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rule, why should they be imitated? If they studied nature, and were obfequious to rational principles, why should these be concealed from us?
With respect to the present undertaking, it is not the author's intention to compofe a regular treatise upon each of the fine arts; but only, in general, to exhibit their fundamental principles, drawn from human nature, the true fource of criticism. The fine arts are intended to entertain us, by making pleasant impreffions; and, by that circumstance, are distinguished from the useful arts: but, in order to make pleasant impreffions, we ought, as above hinted, to know what objects are naturally agreeable, and what naturally difagreeable. That fubject is here attempted, as far as neceffary for unfolding the genuine principles of the fine arts; and the author affumes no merit from his performance, but that of evincing, perhaps more distinctly than hitherto has been done, that these principles, as well as every just rule of criticism, are founded upon the fenfitive part of our nature. What the author hath discovered or collected upon that fubject, he chooses to impart in the gay and agreeable form of criticism; imagining that this form will be more relished, and perhaps be no lefs instructive, than a regular and laboured difquifition. His plan is, to afcend gradually to principles, from facts and experiments; inftead of beginning with the former, handled abftractedly,
and descending to the latter. But, though criticism is thus his only declared aim, he will not difown, that all along it has been his view, to explain the nature of man, confidered as a fenfitive being capable of pleasure and pain: and, though he flatters himself with having made some progress in that important science, he is, however, too fenfible of its extent and difficulty, to undertake it profeffedly, or to avow it as the chief purpose of the prefent work.
To cenfure works, not men, is the just prerogative of criticism; and accordingly all perfonal cenfure is here avoided, unless where neceffary to illuftrate fome general propofition. No praise is claimed on that account; because censuring with a view merely to find fault, cannot be entertaining to any perfon of humanity. Writers, one should imagine, ought, above all others, to be reserved on that article, when they lie fo open to retaliation. The author of this treatise, far from being confident of meriting no cenfure, entertains not even the flighteft hope of fuch perfection. Amusement was at firft the fole aim of his inquiries proceeding from one particular to another, the fubject grew under his hand; and he was far advanced before the thought ftruck him, that his private meditations might be publicly useful. In public, however, he would not appear in a flovenly drefs; and therefore he pretends not otherwife to apologise for
his errors, than by obferving, that in a new fubject, no less nice than extenfive, errors are in some measure unavoidable. Neither pretends he to justify his taste in every particular that point must be extremely clear, which admits not variety of opinion; and in fome matters susceptible of great refinement, time is perhaps the only infallible touchstone of taste: to that he appeals, and to that he chearfully submits.
N. B. THE ELEMENTS OF CRITICISM, meaning the whole, is a title too affuming for this work. A number of these elements or principles are here unfolded: but, as the author is far from imagining that he has completed the list, a more humble title is proper, fuch as may express any number of parts lefs than the whole. This he thinks is fignified by the title he has chofen, viz. ELEMENTS OF CRITICISM.
PERCEPTIONS AND IDEAS IN A TRAIN.
MAN, while awake, is conscious of a continued train of perceptions and ideas paffing in his mind. It requires no activity on his part to carry on the train : nor can he at will add any idea to the train *. At the fame time, we learn from daily experi
For how should this be done? what idea is it that we are to add? If we can fpecify the idea, that idea is already in the mind, and there is no occafion for any act of the will. If we cannot specify any idea, I next demand, how can a person will, or to what purpose, if there be nothing in view? We cannot form a conception of fuch a thing. If this argument need confirmation, I urge experience whoever makes a trial will find, that ideas are linked together in the mind, forming a connected chain; and that we have not the command of any idea independent of the chain.