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Title: Dissertation on the Progress of the Fine Arts
Author: Scott, John Robert
Language: English
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Transcriber's note:

      Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).

The Augustan Reprint Society



With an Introduction by Roy Harvey Pearce

Publication Number 45

Los Angeles
William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
University of California

                   *       *       *       *       *


RICHARD C. BOYS, _University of Michigan_
RALPH COHEN, _University of California, Los Angeles_
VINTON A. DEARING, _University of California, Los Angeles_
LAWRENCE CLARK POWELL, _Clark Memorial Library_


W. EARL BRITTON, _University of Michigan_


EMMETT L. AVERY, _State College of Washington_
BENJAMIN BOYCE, _Duke University_
LOUIS BREDVOLD, _University of Michigan_
JOHN BUTT, _King's College, University of Durham_
JAMES L. CLIFFORD, _Columbia University_
ARTHUR FRIEDMAN, _University of Chicago_
EDWARD NILES HOOKER, _University of California, Los Angeles_
LOUIS A. LANDA, _Princeton University_
SAMUEL H. MONK, _University of Minnesota_
ERNEST C. MOSSNER, _University of Texas_
JAMES SUTHERLAND, _University College, London_
H. T. SWEDENBERG, JR., _University of California, Los Angeles_


EDNA C. DAVIS, _Clark Memorial Library_

                   *       *       *       *       *


Scott's "Dissertation on the Progress of the Fine Arts" embodies what we
can now see as a final development in his century's deep concern to
understand why what it so often admitted was the greatest art had
somehow not been forthcoming in what it as often claimed was the
greatest century. The "Dissertation" is in no way an original work;
rather--and this is its primary value for us--its author takes a belief
which his culture has given him and, like others before him, tries to
clarify one of its implications. The belief is in the idea of a
universal progress marred, if it in the end can be said to be marred,
only by an esthetic primitivism; the implication is that that esthetic
primitivism can be not only comprehended but surmounted. Scott accepts
the century's commonplace that art of power and significance has been
necessarily produced only in societies markedly simpler than his own;
and he accepts too the fact (for such it was when men believed in it and
judged according to the principles generated by it) that in all forms of
culture excepting art, his own richly complex society has produced
something far surpassing anything produced in the "simpler" society of
classical Greece or of the Italian Renaissance. Scott's uniqueness is
that, unlike those of his predecessors who had worked with the same
belief, he does not try to establish an historical rationale for this
_status quo_. He goes so far as to envisage--perhaps it would be truer
to his state of mind to say posit--an enlightened modern society which
will at once remain what it is and yet so change itself as to make
possible the production of major art.

The main interest for us in the "Dissertation," then, lies in Scott's
notions of the kind of society needed to produce major art, and beyond
that, in what is entailed in holding fast to that notion, developing it
into a doctrine, and even hoping to make it a reality in his own time.
He outlines the doctrine in great detail, simply by describing what he
takes to be the sociocultural situation of the classical Greek artist
(and incidentally, that of the artist of the Italian Renaissance). He
chooses to write almost entirely of the fine arts (for him in this case,
sculpture), although he conceives, as the student of his age would
expect him to, that what holds for the fine arts will also hold for
poetry. In the immediacy of appeal of sculpture, he finds a quality
which, when its working and expression are analysed, will let him see
just how the artist and his work have been ideally related to the
society in which they have flourished.

Scott's description of the artist and his place in Greek society is one
which, in general, is familiar to students of eighteenth-century
critical theory. Equally familiar is his concern to establish the fact
that, as he puts it, "the connate temper of the times" made possible the
production of great art. He sees Greek art as being authentically marked
by the "rich raciness of the native soil." And he sees Greek society as
in all departments making the work of the artist possible. In small,
free, uncentralized states; in states where art has a public, memorial
function; in states where, because so many games and rituals are
performed naked, the artist is always directly and overwhelmingly aware
of the possibility of beauty in the human body--in such states, owing to
such "natural causes," art must necessarily flourish. Above all, art is
of the people and their artists as they form a vital community; it is
not borrowed; it is fresh and original. Finally, such a cultural
situation, and therefore such an art, is found obviously to be lacking
in his own time.

Now this argument, carried up to this point, had been more or less
held to by many critics and literary theorists before Scott.[1] True
enough, they had mainly concerned themselves with poetry; yet they
found the source of major poetry to be ultimately in a nakedness
of language--made possible by what was taken to be the simplicity,
spontaneity, and cohesion of Greek life--comparable to Scott's notion of
nakedness of body. They differ from Scott in this: that almost
uniformly, so far as my reading goes, all had been willing to admit that
there was absolutely no hope for comparable artistic achievement in
their own time; that such art could be produced only in simpler, earlier
societies than their own; that, indeed, a characteristic of a mature
society was that it had grown up beyond the young, crude, exuberant
stage in which conditions were ideal for the cultivation of the esthetic
sensibilities. The ideal time for the production of major art, they
tended to conclude, was at that point in the history of a society when
it was moving from the savage into the civilized. They were thus not
absolute esthetic primitivists; but they were concerned nonetheless to
tie art to its primitive origins, as for the most part they were
concerned equally to celebrate their triumph over the limitations of
such origins. So, to take one example, Thomas Blackwell, meditating
Homer's achievement in his _Enquiry_, had written in 1735 that it does
not "seem to be given to one and the same Kingdom, to be thoroughly
civilized, and afford proper Subjects for Poetry"; and in the same work
he later declared that he hoped "_That we may never be a proper Subject
of an Heroic Poem_." Only by being a "Subject" for a heroic poem could
the poet write one; for only then would he have available to him the
living language--and thus the techniques--adequately to express that
"Subject." This was to be a dominant refrain--matched, to be sure, by a
counter-refrain, treatment of which is not immediately relevant
here[2]--through the century. A significant number of critics and
literary theorists would be willing to resign themselves to having a
lesser art, if such resignation would mean that they could adequately
celebrate the enlightened achievements of their own century. They
worked out a method of historical analysis whereby they might construct
"conjectural histories" of civilization which would allow them to place
poetry and the fine arts in the long line of the evolution of culture
toward their own time and to demonstrate, moreover, that even as the
arts had come early, so philosophy, proper religion, the sciences, and
all the highest forms of civilization had come late. Thus they could
announce triumphantly that if they had lost something, they had gained
much more.

But still the greatness of the art which they did not have moved and
attracted them. Their work is perhaps a measure of their attempts to
rationalize out of existence a longing for the art which they felt their
time was not giving them. Perhaps that is why Scott, in the 1790's--his
mind, so it seems to us, not only informed but made by the critical
formulae of his time--tried to face squarely up to the fact that somehow
greet art had to be made possible for even his enlightened century. Yet
his mind was so simple and simplifying that he thought that merely by
denying his predecessors carefully worked out conjecture of the
necessary connection between an "early" society and great art, he could
prove that such was possible in his time. For the artist envisaged in
the "Dissertation" is still, in spite of his obvious attempts to have it
otherwise, the artist as conceived of by Blackwell and the rest of
Scott's predecessors. Scott glories in the civilized achievements of his
own age, yet somehow hopes that the same "liberal public encouragement"
that obtained in Greece will come again and make for such labor, pains,
and study as will create in England art as great as Greece's. Such a
condition, he feels, is not impossible; yet he says nothing of the kind
of social structure and character which he has already shown to be
requisite to the development of "liberal public encouragement." The
argument, such as it is, is left hanging. That is to say, there is no
evidence in the essay that Scott could really think through to the
possibility of the major artist's being immediately present in an
eighteenth-century society re-made, so far as its artistic life was
concerned, in a primitivistic pattern. He remains purely a theoretical
possibility in Scott's scheme of things, as does the society in which he
might flourish.

Likewise, in the other essays[3] which Scott collected and published
along with the "Dissertation," there is no evidence that he really
understood what was involved in taking the stand he did. In the most
interesting of these pieces, "An Essay on the Influence of Taste on
Morals," he denies the existence of a Hutchesonian moral sense,
absolutely separates esthetic taste from morals, holds that art will
have an influence toward immorality unless it is kept in check with a
moral system properly inculcated by revealed religion. What he is
entirely unaware of is the possible radical implications of such a
separation of art and morality. As in the "Dissertation," he accepts a
conventional notion and is satisfied to push it as far as he can, never
exploring its possible ambiguities.

