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My Children-oh! my Children-now farewell!
'Tis thine alone to give me life or death. Would our limits allow us, we could with pleasure make many more extracts both of the beauties of Euripides, and the most useful parts of Dr. Heath's Commentary ; but our attention to a variety of articles obliges us to bring each within a moderate compass. We have therefore only to add, for the information of our Readers, that of cur Author's Annotations on Euripides, as well as those cn Æschylus and Sophocles, there are many that illustrate and some few which meliorate the text; many also there are that serve neither of these purposes. We have also observed a few mistaken Criticisms; but searce any of them will mislead a Reader of taste, who, instead of placing verbal erudition on the seat of judgment, refers the decision to nature and common sense.
Elements of Criticism. By Henry Home, Lord Kaims. 8vo.
3 Vols. 15s bound. Millar.
TITITHIN the circle of human science there is no
V subject fo comprehensive and interesting as that of Criticisın, and yet none perhaps has been treated with so little extent and precision. It was reserved for the learned and acute Author of the vclumes before us, to trace it to its genuine principles, and to establish the laws of nature on the ruins of authority,
Former Writers have considered Criticisin merely as an art, and have prescribed slavish rules for the regulation of taste, as if a Critic were to be formed by directions purely mechanical. But Criticism, taken in its enlarged signification*, is improperly termed an art; for the principles of Criticism, which constitute a part of our sensitive nature, are not to be
* Criticism signifies no more than the faculty of judging in general, as is expressed by the verb xaviw, from whence it is derived.
acquired by rule, though they may be improved by habit. We may, it is true, judge of Language from the instructions of Grammarians, but no precepts whatever can enable us to judge of Sentiment. Philosophy indeed can, in many instances, explain the causes of our feelings, but no human skill can teach us to feel.
The effects produced by sentiment proceed principally from the original frame of the mind, whereby men are made fulceptible of various impressions in very different degrees. What will scarcely raise the lightest emotion in one man, will, in another, excite the most lively sensations. But these several effects do not depend altogether on the difference of original dispofition, but arise, in a great mcasure, from the prefent tone of the organs, which occasions one and the same man at different times, to be very differently affected by the fame fentiment. When, by any adverse accident, the mind is depressed below its ordinary tone, it is readily dispored to disfolve at the slightest sentiment of distress ; fo on the contrary : for the force of sympathy is never moved, in a just degree, but when the sentiment accords with the prefent tone of the mind. And this is a circumstance which every candid Critic Mould, before he presumes to judge, weigh with the nicest attention.
The causes, however, which vary the effects of sentiment, are almost infinite. It would not be difficult, perhaps, to explain why their influence is fainter or stronger, in proportion to the different periods of life, and to unfold many other principles which operate imperceptibly to a common eye. But such nice and subtle disquisitions would lead us beyond the limits of our present design; and we have only premised these leading observations, in order to distinguish where Criticisin may be directed by rules of art, and where it is governed by principles independent of, and antecedent to, ali given rules. Where sentiment is not concerned, we may indeed, as has been intimated, be taught to judge by fixed and invariable rules; but the judgment which we pass on any sentiment, corresponds with the impreision which we receive from the subject affecting us : and though men accustomed to abstract reflection may be able to trace the original cause of these impressions, yet the principle, when discovered, will not constitute any uniform standard, so as to enable us hereafter to form the like judgment, on the same, or a similar sentiment. For when the mind is affected or disgusted, the affection or averfion takes place, as it were, by impulfe, and gives no time for the formal application of given principles to. influence the judgment.
We have been the more earnest in establishing this difference, fince, for want of accurate and constant attention to this. distinction, even our Author has not always expressed himself with that precision which so nice a subject requires.
But not to anticipate our animadversions, we proceed to exbibit, as far as our limits will allow us, the general scope of this ingenious work; which our Author introduces with some curious observations concerning the impressions we receive from the senses.
« The five Senses. (says his Lordship) agree in the follows ing particular, that nothing external is perceived, till it first makes an impresion upon the organ of sense; the impression, for example, made upon the hand by a stone, upon the palate by lugar, and upon the nostrils by a rofe. But there is a difference as to our consciousness of that impression. In touching, tafting, and smelling, we are conscious of the impreffion; not so in seeing and hearing. When I behold a tree, I am not sensible of the impression made upon my eye, nor of the impression made upon my ear when I listen to a song. This difference in the manner of perception, diftinguishes remarkably hearing and seeing from the other senses; and distinguishes still more remarkably the feelings of the former from those of the latter. A feeling pleasant or painful cannot exist but in the mind; and yet because in tasting, touching, and smelling, we are conscious of the impression made upon the organ, we naturally place there also the pleafant or painful feeling caused by that impreslion. And because such feelings seem to be placed externally at the organ of sense, we, for that reason, conceive them to be merely corporeal. We have different apprehensions of the pleasant and painful feelings derived from seeing and hearing. Being insensible here of the organic impression, we are not misled to assign a wrong place to these feelings; and therefore we naturally place them in the mind, where they really exist. Upon that account they are conceived to be more refined and spiritual, than what are derived from tasting, touching, and smelling.
