest-minded and the hardest-hearted men that most love variety and
change, for the weakest-minded are those who both wonder most at things
new, and digest worst things old, in so far that everything they have
lies rusty, and loses lustre for want of use; neither do they make any
stir among their possessions, nor look over them to see what may be made
of them, nor keep any great store, nor are householders with storehouses
of things new and old, but they catch at the new-fashioned garments, and
let the moth and thief look after the rest; and the hardest-hearted men
are those that least feel the endearing and binding power of custom, and
hold on by no cords of affection to any shore, but drive with the waves
that cast up mire and dirt. And certainly it is not to be held that the
perception of beauty and desire of it, are greatest in the hardest heart
and weakest brain; but the love of variety is so, and therefore variety
can be no cause of the beautiful, except, as I have said, when it is
necessary for the perception of unity, neither is there any better test
of that which is indeed beautiful than its surviving or annihilating the
love of change; and this is a test which the best judges of art have
need frequently to use; and the wisest of them will use it always, for
there is much in art that surprises by its brilliancy, or attracts by
its singularity, that can hardly but by course of time, though assuredly
it will by course of time, be winnowed away from the right and real
beauty whose retentive power is forever on the increase, a bread of the
soul for which the hunger is continual.

§ 8. The conducting of variety towards unity of subjection.

Receiving, therefore, variety only as that which accomplishes unity, or
makes it perceived, its operation is found to be very precious, both in
that which I have called unity of subjection, and unity of sequence, as
well as in unity of membership; for although things in all respects the
same may, indeed, be subjected to one influence, yet the power of the
influence, and their obedience to it, is best seen by varied operation
of it on their individual differences, as in clouds and waves there is a
glorious unity of rolling, wrought out by the wild and wonderful
differences of their absolute forms, which, if taken away, would leave
in them only multitudinous and petty repetition, instead of the majestic
oneness of shared passion. And so in the waves and clouds of human
multitude when they are filled with one thought, as we find frequently
in the works of the early Italian men of earnest purpose, who despising,
or happily ignorant of, the sophistications of theories, and the
proprieties of composition, indicated by perfect similarity of action
and gesture on the one hand, and by the infinite and truthful variation
of expression on the other, the most sublime strength because the most
absorbing unity, of multitudinous passion that ever human heart
conceived. Hence, in the cloister of St. Mark's, the intense, fixed,
statue-like silence of ineffable adoration upon the spirits in prison at
the feet of Christ, side by side, the hands lifted, and the knees bowed,
and the lips trembling together;[18] and in St. Domenico of Fiesole,[19]
that whirlwind rush of the Angels and the redeemed souls round about him
at his resurrection, so that we hear the blast of the horizontal
trumpets mixed with the dying clangor of their ingathered wings. The
same great feeling occurs throughout the works of the serious men,
though most intensely in Angelico, and it is well to compare with it the
vileness and falseness of all that succeeded, when men had begun to
bring to the cross foot their systems instead of their sorrow. Take as
the most marked and degraded instance, perhaps, to be anywhere found,
Bronzino's treatment of the same subject (Christ visiting the spirits in
prison,) in the picture now in the Tuscan room of the Uffizii, which,
vile as it is in color, vacant in invention, void in light and shade, a
heap of cumbrous nothingnesses, and sickening offensivenesses, is of all
its voids most void in this, that the academy models therein huddled
together at the bottom, show not so much unity or community of attention
to the academy model with the flag in its hand above, as a street crowd
would be to a fresh-staged charlatan. Some _point_ to the God who has
burst the gates of death, as if the rest were incapable of
distinguishing him for themselves, and others turn their backs upon him,
to show their unagitated faces to the spectator.

§ 9. And towards unity of sequence.

In unity of sequence, the effect of variety is best exemplified by the
melodies of music, wherein by the differences of the notes, they are
connected with each other in certain pleasant relations. This connection
taking place in quantities is proportion, respecting which certain
general principles must be noted, as the subject is one open to many
errors, and obscurely treated of by writers on art.

§ 10. The nature of proportion. 1st, of apparent proportion.

Proportion is of two distinct kinds. Apparent: when it takes place
between qualities for the sake of connection only, without any ultimate
object or casual necessity; and constructive: when it has reference to
some function to be discharged by the quantities, depending on their
proportion. From the confusion of these two kinds of proportion have
arisen the greater part of the erroneous conceptions of the influence of

Apparent proportion, or the sensible relation of quantities, is one of
the most important means of obtaining unity between things which
otherwise must have remained distinct in similarity, and as it may
consist with every other kind of unity, and persist when every other
means of it fails, it may be considered as lying at the root of most of
our impressions of the beautiful. There is no sense of rightness, or
wrongness connected with it, no sense of utility, propriety, or
expediency. These ideas enter only where the proportion of quantities
has reference to some function to be performed by them. It cannot be
asserted that it is right or that it is wrong that A should be to B, as
B to C; unless A, B, and C have some desirable operation dependent on
that relation. But nevertheless it may be highly agreeable to the eye
that A, B, and C, if visible things, should have visible connection of
ratio, even though nothing be accomplished by such connection. On the
other hand, constructive proportion, or the adaptation of quantities to
functions, is agreeable not to the eye, but to the mind, which is
cognizant of the function to be performed. Thus the pleasantness or
rightness of the proportions of a column depends not on the mere
relation of diameter and height, (which is not proportion at all, for
proportion is between three terms at least,) but on three other involved
terms, the strength of materials, the weight to be borne, and the scale
of the building. The proportions of a wooden column are wrong in a stone
one, and of a small building wrong in a large one,[20] and this owing
solely to mechanical considerations, which have no more to do with
ideas of beauty, than the relation between the arms of a lever, adapted
to the raising of a given weight; and yet it is highly agreeable to
perceive that such constructive proportion has been duly observed, as
it is agreeable to see that anything is fit for its purpose or for ours,
and also that it has been the result of intelligence in the workman of
it, so that we sometimes feel a pleasure in apparent non-adaptation, if
it be a sign of ingenuity; as in the unnatural and seemingly impossible
lightness of Gothic spires and roofs.

Now, the errors against which I would caution the reader in this matter
are three. The first, is the overlooking or denial of the power of
apparent proportion, of which power neither Burke nor any other writer
whose works I have met with, take cognizance. The second, is the
attribution of _beauty_ to the appearances of constructive proportion.
The third, the denial with Burke of _any_ value or agreeableness in
constructive proportion.

§ 11. The value of apparent proportion in curvature.

Now, the full proof of the influence of apparent proportion, I must
reserve for illustration by diagram; one or two instances however may be
given at present for the better understanding of its nature.

We have already asserted that all curves are more beautiful than right
lines. All curves, however, are not equally beautiful, and their
differences of beauty depend on the different proportions borne to each
other by those infinitely small right lines of which they may be
conceived as composed.

When these lines are equal and contain equal angles, there can be no
connection or unity of sequence in them. The resulting curve, the
circle, is therefore the least beautiful of all curves.

When the lines bear to each other some certain proportion; or when, the
lines remaining equal, the angles vary; or when by any means whatsoever,
and in whatever complicated modes, such differences as shall imply
connection are established between the infinitely small segments, the
resulting curves become beautiful. The simplest of the beautiful curves
are the conic, and the various spirals; but it is as rash as it is
difficult to endeavor to trace any ground of superiority or inferiority
among the infinite numbers of the higher curves. I believe that almost
all are beautiful in their own nature, and that their comparative beauty
depends on the constant quantities involved in their equations. Of this
point I shall speak hereafter at greater length.

§ 12. How by nature obtained.

The universal forces of nature, and the individual energies of the
matter submitted to them, are so appointed and balanced, that they are
continually bringing out curves of this kind in all visible forms, and
that circular lines become nearly impossible under any circumstances.
The gradual acceleration, for instance, of velocity, in streams that
descend from hill-sides, as it gradually increases their power of
erosion increases in the same gradual degree the rate of curvature in
the descent of the slope, until at a certain degree of steepness this
descent meets, and is concealed by the right line of the detritus. The
junction of this right line with the plain is again modified by the
farther bounding of the larger blocks, and by the successively
diminishing proportion of landslips caused by erosion at the bottom, so
that the whole line of the hill is one of curvature, first, gradually
increasing in rapidity to the maximum steepness of which the particular
rock is capable, and then decreasing in a decreasing ratio, until it
arrives at the plain level. This type of form, modified of course more
or less by the original boldness of the mountain, and dependent both on
its age, its constituent rock, and the circumstances of its exposure, is
yet in its general formula applicable to all. So the curves of all
things in motion, and of all organic forms, most rudely and simply in
the shell spirals, and in their most complicated development in the
muscular lines of the higher animals.

This influence of apparent proportion, a proportion, be it observed,
which has no reference to ultimate ends, but which is itself, seemingly,
the end and object of operation in many of the forces of nature, is
therefore at the root of all our delight in any beautiful form
whatsoever. For no form can be beautiful which is not composed of curves
whose unity is secured by relations of this kind.

§ 13. Apparent proportion in melodies of line.

Not only however in curvature, but in all associations of lines
whatsoever, it is desirable that there should be reciprocal relation,
and the eye is unhappy without perception of it. It is utterly vain to
endeavor to reduce this proportion to finite rules, for it is as various
as musical melody, and the laws to which it is subject are of the same
general kind, so that the determination of right or wrong proportion is
as much a matter of feeling and experience as the appreciation of good
musical composition; not but that there is a science of both, and
principles which may not be infringed, but that within these limits the
liberty of invention is infinite, and the degrees of excellence infinite
also, whence the curious error of Burke in imagining that because he
could not fix upon some one given proportion of lines as better than any
other, therefore proportion had no value nor influence at all, which is
the same as to conclude that there is no such thing as melody in music,
because there are melodies more than one.

§ 14. Error of Burke in this matter.

The argument of Burke on this subject is summed up in the following
words:--"Examine the head of a beautiful horse, find what proportion
that bears to his body and to his limbs, and what relations these have
to each other, and when you have settled these proportions, as a
standard of beauty, then take a dog or cat, or any other animal, and
examine how far the same proportions between their heads and their
necks, between those and the body, and so on, are found to hold; I think
we may safely say, that they differ in every species, yet that there are
individuals found in a great many species, so differing, that have a
very striking beauty. Now if it be allowed that very different, and even
contrary forms and dispositions, are consistent with beauty, it amounts,
I believe, to a concession, that no certain measures operating from a
natural principle are necessary to produce it, at least so far as the
brute species is concerned."

In this argument there are three very palpable fallacies: the first is
the rough application of measurement to the heads, necks, and limbs,
without observing the subtile differences of proportion and position of
parts in the members themselves, for it would be strange if the
different adjustment of the ears and brow in the dog and horse, did not
require a harmonizing difference of adjustment in the head and neck. The
second fallacy is that above specified, the supposition that proportion
cannot be beautiful if susceptible of variation, whereas the whole
meaning of the term has reference to the adjustment and functional
correspondence of infinitely variable quantities. And the third error is
the oversight of the very important fact, that, although "different and
even contrary forms and dispositions are consistent with beauty," they
are by no means consistent with equal _degrees_ of beauty, so that,
while we find in all the presence of such proportion and harmony of
form, as gifts them with positive agreeableness consistent with the
station and dignity of each, we perceive, also, such superiority of
proportion in some (as the horse, eagle, lion, and man for instance) as
may best be in harmony with the nobler functions and more exalted powers
of the animals.

§ 15. Constructive proportion. Its influence in plants.

And this allowed superiority of some animal forms to others is, in
itself argument against the second error above named, that of
attributing the sensation of beauty to the perception of expedient or
constructive proportion. For everything that God has made is equally
well constructed with reference to its intended functions. But all
things are not equally beautiful. The megatherium is absolutely as well
proportioned, with the view of adaptation of parts to purposes, as the
horse or the swan; but by no means so handsome as either. The fact is,
that the perception of expediency of proportion can but rarely affect
our estimates of beauty, for it implies a knowledge which we very rarely
and imperfectly possess, and the want of which we tacitly acknowledge.

Let us consider that instance of the proportion of the stalk of a plant
to its head, given by Burke. In order to judge of the expediency of this
proportion, we must know, First, the scale of the plant (for the smaller
the scale, the longer the stem may safely be). Secondly, the toughness
of the materials of the stem and the mode of their mechanical structure.
Thirdly, the specific gravity of the head. Fourthly, the position of the
head which the nature of fructification requires. Fifthly, the accidents
and influences to which the situation for which the plant was created is
exposed. Until we know all this, we cannot say that proportion or
disproportion exists, and because we cannot know all this, the idea of
expedient proportion enters but slightly into our impression of
vegetable beauty, but rather, since the existence of the plant proves
that these proportions have been observed, and we know that nothing but
our own ignorance prevents us from perceiving them, we take the
proportion on credit, and are delighted by the variety of results which
the Divine intelligence has attained in the various involutions of these
quantities, and perhaps most when, to outward appearance, such
proportions have been violated; more by the slenderness of the campanula
than the security of the pine.

§ 16. And animals.

What is obscure in plants, is utterly incomprehensible in animals, owing
to the greater number of means employed and functions performed. To
judge of expedient proportion in them, we must know all that each member
has to do, all its bones, all its muscles, and the amount of nervous
energy communicable to them; and yet, forasmuch as we have more
experience and instinctive sense of the strength of muscles than of
wood, and more practical knowledge of the use of a head or a foot than
of a flower or a stem, we are much more likely to presume upon our
judgment respecting proportions here, we are very apt to assert that the
plesiosaurus and camelopard have necks too long, that the turnspit has
legs too short, and the elephant a body too ponderous.

But the painfulness arising from the idea of this being the case is
occasioned partly by our sympathy with the animal, partly by our false
apprehension of incompletion in the Divine work,[21] nor in either case
has it any connection with impressions of that typical beauty of which
we are at present speaking; though some, perhaps, with that vital beauty
which will hereafter come under discussion.

§ 17. Summary.

I wish therefore the reader to hold, respecting proportion generally.
First, That apparent proportion, or the melodious connection of
quantities, is a cause of unity, and therefore one of the sources of all
beautiful form. Secondly, That constructive proportion is agreeable to
the mind when it is known or supposed, and that its seeming absence is
painful in a like degree, but that this pleasure and pain have nothing
in common with those dependent on ideas of beauty.

Farther illustrations of the value of unity I shall reserve for our
detailed examination, as the bringing them forward here would interfere
with the general idea of the subject-matter of the theoretic faculty
which I wish succinctly to convey.


  [14] Compare Chap. ix. § 5, note.

  [15] Spenser's various forest is the Forest of Error.

  [16] It must be matter of no small wonderment to practical men to
    observe how grossly the nature and connection of unity and variety
    have been misunderstood and misstated, by those writers upon taste,
    who have been guided by no experience of art; most singularly
    perhaps by Mr. Alison, who, confounding unity with uniformity, and
    leading his readers through thirty pages of discussion respecting
    uniformity and variety, the intelligibility of which is not by any
    means increased by his supposing uniformity to be capable of
    existence in single things; at last substitutes for these two terms,
    sufficiently contradictory already, those of similarity and
    dissimilarity, the reconciliation of which opposites in one thing we
    must, I believe, leave Mr. Alison to accomplish.

  [17] [Greek: Kai to tauta prattein pollakis hêdy;--to gar synêthes
    hêdy ên; kai to metaballein hêdy; eis physin gar gignetai
    metaballein.]--Arist. Rhet. I. II. 20.

  [18] Fra Angelico's fresco, in a cell of the upper cloister. He
    treated the subject frequently. Another characteristic example
    occurs in the Vita di Christo of the Academy, a series now
    unfortunately destroyed by the picture cleaners. Simon Memmi in
    Santa Maria Novella (Chapelle des Espagnols) has given another very
    beautiful instance. In Giotto the principle is universal, though his
    multitudes are somewhat more dramatically and powerfully varied in
    gesture than Angelico's. In Mino da Fiesole's altar-piece in the
    church of St. Ambrogiot at Florence, close by Cosimo Rosselli's
    fresco, there is a beautiful example in marble.

  [19] The Predella of the picture behind the altar.

  [20] It seems never to have been rightly understood, even by the
    more intelligent among our architects, that proportion is in any way
    connected with positive size; it seems to be held among them that a
    small building may be expanded to a large one merely by
    proportionally expanding all its parts: and that the harmony will be
    equally agreeable on whatever scale it be rendered. Now this is true
    of apparent proportion, but utterly false of constructive; and, as
    much of the value of architectural proportion is constructive, the
    error is often productive of the most painful results. It may be
    best illustrated by observing the conditions of proportion in
    animals. Many persons have thoughtlessly claimed admiration for the
    strength--supposed gigantic--of insects and smaller animals; because
    capable of lifting weights, leaping distances, and surmounting
    obstacles, of proportion apparently overwhelming. Thus the Formica
    Herculanea will lift in its mouth, and brandish like a baton, sticks
    thicker than itself and six times its length, all the while
    scrambling over crags of about the proportionate height of the
    Cliffs of Dover, three or four in a minute. There is nothing
    extraordinary in this, nor any exertion of strength necessarily
    greater than human, in proportion to the size of the body. For it is
    evident that if the size and strength of any creature be expanded or
    diminished in proportion to each other, the distance through which
    it can leap, the time it can maintain exertion, or any other third
    term resultant, remains constant; that is, diminish weight of powder
    and of ball proportionately, and the distance carried is constant or
    nearly so. Thus, a grasshopper, a man, and a giant 100 feet high,
    supposing their muscular strength equally proportioned to their
    size, can or could all leap, not proportionate distance, but the
    same or nearly the same distance--say, four feet the grasshopper, or
    forty-eight times his length; six feet the man or his length
    exactly; ten feet the giant or the tenth of his length. Hence all
    small animals can, _coeteris paribus_, perform feats of strength
    and agility, exactly so much greater than those to be executed by
    large ones, as the animals themselves are smaller; and to enable an
    elephant to leap like a grasshopper, he must be endowed with
    strength a million times greater in _proportion_ to his size. Now
    the consequence of this general mechanical law is, that as we
    increase the scale of animals, their means of power, whether muscles
    of motion or bones of support, must be increased in a more than
    proportionate degree, or they become utterly unwieldy, and incapable
    of motion;--and there is a limit to this increase of strength. If
    the elephant had legs as long as a spider's, no combination of
    animal matter that could be hide-bound would have strength enough to
    move them: to support the megatherium, we must have a humerus a foot
    in diameter, though perhaps not more than two feet long, and that in
    a vertical position under him, while the gnat can hang on the window
    frame, and poise himself to sting, in the middle of crooked stilts
    like threads; stretched out to ten times the breadth of his body on
    each side. Increase the size of the megatherium a little more, and
    no phosphate of lime will bear him; he would crush his own legs to
    powder. (Compare Sir Charles Bell, "Bridgewater Treatise on the
    Hand," p. 296, and the note.) Hence there is not only a limit to the
    size of animals, in the conditions of matter, but to their activity
    also, the largest being always least capable of exertion; and this
    would be the case to a far greater extent, but that nature
    beneficently alters her proportions as she increases her scale;
    giving, as we have seen, long legs and enormous wings to the smaller
    tribes, and short and thick proportion to the larger. So in
    vegetables--compare the stalk of an ear of oat, and the trunk of a
    pine, the mechanical relations being in both the same. So also in
    waves, of which the large never can be mere exaggerations of the
    small, but have different slopes and curvatures: so in mountains and
    all things else, necessarily, and from ordinary mechanical laws.
    Whence in architecture, according to the scale of the building, its
    proportions must be altered; and I have no hesitation in calling
    that unmeaning exaggeration of parts in St. Peter's, of flutings,
    volutes, friezes, etc., in the proportions of a smaller building, a
    vulgar blunder, and one that destroys all the majesty that the
    building ought to have had--and still more I should so call all
    imitations and adaptations of large buildings on a small scale. The
    true test of right proportion is that it shall itself inform us of
    the scale of the building, and be such that even in a drawing it
    shall instantly induce the conception of the actual size, or size
    intended. I know not what Fuseli means by that aphorism of his:--

    "Disproportion of parts is the element of hugeness--proportion, of
    grandeur. All Gothic styles of Architecture are huge. The Greek
    alone is grand." When a building _is_ vast, it ought to look so; and
    the proportion is right which exhibits its vastness. Nature loses no
    size by her proportion; her buttressed mountains have more of Gothic
    than of Greek in them.

  [21] For the just and severe reproof of which, compare Sir Charles
    Bell, (on the hand,) pp. 31, 32.

                           CHAPTER VII.


§ 1. Universal feeling respecting the necessity of repose in art. Its

There is probably no necessity more imperatively felt by the artist, no
test more unfailing of the greatness of artistical treatment, than that
of the appearance of repose, and yet there is no quality whose semblance
in mere matter is more difficult to define or illustrate. Nevertheless,
I believe that our instinctive love of it, as well as the cause to which
I attribute that love, (although here also, as in the former cases, I
contend not for the interpretation, but for the fact,) will be readily
allowed by the reader. As opposed to passion, changefulness, or
laborious exertion, repose is the especial and separating characteristic
of the eternal mind and power; it is the "I am" of the Creator opposed
to the "I become" of all creatures; it is the sign alike of the supreme
knowledge which is incapable of surprise, the supreme power which is
incapable of labor, the supreme volition which is incapable of change;
it is the stillness of the beams of the eternal chambers laid upon the
variable waters of ministering creatures; and as we saw before that the
infinity which was a type of the Divine nature on the one hand, became
yet more desirable on the other from its peculiar address to our prison
hopes, and to the expectations of an unsatisfied and unaccomplished
existence, so the types of this third attribute of the Deity might seem
to have been rendered farther attractive to mortal instinct, through the
infliction upon the fallen creature of a curse necessitating a labor
once unnatural and still most painful, so that the desire of rest
planted in the heart is no sensual nor unworthy one, but a longing for
renovation and for escape from a state whose every phase is mere
preparation for another equally transitory, to one in which permanence
shall have become possible through perfection. Hence the great call of
Christ to men, that call on which St. Augustine fixed essential
expression of Christian hope, is accompanied by the promise of rest;[22]
and the death bequest of Christ to men is peace.

§ 2. Repose how expressed in matter.

Repose, as it is expressed in material things, is either a simple
appearance of permanence and quietness, as in the massy forms of a
mountain or rock, accompanied by the lulling effect of all mighty sight
and sound, which all feel and none define, (it would be less sacred if
more explicable,) [Greek: heudousin dioreôn koruphai te kai pharanges],
or else it is repose proper, the rest of things in which there is
vitality or capability of motion actual or imagined; and with respect to
these the expression of repose is greater in proportion to the amount
and sublimity of the action which is not taking place, as well as to the
intensity of the negation of it. Thus we speak not of repose in a stone,
because the motion of a stone has nothing in it of energy nor vitality,
neither its repose of stability. But having once seen a great rock come
down a mountain side, we have a noble sensation of its rest, now bedded
immovably among the under fern, because the power and fearfulness of its
motion were great, and its stability and negation of motion are now
great in proportion. Hence the imagination, which delights in nothing
more than the enhancing of the characters of repose, effects this
usually by either attributing to things visibly energetic an ideal
stability, or to things visibly stable an ideal activity or vitality.
Hence Wordsworth, of the cloud, which in itself having too much of
changefulness for his purpose, is spoken of as one "that heareth not the
loud winds when they call, and moveth altogether, if it move at all."
And again of children, which, that it may remove from them the child
restlessness, the imagination conceives as rooted flowers "Beneath an
old gray oak, as violets, lie." On the other hand, the scattered rocks,
which have not, as such, vitality enough for rest, are gifted with it by
the living image: they "lie couched around us like a flock of sheep."

§ 3. The necessity to repose of an implied energy.

Thus, as we saw that unity demanded for its expression what at first
might have seemed its contrary (variety) so repose demands for its
expression the implied capability of its opposite, energy, and this even
in its lower manifestations, in rocks and stones and trees. By comparing
the modes in which the mind is disposed to regard the boughs of a fair
and vigorous tree, motionless in the summer air, with the effect
produced by one of these same boughs hewn square and used for threshold
or lintel, the reader will at once perceive the connection of vitality
with repose, and the part they both bear in beauty.

§ 4. Mental repose, how noble.

But that which in lifeless things ennobles them by seeming to indicate
life, ennobles higher creatures by indicating the exaltation of their
earthly vitality into a Divine vitality; and raising the life of sense
into the life of faith--faith, whether we receive it in the sense of
adherence to resolution, obedience to law, regardfulness of promise, in
which from all time it has been the test as the shield of the true being
and life of man, or in the still higher sense of trustfulness in the
presence, kindness, and word of God; in which form it has been exhibited
under the Christian dispensation. For whether in one or other form,
whether the faithfulness of men whose path is chosen and portion fixed,
in the following and receiving of that path and portion, as in the
Thermopylæ camp; or the happier faithfulness of children in the good
giving of their Father, and of subjects in the conduct of their king, as
in the "Stand still and see the salvation of God" of the Red Sea shore,
there is rest and peacefulness, the "standing still" in both, the
quietness of action determined, of spirit unalarmed, of expectation
unimpatient: beautiful, even when based only as of old, on the
self-command and self-possession, the persistent dignity or the
uncalculating love of the creature,[23] but more beautiful yet when the
rest is one of humility instead of pride, and the trust no more in the
resolution we have taken, but in the hand we hold.

§ 5. Its universal value as a test of art.

Hence I think that there is no desire more intense or more exalted than
that which exists in all rightly disciplined minds for the evidences of
repose in external signs, and what I cautiously said respecting
infinity, I say fearlessly respecting repose, that no work of art can be
great without it, and that all art is great in proportion to the
appearance of it. It is the most unfailing test of beauty, whether of
matter or of motion, nothing can be ignoble that possesses it, nothing
right that has it not, and in strict proportion to its appearance in the
work is the majesty of mind to be inferred in the artificer. Without
regard to other qualities, we may look to this for our evidence, and by
the search for this alone we may be led to the rejection of all that is
base, and the accepting of all that is good and great, for the paths of
wisdom are all peace. We shall see by this light three colossal images
standing up side by side, looming in their great rest of spirituality
above the whole world horizon, Phidias, Michael Angelo, and Dante; and
then, separated from their great religious thrones only by less fulness
and earnestness of Faith, Homer, and Shakspeare; and from these we may
go down step by step among the mighty men of every age, securely and
certainly observant of diminished lustre in every appearance of
restlessness and effort, until the last trace of true inspiration
vanishes in the tottering affectations or the tortured insanities of
modern times. There is no art, no pursuit, whatsoever, but its results
may be classed by this test alone; everything of evil is betrayed and
winnowed away by it, glitter and confusion and glare of color,
inconsistency or absence of thought, forced expression, evil choice of
subject, over accumulation of materials, whether in painting or
literature, the shallow and unreflecting nothingness of the English
schools of art, the strained and disgusting horrors of the French, the
distorted feverishness of the German:--pretence, over decoration, over
division of parts in architecture, and again in music, in acting, in
dancing, in whatsoever art, great or mean, there are yet degrees of
greatness or meanness entirely dependent on this single quality of

§ 6. Instances in the Laocoon and Theseus.

Particular instances are at present both needless and cannot but be
inadequate; needless, because I suppose that every reader, however
limited his experience of art, can supply many for himself, and
inadequate, because no number of them could illustrate the full extent
of the influence of the expression. I believe, however, that by
comparing the disgusting convulsions of the Laocoon, with the Elgin
Theseus, we may obtain a general idea of the effect of the influence, as
shown by its absence in one, and presence in the other, of two works
which, as far as artistical merit is concerned, are in some measure
parallel, not that I believe, even in this respect, the Laocoon
justifiably comparable with the Theseus. I suppose that no group has
exercised so pernicious an influence on art as this, a subject ill
chosen, meanly conceived and unnaturally treated, recommended to
imitation by subtleties of execution and accumulation of technical

§ 7. And in altar tombs.

In Christian art, it would be well to compare the feeling of the finer
among the altar tombs of the middle ages, with any monumental works
after Michael Angelo, perhaps more especially with works of Roubilliac
or Canova.

In the Cathedral of Lucca, near the entrance door of the north transept,
there is a monument of Jacopo della Quercia's to Ilaria di Caretto, the
wife of Paolo Guinigi. I name it not as more beautiful or perfect than
other examples of the same period, but as furnishing an instance of the
exact and right mean between the rigidity and rudeness of the earlier
monumental effigies, and the morbid imitation of life, sleep, or death,
of which the fashion has taken place in modern times.[25] She is lying
on a simple couch, with a hound at her feet, not on the side, but with
the head laid straight and simply on the hard pillow, in which, let it
be observed, there is no effort at deceptive imitation of pressure. It
is understood as a pillow, but not mistaken for one. The hair is bound
in a flat braid over the fair brow, the sweet and arched eyes are
closed, the tenderness of the loving lips is set and quiet, there is
that about them which forbids breath, something which is not death nor
sleep, but the pure image of both. The hands are not lifted in prayer,
neither folded, but the arms are laid at length upon the body, and the
hands cross as they fall. The feet are hidden by the drapery, and the
forms of the limbs concealed, but not their tenderness.

If any of us, after staying for a time beside this tomb, could see
through his tears, one of the vain and unkind encumbrances of the grave,
which, in these hollow and heartless days, feigned sorrow builds to
foolish pride, he would, I believe, receive such a lesson of love as no
coldness could refuse, no fatuity forget, and no insolence disobey.


  [22] Matt. xi. 28.

  [23]         "The universal instinct of repose,
                The longing for confirmed tranquillity
                Inward and outward, humble, yet sublime.
                The life where hope and memory are as one.
                Earth quiet and unchanged; the human soul
                Consistent in self-rule; and heaven revealed
                To meditation, in that quietness."

                                WORDSWORTH. Excursion, Book iii.

    But compare carefully (for this is put into the mouth of one
    diseased in thought and erring in seeking) the opening of the ninth
    book; and observe the difference between the mildew of
    inaction,--the slumber of Death; and the Patience of the Saints--the
    Rest of the Sabbath Eternal. (Rev. xiv. 13.)

    Compare also, Chap. I. § 6.

  [24] I would also have the reader compare with the meagre lines and
    contemptible tortures of the Laocoon, the awfulness and quietness of
    M. Angelo's treatment of a subject in most respects similar, (the
    plague of the Fiery Serpents,) but of which the choice was justified
    both by the place which the event holds in the typical system he had
    to arrange, and by the grandeur of the plague itself, in its
    multitudinous grasp, and its mystical salvation; sources of
    sublimity entirely wanting to the slaughter of the Dardan priest. It
    is good to see how his gigantic intellect reaches after repose, and
    truthfully finds it, in the falling hand of the near figure, and in
    the deathful decline of that whose hands are held up even in their
    venom coldness to the cross; and though irrelevant to our present
    purpose, it is well also to note how the grandeur of this treatment
    results, not merely from choice, but from a greater knowledge and
    more faithful rendering of truth. For whatever knowledge of the
    human frame there may be in the Laocoon, there is certainly none of
    the habits of serpents. The fixing of the snake's head in the side
    of the principal figure is as false to nature, as it is poor in
    composition of line. A large serpent never wants to bite, it wants
    to hold, it seizes therefore always where it can hold best, by the
    extremities, or throat, it seizes once and forever, and that before
    it coils, following up the seizure with the twist of its body round
    the victim, as invisibly swift as the twist of a whip lash round any
    hard object it may strike, and then it holds fast, never moving the
    jaws or the body, if its prey has any power of struggling left, it
    throws round another coil, without quitting the hold with the jaws;
    if Laocoon had had to do with real serpents, instead of pieces of
    tape with heads to them, he would have been held still, and not
    allowed to throw his arms or legs about. It is most instructive to
    observe the accuracy of Michael Angelo in the rendering of these
    circumstances; the binding of the arms to the body, and the knotting
    of the whole mass of agony together, until we hear the crashing of
    the bones beneath the grisly sliding of the engine folds. Note also
    the expression in all the figures of another circumstance, the
    torpor and cold numbness of the limbs induced by the serpent venom,
    which, though justifiably overlooked by the sculptor of the Laocoon,
    as well as by Virgil--in consideration of the rapidity of the death
    by crushing, adds infinitely to the power of the Florentine's
    conception, and would have been better hinted by Virgil, than that
    sickening distribution of venom on the garlands. In fact, Virgil has
    missed both of truth and impressiveness every way--the "morsu
    depascitur" is unnatural butchery--the "perfusus veneno" gratuitous
    foulness--the "clamores horrendos," impossible degradation; compare
    carefully the remarks on this statue in Sir Charles Bell's Essay on
    Expression, (third edition, p. 192) where he has most wisely and
    uncontrovertibly deprived the statue of all claim to expression of
    energy and fortitude of mind, and shown its common and coarse intent
    of mere bodily exertion and agony, while he has confirmed Payne
    Knight's just condemnation of the passage in Virgil.

    If the reader wishes to see the opposite or imaginative view of the
    subject, let him compare Winkelmann; and Schiller, Letters on
    Æsthetic Culture.

  [25] Whenever, in monumental work, the sculptor reaches a deceptive
    appearance of life or death, or of concomitant details, he has gone
    too far. The statue should be felt for such, not look like a dead or
    sleeping body; it should not convey the impression of a corpse, nor
    of sick and outwearied flesh, but it should be the marble _image_ of
    death or weariness. So the concomitants should be distinctly marble,
    severe and monumental in their lines, not shroud, not bedclothes,
    not actual armor nor brocade, not a real soft pillow, not a
    downright hard stuffed mattress, but the mere type and suggestion of
    these: a certain rudeness and incompletion of finish is very noble
    in all. Not that they are to be unnatural, such lines as are given
    should be pure and true, and clear of the hardness and mannered
    rigidity of the strictly Gothic types, but lines so few and grand as
    to appeal to the imagination only, and always to stop short of
    realization. There is a monument put up lately by a modern Italian
    sculptor in one of the side chapels of Santa Croce, the face fine
    and the execution dexterous. But it looks as if the person had been
    restless all night, and the artist admitted to a faithful study of
    the disturbed bedclothes in the morning.

                                CHAPTER VIII.


§ 1. Symmetry, what and how found in organic nature.

§ 2. How necessary in art.

We shall not be long detained by the consideration of this, the fourth
constituent of beauty, as its nature is universally felt and understood.
In all perfectly beautiful objects, there is found the opposition of one
part to another and a reciprocal balance obtained; in animals the
balance being commonly between opposite sides, (note the
disagreeableness occasioned by the exception in flat fish, having the
eyes on one side of the head,) but in vegetables the opposition is less
distinct, as in the boughs on opposite sides of trees, and the leaves
and sprays on each side of the boughs, and in dead matter less perfect
still, often amounting only to a certain tendency towards a balance, as
in the opposite sides of valleys and alternate windings of streams. In
things in which perfect symmetry is from their nature impossible or
improper, a balance must be at least in some measure expressed before
they can be beheld with pleasure. Hence the necessity of what artists
require as opposing lines or masses in composition, the propriety of
which, as well as their value, depends chiefly on their inartificial and
natural invention. Absolute equality is not required, still less
absolute similarity. A mass of subdued color may be balanced by a point
of a powerful one, and a long and latent line overpowered by a short and
conspicuous one. The only error against which it is necessary to guard
the reader with respect to symmetry, is the confounding it with
proportion, though it seems strange that the two terms could ever have
been used as synonymous. Symmetry is the _opposition_ of _equal_
quantities to each other. Proportion the _connection_ of _unequal_
quantities with each other. The property of a tree in sending out equal
boughs on opposite sides is symmetrical. Its sending out shorter and
smaller towards the top, proportional. In the human face its balance
of opposite sides is symmetry, its division upwards, proportion.

[Illustration: TOMB OF THE ILARIA DI CARETTO, LUCCA. From a photograph.]

§ 3. To what its agreeableness is referable. Various instances.

§ 4. Especially in religious art.

Whether the agreeableness of symmetry be in any way referable to its
expression of the Aristotelian [Greek: isotês], that is to say of
abstract justice, I leave the reader to determine; I only assert
respecting it, that it is necessary to the dignity of every form, and
that by the removal of it we shall render the other elements of beauty
comparatively ineffectual: though, on the other hand, it is to be
observed that it is rather a mode of arrangement of qualities than a
quality itself; and hence symmetry has little power over the mind,
unless all the other constituents of beauty be found together with it. A
form may be symmetrical and ugly, as many Elizabethan ornaments, and yet
not so ugly as it had been if unsymmetrical, but bettered always by
increasing degrees of symmetry; as in star figures, wherein there is a
circular symmetry of many like members, whence their frequent use for
the plan and ground of ornamental designs; so also it is observable that
foliage in which the leaves are concentrically grouped, as in the
chestnuts, and many shrubs--rhododendrons for instance--(whence the
perfect beauty of the Alpine rose)--is far nobler in its effect than any
other, so that the sweet chestnut of all trees most fondly and
frequently occurs in the landscape of Tintoret and Titian, beside which
all other landscape grandeur vanishes: and even in the meanest things
the rule holds, as in the kaleidoscope, wherein agreeableness is given
to forms altogether accidental merely by their repetition and reciprocal
opposition; which orderly balance and arrangement are essential to the
perfect operation of the more earnest and solemn qualities of the
beautiful, as being heavenly in their nature, and contrary to the
violence and disorganization of sin, so that the seeking of them and
submission to them is always marked in minds that have been subjected to
high moral discipline, constant in all the great religious painters, to
the degree of being an offence and a scorn to men of less tuned and
tranquil feeling. Equal ranks of saints are placed on each side of the
picture, if there be a kneeling figure on one side, there is a
corresponding one on the other, the attendant angels beneath and above
are arranged in like order. The Raffaelle at Blenheim, the Madonna di
St. Sisto, the St. Cicilia, and all the works of Perugino, Francia, and
John Bellini present some such form, and the balance at least is
preserved even in pictures of action necessitating variety of grouping,
as always by Giotto; and by Ghirlandajo in the introduction of his
chorus-like side figures, and by Tintoret most eminently in his noblest
work, the Crucifixion, where not only the grouping but the arrangement
of light is absolutely symmetrical. Where there is no symmetry, the
effects of passion and violence are increased, and many very sublime
pictures derive their sublimity from the want of it, but they lose
proportionally in the diviner quality of beauty. In landscape the same
sense of symmetry is preserved, as we shall presently see, even to
artificialness, by the greatest men, and it is one of the principal
sources of deficient feeling in the landscapes of the present day, that
the symmetry of nature is sacrificed to irregular picturesqueness. Of
this, however, hereafter.

                                CHAPTER IX.


§ 1. The influence of light as a sacred symbol.

It may at first appear strange that I have not in my enumeration of the
types of Divine attributes, included that which is certainly the most
visible and evident of all, as well as the most distinctly expressed in
Scripture; God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. But I could
not logically class the presence of an actual substance or motion with
mere conditions and modes of being, neither could I logically separate
from any of these, that which is evidently necessary to the perception
of all. And it is also to be observed, that though the love of light is
more instinctive in the human heart than any other of the desires
connected with beauty, we can hardly separate its agreeableness in its
own nature from the sense of its necessity and value for the purposes of
life, neither the abstract painfulness of darkness from the sense of
danger and incapacity connected with it; and note also that it is not
_all_ light, but light possessing the universal qualities of beauty,
diffused or infinite rather than in points, tranquil, not startling and
variable, pure, not sullied or oppressed, which is indeed pleasant and
perfectly typical of the Divine nature.

§ 2. The idea of purity connected with it.

Observe, however, that there is one quality, the idea of which had been
just introduced in connection with light, which might have escaped us in
the consideration of mere matter, namely purity, and yet I think that
the original notion of this quality is altogether material, and has only
been attributed to color when such color is suggestive of the condition
of matter from which we originally received the idea. For I see not in
the abstract how one color should be considered purer than another,
except as more or less compounded, whereas there is certainly a sense of
purity or impurity in the most compound and neutral colors, as well as
in the simplest, a quality difficult to define, and which the reader
will probably be surprised by my calling the type of energy, with which
it has certainly little traceable connection in the mind.

§ 3. Originally derived from conditions of matter.

§ 4. Associated ideas adding to the power of the impression. Influence
       of clearness.

§ 5. Perfect beauty of surface, in what consisting.