The ambiguities are those, of course, which led to that transformation
of critical theory and artistic practice which we associate with the
romantic movement. In this light, it is interesting to note that just
fourteen years after the first publication of the "Dissertation" William
Hazlitt could take a stand almost identical in gross characteristics
with that of Scott and the others--this in his "Why the Arts are Not
Progressive."[4] For Hazlitt, because "the arts unlike the sciences and
the forms of high civilization in general hold immediate communication
with nature," they develop best soon after their "birth" and thrive "in
a state of society which [is], in other respects, comparatively
barbarous." He goes so far as to instance Homer, Chaucer, Spenser,
Shakespeare, Dante, Ariosto, Raphael, Titian, Michaelangelo, Correggio,
Cervantes, and Boccaccio. In all its extremity, in its inclusive
view of what constitutes a barbarous society and its peculiar cultural
virtues, this is but the conventional doctrine of Scott and all those
who came before him. But it is, in Hazlitt, transformed into a
statement, not, as in Scott's predecessors, of a rationale for the
weakness of art in their time, nor, as in Scott himself, of a dimly
espoused hope of art in his time. It becomes a frank, "sympathetic"
statement of a fact of life which, when granted, will enable men to
enjoy and comprehend great art of all ages. The doctrine is focussed on
the work of art, not on the culture which lacks it; it has been
crucially transformed from a historical into a heuristic principle.
Scott's "Dissertation" embodies the doctrine just before its
transformation--a neoclassical strain, we can say, just before it had
became a romantic strain. Scott almost takes his stand with Hazlitt; but
he is not quite there. And not being quite there, he is a whole world

                                                       Roy Harvey Pearce
                                                   Ohio State University


[Footnote 1: Among the works that I have seen which specifically develop
this argument are: Thomas Blackwell, _An Enquiry into the Life and
Writings of Homer_ (1735); Richard Hurd, _The Third [Elizabethan]
Dialogue_ (1759) and _Letters on Chivalry and Romance_ (1762); John
Ogilvie, "An Essay on the Lyric Poetry of the Ancients," in _Poems on
Several Subjects_ (1762); John Brown, _A Dissertation of the Rise,
Union, and Power, the Progressions, Separations, and Corruptions of
Poetry and Music_ (1763) and a shorter version of the _Dissertation, The
History of the Rise and Progress of Poetry_ (1764); Hugh Blair, _A
Critical Dissertation on the Poems_ of Ossian (1763); William Duff, _An
Essay on Original Genius_ (1767); Robert Wood, _An Essay on the Original
Genius and Writings of Homer_ (1767, enlarged version 1769); Thomas
Pownall, _A Treatise on the Study of Antiquities_ (1782). Such a list,
however, if it were to indicate the scope and ramifications of the
argument would have to be expanded to include more general
eighteenth-century studies of the evolution of cultural forms; for the
argument on the nature of art and its relation to "primitive" societies
is part of a larger one centering on the whole idea of progress.
Treatment of the whole subject has never been fully integrated into a
study of the nature (or natures) of eighteenth-century criticism and
critical theory--although a start has been made on study of it in and of
itself. The basic treatment remains Lois Whitney's _Primitivism and the
Idea of Progress_ (Baltimore, 1934) and her two essays "English
Primitivistic Theories of Epic Origins," _MP_, XXI (1924), 337-378 and
"Thomas Blackwell, a Disciple of Shaftesbury," _PQ_, _V_ (1926),
196-211. These are to be considerably qualified in their general,
sociological orientation by Gladys Bryson's _Man and Society: The
Scottish Inquiry of the Eighteenth Century_ (Princeton, 1945). They are
further to be qualified in their literary-critical orientation by my
"The Eighteenth-Century Scottish Primitivists: Some Reconsiderations,"
_ELH_, XII (1945), 203-220, which is in turn somewhat expanded upon and
generalized in the appendix to Ernest Tuveson's _Millenium and Utopia:
A Study in the Background of the Idea of Progress_ (Berkeley, 1949).]

[Footnote 2: See, for example, Donald Foerster, "Scottish Primitivism
and the Historical Approach," _PQ_, XXIX (1950), 307-323.]

[Footnote 3: The essay was republished in 1804 as part of Scott's
_Dissertations, Essays, and Parallels_. These pieces range from college
premium compositions of the 1770's to the "Dissertation" of 1800.]

[Footnote 4: The essay is handily available in W. J. Bate's anthology,
_Criticism: The Major Texts_ (New York, 1952), pp. 292-295.]


                       _JOHN ROBERT SCOTT, D. D._

                  _Printed by T. Bensley, Bolt Court_,




    A Dissertation on the Influence of Religion
      on Civil Society                                                1

    A Dissertation on the Expulsion of the Moors
      from Spain, and the Protestants from
      France and the Low Countries                                   33

    A Dissertation on the first Peopling of America                  75

    A Dissertation on the Progress of the Fine Arts                 125

    A Dissertation on National Population                           181

    An Essay on Writing History                                     219

    An Essay on the Question, Was Eloquence
      beneficial to Athens?                                         245

    An Essay on the Influence of Taste on Morals                    269

    Comparison between William III, of England
      and Henry IV, of France                                       303

    Comparison of Cardinal Ximenes and Cardinal
      Richelieu                                                     323

    Comparison between Augustus Cæsar and Lewis XIV                 343

    Comparison of Maximilian de Bethune, Duke of Sully,
      and William Pitt, Earl of Chatham                             361


Most of the following compositions were written several years ago, when
the Author was a student in the distinguished University of Dublin;
whose acknowledged excellence in classical literature, and in every
branch of scientific learning, needs not the celebration of his feeble
praise: and by it the first and second Dissertations, and one of the
Essays, were honoured with the first literary rewards in the power of
that learned body to bestow. Written at first with an honest desire of
acquiring fair reputation by praise-worthy exertions, they are now
submitted to the public eye from a wish to contribute to the liberal
amusement, and perhaps to the improvement, of the minds of his
fellow-creatures; with all the natural anxieties of an author
addressing a public, to whom he is little known; but without any
unmanly dread or humiliating deprecation of just and candid criticism.
Should they drop still-born from the press, as it may be has been the
fate of as meritorious compositions, the author (as becomes him) will
submit without murmuring to the general verdict. Should they, on the
contrary, be graced with a favourable reception, he shall deem himself
honoured by such notice; and will endeavour to render some larger works
of his, shortly to be submitted to the same respectable tribunal, as
worthy as his abilities will permit of its approving judgment.

  Gloucester Street,
  Queen Square, 1804.

                                 ON THE
                      _PROGRESS OF THE FINE ARTS_.

                          (Published in 1800.)

                          BENJAMIN WEST, ESQ.

                         WHOSE TALENTS DIGNIFY,
                       AND WHOSE MANNERS ORNAMENT
                       THAT HONOURABLE AND USEFUL

                         FOLLOWING DISSERTATION

                     THE PROGRESS OF THE FINE ARTS

                             IS DEDICATED,
                             BY HIS OBLIGED
                                AND FAITHFUL HUMBLE SERVANT,

                                                    _JOHN ROBERT SCOTT_.

    28, Gloucester Street,
  Queen Square, April, 1800.

                          A DISSERTATION, &c.

