Lectures on Art
Washington Allston

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Lectures on Art


Washington Allston

Edited by Richard Henry Dana, Jr.


Preface by the Editor.

Upon the death of Mr. Allston, it was determined, by those who had
charge of his papers, to prepare his biography and correspondence, and
publish them with his writings in prose and verse; a work which would
have occupied two volumes of about the same size with the present. A
delay has unfortunately occurred in the preparation of the biography
and correspondence; and, as there have been frequent calls for a
publication of his poems, and of the Lectures on Art he is known to
have written, it has been thought best to give them to the public in
the present form, without awaiting the completion of the whole
design. It may be understood, however, that, when the biography
and correspondence are published, it will be in a volume precisely
corresponding with the present, so as to carry out the original

I will not anticipate the duty of the biographer by an extended notice
of the life of Mr. Allston; but it may be interesting to some readers
to know the outline of his life, and the different circumstances under
which the several pieces in this volume were written.

WASHINGTON ALLSTON was born at Charleston, in South Carolina, on the
5th of November, 1779, of a family distinguished in the history of
that State and of the country, being a branch of a family of the
baronet rank in the titled commonalty of England. Like most young
men of the South in his position at that period, he was sent to New
England to receive his school and college education. His school days
were passed at Newport, in Rhode Island, under the charge of Mr.
Robert Rogers. He entered Harvard College in 1796, and graduated in
1800. While at school and college, he developed in a marked manner
a love of nature, music, poetry, and painting. Endowed with senses
capable of the nicest perceptions, and with a mental and moral
constitution which tended always, with the certainty of a physical
law, to the beautiful, the pure, and the sublime, he led what many
might call an ideal life. Yet was he far from being a recluse, or from
being disposed to an excess of introversion. On the contrary, he was
a popular, high-spirited youth, almost passionately fond of society,
maintaining an unusual number of warm friendships, and unsurpassed by
any of the young men of his day in adaptedness to the elegancies and
courtesies of the more refined portions of the moving world. Romances
of love, knighthood, and heroic deeds, tales of banditti, and stories
of supernatural beings, were his chief delight in his early days. Yet
his classical attainments were considerable, and, as a scholar in the
literature of his own language, his reputation was early established.
He delivered a poem on taking his degree, which was much admired in
its day.

On leaving college, he returned to South Carolina. Having determined
to devote his life to the fine arts, he sold, hastily and at a
sacrifice, his share of a considerable patrimonial estate, and
embarked for London in the autumn of 1801. Immediately upon his
arrival, he became a student of the Royal Academy, of which his
countryman, West, was President, with whom he formed an intimate and
lasting friendship. After three years spent in England, and a shorter
stay at Paris, he went to Italy, where he spent four years devoted
exclusively to the study of his art. At Rome began his intimacy with
Coleridge. Among the many subsequent expressions of his feeling toward
this great man, none, perhaps, is more striking than the following
extract from one of his letters:--"To no other man do I owe so much,
intellectually, as to Mr. Coleridge, with whom I became acquainted
in Rome, and who has honored me with his friendship for more than
five-and-twenty years. He used to call Rome the silent city; but I
never could think of it as such while with him; for, meet him when and
where I would, the fountain of his mind was never dry, but, like the
far-reaching aqueducts that once supplied this mistress of the world,
its living stream seemed specially to flow for every classic ruin over
which we wandered. And when I recall some of our walks under the pines
of the Villa Borghese, I am almost tempted to dream that I have once
listened to Plato in the groves of the Academy." Readers of Coleridge
know in what estimation he held the qualities and the friendship of
Mr. Allston. Beside Coleridge and West, he numbered among his friends
in England, Wordsworth, Southey, Lamb, Sir George Beaumont, Reynolds,
and Fuseli.