I believe however if we carefully analyze the nature of our ideas of
impurity in general, we shall find them refer especially to conditions
of matter in which its various elements are placed in a relation
incapable of healthy or proper operation; and most distinctly to
conditions in which the negation of vital or energetic action is most
evident, as in corruption and decay of all kinds, wherein particles
which once, by their operation on each other, produced a living and
energetic whole, are reduced to a condition of perfect passiveness, in
which they are seized upon and appropriated, one by one, piecemeal, by
whatever has need of them, without any power of resistance or energy of
their own. And thus there is a peculiar painfulness attached to any
associations of inorganic with organic matter, such as appear to involve
the inactivity and feebleness of the latter, so that things which are
not felt to be foul in their own nature, yet become so in association
with things of greater inherent energy; as dust or earth, which in a
mass excites no painful sensation, excites a most disagreeable one when
strewing or staining an animal's skin, because it implies a decline and
deadening of the vital and healthy power of the skin. But all reasoning
about this impression is rendered difficult, by the host of associated
ideas connected with it; for the ocular sense of impurity connected with
corruption is infinitely enhanced by the offending of other senses and
by the grief and horror of it in its own nature, as the special
punishment and evidence of sin, and on the other hand, the ocular
delight in purity is mingled, as I before observed, with the love of the
mere element of light, as a type of wisdom and of truth; whence it seems
to me that we admire the transparency of bodies, though probably it is
still rather owing to our sense of more perfect order and arrangement of
particles, and not to our love of light, that we look upon a piece of
rock crystal as purer than a piece of marble, and on the marble as purer
than a piece of chalk. And let it be observed also that the most lovely
objects in nature are only partially transparent. I suppose the utmost
possible sense of beauty is conveyed by a feebly translucent, smooth,
but not lustrous surface of white, and pale warm red, subdued by the
most pure and delicate grays, as in the finer portions of the human
frame; in wreaths of snow, and in white plumage under rose light,[26] so
Viola of Olivia in Twelfth Night, and Homer of Atrides wounded.[27] And
I think that transparency and lustre, both beautiful in themselves, are
incompatible with the highest beauty because they destroy form, on the
full perception of which more of the divinely character of the object
depends than upon its color. Hence, in the beauty of snow and of flesh,
so much translucency is allowed as is consistent with the full
explanation of the forms, while we are suffered to receive more intense
impressions of light and transparency from other objects which,
nevertheless, owing to their necessarily unperceived form, are not
perfectly nor affectingly beautiful. A fair forehead outshines its
diamond diadem. The sparkle of the cascade withdraws not our eyes from
the snowy summits in their evening silence.

§ 6. Purity only metaphorically a type of sinlessness.

It may seem strange to many readers that I have not spoken of purity in
that sense in which it is most frequently used, as a type of
sinlessness. I do not deny that the frequent metaphorical use of it in
Scripture may have and ought to have much influence on the sympathies
with which we regard it, and that probably the immediate agreeableness
of it to most minds arises far more from this source than from that to
which I have chosen to attribute it. But, in the first place, if it be
indeed in the signs of Divine and not of human attributes that beauty
consists, I see not how the idea of sin can be formed with respect to
the Deity, for it is an idea of a relation borne by us to Him, and not
in any way to be attached to his abstract nature. And if the idea of sin
is incapable of being formed with respect to Him, so also is its
negative, for we cannot form an idea of negation, where we cannot form
an idea of presence. If for instance one could conceive of taste or
flavor in a proposition of Euclid, so also might we of insipidity, but
if not of the one, then not of the other. So that, in speaking of the
goodness of God, it cannot be that we mean anything more than his Love,
Mercifulness, and Justice, and these attributes I have shown to be
expressed by other qualities of beauty, and I cannot trace any rational
connection between them and the idea of spotlessness in matter. Neither
can I trace any more distinct relation between this idea, and any of the
virtues which make up the righteousness of man, except perhaps those of
truth and openness, of which I have already spoken as more expressed by
the transparency than the mere purity of matter. So that I conceive the
whole use of the terms purity, spotlessness, etc., in moral subjects, to
be merely metaphorical, and that it is rather that we illustrate these
virtues by the desirableness of material purity, than that we desire
material purity because it is illustrative of these virtues.

§ 7. Energy, how expressed by purity of matter.

I repeat, then, that the only idea which I think can be legitimately
connected with purity of matter, is this of vital and energetic
connection among its particles, and that the idea of foulness is
essentially connected with dissolution and death. Thus the purity of the
rock, contrasted with the foulness of dust or mould, is expressed by the
epithet "living," very singularly given in the rock, in almost all
languages; singularly I say, because life is almost the last attribute
one would ascribe to stone, but for this visible energy and connection
of its particles: and so of water as opposed to stagnancy. And I do not
think that, however pure a powder or dust may be, the idea of beauty is
ever connected with it, for it is not the mere purity, but the _active_
condition of the substance which is desired, so that as soon as it
shoots into crystals, or gathers into efflorescence, a sensation of
_active_ or real purity is received which was not felt in the calcined
caput mortuum.

§ 8. And of color.

§ 9. Spirituality, how so expressed.

And again in color. I imagine that the quality of it which we term
purity is dependent on the full energizing of the rays that compose it,
whereof if in compound hues any are overpowered and killed by the rest,
so as to be of no value nor operation, foulness is the consequence;
while so long as all act together, whether side by side, or from
pigments seen one through the other, so that all the coloring matter
employed comes into play in the harmony desired, and none be quenched
nor killed, purity results. And so in all cases I suppose that pureness
is made to us desirable, because expressive of the constant presence and
energizing of the Deity in matter, through which all things live and
move, and have their being, and that foulness is painful as the
accompaniment of disorder and decay, and always indicative of the
withdrawal of Divine support. And the practical analogies of life, the
invariable connection of outward foulness with mental sloth and
degradation, as well as with bodily lethargy and disease, together with
the contrary indications of freshness and purity belonging to every
healthy and active organic frame, (singularly seen in the effort of the
young leaves when first their inward energy prevails over the earth,
pierces its corruption, and shakes its dust away from their own white
purity of life,) all these circumstances strengthen the instinct by
associations countless and irresistible. And then, finally, with the
idea of purity comes that of spirituality, for the essential
characteristic of matter is its inertia, whence, by adding to it purity
or energy, we may in some measure spiritualize even matter itself. Thus
in the descriptions of the Apocalypse it is its purity that fits it for
its place in heaven; the river of the water of life, that proceeds out
of the throne of the Lamb, is clear as crystal, and the pavement of the
city is pure gold, like unto clear glass.[28]


  [26] The reader will observe that I am speaking at present of mere
    material qualities. If he would obtain perfect ideas respecting
    loveliness of luminous surface, let him closely observe a swan with
    its wings expanded in full light five minutes before sunset. The
    human cheek or the rose leaf are perhaps hardly so pure, and the
    forms of snow, though individually as beautiful, are less
    exquisitely combined.

  [27]         [Greek: hôs d' ote tis t' elephanta gynê phoiniki miênê

    So Spenser of Shamefacedness, an exquisite piece of glowing
    color--and sweetly of Belphoebe--(so the roses and lilies of all
    poets.) Compare the making of the image of Florimell.

               "The substance whereof she the body made
                Was purest snow, in massy mould congealed,
                Which she had gathered in a shady glade
                Of the Riphoean hills.
                The same she tempered with fine mercury,
                And mingled them with perfect vermily."

    With Una he perhaps overdoes the white a little. She is two degrees
    of comparison above snow. Compare his questioning in the Hymn to
    Beauty, about that mixture made of colors fair; and goodly
    temperament, of pure complexion.

               "Hath white and red in it such wondrous power
                That it can pierce through the eyes into the heart?"

    Where the distinction between typical and vital beauty is very
    gloriously carried out.

  [28] I have not spoken here of any of the associations connected
    with warmth or coolness of color, they are partly connected with
    vital beauty, compare Chap. xiv. § 22, 23, and partly with
    impressions of the sublime, the discussion of which is foreign to
    the present subject; purity, however, it is which gives value to
    both, for neither warm nor cool color, can be beautiful, if impure.

    Neither have I spoken of any questions relating to melodies of
    color, a subject of separate science--whose general principle has
    been already stated in the seventh chapter respecting unity of
    sequence. Those qualities only are here noted which give absolute
    beauty, whether to separate color or to melodies of it--for all
    melodies are not beautiful, but only those which are expressive of
    certain pleasant or solemn emotions; and the rest startling, or
    curious, or cheerful, or exciting, or sublime, but not beautiful,
    (and so in music.) And all questions relating to this grandeur,
    cheerfulness, or other characteristic impression of color must be
    considered under the head of ideas of relation.

                              CHAPTER X.


§ 1. Meaning of the terms Chasteness and Refinement.

Of objects which, in respect of the qualities hitherto considered,
appear to have equal claims to regard, we find, nevertheless, that
certain are preferred to others in consequence of an attractive power,
usually expressed by the terms "chasteness, refinement, or elegance,"
and it appears also that things which in other respects have little in
them of natural beauty, and are of forms altogether simple and adapted
to simple uses, are capable of much distinction and desirableness in
consequence of these qualities only. It is of importance to discover the
real nature of the ideas thus expressed.

§ 2. How referable to temporary fashions.

Something of the peculiar meaning of the words is referable to the
authority of fashion and the exclusiveness of pride, owing to which that
which is the mode of a particular time is submissively esteemed, and
that which by its costliness or its rarity is of difficult attainment,
or in any way appears to have been chosen as the best of many things,
(which is the original sense of the words elegant and exquisite,) is
esteemed for the witness it bears to the dignity of the chooser.

But neither of these ideas are in any way connected with eternal beauty,
neither do they at all account for that agreeableness of color and form
which is especially termed chasteness, and which it would seem to be a
characteristic of rightly trained mind in all things to prefer, and of
common minds to reject.

§ 3. How to the perception of completion.

§ 4. Finish, by great masters esteemed essential.

There is however another character of artificial productions, to which
these terms have partial reference, which it is of some importance to
note, that of finish, exactness, or refinement, which are commonly
desired in the works of men, owing both to their difficulty of
accomplishment and consequent expression of care and power (compare
Chapter on Ideas of Power, Part I. Sect, i.,) and from their greater
resemblance to the working of God, whose "absolute exactness," says
Hooker, "all things imitate, by tending to that which is most exquisite
in every particular." And there is not a greater sign of the
imperfection of general taste, than its capability of contentment with
forms and things which, professing completion, are yet not exact nor
complete, as in the vulgar with wax and clay and china figures, and in
bad sculptors with an unfinished and clay-like modelling of surface, and
curves and angles of no precision or delicacy; and in general, in all
common and unthinking persons with an imperfect rendering of that which
might be pure and fine, as church-wardens are content to lose the sharp
lines of stone carving under clogging obliterations of whitewash, and as
the modern Italians scrape away and polish white all the sharpness and
glory of the carvings on their old churches, as most miserably and
pitifully on St. Mark's at Venice, and the Baptisteries of Pistoja and
Pisa, and many others; so also the delight of vulgar painters in coarse
and slurred painting, merely for the sake of its coarseness,[29] as of
Spagnoletto, Salvator, or Murillo, opposed to the divine finish which
the greatest and mightiest of men disdained not, but rather wrought out
with painfulness and life spending; as Leonardo and Michael Angelo, (for
the latter, however many things he left unfinished, did finish, if at
all, with a refinement that the eye cannot follow, but the feeling only,
as in the Pieta of Genoa,) and Perugino always, even to the gilding of
single hairs among his angel tresses, and the young Raffaelle, when he
was heaven taught, and Angelico, and Pinturicchio, and John Bellini, and
all other such serious and loving men. Only it is to be observed that
this finish is not a part or constituent of beauty, but the full and
ultimate rendering of it, so that it is an idea only connected with the
works of men, for all the works of the Deity are finished with the same,
that is, infinite care and completion: and so what degrees of beauty
exist among them can in no way be dependent upon this source, inasmuch
as there are between them no degrees of care. And therefore, as there
certainly is admitted a difference of degree in what we call chasteness,
even in Divine work, (compare the hollyhock or the sunflower with the
vale lily,) we must seek for it some other explanation and source than

§ 5. Moderation, its nature and value

And if, bringing down our ideas of it from complicated objects to simple
lines and colors, we analyze and regard them carefully, I think we shall
be able to trace them to an under-current of constantly agreeable
feeling, excited by the appearance in material things of a
self-restrained liberty, that is to say, by the image of that acting of
God with regard to all his creation, wherein, though free to operate in
whatever arbitrary, sudden, violent, or inconstant ways he will, he yet,
if we may reverently so speak, restrains in himself this his omnipotent
liberty, and works always in consistent modes, called by us laws. And
this restraint or moderation, according to the words of Hooker, ("that
which doth moderate the force and power, that which doth appoint the
form and measure of working, the same we term a law,") is in the Deity
not restraint, such as it is said of creatures, but, as again says
Hooker, "the very being of God is a law to his working," so that every
appearance of painfulness or want of power and freedom in material
things is wrong and ugly; for the right restraint, the image of Divine
operation, is both in them, and in men, a willing and not painful
stopping short of the utmost degree to which their power might reach,
and the appearance of fettering or confinement is the cause of ugliness
in the one, as the slightest painfulness or effort in restraint is a
sign of sin in the other.

§ 6. It is the girdle of beauty.

§ 7. How found in natural curves and colors.

§ 8. How difficult of attainment, yet essential to all good.

I have put this attribute of beauty last, because I consider it the
girdle and safeguard of all the rest, and in this respect the most
essential of all, for it is possible that a certain degree of beauty may
be attained even in the absence of one of its other constituents, as
sometimes in some measure without symmetry or without unity. But the
least appearance of violence or extravagance, of the want of moderation
and restraint, is, I think, destructive of all beauty whatsoever in
everything, color, form, motion, language, or thought, giving rise to
that which in color we call glaring, in form inelegant, in motion
ungraceful, in language coarse, in thought undisciplined, in all
unchastened; which qualities are in everything most painful, because the
signs of disobedient and irregular operation. And herein we at last find
the reason of that which has been so often noted respecting the subtilty
and almost invisibility of natural curves and colors, and why it is that
we look on those lines as least beautiful which fall into wide and far
license of curvature, and as most beautiful which approach nearest (so
that the curvilinear character be distinctly asserted) to the government
of the right line, as in the pure and severe curves of the draperies of
the religious painters; and thus in color it is not red, but rose-color
which is most beautiful, neither such actual green as we find in summer
foliage partly, and in our painting of it constantly; but such gray
green as that into which nature modifies her distant tints, or such pale
green and uncertain as we see in sunset sky, and in the clefts of the
glacier and the chrysoprase, and the sea-foam; and so of all colors, not
that they may not sometimes be deep and full, but that there is a solemn
moderation even in their very fulness, and a holy reference beyond and
out of their own nature to great harmonies by which they are governed,
and in obedience to which is their glory. Whereof the ignorance is shown
in all evil colorists by the violence and positiveness of their hues,
and by dulness and discordance consequent, for the very brilliancy and
real power of all color is dependent on the chastening of it, as of a
voice on its gentleness, and as of action on its calmness, and as all
moral vigor on self-command. And therefore as that virtue which men
last, and with most difficulty attain unto, and which many attain not at
all, and yet that which is essential to the conduct and almost to the
being of all other virtues, since neither imagination, nor invention,
nor industry, nor sensibility, nor energy, nor any other good having, is
of full avail without this of self-command, whereby works truly
masculine and mighty are produced, and by the signs of which they are
separated from that lower host of things brilliant, magnificent and
redundant, and farther yet from that of the loose, the lawless, the
exaggerated, the insolent, and the profane, I would have the necessity
of it foremost among all our inculcating, and the name of it largest
among all our inscribing, in so far that, over the doors of every school
of Art, I would have this one word, relieved out in deep letters of pure


  [29] It is to be carefully noted that when rude execution is
    evidently not the result of imperfect feeling and desire (as in
    these men above named, it is) but of thought; either impatient,
    which there was necessity to note swiftly, or impetuous, which it
    was well to note in mighty manner, as pre-eminently and in both
    kinds the case with Tintoret, and often with Michael Angelo, and in
    lower and more degraded modes with Rubens, and generally in the
    sketches and first thoughts of great masters; there is received a
    very noble pleasure, connected both with ideas of power (compare
    again Part I. Sect. ii. Chap. I.) and with certain actions of the
    imagination of which we shall speak presently. But this pleasure is
    not received from the beauty of the work, for nothing can be
    perfectly beautiful unless complete, but from its simplicity and
    sufficiency to its immediate purpose, where the purpose is not of
    beauty at all, as often in things rough-hewn, pre-eminently for
    instance in the stones of the foundations of the Pitti and Strozzi
    palaces, whose noble rudeness is to be opposed both to the useless
    polish, and the barbarous rustications of modern times, (although
    indeed this instance is not without exception to be received, for
    the majesty of these rocky buildings depends also in some measure
    upon the real beauty and finish of the natural curvilinear
    fractures, opposed to the coarseness of human chiselling,) and
    again, as it respects works of higher art, the pleasure of their
    hasty or imperfect execution is not indicative of their beauty, but
    of their majesty and fulness of thought and vastness of power. Shade
    is only beautiful when it magnifies and sets forth the forms of fair
    things, so negligence is only noble when it is, as Fuseli hath it,
    "the shadow of energy." Which that it may be, secure the substance
    and the shade will follow, but let the artist beware of stealing the
    manner of giant intellects when he has not their intention, and of
    assuming large modes of treatment when he has little thoughts to
    treat. There is large difference between indolent impatience of
    labor and intellectual impatience of delay, large difference between
    leaving things unfinished because we have more to do, or because we
    are satisfied with what we have done. Tintoret, who prayed hard, and
    hardly obtained, that he might be permitted, the charge of his
    colors only being borne, to paint a new built house from base to
    battlement, was not one to shun labor, it is the pouring in upon him
    of glorious thoughts in inexpressible multitude that his sweeping
    hand follows so fast. It is as easy to know the slightness of
    earnest haste from the slightness of blunt feeling, indolence, or
    affectation, as it is to know the dust of a race, from the dust of

                                CHAPTER XI.


§ 1. The subject incompletely treated, yet admitting of general

I have now enumerated, and in some measure explained those
characteristics of mere matter by which I conceive it becomes agreeable
to the theoretic faculty, under whatever form, dead, organized, or
animated, it may present itself. It will be our task in the succeeding
volume to examine, and illustrate by examples, the mode in which these
characteristics appear in every division of creation, in stones,
mountains, waves, clouds, and all organic bodies; beginning with
vegetables, and then taking instances in the range of animals from the
mollusc to man; examining how one animal form is nobler than another, by
the more manifest presence of these attributes, and chiefly endeavoring
to show how much there is of admirable and lovely, even in what is
commonly despised. At present I have only to mark the conclusions at
which we have as yet arrived respecting the rank of the theoretic
faculty, and then to pursue the inquiry farther into the nature of vital

As I before said, I pretend not to have enumerated all the sources of
material beauty, nor the analogies connected with them; it is probable
that others may occur to many readers, or to myself as I proceed into
more particular inquiry, but I am not careful to collect all conceivable
evidence on the subject. I desire only to assert and prove some certain
principles, and by means of these to show, in some measure, the inherent
worthiness and glory of God's works and something of the relations they
bear to each other and to us, leaving the subject to be fully pursued,
as it only can be, by the ardor and affection of those whom it may

§ 2. Typical beauty not created for man's sake.

§ 3. But degrees of it for his sake admitted.

§ 4. What encouragement hence to be received.

The qualities above enumerated are not to be considered as stamped upon
matter for our teaching or enjoyment only, but as the necessary
consequence of the perfection of God's working, and the inevitable stamp
of his image on what he creates. For it would be inconsistent with his
Infinite perfection to work imperfectly in any place, or in any matter;
wherefore we do not find that flowers and fair trees, and kindly skies,
are given only where man may see them and be fed by them, but the Spirit
of God works everywhere alike, where there is no eye to see, covering
all lonely places with an equal glory, using the same pencil and
outpouring the same splendor, in the caves of the waters where the
sea-snakes swim, and in the desert where the satyrs dance, among the
fir-trees of the stork, and the rocks of the conies, as among those
higher creatures whom he has made capable witnesses of his working.
Nevertheless, I think that the admission of different degrees of this
glory and image of himself upon creation, has the look of something
meant especially for us; for although, in pursuance of the appointed
system of government by universal laws, these same degrees exist where
we cannot witness them, yet the existence of degrees at all seems at
first unlikely in Divine work, and I cannot see reason for it unless
that palpable one of increasing in us the understanding of the sacred
characters by showing us the results of their comparative absence. For I
know not that if all things had been equally beautiful, we could have
received the idea of beauty at all, or if we had, certainly it had
become a matter of indifference to us, and of little thought, whereas
through the beneficent ordaining of degrees in its manifestation, the
hearts of men are stirred by its occasional occurrence in its noblest
form, and all their energies are awakened in the pursuit of it, and
endeavor to arrest it or recreate it for themselves. But whatever doubt
there may be respecting the exact amount of modification of created
things admitted reference to us, there can be none respecting the
dignity of that faculty by which we receive the mysterious evidence of
their divine origin. The fact of our deriving constant pleasure from
whatever is a type or semblance of Divine attributes, and from nothing
but that which is so, is the most glorious of all that can be
demonstrated of human nature; it not only sets a great gulf of specific
separation between us and the lower animals, but it seems a promise of a
communion ultimately deep, close, and conscious, with the Being whose
darkened manifestations we here feebly and unthinkingly delight in.
Probably to every order of intelligence more of his image becomes
palpable in all around them, and the glorified spirits and the angels
have perceptions as much more full and rapturous than ours, as ours than
those of beasts and creeping things. And receiving it, as we must, for
an universal axiom that "no natural desire can be entirely frustrate,"
and seeing that these desires are indeed so unfailing in us that they
have escaped not the reasoners of any time, but were held divine of old,
and in even heathen countries,[30] it cannot be but that there is in
these visionary pleasures, lightly as we now regard them, cause for
thankfulness, ground for hope, anchor for faith, more than in all the
other manifold gifts and guidances, wherewith God crowns the years, and
hedges the paths of men.


  [30] [Greek: Hê dè teleía eudaimonía theôrêtikê tís eotin henérgeia.
    * * tois mèn gàr theois apas ho bios makarios, tois d anthrôpois,
    eph hoson homoiôma ti tês toiantês henergeias hupárchei. tôn d
    hallôn zôôn oudèn èudaimonei. hepeidê oudamê koinônei
    theôrias.]--Arist. Eth. Lib. 10th. The concluding book of the Ethics
    should be carefully read. It is all most valuable.

                               CHAPTER XII.


§ 1. Transition from typical to vital Beauty.

I proceed more particularly to examine the nature of that second kind of
beauty of which I spoke in the third chapter, as consisting in "the
appearance of felicitous fulfilment of function in living things." I
have already noticed the example of very pure and high typical beauty
which is to be found in the lines and gradations of unsullied snow: if,
passing to the edge of a sheet of it, upon the lower Alps, early in May,
we find, as we are nearly sure to find, two or three little round
openings pierced in it, and through these emergent, a slender, pensive,
fragile flower[31] whose small dark, purple-fringed bell hangs down and
shudders over the icy cleft that it has cloven, as if partly wondering
at its own recent grave, and partly dying of very fatigue after its hard
won victory; we shall be, or we ought to be, moved by a totally
different impression of loveliness from that which we receive among the
dead ice and the idle clouds. There is now uttered to us a call for
sympathy, now offered to us an image of moral purpose and achievement,
which, however unconscious or senseless the creature may indeed be that
so seems to call, cannot be heard without affection, nor contemplated
without worship, by any of us whose heart is rightly tuned, or whose
mind is clearly and surely sighted.

Throughout the whole of the organic creation every being in a perfect
state exhibits certain appearances, or evidences, of happiness, and
besides is in its nature, its desires, its modes of nourishment,
habitation, and death, illustrative or expressive of certain moral
dispositions or principles. Now, first, in the keenness of the sympathy
which we feel in the happiness, real or apparent, of all organic beings,
and which, as we shall presently see, invariably prompts us, from the
joy we have in it, to look upon those as most lovely which are most
happy; and secondly, in the justness of the moral sense which rightly
reads the lesson they are all intended to teach, and classes them in
orders of worthiness and beauty according to the rank and nature of that
lesson, whether it be of warning or example, of those that wallow or of
those that soar, of the fiend-hunted swine by the Gennesaret lake, or of
the dove returning to its ark of rest; in our right accepting and
reading of all this, consists, I say, the ultimately perfect condition
of that noble theoretic faculty, whose place in the system of our nature
I have already partly vindicated with respect to typical, but which can
only fully be established with respect to vital beauty.

§ 2. The perfection of the theoretic faculty as concerned with vital
       beauty, is charity.

Its first perfection, therefore, relating to vital beauty, is the
kindness and unselfish fulness of heart, which receives the utmost
amount of pleasure from the happiness of all things. Of which in high
degree the heart of man is incapable, neither what intense enjoyment the
angels may have in all that they see of things that move and live, and
in the part they take in the shedding of God's kindness upon them, can
we know or conceive: only in proportion as we draw near to God, and are
made in measure like unto him, can we increase this our possession of
charity, of which the entire essence is in God only.

Wherefore it is evident that even the ordinary exercise of this faculty
implies a condition of the whole moral being in some measure right and
healthy, and that to the entire exercise of it there is necessary the
entire perfection of the Christian character, for he who loves not God,
nor his brother, cannot love the grass beneath his feet and the
creatures that fill those spaces in the universe which he needs not, and
which live not for his uses; nay, he has seldom grace to be grateful
even to those that love him and serve him, while, on the other hand,
none can love God nor his human brother without loving all things which
his Father loves, nor without looking upon them every one as in that
respect his brethren also, and perhaps worthier than he, if in the under
concords they have to fill, their part is touched more truly. Wherefore
it is good to read of that kindness and humbleness of St. Francis of
Assisi, who spoke never to bird nor to cicala, nor even to wolf and
beast of prey, but as his brother; and so we find are moved the minds of
all good and mighty men, as in the lesson that we have from the Mariner
of Coleridge, and yet more truly and rightly taught in the Heartleap

               "Never to blend our pleasure, or our pride,
                With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels,"

and again in the White Doe of Rylstone, with the added teaching of that
gift, which we have from things beneath us, in thanks for the love they
cannot equally return; that anguish of our own,

               "Is tempered and allayed by sympathies,
                Aloft ascending and descending deep,
                Even to the inferior kinds,"

so that I know not of anything more destructive of the whole theoretic
faculty, not to say of the Christian character and human intellect, than
those accursed sports in which man makes of himself, cat, tiger,
serpent, chaetodon, and alligator in one, and gathers into one
continuance of cruelty for his amusement all the devices that brutes
sparingly and at intervals use against each other for their

§ 3. Only with respect to plants, less affection than sympathy.

As we pass from those beings of whose happiness and pain we are certain
to those in which it is doubtful or only seeming, as possibly in
plants, (though I would fain hold, if I might, "the faith that every
flower, enjoys the air it breathes," neither do I ever crush or gather
one without some pain,) yet our feeling for them has in it more of
sympathy than of actual love, as receiving from them in delight far more
than we can give; for love, I think, chiefly grows in giving, at least
its essence is the desire of doing good, or giving happiness, and we
cannot feel the desire of that which we cannot conceive, so that if we
conceive not of a plant as capable of pleasure, we cannot desire to give
it pleasure, that is, we cannot love it in the entire sense of the term.

Nevertheless, the sympathy of very lofty and sensitive minds usually
reaches so far as to the conception of life in the plant, and so to
love, as with Shelley, of the sensitive plant, and Shakspeare always, as
he has taught us in the sweet voices of Ophelia and Perdita, and
Wordsworth always, as of the daffodils, and the celandine.

               "It doth not love the shower, nor seek the cold.
                This neither is its courage, nor its choice,
                But its necessity in being old,"--

and so all other great poets (that is to say, great seers;[33]) nor do I
believe that any mind, however rude, is without some slight perception
or acknowledgment of joyfulness in breathless things, as most certainly
there are none but feel instinctive delight in the appearances of such

§ 4. Which is proportioned to the appearance of energy in the plants.

For it is matter of easy demonstration, that setting the characters of
typical beauty aside, the pleasure afforded by every organic form is in
proportion to its appearance of healthy vital energy; as in a rose-bush,
setting aside all considerations of gradated flushing of color and fair
folding of line, which it shares with the cloud or the snow-wreath, we
find in and through all this, certain signs pleasant and acceptable as
signs of life and enjoyment in the particular individual plant itself.
Every leaf and stalk is seen to have a function, to be constantly
exercising that function, and as it seems _solely_ for the good and
enjoyment of the plant. It is true that reflection will show us that the
plant is not living for itself alone, that its life is one of
benefaction, that it gives as well as receives, but no sense of this
whatsoever mingles with our perception of physical beauty in its forms.
Those forms which appear to be necessary to its health, the symmetry of
its leaflets, the smoothness of its stalks, the vivid green of its
shoots, are looked upon by us as signs of the plant's own happiness and
perfection; they are useless to us, except as they give us pleasure in
our sympathizing with that of the plant, and if we see a leaf withered
or shrunk or worm-eaten, we say it is ugly, and feel it to be most
painful, not because it hurts _us_, but because it seems to hurt the
plant, and conveys to us an idea of pain and disease and failure of life
in _it_.

That the amount of pleasure we receive is in exact proportion to the
appearance of vigor and sensibility in the plant, is easily proved by
observing the effect of those which show the evidences of it in the
least degree, as, for instance, any of the cacti not in flower. Their
masses are heavy and simple, their growth slow, their various parts
jointed on one to another, as if they were buckled or pinned together
instead of growing out of each other, (note the singular imposition in
many of them, the prickly pear for instance, of the fruit upon the body
of the plant, so that it looks like a swelling or disease,) and often
farther opposed by harsh truncation of line as in the cactus
truncatophylla. All these circumstances so concur to deprive the plant
of vital evidences, that we receive from it more sense of pain than of
beauty; and yet even here, the sharpness of the angles, the symmetrical
order and strength of the spines, the fresh and even color of the body,
are looked for earnestly as signs of healthy condition, our pain is
increased by their absence, and indefinitely increased if blotches, and
other appearances of bruise and decay interfere with that little life
which the plant seems to possess.

The same singular characters belong in animals to the crustacea, as to
the lobster, crab, scorpion, etc., and in great measure deprive them of
the beauty which we find in higher orders, so that we are reduced to
look for their beauty to single parts and joints, and not to the whole

§ 5. This sympathy is unselfish, and does not regard utility.

Now I wish particularly to impress upon the reader that all these
sensations of beauty in the plant arise from our unselfish sympathy with
its happiness, and not from any view of the qualities in it which may
bring good to us, nor even from our acknowledgment in it of any moral
condition beyond that of mere felicity; for such an acknowledgment,
belongs to the second operation of the theoretic faculty (compare § 2,)
and not to the sympathetic part which we are at present examining; so
that we even find that in this respect, the moment we begin to look upon
any creature as subordinate to some purpose out of itself, some of the
sense of organic beauty is lost. Thus, when we are told that the leaves
of a plant are occupied in decomposing carbonic acid, and preparing
oxygen for us, we begin to look upon it with some such indifference as
upon a gasometer. It has become a machine; some of our sense of its
happiness is gone; its emanation of inherent life is no longer pure. The
bending trunk, waving to and fro in the wind above the waterfall, is
beautiful because it is happy, though it is perfectly useless to us. The
same trunk, hewn down and thrown across the stream, has lost its beauty.
It serves as a bridge,--it has become useful; it lives not for itself,
and its beauty is gone, or what it retains is purely typical, dependent
on its lines and colors, not on its functions. Saw it into planks, and
though now adapted to become permanently useful, its whole beauty is
lost forever, or to be regained only in part when decay and ruin shall
have withdrawn it again from use, and left it to receive from the hand
of nature the velvet moss and varied lichen, which may again suggest
ideas of inherent happiness, and tint its mouldering sides with hues of

There is something, I think, peculiarly beautiful and instructive in
this unselfishness of the theoretic faculty, and in its abhorrence of
all utility which is based on the pain or destruction of any creature,
for in such ministering to each other as is consistent with the essence
and energy of both, it takes delight, as in the clothing of the rock by
the herbage, and the feeding of the herbage by the stream.

§ 6. Especially with respect to animals.

§ 7. And it is destroyed by evidences of mechanism.

But still more distinct evidence of its being indeed the expression of
happiness to which we look for our first pleasure in organic form, is
to be found in the way in which we regard the bodily frame of animals:
of which it is to be noted first, that there is not anything which
causes so intense and tormenting a sense of ugliness as any scar, wound,
monstrosity, or imperfection which seems inconsistent with the animal's
ease and health; and that although in vegetables, where there is no
immediate sense of pain, we are comparatively little hurt by
excrescences and irregularities, but are sometimes even delighted with
them, and fond of them, as children of the oak-apple, and sometimes look
upon them as more interesting than the uninjured conditions, as in the
gnarled and knotted trunks of trees; yet the slightest approach to
anything of the kind in animal form is regarded with intense horror,
merely from the sense of pain it conveys. And, in the second place, it
is to be noted that whenever we dissect the animal frame, or conceive it
as dissected, and substitute in our ideas the neatness of mechanical
contrivance for the pleasure of the animal; the moment we reduce
enjoyment to ingenuity, and volition to leverage, that instant all sense
of beauty disappears. Take, for instance, the action of the limb of the
ostrich, which is beautiful so long as we see it in its swift uplifting
along the desert sands, and trace in the tread of it her scorn of the
horse and his rider, but would infinitely lose of its impressiveness, if
we could see the spring ligament playing backwards and forwards in
alternate jerks over the tubercle at the hock joint. Take again the
action of the dorsal fin of the shark tribe. So long as we observe the
uniform energy of motion in the whole frame, the lash of the tail, bound
of body, and instantaneous lowering of the dorsal, to avoid the
resistance of the water as it turns, there is high sense of organic
power and beauty. But when we dissect the dorsal, and find that its
superior ray is supported in its position by a peg in a notch at its
base, and that when the fin is to be lowered, the peg has to be taken
out, and when it is raised put in again; although we are filled with
wonder at the ingenuity of the mechanical contrivance, all our sense of
beauty is gone, and not to be recovered until we again see the fin
playing on the animal's body, apparently by its own will alone, with the
life running along its rays. It is by a beautiful ordinance of the
Creator that all these mechanisms are concealed from sight, though open
to investigation, and that in all which is outwardly manifested we seem
to see his presence rather than his workmanship, and the mysterious
breath of life, rather than the manipulation of matter.

As, therefore, it appears from all evidence that it is the sense of
felicity which we first desire in organic form, it is evident from
reason, as demonstrable by experience, that those forms will be the most
beautiful (always, observe, leaving typical beauty out of the question)
which exhibit most of power, and seem capable of most quick and joyous
sensation. Hence we find gradations of beauty from the apparent
impenetrableness of hide and slow motion of the elephant and rhinoceros,
from the foul occupation of the vulture, from the earthy struggling of
the worm, to the brilliancy of the butterfly, the buoyancy of the lark,
the swiftness of the fawn and the horse, the fair and kingly sensibility
of man.

§ 8. The second perfection of the theoretic faculty as concerned with
       life is justice of moral judgment.

Thus far then, the theoretic faculty is concerned with the happiness of
animals, and its exercise depends on the cultivation of the affections
only. Let us next observe how it is concerned with the moral functions
of animals, and therefore how it is dependent on the cultivation of
every moral sense. There is not any organic creature, but in its history
and habits it shall exemplify or illustrate to us some moral excellence
or deficiency, or some point of God's providential government, which it
is necessary for us to know. Thus the functions and the fates of animals
are distributed to them, with a variety which exhibits to us the dignity
and results of almost every passion and kind of conduct, some filthy and
slothful, pining and unhappy; some rapacious, restless, and cruel; some
ever earnest and laborious, and, I think, unhappy in their endless
labor, creatures, like the bee, that heap up riches and cannot tell who
shall gather them, and others employed like angels in endless offices of
love and praise. Of which when, in right condition of mind, we esteem
those most beautiful, whose functions are the most noble, whether as
some, in mere energy, or as others, in moral honor, so that we look with
hate on the foulness of the sloth, and the subtlety of the adder, and
the rage of the hyena: with the honor due to their earthly wisdom we
invest the earnest ant and unwearied bee; but we look with full
perception of sacred function to the tribes of burning plumage and
choral voice.[34] And so what lesson we might receive for our earthly
conduct from the creeping and laborious things, was taught us by that
earthly king who made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones (yet
thereafter was less rich towards God). But from the lips of an heavenly
King, who had not where to lay his head, we were taught what lesson we
have to learn from those higher creatures who sow not, nor reap, nor
gather into barns, for their Heavenly Father feedeth them.

§ 9. How impeded.

§ 10. The influence of moral signs in expression.

There is much difficulty in the way of our looking with this rightly
balanced judgment on the moral functions of the animal tribes, owing to
the independent and often opposing characters of typical beauty, which
are among them, as it seems, arbitrarily distributed, so that the most
fierce and cruel are often clothed in the liveliest colors, and
strengthened by the noblest forms, with this only exception, that so far
as I know, there is no high beauty in any slothful animal, but even
among those of prey, its characters exist in exalted measure upon those
that range and pursue, and are in equal degree withdrawn from those that
lie subtly and silently in the covert of the reed and fens. But that
mind only is fully disciplined in its theoretic power, which can, when
it chooses, throwing off the sympathies and repugnancies with which the
ideas of destructiveness or of innocence accustom us to regard the
animal tribes, as well as those meaner likes and dislikes which arise, I
think, from the greater or less resemblance of animal powers to our own,
can pursue the pleasures of typical beauty down to the scales of the
alligator, the coils of the serpent, and the joints of the beetle; and
again, on the other hand, regardless of the impressions of typical
beauty, accept from each creature, great or small, the more important
lessons taught by its position in creation as sufferer or chastiser, as
lowly or having dominion, as of foul habit or lofty aspiration, and from
the several perfections which all illustrate or possess, courage,
perseverance, industry, or intelligence, or, higher yet, of love and
patience, and fidelity and rejoicing, and never wearied praise. Which
moral perfections that they indeed are productive, in proportion to
their expression, of instant beauty instinctively felt, is best proved
by comparing those parts of animals in which they are definitely
expressed, as for instance the eye, of which we shall find those ugliest
which have in them no expression nor life whatever, but a corpse-like
stare, or an indefinite meaningless glaring, as in some lights, those of
owls and cats, and mostly of insects and of all creatures in which the
eye seems rather an external, optical instrument than a bodily member
through which emotion and virtue of soul may be expressed, (as
pre-eminently in the chameleon,) because the seeming want of sensibility
and vitality in a living creature is the most painful of all wants. And
next to these in ugliness come the eyes that gain vitality indeed, but
only by means of the expression of intense malignity, as in the serpent
and alligator; and next to these, to whose malignity is added the virtue
of subtlety and keenness, as of the lynx and hawk; and then, by
diminishing the malignity and increasing the expressions of
comprehensiveness and determination, we arrive at those of the lion and
eagle, and at last, by destroying malignity altogether, at the fair eye
of the herbivorous tribes, wherein the superioity of beauty consists
always in the greater or less sweetness and gentleness primarily, as in
the gazelle, camel, and ox, and in the greater or less intellect,
secondarily, as in the horse and dog, and finally, in gentleness and
intellect both in man. And again, taking the mouth, another source of
expression, we find it ugliest where it has none, as mostly in fish, or
perhaps where without gaining much in expression of any kind, it becomes
a formidable destructive instrument, as again in the alligator, and
then, by some increase of expression, we arrive at birds' beaks, wherein
there is more obtained by the different ways of setting on the mandibles
than is commonly supposed, (compare the bills of the duck and the
eagle,) and thence we reach the finely developed lips of the carnivora,
which nevertheless lose that beauty they have, in the actions of
snarling and biting, and from these we pass to the nobler because
gentler and more sensible, of the horse, camel, and fawn, and so again
up to man, only there is less traceableness of the principle in the
mouths of the lower animals, because they are in slight measure only
capable of expression, and chiefly used as instruments, and that of low
function, whereas in man the mouth is given most definitely as a means
of expression, beyond and above its lower functions. Compare the remarks
of Sir Charles Bell on this subject in his Essay on Expression, and
compare the mouth of the negro head given by him (p. 28, third edition)
with that of Raffaelle's St. Catherine. I shall illustrate the subject
farther hereafter by giving the mouth of one of the demons of Orcagna's
Inferno, with projecting incisors, and that of a fish and a swine, in
opposition to pure graminivorous and human forms; but at present it is
sufficient for my purpose to insist on the single great principle, that,
wherever expression is possible, and uninterfered with by characters of
typical beauty, which confuse the subject exceedingly as regards the
mouth, (for the typical beauty of the carnivorous lips is on a grand
scale, while it exists in very low degree in the beaks of birds,)
wherever, I say, these considerations do not interfere, the beauty of
the animal form is in exact proportion to the amount of moral or
intellectual virtue expressed by it; and wherever beauty exists at all,
there is some kind of virtue to which it is owing, as the majesty of the
lion's eye is owing not to its ferocity, but to its seriousness and
seeming intellect, and of the lion's mouth to its strength and
sensibility, and not its gnashing of teeth, nor wrinkling in its wrath;
and farther be it noted, that of the intellectual or moral virtues, the
moral are those which are attended with most beauty, so that the gentle
eye of the gazelle is fairer to look upon than the more keen glance of
men, if it be unkind.