The natural feelings of man, when he enters into society with his
fellow-creatures, first induce him to improve by the means thence
acquired the arts necessary to his existence and well-being: whose want
he every day felt in his separate and detached state, and for whose
melioration he has just reason to hope from the union of combined force,
and from the co-operation of confederated talents. Presst incessantly by
the demands for the sustenance of animal life, to supply them
plentifully is not only his first care, but also that of the community
with which he has associated, if it is even one degree removed from the
savage state: and hence, in this early period of growing civilization,
the tending of flocks and the tilling of fields, Pasturage and
Agriculture, are deemed not only necessary but honourable occupations;
the simplicity of untutored man ever leading him to estimate that to be
most laudable which he finds to be most useful. These being advanced to
a certain degree of excellence, which, though far inferior to what they
are obviously capable of attaining, is yet sufficient not only for the
comfortable but for the indulgent enjoyment of life, new desires arise,
new wants spring up; and their gratification is pursued with an
eagerness correspondent to the novelty of their origin, and the untried
force of their impression. The cravings of our animal nature being amply
provided for by the ingenuity of the inhabitants, by the fertility of
the soil, or by the conjoint operation of both, the imagination begins
in the luxuriance of abundance to picture to itself new sources of
delight, and spurning, not without some contempt, the mere provision for
existence, to fancy ideal pleasures, and to search out with anxious care
and laboured pains those objects which may gratify them. And man,
finding himself possessed of more than a sufficiency to supply all his
wants, is willingly inclined to impart some share of that redundance to
those who will contribute to his convenience and satisfaction; to those
who will render his comforts at all times more comfortable, who will
relieve the languors of his lassitude, and fill up the vacuities of his
leisure with amusement. As there always were some to whom labour had no
charms, other more agreeable means of acquiring support were quickly
sought out, and the inventive powers of the mind were stretched to form
those imagined pleasures whose want was felt, and whose reward was

Hence Architecture, Painting, and Statuary, (with strict propriety
denominated the fine arts) primarily arose; hence they derived their
most assiduous cultivation, and hence the utmost perfection to which
they have yet attained. Unsatisfied with the hut that merely protected
from the inclemencies of the elements, and, in the moments of repose,
from the unwarned attacks of the savages of the forest, man soon sought
out for more permanent, more pleasing habitations: to which experience
first joined increased conveniences, and then his inventive faculties,
sometimes aided by fortunate chance, sometimes led on by correct fancy,
added those ornaments that have stood the test of ages, and fixed those
proportions that have uniformly approved themselves to all the judicious
through the revolving course of various centuries. The ingenuity of love
taught the fair nymph to portray the shadow of that favoured youth whose
merits had won her heart, that even in his absence she might feast her
mind with beholding some similitude of his form: and hence the
imagination, impregnated by the nascent thought, conceived those
possibilities of excellence in painting, and that source of intellectual
enjoyment thence arising, which Zeuxis and Parrhasius exhibited to the
admiring eyes of Greece, and which Raphael and Michael Angelo have
displayed to the enraptured contemplation of the modern world.
Poetry, it is true, early indeed enabled mankind, by the fascinating
power of its melodious sounds and its persuasive numbers, to "raise
monuments[e] more durable than brass," and to consecrate to immortality
those illustrious persons who had entitled themselves to lasting fame by
their deserts. But, even long antecedent to that period, the desire of
having some representative form of reverenced or beloved individuals had
taught men to make some likenesses of them in rude sculptures of stone
or ivory: though destitute of the advantage of colouring, yet more
impressively striking to the senses than the productions of painting,
had they then existed (which may be doubted), and, from the nature of
their materials, less liable to the injuries of the weather. These, we
acknowledge, were cold, inanimate, and destitute of all appearance of
motion; till Dædalus contrived to give expression to the countenance and
action to the limbs; on which succeeding artists improving, each
rivalling and then surpassing his predecessor, at length produced those
"works to wonder at," the exquisite, the unmatched, the divine dignity
of the Apollo Belvedere, the energy, the athletic force of the Borghese
combatant, the agonized expression of the Laocoon, and the tearful
sorrows of the Niobe.

[Footnote e: Exegi monumentum ære perennius. Horatii Carmi. Lib. iii.
Ode 30.]

The expectations formed of the enjoyments to be derived from the
masterly productions of these Arts have in no one instance been
disappointed; but, we may assert without fear of contradiction, have in
every case been greatly exceeded: for though the emanations of the arts,
with the single exception of the Apollo Belvedere, may have fallen short
of that ideal excellence which forms their standard in each duly
cultivated mind, as, in the department of literature, the great Roman
orator states to have been the case with his own admirable compositions,
they have yet confessedly arrived at a degree of beauty, a splendor of
effect, and a power of impression, hardly to be hoped, and not easily
to be conceived.

Should it then be demanded, what causes produced this transcendent
beauty, this unrivalled grace, this combination of pleasing form and
perfect utility? They will be found, not in any fortuitous concurrence
of accidents, not in any benign aspect of the planets, not in any genial
influence of the atmosphere, as has been weakly imagined and absurdly
asserted by certain self-denominated Philosophers of the continent; but
to have been the effects of much labour and much pains, of much study
and much industry, of great national encouragement, and of the peculiar
situation of that fortunate land wherein they were advanced from their
salient principle to their matured perfection.

To confine ourselves to Greece, with which and its history, by means of
its incomparable writers, we are best acquainted: the first striking
circumstance in their favour was, that in it they were not borrowed, nor
imported, nor caused by foreign imitation, but were the home-bred
produce of the country; and therefore, however cultivated and improved,
always retained the rich raciness of a native soil. Successive
generations of artists arose, each excelling the other in merit, and
each of these had a correspondent race of their countrymen ready to
admire, and prepared to applaud them. No fastidious delicacy, no
affected superiority of discernment or skill, repressed their talents,
or curbed their genius: but free scope was given to the boldest of their
flights, and, when they happened to succeed, the praise of their own age
was their sure and adequate reward. The productions of the earlier
periods would not have, indeed, pleased in the polished age of Pericles,
unless as illustrative of the progress of the arts; for then more
captivating models were every day produced, more enchanting examples
were every day exhibited to the view. But in their own age, and their
own time, being superior to all that had been seen before, they were
thought matchless performances, and so received with undisputed
plaudits the highest estimation. This connate temper of the times (if I
may use the expression) proved a most powerful incentive to the
abilities of the artists, and ensured to them, if surpassing in merit
their predecessors, honourable regard, and that fame[f] which above all
other considerations was dear to a Grecian heart. Hence labour and
pains, assiduity and exertion, were unremittingly applied to advance
their peculiar art, to smooth its asperities, to ornament its nakedness,
to improve whatever of excellent existed in it, and to aim at still
farther capabilities of excellence. Certain of the approbation of their
contemporaries, repressed by no ideas of unattainable perfection, which
were the growth of latter times and of the greatest refinement, they
daily added something to the common stock; and though that something was
in itself, perhaps, inconsiderable, it yet raised its possessor to no
common degree of celebrity. Thus the arts advanced, proceeding from
strength to strength, constantly receiving accessions of improvement,
which were favoured by many conspiring, and retarded by no unpropitious
circumstances: and, being native to the country, the abilities of the
artists in a great measure formed the taste of the age, as its fostering
admiration constituted their most flattering reward.

[Footnote f: Præter laudem nullius avaris. Horatius De Arte Poetica.]

From a situation perfectly dissimilar, though the Romans long and
sedulously cultivated the arts, yet their noblest efforts never equalled
the best works of the Grecian school; of which the sacred remnants still
remain unrivalled and unmatched. For amongst them they were not
indigenous, but introduced as it were by violence; by the power of the
conquering sword, and by the plundering of insatiable rapacity: each of
the Roman generals, however ignorant or unpolished himself, yet
pillaging vanquished Greece of the choicest works of her happier days.
Thus, indeed, exquisite models and patterns of consummate beauty were
procured for the rustic Latians,[g] on which they wrought with
assiduity, and attempted to emulate: but their redundancy was rather
oppressive than co-operative, and their very perfection tended to
prevent an encouraging esteem of the rising artists. For the judgment,
or what we call the Taste, of the public being formed not gradually, and
by progressive steps of improving art, but all at once, and (as it were)
at a bound, assumed a squeamish delicacy which nothing imperfect would
please, and which delighted more in finding faults than in discovering
beauties. And this cause, whose operation is alike powerful and general,
contributed more to keep down the Roman arts, and to prevent them from
equalling the Greek, than any inferiority of talents, or than any want
of continued application and culture.

[Footnote g:

  - - - - - - artes
  Intulit agresti Latio.                Horatii Epis. Lib. ii. Ep. 1.]

