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ceffive variety. And thus we come to take de light in feveral occupations, that by nature, without habit, are not a little disgustful.
A middle rate alfo in the train of perceptions between uniformity and variety, is not lefs pleafant, than between quickness and flowness. The mind of man, by this conftitution, is wonderfully adapted to the courfe of human affairs, which are continually changing, but not without connection. By this conftitution, it is equally adapted to the acquifition of knowledge, which refults chiefly from difcovering refemblances among differing objects, and differences among refembling objects: fuch occupation, even abstracting from the knowledge we acquire, is in itfelf delightful, by preferving a middle rate between too great uniformity and too great variety.
We are now arrived at the chief purpose of the prefent chapter; and that is, to examine how far uniformity or variety ought to prevail in the fine arts. And the knowledge we have obtained, will even at first view fuggeft a general obfervation, That in every work of art, it must be agreeable, to find that degree of variety, which correfponds to the natural courfe of our perceptions; and that an excefs in variety or in uniformity, must be disagreeable, by varying that natural courfe. For this reafon, works of art admit more or less Variety according to the nature of the fubject: in a picture that, by an interefting event, ftrongly
ly attaches the spectator to a fingle object, the mind relifheth not a multiplicity of figures nor of ornaments a picture again representing a gay fubject, admits great variety of figures and ornaments; because these are agreeable to the mind in a chearful tone. The fame obfervation is applicable to poetry and to mufic.
It mult at the fame time be remarked, that one can bear a greater variety of natural objects, than of objects in a picture; and a greater variety in a picture, than in a description: a real object prefented to view, makes an impreffion more readily than when reprefented in colours, and much more readily than when reprefented in words. Hence it is, that the profufe variety of objects in fome natural landfcapes, neither breed confusion nor fatigue and for the same reason, there is place for greater variety of ornament in a picture, than in a poem.
From these general obfervations, I proceed to particulars. In works expofed continually to public view, variety ought to be ftudied. It is a rule accordingly in fculpture, to contraft the different limbs of a ftatue, in order to give it all the variety poffible. Though the cone in a single view, be more beautiful than the pyramid; yet a pyramidal steeple, because of its variety, is juftly preferred. For the fame reason, the oval in compofitions is preferred before the circle; and painters, in copying buildings, or any regular U 2 work,
work, endeavour to give an air of variety, by reprefenting the fubject in an angular view: we are pleased with the variety, without lofing fight of the regularity. In a landfcape representing animals, those especially of the fame kind, contrast ought to prevail: to draw one fleeping, another awake; one fitting, another in motion; one moving toward the spectator, another from him, is the life of fuch a performance.
In every fort of writing intended in any degree for amufement, variety is necessary in proportion to the length of the work. Want of variety is fenfibly felt, in Davila's history of the civil wars of France the events are indeed important and various; but the reader languishes by a tiresome uniformity of character; every perfon engaged being figured a confummate politician, governed by intereft only. It is hard to fay, whether Ovid difgufts more by too great variety, or too great uniformity: his ftories are all of the fame kind, concluding invariably with the transformation of one being into another; and fo far he is tirefome with excess in uniformity: he also fatigues with excess in variety, by hurrying his reader inceffantly from story to story. Ariosto is still more fatiguing than Ovid, by exceeding the just bounds of variety: not fatisfied, like Ovid, with a fucceffion in his ftories, he distracts the reader, by jumbling together a multitude of unconnected events. Nor is the Orlando Furiofo less tire fome
by its uniformity than the Metamorphofes, though in a different manner: after a story is brought to a crifis, the reader, intent upon the catastrophe, is fuddenly fnatch'd away to a new story, which is little regarded fo long as the mind is occupied with the former. This tantalizing method, from which the author never once fwerves during the course of a long work, befide its uniformity, hath another bad effect: it prevents that fympathy, which is raised by an interesting event when the reader meets with no interruption.
The emotions produced by our perceptions in a train, have been little considered, and less understood the subject therefore required an elaborate difcuffion. It may furprise fome readers, to find variety treated as only contributing to make a train of perceptions pleasant, when it is commonly held to be a neceffary ingredient in beauty of whatever kind; according to the definition, "That beauty confifts in uniformity a"mid variety." But after the fubject is explained and illuftrated as above, I prefume it will be evident, that this definition, however applicable to one or other species, is far from being just with refpect to beauty in general: variety contributes no share to the beauty of a moral action, nor of a mathematical theorem: and numberless are the beautiful objects of fight that have little or no variety in them; a globe, the most uniform of all figures, is of all the most beautiful; and a fquare, though more beautiful than a trapezium,
hath lefs variety in its conftituent parts. The foregoing definition, which at beft is but obfcurely expreffed, is only applicable to a number of objects in a group or in fucceffion, among which indeed a due mixture of uniformity and variety is always agreeable; provided the particular objects, feparately confidered, be in any degree beautiful; for uniformity amid variety among ugly objects, affords no pleasure. This circumftance of beauty is totally omitted in the definition; and indeed to have mentioned it, would at the very first glance have fhown the definition to be imperfect for to define beauty as arifing from beautiful objects, blended together in a due proportion of uniformity and variety, would be too grofs to pass current; as nothing can be more grofs, than to employ in a definition the very term that is propofed to be explained.
APPENDIX to Chap. IX.
Concerning the works of nature.
N natural objects, whether we regard their internal or external structure, beauty and defign are equally confpicuous. We fhall begin with the outfide of nature, as what first presents itself.