§ 11. As also in plants.

Of the parallel effects of expression upon plants there is little to be
noted, as the mere naming of the subject cannot but bring countless
illustrations to the mind of every reader: only this, that, as we saw
they were less susceptible of our sympathetic love, owing to the absence
in them of capability of enjoyment, so they are less open to the
affections based upon the expression of moral virtue, owing to their
want of volition; so that even on those of them which are deadly and
unkind we look not without pleasure, the more because this their evil
operation cannot be by them outwardly expressed, but only by us
empirically known; so that of the outward seemings and expressions of
plants, there are few but are in some way good and therefore beautiful,
as of humility, and modesty, and love of places and things, in the
reaching out of their arms, and clasping of their tendrils; and energy
of resistance, and patience of suffering, and beneficence one towards
another in shade and protection, and to us also in scents and fruits
(for of their healing virtues, however important to us, there is no more
outward sense nor seeming than of their properties mortal or dangerous).

§ 12 Recapitulation.

Whence, in fine, looking to the whole kingdom of organic nature, we find
that our full receiving of its beauty depends first on the sensibility
and then on the accuracy and touchstone faithfulness of the heart in its
moral judgments, so that it is necessary that we should not only love
all creatures well, but esteem them in that order which is according to
God's laws and not according to our own human passions and
predilections, not looking for swiftness, and strength, and cunning,
rather than for patience and kindness, still less delighting in their
animosity and cruelty one towards another, neither, if it may be
avoided, interfering with the working of nature in any way, nor, when we
interfere to obtain service, judging from the morbid conditions of the
animal or vegetable so induced; for we see every day the theoretic
faculty entirely destroyed in those who are interested in particular
animals, by their delight in the results of their own teaching, and by
the vain straining of curiosity for new forms such as nature never
intended, as the disgusting types for instance, which we see earnestly
sought for by the fanciers of rabbits and pigeons, and constantly in
horses, substituting for the true and balanced beauty of the free
creature some morbid development of a single power, as of swiftness in
the racer, at the expense, in certain measure, of the animal's healthy
constitution and fineness of form; and so the delight of horticulturists
in the spoiling of plants; so that in all cases we are to beware of such
opinions as seem in any way referable to human pride, or even to the
grateful or pernicious influence of things upon ourselves, and to cast
the mind free, and out of ourselves, humbly, and yet always in that
noble position of pause above the other visible creatures, nearer God
than they, which we authoritatively hold, thence looking down upon them,
and testing the clearness of our moral vision by the extent, and
fulness, and constancy of our pleasure in the light of God's love as it
embraces them, and the harmony of his holy laws, that forever bring
mercy out of rapine, and religion out of wrath.


  [31] Soldanella Alpina.

  [32] I would have Mr. Landseer, before he gives us any more writhing
    otters, or yelping packs, reflect whether that which is best worthy
    of contemplation in a hound be its ferocity, or in an otter its
    agony, or in a human being its victory, hardly achieved even with
    the aid of its more sagacious brutal allies over a poor little
    fish-catching creature, a foot long.

  [33] Compare Milton.

                          "They at her coming sprung
               And touched by her fair tendance, gladlier grew"

  [34]        "Type of the wise--who soar, but never roam,
               True to the kindred points of heaven and home."
                               (WORDSWORTH.--To the Skylark.)

                                CHAPTER XIII.


§ 1. The beauty of fulfilment of appointed function in every animal.

Hitherto we have observed the conclusions of the theoretic faculty with
respect to the relations of happiness, and of more or less exalted
function existing between different orders of organic being. But we must
pursue the inquiry farther yet, and observe what impressions of beauty
are connected with more or less perfect fulfilment of the appointed
function by different individuals of the same species. We are now no
longer called to pronounce upon worthiness of occupation or dignity of
disposition; but both employment and capacity being known, and the
animal's position and duty fixed, we have to regard it in that respect
alone, comparing it with other individuals of its species, and to
determine how far it worthily executes its office; whether, if scorpion,
it hath poison enough, or if tiger, strength enough, or if dove,
innocence enough, to sustain rightly its place in creation, and come up
to the perfect idea of dove, tiger, or scorpion.

In the first or sympathetic operation of the theoretic faculty, it will
be remembered, we receive pleasure from the signs of mere happiness in
living things. In the second theoretic operation of comparing and
judging, we constituted ourselves such judges of the lower creatures as
Adam was made by God when they were brought to him to be named, and we
allowed of beauty in them as they reached, more or less, to that
standard of moral perfection by which we test ourselves. But, in the
third place, we are to come down again from the judgment seat, and
taking it for granted that every creature of God is in some way good,
and has a duty and specific operation providentially accessory to the
well-being of all, we are to look in this faith to that employment and
nature of each, and to derive pleasure from their entire perfection and
fitness for the duty they have to do, and in their entire fulfilment of
it: and so we are to take pleasure and find beauty in the magnificent
binding together of the jaws of the ichthyosaurus for catching and
holding, and in the adaptation of the lion for springing, and of the
locust for destroying, and of the lark for singing, and in every
creature for the doing of that which God has made it to do. Which
faithful pleasure in the perception of the perfect operation of lower
creatures I have placed last among the perfections of the theoretic
faculty concerning them, because it is commonly last acquired, both
owing to the humbleness and trustfulness of heart which it demands, and
because it implies a knowledge of the habits and structure of every
creature, such as we can but imperfectly possess.

§ 2. The two senses of the word "ideal." Either it refers to action of
       the imagination.

The perfect _idea_ of the form and condition in which all the properties
of the species are fully developed, is called the ideal of the species.
The question of the nature of ideal conception of species, and of the
mode in which the mind arrives at it, has been the subject of so much
discussion, and source of so much embarrassment, chiefly owing to that
unfortunate distinction between idealism and realism which leads most
people to imagine the ideal opposed to the real, and therefore _false_,
that I think it necessary to request the reader's most careful attention
to the following positions.

Any work of art which represents, not a material object, but the mental
conception of a material object, is, in the primary sense of the word
ideal; that is to say, it represents an idea, and not a thing. Any work
of art which represents or realizes a material object, is, in the
primary sense of the term, unideal.

Ideal works of art, therefore, in this first sense, represent the result
of an act of imagination, and are good or bad in proportion to the
healthy condition and general power of the imagination, whose acts they

Unideal works of art (the studious production of which is termed
realism) represent actual existing things, and are good or bad in
proportion to the perfection of the representation.

All entirely bad works of art may be divided into those which,
professing to be imaginative, bear no stamp of imagination, and are
therefore false, and those which, professing to be representative of
matter, miss of the representation and are therefore nugatory.

It is the habit of most observers to regard art as representative of
matter, and to look only for the entireness of representation; and it
was to this view of art that I limited the arguments of the former
sections of the present work, wherein having to oppose the conclusions
of a criticism entirely based upon the realist system, I was compelled
to meet that criticism on its own grounds. But the greater part of works
of art, more especially those devoted to the expression of ideas of
beauty, are the results of the agency of imagination, their worthiness
depending, as above stated, on the healthy condition of the imagination.

Hence it is necessary for us, in order to arrive at conclusions
respecting the worthiness of such works, to define and examine the
nature of the imaginative faculty, and to determine first what are the
signs or conditions of its existence at all; and secondly, what are the
evidences of its healthy and efficient existence, upon which examination
I shall enter in the second section of the present part.

§ 3. Or to perfection of type.

But there is another sense of the word ideal besides this, and it is
that with which we are here concerned. It is evident that, so long as we
use the word to signify that art which represents ideas and not things,
we may use it as truly of the art which represents an idea of Caliban,
and not real Caliban, as of the art which represents an idea of
Antinous, and not real Antinous. For that is as much imagination which
conceives the monster as which conceives the man. If, however, Caliban
and Antinous be creatures of the same species, and the form of the one
contain not the fully developed types or characters of the species,
while the form of the other presents the greater part of them, then the
latter is said to be a form more ideal than the other, as a nearer
approximation to the general idea or conception of the species.

§ 4. This last sense how inaccurate, yet to be retained.

Now it is evident that this use of the word ideal is much less accurate
than the other, from which it is derived, for it rests on the assumption
that the assemblage of all the characters of a species in their perfect
development cannot exist but in the imagination. For if it can actually
and in reality exist, it is not right to call it ideal or imaginary; it
would be better to call it characteristic or general, and to reserve the
word ideal for the results of the operation of the imagination, either
on the perfect or imperfect forms.

Nevertheless, the word ideal has been so long and universally accepted
in this sense, that I think it better to continue the use of it, so only
that the reader will be careful to observe the distinction in the sense,
according to the subject matter under discussion. At present then, using
it as expressive of the noble generic form which indicates the full
perfection of the creature in all its functions, I wish to examine how
far this perception exists or may exist in nature, and if not in nature,
how it is by us discoverable or imaginable.

§ 5. Of Ideal form. First, in the lower animals.

Now it is better, when we wish to arrive at truth, always to take
familiar instances, wherein the mind is not likely to be biassed by any
elevated associations or favorite theories. Let us ask therefore, first,
what kind of ideal form may be attributed to a limpet or an oyster, that
is to say, whether all oysters do or do not come up to the entire notion
or idea of an oyster. I apprehend that, although in respect of size,
age, and kind of feeding, there may be some difference between them, yet
of those which are of full size and healthy condition there will be
found many which fulfil the conditions of an oyster in every respect,
and that so perfectly, that we could not, by combining the features of
two or more together, produce a more perfect oyster than any that we
see. I suppose also, that, out of a number of healthy fish, birds, or
beasts of the same species, it would not be easy to select an individual
as superior to _all_ the rest; neither by comparing two or more of the
nobler examples together, to arrive at the conception of a form superior
to that of either; but that, though the accidents of more abundant food
or more fitting habitation may induce among them some varieties of size,
strength, and color, yet the entire generic form would be presented by
many, neither would any art be able to add to or diminish from it.

§ 6. In what consistent.

It is, therefore, hardly right to use the word ideal of the generic
forms of these creatures, of which we see actual examples; but if we are
to use it, then be it distinctly understood that their ideality consists
in the full development of all the powers and properties of the creature
as such, and is inconsistent with accidental or imperfect developments,
and even with great variation from average size, the ideal size being
neither gigantic nor diminutive, but the utmost grandeur and entireness
of proportion at a certain point above the mean size; for as more
individuals always fall short of generic size than rise above it, the
generic is above the average or mean size. And this perfection of the
creature invariably involves the utmost possible degree of all those
properties of beauty, both typical and vital, which it is appointed to

§ 7. Ideal form in vegetables.

Let us next observe the conditions of ideality in vegetables. Out of a
large number of primroses or violets, I apprehend that, although one or
two might be larger than all the rest, the greater part would be very
sufficient primroses and violets. And that we could, by no study nor
combination of violets, conceive of a better violet than many in the
bed. And so generally of the blossoms and separate members of all

But among the entire forms of the complex vegetables, as of oak-trees,
for instance, there exists very large and constant difference, some
being what we hold to be fine oaks, as in parks, and places where they
are taken care of, and have their own way, and some are but poor and
mean oaks, which have had no one to take care of them, but have been
obliged to maintain themselves.

That which we have to determine is, whether ideality be predicable of
the fine oaks only, or whether the poor and mean oaks also may be
considered as ideal, that is, coming up to the conditions of oak, and
the general notion of oak.

§ 8. The difference of position between plants and animals.

Now there is this difference between the positions held in creation by
animals and plants, and thence in the dispositions with which we regard
them; that the animals, being for the most part locomotive, are capable
both of living where they choose, and of obtaining what food they want,
and of fulfilling all the conditions necessary to their health and
perfection. For which reason they are answerable for such health and
perfection, and we should be displeased and hurt if we did not find it
in one individual as well as another.

§ 9. Admits of variety in the ideal of the former.

But the case is evidently different with plants. They are intended
fixedly to occupy many places comparatively unfit for them, and to fill
up all the spaces where greenness, and coolness, and ornament, and
oxygen are wanted, and that with very little reference to their comfort
or convenience. Now it would be hard upon the plant if, after being tied
to a particular spot, where it is indeed much wanted, and is a great
blessing, but where it has enough to do to live, whence it cannot move
to obtain what it wants or likes, but must stretch its unfortunate arms
here and there for bare breath and light, and split its way among rocks,
and grope for sustenance in unkindly soil; it would be hard upon the
plant, I say, if under all these disadvantages, it were made answerable
for its appearance, and found fault with because it was not a fine plant
of the kind. And so we find it ordained that in order that no unkind
comparisons may be drawn between one and another, there are not
appointed to plants the fixed number, position, and proportion of
members which are ordained in animals, (and any variation from which in
these is unpardonable,) but a continually varying number and position,
even among the more freely growing examples, admitting therefore all
kinds of license to those which have enemies to contend with, and that
without in any way detracting from their dignity and perfection.

So then there is in trees no perfect form which can be fixed upon or
reasoned out as ideal; but that is always an ideal oak which, however
poverty-stricken, or hunger-pinched, or tempest-tortured, is yet seen to
have done, under its appointed circumstances, all that could be expected
of oak.

The ideal, therefore, of the park oak is that to which I alluded in the
conclusion of the former part of this work, full size, united terminal
curve, equal and symmetrical range of branches on each side. The ideal
of the mountain oak may be anything, twisting, and leaning, and
shattered, and rock-encumbered, so only that amidst all its misfortunes,
it maintain the dignity of oak; and, indeed, I look upon this kind of
tree as more ideal than the other, in so far as by its efforts and
struggles, more of its nature, enduring power, patience in waiting for,
and ingenuity in obtaining what it wants, is brought out, and so more of
the essence of oak exhibited, than under more fortunate conditions.

§ 10. Ideal form in vegetables destroyed by cultivation.

And herein, then, we at last find the cause of that fact which we have
twice already noted, that the exalted or seemingly improved condition,
whether of plant or animal, induced by human interference, is not the
true and artistical ideal of it.[35] It has been well shown by Dr.
Herbert,[36] that many plants are found alone on a certain soil or
subsoil in a wild state, not because such soil is favorable to them, but
because they alone are capable of existing on it, and because all
dangerous rivals are by its inhospitality removed. Now if we withdraw
the plant from this position, which it hardly endures, and supply it
with the earth, and maintain about it the temperature that it delights
in; withdrawing from it at the same time all rivals which, in such
conditions nature would have thrust upon it, we shall indeed obtain a
magnificently developed example of the plant, colossal in size, and
splendid in organization, but we shall utterly lose in it that moral
ideal which is dependent on its right fulfilment of its appointed
functions. It was intended and created by the Deity for the covering of
those lonely spots where no other plant could live; it has been thereto
endowed with courage, and strength, and capacities of endurance
unequalled; its character and glory are not therefore in the gluttonous
and idle feeling of its own over luxuriance, at the expense of other
creatures utterly destroyed and rooted out for its good alone, but in
its right doing of its hard duty; and forward climbing into those spots
of forlorn hope where it alone can bear witness to the kindness and
presence of the Spirit that cutteth out rivers among the rocks, as it
covers the valleys with corn: and there, in its vanward place, and only
there, where nothing is withdrawn for it, nor hurt by it, and where
nothing can take part of its honor, nor usurp its throne, are its
strength, and fairness, and price, and goodness in the sight of God, to
be truly esteemed.

§ 11. Instance in the Soldanella and Ranunculus.

The first time that I saw the soldanella alpina, before spoken of, it
was growing, of magnificent size, on a sunny Alpine pasture, among
bleating of sheep and lowing of cattle, associated with a profusion of
geum montanum, and ranunculus pyrenæus. I noticed it only because new to
me, nor perceived any peculiar beauty in its cloven flower. Some days
after, I found it alone, among the rack of the higher clouds, and
howling of glacier winds, and, as I described it, piercing through an
edge of avalanche, which in its retiring had left the new ground brown
and lifeless, and as if burned by recent fire; the plant was poor and
feeble, and seemingly exhausted with its efforts, but it was then that I
comprehended its ideal character, and saw its noble function and order
of glory among the constellations of the earth.

The ranunculus glacialis might perhaps, by cultivation, be blanched from
its wan and corpse-like paleness to purer white, and won to more
branched and lofty development of its ragged leaves. But the ideal of
the plant is to be found only in the last, loose stones of the moraine,
alone there; wet with the cold, unkindly drip of the glacier water, and
trembling as the loose and steep dust to which it clings yields ever and
anon, and shudders and crumbles away from about its root.

§ 12. The beauty of repose and felicity, how consistent with such ideal.

And if it be asked how this conception of the utmost beauty of ideal
form is consistent with what we formerly argued respecting the
pleasantness of the appearance of felicity in the creature, let it be
observed, and forever held, that the right and true happiness of every
creature, is in this very discharge of its function, and in those
efforts by which its strength and inherent energy are developed: and
that the repose of which we also spoke as necessary to all beauty, is,
as was then stated, repose not of inanition, nor of luxury, nor of
irresolution, but the repose of magnificent energy and being; in action,
the calmness of trust and determination; in rest, the consciousness of
duty accomplished and of victory won, and this repose and this felicity
can take place as well in the midst of trial and tempest, as beside the
waters of comfort; they perish only when the creature is either
unfaithful to itself, or is afflicted by circumstances unnatural and
malignant to its being, and for the contending with which it was neither
fitted nor ordained. Hence that rest which is indeed glorious is of the
chamois couched breathless on his granite bed, not of the stalled ox
over his fodder, and that happiness which is indeed beautiful is in the
bearing of those trial tests which are appointed for the proving of
every creature, whether it be good, or whether it be evil; and in the
fulfilment to the uttermost of every command it has received, and the
out-carrying to the uttermost of every power and gift it has gotten from
its God.

§ 13. The ideality of Art.

Therefore the task of the painter in his pursuit of ideal form is to
attain accurate knowledge, so far as may be in his power, of the
character, habits, and peculiar virtues and duties of every species of
being; down even to the stone, for there is an ideality of stones
according to their kind, an ideality of granite and slate and marble,
and it is in the utmost and most exalted exhibition of such individual
character, order, and use, that all ideality of art consists. The more
cautious he is in assigning the right species of moss to its favorite
trunk, and the right kind of weed to its necessary stone, in marking the
definite and characteristic leaf, blossom, seed, fracture, color, and
inward anatomy of everything, the more truly ideal his work becomes. All
confusion of species, all careless rendering of character, all unnatural
and arbitrary association, is vulgar and unideal in proportion to its

§ 14. How connected with the imaginative faculties.

It is to be noted, however, that nature sometimes in a measure herself
conceals these generic differences, and that when she displays them it
is commonly on a scale too small for human hand to follow.

The pursuit and seizure of the generic differences in their concealment,
and the display of them on a larger and more palpable scale, is one of
the wholesome and healthy operations of the imagination of which we are
presently to speak.[37]

Generic differences being commonly exhibited by art in different manner
and way from that of their natural occurrence, are in this respect more
strictly and truly ideal in art than in reality.

§ 15. Ideality, how belonging to ages and conditions.

This only remains to be noted, that, of all creatures whose existence
involves birth, progress, and dissolution, ideality is predicable all
through their existence, so that they be perfect with reference to their
supposed period of being. Thus there is an ideal of infancy, of youth,
of old age, of death, and of decay. But when the ideal form of the
species is spoken of or conceived in general terms, the form is
understood to be of that period when the generic attributes are
perfectly developed, and previous to the commencement of their decline.
At which period all the characters of vital and typical beauty are
commonly most concentrated in them, though the arrangement and
proportion of these characters varies at different periods, youth having
more of the vigorous beauty, and age of the reposing; youth of typical
outward fairness, and age of expanded and etherealized moral expression;
the babe, again, in some measure atoning in gracefulness for its want of
strength, so that the balanced glory of the creature continues in solemn
interchange, perhaps even

               "Filling more and more with crystal light,
                As pensive evening deepens into night."

Hitherto, however, we have confined ourselves to the examination of
ideal form in the lower animals, and we have found that, to arrive at
it, no combination of forms nor exertion of fancy is required, but only
simple choice among those naturally presented, together with careful
investigation and anatomizing of the habits of the creatures. I fear we
shall arrive at a very different conclusion, in considering the ideal
form of man.


  [35] I speak not here of those conditions of vegetation which have
    especial reference to man, as of seeds and fruits, whose sweetness
    and farina seem in great measure given, not for the plant's sake,
    but for his, and to which therefore the interruption in the harmony
    of creation of which he was the cause is extended, and their
    sweetness and larger measure of good to be obtained only by his
    redeeming labor. His curse has fallen on the corn and the vine, and
    the wild barley misses of its fulness, that he may eat bread by the
    sweat of his brow.

  [36] Journal of the Horticultural Society. Part I.

  [37] Compare Sect. II. Chap. IV.

                               CHAPTER XIV.

                     OF VITAL BEAUTY.--THIRDLY, IN MAN.

§ 1. Condition of the human creature entirely different from that of the
       lower animals.

Having thus passed gradually through all the orders and fields of
creation, and traversed that goodly line of God's happy creatures who
"leap not, but express a feast, where all the guests sit close, and
nothing wants," without finding any deficiency which human invention
might supply, nor any harm which human interference might mend, we come
at last to set ourselves face to face with ourselves, expecting that in
creatures made after the image of God we are to find comeliness and
completion more exquisite than in the fowls of the air and the things
that pass through the paths of the sea.

But behold now a sudden change from all former experience. No longer
among the individuals of the race is there equality or likeness, a
distributed fairness and fixed type visible in each, but evil diversity,
and terrible stamp of various degradation; features seamed with
sickness, dimmed by sensuality, convulsed by passion, pinched by
poverty, shadowed by sorrow, branded with remorse; bodies consumed with
sloth, broken down by labor, tortured by disease, dishonored in foul
uses; intellects without power, hearts without hope, minds earthly and
devilish; our bones full of the sin of our youth, the heaven revealing
our iniquity, the earth rising up against us, the roots dried up
beneath, and the branch cut off above; well for us only, if, after
beholding this our natural face in a glass, we desire not straightway to
forget what manner of men we be.

§ 2. What room here for idealization.

Herein there is at last something, and too much, for that short stopping
intelligence and dull perception of ours to accomplish, whether in
earnest fact, or in the seeking for the outward image of beauty:--to
undo the devil's work, to restore to the body the grace and the power
which inherited disease has destroyed, to return to the spirit the
purity, and to the intellect the grasp that they had in Paradise. Now,
first of all, this work, be it observed is in no respect a work of
imagination. Wrecked we are, and nearly all to pieces; but that little
good by which we are to redeem ourselves is to be got out of the old
wreck, beaten about and full of sand though it be; and not out of that
desert island of pride on which the devils split first, and we after
them: and so the only restoration of the body that we can reach is not
to be coined out of our fancies, but to be collected out of such
uninjured and bright vestiges of the old seal as we can find and set
together, and so the ideal of the features, as the good and perfect soul
is seen in them, is not to be reached by imagination, but by the seeing
and reaching forth of the better part of the soul to that of which it
must first know the sweetness and goodness in itself, before it can much
desire, or rightly find, the signs of it in others.

I say much desire and rightly find, because there is not any soul so
sunk but that it shall in some measure feel the impression of mental
beauty in the human features, and detest in others its own likeness, and
in itself despise that which of itself it has made.

§ 3. How the conception of the bodily ideal is reached.

Now, of the ordinary process by which the realization of ideal bodily
form is reached, there is explanation enough in all treatises on art,
and it is so far well comprehended that I need not stay long to consider
it. So far as the sight and knowledge of the human form, of the purest
race, exercised from infancy constantly, but not excessively in all
exercises of dignity, not in twists and straining dexterities, but in
natural exercises of running, casting, or riding; practised in
endurance, not of extraordinary hardship, for that hardens and degrades
the body, but of natural hardship, vicissitudes of winter and summer,
and cold and heat, yet in a climate where none of these are severe;
surrounded also by a certain degree of right luxury, so as to soften and
refine the forms of strength; so far as the sight of all this could
render the mental intelligence of what is right in human form so acute
as to be able to abstract and combine from the best examples so
produced, that which was most perfect in each, so far the Greek
conceived and attained the ideal of bodily form: and on the Greek modes
of attaining it, as well as on what he produced, as a perfect example of
it, chiefly dwell those writers whose opinions on this subject I have
collected; wholly losing sight of what seems to me the most important
branch of the inquiry, namely, the influence for good or evil of the
mind upon the bodily shape, the wreck of the mind itself, and the modes
by which we may conceive of its restoration.

§ 4. Modifications of the bodily ideal owing to influence of mind.
       First, of intellect.

Now, the operation of the mind upon the body, and evidence of it
thereon, may be considered under the following three general heads.

First, the operation of the intellectual powers upon the features, in
the fine cutting and chiselling of them, and removal from them of signs
of sensuality and sloth, by which they are blunted and deadened, and
substitution of energy and intensity for vacancy and insipidity, (by
which wants alone the faces of many fair women are utterly spoiled and
rendered valueless,) and by the keenness given to the eye and fine
moulding and development to the brow, of which effects Sir Charles Bell
has well noted the desirableness and opposition to brutal types, (p. 59,
third edition;) only this he has not sufficiently observed, that there
are certain virtues of the intellect in measure inconsistent with each
other, as perhaps great subtlety with great comprehensiveness, and high
analytical with high imaginative power, or that at least, if consistent
and compatible, their signs upon the features are not the same, so that
the outward form cannot express both, without in a measure expressing
neither; and so there are certain separate virtues of the outward form
correspondent with the more constant employment or more prevailing
capacity of the brain, as the piercing keenness, or open and reflective
comprehensiveness of the eye and forehead, and that all these virtues of
form are ideal, only those the most so which are the signs of the
worthiest powers of intellect, though which these be, we will not at
present stay to inquire.

§ 5. Secondly, of the moral feelings.

§ 6. What beauty is bestowed by them

The second point to be considered in the influence of mind upon body, is
the mode of operation and conjunction of the moral feelings on and with
the intellectual powers, and then their conjoint influence on the bodily
form. Now, the operation of the right moral feelings on the intellect is
always for the good of the latter, for it is not possible that
selfishness should reason rightly in any respect, but must be blind in
its estimation of the worthiness of all things, neither anger, for that
overpowers the reason or outcries it, neither sensuality, for that
overgrows and chokes it, neither agitation, for that has no time to
compare things together, neither enmity, for that must be unjust,
neither fear, for that exaggerates all things, neither cunning and
deceit, for that which is voluntarily untrue will soon be unwittingly
so: but the great reasoners are self-command, and trust unagitated, and
deep-looking Love, and Faith, which as she is above Reason, so she best
holds the reins of it from her high seat: so that they err grossly who
think of the right development even of the intellectual type as
possible, unless we look to higher sources of beauty first.
Nevertheless, though in their operation _upon_ them the moral feelings
are thus elevatory of the mental faculties, yet in their conjunction
_with_ them they seem to occupy, in their own fulness, such room as to
absorb and overshadow all else, so that the simultaneous exercise of
both is in a sort impossible; for which cause we occasionally find the
moral part in full development and action, without corresponding
expanding of the intellect (though never without healthy condition of
it,) as in that of Wordsworth,

                     "In such high hour
               Of visitation from the Living God,
               Thought was not;"

only I think that if we look far enough, we shall find that it is not
intelligence itself, but the immediate act and effort of a laborious,
struggling, and imperfect intellectual faculty, with which high moral
emotion is inconsistent; and that though we cannot, while we feel
deeply, reason shrewdly, yet I doubt if, _except_ when we feel deeply,
we can ever comprehend fully; so that it is only the climbing and
mole-like piercing, and not the sitting upon their central throne, nor
emergence into light, of the intellectual faculties which the full heart
feeling allows not. Hence, therefore, in the indications of the
countenance, they are only the hard cut lines, and rigid settings, and
wasted hollows, that speak of past effort and painfulness of mental
application, which are inconsistent with expression of moral feeling,
for all these are of infelicitous augury; but not the full and serene
development of habitual command in the look, and solemn thought in the
brow, only these, in their unison with the signs of emotion, become
softened and gradually confounded with a serenity and authority of
nobler origin. But of the sweetness which that higher serenity (of
happiness,) and the dignity which that higher authority (of Divine law,
and not human reason,) can and must stamp on the features, it would be
futile to speak here at length, for I suppose that both are acknowledged
on all hands, and that there is not any beauty but theirs to which men
pay long obedience: at all events, if not by sympathy discovered, it is
not in words explicable with what divine lines and lights the exercise
of godliness and charity will mould and gild the hardest and coldest
countenance, neither to what darkness their departure will consign the
loveliest. For there is not any virtue the exercise of which, even
momentarily, will not impress a new fairness upon the features, neither
on them only, but on the whole body, both the intelligence and the moral
faculties have operation, for even all the movement and gestures,
however slight, are different in their modes according to the mind that
governs them, and on the gentleness and decision of just feeling there
follows a grace of action, and through continuance of this a grace of
form, which by no discipline may be taught or attained.

§ 7. How the soul culture interferes harmfully with the bodily ideal.

The third point to be considered with respect to the corporeal
expression of mental character is, that there is a certain period of the
soul culture when it begins to interfere with some of the characters of
typical beauty belonging to the bodily frame, the stirring of the
intellect wearing down the flesh, and the moral enthusiasm burning its
way out to heaven, through the emaciation of the earthen vessel; and
that there is, in this indication of subduing of the mortal by the
immortal part, an ideal glory of perhaps a purer and higher range than
that of the more perfect material form. We conceive, I think, more nobly
of the weak presence of Paul, than of the fair and ruddy countenance of

§ 8. The inconsistency among the effects of the mental virtues on the

§ 9. Is a sign of God's kind purpose towards the race.

§ 10. Consequent separation and difference of ideals.

Now, be it observed that in our consideration of these three directions
of mental influence, we have several times been compelled to stop short
of definite conclusions owing to the apparent inconsistency of certain
excellences and beauties to which they tend, as, first, of different
kinds of intellect with each other; and secondly, of the moral faculties
with the intellectual, (and if we had separately examined the moral
emotions, we should have found certain inconsistencies among them also,)
and again of the soul culture generally with the bodily perfections.
Such inconsistencies we should find in the perfections of no other
animal. The strength or swiftness of the dog are not inconsistent with
his sagacity, nor is bodily labor in the ant or bee destructive of their
acuteness of instinct. And this peculiarity of relation among the
perfections of man is no result of his fall or sinfulness, but an
evidence of his greater nobility, and of the goodness of God towards
him. For the individuals of each race of lower animals, being not
intended to hold among each other those relations of charity which are
the privilege of humanity, are not adapted to each other's assistance,
admiration, or support, by differences of power and function. But the
love of the human race is increased by their individual differences, and
the unity of the creature, as before we saw of all unity, made perfect
by each having something to bestow and to receive, bound to the rest by
a thousand various necessities and various gratitudes, humility in each
rejoicing to admire in his fellow that which he finds not in himself,
and each being in some respect the complement of his race. Therefore, in
investigating the signs of the ideal or perfect type of humanity, we
must not presume on the singleness of that type, and yet, on the other
hand, we must cautiously distinguish between differences conceivably
existing in a perfect state, and differences resulting from immediate
and present operation of the Adamite curse. Of which the former are
differences that bind, and the latter that separate. For although we can
suppose the ideal or perfect human heart, and the perfect human
intelligence, equally adapted to receive every right sensation and
pursue every order of truth, yet as it is appointed for some to be in
authority and others in obedience, some in solitary functions and others
in relative ones, some to receive and others to give, some to teach and
some to discover; and as all these varieties of office are not only
conceivable as existing in a perfect state of man, but seem almost to be
implied by it, and at any rate cannot be done away with but by a total
change of his constitution and dependencies, of which the imagination
can take no hold; so there are habits and capacities of expression
induced by these various offices, which admit of many separate ideals of
equal perfection, according to the functions of the creatures, so that
there is an ideal of authority, of judgment, of affection, of reason,
and of faith; neither can any combination of these ideals be attained,
not that the just judge is to be supposed incapable of affection, nor
the king incapable of obedience, but as it is impossible that any
essence short of the Divine should at the same instant be equally
receptive of all emotions, those emotions which, by right and order,
have the most usual victory, both leave the stamp of their habitual
presence on the body, and render the individual more and more
susceptible of them in proportion to the frequency of their prevalent
recurrence; added to which causes of distinctive character are to be
taken into account the differences of age and sex, which, though
seemingly of more finite influence, cannot be banished from any human
conception. David, ruddy and of a fair countenance, with the brook stone
of deliverance in his hand, is not more ideal than David leaning on the
old age of Barzillai, returning chastened to his kingly home. And they
who are as the angels of God in heaven, yet cannot be conceived as so
assimilated that their different experiences and affections upon earth
shall then be forgotten and effectless: the child taken early to his
place cannot be imagined to wear there such a body, nor to have such
thoughts, as the glorified apostle who has finished his course and kept
the faith on earth. And so whatever perfections and likeness of love we
may attribute to either the tried or the crowned creatures, there is the
difference of the stars in glory among them yet; differences of original
gifts, though not of occupying till their Lord come, different
dispensations of trial and of trust, of sorrow and support, both in
their own inward, variable hearts, and in their positions of exposure or
of peace, of the gourd shadow and the smiting sun, of calling at heat of
day or eleventh hour, of the house unroofed by faith, and the clouds
opened by revelation: differences in warning, in mercies, in sicknesses,
in signs, in time of calling to account; like only they all are by that
which is not of them, but the gift of God's unchangeable mercy. "I will
give unto this last even as unto thee."

§ 11. The _effects_ of the Adamite curse are to be distinguished from
        signs of its immediate activity.

§ 12. Which latter only are to be banished from ideal form.

Hence, then, be it observed, that what we must determinedly banish from
the human form and countenance in our seeking of its ideal, is not
everything which can be ultimately traced to the Adamite fall for its
cause, but only the immediate operation and presence of the degrading
power or sin. For there is not any part of our feeling of nature, nor
can there be through eternity, which shall not be in some way influenced
and affected by the fall, and that not in any way of degradation, for
the renewing in the divinity of Christ is a nobler condition than ever
that of Paradise, and yet throughout eternity it must imply and refer to
the disobedience, and the corrupt state of sin and death, and the
suffering of Christ himself, which can we conceive of any redeemed soul
as for an instant forgetting, or as remembering without sorrow? Neither
are the alternations of joy and such sorrow as by us is inconceivable,
being only as it were a softness and silence in the pulse of an infinite
felicity, inconsistent with the state even of the unfallen, for the
angels who rejoice over repentance cannot but feel an uncomprehended
pain as they try and try again in vain, whether they may not warm hard
hearts with the brooding of their kind wings. So that we have not to
banish from the ideal countenance the evidences of sorrow, nor of past
suffering, nor even of past and conquered sin, but only the immediate
operation of any evil, or the immediate coldness and hollowness of any
good emotion. And hence in that contest before noted, between the body
and the soul, we may often have to indicate the body as far conquered
and outworn, and with signs of hard struggle and bitter pain upon it,
and yet without ever diminishing the purity of its ideal; and because it
is not in the power of any human imagination to reason out or conceive
the countless modifications of experience, suffering, and separated
feeling, which have modelled and written their indelible images in
various order upon every human countenance, so no right ideal can be
reached by any combination of feature nor by any moulding and melting of
individual beauties together, and still less without model or example
conceived; but there is a perfect ideal to be wrought out of _every_
face around us that has on its forehead the writing and the seal of the
angel ascending from the East,[38] by the earnest study and penetration
of the written history thereupon, and the banishing of the blots and
stains, wherein we still see in all that is human, the visible and
instant operation of unconquered sin.

§ 13. Ideal form is only to be obtained by portraiture.

Now I see not how any of the steps of the argument by which we have
arrived at this conclusion can be evaded, and yet it would be difficult
to state anything more directly opposite to the usual teaching and
practice of artists. It is usual to hear portraiture opposed to the
pursuit of ideality, and yet we find that no face can be ideal which is
not a portrait. Of this general principle, however, there are certain
modifications which we must presently state; let us first, however,
pursue it a little farther, and deduce its practical consequences.

§ 14. Instances among the greater of the ideal Masters.

These are, first, that the pursuit of idealism in humanity, as of
idealism in lower nature, can be successful only when followed through
the most constant, patient, and humble rendering of actual models,
accompanied with that earnest mental as well as ocular study of each,
which can interpret all that is written upon it, disentangle the
hieroglyphics of its sacred history, rend the veil of the bodily temple,
and rightly measure the relations of good and evil contending within it
for mastery,[39] that everything done without such study must be shallow
and contemptible, that generalization or combination of individual
character will end less in the mending than the losing of it, and,
except in certain instances of which we shall presently take note, is
valueless and vapid, even if it escape being painful from its want of
truth, which in these days it often in some measure does, for we indeed
find faces about us with want enough of life or wholesome character in
them to justify anything. And that habit of the old and great painters
of introducing portrait into all their highest works, I look to, not as
error in them, but as the very source and root of their superiority in
all things, for they were too great and too humble not to see in every
face about them that which was above them, and which no fancies of
theirs could match nor take place of, wherefore we find the custom of
portraiture constant with them, both portraiture of study and for
purposes of analysis, as with Leonardo; and actual, professed,
serviceable, hardworking portraiture of the men of their time, as with
Raffaelle, and Titian, and Tintoret; and portraiture of Love, as with
Fra Bartolomeo of Savonarola, and Simon Memmi of Petrarch, and Giotto of
Dante, and Gentile Bellini of a beloved imagination of Dandolo, and with
Raffaelle constantly; and portraiture in real downright necessity of
models, even in their noblest works, as was the practice of Ghirlandajo
perpetually, and Masaccio and Raffaelle, and manifestly of the men of
highest and purest ideal purpose, as again, Giotto, and in his
characteristic monkish heads, Angelico, and John Bellini, (note
especially the St. Christopher at the side of that mighty picture of St.
Jerome, at Venice,) and so of all: which practice had indeed a perilous
tendency for men of debased mind, who used models such as and where they
ought not, as Lippi and the corrupted Raffaelle; and is found often at
exceeding disadvantage among men who looked not at their models with
intellectual or loving penetration, but took the outside of them, or
perhaps took the evil and left the good, as Titian in that Academy study
at Venice which is called a St. John, and all workers whatsoever that I
know of, after Raffaelle's time, as Guido and the Caracci, and such
others: but it is nevertheless the necessary and sterling basis of all
ideal art, neither has any great man ever been able to do without it,
nor dreamed of doing without it even to the close of his days.

§ 15. Evil results of opposite practice in modern times.

And therefore there is not any greater sign of the utter want of
vitality and hopefulness in the schools of the present day than that
unhappy prettiness and sameness under which they mask, or rather for
which they barter, in their lentile thirst, all the birthright and power
of nature, which prettiness, wrought out and spun fine in the study, out
of empty heads, till it hardly betters the blocks on which dresses and
hair are tried in barbers' windows and milliners' books, cannot but be
revolting to any man who has his eyes, even in a measure, open to the
divinity of the immortal seal on the common features that he meets in
the highways and hedges hourly and momentarily, outreaching all efforts
of conception as all power of realization, were it Raffaelle's three
times over, even when the glory of the wedding garment is not there.

§ 16. The right use of the model.