The case has been the same in the modern world, and it will be found
universally true, that where the arts have arisen from natural, or
nearly natural causes, and have thence proceeded by gradual advances to
higher degrees of perfection, the judgment or taste of the nation
similarly meliorating with their improvement, they have attained, and
will attain, the utmost excellence which the abilities of the artists
can give them: but when brought forward among a people by extraneous
circumstances, such as the force of conquests, the commanding influence
of supreme power, or the efforts of affected imitation, though they may
bloom and flourish for a season, that they never will arrive at that
richness of maturity they have been seen to possess elsewhere, nor will
enjoy that vigour of growth which native juices infuse; but, like
hothouse plants, though fairly seeming, are yet vapid to the sense, and
when bereft of their borrowed heat, quickly sink, rot, and die.

The progress of the arts in the ancient world, with the astonishing
excellence to which they were carried, was also much aided by the
manners and customs there prevailing, and in constant and daily
practice. To games and vigorous exercises the ancients were remarkably
addicted, regarding them both as liberal amusements and as a preparatory
discipline for the active occupations of war, in which each freeman of
the state knew himself obliged to engage at a certain period of his
life, and which he could not avoid without being damned to never-ceasing
infamy. Now all these were performed _naked_, as well on account of the
warmth of the atmosphere as to preclude all unequal advantages, and to
habituate the mind fearlessly to expose the person to the assaults of
incumbent danger. Hence the human figure was hourly exhibited to the
inspecting view of the attentive beholder, whether sculptor or painter,
in all its various forms of grace and elegance, of strength and force,
or of agony and torture: and these not the assumed appearances of
fictitious feeling, but the vivid effects of actual endurance, and
glowing from the mint of present impression. These were not to be sought
in Schools and Academies, they were not the lifeless colourings of
mercenary hirelings, but the energies of men emulous of fame, and
conscious that their characters with their countrymen would be
materially influenced by their performances in these favourite contests.
Contests which as amusements were the delight of all, which as exercises
were the duty of multitudes; which hoary age beheld with rapture, as
recalling the remembrance of the days of their prime, and which
unfledged youth gazed on with transport, as picturing those deeds
whereby they panted soon to be distinguished. Thus nothing but the most
careless inattention could avoid noting the distinctive marks of the
various passions and affections, which nature writes in very legible
characters: and as all from repeated observation were equally well
acquainted with them, in their representation by the artist nothing
short of the most exact and accurate likeness could hope for tolerance,
much less for approbation.

Their scientific knowledge of anatomy, as applicable and subservient to
medical purposes, was perhaps inferior to ours, for they appear not to
have enjoyed the advantage in their principal cities of such men as the
Hunters[h] and Cleghorn:[i] but that inferiority proved not injurious to
the artist, who chiefly engaged in imitating the prominent features of
the human frame when thrown into action, amply compensated for his
ignorance of the theory of muscular motion, of the nervous system, and
of osteology, by the effects of observation incessantly repeated on the
most striking objects, and, it may be, the more impressive from coming
unsought and uninculcated. In fact they could scarcely avoid making this
observation: it was presst on them from every quarter; it was urged on
them by every incident. If they attended their morning exercises, it was
excited there; if they resorted to their evening amusements, it was
roused there also. In the retirement of the country it was not allowed
to sleep; in the bustle of the city it was awakened to all its vivacity.
From private enjoyment, from public security; from the recreations of
peace, from the toils of war; from the vacuities of idleness, and from
the labours of industry it alike received nurture, support, and aliment.
Thus reiteratedly enforced, its effects became, like those of a second
nature, interwoven with the habitudes of the mind, and called forth into
action, when the occasion required, with readiness and facility, without
effort and without premeditation. Hence the wonders that we are told of
the astonishing power of their paintings, limited as we know they were
in the number of their colours; of which though we are deprived of the
sight by the lapse of time, yet are they rendered credible, nay, fully
verified, to us by the matchless remains of their statues; whose
transcendent merit we have ocular demonstration that neither prejudice
had praised nor ignorance had extolled beyond their real deserts.
Hence the truth of nature in the Laocoon, where the expression of
suffering is not confined to the agitated visage, but is as forcibly
marked in the agonized foot as in the distorted countenance. Hence every
muscle moves, every sinew is stretched, every atom of the figure
conspires to the general effect in the Borghese combatant:[k] and hence
each particular part of the Farnesian Hercules represents, as forcibly
as the entire statue, that character of superior manly strength and
resistless might, which ancient tales have taught us to connect with the
idea of the person of that fabled hero.

[Footnote h: Dr. William Hunter and Mr. John Hunter, the late celebrated
anatomists of London.]

[Footnote i: Dr. George Cleghorn, the late excellent and deservedly
famous Professor of Anatomy in the university of Dublin: a man of whom
it can be truly said that the excellent qualities of his heart were as
estimable as his superior professional talents were conspicuous.]

[Footnote k: This statue, which forms one of the most valuable
possessions in the superb Borghese collection, is commonly called _the
fighting Gladiator_; but, we apprehend, very erroneously: as the whole
of that admirable figure bespeaks a character greatly superior to that
of those degraded and despised beings, whose mercenary services
contributed to the amusements of the Roman amphitheatre.]

It cannot be inferred from what has been here said that there is
intended any unqualified approbation of the custom of appearing naked;
which so generally prevailed among the ancients, and more especially
among the Greeks. Surely no: for its indecency is obvious; it smoothed
the path to many immoralities, and doubtless tended in no slight degree
to inflame, if not kindle, some notorious vices to which they were
eminently addicted. But it has been merely considered with respect to
its subserviency to promote the arts of painting and sculpture: and its
powerful and salutary influence on them seems so apparent as to be
nearly incontestible. It co-operated with other causes, yet to be
mentioned, to give them that superlative excellence which, through a
long succession of centuries, has excited uniform admiration; and which
yet, superlative as it was, fell short of the ideas of it entertained
and cherished by the artists.

The peculiar situation of Greece, from the first beginnings of the arts
to their most flourishing period, contributed also materially to their
improvement and perfection. In its utmost extent not a country of large
dimensions, it was yet divided and subdivided into a number of
independent states; each eager for distinction, each emulous of fame,
each jealous of all superiority in their neighbours. Never for any
length of time subject to the dominion of masters, till the overwhelming
influence of the Macedonian sunk them all into common slavery, their
constitutions were free, or what they regarded as free: in which each
citizen felt himself equally interested with any other to extend the
reputation, to exalt the glory, and to enlarge the consequence of the
state. And when the pre-eminence of power had assigned to Sparta, and
afterwards to Athens, that preponderance of authority and weight of
consequence necessary to a leading state, first among its equals; still,
from national spirit and from deep-rooted habits, an emulation every
where prevailed of rivalling in the first rank of reputation each of
their neighbours, although they had conceded to one of them the dignity
of command. With the single exception of Sparta, where the stern
discipline of Lycurgus effectually prevented their progress, as after
the arts had began to arise their cultivation was diffused and eagerly
pursued throughout all Greece; the praise of excellence in them early
became and long continued an object of the first importance with all its
various states. They regarded them not only as a means of internal
ornament, in which yet they much prided themselves, but also of external
character; a means which might raise to higher fame than the most
celebrated their favoured district, however inferior to them in
political power. Hence the possession of an artist of distinguished
abilities and superior talents was considered as a national concern: and
the esteem wherein he was held, the popularity he acquired, and the
dignified stations to which with fair prospects of success he might
aspire, were answerable to the consequence which his genius was thought
to confer on his native land.

As this sentiment was universal, animating the minds and guiding the
conduct of all the different states, its influence on the improvement of
the arts, and on the exertions of their professors, was powerful in the
extreme. They were not deemed the lucrative trades of mechanical men,
by which some fame and much money might be procured; but the ennobling
occupations of the best-deserving citizens, anxiously labouring to exalt
the reputation of their country, and to raise her to a more envied
eminence among the surrounding and rival republics. And the citizens
thus employed were conscious, in addition to the common motives of
rivalry generally prevalent at all times among men of spirit engaged in
the same pursuits, that not only their individual character, but the
fame of their nation, was implicated in their labours; and fired by the
warm energy of that recollection, they wrought with a glowing heat, with
an ardour of enthusiasm that, in repeated instances, burst forth in the
brightest blaze of excellence. For their exertions in their particular
arts were not thought, either by themselves or by the public, the mere
efforts of competition of sculptors, painters, or architects, with their
fellow artists; but trials of merit between adjacent communities, each
vain of their present character, each aiming at higher distinction,
each hoping for the pre-eminence: to which trials the eminent artists
stept forwards the champions of a people, not the combatants in a
private contest.

