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or propriety never fails to be punished with fhame and remorse *.
Rude ages exhibit the triumph of authority over reason. Philofophers anciently were divided into fects: they were either Epicureans, Pla¬ tonists, Stoics, Pythagoreans, or Sceptics: the fpeculative relied no farther upon their own judgement than to chufe a leader, whom they implicitly followed. In later times, happily,
reafon hath obtained the afcendant: men now affert their native privilege of thinking for themfelves, and difdain to be ranked in any fect, whatever be the science. I muft except criticism, which, by what fatality I know not, continues to be not lefs flavifh in its principles, nor less fubmiffive to authority, than it was originally. Boffu, a celebrated French critic, gives many rules; but can discover no better foundation for any of them, than the practice merely of Homer and Virgil, supported by the authority of Ariftotle ftrange, that in fo long a work, the concordance or difcordance of thefe rules with human nature, fhould never once have entered his thoughts! It could not furely be his opinion,
Genius is allied to a warm and inflamable constitution, delicacy of tafte to calmness and fedatenefs. Hence it is common to find genius in one who is a prey to every paffion; which can scarce happen with refpect to delicacy of tafte. Upon a man poffeffed of this bleffing, the moral duties, as well as the fine arts, make a deep impression, so as to counterbalance every irregular defire: and even fuppofing a strong temptation, it can take no faft hold of a calm and fedate temper,
that these poets, however eminent for genius, were intitled to give laws to mankind; and that nothing now remains but blind obedience to their arbitrary will: if in writing they followed no rule, why should they be imitated? if they ftudied nature, and were obfequious to rational principles, why fhould these be concealed from
With respect to the prefent undertaking, it is not the author's intention to give a regular treatife upon each of the fine arts in particular; but only, in general, to exhibit their fundamental principles drawn from human nature, the true fource of criticifm. The fine arts are calculated for our entertainment, or for making agreeable impreffions; and, by that circumstance, are diftinguished from the ufeful arts. In order then to be a critic in the fine arts, it is neceffary, as above hinted, to know what objects are naturally agreeable, and what naturally difagreeable. A complete treatise on that fubject would be an undertaking by far too extenfive for any one hand: the author of this treatise pretends only to have entered upon the subject fo far as neceifary for fupporting his critical remarks; and he affumes no merit from his performance, but that of evincing, perhaps more diftinctly than hitherto has been done, that the genuine rules of criticism are all of them derived from the human heart. The fenfitive part of our nature is a delightful speculation. What the author hath discovered
or collected upon that fubject, he chufes to impart in the gay and agreeable form of criticism; because he imagines, that this form will be more relished, and perhaps be not less instructive, than a regular and laboured difquifition. His plan is, to ascend gradually to principles, from facts and experiments; instead of beginning with the former, handled abstractly, and defcending to the latter. But though criticifin be 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 pleafure and pain and though he flatters himself with having made fome progrefs in that important fcience; 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 criticifm; and accordingly all perfonal cenfure is here avoided, unlefs where neceffary to illustrate some general propofition. No praise is claimed on that account; becaufe cenfuring with a view merely to find fault, is an entertainment that humanity never relishes. Writers, one should imagine, ought, above all others, to be reserved upon that article, when they lie fo open to retaliation. The author of this treatife, far from being confident of meriting no cenfure, entertains not even the flighteft hope of fuch perfection. Amufement 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, not lefs nice than extensive, errors are in fome meafure unavoidable. Neither pretends he to justify his tafte in every particular that point must be extremely clear, which admits not variety of opinion; and in fome matters fufceptible of great refinement, time is perhaps the only infallible touchstone of taste : to this he appeals, and to this he chearfully fubmits.
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 lift, a more humble title is proper, fuch as may exprefs any undetermined number of parts less than the whole. This he thinks is fignified by the title he has chofen, viz. ELEMENTS OF CRITI
PERCEPTIONS AND IDEAS IN A TRAIN.
MAN while awake is fenfible 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 to the train any idea that has no connection with it *. At
For how fhould this be done? what idea is it that we are to add? If this question can be answered, the idea is already in the mind, and there is no occafion to exert the power. If the queftion cannot be answered, 1 next demand, how it is poffible that a voluntary power can be exerted without any view of an object to exert it upon? We cannot form a conception of such a thing. This argument appears to me fatisfactory: if it 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.