So far, then, of the use of the model and the preciousness of it in all
art, from the highest to the lowest. But the use of the model is not
all. It must be used in a certain way, and on this choice of right or
wrong way all our ends are at stake, for the art, which is of no power
without the model, is of pernicious and evil power if the model be
wrongly used. What the right use is, has been at least established, if
not fully explained, in the argument by which we arrived at the general

The right ideal is to be reached, we have asserted, only by the
banishment of the immediate signs of sin upon the countenance and body.
How, therefore, are the signs of sin to be known and separated?

§ 17. Ideal form to be reached only by love.

No intellectual operation is here of any avail. There is not any
reasoning by which the evidences of depravity are to be traced in
movements of muscle or forms of feature; there is not any knowledge, nor
experience, nor diligence of comparison that can be of avail. Here, as
throughout the operation of the theoretic faculty, the perception is
altogether moral, an instinctive love and clinging to the lines of
light. Nothing but love can read the letters, nothing but sympathy catch
the sound, there is no pure passion that can be understood or painted
except by pureness of heart; the foul or blunt feeling will see itself
in everything, and set down blasphemies; it will see Beelzebub in the
casting out of devils, it will find its god of flies in every alabaster
box of precious ointment. The indignation of zeal towards God (nemesis)
it will take for anger against man, faith and veneration it will miss
of, as not comprehending, charity it will turn into lust, compassion
into pride, every virtue it will go over against, like Shimei, casting
dust. But the right Christian mind will in like manner find its own
image wherever it exists, it will seek for what it loves, and draw it
out of all dens and caves, and it will believe in its being, often when
it cannot see it, and always turn away its eyes from beholding vanity;
and so it will lie lovingly over all the faults and rough places of the
human heart, as the snow from heaven does over the hard, and black, and
broken mountain rocks, following their forms truly, and yet catching
light for them to make them fair, and that must be a steep and unkindly
crag indeed which it cannot cover.

§ 18. Practical principles deducible.

Now of this spirit there will always be little enough in the world, and
it cannot be given nor taught by men, and so it is of little use to
insist on it farther, only I may note some practical points respecting
the ideal treatment of human form, which may be of use in these
thoughtless days. There is not the face, I have said, which the painter
may not make ideal if he choose, but that subtile feeling which shall
find out all of good that there is in any given countenance is not,
except by concern for other things than art, to be acquired. But certain
broad indications of evil there are which the bluntest feeling may
perceive, and which the habit of distinguishing and casting out would
both ennoble the schools of art, and lead in time to greater acuteness
of perception with respect to the less explicable characters of soul

§ 19. Expressions chiefly destructive of ideal character. 1st. Pride.

Those signs of evil which are commonly most manifest on the human
features are roughly divisible into these four kinds, the signs of
pride, of sensuality, of fear, and of cruelty. Any one of which will
destroy the ideal character of the countenance and body.

§ 20. Portraiture ancient and modern.

Now of these, the first, pride, is perhaps the most destructive of all
the four, seeing it is the undermost and original story of all sin; and
it is base also from the necessary foolishness of it, because at its
best, that is when grounded on a just estimation of our own elevation
or superiority above certain others, it cannot but imply that our eyes
look downward only, and have never been raised above our own measure,
for there is not the man so lofty in his standing nor capacity but he
must be humble in thinking of the cloud habitation and far sight of the
angelic intelligences above him, and in perceiving what infinity there
is of things he cannot know nor even reach unto, as it stands compared
with that little body of things he can reach, and of which nevertheless
he can altogether understand not one; not to speak of that wicked and
fond attributing of such excellency as he may have to himself, and
thinking of it as his own getting, which is the real essence and
criminality of pride, nor of those viler forms of it, founded on false
estimation of things beneath us and irrational contemning of them: but
taken at its best, it is still base to that degree that there is no
grandeur of feature which it cannot destroy and make despicable, so that
the first step towards the ennobling of any face is the ridding it of
its vanity; to which aim there cannot be anything more contrary than
that principle of portraiture which prevails with us in these days,
whose end seems to be the expression of vanity throughout, in face and
in all circumstances of accompaniment, tending constantly to insolence
of attitude, and levity and haughtiness of expression, and worked out
farther in mean accompaniments of worldly splendor and possession,
together with hints or proclamations of what the person has done or
supposes himself to have done, which, if known, it is gratuitous in the
portrait to exhibit, and if unknown, it is insolent in the portrait to
proclaim; whence has arisen such a school of portraiture as must make
the people of the nineteenth century the shame of their descendants, and
the butt of all time. To which practices are to be opposed both the
glorious severity of Holbein, and the mighty and simple modesty of
Raffaelle, Titian, Giorgione, and Tintoret, with whom armor does not
constitute the warrior, neither silk the dame. And from what feeling the
dignity of that portraiture arose is best traceable at Venice, where we
find their victorious doges painted neither in the toil of battle nor
the triumph of return, nor set forth with thrones and curtains of state,
but kneeling always crownless, and returning thanks to God for his help,
or as priests, interceding for the nation in its affliction. Which
feeling and its results have been so well traced out by Rio,[40] that I
need not speak of it farther.

§ 21. Secondly, Sensuality.

§ 22. How connected with impurity of color.

§ 23. And prevented by its splendor.

§ 24. Or by severity of drawing.

That second destroyer of ideal form, the appearance of sensual
character, though not less fatal in its operation on modern art, is more
difficult to trace, owing to its peculiar subtlety. For it is not
possible to say by what minute differences the right conception of the
human form is separated from that which is luscious and foul: for the
root of all is in the love and seeking of the painter, who, if of impure
and feeble mind, will cover all that he touches with clay staining, as
Bandinelli puts a foul scent of human flesh about his marble Christ, and
as many whom I will not here name, among moderns; but if of mighty mind
or pure, may pass through all places of foulness, and none will stay
upon him, as Michael Angelo, or he will baptize all things and wash them
with pure water, as our own Stothard. Now, so far as this power is
dependent on the seeking of the artist, and is only to be seen in the
work of good and spiritually-minded men, it is vain to attempt to teach
or illustrate it, neither is it here the place to take note of the way
in which it belongs to the representation of the mental image of things,
instead of things themselves, of which we are to speak in treating of
the imagination; but thus much may here be noted of broad, practical
principle, that the purity of flesh painting depends in very
considerable measure on the intensity and warmth of its color. For if it
be opaque, and clay cold, and colorless, and devoid of all the radiance
and value of flesh, the lines of its true beauty, being severe and firm,
will become so hard in the loss of the glow and gradation by which
nature illustrates them, that the painter will be compelled to sacrifice
them for a luscious fulness and roundness, in order to give the
conception of flesh; which, being done, destroys ideality of form as of
color, and gives all over to lasciviousness of surface; showing also
that the painter sought for this, and this only, since otherwise he had
not taken a subject in which he knew himself compelled to surrender all
sources of dignity. Whereas, right splendor of color both bears out a
nobler severity of form, and is in itself purifying and cleansing, like
fire, furnishing also to the painter an excuse for the choice of his
subject, seeing that he may be supposed as not having painted it but in
the admiration of its abstract glory of color and form, and with no
unworthy seeking. But the mere power of perfect and glowing color will
in some sort redeem even a debased tendency of mind itself, as eminently
the case with Titian, who, though of little feeling, and often treating
base subjects, or elevated subjects basely, as in the disgusting
Magdalen of the Pitti palace, and that of the Barberigo at Venice, yet
redeems all by his glory of hue, so that he cannot paint altogether
coarsely; and with Giorgione, who had nobler and more serious intellect,
the sense of nudity is utterly lost, and there is no need nor desire of
concealment any more, but his naked figures move among the trees like
fiery pillars, and lie on the grass like flakes of sunshine.[41] With
the religious painters on the other hand, such nudity as they were
compelled to treat is redeemed as much by severity of form and hardness
of line as by color, so that generally their draped figures are
preferable, as in the Francia of our own gallery. But these, with
Michael Angelo and the Venetians, except Titian, form a great group,
pure in sight and aim, between which and all other schools by which the
nude has been treated, there is a gulf fixed, and all the rest, compared
with them, seem striving how best to illustrate that of Spenser.

              "Of all God's works, which doe this worlde adorn,
               There is no one more faire, and excellent
               Than is man's body both for power and forme
               Whiles it is kept in sober government.
               But none than it more foul and indecent
               Distempered through misrule and passions bace."

§ 25. Degrees of descent in this respect: Rubens, Correggio, and Guido.

§ 26. And modern art.

Of these last, however, with whom ideality is lost, there are some
worthier than others, according to that measure of color they reach, and
power they possess, whence much may be forgiven to Rubens, (as to our
own Etty,) less, as I think, to Correggio, who with less apparent and
evident coarseness has more of inherent sensuality, wrought out with
attractive and luscious refinement, and that alike in all subjects, as
in the Madonna of the Incoronazione, over the high altar of San Giovanni
at Parma, of which the head and upper portion of the figure, now
preserved in the library, might serve as a model of attitude and
expression to a ballet figurante:[42] and again in the lascivious St.
Catherine of the Giorno, and in the Charioted Diana, (both at Parma,)
not to name any of his works of aim more definitely evil. Beneath which
again will fall the works devoid alike of art and decency, as that
Susannah of Guido, in our own gallery, and so we may descend to the
absolute clay of the moderns, only noticing in all how much of what is
evil and base in subject or tendency, is redeemed by what is pure and
right in hue, so that I do not assert that the purpose and object of
many of the grander painters of the nude, as Titian for instance, was
always elevated, but only that we, who cannot paint the lamp of fire
within the earthen pitcher, must take other weapons in our left hands.
And it is to be noted, also, that in climates where the body can be more
openly and frequently visited by sun and weather, the nude both comes to
be regarded in a way more grand and pure, as necessarily awakening no
ideas of base kind, (as pre-eminently with the Greeks,) and also from
that exposure receives a firmness and sunny elasticity very different
from the silky softness of the clothed nations of the north, where every
model necessarily looks as if accidentally undressed; and hence from the
very fear and doubt with which we approach the nude, it becomes
expressive of evil, and for that daring frankness of the old men, which
seldom missed of human grandeur, even when it failed of holy feeling, we
have substituted a mean, carpeted, gauze-veiled, mincing sensuality of
curls and crisping pins, out of which I believe nothing can come but
moral enervation and mental paralysis.

§ 27. Thirdly, ferocity and fear. The latter how to be distinguished
        from awe.

§ 28. Holy fear, how distinct from human terror.

§ 29. Ferocity is joined always with fear. Its unpardonableness.

Respecting those two other vices of the human face, the expressions of
fear and ferocity, there is less to be noted, as they only occasionally
enter into the conception of character; only it is most necessary to
make careful distinction between the conception of power,
destructiveness, or majesty, in matter, influence, or agent, and the
actual fear of any of these, for it is possible to conceive of
terribleness, without being in a position obnoxious to the danger of it,
and so without fear, and the feeling arising from this contemplation of
dreadfulness, ourselves being in safety, as of a stormy sea from the
shore, is properly termed awe, and is a most noble passion; whereas fear
mortal and extreme, may be felt respecting things ignoble, as the
falling from a window, and without any conception of terribleness or
majesty in the thing, or the accident dreaded; and even when fear is
felt respecting things sublime, as thunder, or storm of battle, yet the
tendency of it is to destroy all power of contemplation of their
majesty, and to freeze and shrink all the intellect into a shaking heap
of clay, for absolute acute fear is of the same unworthiness and
contempt from whatever source it arise, and degrades the mind and the
outward bearing of the body alike, even though it be among hail of
heaven and fire running along the ground. And so among the children of
God, while there is always that fearful and bowed apprehension of his
majesty, and that sacred dread of all offence to him, which is called
the fear of God, yet of real and essential fear there is not any but
clinging of confidence to him, as their Rock, Fortress, and Deliverer,
and perfect love, and casting out of fear, so that it is not possible
that while the mind is rightly bent on him, there should be dread of
anything either earthly or supernatural, and the more dreadful seems the
height of his majesty, the less fear they feel that dwell in the shadow
of it, ("Of whom shall I be afraid?") so that they are as David was,
devoted to his fear; whereas, on the other hand, those who, if they may
help it, never conceive of God, but thrust away all thought and memory
of him, and in his real terribleness and omnipresence fear him not nor
know him, yet are of real, acute, piercing, and ignoble fear, haunted
for evermore; fear inconceiving and desperate that calls to the rocks,
and hides in the dust; and hence the peculiar baseness of the expression
of terror, a baseness attributed to it in all times, and among all
nations, as of a passion atheistical, brutal, and profane. So also, it
is always joined with ferocity, which is of all passions the least
human; for of sensual desires there is license to men, as necessity; and
of vanity there is intellectual cause, so that when seen in a brute it
is pleasant and a sign of good wit; and of fear there is at times
necessity and excuse, as being allowed for prevention of harm; but of
ferocity there is no excuse nor palliation, but it is pure essence of
tiger and demon, and it casts on the human face the paleness alike of
the horse of Death, and the ashes of hell.

§ 30. Such expressions how sought by painters powerless and impious.

Wherefore, of all subjects that can be admitted to sight, the
expressions of fear and ferocity are the most foul and detestable, and
so there is in them I know not what sympathetic attractiveness for minds
cowardly and base, as the vulgar of most nations, and forasmuch as they
are easily rendered by men who can render nothing else, they are often
trusted in by the herd of painters incapable and profane, as in that
monstrous abortion of the first room of the Louvre, called the Deluge,
whose subject is pure, acute, mortal fear; and so generally the
senseless horrors of the modern French schools, spawn of the guillotine:
also there is not a greater test of grandeur or meanness of mind than
the expressions it will seek for and develop in the features and forms
of men in fierce strife, whether determination and devotion, and all the
other attributes of that unselfishness which constitutes heroism, as in
the warrior of Agasias; and distress not agitated nor unworthy, though
mortal, as in the Dying Gladiator, or brutal ferocity and butchered
agony, of which the lowest and least palliated examples are those
battles of Salvator Rosa, which none but a man, base-born and
thief-bred, could have dwelt upon for an instant without sickening, of
which I will only name that example in the Pitti palace, wherein the
chief figure in the foreground is a man with his arm cut off at the
shoulder, run through the other hand into the breast with a lance.[43]
And manifold instances of the same feeling are to be found in the
repainting of the various representations of the Inferno, so common
through Italy, more especially that of Orcagna's in the Campo Santo,
wherein the few figures near the top that yet remain untouched are grand
in their severe drawing and expressions of enduring despair, while those
below, repainted by Solazzino, depend for their expressiveness upon
torrents of blood; so in the Inferno of Santa Maria Novella, and of the
Arena chapel, not to speak of the horrible images of the Passion, by
which vulgar Romanism has always striven to excite the languid
sympathies of its untaught flocks. Of which foulness let us reason no
farther, the very image and memory of them being pollution, only
noticing this, that there has always been a morbid tendency in Romanism
towards the contemplation of bodily pain, owing to the attribution of
saving power to it, which, like every other moral error, has been of
fatal effect in art, leaving not altogether without the stain and blame
of it, even the highest of the pure Romanist painters; as Fra Angelico,
for instance, who, in his Passion subjects, always insists weakly on the
bodily torture, and is unsparing of blood; and Giotto, though his
treatment is usually grander, as in that Crucifixion over the door of
the Convent of St. Mark's, where the blood is hardly actual, but issues
from the feet in a typical and conventional form, and becomes a crimson
cord which is twined strangely beneath about a skull; only that which
these holy men did to enhance, even though in their means mistaken, the
impression and power of the sufferings of Christ, or of his saints, is
always in a measure noble, and to be distinguished with all reverence
from the abominations of the irreligious painters following, as of
Camillo Procaccini, in one of his martyrdoms in the Gallery of the
Brera, at Milan, and other such, whose names may be well spared to the

§ 31. Of passion generally.

§ 32. It is never to be for itself exhibited--at least on the face.

These, then, are the four passions whose presence in any degree on the
human face is degradation. But of all passion it is to be generally
observed, that it becomes ignoble either when entertained respecting
unworthy objects, and therefore shallow or unjustifiable, or when of
impious violence, and so destructive of human dignity. Thus grief is
noble or the reverse, according to the dignity and worthiness of the
object lamented, and the grandeur of the mind enduring it. The sorrow of
mortified vanity or avarice is simply disgusting, even that of bereaved
affection may be base if selfish and unrestrained. All grief that
convulses the features is ignoble, because it is commonly shallow and
certainly temporary, as in children, though in the shock and shiver of a
strong man's features under sudden and violent grief there may be
something of sublime. The grief of Guercino's Hagar, in the Brera
gallery at Milan, is partly despicable, partly disgusting, partly
ridiculous; it is not the grief of the injured Egyptian, driven forth
into the desert with the destiny of a nation in her heart, but of a
servant of all work, turned away for stealing tea and sugar. Common
painters forget that passion is not absolutely and in itself great or
violent, but only in proportion to the weakness of the mind it has to
deal with; and that in exaggerating its outward signs, they are not
exalting the passion, but evaporating the hero.[44] They think too much
of passions as always the same in their nature, forgetting that the love
of Achilles is different from the love of Paris, and of Alcestis from
that of Laodamia. The use and value of passion is not as a subject in
contemplation in itself, but as it breaks up the fountains of the great
deep of the human mind, or displays its mightiness and ribbed majesty,
as mountains are seen in their stability best among the coil of clouds;
whence, in fine, I think it is to be held that all passion which attains
overwhelming power, so that it is not as resisting, but as conquered,
that the creature is contemplated, is unfit for high art, and
destructive of the ideal character of the countenance: and in this
respect, I cannot but hold Raffaelle to have erred in his endeavor to
express passion of such acuteness in the human face; as in the fragment
of the Massacre of the Innocents in our own gallery, (wherein, repainted
though it be, I suppose the purpose of the master is yet to be
understood,) for if such subjects are to be represented at all, their
entire expression may be given without degrading the face, as we shall
presently see done with unspeakable power by Tintoret,[45] and I think
that all subjects of the kind, all human misery, slaughter, famine,
plague, peril, and crime, are better in the main avoided, as of
unprofitable and hardening influence, unless so far as out of the
suffering, hinted rather than expressed, we may raise into nobler relief
the eternal enduring of fortitude and affection, of mercy and
self-devotion, or when, as by the threshing-floor of Ornan, and by the
cave of Lazarus, the angel of the Lord is to be seen in the
chastisement, and his love to be manifested to the despair of men.

§ 33. Recapitulation

Thus, then, we have in some sort enumerated those evil signs which are
most necessary to be shunned in the seeking of ideal beauty,[46] though
it is not the knowledge of them, but the dread and hatred of them, which
will effectually aid the painter; as on the other hand it is not by mere
admission of the loveliness of good and holy expression that its subtile
characters are to be traced. Raffaelle himself, questioned on this
subject, made doubtful answer; he probably could not trace through what
early teaching, or by what dies of emotion the image had been sealed
upon his heart. Our own Bacon, who well saw the impossibility of
reaching it by the combination of many separate beauties, yet explains
not the nature of that "kind of felicity" to which he attributes
success. I suppose those who have conceived and wrought the loveliest
things, have done so by no theorizing, but in simple labor of love, and
could not, if put to a bar of rationalism, defend all points of what
they had done, but painted it in their own delight, and to the delight
of all besides, only always with that respect of conscience and "fear of
swerving from that which is right, which maketh diligent observers of
circumstances the loose regard whereof is the nurse of vulgar folly, no
less than Solomon's attention thereunto was of natural furtherances the
most effectual to make him eminent above others, for he gave good heed,
and pierced everything to the very ground."[47]

With which good heed, and watching of the instants when men feel warmly
and rightly, as the Indians do for the diamond in their washing of sand,
and that with the desire and hope of finding true good in men, and not
with the ready vanity that sets itself to fiction instantly, and carries
its potter's wheel about with it always, (off which there will come only
clay vessels of regular shape after all,) instead of the pure
mirror that can show the seraph standing by the human body--standing as
signal to the heavenly land:[48] with this heed and this charity, there
are none of us that may not bring down that lamp upon his path of which
Spenser sang:--

                "That beauty is not, as fond men misdeem
                 An outward show of things, that only seem;
                 But that fair lamp, from whose celestial ray
                 That light proceeds, which kindleth lover's fire,
                 Shall never be extinguished nor decay.
                 But when the vital spirits do expire,
                 Unto her native planet shall retire,
                 For it is heavenly born and cannot die,
                 Being a parcel of the purest sky."


  [38] Rev. vii. 2.

  [39] Compare Part II. Sec. I. Chap. III § 6.

  [40] De la Poësie Chrétienne. Forme de l'Art. Chap. VIII.

  [41] As in the noble Louvre picture.

  [42] The Madonna turns her back to Christ, and bends her head over
    her shoulder to receive the crown, the arms being folded with
    studied grace over the bosom.

  [43] Compare Michelet, (Du Prêtre, de la Femme, de la Famille,)
    Chap. III. note. He uses language too violent to be quoted; but
    excuses Salvator by reference to the savage character of the Thirty
    Years' War. That this excuse has no validity may be proved by
    comparing the painter's treatment of other subjects. See Sec. II.
    Chap. III. § 19, note.

  [44]        "The fire, that mounts the liquor, till it run o'er
                In seeming to augment it, wastes it."

                                                HENRY VIII.

  [45] Sect. II. Chap. III. § 22.

  [46] Let it be observed that it is always of beauty, not of human
    character in its lower and criminal modifications, that we have been
    speaking. That variety of character, therefore, which we have
    affirmed to be necessary, is the variety of Giotto and Angelico, not
    of Hogarth. Works concerned with the exhibition of general
    character, are to be spoken of in the consideration of Ideas of

  [47] Hooker, Book V. Chap. I. § 2.

  [48]         "Each corse lay flat, lifeless and flat,
                And by the holy rood,
                A man all light, a seraph man
                By every corse there stood.
                This seraph band, each waved his hand,
                It was a heavenly sight;
                They stood as signals to the land,
                Each one a lovely light."

                                 ANCIENT MARINER

                            CHAPTER XV.


§ 1. There are no sources of the emotion of beauty more than those found
       in things visible.

§ 2. What imperfection exists in visible things. How in a sort by
       imagination removable.

§ 3. Which however affects not our present conclusions.

Of the sources of beauty open to us in the visible world, we have now
obtained a view which, though most feeble in its grasp and scanty in its
detail, is yet general in its range. Of no other sources than these
visible can we, by any effort in our present condition of existence,
conceive. For what revelations have been made to humanity inspired, or
caught up to heaven of things to the heavenly region belonging, have
been either by unspeakable words which it is not lawful for a man to
utter, or else by their very nature incommunicable, except in types and
shadows; and ineffable by words belonging to earth, for of things
different from the visible, words appropriated to the visible can convey
no image. How different from earthly gold that clear pavement of the
city might have seemed to the eyes of St. John, we of unreceived sight
cannot know; neither of that strange jasper and sardine can we conceive
the likeness which he assumed that sat on the throne above the crystal
sea; neither what seeming that was of slaying that the Root of David
bore in the midst of the elders; neither what change it was upon the
form of the fourth of them that walked in the furnace of Dura, that even
the wrath of idolatry knew for the likeness of the Son of God. The
knowing that is here permitted to us is either of things outward only,
as in those it is whose eyes faith never opened, or else of that dark
part that her glass shows feebly, of things supernatural, that gleaming
of the Divine form among the mortal crowd, which all may catch if they
will climb the sycamore and wait; nor how much of God's abiding at the
house may be granted to those that so seek, and how much more may be
opened to them in the breaking of bread, cannot be said; but of that
only we can reason which is in a measure revealed to all, of that which
is by constancy and purity of affection to be found in the things and
the beings around us upon earth. Now among all those things whose beauty
we have hitherto examined, there has been a measure of imperfection.
Either inferiority of kind, as the beauty of the lower animals, or
resulting from degradation, as in man himself; and although in
considering the beauty of human form, we arrived at some conception of
restoration, yet we found that even the restoration must be in some
respect imperfect, as incapable of embracing all qualities, moral and
intellectual, at once, neither to be freed from all signs of former evil
done or suffered. Consummate beauty, therefore, is not to be found on
earth, though often such intense measure of it as shall drown all
capacity of receiving; neither is it to be respecting humanity
legitimately conceived. But by certain operations of the imagination
upon ideas of beauty received from things around us, it is possible to
conceive respecting superhuman creatures (of that which is more than
creature, no creature ever conceived) a beauty in some sort greater than
we see. Of this beauty, however, it is impossible to determine anything
until we have traced the imaginative operations to which it owes its
being, of which operations this much may be prematurely said, that they
are not creative, that no new ideas are elicited by them, and that their
whole function is only a certain dealing with, concentrating or mode of
regarding the impressions received from external things, that therefore,
in the beauty to which they will conduct us, there will be found no new
element, but only a peculiar combination or phase of those elements that
we now know, and that therefore we may at present draw all the
conclusions with respect to the rank of the theoretic faculty, which the
knowledge of its subject matter can warrant.

§ 4. The four sources from which the pleasure of beauty is derived are
       all divine.

We have seen that this subject matter is referable to four general
heads. It is either the record of conscience, printed in things
external, or it is a symbolizing of Divine attributes in matter, or it
is the felicity of living things, or the perfect fulfilment of their
duties and functions. In all cases it is something Divine, either the
approving voice of God, the glorious symbol of him, the evidence of his
kind presence, or the obedience to his will by him induced and

All these subjects of contemplation are such as we may suppose will
remain sources of pleasure to the perfected spirit throughout eternity.
Divine in their nature, they are addressed to the immortal part of men.

§ 5. What objections may be made to this conclusion.

There remain, however, two points to be noticed before I can hope that
this conclusion will be frankly accepted by the reader. If it be the
moral part of us to which beauty addresses itself, how does it happen,
it will be asked, that it is ever found in the works of impious men, and
how is it possible for such to desire or conceive it?

On the other hand, how does it happen that men in high state of moral
culture are often insensible to the influence of material beauty, and
insist feebly upon it as an instrument of soul culture.

These two objections I shall endeavor briefly to answer, not that they
can be satisfactorily treated without that detailed examination of the
whole body of great works of art, on which I purpose to enter in the
following volume. For the right determination of these two questions is
indeed the whole end and aim of my labor, (and if it could be here
accomplished, I should bestow no effort farther,) namely, the proving
that no supreme power of art can be attained by impious men; and that
the neglect of art, as an interpreter of divine things, has been of evil
consequence to the Christian world.

At present, however, I would only meet such objections as must
immediately arise in the reader's mind.

§ 6. Typical beauty may be æsthetically pursued. Instances.

§ 7. How interrupted by false feeling.

And first, it will be remembered that I have, throughout the examination
of typical beauty, asserted its instinctive power, the moral meaning of
it being only discoverable by faithful thought. Now this instinctive
sense of it varies in intensity among men, being given, like the hearing
ear of music, to some more than to others: and if those to whom it is
given in large measure be unfortunately men of impious or unreflecting
spirit, it is very possible that the perceptions of beauty should be by
them cultivated on principles merely æsthetic, and so lose their
hallowing power; for though the good seed in them is altogether divine,
yet, there being no blessing in the springing thereof, it brings forth
wild grapes in the end. And yet these wild grapes are well discernible,
like the deadly gourds of Gilgal. There is in all works of such men a
taint and stain, and jarring discord, blacker and louder exactly in
proportion to the moral deficiency, of which the best proof and measure
is to be found in their treatment of the human form, (since in landscape
it is nearly impossible to introduce definite expression of evil,) of
which the highest beauty has been attained only once, and then by no
system taught painter, but by a most holy Dominican monk of Fiesole; and
beneath him all stoop lower and lower in proportion to their inferior
sanctity, though with more or less attainment of that which is noble,
according to their intellectual power and earnestness, as Raffaelle in
his St. Cecilia, (a mere study of a passionate, dark-eyed, large formed
Italian model,) and even Perugino, in that there is about his noblest
faces a shortcoming, indefinable; an absence of the full outpouring of
the sacred spirit that there is in Angelico; traceable, I doubt not, to
some deficiencies and avaricious flaws of his heart, whose consequences
in his conduct were such as to give Vasari hope that his lies might
stick to him (for the contradiction of which in the main, if there be
not contradiction enough in every line that the hand of Perugino drew,
compare Rio, de la Poësie Chrétienne, and note also what Rio has
singularly missed observing, that Perugino, in his portrait of himself
in the Florence gallery, has put a scroll into the hand, with the words
"Timete Deum," thus surely indicating that which he considered his duty
and message:) and so all other even of the sacred painters, not to speak
of the lower body of men in whom, on the one hand, there is marked
sensuality and impurity in all that they seek of beauty, as in
Correggio and Guido, or, on the other, a want in measure of the sense of
beauty itself, as in Rubens and Titian, showing itself in the adoption
of coarse types of feature and form; sometimes also (of which I could
find instances in modern times,) in a want of evidence of delight in
what they do; so that, after they have rendered some passage of
exceeding beauty, they will suffer some discordant point to interfere
with it, and it will not hurt them, as if they had no pleasure in that
which was best, but had done it in inspiration that was not profitable
to them, as deaf men might touch an instrument with a feeling in their
heart, which yet returns not outwardly upon them, and so know not when
they play false: and sometimes by total want of choice, for there is a
choice of love in all rightly tempered men, not that ignorant and
insolent choice which rejects half nature as empty of the right, but
that pure choice that fetches the right out of everything; and where
this is wanting, we may see men walking up and down in dry places,
finding no rest, ever and anon doing something noble, and yet not
following it up, but dwelling the next instant on something impure or
profitless with the same intensity and yet impatience, so that they are
ever wondered at and never sympathized with, and while they dazzle all,
they lead none; and then, beneath these again, we find others on whose
works there are definite signs of evil mind, ill-repressed, and then
inability to avoid, and at last perpetual seeking for and feeding upon
horror and ugliness, and filthiness of sin, as eminently in Salvator and
Caravaggio, and the lower Dutch schools, only in these last less
painfully as they lose the villanous in the brutal, and the horror of
crime in its idiocy.

§ 8. Greatness and truth are sometimes by the Deity sustained and spoken
       in and through evil men.

But secondly, it is to be noted that it is neither by us uncertainable
what moments of pure feeling or aspiration may occur to men of minds
apparently cold and lost, nor by us to be pronounced through what
instruments, and in what strangely occurrent voices, God may choose to
communicate good to men. It seems to me that much of what is great, and
to all men beneficial, has been wrought by those who neither intended
nor knew the good they did, and that many mighty harmonies have been
discoursed by instruments that had been dumb or discordant, but that
God knew their stops. The Spirit of Prophecy consisted with the avarice
of Balaam, and the disobedience of Saul. Could we spare from its page
that parable, which he said, who saw the vision of the Almighty, falling
into a trance, but having his eyes open, though we know that the sword
of his punishment was then sharp in its sheath beneath him in the plains
of Moab? or shall we not lament with David over the shield cast away on
the Gilboa mountains, of him to whom God gave _another heart_ that day
when he turned his back to go from Samuel? It is not our part to look
hardly, nor to look always, to the character or the deeds of men, but to
accept from all of them, and to hold fast that which we can prove good,
and feel to be ordained for us. We know that whatever good there is in
them is itself divine, and wherever we see the virtue of ardent labor
and self-surrendering to a single purpose, wherever we find constant
reference made to the written scripture of natural beauty, this at least
we know is great and good, this we know is not granted by the counsel of
God, without purpose, nor maintained without result: Their
interpretation we may accept, into their labor we may enter, but they
themselves must look to it, if what they do has no intent of good, nor
any reference to the Giver of all gifts. Selfish in their industry,
unchastened in their wills, ungrateful for the Spirit that is upon them,
they may yet be helmed by that Spirit whithersoever the Governor
listeth; involuntary instruments they may become of others' good;
unwillingly they may bless Israel, doubtingly discomfit Amalek, but
shortcoming there will be of their glory, and sure, of their punishment.

§ 9. The second objection arising from the coldness of Christian men to
       external beauty.

I believe I shall be able, incidentally, in succeeding investigations,
to prove this shortcoming, and to examine the sources of it, not
absolutely indeed, (seeing that all reasoning on the characters of men
must be treacherous, our knowledge on this head being as corrupt as it
is scanty, while even in living with them it is impossible to trace the
working, or estimate the errors of great and self-secreted minds,) but
at least enough to establish the general principle upon such grounds of
fact as may satisfy those who demand the practical proof (often in a
measure impossible) of things which can hardly be doubted in their
rational consequence. At present, it would be useless to enter on an
examination for which we have no materials; and I proceed, therefore, to
notice that other and opposite error of Christian men in thinking that
there is little use or value in the operation of the theoretic faculty,
not that I at present either feel myself capable, or that this is the
place for the discussion of that vast question of the operation of taste
(as it is called) on the minds of men, and the national value of its
teaching, but I wish shortly to reply to that objection which might be
urged to the real moral dignity of the faculty, that many Christian men
seem to be in themselves without it, and even to discountenance it in

It has been said by Schiller, in his letters on æsthetic culture, that
the sense of beauty never farthered the performance of a single duty.

§ 10. Reasons for this coldness in the anxieties of the world. These
        anxieties overwrought and criminal.

§ 11. Evil consequences of such coldness.

§ 12. Theoria the service of Heaven.

Although this gross and inconceivable falsity will hardly be accepted by
any one in so many terms, seeing that there are few so utterly lost but
that they receive, and know that they receive, at certain moments,
strength of some kind, or rebuke from the appealings of outward things;
and that it is not possible for a Christian man to walk across so much
as a rood of the natural earth, with mind unagitated and rightly poised,
without receiving strength and hope from some stone, flower, leaf, or
sound, nor without a sense of a dew falling upon him out of the sky;
though, I say, this falsity is not wholly and in terms admitted, yet it
seems to be partly and practically so in much of the doing and teaching
even of holy men, who in the recommending of the love of God to us,
refer but seldom to those things in which it is most abundantly and
immediately shown; though they insist much on his giving of bread, and
raiment, and health, (which he gives to all inferior creatures,) they
require us not to thank him for that glory of his works which he has
permitted us alone to perceive: they tell us often to meditate in the
closet, but they send us not, like Isaac, into the fields at even, they
dwell on the duty of self-denial, but they exhibit not the duty of
delight. Now there are reasons for this, manifold, in the toil and
warfare of an earnest mind, which, in its efforts at the raising of men
from utter loss and misery, has often but little time or disposition to
take heed of anything more than the bare life, and of those so occupied
it is not for us to judge, but I think, that, of the weaknesses,
distresses, vanities, schisms, and sins, which often even in the holiest
men, diminish their usefulness, and mar their happiness, there would be
fewer if, in their struggle with nature fallen, they sought for more aid
from nature undestroyed. It seems to me that the real sources of
bluntness in the feelings towards the splendor of the grass and glory of
the flower, are less to be found in ardor of occupation, in seriousness
of compassion, or heavenliness of desire, than in the turning of the eye
at intervals of rest too selfishly within; the want of power to shake
off the anxieties of actual and near interest, and to leave results in
God's hands; the scorn of all that does not seem immediately apt for our
purposes, or open to our understanding, and perhaps something of pride,
which desires rather to investigate than to feel. I believe that the
root of almost every schism and heresy from which the Christian church
has ever suffered, has been the effort of men to earn, rather than to
receive, their salvation; and that the reason that preaching is so
commonly ineffectual is, that it calls on men oftener to work for God,
than to behold God working for them. If, for every rebuke that we utter
of men's vices, we put forth a claim upon their hearts; if for every
assertion of God's demands from them, we could substitute a display of
his kindness to them; if side by side with every warning of death, we
could exhibit proofs and promises of immortality; if, in fine, instead
of assuming the being of an awful Deity, which men, though they cannot
and dare not deny, are always unwilling, sometimes unable, to conceive,
we were to show them a near, visible, inevitable, but all beneficent
Deity, whose presence makes the earth itself a heaven, I think there
would be fewer deaf children sitting in the market-place. At all events,
whatever may be the inability in this present life to mingle the full
enjoyment of the Divine works with the full discharge of every practical
duty, and confessedly in many cases this must be, let us not attribute
the inconsistency to any indignity of the faculty of contemplation, but
to the sin and the suffering of the fallen state, and the change of
order from the keeping of the garden to the tilling of the ground. We
cannot say how far it is right or agreeable with God's will, while men
are perishing round about us, while grief, and pain, and wrath, and
impiety, and death, and all the powers of the air, are working wildly
and evermore, and the cry of blood going up to heaven, that any of us
should take hand from the plough; but this we know, that there will come
a time when the service of God shall be the beholding of him; and
though in these stormy seas, where we are now driven up and down, his
Spirit is dimly seen on the face of the waters, and we are left to cast
anchors out of the stern, and wish for the day, that day will come,
when, with the evangelists on the crystal and stable sea, all the
creatures of God shall be full of eyes within, and there shall be "no
more curse, but his servants shall serve him, and shall see his face."

                              SECTION II.

                      OF THE IMAGINATIVE FACULTY.

                              CHAPTER I.


§ 1. A partial examination only of the imagination is to be attempted.

We have hitherto been exclusively occupied with those sources of
pleasure which exist in the external creation, and which in any faithful
copy of it must to a certain extent exist also.

These sources of beauty, however, are not presented by any very great
work of art in a form of pure transcript. They invariably receive the
reflection of the mind under whose shadow they have passed, and are
modified or colored by its image.

This modification is the Work of Imagination.

As, in the course of our succeeding investigation, we shall be called
upon constantly to compare sources of beauty existing in nature with the
images of them presented by the human mind, it is very necessary for us
shortly to review the conditions and limits of the imaginative faculty,
and to ascertain by what tests we may distinguish its sane, healthy, and
profitable operation, from that which is erratic, diseased, and

It is neither desirable nor possible here to examine or illustrate in
full the essence of this mighty faculty. Such an examination would
require a review of the whole field of literature, and would alone
demand a volume. Our present task is not to explain or exhibit full
portraiture of this function of the mind in all its relations, but only
to obtain some certain tests by which we may determine whether it be
very imagination or no, and unmask all impersonations of it, and this
chiefly with respect to art, for in literature the faculty takes a
thousand forms, according to the matter it has to treat, and becomes
like the princess of the Arabian tale, sword, eagle, or fire, according
to the war it wages, sometimes piercing, sometimes soaring, sometimes
illumining, retaining no image of itself, except its supernatural power,
so that I shall content myself with tracing that particular form of it,
and unveiling those imitations of it only, which are to be found, or
feared, in painting, referring to other creations of mind only for

§ 2. The works of the metaphysicians how nugatory with respect to this

Unfortunately, the works of metaphysicians will afford us in this most
interesting inquiry no aid whatsoever. They who are constantly
endeavoring to fathom and explain the essence of the faculties of mind,
are sure in the end to lose sight of all that cannot be explained,
(though it may be defined and felt,) and because, as I shall presently
show, the essence of the imaginative faculty is utterly mysterious and
inexplicable, and to be recognized in its results only, or in the
negative results of its absence, the metaphysicians, as far as I am
acquainted with their works, miss it altogether, and never reach higher
than a definition of fancy by a false name.

What I understand by fancy will presently appear, not that I contend for
nomenclature, but only for distinction between two mental faculties, by
whatever name they be called, one the source of all that is great in the
poetic arts; the other merely decorative and entertaining, but which are
often confounded together, and which have so much in common as to render
strict definition of either difficult.

§ 3. The definition of D. Stewart, how inadequate.

Dugald Stewart's meagre definition may serve us for a starting point.
"Imagination," he says, "includes conception or simple apprehension,
which enables us to form a notion of those former objects of perception
or of knowledge, out of which we are to make a selection; abstraction,
which separates the selected materials from the qualities and
circumstances which are connected with them in nature; and judgment or
taste, which selects the materials and directs their combination. To
these powers we may add that particular habit of association to which I
formerly gave the name of fancy, as it is this which presents to our
choice all the different materials which are subservient to the efforts
of imagination, and which may therefore be considered as forming the
ground-work of poetical genius."

(By fancy in this passage, we find on referring to the chapter treating
of it, that nothing more is meant than the rapid occurrence of ideas of
sense to the mind.)

Now, in this definition, the very point and purpose of all the inquiry
is missed. We are told that judgment or taste "directs the combination."
In order that anything may be directed, an end must be previously
determined: What is the faculty that determines this end? and of what
frame and make, how boned and fleshed, how conceived or seen, is the end
itself? Bare judgment, or taste, cannot approve of what has no
existence; and yet by Dugald Stewart's definition we are left to their
catering among a host of conceptions, to produce a combination which, as
they work for, they must see and approve before it exists. This power of
prophecy is the very essence of the whole matter, and it is just that
inexplicable part which the metaphysician misses.