Hence with unremitting zeal beauty and grace, strength and spirit, truth
and nature, were investigated through all their different forms, were
examined with minute attention, were applied with scrupulous accuracy.
It little weighed with the professor what his own countrymen, however
polished, judged of his work, what impression it made on them, or what
plaudits of theirs it called forth: but how it would be received at the
Olympic or Isthmian games, at the general assembly of all Greece; where
each skilful eye and each intelligent mind would be employed in
scrutinizing it without favour or affection, and would compare it as
well with the best productions of similar art then known as with the
elaborate essays of contemporary artists. Thus whatever of genius, or
talents, or skill, or judgment, or industry, each man possessed, was
called forth into action by motives the most operative on the human
mind, whose power is known and confessed: and the consequence was the
rapid and unequalled improvement of the Arts. Improvement which still
astonishes, and which we are sometimes inclined to imagine the effort of
a superior race of beings to those with whom we converse: but which
arose from causes strong and cogent indeed, but natural, and without
difficulty discoverable.

Something not unlike this happened at the revival of the arts in Europe,
and contributed materially to their advancement. For Italy, which was
their cradle, was then broken into a number of independent states,
mostly free, and rivalling each other in every praise of prowess and
policy. Hence, when the revival of the arts furnished a new source of
fame, it was pursued with avidity; and the various schools formed in its
different cities vied with each other for superiority, and by their
laudable rivalry promoted the progress of the arts with extraordinary
celerity. And though, perhaps, these schools, which soon became
distinguished by peculiar merits, may not finally have contributed to
the perfection of the arts, as leading their respective students rather
to pursue the attainment of that one distinct merit than to aim at the
acquisition of universal excellence; yet, at the close of the fifteenth
and in the sixteenth century, by their praiseworthy emulation and
vigorous exertions, they were singularly useful, and essentially tended
to the rapid improvement of the reviving arts. Their fame added much to
the splendor and reputation of the cities wherein they were settled, and
that circumstance proved a very perceptible incentive to invigorate
their talents and to animate their exertions; and so produced, though in
an inferior degree, not a little of that spirited labour, of that
enthusiastic devotion to their profession, which had aided so
considerably the progress of the arts in Greece. We say _in an inferior
degree_; because the Italian cities, though sensible of their worth, and
persuaded of their public utility, never bestowed on individual
professors such extraordinary marks of attention and reverence as the
Grecian states were in the habit of lavishing on their more illustrious
artists; and, consequently, the cause being lessened, the effect must
have been proportionably diminished. In truth this species of rivalry,
in which states or nations, however small, feel themselves interested,
has ever proved one of the strongest stimulatives that could be applied
to abilities; as it combines the patriotic affections of the worthy
citizen with the natural ambition of the artist, and alike operates on
some of the most powerful public and private springs of action.

But the labour and pains, the study and industry early employed and long
continued, in the cultivation of the arts, naturally and necessarily
advanced their progress in a striking manner: raising them to such a
height of perfection as we weakly think unattainable, because we will
not use the adequate means of endeavouring to attain it. Labour is to
man, from his constitution and his frame, the real price of every truly
valuable acquisition; which, though indolence spurns and idleness
rejects, always brings its own reward with it, whether we are ultimately
successful or not, in the consciousness of having acted a manly part,
and in the vigour of mind and health of body which it, and it alone,
invariably confers. Some fortuitous instances may be mentioned of those
who have possessed both without its aid; of those who, nursed on the lap
of indolence, and folded in the arms of idleness, have enjoyed that
first of human blessings, a sound mind in a sound body: but they are
instances to astonish, not examples to incite. This is even more
strictly and peculiarly true as it regards the arts, than it is in
several other cases. For the great merit of painting and sculpture
consisting in their exact and captivating copies of nature, and of
architecture in its combination of beauty with grandeur, of convenience
with magnificence, it is obvious that these qualities are never the
casual effects of chance and accident, of lucky hits and fortunate
events; but the steady results of pains and care, of study and

Of this truth the professors of the arts in Greece were quickly and
fully convinced; and applied that conviction to its only proper purpose,
to an unremitting labour on their own appropriate pursuit: a labour
which, paramount over each other object, neither pleasure prevented, nor
politics precluded, nor the calls of animal life hindered. To excel in
their art, to surpass their predecessors, to outstrip their
competitors, to be the conspicuous subject of Grecian admiration, were
the objects of their daily thoughts and of their nightly dreams: objects
which scarce for a moment retired from their view, or, if for a moment
retiring, it was only that they might recur again with renovated force.
The[l] _multa dies et multa litura_ which the Roman poet ascribes to the
Grecian writers, and to which he truly attributes their superior merit,
were still more eminently true of their artists; who applied to the
completion of their various works a severity of study and a perseverance
of labour that to us, habituated to very different manners indeed, seem
surprizing; but of which the authenticated accounts cannot be disputed.
As exalted character, not the mere making of money, was the aim to which
their thoughts were directed, it was pursued with that eagerness which
honest ambition ever creates: and though, incidentally, fortune
frequently followed their fame, as it came unsought for, none of its
degrading motives swayed their conduct.

[Footnote l: Horatius.]

It was not the idea of the[m] hundred talents which he received, great
as that sum was (for not one _drachma_ of it would he have received had
not his work been approved), that inspirited the genius of Phidias when
he was sculpturing the Olympian Jupiter; but the reflection that by his
skill the rude block was to be transformed into the representative
likeness of the father of gods and men, to be the admiration and
adoration of his enraptured countrymen: and hence profound study,
exquisite pains, and incessant labour, were employed to produce that
statue, which thence became afterwards the wonder of the world. Under
the impulse of such impressions must the Apollo Belvedere have come from
the hands of its unequalled sculptor: for though we know not the history
of that incomparable statue, yet its expression of dignity more than
human, its unforced graceful ease which nature can but faintly copy, its
perfect symmetry, and union of complete beauty with full bodily
strength, tell more than a thousand witnesses the pains, the study, and
the labour that must have been unremittingly exerted to produce it.

[Footnote m: 19,375 l.]

It would argue a silly prejudice, not a due sense of the merits of the
ancients, to attempt to insinuate that this labour and study, to which
we are inclined to attribute so much, was universal. No; for in Greece
then, as with ourselves now, there were among the artists (what in the
modern phrase we call) _fine gentlemen_: persons of too sublime a genius
to condescend to study, and of too delicate a frame to submit to labour.
The character of the species has been preserved, though the names of its
individuals have long, long since been forgotten. But they never
promoted the progress, never advanced the improvement of any art: but,
like their _amiable_ successors, followed a trade for support, and did
not cultivate a profession with dignity. But the persons of whom we
speak, as distinguished by these qualities, were those worthy citizens
who addicted themselves to no art without adorning and improving it;
whose names ennobled the age in which they lived; who then were never
mentioned without reverence, nor yet, at this far distant period, are
ever thought on without respect. By their studies and their labours,
vigorously and undeviatingly exerted, was the progress of the arts
promoted, their improvement accelerated, and their near approximation
to perfection effected: they thus experimentally proving the energetic
power of these valuable qualities, and leaving examples to fire the
emulation of the spirited and the active in each future age.