“ The pleafure of the eye and ear being thus elevated above those of the other external senses, acquire so much dignity as to make them a laudable entertainment. They are not, however, let upon a level with those that are purely intellectual,
being being not less inferior in dignity to intellectual pleasures, than superior to the organic or corporeal.”
His Lordship in the next place traces the progrefs of our pleasures, among which the organic take the lead. The pleasures of the eye and ear succeed, and prepare us for enjoying internal objects, where there cannot be an organic impression. He then proceeds to recommend the cultivating those pleasures of the eye and ear especially, which require extraordinary culture, such as are inspired by poetry, painting, sculpture, music, gardening, and architecture. The principles of the fine arts, he observes, are evolved by studying the sensitive part of human nature, and by learning what objects are naturally agreeable, and what are naturally disa agreeable. The man, he adds, who aspires to be a Critic in these arts, must pierce still deeper. He must clearly perceive what objects are lofty, what low, what are proper or improper, what are manly, and what are mean or trivial. Hence a foundation for judging of taste, and for reasoning upon it. Where it is conformable to principles, we can pronounce with certainty that it is correct; otherwise that it is incorrect, and perhaps whimsical. Thus the fine arts, like morals, become a rational science; and, like morals, may be cultivated to a high degree of refinement.
The advantages of Criticisın, when thus studied as a rational science, are next displayed. Beside the entertainment it affords, it tends, as our Author observes, to improve the heart not less than the understanding, by moderating the selfish affections. A just taste in the fine arts, by sweetening and harmonizing the temper, is a strong antidote to the turbulence of passion and violence of pursuit. Elegance of taste procures a man so much enjoyment at home, or easily within reach, that in order to be occupied, he is, in youth, under no temptation to precipitate into hunting, gaming, drinking; nor, in middle age, to deliver himself over to ambition; nor, in old age, to avarice.
" In the next place, delicacy of taste tends not les to invigorate the social affections, than to inoderate those that are selfith. To be convinced of this tendency, we need only reflect that delicacy of taste necessarily heightens our sensibility of pain and pleasure, and of course our sympathy, which is the capital branch of every social pafsion.”
Lastly, his Lordship observes, that Criticism is a great fupport to morality. « No occupation attaches a man more
invel selfihat delicacye, and Social paft Pepee thand pleath of ever
to his duty, than that of cultivating a taste in the fine arts. A juft taste of what is beautiful,' proper, elegant, and ornamental, in writing or painting, in architecture or gardening, is a fine preparation for discerning what is beautiful, justo elegant, or magnanimous, in character and behaviour: To the man who has acquired a taste so acute and accomplished, every action, wrong or improper, must be highly disgustful. If, in any instance, the over-bearing power of passion fway him from his duty, he returns to it upon the firft reflection, with redoubled resolution never to be swayed a fecond time. He has now an additional motive to virtue, a conviction derived from experience, that happiness depends on regularity and order, and that a disregard to justice or propriety never fails to be punished with shame and remorse.”
The learned Writer proceeds to remark, that though in philofophy men assert their native privilege of thinking for themselves, and disdain to be ranked in any sect, whatever be the science, yet Criticisin continues to be not lefs slavish in its principles, nor less fubmissive to authority, than it was originally. “ Bossu, 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 Aristotle. Strange, (fays he) that in so long a work, the concordance or discordance of these rules with human nature, should never once have entered his thoughts."
This censure is extremely just; for certainly nothing can be more servile and absurd than to make an imitation, however excellent, the standard of tafte, instead of resorting to the divine original. And though these immortal bards should be allowed to have been the best imitators of nature, yet even they have been guilty of frequent deviations from her unerring laws.
In the conclufion of this ingenious Introdu&ion, the Author declares, that “ It is not his intention to give a regular treatise upon each of the fine arts in particular, but only, in general, to apply to them fome remarks and obfervations drawn from human nature, the true fource of Criticism. And he affumes no merit from his performance, but that of evincing, perhaps more distinctly than hitherto has been done, that the genuine rules of Criticism are all of them derived from the human heart.
Here, in our opinion, his Lordship has expressed himself too generally. It is, perhaps, too much to say, that “the geRey. June, 1762.