§ 4. This instance nugatory.

As might be expected from his misunderstanding of the faculty, he has
given an instance entirely nugatory.[49] It would be difficult to find
in Milton a passage in which less power of imagination was shown, than
the description of Eden, if, as I suppose, this be the passage meant, at
the beginning of the fourth book, in which I can find three expressions
only in which this power is shown, the "_burnished_ with golden rind,
hung amiable" of the Hesperian fruit, the "_lays forth_ her purple
grape" of the vine and the "_fringed_ bank with myrtle crowned," of the
lake, and these are not what Stewart meant, but only that accumulation
of bowers, groves, lawns, and hillocks, which is not imagination at all,
but composition, and that of the commonest kind. Hence, if we take any
passage in which there is real imagination, we shall find Stewart's
hypothesis not only inefficient and obscure, but utterly inapplicable.

§ 5. Various instances.

Take one or two at random.

               "On the other side,
                Incensed with indignation, Satan stood
                Unterrified, and like a comet burned
                That fires the length of Ophiuchus huge
                In the arctic sky, and from his horrid hair
                Shakes pestilence and war."

(Note that the word incensed is to be taken in its literal and material
sense, set on fire.) What taste or judgment was it that directed this
combination? or is there nothing more than taste or judgment here?

               "Ten paces huge
                He back recoiled; the tenth on bended knee
                His massy spear upstaid, as if on earth
                Winds under ground, or waters forcing way
                _Sidelong had pushed a mountain from his seat
                Half-sunk with all his pines._

               "Together both ere the high lawns appeared
                _Under the opening eyelids_ of the morn,
                We drove a field, and both together heard
                What time the gray-fly winds her _sultry_ horn.

               "Missing thee, I walk unseen
                On the dry smooth shaven green.
                To behold the wandering moon
                Riding near her highest noon,
                _Like one that had been led astray_,
                Through the heavens' wide pathless way,
                And oft _as if her head she bowed_
                Stooping through a fleecy cloud."

It is evident that Stewart's explanation utterly fails in all these
instances, for there is in them no "combination" whatsoever, but a
particular mode of regarding the qualities or appearances of a single
thing, illustrated and conveyed to us by the image of another; and the
act of imagination, observe, is not the selection of this image, but the
mode of regarding the object.

But the metaphysician's definition fails yet more utterly, when we look
at the imagination neither as regarding, nor combining, but as

               "My gracious Silence, Hail:
                Wouldst thou have laughed, had I come coffin'd home
                That weep'st to see me triumph. Ah! my dear,
                Such eyes the widows in Corioli wear,
                And mothers that lack sons."

How did Shakspeare _know_ that Virgilia could not speak?

This knowledge, this intuitive and penetrative perception, is still one
of the forms, the highest, of imagination, but there is no combination
of images here.

§ 6. The three operations of the imagination. Penetrative, associative,

We find, then, that the imagination has three totally distinct
functions. It combines, and by combination creates new forms; but the
secret principle of this combination has not been shown by the analysts.
Again, it treats or regards both the simple images and its own
combinations in peculiar ways; and, thirdly, it penetrates, analyzes,
and reaches truths by no other faculty discoverable. These its three
functions, I shall endeavor to illustrate, but not in this order: the
most logical mode of treatment would be to follow the order in which
commonly the mind works; that is, penetrating first, combining next, and
treating or regarding, finally; but this arrangement would be
inconvenient, because the acts of penetration and of regard are so
closely connected, and so like in their relations to other mental acts,
that I wish to examine them consecutively, and the rather, because they
have to do with higher subject matter than the mere act of combination,
whose distinctive nature, that property which makes it imagination and
not composition, it will I think be best to explain at setting out, as
we easily may, in subjects familiar and material. I shall therefore
examine the imaginative faculty in these three forms; first, as
combining or associative; secondly, as analytic or penetrative; thirdly,
as regardant or contemplative.


  [49] He continues thus, "To illustrate these observations, let us
    consider the steps by which Milton must have proceeded, in creating
    his imaginary garden of Eden. When he first proposed to himself that
    subject of description, it is reasonable to suppose that a variety
    of the most striking scenes which he had seen, crowded into his
    mind. The association of ideas suggested them and the power of
    conception placed each of them before him with all its beauties and
    imperfections. In every natural scene, if we destine it for any
    particular purpose, there are defects and redundancies, which art
    may sometimes, but cannot always correct. But the power of
    imagination is unlimited. She can create and annihilate, and dispose
    at pleasure her woods, her rocks, and her rivers. Milton,
    accordingly, would not copy his Eden from any one scene, but would
    select from each the features which were most eminently beautiful.
    The power of abstraction enabled him to make the separation, and
    taste directed him in the selection."

                              CHAPTER II.

                     OF IMAGINATION ASSOCIATIVE.

§ 1. Of simple conception.

In order to render our inquiry as easy as possible, we shall consider
the dealing of the associative imagination with the simplest possible
matter, that is,--with conceptions of material things. First, therefore,
we must define the nature of these conceptions themselves.

After beholding and examining any material object, our knowledge
respecting it exists in two different forms. Some facts exist in the
brain in a verbal form, as known, but not conceived, as, for instance,
that it was heavy or light, that it was eight inches and a quarter long,
etc., of which length we cannot have accurate conception, but only such
a conception as might attach to a length of seven inches or nine; and
which fact we may recollect without any conception of the object at all.
Other facts respecting it exist in the brain in a visible form, not
always visible, but voluntarily visible, as its being white, or having
such and such a complicated shape, as the form of a rose-bud, for
instance, which it would be difficult to express verbally, neither is it
retained by the brain in a verbal form, but a visible one, that is, when
we wish for knowledge of its form for immediate use, we summon up a
vision or image of the thing; we do not remember it in words, as we
remember the fact that it took so many days to blow, or that it was
gathered at such and such a time.

The knowledge of things retained in this visible form is called
conception by the metaphysicians, which term I shall retain; it is
inaccurately called imagination by Taylor, in the passage quoted by
Wordsworth in the preface to his poems, not but that the term
imagination is etymologically and rightly expressive of it, but we want
that term for a higher faculty.

§ 2. How connected with verbal knowledge.

There are many questions respecting this faculty of conception of very
great interest, such as the exact amount of aid that verbal knowledge
renders so visible, (as, for instance, the verbal knowledge that a
flower has five, or seven, or ten petals, or that a muscle is inserted
at such and such a point of the bone, aids the conception of the flower
or the limb;) and again, what amount of aid the visible knowledge
renders to the verbal, as for instance, whether any one, being asked a
question about some animal or thing, which instantly and from verbal
knowledge he cannot answer, may have such power of summoning up the
image of the animal or thing as to ascertain the fact, by actual
beholding, (which I do not assert, but can conceive to be possible;) and
again, what is that indefinite and subtile character of the conception
itself in most men, which admits not of being by themselves traced or
realized, and yet is a sure test of likeness in any representation of
the thing; like an intaglio, with a front light on it, whose lines
cannot be seen, and yet they will fit one definite form only, and that
accurately; these and many other questions it is irrelevant at present
to determine,[50] since to forward our present purpose, it will be well
to suppose the conception, aided by verbal knowledge, to be absolutely
perfect, and we will suppose a man to retain such clear image of a large
number of the material things he has seen, as to be able to set down any
of them on paper with perfect fidelity and absolute memory[51] of their
most minute features.

In thus setting them down on paper, he works, I suppose, exactly as he
would work from nature, only copying the remembered image in his mind,
instead of the real thing. He is, therefore, still nothing more than a
copyist. There is no exercise of imagination in this whatsoever.

§ 3. How used in composition.

But over these images, vivid and distinct as nature herself, he has a
command which over nature he has not. He can summon any that he chooses,
and if, therefore, any group of them which he received from nature be
not altogether to his mind, he is at liberty to remove some of the
component images, add others foreign, and re-arrange the whole.

Let us suppose, for instance, that he has perfect knowledge of the forms
of the Aiguilles Verte and Argentière, and of the great glacier between
them at the upper extremity of the valley of Chamonix. The forms of the
mountains please him, but the presence of the glacier suits not his
purpose. He removes the glacier, sets the mountains farther apart, and
introduces between them part of the valley of the Rhone.

This is composition, and is what Dugald Stewart mistook for imagination,
in the kingdom of which noble faculty it has no part nor lot.

§ 4. Characteristics of composition.

The essential characters of composition, properly so called, are these.
The mind which desires the new feature summons up before it those images
which it supposes to be of the kind wanted, of these it takes the one
which it supposes to be fittest, and tries it: if it will not answer, it
tries another, until it has obtained such an association as pleases it.

In this operation, if it be of little sensibility, it regards only the
absolute beauty or value of the images brought before it; and takes that
or those which it thinks fairest or most interesting, without any regard
to their sympathy with those for whose company they are destined. Of
this kind is all vulgar composition; the "Mulino" of Claude, described
in the preface to the first part, being a characteristic example.

If the mind be of higher feeling, it will look to the sympathy or
contrast of the features, to their likeness or dissimilarity; it will
take, as it thinks best, features resembling or discordant, and if when
it has put them together, it be not satisfied, it will repeat the
process on the features themselves, cutting away one part and putting in
another, so working more and more delicately down to the lowest details,
until by dint of experiment, of repeated trials and shiftings, and
constant reference to principles, (as that two lines must not mimic one
another, that one mass must not be equal to another,) etc., it has
morticed together a satisfactory result.

§ 5. What powers are implied by it. The first of the three functions of

This process will be more and more rapid and effective, in proportion to
the artist's powers of conception and association, these in their turn
depending on his knowledge and experience. The distinctness of his
powers of conception will give value, point, and truth to every fragment
that he draws from memory. His powers of association, and his knowledge
of nature will pour out before him in greater or less number and
appositeness the images from which to choose. His experience guides him
to quick discernment in the combination, when made, of the parts that
are offensive and require change.

The most elevated power of mind of all these, is that of association, by
which images apposite or resemblant, or of whatever kind wanted, are
called up quickly and in multitudes. When this power is very brilliant,
it is called fancy, not that this is the only meaning of the word fancy,
but it is the meaning of it in relation to that function of the
imagination which we are here considering; for fancy has three
functions; one subordinate to each of the three functions of the

Great differences of power are manifested among artists in this respect,
some having hosts of distinct images always at their command, and
rapidly discerning resemblance or contrast; others having few images,
and obscure, at their disposal, nor readily governing those they have.

Where the powers of fancy are very brilliant, the picture becomes highly
interesting; if her images are systematically and rightly combined, and
truthfully rendered, it will become even impressive and instructive; if
wittily and curiously combined, it will be captivating and entertaining.

§ 6. Imagination not yet manifested.

But all this time the imagination has not once shown itself. All this
(except the gift of fancy) may be taught, all this is easily
comprehended and analyzed; but imagination is neither to be taught, nor
by any efforts to be attained, nor by any acuteness of discernment
dissected or analyzed.

We have seen that in composition the mind can only take cognizance of
likeness or dissimilarity, or of abstract beauty among the ideas it
brings together. But neither likeness nor dissimilarity secures harmony.
We saw in the chapter on unity that likeness destroyed harmony or unity
of membership, and that difference did not necessarily secure it, but
only that particular imperfection in each of the harmonizing parts which
can only be supplied by its fellow part. If, therefore, the combination
made is to be harmonious, the artist must induce in each of its
component parts (suppose two only, for simplicity's sake,) such
imperfection as that the other shall put it right. If one of them be
perfect by itself, the other will be an excrescence. Both must be faulty
when separate, and each corrected by the presence of the other. If he
can accomplish this, the result will be beautiful; it will be a whole,
an organized body with dependent members;--he is an inventor. If not,
let his separate features be as beautiful, as apposite, or as resemblant
as they may, they form no whole. They are two members glued together. He
is only a carpenter and joiner.

§ 7. Imagination is the correlative conception of imperfect component

Now, the conceivable imperfections of any single feature are infinite.
It is impossible, therefore, to fix upon a form of imperfection in the
one, and try with this all the forms of imperfection of the other until
one fits; but the two imperfections must be corelatively and
simultaneously conceived.

This is imagination, properly so called, imagination associative, the
grandest mechanical power that the human intelligence possesses, and one
which will appear more and more marvellous the longer we consider it. By
its operation, two ideas are chosen out of an infinite mass, (for it
evidently matters not whether the imperfections be conceived out of the
infinite number conceivable, or selected out of a number recollected,)
two ideas which are separately wrong, which together shall be right, and
of whose unity, therefore, the idea must be formed at the instant they
are seized, as it is only in that unity that either are good, and
therefore only the _conception of that unity can prompt the preference_.
Now, what is that prophetic action of mind, which, out of an infinite
mass of things that cannot be tried together, seizes, at the same
instant two that are fit for each other, together right; yet each
disagreeable alone.

§ 8. Material analogy with imagination.

This operation of mind, so far as I can see, is absolutely
inexplicable, but there is something like it in chemistry.

"The action of sulphuric acid on metallic zinc affords an instance of
what was once called disposing affinity. Zinc decomposes pure water at
common temperatures with extreme slowness; but as soon as sulphuric acid
is added, decomposition of the water takes place rapidly, though the
acid merely unites with oxide of zinc. The former explanation was, that
the affinity of the acid for oxide of zinc disposed the metal to unite
with oxygen, and thus enabled it to decompose water; that is, the oxide
of zinc was supposed to produce an effect previous to its existence. The
obscurity of this explanation arises from regarding changes as
consecutive, which are in reality simultaneous. There is no succession
in the process, the oxide of zinc is not formed previously to its
combination with the acid, but at the same instant. There is, as it
were, but one chemical change, which consists in the combination at one
and the same moment of zinc with oxygen, and of oxide of zinc with the
acid; and this change occurs because these two affinities, acting
together, overcome the attraction of oxygen and hydrogen for one

Now, if the imaginative artist will permit us, with all deference, to
represent his combining intelligence under the figure of sulphuric acid;
and if we suppose the fragment of zinc to be embarrassed among
infinitely numerous fragments of diverse metals, and the oxygen
dispersed and mingled among gases countless and indistinguishable, we
shall have an excellent type in material things of the action of the
imagination on the immaterial. Both actions are, I think, inexplicable,
for however simultaneous the chemical changes may be, yet the causing
power is the affinity of the acid for what has no existence. It is
neither to be explained how that affinity operates on atoms uncombined,
nor how the artist's desire for an unconceived whole prompts him to the
selection of necessary divisions.

§ 9. The grasp and dignity of imagination.

Now, this operation would be wonderful enough, if it were concerned with
two ideas only. But a powerfully imaginative mind seizes and combines
at the same instant, not only two, but all the important ideas of its
poem or picture, and while it works with any one of them, it is at the
same instant working with and modifying all in their relations to it,
never losing sight of their bearings on each other; as the motion of a
snake's body goes through all parts at once, and its volition acts at
the same instant in coils that go contrary ways.

This faculty is indeed something that looks as if man were made after
the image of God. It is inconceivable, admirable, altogether divine; and
yet wonderful as it may seem, it is palpably evident that no less an
operation is necessary for the production of any great work, for, by the
definition of unity of membership, (the essential characteristic of
greatness,) not only certain couples or groups of parts, but _all_ the
parts of a noble work must be separately imperfect; each must imply, and
ask for all the rest, and the glory of every one of them must consist in
its relation to the rest, neither while so much as one is wanting can
any be right. And it is evidently impossible to conceive in each
separate feature, a certain want or wrongness which can only be
corrected by the other features of the picture, (not by one or two
merely, but by all,) unless together with the want, we conceive also of
what is wanted, that is of all the rest of the work or picture. Hence

"Second thoughts are admissible in painting and poetry only as dressers
of the first conception; no great idea was ever formed in fragments."

"He alone can conceive and compose who sees the whole at once before

§ 10. Its limits.

There is, however, a limit to the power of all human imagination. When
the relations to be observed are absolutely necessary, and highly
complicated, the mind cannot grasp them, and the result is a total
deprivation of all power of imagination associative in such matter. For
this reason, no human mind has ever conceived a new animal. For as it is
evident that in an animal, every part implies all the rest; that is, the
form of the eye involves the form of the brow and nose, these the form
of the forehead and lip, these of the head and chin, and so on, so that
it is physically impossible to conceive of any one of these members,
unless we conceive the relation it bears to the whole animal; and as
this relation is necessary, certain, and complicated, allowing of no
license or inaccuracy, the intellect utterly fails under the load, and
is reduced to mere composition, putting the bird's wing on men's
shoulders, or half the human body to half the horse's, in doing which
there is no action of imagination, but only of fancy; though in the
treatment and contemplation of the compound form there may be much
imagination, as we shall presently see. (Chap. III. § 30.)

§ 11. How manifested in treatment of uncertain relations. Its deficiency

The matter, therefore, in which associative imagination can be shown is
that which admits of great license and variety of arrangements, and in
which a certain amount of relation only is required; as especially in
the elements of landscape painting, in which best it may be illustrated.

When an unimaginative painter is about to draw a tree, (and we will
suppose him, for better illustration of the point in question, to have
good feeling and correct knowledge of the nature of trees,) he probably
lays on his paper such a general form as he knows to be characteristic
of the tree to be drawn, and such as he believes will fall in agreeably
with the other masses of his picture, which we will suppose partly
prepared. When this form is set down, he assuredly finds it has done
something he did not intend it to do. It has mimicked some prominent
line, or overpowered some necessary mass. He begins pruning and
changing, and after several experiments, succeeds in obtaining a form
which does no material mischief to any other. To this form he proceeds
to attach a trunk, and having probably a received notion or rule (for
the unimaginative painter never works without a principle) that tree
trunks ought to lean first one way and then the other as they go up, and
ought not to stand under the middle of the tree, he sketches a
serpentine form of requisite propriety; when it has gone up far enough,
that is till it begins to look disagreeably long, he will begin to
ramify it, and if there be another tree in the picture with two large
branches, he knows that this, by all laws of composition, ought to have
three or four, or some different number; one because he knows that if
three or four branches start from the same point they will look formal,
therefore he makes them start from points one above another, and because
equal distances are improper, therefore they shall start at unequal
distances. When they are fairly started, he knows they must undulate or
go backwards and forwards, which accordingly he makes them do at random;
and because he knows that all forms ought to be contrasted, therefore he
makes one bend down while the other three go up. The three that go up he
knows must not go up without interfering with each other, and so he
makes two of them cross. He thinks it also proper that there should be
variety of character in them, so he makes the one that bends down
graceful and flexible, and of the two that cross, he splinters one and
makes a stump of it. He repeats the process among the more complicated
minor boughs, until coming to the smallest, he thinks farther care
unnecessary, but draws them freely, and by chance. Having to put on the
foliage, he will make it flow properly in the direction of the tree's
growth, he will make all the extremities graceful, but will be
grievously plagued by finding them come all alike, and at last will be
obliged to spoil a number of them altogether, in order to obtain
opposition. They will not, however, be united in this their spoliation,
but will remain uncomfortably separate and individually ill-tempered. He
consoles himself by the reflection that it is unnatural for all of them
to be equally perfect.

§ 12. Laws of art, the safeguard of the unimaginative.

Now I suppose that through the whole of this process he has been able to
refer to his definite memory or conception of nature for every one of
the fragments he has successively added, that the details, color,
fractures, insertions, etc., of his boughs, are all either actual
recollections or based on secure knowledge of the tree, (and herein I
allow far more than is commonly the case with unimaginative painters.)
But as far as the process of combination is concerned, it is evident
that from beginning to end his laws have been his safety, and his plague
has been his liberty. He has been compelled to work at random, or under
the guidance of feeling only, whenever there was anything left to his
own decision. He has never been decided in anything except in what he
_must_ or _must not_ do. He has walked as a drunken man on a broad road,
his guides are the hedges; and between these limits, the broader the
way, the worse he gets on.

§ 13. Are by the imaginative painter despised. Tests of imagination.

The advance of the imaginative artist is precisely the reverse of this.
He has no laws. He defies all restraint, and cuts down all hedges. There
is nothing within the limits of natural possibility that he dares not
do, or that he allows the necessity of doing. The laws of nature he
knows, are to him no restraint. They are his own nature. All other laws
or limits he sets at utter defiance, his journey is over an untrodden
and pathless plain. But he sees his end over the waste from the first,
and goes straight at it, never losing sight of it, nor throwing away a
step. Nothing can stop him, nothing turn him aside; falcons and lynxes
are of slow and uncertain sight compared with his. He saw his tree,
trunk, boughs, foliage and all, from the first moment; not only the tree
but the sky behind it; not only that tree or sky, but all the other
great features of his picture: by what intense power of instantaneous
selection and amalgamation cannot be explained, but by this it may be
proved and tested, that if we examine the tree of the unimaginative
painter, we shall find that on removing any part or parts of it, the
rest will indeed suffer, as being deprived of the proper development of
a tree, and as involving a blank space that wants occupation; but the
portions left are not made discordant or disagreeable. They are
absolutely and in themselves as valuable as they can be, every stem is a
perfect stem, and every twig a graceful twig, or at least as perfect and
as graceful as they were before the removal of the rest. But if we try
the same experiment on the imaginative painter's work, and break off the
merest stem or twig of it, it all goes to pieces like a Prince Rupert's
drop. There is not so much as a seed of it but it lies on the tree's
life, like the grain upon the tongue of Chaucer's sainted child. Take it
away, and the boughs will sing to us no longer. All is dead and cold.

§ 14. The monotony of unimaginative treatment.

This then is the first sign of the presence of real imagination as
opposed to composition. But here is another not less important.

§ 15. Imagination never repeats itself.

We have seen that as each part is selected and fitted by the
unimaginative painter, he renders it, in itself, as beautiful as he is
able. If it be ugly, it remains so, he is incapable of correcting it by
the addition of another ugliness, and therefore he chooses all his
features as fair as they may be (at least if his object be beauty.) But
a small proportion only of the ideas he has at his disposal will reach
his standard of absolute beauty. The others will be of no use to him,
and among those which he permits himself to use, there will be so marked
a family likeness, that he will be more and more cramped, as his picture
advances, for want of material, and tormented by multiplying
resemblances, unless disguised by some artifice of light and shade or
other forced difference, and with all the differences he can imagine,
his tree will yet show a sameness and sickening repetition in all its
parts, and all his trees will be like one another, except so far as one
leans east and another west, one is broadest at the top and another at
the bottom, while through all this insipid repetition, the means by
which he forces contrast, dark boughs opposed to light, rugged to
smooth, etc., will be painfully evident, to the utter destruction of all
dignity and repose. The imaginative work is necessarily the absolute
opposite of all this. As all its parts are imperfect, and as there is an
unlimited supply of imperfection, (for the ways in which things may be
wrong are infinite,) the imagination is never at a loss, nor ever likely
to repeat itself; nothing comes amiss to it, but whatever rude matter it
receives, it instantly so arranges that it comes right; all things fall
into their place and appear in that place perfect, useful, and evidently
not to be spared, so that of its combinations there is endless variety,
and every intractable and seemingly unavailable fragment that we give to
it, is instantly turned to some brilliant use, and made the nucleus of a
new group of glory; however poor or common the gift, it will be thankful
for it, treasure it up, and pay in gold, and it has that life in it and
fire, that wherever it passes, among the dead bones and dust of things,
behold a shaking, and the bones come together, bone to his bone.

§ 16. Relation of the imaginative faculty to the theoretic.

And now we find what noble sympathy and unity there is between the
imaginative and theoretic faculties. Both agree in this, that they
reject nothing, and are thankful for all; but the theoretic faculty
takes out of everything that which is beautiful, while the imaginative
faculty takes hold of the very imperfections which the theoretic
rejects, and by means of these angles and roughnesses, it joints and
bolts the separate stones into a mighty temple, wherein the theoretic
faculty in its turn, does deepest homage. Thus sympathetic in their
desires, harmoniously diverse in their operation, each working for the
other with what the other needs not, all things external to man are by
one or other turned to good.

§ 17. Modification of its manifestation.

Now we have hitherto, for the sake of clearness, opposed the total
absence of imagination to the perfect presence of it, in order to make
the difference between composition and imagination thoroughly
understood. But if we are to give examples of either the want or the
presence of the power, it is necessary to note the circumstances by
which both are modified. In the first place, few artists of any standing
are totally devoid of this faculty, some small measure of it most of
them possess, though of all the forms of intellect, this, and its
sister, penetrative imagination, are the rarest and most precious; but
few painters have reached eminence without some leaven of it, whether it
can be increased by practice I doubt. On the other hand, fewer still are
possessed of it in very high degree, and even with the men of most
gigantic power in this respect, of whom, I think, Tintoret stands far
the head, there are evident limits to its exercise, and portions to be
found in their works that have not been included in the original grasp
of them, but have been suggested and incorporated during their progress,
or added in decoration; and with the great mass of painters there are
frequent flaws and failures in the conception, so that, when they intend
to produce a perfect work they throw their thought into different
experimental forms, and decorate it and discipline it long before
realizing it, so that there is a certain amount of mere composition in
the most imaginative works; and a grain or two of imagination commonly
in the most artificial. And again, whatever portions of a picture are
taken honestly and without alteration from nature, have, so far as they
go, the look of imagination, because all that nature does is
imaginative, that is, perfect as a whole, and made up of imperfect
features; so that the painter of the meanest imaginative power may yet
do grand things, if he will keep to strict portraiture, and it would be
well if all artists were to endeavor to do so, for if they have
imagination, it will force its way in spite of them, and show itself in
their every stroke, and if not, they will not get it by leaving nature,
but only sink into nothingness.

§ 18. Instances of absence of imagination.--Claude, Gaspar Poussin.

Keeping these points in view, it is interesting to observe the different
degrees and relations of the imagination, as accompanied with more or
less feeling or desire of harmony, vigor of conception, or constancy of
reference to truth. Of men of name, perhaps Claude is the best instance
of a want of imagination, nearly total, borne out by painful but
untaught study of nature, and much feeling for abstract beauty of form,
with none whatever for harmony of expression. In Gaspar Poussin, we have
the same want of imagination disguised by more masculine qualities of
mind, and grander reachings after sympathy. Thus in the sacrifice of
Isaac in our own gallery, the spirit of the composition is solemn and
unbroken; it would have been a grand picture if the forms of the mass of
foliage on the right, and of the clouds in the centre, had not been
hopelessly unimaginative. The stormy wind of the picture of Dido and
Eneas blows loudly through its leaves, but the total want of invention
in the cloud forms bears it down beyond redemption. The foreground tree
of the La Riccia (compare Part II. Sec. VI. Chap. I., § 6.) is another
characteristic instance of absolute nullity of imagination.

[Illustration: THE ADORATION OF THE MAGI. From a painting by Ruskin,
after Tintoret.]

§ 19. Its presence.--Salvator, Nicolo Poussin, Titian, Tintoret.

In Salvator, the imagination is vigorous, the composition dextrous and
clever, as in the St. Jerome of the Brera Gallery, the Diogenes of the
Pitti, and the pictures of the Guadagni palace. All are rendered
valueless by coarseness of feeling and habitual non-reference to nature.

All the landscape of Nicolo Poussin is imaginative, but the development
of the power in Tintoret and Titian is so unapproachably intense that
the mind unwillingly rests elsewhere. The four landscapes which occur to
me as the most magnificently characteristic are, first, the Flight into
Egypt, of the Scuola di San Rocco (Tintoret;) secondly, the Titian of
the Camuccini collection at Rome, with the figures by John Bellini;
thirdly, Titian's St. Jerome, in the Brera Gallery at Milan; and
fourthly, the St. Pietro Martire, which I name last, in spite of its
importance, because there is something unmeaning and unworthy of Titian
about the undulation of the trunks, and the upper part of it is
destroyed by the intrusion of some dramatic clouds of that species which
I have enough described in our former examination of the central cloud
region, § 13.

I do not mean to set these four works above the rest of the landscape of
these masters; I name them only because the landscape is in them
prominent and characteristic. It would be well to compare with them the
other backgrounds of Tintoret in the Scuola, especially that of the
Temptation and the Agony in the Garden, and the landscape of the two
large pictures in the church of La Madonna dell' Orto.

§ 20. And Turner.

But for immediate and close illustration, it is perhaps best to refer to
a work more accessible, the Cephalus and Procris of Turner, in Liber

I know of no landscape more purely or magnificently imaginative or
bearing more distinct evidence of the relative and simultaneous
conception of the parts. Let the reader first cover with his hand the
two trunks that rise against the sky on the right, and ask himself how
any termination of the central mass so _ugly_ as the straight trunk
which he will then painfully see, could have been conceived or admitted
without simultaneous conception of the trunks he has taken away on the
right? Let him again conceal the whole central mass, and leave these two
only, and again ask himself whether anything so ugly as that bare trunk
in the shape of a Y, could have been admitted without reference to the
central mass? Then let him remove from this trunk its two arms, and try
the effect; let him again remove the single trunk on the extreme right;
then let him try the third trunk without the excrescence at the bottom
of it; finally, let him conceal the fourth trunk from the right, with
the slender boughs at the top; he will find in each case that he has
destroyed a feature on which everything else depends, and if proof be
required of the vital power of still smaller features, let him remove
the sunbeam that comes through beneath the faint mass of trees on the
hill in the distance.[53]

It is useless to enter into farther particulars; the reader may be left
to his own close examination of this and of the other works of Turner,
in which he will always find the associative imagination developed in
the most profuse and marvellous modes, especially in the drawing of
foliage and skies, in both of which the presence or absence of the
associative power may best be tested in all artists. I have, however,
confined my present illustrations chiefly to foliage, because other
operations of the imagination besides the associative, interfere
extensively in the treatment of sky.

§ 21. The due function of Associative Imagination with respect to

There remains but one question to be determined relating to this
faculty, what operation, namely, supposing it possessed in high degree,
it has or ought to have in the artist's treatment of natural scenery.

I have just said that nature is always imaginative, but it does not
follow that her imagination is always of high subject, or that the
imagination of all the parts is of a like and sympathetic kind; the
boughs of every bramble bush are imaginatively arranged, so are those of
every oak and cedar; but it does not follow that there is imaginative
sympathy between bramble and cedar. There are few natural scenes whose
harmonies are not conceivably improvable either by banishment of some
discordant point, or by addition of some sympathetic one; it constantly
happens that there is a profuseness too great to be comprehended, or an
inequality in the pitch, meaning, and intensity of different parts. The
imagination will banish all that is extraneous, it will seize out of the
many threads of different feeling which nature has suffered to become
entangled, one only, and where that seems thin and likely to break, it
will spin it stouter, and in doing this, it never knots, but weaves in
the new thread, so that all its work looks as pure and true as nature
itself, and cannot be guessed from it but by its exceeding simplicity,
(_known_ from it, it cannot be,) so that herein we find another test of
the imaginative work, that it looks always as if it had been gathered
straight from nature, whereas the unimaginative shows its joints and
knots, and is visibly composition.

§ 22. The sign of imaginative work is its appearance of absolute truth.

And here then we arrive at an important conclusion (though one somewhat
contrary to the positions commonly held on the subject,) namely, that if
anything looks unnatural, there can be no imagination in it (at least
not associative.) We frequently hear works that have no truth in them,
justified or elevated on the score of being imaginative. Let it be
understood once for all, that imagination never designs to touch
anything but truth, and though it does not follow that where there is
the appearance of truth, there has been imaginative operation, of this
we may be assured, that where there is appearance of falsehood, the
imagination has had no hand.[54]

For instance, the landscape above mentioned of Titian's St. Jerome may,
for aught I know, be a pure transcript of a rocky slope covered with
chestnuts among his native mountains. It has all the look of a sketch
from nature; if it be not, the imagination developed in it is of the
highest order; if it be, the imagination has only acted in the
suggestion of the dark sky, of the shape of the flakes of solemn cloud,
and of the gleam of russet light along the distant ground.[55]

Again, it is impossible to tell whether the two nearest trunks of the
Æsacus and Hesperie of the Liber Studiorum, especially the large one on
the right with the ivy, have been invented, or taken straight from
nature, they have all the look of accurate portraiture. I can hardly
imagine anything so perfect to have been obtained except from the real
thing; but we know that the imagination must have begun to operate
somewhere, we cannot tell where, since the multitudinous harmonies of
the rest of the picture could hardly in any real scene have continued so
inviolately sweet.

The final tests, therefore, of the work of associative imagination are
its intense simplicity, its perfect harmony, and its absolute truth. It
may be a harmony, majestic, or humble, abrupt, or prolonged, but it is
always a governed and perfect whole, evidencing in all its relations the
weight, prevalence, and universal dominion of an awful, inexplicable
Power; a chastising, animating, and disposing Mind.


  [50] Compare Chapter IV. of this Section.

  [51] On the distinction rightly made by the metaphysicians between
    conception absolute and conception accompanied by reference to past
    time, (or memory,) it is of no necessity here to insist.

  [52] Elements of Chemistry, by the late Edward Turner, M.D. Part II.
    Sec. IV.

  [53] This ray of light, however, has an imaginative power of another
    kind presently to be spoken of. Compare Chap. IV. § 18.

  [54] Compare Chap. III. §30.

  [55] It is said at Venice that Titian took the trees of the St.
    Pietro Martiere out of his garden opposite Murano. I think this
    unlikely; there is something about the lower trunks that has a taint
    of composition: the thought of the whole, however, is thoroughly
    fine. The backgrounds of the frescoes at Padua are also very
    characteristic, and the well-known woodcut of St. Francis receiving
    the stigmata, one of the mightiest of existing landscape thoughts;
    and yet it is pure portraiture of pine and Spanish chestnut.

                            CHAPTER III.


§ 1. Imagination penetrative is concerned not with the combining but
       apprehending of things.

Thus far we have been defining that combining operation of the
imagination, which appears to be in a sort mechanical, yet takes place
in the same inexplicable modes, whatever be the order of conception
submitted to it, though I chose to illustrate it by its dealings with
mere matter before taking cognizance of any nobler subjects of imagery.
We must now examine the dealing of the imagination with its separate
conceptions, and endeavor to understand not only its principles of
selection, but its modes of apprehension with respect to what it

§ 2. Milton's and Dante's description of flame.

When Milton's Satan first "rears from off the pool, his mighty stature,"
the image of Leviathan before suggested not being yet abandoned, the
effect on the fire-wave is described as of the upheaved monster on the
ocean stream.

               "On each hand the flames,
                Driven backwards, slope their pointing spires,
                       and rolled
                In billows, leave in the midst a horrid vale."

And then follows a fiercely restless piece of volcanic imagery.

                              "As when the force
                Of subterranean wind transports a hill
                Torn from Pelorus, or the shattered side
                Of thundering Ætna, whose combustible
                And fuell'd entrails thence conceiving fire,
                Sublimed with mineral fury, aid the winds,
                And leave a singed bottom, all involved
                With stench and smoke; such resting found the sole
                Of unblest feet."

Yet I think all this is too far detailed, and deals too much with
externals; we feel rather the form of the fire-waves than their fury, we
walk upon them too securely, and the fuel, sublimation, smoke, and
singeing, seem to me images only of partial combustion; they vary and
extend the conception, but they lower the thermometer. Look back, if you
will, and add to the description the glimmering of the livid flames; the
sulphurous hail and red lightning; yet altogether, however they
overwhelm us with horror, fail of making us thoroughly, unendurably hot.
The intense essence of flame has not been given. Now hear Dante:--

               "Feriami 'l Sole in su l'omero destro
                Che già raggiando tutto l'Occidente
                _Mutava in bianco aspetto di eilestro.
                Ed io_ facea _con l'ombra più rovente
                Parer la flamma_."

That is a slight touch; he has not gone to Ætna nor Pelorus for fuel;
but we shall not soon recover from it--he has taken our breath away and
leaves us gasping. No smoke nor cinders there. Pure, white, hurtling,
formless flame; very fire crystal, we cannot make spires nor waves of
it, nor divide it, nor walk on it, there is no question about singeing
soles of feet. It is lambent annihilation.

§ 3. The imagination seizes always by the innermost point.

Such is always the mode in which the highest imaginative faculty seizes
its materials. It never stops at crusts or ashes, or outward images of
any kind, it ploughs them all aside, and plunges into the very central
fiery heart, nothing else will content its spirituality, whatever
semblances and various outward shows and phases its subject may possess,
go for nothing, it gets within all fence, cuts down to the root, and
drinks the very vital sap of that it deals with: once there it is at
liberty to throw up what new shoots it will, so always that the true
juice and sap be in them, and to prune and twist them at its pleasure,
and bring them to fairer fruit than grew on the old tree; but all this
pruning and twisting is work that it likes not, and often does ill; its
function and gift are the getting at the root, its nature and dignity
depend on its holding things always by the heart. Take its hand from off
the beating of that, and it will prophesy no longer; it looks not in the
eyes, it judges not by the voice, it describes not by outward features,
all that it affirms, judges, or describes, it affirms from within.

§ 4. It acts intuitively and without reasoning.

It may seem to the reader that I am incorrect in calling this
penetrating, possession-taking faculty, imagination. Be it so, the name
is of little consequence; the faculty itself, called by what name we
will, I insist upon as the highest intellectual power of man. There is
no reasoning in it, it works not by algebra, nor by integral calculus,
it is a piercing, Pholas-like mind's tongue that works and tastes into
the very rock heart, no matter what be the subject submitted to it,
substance or spirit, all is alike, divided asunder, joint and marrow,
whatever utmost truth, life, principle, it has, laid bare, and that
which has no truth, life, nor principle, dissipated into its original
smoke at a touch. The whispers at men's ears it lifts into visible
angels. Vials that have lain sealed in the deep sea a thousand years it
unseals, and brings out of them Genii.

Every great conception of poet or painter is held and treated by this
faculty. Every character that is so much as touched by men like
Æschylus, Homer, Dante, or Shakspeare, is by them held by the heart; and
every circumstance or sentence of their being, speaking, or seeming, is
seized by process from within, and is referred to that inner secret
spring of which the hold is never lost for an instant; so that every
sentence, as it has been thought out from the heart, opens for us a way
down to the heart, leads us to the centre, and then leaves us to gather
what more we may; it is the open sesame of a huge, obscure, endless
cave, with inexhaustible treasure of pure gold scattered in it: the
wandering about and gathering the pieces may be left to any of us, all
can accomplish that; but the first opening of that invisible door in the
rock is of the imagination only.

§ 5. Signs of it in language.

Hence there is in every word set down by the imaginative mind an awful
under-current of meaning, and evidence and shadow upon it of the deep
places out of which it has come. It is often obscure, often half told,
for he who wrote it, in his clear seeing of the things beneath, may have
been impatient of detailed interpretation, but if we choose to dwell
upon it and trace it, it will lead us always securely back to that
metropolis of the soul's dominion from which we may follow out all the
ways and tracks to its farthest coasts.

I think the "Quel giorno più non vi leggemmo avante" of Francesca di
Rimini, and the "He has no children" of Macduff are as fine instances as
can be given, but the sign and mark of it are visible on every line of
the four great men above instanced.

§ 6. Absence of imagination, how shown.

The imaginative writer, on the other hand, as he has never pierced to
the heart, so he can never touch it: if he has to paint a passion, he
remembers the external signs of it, he collects expressions of it from
other writers, he searches for similes, he composes, exaggerates, heaps
term on term, figure on figure, till we groan beneath the cold,
disjointed heap; but it is all faggot and no fire, the life breath is
not in it, his passion has the form of the Leviathan, but it never makes
the deep boil, he fastens us all at anchor in the scaly rind of it, our
sympathies remain as idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean.

And that virtue of originality that men so strain after, is not newness,
as they vainly think, (there is nothing new,) it is only genuineness; it
all depends on this single glorious faculty of getting to the spring of
things and working out from that; it is the coolness, and clearness, and
deliciousness of the water fresh from the fountain head, opposed to the
thick, hot, unrefreshing drainage from other men's meadows.

§ 7. Distinction between imagination and fancy.

This freshness, however, is not to be taken for an infallible sign of
imagination, inasmuch as it results also from a vivid operation of
fancy, whose parallel function to this division of the imaginative
faculty it is here necessary to distinguish.