In addition to the circumstances already mentioned, whose power and
efficiency on the progress of the arts we have endeavoured to point out,
there must be called to mind the great national encouragement which they
received in Greece, and the extraordinary influence which it must have
had on the warm imaginations of its gay and high-spirited inhabitants.
The desire of distinction and honour is a principle interwoven in the
constitution of our nature; and though, like most others we possess, it
is liable to perversion, is in itself not only blameless but laudable;
inciting the best exertions of talents where they are, and often
supplying their place where it finds them not. There are no countries,
however adverse the regent of the day may have yoked his horses from
them, where its operation is not more or less felt: and in exact
proportion to the civilization and mental improvement of each country,
its ascendency has ever been found to be high, its dominion to be great.
This is strictly true even with regard to the estimation of private
individuals: but the applause of a whole people has invariably been
deemed the most just meed of the most exceeding merit, ever since
nations have assumed a fixed and stable form. Now this applause formed
an important part of the great national rewards by which Greece fostered
the arts; and it was a part that peculiarly came home both to the
business and bosoms of each worthy citizen, and caused every pulse of a
Grecian heart to vibrate to its impression. Their characteristic
fondness of fame is known and acknowledged; but this applause, though by
them in itself extravagantly valued, was not a mere empty, flattering
sound: for, from the constitutions prevailing in nearly every state of
Greece, it was the sure conductor to domestic dignity, to political
power, and to commanding sway in the public deliberations. The first
offices of the state, and the prime trusts of the government, were open
to that distinguished artist whose admired performances had secured the
universal suffrage. They were often without seeking offered by popular
gratitude to his acceptance; nay, sometimes with honest violence forced
on his unwilling reception. Thus the principles of interest, ambition,
popularity, confessedly some of the most powerful that guide the conduct
of mankind, were called forth in aid of that natural bent or disposition
which had induced the man to cultivate any particular art: and the
consequence was such as might be expected from the efficiency of such
operative motives, surpassing merit and supreme excellence.

Another species of national encouragement, nearly connected with this,
was the certainty which the eminent artist enjoyed that, whenever the
occasion offered, his talents would be employed to erect, or to decorate
with the labours of his pencil or his chissel, the temples, the
theatres, the porticoes, the places of public assembling of the cities
of Greece; where his works, contributing amply to his fortune from their
munificent reward, would contribute more to his fame when exposed to the
scrutinizing view of that intelligent people. He had no cause to fear
that his abilities would be overlooked or buried in obscurity by
prepossession, partiality, or prejudice: he had no apprehensions to
dread from the effects of interested relationship, of commanding
influence, of narrow local attachment, or of proud and presuming
ignorance. If his merit was acknowledged his employment was sure; and he
was even courted by the general voice to exert his talents for the
public credit, not depressed in their exertion by mean and base
affections. He was not obliged to solicit for employment with
humiliating applications, and, when employed, to labour under the
multiplied disadvantages of deficient or stinted means, of complying
with vitiated judgments, of submitting to the senseless whims of folly
and caprice. Full scope was given to the fertility of his imagination,
to the extent of his genius, to the vigour of his fancy: whilst all the
powers of his mind and all the vigour of his body, all the ingenuity of
his head and all the dexterity of his hands, were impelled to their best
performances by the consciousness that all deficiencies would be
imputable solely to himself, the public being free from the slightest
suspicion of having either curbed or confined his abilities. As no
elevation of genius made him giddy, hence grace and beauty, strength and
vigour, expression and passion, respectively marked his performances;
and his fame became connected with the edifices, the statues, the
paintings, that ornamented the country, which struck every eye, and
which none beheld without recollecting with respect the able artist
whose workmanship had produced them.

The effect of this kind of encouragement on the arts was great, is
manifest, and need be but slightly mentioned: yet, perhaps, may appear
the more striking from contrasting it with some practices of more modern
times. In them the first city in the world has disgraced itself with
all who have eyesight, by employing to erect its most expensive
building[n] an architect _because the man was a citizen_: and, in more
countries of Europe than one, statues and paintings are exhibited as
commemorative of illustrious public deeds, where contorsion and
extravagance, where flutter and glare, form the predominant characters;
but they dishonour those countries, on account of the artists engaged to
execute them being employed because they were the favourites of despots,
the flatterers of titled harlots, or the relations of directors; whilst
men of the first talents and merit in their profession were pining in
indigence and obscurity, unnoticed and unfriended. The consequences of
this latter conduct none will say that we have reason to boast of from
the superlative excellence of modern art; but what has been felt from it
may readily induce us to believe how essentially its direct opposite
must have promoted the progress of the arts in Greece.

[Footnote n: The Mansion House of London.]

The vast sums expended by the Grecian states on their public monuments
and their public works (vast, indeed, when the comparative value of
money then and now is considered), tended much to assist the progress of
the arts, and to aid their high improvement. For, though we have
unquestionable reason to believe that the sordid motive of private
profit was not the first principle in the minds of those great artists
who have immortalized their names by their works, yet without a certain
liberality of expence their ideas could not have been realized, their
works could not have been executed; and that liberality they found
limited commonly by nothing but the public means, and often not even by
them. We know from the gravest and clearest authorities with what lavish
expenditure scenic representations were exhibited at Athens, with what
unbounded magnificence her temples, her tribunals, her porticoes were
decorated: we equally well know the splendor of Corinth, a near
neighbouring city; the incalculable price of its paintings, the
inestimable value of its statues, and that from the coalesced mass of
its molten metals there arose, at its destruction, a compound more
highly prized by the Romans than gold. The other principal cities were
alike studious of embellishment, alike emulous of ornament, and in
various proportions enjoyed them according to the circumstances of time
and situation: but Delphi and Olympia, the grand seats of the national
religion and the national games, concentered in themselves each choicest
production of genius, each happiest effort of art, each transcendent
display of excellence; amassed with a judgment that delighted, with a
profusion that surprized, and with an expence that astonished.

This generous spirit in carrying on and completing public works which,
though it may sometimes be pushed to an excess (as, perhaps, was the
case in Greece), is so truly honourable to any people, had, and
obviously must have had, the most decided influence in advancing and
improving the arts, and in giving them that degree of perfection which
has never yet been exceeded, nor even equalled. It excited exertion, by
the security that its efforts would not be suffered to remain
undisplayed, but would be invited to add loveliness to the beautiful,
and splendor to the magnificent; it roused the full force of emulation,
by the certainty that superior merit would receive superior rewards, and
neither be permitted to languish in privacy nor to pine in poverty; and
it invigorated the boldest flights of genius, by the firm assurance that
there was a prevalent spirit ready to countenance, prepared to adopt,
and anxious to encourage them. It would be no small absurdity to affirm
that fortune, as well as fame, had not attractions for a Grecian artist;
for it must ever be absurd to affirm generally the absence of the
operation of general principles: and therefore the great pecuniary
recompences which their talents procured had, doubtless, a proportionate
influence on all their labours to improve their art; though, it may be,
less in that region than in many other countries. And from the combined
efficacy of these several kinds of national encouragement, which, like
different branches of the same tree, spring all from the same root, the
progress of the arts was furthered so essentially, was advanced so
highly, as we have heard of with wonder, and have seen with amazement.

So complex having been the causes, so slow and progressively gradual the
progress of the Fine Arts, highly grateful must it be to every truly
British breast to consider the rapid advances they have made in this
favoured Isle within the last fifty years: advances certainly unmatched
in their former history, as in that period they have arisen from the
utmost imbecility of infantine weakness (indeed almost from
_non-entity_) to a vigorous maturity that leaves far behind them the
emasculate efforts and puny productions of all other contemporary
European nations. The causes of this unequalled improvement have
notoriously been the countenance and fostering protection of his present
Majesty, an admirer and intelligent judge of their merit, and the
ardent spirit of emulation excited among the artists themselves by such
exalted and distinguishing notice. These co-operating have produced an
exertion of talents, a display of abilities, and emanations of genius
that always wore in existence, but which required concurring
circumstances to bring them into full action, and to cause them to
expand their latent energies. And had the general patronage been
correspondent to these fortunate incidents, had not the fashionable
jargon of presumptuous, self-created, arbiters of taste, affecting to
despise National art, vitiated the public mind, or rather strengthened
an ancient prejudice there floating, it is not easy to conceive how much
greater still would have been their progress. It is at least certain
that our ingenious young artists would have been amply encouraged to
exert themselves, and not suffered, after the most promising exhibitions
of dawning talents, to pine in indigence and wretchedness, to sink into
obscurity and oblivion, or (like the illfated, but most meritorious
Proctor[o]) to hasten, in the very opening of life, the termination of
mortal existence from the excruciating pressure of continued penury and

