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If things connected be the subject of congruity, it is reasonable beforehand to expect, that a degree of congruity should be required proportioned to the degree of the connection. And upon examination we find this to hold in fact: where the relation is intimate, as between a cause and its effect, a whole and its parts, we require the strictest congruity ; but where the relation is Night, or accidental, as among things jumbled together in the same place, we require little or no congruity: the strictest propriety is required in behaviour and manner of living; because a man is connected with these by the relation of cause and effect : the relation between an edifice and the ground it stands upon, is of the most intimate kind, and therefore the situation of a great house ought to be lofty; its relation to neighbouring hills, rivers, plains, being that of propinquity only, de
in the text, it is proper to be observed, that the same distinction is applicable to relations. Resemblance, equality, uniformity, pro. ximity, are relations that depend not on us, but exist equally whether perceived or not; and upon that account may justly be termed primary relations. But there are other relations, that to us only appear such, and that have not any external existence like primary relations; which is the case of congruity, incongruity, propriety, impropriety: these may be properly termed secondary relations. Thus it appears from what is said in the text, that the secondary relations mentioned, arise from objects connected together by some primary relation. Property is an example of a secondary relation, shat serves finely to illustrate their nature: this relation plainly exists no where but in the mind; for between a man and his field, or his horse, there is no external or primary relation but what may exist between liim and a field or a horse belonging to another. Vol.I. X
mands but a small share of congruity: among members of the same club, the congruity ought to be considerable, as well as among things placed for show in the same niche : among passengers in a stage-coach, we require very little congruity; and less still at a public spectacle.
Congruity is so nearly allied to beauty as commonly to be held a species of it; and yet they differ so essentially, as never to coincide : beauty, like colour, is placed upon a single subject; congruity upon a plurality: further, a thing beautiful in itself, may, with relation to other things, produce the strongest fense of incongruity.
Congruity and propriety are commonly reckoned fynonymous terms; and hitherto in opening the subject they are used indifferently: but they are distinguishable; and the precise meaning of each must be ascertained. Congruity is the genus, of which propriety is a species; for we call nothing propriety, but that congruity or suitableness, which ought to subsist between sensible beings and their thoughts, words, and actions.
In order to give a full view of these secondary relations, I shall trace them through some of the most considerable primary relations. The relation of a part to the whole, being extremely intimate, demands the utmost degree of congruity: even the slightest deviation is disgustful; witness the Lutrin, a burlesque poem, which is closed
with a serious and warm panegyric on Lamoignon, one of the King's judges :
Examples of congruity and incongruity are furnished in plenty by the relation between a subject and its ornaments. A literary performance intended merely for amusement, is susceptible of much ornament, as well as a music-room or a play-house; for in gaiety, the mind hath a peculiar relish for show and decoration. The most gorgeous apparel, however improper in tragedy, is not unsuitable to opera-actors: the truth is, an opera, in its present form, is a mighty fine thing; but as it deviates from nature in its capital circumstances, we look not for nature nor propriety in those which are accessory. On the other hand, a serious and important subject, admits not much ornament *; nor a subject that of itself is extremely beautiful : and a subject that fills the mind with its loftiness and grandeur, appears best in a dress altogether plain.
To a person of a mean appearance, gorgeous apparel is unsuitable; which, beside the incon
* Contrary to this rule, the introduction to the third volume of the Characteristics, is a continued chain of metaphors: these in such profusion are too florid for the subject; and have beside the bad effect of removing our attention from the principal subject, to fix it upon splendid trifles.
gruity, gruity, has a bad effect ; for by contrast it shows the meanness of appearance in the strongest light. Sweetness of look and manner, requires simplicity of dress joined with the greatest elegance. A stately and majestic air requires sumptuous apparel, which ought not to be gaudy, nor crowded with little ornaments. A woman of consummate "beauty can bear to be highly adorned, and yet shows best in a plain dress :
Thomson's Autumn, 208.
Congruity regulates not only the quantity of ornament, but also the kind. The ornaments that embellish a dancing-room ought to be all of them gay. No picture is proper for a church, but what has religion for its subject. All the ornaments upon a fhield ought to relate to war; and Virgil, with great judgment, confines the carvings upon the field of Æneas, to the military history of the Romans: but this beauty is overlooked by Homer; for the bulk of the sculpture upon the Mield of Achilles, is of the arts of peace
general, and of joy and festivity in particular: the author of Telemachus betrays the same inattention, in describing the shield of that
hero. In judging of propriety with regard to ornarnents, we inult attend, not only to the nagure of the subject that is to be adorned, but also
to the circumstances in which it is placed : the ornaments that are proper for a ball, will appear not altogether fo tlecent at public worship; and the same person ought to dress differently for a marriage-feast and for a burial.
Nothing is more intimately related to a man, than his sentiments, words, and actions; and therefore we require here the strictest conformity. When we find what we thus require, we have a lively sense of propriety: when we find the contrary, our sense of impropriety is not less lively. Hence the universal distaste of affectation, which consists in making a fhew of greater delicacy and refinement than is suited either to the character or circumstances of the person. Nothing shows worse in a story than impropriety of man
In Corneille's tragedy of Ginna, Æmilia, a favourite of Augustus, receives daily marks of his affection, and is loaded with benefits; yet all the while is laying plots to assassinate her benefactor, directed by no other motive but to avenge her father's death *: revenge against a benefactor founded solely upon filial piety, must be directed by justice, and therefore never can suggest unlawful means; and yet the crime here attempted, à treacherous murder, is what even a miscreant will scarce attempt against his bitterest enemy.
What is said may be thought sufficient to explain the relations of congruity and propriety..
* See aet 1. sc. 2.