I believe it will be found that the entirely unimaginative mind _sees_
nothing of the object it has to dwell upon or describe, and is therefore
utterly unable, as it is blind itself, to set anything before the eyes
of the reader.[56]

The fancy sees the outside, and is able to give a portrait of the
outside, clear, brilliant, and full of detail.[57]

The imagination sees the heart and inner nature, and makes them felt,
but is often obscure, mysterious, and interrupted, in its giving of
outer detail.

Take an instance. A writer with neither imagination nor fancy,
describing a fair lip, does not see it, but thinks about it, and about
what is said of it, and calls it well-turned, or rosy, or delicate, or
lovely, or afflicts us with some other quenching and chilling epithet.
Now hear fancy speak,--

               "Her lips were red, and one was thin,
                Compared with that was next her chin,
                Some bee had stung it newly."[58]

The real, red, bright being of the lip is there in a moment But it is
all outside; no expression yet, no mind. Let us go a step farther with
Warner, of fair Rosamond struck by Eleanor.

               "With that she dashed her on the lips
                So dyed double red;
                Hard was the heart that gave the blow,
                Soft were those lips that bled."

The tenderness of mind begins to mingle with the outside color, the
imagination is seen in its awakening. Next Shelley,--

               "Lamp of life, thy lips are burning
                Through the veil that seems to hide them,
                As the radiant lines of morning
                Through thin clouds, ere they divide them."

There dawns the entire soul in that morning; yet we may stop if we
choose at the image still external, at the crimson clouds. The
imagination is contemplative rather than penetrative. Last, hear

"Here hung those lips that I have kissed, I know not how oft. Where be
your gibes now, your gambols, your songs, your flashes of merriment that
were wont to set the table on a roar?"

There is the essence of lip, and the full power of the imagination.

Again, compare Milton's flowers in Lycidas with Perdita's. In Milton it
happens, I think, generally, and in the case before us most certainly,
that the imagination is mixed and broken with fancy, and so the strength
of the imagery is part of iron and part of clay.

     "Bring the rathe primrose, that forsaken dies      (Imagination)
      The tufted crow-toe, and pale jessamine,          (Nugatory)
      The white pink, and the pansy freaked with jet,-- (Fancy)
      The glowing violet,                               (Imagination)
      The musk rose, and the well-attired woodbine,     (Fancy, vulgar)
      With cowslips wan, that hang the pensive head,    (Imagination)
      And every flower that sad embroidery wears."      (Mixed)

Then hear Perdita:--

                                      "O, Proserpina,
               For the flowers now, that frighted thou let'st fall
               From Dis's wagon. Daffodils
               That come before the swallow dares, and take
               The winds of March with beauty. Violets, dim,
               But sweeter than the lids of Juno's eyes
               Or Cytherea's breath; pale primroses
               That die unmarried, ere they can behold
               Bright Phoebus in his strength, a malady
               Most incident to maids."

Observe how the imagination in these last lines goes into the very
inmost soul of every flower, after having touched them all at first with
that heavenly timidness, the shadow of Proserpine's; and gilded them
with celestial gathering, and never stops on their spots, or their
bodily shape, while Milton sticks in the stains upon them, and puts us
off with that unhappy freak of jet in the very flower that without this
bit of paper-staining would have been the most precious to us of all.
"There is pansies, that's for thoughts."

§ 8. Fancy how involved with imagination.

So I believe it will be found throughout the operation of the fancy,
that it has to do with the outsides of things, and is content therewith:
of this there can be no doubt in such passage as that description of
Mab, so often given as an illustration of it, and many other instances
will be found in Leigh Hunt's work already referred to. Only some
embarrassment is caused by passages in which fancy is seizing the
outward signs of emotion, understanding them as such, and yet, in
pursuance of her proper function, taking for her share, and for that
which she chooses to dwell upon, the outside sign rather than the
emotion. Note in Macbeth that brilliant instance.

               "Where the Norweyan banners flout the sky
                And fan our people cold."

The outward shiver and coldness of fear is seized on, and irregularly
but admirably attributed by the fancy to the drift of the banners.
Compare Solomon's Song where the imagination stays not at the outside,
but dwells on the fearful emotion itself?

  "Who is she that looketh forth as the morning; fair as the moon, clear
  as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?"

§ 9. Fancy is never serious

Now, if this be the prevailing characteristic of the two faculties, it
is evident that certain other collateral differences will result from
it. Fancy, as she stays at the externals, can never feel. She is one of
the hardest hearted of the intellectual faculties, or rather one of the
most purely and simply intellectual. She cannot be made serious,[59] no
edge-tools but she will play with; whereas the imagination is in all
things the reverse. She cannot be but serious; she sees too far, too
darkly, too solemnly, too earnestly, ever to smile. There is something
in the heart of everything, if we can reach it, that we shall not be
inclined to laugh at. The [Greek: anêrithmon gelasma] of the sea is on
its surface, not in the deep.

§ 10. Want of seriousness the bar to high art at the present time.

And thus there is reciprocal action between the intensity of moral
feeling and the power of imagination; for, on the one hand, those who
have keenest sympathy are those who look closest and pierce deepest, and
hold securest; and, on the other, those who have so pierced and seen the
melancholy deeps of things, are filled with the most intense passion and
gentleness of sympathy. Hence, I suppose that the powers of the
imagination may always be tested by accompanying tenderness of emotion,
and thus, (as Byron said,) there is no tenderness like Dante's, neither
any intensity nor seriousness like his, such seriousness that it is
incapable of perceiving that which is commonplace or ridiculous, but
fuses all down into its white-hot fire; and, on the other hand, I
suppose the chief bar to the action of imagination, and stop to all
greatness in this present age of ours, is its mean and shallow love of
jest and jeer, so that if there be in any good and lofty work a flaw or
failing, or undipped vulnerable part where sarcasm may stick or stay, it
is caught at, and pointed at, and buzzed about, and fixed upon, and
stung into, as a recent wound is by flies, and nothing is ever taken
seriously nor as it was meant, but always, if it may be, turned the
wrong way, and misunderstood; and while this is so, there is not, nor
cannot be any hope of achievement of high things; men dare not open
their hearts to us, if we are to broil them on a thorn-fire.

§ 11. Imagination is quiet; fancy, restless.

This, then, is one essential difference between imagination and fancy,
and another is like it and resultant from it, that the imagination being
at the heart of things, poises herself there, and is still, quiet, and
brooding; comprehending all around her with her fixed look, but the
fancy staying at the outside of things, cannot see them all at once, but
runs hither and thither, and round and about to see more and more,
bounding merrily from point to point, and glittering here and there, but
necessarily always settling, if she settle at all, on a point only,
never embracing the whole. And from these single points she can strike
out analogies and catch resemblances, which, so far as the point she
looks at is concerned, are true, but would be false, if she could see
through to the other side. This, however, she cares not to do, the point
of contact is enough for her, and even if there be a gap left between
the two things and they do not quite touch, she will spring from one to
the other like an electric spark, and be seen brightest in her leaping.

§ 12. The detailing operation of fancy.

Now these differences between the imagination and the fancy hold, not
only in the way they lay hold of separate conceptions, but even in the
points they occupy of time, for the fancy loves to run hither and
thither in time, and to follow long chains of circumstances from link to
link; but the imagination, if it may, gets holds of a moment or link in
the middle that implies all the rest, and fastens there. Hence Fuseli's
aphorism, "Invention never suffers the action to expire, nor the
spectator's fancy to consume itself in preparation, or stagnate into
repose. It neither begins from the egg, nor coldly gathers the remains."

In Retsch's illustrations to Schiller's Kampf mit dem Drachen, we have
an instance, miserably feeble indeed, but characteristic, and suited to
our present purpose, of the detailing, finishing action of the fancy.
The dragon is drawn from head to tail, vulture eyes, serpent teeth,
forked tongue, fiery crest, armor, claws and coils as grisly as may be;
his den is drawn, and all the dead bones in it, and all the savage
forest-country about it far and wide; we have him from the beginning of
his career to the end, devouring, rampant, victorious over whole armies,
gorged with death; we are present at all the preparations for his
attack, see him receive his death-wound, and our anxieties are finally
becalmed by seeing him lie peaceably dead on his back.

§ 13. And suggestive, of the imagination.

All the time we have never got into the dragon heart, we have never once
felt real pervading horror, nor sense of the creature's being; it is
throughout nothing but an ugly composition of claw and scale. Now take
up Turner's Jason, Liber Studiorum, and observe how the imagination can
concentrate all this, and infinitely more, into one moment. No far
forest country, no secret paths, nor cloven hills, nothing but a gleam
of pale horizontal sky, that broods over pleasant places far away, and
sends in, through the wild overgrowth of the thicket, a ray of broken
daylight into the hopeless pit. No flaunting plumes nor brandished
lances, but stern purpose in the turn of the crestless helmet, visible
victory in the drawing back of the prepared right arm behind the steady
point. No more claws, nor teeth, nor manes, nor stinging tails. We have
the dragon, like everything else, by the middle. We need see no more of
him. All his horror is in that fearful, slow, grinding upheaval of the
single coil. Spark after spark of it, ring after ring, is sliding into
the light, the slow glitter steals along him step by step, broader and
broader, a lighting of funeral lamps one by one, quicker and quicker; a
moment more, and he is out upon us, all crash and blaze among those
broken trunks;--but he will be nothing then to what he is now.

§ 14. This suggestiveness how opposed to vacancy.

Now, it is necessary here very carefully to distinguish between that
character of the work which depends on the imagination of the beholder,
and that which results from the imagination of the artist, for a work is
often called imaginative when it merely leaves room for the action of
the imagination; whereas though nearly all imaginative works do this,
yet it may be done also by works that have in them no imagination at
all. A few shapeless scratches or accidental stains on a wall; or the
forms of clouds, or any other complicated accidents, will set the
imagination to work to coin something out of them, and all paintings in
which there is much gloom or mystery, possess therein a certain
sublimity owing to the play given to the beholder's imagination,
without, necessarily, being in the slightest degree imaginative
themselves. The vacancy of a truly imaginative work results not from
absence of ideas, or incapability of grasping and detailing them, but
from the painter having told the whole pith and power of his subject and
disdaining to tell more, and the sign of this being the case is, that
the imagination of the beholder is forced to act in a certain mode, and
feels itself overpowered and borne away by that of the painter, and not
able to defend itself, nor go which way it will, and the value of the
work depends on the truth, authority, and inevitability of this
suggestiveness, and on the absolute right choice of the critical moment.
Now observe in this work of Turner's, that the whole value of it
depends on the character of curve assumed by the serpent's body; for had
it been a mere semicircle, or gone down in a series of smaller coils, it
would have been in the first case, ridiculous, as false and unlike a
serpent, and in the second, disgusting, nothing more than an exaggerated
viper, but it is that _coming straight_ at the right hand which suggests
the drawing forth of an enormous weight, and gives the bent part its
springing look, that frightens us. Again, remove the light trunk[60] on
the left, and observe how useless all the gloom of the picture would
have been, if this trunk had not given it depth and _hollowness_.
Finally and chiefly, observe that the painter is not satisfied even with
all the suggestiveness thus obtained, but to make sure of us, and force
us, whether we will or no, to walk his way, and not ours, the trunks of
the trees on the right are all cloven into yawning and writhing heads
and bodies, and alive with dragon energy all about us, note especially
the nearest with its gaping jaws and claw-like branch at the seeming
shoulder; a kind of suggestion which in itself is not imaginative, but
merely fanciful, (using the term fancy in that third sense not yet
explained, corresponding to the third office of imagination;) but it is
imaginative in its present use and application, for the painter
addresses thereby that morbid and fearful condition of mind which he has
endeavored to excite in the spectator, and which in reality would have
seen in every trunk and bough, as it penetrated into the deeper thicket,
the object of its terror.

§ 15. Imagination addresses itself to imagination.

Instances from the works of Tintoret.

It is nevertheless evident, that however suggestive the work or picture
may be, it cannot have effect unless we are ourselves both watchful of
its very hint, and capable of understanding and carrying it out, and
although I think that this power of continuing or accepting the
direction of feeling given is less a peculiar gift, like that of the
original seizing, than a faculty dependent on attention, and improvable
by cultivation; yet, to a certain extent, the imaginative work will not,
I think, be rightly esteemed except by a mind of some corresponding
power; not but that there is an intense enjoyment in minds of feeble yet
light conception in the help and food they get from those of stronger
thought; but a certain imaginative susceptibility is at any rate
necessary, and above all things, earnestness and feeling, so that
assuredly a work of high conceptive dignity will be always
incomprehensible and valueless except in those who go to it in earnest
and give it time; and this is peculiarly the case when the imagination
acts not merely on the immediate subject, nor in giving a fanciful and
peculiar character to prominent objects, as we have just seen, but
busies itself throughout in expressing occult and far-sought sympathies
in every minor detail, of which action the most sublime instances are
found in the works of Tintoret, whose intensity of imagination is such
that there is not the commonest subject to which he will not attach a
range of suggestiveness almost limitless, nor a stone, leaf, or shadow,
nor anything so small, but he will give it meaning and oracular voice.

§ 16. The Entombment.

In the centre of the gallery at Parma, there is a canvas of Tintoret's,
whose sublimity of conception and grandeur of color are seen in the
highest perfection, by their opposition to the morbid and vulgar
sentimentalism of Correggio. It is an Entombment of Christ, with a
landscape distance, of whose technical composition and details I shall
have much to say hereafter, at present I speak only of the thought it is
intended to convey. An ordinary or unimaginative painter would have made
prominent, among his objects of landscape, such as might naturally be
supposed to have been visible from the sepulchre, and shown with the
crosses of Calvary, some portion of Jerusalem, or of the Valley of
Jehoshaphat. But Tintoret has a far higher aim. Dwelling on the peculiar
force of the event before him, as the fulfilment of the final prophecy
respecting the passion, "He made his grave with the wicked and with the
_rich_ in his death," he desires to direct the mind of the spectator to
this receiving of the body of Christ, in its contrast with the houseless
birth and the desert life. And, therefore, behind the ghastly tomb-grass
that shakes its black and withered blades above the rocks of the
sepulchre, there is seen, not the actual material distance of the spot
itself, (though the crosses are shown faintly,) but that to which the
thoughtful spirit would return in vision, a desert place, where the
foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, and against the
barred twilight of the melancholy sky are seen the mouldering beams and
shattered roofing of a ruined cattle-shed, the canopy of the nativity.

§ 17. The Annunciation.

Let us take another instance. No subject has been more frequently or
exquisitely treated by the religious painters than that of the
Annunciation, though as usual, the most perfect type of its pure ideal
has been given by Angelico, and by him with the most radiant
consummation (so far as I know) in a small reliquary in the sacristy of
St^a. Maria Novella. The background there, however, is altogether
decorative; but in the fresco of the corridor of St. Mark's, the
concomitant circumstances are of exceeding loveliness. The Virgin sits
in an open loggia, resembling that of the Florentine church of
L'Annunziata. Before her is a meadow of rich herbage, covered with
daisies. Behind her is seen through the door at the end of the loggia,
her chamber with its single grated window, through which a star-like
beam of light falls into the silence. All is exquisite in feeling, but
not inventive nor imaginative. Severe would be the shock and painful the
contrast, if we could pass in an instant from that pure vision to the
wild thought of Tintoret. For not in meek reception of the adoring
messenger, but startled by the rush of his horizontal and rattling
wings, the virgin sits, not in the quiet loggia, not by the green
pasture of the restored soul, but houseless, under the shelter of a
palace vestibule ruined and abandoned, with the noise of the axe and the
hammer in her ears, and the tumult of a city round about her desolation.
The spectator turns away at first, revolted, from the central object of
the picture, forced painfully and coarsely forward, a mass of shattered
brickwork, with the plaster mildewed away from it, and the mortar
mouldering from its seams; and if he look again, either at this or at
the carpenter's tools beneath it, will perhaps see in the one and the
other, nothing more than such a study of scene as Tintoret could but too
easily obtain among the ruins of his own Venice, chosen to give a coarse
explanation of the calling and the condition of the husband of Mary. But
there is more meant than this. When he looks at the composition of the
picture, he will find the whole symmetry of it depending on a narrow
line of light, the edge of a carpenter's square, which connects these
unused tools with an object at the top of the brickwork, a white stone,
four square, the corner-stone of the old edifice, the base of its
supporting column. This, I think, sufficiently explains the typical
character of the whole. The ruined house is the Jewish dispensation,
that obscurely arising in the dawning of the sky is the Christian; but
the corner-stone of the old building remains, though the builder's tools
lie idle beside it, and the stone which the builders refused is become
the Headstone of the corner.

§ 18. The Baptism of Christ. Its treatment by various painters.

In this picture, however, the force of the thought hardly atones for the
painfulness of the scene and the turbulence of its feeling. The power of
the master is more strikingly shown in his treatment of a subject which,
however important, and however deep in its meaning, supplies not to the
ordinary painter material enough ever to form a picture of high
interest; the Baptism of Christ. From the purity of Giotto to the
intolerable, inconceivable brutality of Salvator,[61] every order of
feeling has been displayed in its treatment; but I am aware of no single
case, except this of which I am about to speak, in which it has formed
an impressive picture.

Giotto's, in the Academy of Florence, engraved in the series just
published, (Galleria delle belle Arti,) is one of the most touching I
know, especially in the reverent action of the attendant angels, and
Leonardo's angel in that of Andrea del Verrocchio is very beautiful, but
the event is one whose character and importance are ineffable upon the
features: the descending dove hardly affects us, because its constant
symbolical occurrence hardens us, and makes us look on it as a mere type
or letter, instead of the actual presence of the Spirit; and by all the
sacred painters the power that might be put into the landscape is lost,
for though their use of foliage and distant sky or mountain is usually
very admirable, as we shall see in the fifth chapter, yet they cannot
deal with near water or rock, and the hexagonal and basaltic
protuberances of their river shore are I think too painful to be endured
even by the most acceptant mind, as eminently in that of Angelico, in
the Vita di Christo, which, as far as I can judge, is a total failure in
action, expression, and all else; and in general it is in this subject
especially, that the greatest painters show their weakness. For this
reason, I suppose, and feeling the difficulty of it, Tintoret has thrown
into it his utmost strength, and it becomes noble in his hands by his
most singularly imaginative expression, not only of the immediate fact,
but of the whole train of thought of which it is suggestive; and by his
considering the baptism not only as the submission of Christ to the
fulfilment of all righteousness, but as the opening of the earthly
struggle with the prince of the powers of the air, which instantly
beginning in the temptation, ended only on the cross.

§ 19. By Tintoret.

The river flows fiercely under the shadow of a great rock. From its
opposite shore, thickets of close, gloomy foliage rise against the
rolling chasm of heaven, through which breaks the brightness of the
descending Spirit. Across these, dividing them asunder, is stretched a
horizontal floor of flaky cloud, on which stand the hosts of heaven.
Christ kneels upon the water, and does not sink; the figure of St. John
is indistinct, but close beside his raised right arm there is a spectre
in the black shade; the fiend, harpy-shaped, hardly seen, glares down
upon Christ with eyes of fire, waiting his time. Beneath this figure
there comes out of the mist a dark hand, the arm unseen, extended to a
net in the river, the spars of which are in the shape of a cross.
Behinds this the roots and under stems of the trees are cut away by the
cloud, and beneath it, and through them, is seen a vision of wild,
melancholy, boundless light, the sweep of the desert, and the figure of
Christ is seen therein alone, with his arms lifted as in supplication or
ecstacy, borne of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the

There are many circumstances which combine to give to this noble work a
more than usually imaginative character. The symbolical use of the net,
which is the cross net still used constantly in the canals of Venice,
and common throughout Italy, is of the same character as that of the
carpenter's tools in the Annunciation; but the introduction of the
spectral figure is of bolder reach, and yet more, that vision of the
after temptation which is expressly indicated as a subject of thought
rather than of sight, because it is in a part of the scene, which in
_fact_ must have been occupied by the trunks of the trees whose tops are
seen above; and another circumstance completes the mystic character of
the whole, that the flaky clouds which support the angelic hosts take on
the right, where the light first falls upon them, the shape of the head
of a fish, the well-known type both of the baptismal sacrament, and of

§ 20. The Crucifixion.

But the most exquisite instance of this imaginative power occurs in an
incident in the background of the Crucifixion. I will not insult this
marvellous picture by an effort at a verbal account of it. I would not
whitewash it with praise, and I refer to it only for the sake of two
thoughts peculiarly illustrative of the intellectual faculty immediately
under discussion. In the common and most catholic treatment of the
subject, the mind is either painfully directed to the bodily agony,
coarsely expressed by outward anatomical signs, or else it is permitted
to rest on that countenance inconceivable by man at any time, but
chiefly so in this its consummated humiliation. In the first case, the
representation is revolting; in the second, inefficient, false, and
sometimes blasphemous. None even of the greatest religious painters have
ever, so far as I know, succeeded here; Giotto and Angelico were cramped
by the traditional treatment, and the latter especially, as before
observed, is but too apt to indulge in those points of vitiated feeling
which attained their worst development among the Byzantines: Perugino
fails in his Christ in almost every instance (of other men than these
after them we need not speak.) But Tintoret here, as in all other cases,
penetrating into the root and deep places of his subject, despising all
outward and bodily appearances of pain, and seeking for some means of
expressing, not the rack of nerve or sinew, but the fainting of the
deserted Son of God before his Eloi cry, and yet feeling himself utterly
unequal to the expression of this by the countenance, has on the one
hand filled his picture with such various and impetuous muscular
exertion that the body of the Crucified is, by comparison, in perfect
repose, and on the other has cast the countenance altogether into shade.
But the agony is told by this, and by this only, that though there yet
remains a chasm of light on the mountain horizon where the earthquake
darkness closes upon the day, the broad and sunlike glory about the head
of the Redeemer has become wan, and of the color of ashes.[62]

But the great painter felt he had something more to do yet. Not only
that agony of the Crucified, but the tumult of the people, that rage
which invoked his blood upon them and their children. Not only the
brutality of the soldier, the apathy of the centurion, nor any other
merely instrumental cause of the Divine suffering, but the fury of his
own people, the noise against him of those for whom he died, were to be
set before the eye of the understanding, if the power of the picture was
to be complete. This rage, be it remembered, was one of disappointed
pride; and the disappointment dated essentially from the time, when but
five days before, the King of Zion came, and was received with
hosannahs, riding upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. To this
time, then, it was necessary to direct the thoughts, for therein are
found both the cause and the character, the excitement of, and the
witness against, this madness of the people. In the shadow behind the
cross, a man, riding on an ass colt, looks back to the multitude, while
he points with a rod to the Christ crucified. The ass is feeding on the
_remnants_ of _withered palm-leaves_.

With this master-stroke I believe I may terminate all illustration of
the peculiar power of the imagination over the feelings of the
spectator, by the elevation into dignity and meaning of the smallest
accessory circumstances. But I have not yet sufficiently dwelt on the
fact from which this power arises, the absolute truth of statement of
the central fact as it was, or must have been. Without this truth, this
awful first moving principle, all direction of the feelings is useless.
That which we cannot excite, it is of no use to know how to govern.

§ 21. The Massacre of innocents.

I have before alluded, Sect. I. Chap. XIV., to the painfulness of
Raffaelle's treatment of the massacre of the innocents. Fuseli affirms
of it that, "in dramatic gradation he disclosed all the mother through
every image of pity and of terror." If this be so, I think the
philosophical spirit has prevailed over the imaginative. The imagination
never errs, it sees all that is, and all the relations and bearings of
it, but it would not have confused the mortal frenzy of maternal terror
with various development of maternal character. Fear, rage, and agony,
at their utmost pitch, sweep away all character: humanity itself would
be lost in maternity, the woman would become the mere personification of
animal fury or fear. For this reason all the ordinary representations of
this subject are, I think, false and cold: the artist has not heard the
shrieks, nor mingled with the fugitives, he has sat down in his study to
twist features methodically, and philosophize over insanity. Not so
Tintoret. Knowing or feeling, that the expression of the human face was
in such circumstances not to be rendered, and that the effort could only
end in an ugly falsehood, he denies himself all aid from the features,
he feels that if he is to place himself or us in the midst of that
maddened multitude, there can be no time allowed for watching
expression. Still less does he depend on details of murder or
ghastliness of death; there is no blood, no stabbing or cutting, but
there is an awful substitute for these in the chiaroscuro. The scene is
the outer vestibule of a palace, the slippery marble floor is fearfully
barred across by sanguine shadows, so that our eyes seem to become
bloodshot and strained with strange horror and deadly vision; a lake of
life before them, like the burning seen of the doomed Moabite on the
water that came by the way of Edom; a huge flight of stairs, without
parapet, descends on the left; down this rush a crowd of women mixed
with the murderers; the child in the arms of one has been seized by the
limbs, she hurls herself over the edge, and falls head downmost,
dragging the child out of the grasp by her weight;--she will be dashed
dead in a second: two others are farther in flight, they reach the edge
of a deep river,--the water is beat into a hollow by the force of their
plunge;--close to us is the great struggle, a heap of the mothers
entangled in one mortal writhe with each other and the swords, one of
the murderers dashed down and crushed beneath them, the sword of another
caught by the blade and dragged at by a woman's naked hand; the
youngest and fairest of the women, her child just torn away from a death
grasp and clasped to her breast with the grip of a steel vice, falls
backwards helplessly over the heap, right on the sword points; all knit
together and hurled down in one hopeless, frenzied, furious abandonment
of body and soul in the effort to save. Their shrieks ring in our ears
till the marble seems rending around us, but far back, at the bottom of
the stairs, there is something in the shadow like a heap of clothes. It
is a woman, sitting quiet,--quite quiet--still as any stone, she looks
down steadfastly on her dead child, laid along on the floor before her,
and her hand is pressed softly upon her brow.

§ 22. Various works in the Scuola di San Rocco.

§ 23. The Last Judgment. How treated by various painters.

This, to my mind, is the only imaginative; that is, the only true, real,
heartfelt representation of the being and actuality of the subject in
existence.[63] I should exhaust the patience of the reader if I were to
dwell at length on the various stupendous developments of the
imagination of Tintoret in the Scuola di San Rocco alone. I would fain
join a while in that solemn pause of the journey into Egypt, where the
silver boughs of the shadowy trees lace with their tremulous lines the
alternate folds of fair clouds, flushed by faint crimson light, and lie
across the streams of blue between those rosy islands, like the white
wakes of wandering ships; or watch beside the sleep of the disciples
among those massy leaves that lie so heavily on the dead of the night
beneath the descent of the angel of the agony, and toss fearfully above
the motion of the torches as the troop of the betrayer emerges out of
the hollows of the olives; or wait through the hour of accusing beside
the judgment seat of Pilate, where all is unseen, unfelt, except the one
figure that stands with its head bowed down, pale like a pillar of
moonlight, half bathed in the glory of the Godhead, half wrapt in the
whiteness of the shroud. Of these and all the other thoughts of
indescribable power that are now fading from the walls of those
neglected chambers, I may perhaps endeavor at some future time to
preserve some image and shadow more faithfully than by words; but I
shall at present terminate our series of illustrations by reference to a
work of less touching, but more tremendous appeal, the Last Judgment in
the Church of Santa Maria dell' Orto. In this subject, almost all
realizing or local statement had been carefully avoided by the most
powerful painters, they judging it better to represent its chief
circumstances as generic thoughts, and present them to the mind in a
typical or abstract form. In the judgment of Angelico the treatment is
purely typical, a long Campo santo, composed of two lines of graves,
stretches away into the distance; on the left side of it rise the
condemned; on the right the just. With Giotto and Orcagna, the
conception, though less rigid, is equally typical, no effort being made
at the suggestion of space, and only so much ground represented as is
absolutely necessary to support the near figures and allow space for a
few graves. Michael Angelo in no respect differs in his treatment,
except that his figures are less symmetrically grouped, and a greater
conception of space is given by their various perspective. No interest
is attached to his background in itself. Fra Bartolomeo, never able to
grapple with any species of sublimity except that of simple religious
feeling, fails most signally in this mighty theme.[64] His group of the
dead, including not more than ten or twelve figures, occupies the
foreground only, behind them a vacant plain extends to the foot of a
cindery volcano, about whose mouth several little black devils like
spiders are skipping and crawling. The judgment of quick and dead is
thus expressed as taking place in about a rood square, and on a dozen of
people at a time; the whole of the space and horizon of the sky and land
being left vacant, and the presence of the Judge of all the earth made
more finite than the sweep of a whirlwind or a thunder-storm.

§ 24. By Tintoret.

By Tintoret only has this unimaginable event been grappled with in its
verity; not typically nor symbolically, but as they may see it who shall
not sleep, but be changed. Only one traditional circumstance he has
received with Dante and Michael Angelo, the boat of the condemned; but
the impetuosity of his mind bursts out even in the adoption of this
image, he has not stopped at the scowling ferryman of the one, nor at
the sweeping blow and demon dragging of the other, but, seized
Hylas-like by the limbs, and tearing up the earth in his agony, the
victim is dashed into his destruction; nor is it the sluggish Lethe, nor
the fiery lake that bears the cursed vessel, but the oceans of the earth
and the waters of the firmament gathered into one white, ghastly
cataract, the river of the wrath of God, roaring down into the gulf
where the world has melted with its fervent heat, choked with the ruin
of nations, and the limbs of its corpses tossed out of its whirling,
like water-wheels. Bat like, out of the holes and caverns and shadows of
the earth, the bones gather, and the clay-heaps heave, rattling and
adhering into half-kneaded anatomies, that crawl, and startle, and
struggle up among the putrid weeds, with the clay clinging to their
clotted hair, and their heavy eyes sealed by the earth darkness yet,
like his of old who went his way unseeing to Siloam Pool; shaking off
one by one the dreams of the prison-house, hardly hearing the clangor of
the trumpets of the armies of God, blinded yet more, as they awake, by
the white light of the new Heaven, until the great vortex of the four
winds bears up their bodies to the judgment seat: the firmament is all
full of them, a very dust of human souls, that drifts, and floats, and
falls in the interminable, inevitable light; the bright clouds are
darkened with them as with thick snow, currents of atom life in the
arteries of heaven, now soaring up slowly, farther, and higher, and
higher still, till the eye and the thought can follow no farther, borne
up, wingless, by their inward faith and by the angel powers invisible,
now hurled in countless drifts of horror before the breath of their

§ 25. The imaginative verity, how distinguished from realism.

Now, I wish the reader particularly to observe throughout all these
works of Tintoret, the distinction of the imaginative verity from
falsehood on the one hand, and from realism on the other. The power of
every picture depends on the penetration of the imagination into the
TRUE nature of the thing represented, and on the utter scorn of the
imagination for all shackles and fetters of mere external fact that
stand in the way of its suggestiveness. In the Baptism it cuts away the
trunks of trees as if they were so much cloud or vapor, that it may
exhibit to the thought the completed sequency of the scene;[65] in the
Massacre, it covers the marble floor with visionary light, that it may
strike terror into the spectator without condescending to butchery; it
defies the bare fact, but creates in him the fearful feeling; in the
Crucifixion it annihilates locality, and brings the palm-leaves to
Calvary, so only that it may bear the mind to the mount of Olives, as in
the entombment it brings the manger to Jerusalem, that it may take the
heart to Bethlehem; and all this it does in the daring consciousness of
its higher and spiritual verity, and in the entire knowledge of the fact
and substance of all that it touches. The imaginary boat of the demon
angel expands the rush of the visible river into the descent of
irresistible condemnation; but to make that rush and roar felt by the
eye and heard by the ear, the rending of the pine branches above the
cataract is taken directly from nature; it is an abstract of Alpine
storm. Hence while we are always placed face to face with whatever is to
be told, there is in and beyond its reality a voice supernatural; and
that which is doubtful in the vision has strength, sinew, and
assuredness, built up in it by fact.

§ 26. The imagination how manifested in sculpture.

Let us, however, still advance one step farther, and observe the
imaginative power deprived of all aid from chiaroscuro, color, or any
other means of concealing the frame-work of its thoughts.

It was said by Michael Angelo that "non ha l'ottimo scultore alcun
concetto, Ch'un marmo solo in se non circoscriva," a sentence which,
though in the immediate sense intended by the writer it may remind us a
little of the indignation of Boileau's Pluto, "Il s'ensuit de la que
tout ce qui se peut dire de beau, est dans les dictionnaires,--il n'y a
que les paroles qui sont transposées," yet is valuable, because it shows
us that Michael Angelo held the imagination to be entirely expressible
in rock, and therefore altogether independent, in its own nature, of
those aids of color and shade by which it is recommended in Tintoret,
though the sphere of its operation is of course by these incalculably
extended. But the presence of the imagination may be rendered in marble
as deep, thrilling, and awful as in painting, so that the sculptor seek
for the soul and govern the body thereby.

§ 27. Bandinelli, Canova, Mino da Fiesole.

§ 28. Michael Angelo.

Of unimaginative work, Bandinelli and Canova supply us with
characteristic instances of every kind, the Hercules and Cacus of the
former, and its criticism by Cellini, will occur at once to every one;
the disgusting statue now placed so as to conceal Giotto's important
tempera picture in Santa Croce is a better instance, but a still more
impressive lesson might be received by comparing the inanity of Canova's
garland grace, and ball-room sentiment with the intense truth,
tenderness, and power of men like Mino da Fiesole, whose chisel leaves
many a hard edge, and despises down and dimple, but it seems to cut
light and carve breath, the marble burns beneath it, and becomes
transparent with very spirit. Yet Mino stopped at the human nature; he
saw the soul, but not the ghostly presences about it; it was reserved
for Michael Angelo to pierce deeper yet, and to see the indwelling
angels. No man's soul is alone: Laocoon or Tobit, the serpent has it by
the heart or the angel by the hand, the light or the fear of the
spiritual things that move beside it may be seen on the body; and that
bodily form with Buonaroti, white, solid, distinct material, though it
be, is invariably felt as the instrument or the habitation of some
infinite, invisible power. The earth of the Sistine Adam that begins to
burn; the woman embodied burst of adoration from his sleep; the twelve
great torrents of the Spirit of God that pause above us there, urned in
their vessels of clay; the waiting in the shadow of futurity of those
through whom the promise and presence of God went down from the Eve to
the Mary, each still and fixed, fixed in his expectation, silent,
foreseeing, faithful, seated each on his stony throne, the building
stones of the word of God, building on and on, tier by tier, to the
Refused one, the head of the corner; not only these, not only the troops
of terror torn up from the earth by the four quartered winds of the
Judgment, but every fragment and atom of stone that he ever touched
became instantly inhabited by what makes the hair stand up and the words
be few; the St. Matthew, not yet disengaged from his sepulchre, bound
hand and foot by his grave clothes, it is left for us to loose him; the
strange spectral wreath of the Florence Pieta, casting its pyramidal,
distorted shadow, full of pain and death, among the faint purple lights
that cross and perish under the obscure dome of St^a. Maria del Fiore,
the white lassitude of joyous limbs, panther like, yet passive, fainting
with their own delight, that gleam among the Pagan formalisms of the
Uffizii, far away, showing themselves in their lustrous lightness as the
waves of an Alpine torrent do by their dancing among the dead stones,
though the stones be as white as they:[66] and finally, and perhaps more
than all, those four ineffable types, not of darkness nor of day--not of
morning nor evening, but of the departure and the resurrection, the
twilight and the dawn of the souls of men--together with the spectre
sitting in the shadow of the niche above them;[67] all these, and all
else that I could name of his forming, have borne, and in themselves
retain and exercise the same inexplicable power--inexplicable because
proceeding from an imaginative perception almost superhuman, which goes
whither we cannot follow, and is where we cannot come; throwing naked
the final, deepest root of the being of man, whereby he grows out of the
invisible, and holds on his God home.[68]

§ 29. Recapitulation. The perfect function of the imagination is the
        intuitive perception of ultimate truth.

Now, in all these instances, let it be observed, for it is to that end
alone that I have been arguing all along, that the virtue of the
imagination is its reaching, by intuition and intensity of gaze, (not by
reasoning, but by its authoritative opening and revealing power,) a
more essential truth than is seen at the surface of things. I repeat
that it matters not whether the reader is willing call this faculty
imagination or no, I do not care about the name; but I would be
understood when I speak of imagination hereafter, to mean this, the true
foundation of all art which exercises eternal authority over men's
minds; (all other imagination than this is either secondary and
contemplative, or utterly spurious;) the base of whose authority and
being is its perpetual thirst of truth and purpose to be true. It has no
food, no delight, no care, no perception, except of truth; it is forever
looking under masks, and burning up mists; no fairness of form, no
majesty of seeming will satisfy it; the first condition of its
existence is incapability of being deceived; and though it sometimes
dwells upon and substantiates the fictions of fancy, yet its own
operation is to trace to their farthest limit the true laws and
likelihoods even of the fictitious creation. This has been well
explained by Fuseli, in his allusion to the Centaur of Zeuxis; and there
is not perhaps a greater exertion of imaginative power than may be
manifested in following out to their farthest limits the necessary
consequences of such arbitrary combination; but let not the jests of the
fancy be confounded with that after serious work of the imagination
which gives them all the nervous verity and substance of which they are
capable. Let not the monsters of Chinese earthenware be confounded with
the Faun, Satyr, or Centaur.

§ 30. Imagination now vulgarly understood.

How different this definition of the imagination may be from the idea of
it commonly entertained among us, I can hardly say, because I have a
very indistinct idea of what is usually meant by the term. I hear modern
works constantly praised as being imaginative, in which I can trace no
virtue of any kind; but simple, slavish, unpalliated falsehood and
exaggeration; I see not what merit there can be in pure, ugly, resolute
fiction; it is surely easy enough to be wrong; there are many ways of
being unlike nature. I understand not what virtue that is which entitles
one of these ways to be called imaginative, rather than another; and I
am still farther embarrassed by hearing the portions of those works
called especially imaginative in which there is the most effort at
minute and mechanical statement of contemptible details, and in which
the artist would have been as actual and absolute in imitation as an
echo, if he had known how. Against convictions which I do not
understand, I cannot argue; but I may warn the artist that imagination
of this strange kind, is not capable of bearing the time test; nothing
of its doing ever has continued its influence over men; and if he
desires to take place among the great men of older time, there is but
one way for it; and one kind of imagination that will stand the immortal
light: I know not how far it is by effort cultivable; but we have
evidence enough before us to show in what direction that effort must be

§ 31. How its cultivation is dependent on the moral feelings.

We have seen (§ 10) that the imagination is in no small degree
dependent on acuteness of moral emotion; in fact, all moral truth can
only thus be apprehended--and it is observable, generally, that all true
and deep emotion is imaginative, both in conception and expression; and
that the mental sight becomes sharper with every full beat of the heart;
and, therefore, all egotism, and selfish care, or regard, are in
proportion to their constancy, destructive of imagination; whose play
and power depend altogether on our being able to forget ourselves and
enter like possessing spirits into the bodies of things about us.

§ 32. On independence of mind.

Again, as the life of imagination is in the discovering of truth, it is
clear it can have no respect for sayings or opinions: knowing in itself
when it has invented truly--restless and tormented except when it has
this knowledge, its sense of success or failure is too acute to be
affected by praise or blame. Sympathy it desires--but can do without; of
opinions it is regardless, not in pride, but because it has no vanity,
and is conscious of a rule of action and object of aim in which it
cannot be mistaken; partly, also, in pure energy of desire and longing
to do and to invent more and more, which suffer it not to suck the
sweetness of praise--unless a little, with the end of the rod in its
hand, and without pausing in its march. It goes straight forward up the
hill; no voices nor mutterings can turn it back, nor petrify it from its

§ 33. And on habitual reference to nature.

Finally, it is evident, that like the theoretic faculty, the imagination
must be fed constantly by external nature--after the illustrations we
have given, this may seem mere truism, for it is clear that to the
exercise of the penetrative faculty a subject of penetration is
necessary; but I note it because many painters of powerful mind have
been lost to the world by their suffering the restless writhing of their
imagination in its cage to take place of its healthy and exulting
activity in the fields of nature. The most imaginative men always study
the hardest, and are the most thirsty for new knowledge. Fancy plays
like a squirrel in its circular prison, and is happy; but imagination is
a pilgrim on the earth--and her home is in heaven. Shut her from the
fields of the celestial mountains--bar her from breathing their lofty,
sun-warmed air; and we may as well turn upon her the last bolt of the
tower of famine, and give the keys to the keeping of the wildest surge
that washes Capraja and Gorgona.