[Footnote o: The fate of this ingenious youth deserves to be distinctly
recorded. Born of humble parentage in one of the more distant counties,
he had early manifested an admiration of the Arts, and, being admitted a
student of the Royal Academy, eminently distinguished himself there by
his abilities and his industry. Applying peculiarly to Sculpture, soon
after the termination of his studies in the Academy he exhibited, at its
annual Exhibition in Somerset-place, two models of unrivalled
excellence, which might, without fear of deterioration, have been placed
in competition with the happiest productions of the best days of Grecian
art, and which at the time met with their well-earned applause. But,
alas! applause was his only reward: no wealthy patron took him by the
hand, no affluent lover of the Arts enquired into, or assisted, his
circumstances; and his means being very confined, misery was his
portion. He had however the soul of an Artist, and for a length of time
bore up with manly fortitude against his distresses. The present worthy
President of the Royal Academy, suspecting his situation, with the aid
of the Council obtained for him from the Academy an annuity of 100l. a
year, to enable him to go to Italy, and improve himself there: but the
unhappy youth had unavoidably contracted some trifling debts, which he
was utterly unable to discharge, and his mind was too delicately alive
to every finer feeling to bear the thought of leaving this country
without paying them. This circumstance, preying on his agitated spirits,
and on a frame emaciated by the severest distress, caused his speedy
dissolution, to the irreparable injury of the Arts. After his death it
was discovered that, for the last two years of his life, he had resided
in a miserable cock-loft in the worst house in Clare market, which he
had rented for a shilling a week; and that his daily sustenance for that
time had been _only two dry biscuits with a draft of water from the
market pump_.]

Thus having attempted to investigate the progress of the arts, and to
what was owing that supreme excellence which they formerly attained, we
seem to have reasonable grounds to conclude that it flowed from such
natural and moral causes as, at all times and in all cases, are known
powerfully to affect the feelings and to actuate the conduct of man. No
whimsical refinements, no marvellous mysteries, no imaginary and
fantastic theories have been had recourse to: but lighted on our way by
the irradiating torch of authentic history, and unseduced by the false
glare of lying legends, we have not dared so much to affirm what, in
certain situations, our fellow-creatures MUST do, as to detail with some
care what in fact they DID do. If what we have here advanced has not
the attraction of novelty to allure, it is hoped that it is not
deficient in the recommendation of truth to convince. It has not been
thought necessary formally to refute the sentiments of those profound
Philosophers, who have sagaciously discovered the causes of the
inferiority of the arts in some countries and of their superiority in
others, and consequently the perfection to which they arrived in Greece,
in the power of the solar beams in certain latitudes, in the influences
of the atmosphere, and in those of terrestrial and celestial vapours:
for if the causes here assigned appear fully adequate to the end
produced, as we conceive they do, it must be idle to shew the inutility
of others, gratuitously brought forth from the inexhaustible storehouse
of fancy, and supported by any thing rather than solid reasoning. It
must be allowed that they very roundly assert, but as fallaciously
argue, whenever they deign to argue on this subject: for mere
assertions, positive, pompous, presuming, but assertions still, are the
commonest weapons of their warfare. And, possibly, it would neither be
reputable to contest the specious subtilty of the sophisms of even such
sages, nor honourable to conquer the powerless imbecility of their

It is but fair to avow that this enquiry into the progress of the arts
has not been entered on for the sole purpose of ascertaining, as far as
we were able, the causes of the surpassing excellence to which they were
carried in Greece, without at the same time intimating, with due
deference to superior judgments and to superior authority, the efficacy
of the same causes, at all times and in all countries, in improving and
exalting them. As human nature is the same at all periods, though
diversified in its exterior shew by the various customs, modes, and
manners, that variously prevail, it cannot be seriously doubted but that
those principles, which have been found by experience in one country to
powerfully sway its conduct, and to incite its efforts in the Arts to
their noblest productions, would be equally efficient and equally
successful elsewhere, were they fairly applied, and as vigorously
exerted. We have no satisfactory reason for believing that either the
mental or corporeal powers of man have degenerated in the succession of
ages: and we well know that, by the benefits of experience and
invention, considerable aids have been added to both, to methodize their
motions and to facilitate their operations. Our profounder and
better-studied knowledge of Metaphysics, our improved skill in Natural
Philosophy and Mechanics, and our more accurate acquaintance with the
principles of colours, with their combinations and their shades, all
confessedly tend to these points. Should then the same liberal public
encouragement be displayed, by those possessed of the power of
displaying it, as dignified the best days of Greece; should the same
labour, the same pains, the same study, the same industry, be used by
modern artists as distinguished their truly illustrious predecessors; we
might not vainly hope to see the arts carried to still greater
perfection than they have ever yet attained; we might expect to behold
their deficiencies supplied, their utilities increased, their energies
enlarged, and their beauties augmented.

On national encouragement it becomes not the mediocrity of our talents
and station to presume to decide; yet, possibly, it will not be judged
too vauntingly confident to say that it should in all cases be spirited,
generous, impartial, and should not be subjected to the caprices of
power, to the varying humours of the transient depositaries of the
public confidence, nor to the inconstant and ever-mutable gusts of
popular phrenzy. What effect such encouragement would have on the
artists themselves can, indeed, be only conjectured; for such
encouragement has never yet been exhibited in the modern world: but that
conjecture is neither vague nor random, as it is guided by permanent
principles, and directed by the known influence of steady affections on
the human heart. It may be affirmed then, with some assurance, that it
would inspirit their labours, that it would multiply their pains, that
it would invigorate their studies, that it would augment their industry:
for such were heretofore its experienced consequences in similar cases,
and therefore they are reasonably to be expected again. They would not
waste their youth in the riot of lawless pleasure, and so treasure up
sickness and sorrow for the days of their prime: they would not spend
their hours in the ceaseless pursuit of the intoxicating amusements of
some great capital: they would not lay out their whole attention on the
low and subordinate, but gainful, branches of their _trade_, in contempt
of the superior features of their ART, and of its possible improvement:
but concentring all their powers, all their abilities, all their
faculties, in the advancement of their peculiar pursuit, would rapidly
raise themselves from the drudgery of mechanical workmanship to the
proud elevation of professional exertion. Thus the arts, advanced by so
conspicuous a change of manners in their cultivators, and by an
encouragement differing so widely from the paltry private patronage
pretending to that name, would attain that state of perfection to which
their admirers fondly wish to see them carried; but which they must wish
in vain till something like the changes here etched out shall have taken
place. And that what depends on the artists has not been too sanguinely
supposed, nor too strongly pictured, will surely not be asserted: for it
has only been supposed that they are men of common sense and natural
feelings; that they are not insensible to the allurements of each
dignified distinction in life; that they have hearts that can be warmed
and minds that can be roused.

That much higher ideas might justly be formed of some artists we can
positively affirm from personal knowledge; as we know some who have
really the souls of Artists; who, even in present circumstances, instead
of grovelling all their lives in mean and sordid occupations,
adventurously dare to soar into the immense void of possible
excellence; and whose characters it would be highly grateful to portray,
were not the desire restrained by the consciousness of inability to do
justice to their merits. Such men, indeed, by the vigour of their
genius, counteract the disadvantages to which they may be exposed, and,
bursting the barriers of opposing obstacles with spirit all their own,
impart to the arts whatever of addition or improvement they receive;
elucidating their obscurities, polishing their asperities, and lopping
their luxuriancies: and their number might be increased to any given
amount. But until that halcyon period shall arrive, if it ever shall
arrive, when the arts shall be considered as real national objects, and
receive _real_ national encouragement (without which, it must be
confessed, all extraordinary progress in them is not _generally_ to be
expected), their beauty, their grace, their grandeur, depend on these
men alone. And conscious of the high ground whereon they stand, as the
champions of truth and nature against fashion and futility, and caprice
and extravagance, and of the possible benefits resulting from their
labours in giving passion to the mute canvas, expression to the
inanimate block, and magnificence to utility in each public edifice;
they will not suffer themselves to be discouraged by temporary neglect,
nor to be disheartened by temporary preferences of the incapable and
undeserving. They will strengthen their minds to encounter the provoking
criticisms of pert and petulant presumption; they will scorn the
contempts of self-conceited and ignorant folly, however highly seated;
and they will meet with firm dignity the misjudging decisions of
purse-proud affluence. And conscious worth shall crown them with a
wreath of honour, greener than ever bloomed on the brow of an Olympic
conqueror; their own hearts shall applaud them; their works shall form a
lasting monument to the immortality of their names; and their fame shall
float down the current of future ages with daily increasing strength,
with daily augmented splendor.

