Modern Painters Volume II (of V)
by John Ruskin
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Transcriber's notes: A few typographical errors have been corrected: they are listed at the end of the text.

Chapter headings were originally constructed as side-notes. They were placed here at the head of their respective paragraphs, and moved to paragraph's start where given at paragraph's middle. See HTML version for the original headers placement.

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

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

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

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

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

CHAPTER IV.—Of False Opinions held concerning Beauty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHAPTER XI.—General Inferences respecting Typical Beauty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHAPTER XV.—General Conclusions respecting the Theoretic Faculty.

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



CHAPTER I.—Of the Three Forms of Imagination.

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

CHAPTER II.—Of Imagination Associative.

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

CHAPTER III.—Of Imagination Penetrative.

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

CHAPTER IV.—Of Imagination Contemplative.

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

CHAPTER V.—Of the Superhuman Ideal.

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




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.







Sec. 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 encourage.

Sec. 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 a etre 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 Tyrtaean fire, now singing them to sleep with baby murmurings.

Sec. 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.

Sec. 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.

Sec. 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."

Sec. 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.

Sec. 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 cafes 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.

Sec. 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.

Sec. 9. Their relative dignities.

Sec. 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 aesthetic, 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.

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.

Sec. 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 cafe, and its lower story concealed by painted wainscotings; representing, if I recollect right, twopenny rolls surrounded by circles of admiring cherubs.

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 chambers.

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



Sec. 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 aesthetic, which is the one commonly employed with reference to it.

Now the term "aesthesis" 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.

Sec. 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 aesthetic 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.

Sec. 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.

Sec. 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: akolastos].

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.

Sec. 5. Grounds of inferiority in the pleasures which are subjects of intemperance.

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 system.

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.

Sec. 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 aesthesis; 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.

Sec. 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.

Sec. 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 lust.

Sec. 9. How degraded by heartless reception.

Sec. 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: hos dei, kai kath' hyperbolen kai elleipsin.]

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

[9] Plato, Phaedrus, Sec. 9.



Sec. 1. By what test is the health of the perceptive faculty to be determined?

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 aesthetic 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 (Sec. 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 aesthetic, 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.

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

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.

Sec. 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.

Sec. 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.

Sec. 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.

Sec. 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 Epicurism.

Sec. 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.

Sec. 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.

Sec. 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.

Sec. 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.

Sec. 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.

Sec. 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.

Sec. 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 everything; 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.

Sec. 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.

Sec. 15. How certain conclusions respecting beauty are by reason demonstrable.

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.

Sec. 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]

Sec. 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 traced.


[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. Sec. 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."



Sec. 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.

Sec. 2. Of the false opinion that beauty is usefulness. Compare Chap. xii. Sec. 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 millstones.

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

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

Sec. 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.

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