  [56] Compare Arist. Rhet. III. 11.

  [57] For the distinction between fancy and simple conception; see
    Chap. IV. § 3.

  [58] I take this and the next instance from Leigh Hunt's admirable
    piece of criticism, "Imagination and Fancy," which ought to be read
    with care, and to which, though somewhat loosely arranged, I may
    refer for all the filling up and illustration that the subject
    requires. With respect to what has just been said respecting want of
    imagination, compare his criticism of Addison's Cato, p. 28. I
    cannot, however, confirm his judgment, nor admit his selection of
    instances, among painters: he has looked to their manner only and
    habitual choice of subject, without feeling their power; and has
    given work to the coarseness, mindlessness, and eclecticism of Guido
    and the Carracci, which in its poetical demand of tenderness might
    have foiled Pinturicchio; of dignity, Leonardo; and of color,

  [59] Fancy, in her third function may, however, become serious, and
    gradually rise into imagination in doing so. Compare Chap. IV. § 5.

  [60] I am describing from a proof: in bad impressions this trunk is

  [61] The picture is in the Guadagni palace. It is one of the most
    important landscapes Salvator ever painted. The figures are studied
    from street beggars. On the one side of the river, exactly opposite
    the point where the Baptism of Christ takes place, the painter, with
    a refinement of feeling peculiarly his own, has introduced some
    ruffians stripping off their shirts to bathe. He is fond of this
    incident. It occurs again in one of the marines of the Pitti palace,
    with the additional interest of a foreshortened figure, swimming on
    its back, feet foremost, exactly in the stream of light to which the
    eye is principally directed.

  [62] This circumstance, like most that lie not at the surface, has
    escaped Fuseli, though his remarks on the general tone of the
    picture are very good, as well as his opposition of it to the
    treatment of Rubens. (Lecture IX.)

  [63] Note the shallow and uncomprehending notice of this picture by
    Fuseli. His description of the treatment of it by other painters is
    however true, terse, and valuable.

  [64] Fresco in an out-house of the Ospedale St^a. Maria Nuova at

  [65] The same thing is done yet more boldly in the large composition
    of the ceiling; the plague of fiery serpents; a part of the host,
    and another sky horizon are seen through an opening in the ground.

  [66] The Bacchus. There is a small statue opposite it
    also--unfinished, but "a spirit still."

  [67] I would have insisted more on the ghostly vitality of this
    dreadful statue; but the passage referring to it in Rogers's Italy
    supersedes all further description. I suppose most lovers of art
    know it by heart.

                 "Nor then forget that chamber of the dead,
               Where the gigantic shapes of Night and Day,
               Turned into stone, rest everlastingly;
               Yet still are breathing, and shed round at noon
               A twofold influence,--only to be felt--
               A light, a darkness, mingling each with each;
               Both, and yet neither. There, from age to age,
               Two ghosts are sitting on their sepulchres.
               That is the Duke Lorenzo. Mark him well.
               He meditates, his head upon his hand.
               What from beneath his helm-like bonnet scowls?
               Is it a face, or but an eyeless skull?
               'Tis lost in shade; yet, like the basilisk,
               It fascinates, and is intolerable.
               His mien is noble, most majestical!
               Then most so, when the distant choir is heard
               At morn or eve--nor fail thou to attend
               On that thrice-hallowed day, when all are there;
               When all, propitiating with solemn songs,
               Visit the Dead. Then wilt thou feel his power!"

    It is strange that this should be the only written instance (as far
    as I recollect) of just and entire appreciation of Michael Angelo's
    spiritual power. It is perhaps owing to the very intensity of his
    imagination that he has been so little understood--for, as I before
    said, imagination can never be met by vanity, nor without
    earnestness. His Florentine followers saw in him an anatomist and
    posture-master--and art was finally destroyed by the influence over
    admiring idiocy of the greatest mind that art ever inspired.

  [68] I have not chosen to interrupt the argument respecting the
    essence of the imaginative faculty by any remarks on the execution
    of the imaginative hand; but we can hardly leave Tintoret and
    Michael Angelo without some notice of the pre-eminent power of
    execution exhibited by both of them, in consequence of their vigor
    and clearness of conception; nor without again warning the lower
    artist from confounding this velocity of decision and impatience
    with the velocity of affectation or indolence. Every result of real
    imagination we have seen to be a truth of some sort; and it is the
    characteristic of truth to be in some way tangible, seizable,
    distinguishable, and clear, as it is of falsehood to be obscure,
    confused, and confusing. Not but that many, if not most truths have
    a dark side, a side by which they are connected with mysteries too
    high for us,--nay, I think it is commonly but a poor and miserable
    truth which the human mind can walk all round, but at all events
    they have one side by which we can lay hold of them, and feel that
    they are downright adamant, and that their form, though lost in
    cloud here and there, is unalterable and real, and not less real and
    rocky because infinite, and joined on, St. Michael's mount-like to a
    far mainland. So then, whatever the real imagination lays hold of,
    as it is a truth, does not alter into anything else as the
    imaginative part works at it and feels over it and finds out more of
    it, but comes out more and more continually, all that is found out
    pointing to and indicating still more behind, and giving additional
    stability and reality to that which is discovered already. But if it
    be fancy or any other form of pseudo-imagination which is at work,
    then that which it gets hold of may not be a truth, but only an
    idea, which will keep giving way as soon as we try to take hold of
    it and turning into something else, so that as we go on copying it,
    every part will be inconsistent with all that has gone before, and
    at intervals it will vanish altogether, and leave blanks which must
    be filled up by any means at hand. And in these circumstances, the
    painter, unable to seize his thought, because it has not substance
    nor bone enough to bear grasping, is liable to catch at every line
    that he lays down, for help and suggestion, and to be led away by it
    to something else, which the first effort to realize dissipates in
    like manner, placing another phantom in its stead, until out of the
    fragments of these successive phantoms he has glued together a
    vague, mindless, involuntary whole, a mixture of all that was trite
    or common in each of the successive conceptions, for that is
    necessarily what is first caught a heap of things with the bloom off
    and the chill on, laborious, unnatural, inane, with its emptiness
    disguised by affectation, and its tastelessness salted by

    Necessarily, from these modes of conception, three vices of
    execution must result; and these are necessarily found in all those
    parts of the work where any trust has been put in conception, and
    only to be avoided in portions of actual portraiture (for a
    thoroughly unimaginative painter can make no use of a study--all his
    studies are guesses and experiments, all are equally wrong, and so
    far felt to be wrong by himself, that he will not work by any of
    them, but will always endeavor to improve upon them in the picture,
    and so lose the use of them). These three vices of execution are
    then--first, feebleness of handling, owing to uncertainty of
    intention; secondly, intentional carelessness of handling, in the
    hope of getting by accident something more than was meant; and
    lastly, violence and haste of handling, in the effort to secure as
    much as possible of the obscure image of which the mind feels itself
    losing hold. (I am throughout, it will be observed, attributing
    right feeling to the unimaginative painter; if he lack this, his
    execution may be cool and determined, as he will set down falsehood
    without blushing, and ugliness without suffering.) Added to these
    various evidences of weakness, will be the various vices assumed for
    the sake of concealment; morbid refinements disguising
    feebleness--or insolence and coarseness to cover desperation. When
    the imagination is powerful, the resulting execution is of course
    the contrary of all this: its first steps will commonly be
    impetuous, in clearing its ground and getting at its first
    conception--as we know of Michael Angelo in his smiting his blocks
    into shape, (see the passage quoted by Sir Charles Clarke in the
    Essay on Expression, from Blaise de Vigenere,) and as it is visible
    in the handling of Tintoret always: as the work approaches
    completion, the stroke, while it remains certain and firm, because
    its end is always known, may frequently become slow and careful,
    both on account of the difficulty of following the pure lines of the
    conception, and because there is no fear felt of the conception's
    vanishing before it can be realized; but generally there is a
    certain degree of impetuosity visible in the works of all the men of
    high imagination, when they are not working from a study, showing
    itself in Michael Angelo by the number of blocks he left unfinished,
    and by some slight evidences in those he completed of his having
    worked painfully towards the close; so that, except the Duke
    Lorenzo, the Bacchus of the Florentine gallery, and the Pieta of
    Genoa, I know not any of his finished works in which his mind is as
    mightily expressed as in his marble sketches; only, it is always to
    be observed that impetuosity or rudeness of hand is not
    necessarily--and, if imaginative, is never--carelessness. In the two
    landscapes at the end of the Scuola di San Rocco, Tintoret has drawn
    several large tree trunks with two strokes of his brush--one for the
    dark, and another for the light side; and the large rock at the foot
    of the picture of the Temptation is painted with a few detached
    touches of gray over a flat brown ground; but the touches of the
    tree-trunks have been followed by the mind as they went down with
    the most painful intensity through their every undulation; and the
    few gray strokes on the stone are so considered that a better stone
    cone could not be painted if we took a month to it: and I suppose,
    generally, it would be utterly impossible to give an example of
    execution in which less was left to accident, or in which more care
    was concentrated in every stroke, than the seemingly regardless and
    impetuous handling of this painter.

    On the habit of both Tintoret and Michael Angelo to work straight
    forward from the block and on the canvas, without study or model, it
    is needless to insist; for though this is one of the most amazing
    proofs of their imaginative power, it is a dangerous precedent. No
    mode of execution ought ever to be taught to a young artist as
    better than another; he ought to understand the truth of what he has
    to do, felicitous execution will follow as a matter of course; and
    if he feels himself capable of getting at the right at once, he will
    naturally do so without reference to precedent. He ought to hold
    always that his duty is to attain the highest result he can,--but
    that no one has any business with the means or time he has taken. If
    it can be done quickly, let it be so done; if not, let it be done at
    any rate. For knowing his way he is answerable, and therefore must
    not walk _doubtingly_; but no one can blame him for walking
    _cautiously_, if the way be a narrow one, with a slip on each side.
    He may pause, but he must not hesitate,--and tremble, but must not

  [69] That which we know of the lives of M. Angelo and Tintoret is
    eminently illustrative of this temper.

                            CHAPTER IV.


§ 1. Imagination contemplative is not part of the essence, but only a
       habit or mode of the faculty.

We have, in the two preceding chapters, arrived at definite conclusions
respecting the power and essence of the imaginative faculty. In these
two acts of penetration and combination, its separating and
characteristic attributes are entirely developed; it remains for us only
to observe a certain habit or mode of operation in which it frequently
delights, and by which it addresses itself to our perceptions more
forcibly, and asserts its presence more distinctly than in those mighty
but more secret workings wherein its life consists.

In our examination of the combining imagination, we chose to assume the
first or simple conception to be as clear in the absence as in the
presence of the object of it. This, I suppose, is in point of fact never
the case, nor is an approximation to such distinctness of conception
always a characteristic of the imaginative mind. Many persons have
thorough and felicitous power of drawing from memory, yet never
originate a thought, nor excite an emotion.

§ 2. The ambiguity of conception.

§ 3. Is not in itself capable of adding to the charm of fair things.

The form in which conception actually occurs to ordinary minds appears
to derive value and preciousness from that indefiniteness which we
alluded to in the second chapter, (§ 2,) for there is an unfailing charm
in the memory and anticipation of things beautiful, more sunny and
spiritual than attaches to their presence; for with their presence it
is possible to be sated, and even wearied, but with the imagination of
them never; in so far that it needs some self-discipline to prevent the
mind from falling into a morbid condition of dissatisfaction with all
that it immediately possesses, and continual longing for things absent;
and yet I think this charm is not justly to be attributed to the mere
vagueness and uncertainty of the conception, except thus far, that of
objects whose substantial presence was ugly or painful the sublimity and
impressiveness, if there were any, is retained in the conception, while
the sensual offensiveness is withdrawn; thus circumstances of horror may
be safely touched in verbal description, and for a time dwelt upon by
the mind, as often by Homer and Spenser, (by the latter frequently with
too much grossness, as in the description of the combat of the Red-Cross
Knight with Errour,) which could not for a moment be regarded or
tolerated in their reality, or on canvas; and besides this mellowing and
softening operation on those it retains, the conceptive faculty has the
power of letting go many of them altogether out of its groups of ideas,
and retaining only those where the meminisse juvabit will apply; and in
this way the entire group of memories becomes altogether delightful; but
of those parts of anything which are in themselves beautiful, I think
the indistinctness no benefit, but that the brighter they are the
better; and that the peculiar charm we feel in conception results from
its grasp and blending of ideas rather than from their obscurity, for we
do not usually recall, as we have seen, one part at a time only of a
pleasant scene, one moment only of a happy day; but together with each
single object we summon up a kind of crowded and involved shadowing
forth of all the other glories with which it was associated, and into
every moment we concentrate an epitome of the day; and it will happen
frequently that even when the visible objects or actual circumstances
are not in numbers remembered; yet the feeling and joy of them is
obtained we know not how or whence, and so with a kind of conceptive
burning glass we bend the sunshine of all the day, and the fulness of
all the scene upon every point that we successively seize; and this
together with more vivid action of fancy, for I think that the wilful
and playful seizure of the points that suit her purpose and help her
springing, whereby she is distinguished from simple conception, takes
place more easily and actively with the memory of things than in
presence of them. But, however this be, and I confess that there is much
that I cannot satisfactorily to myself unravel with respect to the
nature of simple conception; it is evident that this agreeableness,
whatever it be, is not by art attainable, for all art is in some sort
realization; it may be the realization of obscurity or indefiniteness,
but still it must differ from the mere conception of obscurity and
indefiniteness; so that whatever emotions depend absolutely on
imperfectness of conception, as the horror of Milton's Death, cannot be
rendered by art, for art can only lay hold of things which have shape,
and destroys by its touch the fearfulness or pleasurableness of those
which shape have none.

§ 4. But gives to the imagination its regardant power over them.

But on this indistinctness of conception, itself comparatively valueless
and unaffecting, is based the operation of the imaginative faculty with
which we are at present concerned, and in which its glory is
consummated: whereby, depriving the subject of material and bodily
shape, and regarding such of its qualities only as it chooses for
particular purpose, it forges these qualities together in such groups
and forms as it desires, and gives to their abstract being consistency
and reality, by striking them as it were with the die of an image
belonging to other matter, which stroke having once received, they pass
current at once in the peculiar conjunction and for the peculiar value

Thus, in the description of Satan quoted in the first chapter, "And like
a comet burned," the bodily shape of the angel is destroyed, the
inflaming of the formless spirit is alone regarded; and this, and his
power of evil associated in one fearful and abstract conception are
stamped to give them distinctness and permanence with the image of the
comet, "that fires the length of Ophiuchus huge." Yet this could not be
done, but that the image of the comet itself is in a measure indistinct,
capable of awful expansion, and full of threatening and fear. Again, in
his fall, the imagination binds up the thunder, the resistance, the
massy prostration, separates them from the external form, and binds them
together by the help of that image of the mountain half sunk; which
again would be unfit but for its own indistinctness, and for that
glorious addition "with all his pines," whereby a vitality and
spear-like hostility are communicated to its falling form, and the fall
is marked as not utter subversion, but sinking only, the pines remaining
in their uprightness, and unity, and threatening of darkness upon the
descended precipice: and again in that yet more noble passage at the
close of the fourth book, where almost every operation of the
contemplative imagination is concentrated; the angelic squadron first
gathered into one burning mass by the single expression "sharpening in
mooned horns," then told out in their unity and multitude and stooped
hostility, by the image of the wind upon the corn; Satan endowed with
godlike strength and endurance in that mighty line, "like Teneriffe or
Atlas, unremoved," with infinitude of size the next instant, and with
all the vagueness and terribleness of spiritual power, by the "horror
plumed," and the "_what seemed_ both spear and shield."

§ 5. The third office of fancy distinguished from imagination

The third function of fancy, already spoken of as subordinate to this of
the imagination, is the highest of which she is capable; like the
imagination, she beholds in the things submitted to her treatment things
different from the actual; but the suggestions she follows are not in
their nature essential in the object contemplated; and the images
resulting, instead of illustrating, may lead the mind away from it, and
change the current of contemplative feeling; for as in her operation
parallel to imagination penetrative, we saw her dwelling upon external
features, while the nobler sister, faculty, entered within, so now, when
both, from what they see and know in their immediate object, are
conjuring up images illustrative or elevatory of it, the fancy
necessarily summons those of mere external relationship, and therefore
of unaffecting influence; while the imagination, by every ghost she
raises, tells tales about the prison-house, and therefore never loses
her power over the heart, nor her unity of emotion. On the other hand,
the regardant or contemplative action of fancy is in this different
from, and in this nobler, than that mere seizing and likeness-catching
operation we saw in her before; that when contemplative, she verily
believes in the truth of the vision she has summoned, loses sight of
actuality, and beholds the new and spiritual image faithfully and even
seriously; whereas before, she summoned no spiritual image, but merely
caught the vivid actuality, or the curious resemblance of the real
object; not that these two operations are separate, for the fancy passes
gradually from mere vivid right of reality, and witty suggestion of
likeness, to a ghostly sight of what is unreal; and through this, in
proportion as she begins to feel, she rises towards and partakes of
imagination itself, for imagination and fancy are continually united,
and it is necessary, when they are so, carefully to distinguish the
feelingless part which is fancy's, from the sentient part, which is
imagination's. Let us take a few instances. Here is fancy, first, very
beautiful, in her simple capacity of likeness-catching:--

              "To-day we purpose--aye, this hour we mount
               To spur three leagues towards the Apennine.
               Come down, we pray thee, ere the _hot sun count
               His dewy rosary_ on the eglantine."

Seizing on the outside resemblances of bead form, and on the slipping
from their threading bough one by one, the fancy is content to lose the
heart of the thing, the solemnity of prayer: or perhaps I do the
glorious poet wrong in saying this, for the sense of a sun worship and
orison in beginning its race, may have been in his mind; and so far as
it was so, the passage is imaginative and not fanciful. But that which
most readers would accept from it, is the mere flash of the external
image, in whose truth the fancy herself does not yet believe and
therefore is not yet contemplative. Here, however, is fancy believing in
the images she creates:--

             "It feeds the quick growth of the serpent-vine,
              And the dark linked ivy tangling wild
              And budding, blown, or odor faded blooms,
              Which _star the winds with points of colored light_
              As they rain through them; and _bright golden globes
              Of fruit suspended in their own green heaven_."

It is not, observe, a mere likeness that is caught here; but the flowers
and fruit are entirely deprived by the fancy of their material
existence, and contemplated by her seriously and faithfully as stars and
worlds; yet it is only external likeness that she catches; she forces
the resemblance, and lowers the dignity of the adopted image.

Next take two delicious stanzas of fancy regardant, (believing in her
creations,) followed by one of heavenly imagination, from Wordsworth's
address to the daisy:--

              "A Nun demure--of lowly port;
               Or sprightly maiden--of Love's court,
               In thy simplicity the sport
               Of all temptations.
               A Queen in crown of rubies drest,
               A starveling in a scanty vest,
               Are all as seems to suit thee best,--
               Thy appellations.

               I see thee glittering from afar,
               And then thou art a pretty star,--
               Not quite so fair as many are
               In heaven above thee.
               Yet like a star, with glittering crest,
               Self-poised in air thou seem'st to rest;--
               May peace come never to his nest
               Who shall reprove thee.

               Sweet flower--for by that name at last,
               When all my reveries are past,
               I call thee, and to that cleave fast.
               Sweet silent creature,
               That breath'st with me, in sun and air,
               Do thou, as thou art wont, repair
               My heart with gladness, and a share
               Of thy meek nature."

§ 6. Various instances.

Observe how spiritual, yet how wandering and playful the fancy is in the
first two stanzas, and how far she flies from the matter in hand, never
stopping to brood on the character of any one of the images she summons,
and yet for a moment truly seeing and believing in them all; while in
the last stanza the imagination returns with its deep feeling to the
heart of the flower, and "_cleaves fast_" to that. Compare the operation
of the imagination in Coleridge, on one of the most trifling objects
that could possibly have been submitted to its action.

                                    "The thin blue flame
               Lies on my low-burnt fire, and quivers not:
               Only that film which fluttered on the grate
               Still flutters there, the sole unquiet thing.
               Methinks its motion in this hush of nature
               Gives it dim sympathies with me, who live,
               Making it a companionable form,
               Whose puny flaps and freaks the idling spirit
               By its own moods interprets; everywhere,
               Echo or mirror seeking of itself,
               And makes a toy of thought."

Lastly, observe the sweet operation of fancy regardant, in the following
well-known passage from Scott, where both her beholding and transforming
powers are seen in their simplicity.

              "The rocky summits--split and rent,
               Formed turret, dome, or battlement.--
               Or seemed fantastically set
               With cupola or minaret.
               Nor were these earth-born castles bare,
               Nor lacked they many a banner fair,
               For from their shivered brows displayed,
               Far o'er th' unfathomable glade,
               All twinkling with the dew-drop sheen,
               The brier-rose fell, in streamers green,--
               And creeping shrubs of thousand dyes
               Waved in the west wind's summer sighs."

Let the reader refer to this passage, with its pretty tremulous
conclusion above the pine tree, "where glistening streamers waved and
danced," and then compare with it the following, where the imagination
operates on a scene nearly similar.

           "Gray rocks did peep from the spare moss, and stemm'd
            The struggling brook; tall spires of windle strae
            Threw their thin shadows down the rugged slope,
            And nought but knarled roots of ancient pines,
            Branchless and blasted, clench'd with grasping roots
            Th' unwilling soil.    .     .     .
            .    .    .    .    .    .   A gradual change was here,
            Yet ghastly. For, _as fast years flow away,
            The smooth brow gathers, and the hair grows thin
            And white; and where irradiate dewy eyes
            Had shone, gleam stony orbs; so from his steps
            Bright flowers departed, and the beautiful shade
            Of the green groves, with all their odorous winds
            And musical motions._ .    .    .    .
            .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .
            .    .    .    .    .    Where the pass extends
            Its stony jaws, the abrupt mountain breaks.
            And seems with its accumulated crags
            To overhang the world; for wide expand
            Beneath the wan stars, and descending moon,
            Islanded seas, blue mountains, mighty streams,
            _Dim tracts and vast, robed in the lustrous gloom
            Of leaden-colored even_, and _fiery hills
            Mingling their flames with twilight_ on the verge
            Of the remote horizon. The near scene
            In naked, and severe simplicity
            Made contrast with the universe. A pine
            Rock-rooted, stretch'd athwart the vacancy
            Its swinging boughs, to each _inconstant blast
            Yielding one only response at each pause_,
            In most familiar cadence, with the howl,
            The thunder, and the hiss of _homeless_ streams,
            Mingling its solemn song."

[Illustration: STUDY OF STONE PINE, AT SESTRI. From a drawing by

In this last passage, the mind never departs from its solemn possession
of the solitary scene, the imagination only giving weight, meaning, and
strange human sympathies to all its sights and sounds.

In that from Scott,[70]--the fancy, led away by the outside resemblance
of floating form and hue to the banners, loses the feeling and
possession of the scene, and places herself in circumstances of
character completely opposite to the quietness and grandeur of the
natural objects; this would have been unjustifiable, but that the
resemblance occurs to the mind of the monarch, rather than to that of
the poet; and it is that, which of all others, would have been the most
likely to occur at the time; in this point of view it has high
imaginative propriety. Of the same fanciful character is that
transformation of the tree trunks into dragons noticed before in
Turner's Jason; and in the same way this becomes imaginative as it
exhibits the effect of fear in disposing to morbid perception. Compare
with it the real and high action of the imagination on the same matter
in Wordsworth's Yew trees (which I consider the most vigorous and solemn
bit of forest landscape ever painted):--

                      "Each particular trunk a growth
             Of intertwisted fibres serpentine,
             Up coiling and inveterately convolved,
             _Nor uninformed with Phantasy, and looks
             That threaten the profane_."

It is too long to quote, but the reader should refer to it: let him note
especially, if painter, that pure touch of color, "by sheddings from the
pining umbrage tinged."

In the same way, the blasted trunk on the left, in Turner's drawing of
the spot where Harold fell at the battle of Hastings, takes, where its
boughs first separate, the shape of the head of an arrow; this, which is
mere fancy in itself, is imagination as it supposes in the spectator an
excited condition of feeling dependent on the history of the spot.

§ 7. Morbid or nervous fancy.

I have been led perhaps into too great detail in illustrating these
points; but I think it is of no small importance to prove how in all
cases the imagination is based upon, and appeals to, a deep heart
feeling; and how faithful and earnest it is in contemplation of the
subject matter, never losing sight of it, or disguising it, but
depriving it of extraneous and material accidents, and regarding it in
its disembodied essence. I have not, however, sufficiently noted in
opposition to it, that diseased action of the fancy which depends more
on nervous temperament than intellectual power; and which, as in
dreaming, fever, insanity, and other morbid conditions of mind is
frequently a source of daring and inventive conception; and so the
visionary appearances resulting from various disturbances of the frame
by passion, and from the rapid tendency of the mind to invest with shape
and intelligence the active influences about it, as in the various
demons, spirits, and fairies of all imaginative nations; which, however,
I consider are no more to be ranked as right creations of fancy or
imagination than things actually seen and heard; for the action of the
nerves is I suppose the same, whether externally caused, or from within,
although very grand imagination may be shown by the intellectual
anticipation and realization of such impressions; as in that glorious
vignette of Turner's to the voyage of Columbus. "Slowly along the
evening sky they went." Note especially therein, how admirably true to
the natural form, and yet how suggestive of the battlement he has
rendered the level flake of evening cloud.

§ 8. The action of contemplative imagination is not to be expressed by

I believe that it is unnecessary for me to enter into farther detail of
illustration respecting these points; for fuller explanation of the
operations of the contemplative faculty on things verbally expressible,
the reader may be referred to Wordsworth's preface to his poems; it only
remains for us, here, to examine how far this imaginative or abstract
conception is to be conveyed by the material art of the sculptor or the

Now, it is evident that the bold action of either the fancy or the
imagination, dependent on a bodiless and spiritual image of the object,
is not to be by lines or colors represented. We cannot, in the painting
of Satan fallen, suggest any image of pines or crags,--neither can we
assimilate the brier and the banner, nor give human sympathy to the
motion of the film, nor voice to the swinging of the pines.

§ 9. Except under narrow limits.--1st. Abstract rendering of form
       without color.

Yet certain powers there are, within due limits, of marking the thing
represented with an ideal character; and it was to these powers that I
alluded in defining the meaning of the term ideal, in the thirteenth
chapter of the preceding section. For it is by this operation that the
productions of high art are separated from those of the realist.

And, first, there is evidently capability of separating color and form,
and considering either separately. Form we find abstractedly considered
by the sculptor, how far it would be possible to advantage a statue by
the addition of color, I venture not to affirm; the question is too
extensive to be here discussed. High authorities and ancient practice,
are in favor of color; so the sculpture of the middle ages: the two
statues of Mino da Fiesole in the church of St^a. Caterina at Pisa
have been colored, the irises of the eyes painted dark, and the hair
gilded, as also I think the Madonna in St^a. Maria della Spina; the
eyes have been painted in the sculptures of Orcagna in Or San Michele,
but it looks like a remnant of barbarism, (compare the pulpit of Guida
da Como, in the church of San Bartolomeo at Pistoja,) and I have never
seen color on any solid forms, that did not, to my mind, neutralize all
other power; the porcelains of Luca della Robbia are painful examples,
and in lower art, Florentine mosaic in relief; gilding is more
admissible, and tells sometimes sweetly upon figures of quaint design,
as on the pulpit of St^a. Maria Novella, while it spoils the classical
ornaments of the mouldings. But the truest grandeur of sculpture I
believe to be in the white form; something of this feeling may be owing
to the difficulty, or rather the immediately, of obtaining truly noble
color upon it, but if we could color the Elgin marbles with the flesh
tint of Giorgione, I had rather not have it done.

§ 10. Of color without form.

Color, without form, is less frequently obtainable, and it may be
doubted whether it be desirable: yet I think that to the full enjoyment
of it, a certain abandonment of form is necessary; sometimes by reducing
it to the shapeless glitter of the gem, as often Tintoret and Bassano;
sometimes by loss of outline and blending of parts, as Turner; sometimes
by flatness of mass, as often Giorgione and Titian. How far it is
possible for the painter to represent those mountains of Shelley as the
poet sees them, "mingling _their flames_ with twilight," I cannot say;
but my impression is, that there is no true abstract mode of
considering color; and that all the loss of form in the works of Titian
or Turner, is not ideal, but the representation of the natural
conditions under which bright color is seen; for form is always in a
measure lost by nature herself when color is very vivid.

§ 11. Or of both without texture.

Again, there is capability of representing the essential character,
form, and color of an object, without external texture. On this point
much has been said by Reynolds and others, and it is, indeed, perhaps
the most unfailing characteristic of great manner in painting. Compare a
dog of Edwin Landseer with a dog of Paul Veronese. In the first, the
outward texture is wrought out with exquisite dexterity of handling, and
minute attention to all the accidents of curl and gloss which can give
appearance of reality, while the hue and power of the sunshine, and the
truth of the shadow on all these forms is necessarily neglected, and the
large relations of the animal as a mass of color to the sky or ground,
or other parts of the picture, utterly lost. This is realism at the
expense of ideality, it is treatment essentially unimaginative.[71] With
Veronese, there is no curling nor crisping, no glossiness nor sparkle,
hardly even hair, a mere type of hide, laid on with a few
scene-painter's touches. But the essence of dog is there, the entire
magnificent, generic animal type, muscular and living, and with broad,
pure, sunny daylight upon him, and bearing his true and harmonious
relation of color to all color about him. This is ideal treatment.

The same treatment is found in the works of all the greatest men, they
all paint the lion more than his mane, and the horse rather than his
hide; and I think also they are more careful to obtain the right
expression of large and universal light and color, than local tints; for
the warmth of sunshine, and the force of sunlighted hue are always
sublime on whatever subject they may be exhibited; and so also are light
and shade, if grandly arranged, as may be well seen in an etching of
Rembrandt's of a spotted shell, which he has made altogether sublime by
broad truth and large ideality of light and shade; and so I have seen
frequent instances of very grand ideality in treatment of the most
commonplace still life, by our own Hunt, where the petty glosses and
delicacies, and minor forms, are all merged in a broad glow of suffused
color; so also in pieces of the same kind by Etty, where, however,
though the richness and play of color are greater, and the arrangement
grander, there is less expression of light, neither is there anything in
modern art that can be set beside some choice passages of Hunt in this

§ 12. Abstraction or typical representation of animal form.

Again, it is possible to represent objects capable of various accidents
in generic or symbolical form.

§ 13. Either when it is symbolically used.

How far this may be done with things having necessary form, as animals,
I am not prepared to say. The lions of the Egyptian room in the British
Museum, and the fish beside Michael Angelo's Jonah, are instances; and
there is imaginative power about both which we find not in the more
perfectly realized Florentine boar, nor in Raffaelle's fish of the
draught. And yet the propriety and nobility of these types depend on the
architectural use and character of the one, and on the typical meaning
of the other: we should be grieved to see the forms of the Egyptian lion
substituted for those of Raffaelle's in its struggle with Samson, nor
would the whale of Michael Angelo be tolerated in the nets of
Gennesaret. So that I think it is only when the figure of the creature
stands not for any representation of vitality, but merely for a letter
or type of certain symbolical meaning, or else is adopted as a grand
form of decoration or support in architecture, that such generalization
is allowable, and in such circumstances I think it necessary, always
provided it be based, as in the instances given I conceive it to be,
upon thorough knowledge of the creature symbolized and wrought out by a
master hand; and these conditions being observed, I believe it to be
right and necessary in architecture to modify all animal forms by a
severe architectural stamp, and in symbolical use of them, to adopt a
typical form, to which practice the contrary, and its evil consequences
are ludicrously exhibited in the St. Peter of Carlo Dolci in the Pitti
palace, which owing to the prominent, glossy-plumed and crimson-combed
cock, is liable to be taken for the portrait of a poulterer, only let it
be observed that the treatment of the animal form here is offensive, not
only from its realization, but from the pettiness and meanness of its
realization; for it might, in other hands but Carlo Dolci's, have been a
sublime cock, though a real one, but in his, it is fit for nothing but
the spit. Compare as an example partly of symbolical treatment, partly
of magnificent realization, that supernatural lion of Tintoret, in the
picture of the Doge Loredano before the Madonna, with the plumes of his
mighty wings clashed together in cloudlike repose, and the strength of
the sea winds shut within their folding. And note farther the difference
between the typical use of the animal, as in this case, and that of the
fish of Jonah, (and again the fish before mentioned whose form is
indicated in the clouds of the baptism), and the actual occurrence of
the creature itself, with concealed meaning, as the ass colt of the
crucifixion, which it was necessary to paint as such, and not as an
ideal form.

§ 14. Or in architectural decoration.

§ 15. Exception in delicate and superimposed ornament.

I cannot enter here into the question of the exact degree of severity
and abstraction necessary in the forms of living things architecturally
employed; my own feeling on the subject is, though I dare not lay it
down as a principle, (with the Parthenon pediment standing against me
like the shield of Ajax,) that no perfect representation of animal form
is right in architectural decoration. For my own part, I had much rather
see the metopes in the Elgin room of the British Museum, and the
Parthenon without them, than have them together, and I would not
surrender, in an architectural point of view, one mighty line of the
colossal, quiet, life-in-death statue mountains in Egypt with their
narrow fixed eyes and hands on their rocky limbs, nor one Romanesque
façade with its porphyry mosaic of indefinable monsters, nor one Gothic
moulding of rigid saints and grinning goblins, for ten Parthenons; and,
I believe, I could show some rational ground for this seeming barbarity
if this were the place to do so, but at present I can only ask the
reader to compare the effect of the so-called barbarous ancient mosaics
on the front of St. Mark's, as they have been recorded, happily, by the
faithfulness of the good Gentile Bellini, in one of his pictures now in
the Venice gallery, with the veritably barbarous pictorial substitutions
of the fifteenth century, (one only of the old mosaics remains, or did
remain till lately, over the northern door, but it is probably by this
time torn down by some of the Venetian committees of taste,) and also I
would have the old portions of the interior ceiling, or of the mosaics
of Murano and Torcello, and the glorious Cimabue mosaic of Pisa, and the
roof of the Baptistery at Parma, (that of the Florence Baptistery is a
bad example, owing to its crude whites and complicated mosaic of small
forms,) all of which are as barbarous as they can well be, in a certain
sense, but mighty in their barbarism, with any architectural decorations
whatsoever, consisting of professedly perfect animal forms, from the
vile frescoes of Federigo Zuccaro at Florence to the ceiling of the
Sistine, and again compare the professedly perfect sculpture of Milan
Cathedral with the statues of the porches of Chartres; only be it always
observed that it is not rudeness and ignorance of art, but
intellectually awful abstraction that I uphold, and also be it noted
that in all ornament, which takes place in the general effect merely as
so much fretted stone, in capitals and other pieces of minute detail,
the forms may be, and perhaps ought to be, elaborately imitative; and in
this respect again the capitals of St. Mark's church, and of the Doge's
palace at Venice may be an example to the architects of all the world,
in their boundless inventiveness, unfailing elegance, and elaborate
finish; there is more mind poured out in turning a single angle of that
church than would serve to build a modern cathedral;[72] and of the
careful finish of the work, this may serve for example, that one of the
capitals of the Doge's palace is formed of eight heads of different
animals, of which one is a bear's with a honeycomb in the mouth, whose
carved _cells_ are _hexagonal_.

§ 16. Abstraction necessary from imperfection of materials.

§ 17. Abstractions of things capable of varied accident are not

§ 18. Yet sometimes valuable.

So far, then, of the abstraction proper to architecture, and to
symbolical uses, of which I shall have occasion to speak hereafter at
length, referring to it only at present as one of the operations of
imagination contemplative; other abstractions there are which are
necessarily consequent on the imperfection of materials, as of the hair
in sculpture, which is necessarily treated in masses that are in no sort
imitative, but only stand for hair, and have the grace, flow, and
feeling of it without the texture or division, and other abstractions
there are in which the form of one thing is fancifully indicated in the
matter of another; as in phantoms and cloud shapes, the use of which, in
mighty hands, is often most impressive, as in the cloudy charioted
Apollo of Nicolo Poussin in our own gallery, which the reader may oppose
to the substantial Apollo, in Wilson's Niobe, and again the phantom
vignette of Turner already noticed; only such operations of the
imagination are to be held of lower kind and dangerous consequence, if
frequently trusted in, for those painters only have the right
imaginative power who can set the supernatural form before us fleshed
and boned like ourselves.[73] Other abstractions occur, frequently, of
things which have much accidental variety of form, as of waves, on Greek
sculptures in successive volutes, and of clouds often in supporting
volumes in the sacred pictures; but these I do not look upon as results
of imagination at all, but mere signs and letters; and whenever a very
highly imaginative mind touches them, it always realizes as far as may
be. Even Titian is content to use at the top of his St. Pietro Martiri,
the conventional, round, opaque cloud, which cuts his trees open like a
gouge; but Tintoret, in his picture of the Golden Calf, though compelled
to represent the Sinai under conventional form, in order that the
receiving of the tables might be seen at the top of it, yet so soon as
it is possible to give more truth, he is ready with it; he takes a grand
fold of horizontal cloud straight from the flanks of the Alps, and shows
the forests of the mountains through its misty volume, like sea-weed
through deep sea.[74] Nevertheless, when the realization is impossible,
bold symbolism is of the highest value, and in religious art, as we
shall presently see, even necessary, as of the rays of light in the
Titian woodcut of St. Francis before noticed; and sometimes the
attention is directed by some such strange form to the meaning of the
image, which may be missed if it remains in its natural purity, (as, I
suppose, few in looking at the Cephalus and Procris of Turner, note the
sympathy of those faint rays that are just drawing back and dying
between the trunks of the far-off forest, with the ebbing life of the
nymph; unless, indeed, they happen to recollect the same sympathy marked
by Shelley in the Alastor;) but the imagination is not shown in any such
modifications; however, in some cases they may be valuable (in the
Cephalus they would be utterly destructive,) and I note them merely in
consequence of their peculiar use in religious art, presently to be

§ 19. Exaggeration. Its laws and limits. First, in scale of

The last mode we have here to note in which the imagination regardant
may be expressed in art is exaggeration, of which, as it is the vice of
all bad artists, may be constantly resorted to without any warrant of
imagination, it is necessary to note strictly the admissible limits.

In the first place, a colossal statue is necessarily no more an
exaggeration of what it represents than a miniature is a diminution, it
need not be a representation of a giant, but a representation, on a
large scale, of a man; only it is to be observed, that as any plane
intersecting the cone of rays between us and the object, must receive an
image smaller than the object; a small image is rationally and
completely expressive of a larger one; but not a large of a small one.
Hence I think that all statues above the Elgin standard, or that of
Michael Angelo's Night and Morning, are, in a measure, taken by the eye
for representations of giants, and I think them always disagreeable. The
amount of exaggeration admitted by Michael Angelo is valuable because it
separates the emblematic from the human form, and gives greater freedom
to the grand lines of the frame; for notice of his scientific system of
increase of size I may refer the reader to Sir Charles Bell's remarks on
the statues of the Medici chapel; but there is one circumstance which
Sir Charles has not noticed, and in the interpretation of which,
therefore, it is likely I may be myself wrong; that the extremities are
singularly small in proportion to the limbs, by which means there is an
expression given of strength and activity greater than in the ordinary
human type, which appears to me to be an allowance for that alteration
in proportion necessitated by increase of size, of which we took note in
Chap. VI. of the first section, § 10, note; not but that Michael Angelo
always makes the extremities comparatively small, but smallest,
comparatively, in his largest works; so I think, from the size of the
head, it may be conjectured respecting the Theseus of the Elgins. Such
adaptations are not necessary when the exaggerated image is spectral;
for as the laws of matter in that case can have no operation, we may
expand the form as far as we choose, only let careful distinction be
made between the size of the thing represented, and the scale of the
representation. The canvas on which Fuseli has stretched his Satan in
the schools of the Royal Academy is a mere concession to inability. He
might have made him look more gigantic in one of a foot square.

§ 20. Secondly. Of things capable of variety of scale.