The final result then of our enquiry on this amusing and interesting
subject is, that we have the best grounds for concluding the progress of
the arts originally, and the great perfection to which they were carried
in Greece, to have arisen from natural and moral causes of confessed
efficacy, and not from any casual circumstances, extraneous to and
independent of man: and we deem it reasonable to think that the same
causes, operating as uncontroledly any where else within the extent of
the temperate climates, would most probably again produce the same
effects. Far from indulging any licence of imagination, or from giving
wing to its flights, it has been endeavoured rather carefully to detail
facts than wantonly to invent systems. Of the evidence, which to us has
appeared convincing, the public will judge: of the rectitude of our
intention in producing it we are sure, for it is only to incite public
reward, to encourage study, and labour, and industry.

    William Andrews Clark Memorial Library: University of California
                      THE AUGUSTAN REPRINT SOCIETY

                           _General Editors_

    R. C. BOYS
      University of Michigan

      University of California, Los Angeles

      University of California, Los Angeles

      Wm. Andrews Clark Memorial Library

            _Corresponding Secretary_: Mrs. EDNA C. DAVIS,
                   Wm. Andrews Clark Memorial Library

The Society exists to make available inexpensive reprints (usually
facsimile reproductions) of rare seventeenth and eighteenth century
works. The editorial policy of the Society remains unchanged. As in the
past, the editors welcome suggestions concerning publications. All
income of the Society is devoted to defraying cost of publication and

All correspondence concerning subscriptions in the United States and
Canada should be addressed to the William Andrews Clark Memorial
Library, 2205 West Adams Boulevard, Los Angeles 18, California.
Correspondence concerning editorial matters may be addressed to any of
the general editors. The membership fee is $3.00 a year for subscribers
in the United States and Canada and 15/- for subscribers in Great
Britain and Europe. British and European subscribers should address B.
H. Blackwell, Broad Street, Oxford, England.

                   *       *       *       *       *

              Publications for the eighth year [1953-1954]
   (At least six items, most of them from the following list, will be

     JOHN BAILLIE: _An Essay on the Sublime_ (1747). Introduction by
     Samuel H. Monk.

     Contemporaries of the _Tatler_ and _Spectator_. Introduction by
     Richmond P. Bond.

     _John Dart and George Ogle on Chaucer._ Introduction by William L.

     JOHN T. DESAGULIERS: _The Newtonian System of the World the Best
     Model of Government_ (1728). Introduction by Marjorie H. Nicolson.

     _Sale Catalogue of Mrs. Piozzi's Effects_ (1816). Introduction by
     John Butt.

     M. C. SARBIEWSKI: _The Odes of Casimire_ (1646). Introduction by
     Maren-Sofie Roestvig.

     _Selections from Seventeenth-Century Songs._ Introduction by
     Jennifer W. Angel.

     _A Sermon Preached at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul_ (1745).
     [Probably by Samuel Johnson]. Introduction by James L. Clifford.

Publications for the first seven years (with the exception of Nos. 1-6,
which are out of print) are available at the rate of $3.00 a year.
Prices for individual numbers may be obtained by writing to the Society.

                   *       *       *       *       *

                      THE AUGUSTAN REPRINT SOCIETY

                  Make check or money order payable to


FIRST YEAR (1946-1947)

     Numbers 1-6 out of print.

SECOND YEAR (1947-1948)

     7. John Gay's _The Present State of Wit_ (1711); and a section on
     Wit from _The English Theophrastus_ (1702).

     8. Rapin's _De Carmine Pastorali_, translated by Creech (1684).

     9. T. Hanmer's (?) _Some Remarks on the Tragedy of Hamlet_ (1736).

     10. Corbyn Morris' _Essay towards Fixing the True Standards of Wit,
     etc._ (1744).

     11. Thomas Purney's _Discourse on the Pastoral_ (1717).

     12. Essays on the Stage, selected, with an Introduction by Joseph
     Wood Krutch.

THIRD YEAR (1948-1949)

     13. Sir John Falstaff (pseud.), _The Theatre_ (1720).

     14. Edward Moore's _The Gamester_ (1753).

     15. John Oldmixon's _Reflections on Dr. Swift's Letter to Harley_
     (1712); and Arthur Mainwaring's _The British Academy_ (1712).

     16. Nevil Payne's _Fatal Jealousy_ (1673).

     17. Nicholas Rowe's _Some Account of the Life of Mr. William
     Shakespeare_ (1709).

     18. "Of Genius," in _The Occasional Paper_, Vol. III, No. 10
     (1719); and Aaron Hill's Preface to _The Creation_ (1720).

FOURTH YEAR (1949-1950)

     19. Susanna Centlivre's _The Busie Body_ (1709).

     20. Lewis Theobold's _Preface to The Works of Shakespeare_ (1734).

     21. _Critical Remarks on Sir Charles Grandison, Clarissa, and
     Pamela_ (1754).

     22. Samuel Johnson's _The Vanity of Human Wishes_ (1749) and Two
     _Rambler_ papers (1750).

     23. John Dryden's _His Majesties Declaration Defended_ (1681).

     24. Pierre Nicole's _An Essay on True and Apparent Beauty in Which
     from Settled Principles is Rendered the Grounds for Choosing and
     Rejecting Epigrams_, translated by J. V. Cunningham.

FIFTH YEAR (1950-1951)

     25. Thomas Baker's _The Fine Lady's Airs_ (1709).

     26. Charles Macklin's _The Man of the World_ (1792).

     27. Frances Reynolds' _An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of
     Taste, and of the Origin of Our Ideas of Beauty, etc._ (1785).

     28. John Evelyn's _An Apologie for the Royal Party_ (1659); and _A
     Panegyric to Charles the Second_ (1661).

     29. Daniel Defoe's _A Vindication of the Press_ (1718).

     30. Essays on Taste from John Gilbert Cooper's _Letters Concerning
     Taste_, 3rd edition (1757), & John Armstrong's _Miscellanies_

SIXTH YEAR (1951-1952)

     31. Thomas Gray's _An Elegy Wrote in a Country Church Yard_ (1751);
     and _The Eton College Manuscript_.

     32. Prefaces to Fiction; Georges de Scudéry's Preface to _Ibrahim_
     (1674), etc.

     33. Henry Gally's _A Critical Essay_ on Characteristic-Writings

     34. Thomas Tyers' A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Samuel Johnson

     35. James Boswell, Andrew Erskine, and George Dempster. _Critical
     Strictures on the New Tragedy of Elvira, Written by Mr. David
     Malloch_ (1763).

     36. Joseph Harris's _The City Bride_ (1696).

SEVENTH YEAR (1952-1953)

     37. Thomas Morrison's _A Pindarick Ode on Painting_ (1767).

     38. John Phillips' _A Satyr Against Hypocrites_ (1655).

     39. Thomas Warton's _A History of English Poetry_.

     40. Edward Bysshe's _The Art of English Poetry_ (1708).

     41. Bernard Mandeville's "_A Letter to Dion_" (1732).

     42. Prefaces to Four Seventeenth-Century Romances.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's note:

Variations in spelling, punctuation and hyphenation have been retained
except in obvious cases of typographical error:

  "... joined increased (conveniencies->) conveniences"
  "... which nothing imperfect (eould->) would please,"

Footnotes interrupting paragraphs have been moved to the end of
the respective paragraphs.

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