Another kind of exaggeration is of things whose size is variable to a
size or degree greater than that usual with them, as in waves and
mountains; and there are hardly any limits to this exaggeration so long
as the laws which nature observes in her increase be observed. Thus, for
instance: the form and polished surface of a breaking ripple three
inches high, are not representation of either the form or the surface of
the surf of a storm, nodding ten feet above the beach; neither would the
cutting ripple of a breeze upon a lake if simply exaggerated, represent
the forms of Atlantic surges; but as nature increases her bulk, she
diminishes the angles of ascent, and increases her divisions; and if we
would represent surges of size greater than ever existed, which it is
lawful to do, we must carry out these operations to still greater
extent. Thus, Turner, in his picture of the Slave Ship, divides the
whole sea into two masses of enormous swell, and conceals the horizon by
a gradual slope of only two or three degrees. This is intellectual
exaggeration. In the Academy exhibition of 1843, there was, in one of
the smaller rooms, a black picture of a storm, in which there appeared
on the near sea, just about to be overwhelmed by an enormous breaker,
curling right over it, an object at first sight liable to be taken for a
walnut shell, but which, on close examination, proved to be a ship with
mast and sail, with Christ and his twelve disciples in it. This is
childish exaggeration, because it is impossible, by the laws of matter
and motion, that such a breaker should ever exist. Again in mountains,
we have repeatedly observed the necessary building up and multitudinous
division of the higher peaks, and the smallness of the slopes by which
they usually rise. We may, therefore, build up the mountain as high as
we please, but we must do it in nature's way, and not in impossible
peaks and precipices; not but that a daring feature is admissible here
and there, as the Matterhorn is admitted by nature; but we must not
compose a picture out of such exceptions; we may use them, but they must
be as exceptions exhibited. I shall have much to say, when we come to
treat of the sublime, of the various modes of treating mountain form, so
that at present I shall only point to an unfortunate instance of
inexcusable and effectless exaggeration in the distance of Turner's
vignette to Milton, (the temptation on the mountain,) and desire the
reader to compare it with legitimate exaggeration, in the vignette to
the second part of Jacqueline, in Rogers's poems.

§ 21. Thirdly, necessary in expression of characteristic features on
        diminished scale.

Another kind of exaggeration is necessary to retain the characteristic
impressions of nature on reduced scale, it is not possible, for
instance, to give the leafage of trees in its proper proportion, when
the trees represented are large, without entirely losing their grace of
form and curvature; of this the best proof is found in the Calotype or
Daguerreotype, which fail in foliage, not only because the green rays
are ineffective, but because, on the small scale of the image, the
reduced leaves lose their organization, and look like moss attached to
sticks. In order to retain, therefore, the character of flexibility and
beauty of foliage, the painter is often compelled to increase the
proportionate size of the leaves, and to arrange them in generic
masses. Of this treatment compare the grand examples throughout the
Liber Studiorum. It is by such means only that the ideal character of
objects is to be preserved; as we before observed in the 13th chapter of
the first section. In all these cases exaggeration is only lawful as the
sole means of arriving at truth of impression when strict fidelity is
out of the question.

Other modes of exaggeration there are, on which I shall not at present
farther insist, the proper place for their discussion being in treating
of the sublime, and these which I have at present instanced are enough
to establish the point at issue, respecting imaginative verity, inasmuch
as we find that exaggeration itself, if imaginative, is referred to
principles of truth, and of actual being.

§ 22. Recapitulation.

We have now, I think, reviewed the various modes in which imagination
contemplative may be exhibited in art, and arrived at all necessary
certainties respecting the essence of the faculty: which we have found
in all its three functions, associative of truth, penetrative of truth,
and contemplative of truth; and having no dealings nor relations with
any kind of falsity. One task, however, remains to us, namely, to
observe the operation of the theoretic and imaginative faculties
together, in the attempt at realization to the bodily sense of beauty
supernatural and divine.


  [70] Let it not be supposed that I mean to compare the sickly
    dreaming of Shelley over clouds and waves with the masculine and
    magnificent grasp of men and things which we find in Scott; it only
    happens that these two passages are more illustrative, by the
    likeness of the scenery they treat, than any others I could have
    opposed; and that Shelley is peculiarly distinguished by the faculty
    of contemplative imagination. Scott's healthy and truthful feeling
    would not allow him to represent the benighted hunter provoked by
    loss of game, horse, and way at once, as indulging in any more
    exalted flights of imagination than those naturally consequent on
    the contrast between the night's lodging he expected, and that which
    befitted him.

  [71] I do not mean to withdraw the praise I have given, and shall
    always be willing to give such pictures as the Old Shepherd's Chief
    Mourner, and to all in which the character and inner life of animals
    are developed. But all lovers of art must regret to find Mr.
    Landseer wasting his energies on such inanities as the "Shoeing,"
    and sacrificing color, expression, and action, to an imitation of
    glossy hide.

  [72] I have not brought forward any instances of the imaginative
    power in architecture, as my object is not at present to exhibit its
    operation in all matter, but only to define its essence; but it may
    be well to note, in our own new houses of Parliament, how far a
    building approved by a committee of Taste, may proceed without
    manifestation either of imagination or composition; it remains to be
    seen how far the towers may redeem it; and I allude to it at present
    unwillingly, and only in the desire of influencing, so far as I may,
    those who have the power to prevent the adoption of a design for a
    bridge to take place of Westminster, which was exhibited in 1844 at
    the Royal Academy, professing to be in harmony with the new
    building, but which was fit only to carry a railroad over a canal.

  [73] Comp. Ch. V. § 5.

  [74] All the clouds of Tintoret are sublime; the worst that I know
    in art are Correggio's, especially in the Madonna della Scudella,
    and Dome of Parma.

                              CHAPTER V.

                       OF THE SUPERHUMAN IDEAL.

§ 1. The subject is not to be here treated in detail.

In our investigation in the first section of the laws of beauty, we
confined ourselves to the observation of lower nature, or of humanity.
We were prevented from proceeding to deduce conclusions respecting
divine ideality by our not having then established any principles
respecting the imaginative faculty, by which, under the discipline of
the theoretic, such ideality is conceived. I had purposed to conclude
the present section by a careful examination of this subject; but as
this is evidently foreign to the matter immediately under discussion,
and involves questions of great intricacy respecting the development of
mind among those pagan nations who are supposed to have produced high
examples of spiritual ideality, I believe it will be better to delay
such inquiries until we have concluded our detailed observation of the
beauty of visible nature; and I shall therefore at present take notice
only of one or two broad principles, which were referred to, or implied,
in the chapter respecting the human ideal, and without the enunciation
of which, that chapter might lead to false conclusions.

§ 2. The conceivable modes of manifestation of Spiritual Beings are

There are four ways in which beings supernatural may be conceived as
manifesting themselves to human sense. The first, by external types,
signs, or influences; as God to Moses in the flames of the bush, and to
Elijah in the voice of Horeb.

The second, by the assuming of a form not properly belonging to them; as
the Holy Spirit of that of a Dove, the second person of the Trinity of
that of a Lamb; and so such manifestations, under angelic or other form,
of the first person of the Trinity, as seem to have been made to
Abraham, Moses, and Ezekiel.

The third, by the manifestation of a form properly belonging to them,
but not necessarily seen; as of the Risen Christ to his disciples when
the doors were shut. And the fourth, by their operation on the human
form, which they influence or inspire, as in the shining of the face of

§ 3. And these are in or through creature forms familiar to us.

It is evident that in all these cases, wherever there is form at all, it
is the form of some creature to us known. It is no new form peculiar to
spirit nor can it be. We can conceive of none. Our inquiry is simply,
therefore, by what modifications those creature forms to us known, as of
a lamb, a bird, or a human creature, may be explained as signs or
habitations of Divinity, or of angelic essence, and not creatures such
as they seem.

§ 4. Supernatural character may be impressed on these either by
       phenomena inconsistent with their common nature, (compare chap.
       4, § 16).

This may be done in two ways. First, by effecting some change in the
appearance of the creature inconsistent with its actual nature, as by
giving it colossal size, or unnatural color, or material, as of gold, or
silver, or flame, instead of flesh, or by taking away its property of
matter altogether, and forming it of light or shade, or in an
intermediate step, of cloud, or vapor; or explaining it by terrible
concomitant circumstances, as of wounds in the body, or strange lights
and seemings round about it; or by joining of two bodies together as in
angels' wings. Of all which means of attaining supernatural character
(which though, in their nature ordinary and vulgar, are yet effective
and very glorious in mighty hands) we have already seen the limits in
speaking of the imagination.

§ 5. Or by inherent Dignity.

But the second means of obtaining supernatural character is that with
which we are now concerned, namely, retaining the actual form in its
full and material presence, and without aid from any external
interpretation whatsoever, to raise that form by mere inherent dignity
to such a pitch of power and impressiveness as cannot but assert and
stamp it for superhuman.

On the north side of the Campo Santo at Pisa, are a series of paintings
from the Old Testament History by Benozzo Gozzoli. In the earlier of
these, angelic presences, mingled with human, occur frequently,
illustrated by no awfulness of light, nor incorporeal tracing. Clear
revealed they move, in human forms, in the broad daylight and on the
open earth, side by side, and hand in hand with men. But they never miss
of the angel.

He who can do this has reached the last pinnacle and utmost power of
ideal, or any other art. He stands in no need thenceforward, of cloud,
nor lightning, nor tempest, nor terror of mystery. His sublime is
independent of the elements. It is of that which shall stand when they
shall melt with fervent heat, and light the firmament when the sun is as
sackcloth of hair.

§ 6. 1st. Of the expression of Inspiration.

Let us consider by what means this has been effected, so far as they are
by analysis traceable; and that is not far, for here, as always, we find
that the greater part of what has been rightly accomplished has been
done by faith and intense feeling, and cannot, by aid of any rules or
teaching, be either tried, estimated, or imitated.

And first, of the expression of supernatural influence on forms actually
human, as of sibyl or prophet. It is evident that not only here is it
unnecessary, but we are not altogether at liberty to trust for
expression to the utmost ennobling of the human form: for we cannot do
more than this, when that form is to be the actual representation, and
not the recipient of divine presence. Hence, in order to retain the
actual humanity definitely, we must leave upon it such signs of the
operation of sin and the liability to death as are consistent with
human ideality, and often more than these, definite signs of immediate
and active evil, when the prophetic spirit is to be expressed in men
such as were Saul and Balaam; neither may we ever, with just
discrimination, touch the utmost limits of beauty in human form when
inspiration is to be expressed, and not angelic or divine being; of
which reserve and subjection the most instructive instances are found in
the works of Angelico, who invariably uses inferior types for the
features of humanity, even glorified, (excepting always the Madonna,)
nor ever exerts his full power of beauty either in feature or
expression, except in angels or in the Madonna or in Christ. Now the
expression of spiritual influence without supreme elevation of the
bodily type we have seen to be a work of imagination penetrative, and we
found it accomplished by Michael Angelo; but I think by him only. I am
aware of no one else who, to my mind, has expressed the inspiration of
prophet or sibyl; this, however, I affirm not, but shall leave to the
determination of the reader, as the principles at present to be noted
refer entirely to that elevation of the creature form necessary when it
is actually representative of a spiritual being.

§ 7. No representation of that which is more than creature is possible.

I have affirmed in the conclusion of the first section that "of that
which is more than creature, no creature ever conceived." I think this
almost self-evident, for it is clear that the illimitableness of Divine
attributes cannot be by matter represented, (though it may be typefied,)
and I believe that all who are acquainted with the range of sacred art
will admit, not only that no representation of Christ has ever been even
partially successful, but that the greatest painters fall therein below
their accustomed level; Perugino and Fra Angelico especially; Leonardi
has I think done best, but perhaps the beauty of the fragment left at
Milan, (for in spite of all that is said of repainting and destruction,
that Cenacolo is still the finest in existence) is as much dependent on
the very untraceableness resulting from injury as on its original
perfection. Of more daring attempts at representation of Divinity we
need not speak; only this is to be noted respecting them, that though by
the ignorant Romanists many such efforts were made under the idea of
actual representation, (note the way in which Cellini speaks of the seal
made for the Pope,) by the nobler among them I suppose they were
intended, and by us at any rate they may always be received, as mere
symbols, the noblest that could be employed, but as much symbols still
as a triangle, or the Alpha and Omega; nor do I think that the most
scrupulous amongst Christians ought to desire to exchange the power
obtained by the use of this symbol in Michael Angelo's creation of Adam
and of Eve for the effect which would be produced by the substitution of
a triangle or any other sign in place of it. Of these efforts then we
need reason no farther, but may limit ourselves to considering the
purest modes of giving a conception of superhuman but still creature
form, as of angels; in equal rank with whom, perhaps, we may without
offence place the mother of Christ: at least we must so regard the type
of the Madonna in receiving it from Romanist painters.[75]

§ 8. Supernatural character expressed by modification of accessories.

And first, much is to be done by right modification of accessory
circumstances, so as to express miraculous power exercised over them by
the spiritual creature. There is a beautiful instance of this in John
Bellini's picture of St. Jerome at Venice. The saint sits upon a rock,
his grand form defined against clear green open sky; he is reading, a
noble tree springs out of a cleft in the rock, bends itself suddenly
back to form a rest for the volume, then shoots up into the sky. There
is something very beautiful in this obedient ministry of the lower
creature; but be it observed that the sweet feeling of the whole depends
upon the service being such as is consistent with its nature. It is not
animated, it does not _listen_ to the saint, nor bend itself towards him
as if in affection, this would have been mere fancy, illegitimate and
effectless. But the simple bend of the trunk to receive the book is
miraculous subjection of the true nature of the tree; it is therefore
imaginative, and very touching.

§ 9. Landscape of the religious painters. Its character is eminently

It is not often however that the religious painters even go this length;
they content themselves usually with impressing on the landscape perfect
symmetry and order, such as may seem consistent with, or induced by the
spiritual nature they would represent. All signs of decay, disturbance,
and imperfection, are also banished; and in doing this it is evident
that some unnaturalness and singularity must result, inasmuch as there
are no veritable forms of landscape but express or imply a state of
progression or of imperfection All mountain forms are seen to be
produced by convulsion and modelled by decay; the finer forms of cloud
have stories in them about storm; all forest grouping is wrought out
with varieties of strength and growth among its several members, and
bears evidences of struggle with unkind influences. All such appearances
are banished in the supernatural landscape; the trees grow straight,
equally branched on each side, and of such slight and feathery frame as
shows them never to have encountered blight or frost or tempest. The
mountains stand up in fantastic pinnacles; there is on them no trace of
torrent, no scathe of lightning; no fallen fragments encumber their
foundations, no worn ravines divide their flanks; the seas are always
waveless, the skies always calm, crossed only by fair, horizontal,
lightly wreathed, white clouds.

§ 10. Landscape of Benozzo Gozzoli.

In some cases these conditions result partly from feeling, partly from
ignorance of the facts of nature, or incapability of representing them,
as in the first type of the treatment found in Giotto and his school; in
others they are observed on principle, as by Benozzo Gozzoli, Perugino,
and Raffaelle. There is a beautiful instance by the former in the
frescoes of the Ricardi palace, where behind the adoring angel groups
the landscape is governed by the most absolute symmetry; roses and
pomegranates, their leaves drawn to the last rib and vein, twine
themselves in fair and perfect order about delicate trellises; broad
stone pines and tall cypresses overshadow them, bright birds hover here
and there in the serene sky, and groups of angels, hand joined with
hand, and wing with wing, glide and float through the glades of the
unentangled forest. But behind the human figures, behind the pomp and
turbulence of the Kingly procession descending from the distant hills
the spirit of the landscape is changed. Severer mountains rise in the
distance, ruder prominences and less flowery vary the nearer ground, and
gloomy shadows remain unbroken beneath the forest branches.

§ 11. Landscape of Perugino and Raffaelle.

The landscape of Perugino, for grace, purity and as much of nature as is
consistent with the above-named conditions, is unrivalled; and the more
interesting because in him certainly whatever limits are set to the
rendering of nature proceed not from incapability. The sea is in the
distance almost always, then some blue promontories and undulating dewy
park ground, studded with glittering trees; in the landscape of the
fresco in St^a. Maria Maddalena at Florence there is more variety than
is usual with him; a gentle river winds round the bases of rocky hills,
a river like our own Wye or Tees in their loveliest reaches; level
meadows stretch away on its opposite side; mounds set with
slender-stemmed foliage occupy the nearer ground, a small village with
its simple spire peeps from the forest at the bend of the valley, and it
is remarkable that in architecture thus employed neither Perugino nor
any other of the ideal painters ever use Italian forms but always
Transalpine, both of church and castle. The little landscape which forms
the background of his own portrait in the Uffizii is another highly
finished and characteristic example. The landscape of Raffaelle was
learned from his father, and continued for some time little modified,
though expressed with greater refinement. It became afterwards
conventional and poor, and in some cases altogether meaningless. The
haystacks and vulgar trees behind the St. Cecilia at Bologna form a
painful contrast to the pure space of mountain country in the Perugino

§ 12. Such Landscape is not to be imitated.

In all these cases, while I would uphold the landscape thus employed and
treated, as worthy of all admiration, I should be sorry to advance it
for imitation. What is right in its mannerism arose from keen feeling in
the painter: imitated without the same feeling, it would be painful; the
only safe mode of following in such steps is to attain perfect knowledge
of nature herself, and then to suffer our own feelings to guide us in
the selection of what is fitting for any particular purpose. Every
painter ought to paint what he himself loves, not what others have
loved; if his mind be pure and sweetly toned, what he loves will be
lovely; if otherwise, no example can guide his selection, no precept
govern his hand; and farther let it be distinctly observed, that all
this mannered landscape is only right under the supposition of its being
a background to some supernatural presence; behind mortal beings it
would be wrong, and by itself, as landscape, ridiculous; and farther,
the chief virtue of it results from the exquisite refinement of those
natural details consistent with its character from the botanical drawing
of the flowers and the clearness and brightness of the sky.

§ 13. Color, and Decoration. Their use in representations of the

Another mode of attaining supernatural character is by purity of color
almost shadowless, no more darkness being allowed than is absolutely
necessary for the explanation of the forms, and the vividness of the
effect enhanced as far as may be by use of gilding, enamel, and other
jewellery. I think the smaller works of Angelico are perfect models in
this respect; the glories about the heads being of beaten rays of gold,
on which the light plays and changes as the spectator moves; (and which
therefore throw the purest flesh color out in dark relief) and such
color and light being obtained by the enamelling of the angel wings as
of course is utterly unattainable by any other expedient of art; the
colors of the draperies always pure and pale; blue, rose, or tender
green, or brown, but never dark or gloomy; the faces of the most
celestial fairness, brightly flushed: the height and glow of this flush
are noticed by Constantin as reserved by the older painters for
spiritual beings, as if expressive of light seen through the body.

I cannot think it necessary while I insist on the value of all these
seemingly childish means when in the hands of a noble painter, to assert
also their futility and even absurdity if employed by no exalted power.
I think the error has commonly been on the side of scorn, and that we
reject much in our foolish vanity, which if wiser and more earnest we
should delight in. But two points it is very necessary to note in the
use of such accessories.

§ 14. Decoration so used must be generic.

The first that the ornaments used by Angelico, Giotto, and Perugino, but
especially by Angelico, are always of a generic and abstract character.
They are not diamonds, nor brocades, nor velvets, nor gold embroideries;
they are mere spots of gold or of color, simple patterns upon
_textureless_ draperies; the angel wings burn with transparent crimson
and purple and amber, but they are not set forth with peacock's plumes;
the golden circlets gleam with changeful light, but they are not beaded
with elaborate pearls nor set with studied sapphires.

In the works of Filippino Lippi, Mantegna, and many other painters
following, interesting examples may be found of the opposite treatment;
and as in Lippi the heads are usually very sweet, and the composition
severe, the degrading effect of the realized decorations and imitated
dress may be seen in him simply, and without any addition of painfulness
from other deficiencies of feeling. The larger of the two pictures in
the Tuscan room of the Uffizii, but for this defect, would have been a
very noble ideal work.

§ 15. And color pure.

The second point to be observed is that brightness of color is
altogether inadmissible without purity and harmony; and that the sacred
painters must not be followed in their frankness of unshadowed color
unless we can also follow them in its clearness. As far as I am
acquainted with the modern schools of Germany, they seem to be entirely
ignorant of the value of color as an assistant of feeling, and to think
that hardness, dryness, and opacity are its virtues as employed in
religious art; whereas I hesitate not to affirm that in such art more
than in any other, clearness, luminousness and intensity of hue are
essential to right impression; and from the walls of the Arena chapel in
their rainbow play of brilliant harmonies, to the solemn purple tones of
Perugino's fresco in the Albizzi palace, I know not any great work of
sacred art which is not as precious in color as in all other qualities
(unless indeed it be a Crucifixion of Fra Angelico in the Florence
Academy, which has just been glazed and pumiced and painted and
varnished by the picture-cleaners until it glares from one end of the
picture gallery to the other;) only the pure white light and delicate
hue of the idealists, whose colors are by preference such as we have
seen to be the most beautiful in the chapter on Purity are carefully to
be distinguished from the golden light and deep pitched hue of the
school of Titian whose virtue is the grandeur of earthly solemnity, not
the glory of heavenly rejoicing.

§ 16. Ideal form of the body itself, of what variety susceptible.

But leaving these accessory circumstances and touching the treatment of
the bodily form, it is evident in the first place that whatever typical
beauty the human body is capable of possessing must be bestowed upon it
when it is understood as spiritual. And therefore those general
proportions and types which are deducible from comparison of the nobler
individuals of the race, must be adopted and adhered to; admitting among
them not, as in the human ideal, such varieties as result from past
suffering, or contest with sin, but such only as are consistent with
sinless nature or are the signs of instantly or continually operative
affections; for though it is conceivable that spirit should suffer, it
is inconceivable that spiritual frame should retain like the stamped
inelastic human clay, the brand of sorrow past, unless fallen.

                                "His face,
               Deep scars of thunder had entrenched, and care
               Sat on his faded cheek."

Yet so far forth the angelic ideal is diminished, nor could this be
suffered in pictorial representation.

§ 17. Anatomical development how far admissible.

Again, such muscular development as is necessary to the perfect beauty
of the body, is to be rendered. But that which is necessary to strength,
or which appears to have been the result of laborious exercise, is
inadmissible. No herculean form is spiritual, for it is degrading the
spiritual creature to suppose it operative through impulse of bone and
sinew; its power is immaterial and constant, neither dependent on, nor
developed by exertion. Generally, it is well to conceal anatomical
development as far as may be; even Michael Angelo's anatomy interferes
with his divinity; in the hands of lower men the angel becomes a
preparation. How far it is possible to subdue or generalize the naked
form I venture not to affirm, but I believe that it is best to conceal
it as far as may be, not with draperies light and undulating, that fall
in with, and exhibit its principal lines, but with draperies severe and
linear, such as were constantly employed before the time of Raffaelle. I
recollect no single instance of a naked angel that does not look boylike
or child-like, and unspiritualized; even Fra Bartolomeo's might with
advantage be spared from the pictures at Lucca, and, in the hands of
inferior men, the sky is merely encumbered with sprawling infants; those
of Domenichino in the Madonna del Rosario, and Martyrdom of St. Agnes,
are peculiarly offensive, studies of bare-legged children howling and
kicking in volumes of smoke. Confusion seems to exist in the minds of
subsequent painters between Angels and Cupids.

§ 18. Symmetry. How valuable.

Farther, the qualities of symmetry and repose are of peculiar value in
spiritual form. We find the former most earnestly sought by all the
great painters in the arrangement of the hair, wherein no loosely
flowing nor varied form is admitted, but all restrained in undisturbed
and equal ringlets; often, as in the infant Christ of Fra Angelico,
supported on the forehead in forms of sculpturesque severity. The Angel
of Masaccio, in the Deliverance of Peter, grand both in countenance and
motion, loses much of his spirituality because the painter has put a
little too much of his own character into the hair, and left it

§ 19. The influence of Greek art, how dangerous.

§ 20. Its scope, how limited.

Of repose, and its exalting power, I have already said enough for our
present purpose, though I have not insisted on the peculiar
manifestation of it in the Christian ideal as opposed to the pagan. But
this, as well as other questions relating to the particular development
of the Greek mind, is foreign to the immediate inquiry, which therefore
I shall here conclude in the hope of resuming it in detail after
examining the laws of beauty in the inanimate creation; always, however,
holding this for certain, that of whatever kind or degree the short
coming may be, it is not possible but that short coming should be
visible in every pagan conception, when set beside Christian; and
believing, for my own part, that there is not only deficiency, but such
difference in kind as must make all Greek conception full of danger to
the student in proportion to his admiration of it; as I think has been
fatally seen in its effect on the Italian schools, when its pernicious
element first mingled with their solemn purity, and recently in its
influence on the French historical painters: neither can I from my
present knowledge fix upon an ancient statue which expresses by the
countenance any one elevated character of soul, or any single
enthusiastic self-abandoning affection, much less any such majesty of
feeling as might mark the features for supernatural. The Greek could not
conceive a spirit; he could do nothing without limbs; his god is a
finite god, talking, pursuing, and going journeys;[77] if at any time he
was touched with a true feeling of the unseen powers around him, it was
in the field of poised battle, for there is something in the near coming
of the shadow of death, something in the devoted fulfilment of mortal
duty, that reveals the real God, though darkly; that pause on the field
of Platæa was not one of vain superstition; the two white figures that
blazed along the Delphic plain, when the earthquake and the fire led the
charge from Olympus, were more than sunbeams on the battle dust; the
sacred cloud, with its lance light and triumph singing, that went down
to brood over the masts of Salamis, was more than morning mist among the
olives; and yet what were the Greek's thoughts of his god of battle? No
spirit power was in the vision; it was a being of clay strength and
human passion, foul, fierce, and changeful; of penetrable arms and
vulnerable flesh. Gather what we may of great, from pagan chisel or
pagan dream, and set it beside the orderer of Christian warfare, Michael
the Archangel: not Milton's "with hostile brow and visage all inflamed,"
not even Milton's in kingly treading of the hills of Paradise, not
Raffaelle's with the expanded wings and brandished spear, but Perugino's
with his triple crest of traceless plume unshaken in heaven, his hand
fallen on his crossleted sword, the truth girdle binding his undinted
armor; God has put his power upon him, resistless radiance is on his
limbs, no lines are there of earthly strength, no trace on the divine
features of earthly anger; trustful and thoughtful, fearless, but full
of love, incapable except of the repose of eternal conquest, vessel and
instrument of Omnipotence, filled like a cloud with the victor light,
the dust of principalities and powers beneath his feet, the murmur of
hell against him heard by his spiritual ear like the winding of a shell
on the far-off sea-shore.

§ 21. Conclusion.

It is vain to attempt to pursue the comparison; the two orders of art
have in them nothing common, and the field of sacred history, the intent
and scope of Christian feeling, are too wide and exalted to admit of the
juxtaposition of any other sphere or order of conception; they embrace
all other fields like the dome of heaven. With what comparison shall we
compare the types of the martyr saints, the St. Stephen of Fra
Bartolomeo, with his calm forehead crowned by the stony diadem, or the
St. Catherine of Raffaelle looking up to heaven in the dawn of the
eternal day, with her lips parted in the resting from her pain? or with
what the Madonnas of Francia and Pinturicchio, in whom the hues of the
morning and the solemnity of the eve, the gladness in accomplished
promise, and sorrow of the sword-pierced heart, are gathered into one
human lamp of ineffable love? or with what the angel choirs of Angelico,
with the flames on their white foreheads waving brighter as they move,
and the sparkles streaming from their purple wings like the glitter of
many suns upon a sounding sea, listening, in the pauses of alternate
song, for the prolonging of the trumpet blast, and the answering of
psaltery and cymbal, throughout the endless deep and from all the star
shores of heaven?


  [75] I take no note of the representation of evil spirits, since
    throughout we have been occupied in the pursuit of beauty; but it
    may be observed generally that there is great difficulty to be
    overcome in attempts of this kind, because the elevation of the form
    necessary to give it spirituality destroys the appearance of evil;
    hence even the greatest painters have been reduced to receive aid
    from the fancy, and to eke out all they could conceive of malignity
    by help of horns, hoofs, and claws. Giotto's Satan in the Campo
    Santo, with the serpent gnawing the heart, is fine; so many of the
    fiends of Orcagna, and always those of Michael Angelo. Tintoret in
    the Temptation, with his usual truth of invention, has represented
    the evil spirit under the form of a fair angel, the wings burning
    with crimson and silver, the face sensual and treacherous. It is
    instructive to compare the results of imagination associated with
    powerful fancy in the demons of these great painters, or even in
    such nightmares as that of Salvator already spoken of, Sect. I.
    Chap. V. § 12 (note,) with the simple ugliness of idiotic distortion
    in the meaningless terrorless monsters of Bronzino in the large
    picture of the Uffizii, where the painter, utterly uninventive,
    having assembled all that is abominable of hanging flesh, bony
    limbs, crane necks, staring eyes, and straggling hair, cannot yet by
    the sum and substance of all obtain as much real fearfulness as an
    imaginative painter could throw into the turn of a lip or the
    knitting of a brow.

  [76] I have not thought it necessary to give farther instances at
    present, since I purpose hereafter to give numerous examples of this
    kind of ideal landscape. Of true and noble landscape, as such, I am
    aware of no instances except where least they might have been
    expected, among the sea-bred Venetians. Ghirlandajo shows keen,
    though prosaic, sense of nature in that view of Venice behind an
    Adoration of Magi in the Uffizii, but he at last walled himself up
    among gilded entablatures. Masaccio indeed has given one grand
    example in the fresco of the Tribute Money, but its color is now
    nearly lost.

  [77] I know not anything in the range of art more unspiritual than
    the Apollo Belvidere; the raising of the fingers of the right hand
    in surprise at the truth of the arrow is altogether human, and would
    be vulgar in a prince, much more in a deity. The sandals destroy the
    divinity of the foot, and the lip is curled with mortal passion.


Although the plan of the present portion of this work does not admit of
particular criticism, it will neither be useless nor irrelevant to refer
to one or two works, lately before the public, in the Exhibitions of the
Royal Academy, which either illustrate, or present exceptions to, any of
the preceding statements. I would first mention, with reference to what
has been advanced respecting the functions of Associative Imagination,
the very important work of Mr. Linnell, the "Eve of the Deluge;" a
picture upheld by its admirers (and these were some of the most
intelligent judges of the day) for a work of consummate imaginative
power; while it was pronounced by the public journals to be "a chaos of
unconcocted color." If the writers for the press had been aware of the
kind of study pursued by Mr. Linnell through many laborious years,
characterized by an observance of nature scrupulously and minutely
patient, directed by the deepest sensibility, and aided by a power of
drawing almost too refined for landscape subjects, and only to be
understood by reference to his engravings after Michael Angelo, they
would have felt it to be unlikely that the work of such a man should be
entirely undeserving of respect. On the other hand, the grounds of its
praise were unfortunately chosen; for, though possessing many merits, it
had no claim whatever to be ranked among productions of Creative art. It
would perhaps be difficult to point to a work so exalted in feeling, and
so deficient in invention. The sky had been strictly taken from nature,
this was evident at a glance; and as a study of sky it was every way
noble. To the purpose of the picture it hardly contributed; its
sublimity was that of splendor, not of terror; and its darkness that of
retreating, not of gathering, storm. The features of the landscape were
devoid alike of variety and probability; the division of the scene by
the central valley and winding river at once theatrical and commonplace;
and the foreground, on which the light was intense, alike devoid of
dignity in arrangement, and of interest in detail.

The falseness or deficiency of color in the works of Mr. Landseer has
been remarked above. The writer has much pleasure in noticing a very
beautiful exception in the picture of the "Random Shot," certainly the
most successful rendering he has ever seen of the hue of snow under warm
but subdued light. The subtlety of gradation from the portions of the
wreath fully illumined, to those which, feebly tinged by the horizontal
rays, swelled into a dome of dim purple, dark against the green evening
sky; the truth of the blue shadows, with which this dome was barred, and
the depth of delicate color out of which the lights upon the footprints
were raised, deserved the most earnest and serious admiration; proving,
at the same time, that the errors in color, so frequently to be
regretted in the works of the painter, are the result rather of
inattention than of feeble perception. A curious proof of this
inattention occurs in the disposition of the shadows in the background
of the "Old Cover Hack," No. 229. One of its points of light is on the
rusty iron handle of a pump, in the shape of an S. The sun strikes the
greater part of its length, illuminating the perpendicular portion of
the curve; yet shadow is only cast on the wall behind by the returning
portion of the lower extremity. A smile may be excited by the notice of
so trivial a circumstance; but the simplicity of the error renders it
the more remarkable, and the great masters of chiaroscuro are accurate
in all such minor points; a vague sense of greater truth results from
this correctness, even when it is not in particulars analyzed or noted
by the observer. In the small but very valuable Paul Potter in Lord
Westminster's collection, the body of one of the sheep under the hedge
is for the most part in shadow, but the sunlight touches the extremity
of the back. The sun is low, and the shadows feeble and distorted; yet
that of the sunlighted fleece is cast exactly in its true place and
proportion beyond that of the hedge. The spectator may not observe this;
yet, unobserved, it is one of the circumstances which make him feel the
picture to be full of sunshine.

As an example of perfect color, and of the most refined handling ever
perhaps exhibited in animal painting, the Butcher's Dog in the corner of
Mr. Mulready's "Butt," No. 160, deserved a whole room of the Academy to
himself. This, with the spaniel in the "Choosing the Wedding Gown," and
the two dogs in the hayfield subject (Burchell and Sophia), displays
perhaps the most wonderful, because the most dignified, finish in the
expression of anatomy and covering--of muscle and hide at once, and
assuredly the most perfect unity of drawing and color, which the entire
range of ancient and modern art can exhibit. Albert Durer is indeed the
only rival who might be suggested; and, though greater far in
imagination, and equal in draughtsmanship, Albert Durer was less true
and less delicate in hue. In sculpturesque arrangement both masters show
the same degree of feeling: any of these dogs of Mulready might be taken
out of the canvas and cut in alabaster, or, perhaps better, struck upon
a coin. Every lock and line of the hair has been grouped as it is on a
Greek die; and if this not always without some loss of ease and of
action, yet this very loss is ennobling, in a period when all is
generally sacrificed to the great coxcombry of art, the affectation of

Yet Mr. Mulready himself is not always free from affectation of some
kind; mannerism, at least, there is in his treatment of tree trunks.
There is a ghastliness about his labored anatomies of them, as well as a
want of specific character. Why need they be always flayed? The hide of
a beech tree, or of a birch or fir, is nearly as fair a thing as an
animal's; glossy as a dove's neck barred with black like a zebra, or
glowing in purple grey and velvet brown like furry cattle in sunset. Why
not paint these as Mr. Mulready paints other things, as they are? That
simplest, that deepest of all secrets, which gives such majesty to the
ragged leaves about the edges of the pond in the "Gravel-pit." (No.
125.), and imparts a strange interest to the grey ragged urchins
disappearing behind the bank, that bank so low, so familiar, so sublime!
What a contrast between the deep sentiment of that commonest of all
common, homeliest of all homely, subjects, and the lost sentiment of Mr.
Stanfield's "Amalfi" the chief landscape of the year, full of exalted
material, and mighty crags, and massy seas, grottoes, precipices, and
convents, fortress-towers and cloud-capped mountains, and all in vain,
merely because that same simple secret has been despised; because
nothing there is painted as it is! The picture was a most singular
example of the scenic assemblage of contradictory theme which is
characteristic of Picturesque, as opposed to Poetical, composition. The
lines chosen from Rogers for a titular legend were full of summer,
glowing with golden light, and toned with quiet melancholy:

                       "To him who sails
            Under the shore, a few white villages,
            Scattered above, below, some in the clouds,
            Some on the margin of the dark blue sea,
            And glittering thro' their lemon groves, announce
            The region of Amalfi. Then, half-fallen,
            A lonely watch-tower on the precipice,
            Their ancient landmark, comes--long may it last!
            And to the seaman, in a distant age,
            Though now he little thinks how large his debt,
            Serve for their monument."

Prepared by these lines for a dream upon deep, calm waters, under the
shadow and scent of the close lemon leaves, the spectator found himself
placed by the painter, wet through, in a noisy fishing boat, on a
splashing sea, with just as much on his hands as he could manage to keep
her gunwale from being stove in against a black rock; and with a heavy
grey squall to windward. (This squall, by the by, was the very same
which appeared in the picture of the Magra of 1847, and so were the
snowy mountains above; only the squall at Amalfi entered on the left,
and at the Magra on the right.) Now the scenery of Amalfi is impressive
alike in storm or calm, and the writer has seen the Mediterranean as
majestic and as southern-looking in its rage as in its rest. But it is
treating both the green water and woods unfairly to destroy their peace
without expressing their power; and withdraw from them their sadness and
their sun, without the substitution of any effect more terrific than
that of a squall at the Nore. The snow on the distant mountains chilled
what it could not elevate, and was untrue to the scene besides; there is
no snow on the Monte St. Angelo in summer except what is kept for the
Neapolitan confectioners. The great merit of the picture was its
rock-painting; too good to have required the aid of the exaggeration of
forms which satiated the eye throughout the composition.

Mr. F. R. Pickersgill's "Contest of Beauty" (No. 515.), and Mr. Uwins's
"Vineyard Scene in the South of France," were, after Mr. Mulready's
works, among the most interesting pieces of color in the Exhibition. The
former, very rich and sweet in its harmonies, and especially happy in
its contrasts of light and dark armor; nor less in the fancy of the
little Love who, losing his hold of the orange boughs, was falling
ignominiously without having time to open his wings. The latter was a
curious example of what I have described as abstraction of color.
Strictly true or possible it was not; a vintage is usually a dusty and
dim-looking procedure; but there were poetry and feeling in Mr. Uwins's
idealization of the sombre black of the veritable grape into a luscious
ultramarine purple, glowing among the green leaves like so much painted
glass. The figures were bright and graceful in the extreme and most
happily grouped. Little else that could be called color was to be seen
upon the walls of the Exhibition, with the exception of the smaller
works of Mr. Etty. Of these, the single head, "Morning Prayer," (No.
25.), and the "Still Life" (No. 73.), deserved, allowing for their
peculiar aim, the highest praise. The larger subjects, more especially
the St. John, were wanting in the merits peculiar to the painter; and in
other respects it is alike painful and useless to allude to them. A very
important and valuable work of Mr. Harding was placed, as usual, where
its merits could be but ill seen, and where its chief fault, a
feebleness of color in the principal light on the distant hills, was
apparent. It was one of the very few views of the year which were
transcripts, nearly without exaggeration, of the features of the

Among the less conspicuous landscapes, Mr. W. E. Dighton's "Hay Meadow
Corner" deserved especial notice; it was at once vigorous, fresh,
faithful, and unpretending, the management of the distance most
ingenious, and the painting of the foreground, with the single exception
of Mr. Mulready's above noticed, unquestionably the best in the room. I
have before had occasion to notice a picture by this artist, "A Hayfield
in a Shower," exhibited in the British Institution in 1847, and this
year (1848) in the Scottish Academy, whose sky, in qualities of rainy,
shattered, transparent grey, I have seldom seen equalled; nor the mist
of its distance, expressive alike of previous heat and present heat of
rain. I look with much interest for other works by this painter.

A hurried visit to Scotland in the spring of this year, while it
enables the writer to acknowledge the ardor and genius manifested in
very many of the works exhibited in the Scottish Academy, cannot be
considered as furnishing him with sufficient grounds for specific
criticism. He cannot, however, err in testifying his concurrence in the
opinion expressed to him by several of the most distinguished members of
that Academy, respecting the singular merit of the works of Mr. H.
Drummond. A cabinet picture of "Banditti on the Watch," appeared to him
one of the most masterly, unaffected, and sterling pieces of quiet
painting he has ever seen from the hand of a living artist; and the
other works of Mr. Drummond were alike remarkable for their manly and
earnest finish, and their sweetness of feeling.

       *       *       *       *       *


Page 98: 'wherein the superioity' corrected to superiority.

Page 129: 'Convent of St. Marks' corrected to mark's

Page 159: 'had not been hoplessly' corrected to hopelessly.

Page 218: 'in the landscape of the fresco in St^a.' originally S^ta.

Page 226: 'alike devoid of dignity in arrangement' originally arrangemen

Footnote 40: 'De la Poësie Chrétienne', accented to be in accordance
                with text.

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