In 1809, Mr. Allston returned to America, and remained two years
in Boston, his adopted home, and there married the sister of Dr.
Channing. In 1811, he went again to England, where his reputation as
an artist had been completely established. Before his departure, he
delivered a poem before the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Cambridge.
During a severe illness, he removed from London to Clifton, at which
place he wrote "The Sylphs of the Seasons." In 1813, he made his
first, and, with the exception of "Monaldi," twenty-eight years
afterwards, his only publication. This was a small volume, entitled
"The Sylphs of the Seasons, and other Poems," published in London;
and, during the same year, republished in Boston under the direction
of his friends, Professor Willard of Cambridge and Mr. Edmund T. Dana.
This volume was well received, and gave him a place among the first
poets of his country. The smaller poems in that edition extend as far
as page 289 of the present volume.

Beside the long and serious illness through which he passed, his
spirit was destined to suffer a deeper wound by the death of Mrs.
Allston, in London, during the same year. These events gave to his
mind a more earnest and undivided interest in his spiritual relations,
and drew him more closely than ever before to his religious duties.
He received the rite of confirmation, and through life was a devout
adherent to the Christian doctrine and discipline.

The character of Mr. Allston's religious feelings may be gathered,
incidentally, from many of his writings. It is a subject to be treated
with the reserve and delicacy with which he himself would have had it
invested. Few minds have been more thoroughly imbued with belief in
the reality of the unseen world; few have given more full assent to
the truth, that "the things which are seen are temporal, the things
which are not seen are eternal." This was not merely an adopted
opinion, a conviction imposed upon his understanding; it was of the
essence of his spiritual constitution, one of the conditions of his
rational existence. To him, the Supreme Being was no vague, mystical
source of light and truth, or an impersonation of goodness and truth
themselves; nor, on the other hand, a cold rationalistic notion of an
unapproachable executor of natural and moral laws. His spirit rested
in the faith of a sympathetic God. His belief was in a Being as
infinitely minute and sympathetic in his providences, as unlimited
in his power and knowledge. Nor need it be said, that he was a firm
believer in the central truths of Christianity, the Incarnation and
Redemption; that he turned from unaided speculation to the inspired
record and the visible Church; that he sought aid in the sacraments
ordained for the strengthening of infirm humanity, and looked for the
resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

After a second residence of seven years in Europe, he returned to
America in 1818, and again made Boston his home. There, in a circle of
warmly attached friends, surrounded by a sympathy and admiration which
his elevation and purity, the entire harmony of his life and pursuits,
could not fail to create, he devoted himself to his art, the labor of
his love.

This is not the place to enumerate his paintings, or to speak of his
character as an artist. His general reading he continued to the last,
with the earnestness of youth. As he retired from society, his taste
inclined him to metaphysical studies, the more, perhaps, from their
contrast with the usual occupations of his mind. He took particular
pleasure in works of devout Christian speculation, without, however,
neglecting a due proportion of strictly devotional literature. These
he varied by a constant recurrence to the great epic and dramatic
masters, and occasional reading of the earlier and the living
novelists, tales of wild romance and lighter fiction, voyages and
travels, biographies and letters. Nor was he without a strong interest
in the current politics of his own country and of England, as to which
his principles were highly conservative.

Upon his marriage with the daughter of the late Judge Dana, in 1830,
he removed to Cambridge, and soon afterwards began the preparation of
a course of lectures on Art, which he intended to deliver to a select
audience of artists and men of letters in Boston. Four of these he
completed. Rough drafts of two others were found among his papers, but
not in a state fit for publication. In 1841, he published his tale of
"Monaldi," a production of his early life. The poems in the present
volume, not included in the volume of 1813, are, with two exceptions,
the work of his later years. In them, as in his paintings of the
same period, may be seen the extreme attention to finish, always his
characteristic, which, added to increasing bodily pain and infirmity,
was the cause of his leaving so much that is unfinished behind him.

His death occurred at his own house, in Cambridge, a little past
midnight on the morning of Sunday, the 9th of July, 1843. He had
finished a day and week of labor in his studio, upon his great picture
of Belshazzar's Feast; the fresh paint denoting that the last touches
of his pencil were given to that glorious but melancholy monument of
the best years of his later life. Having conversed with his retiring
family with peculiar solemnity and earnestness upon the obligation and
beauty of a pure spiritual life, and on the realities of the world to
come, he had seated himself at his nightly employment of reading and
writing, which he usually carried into the early hours of the morning.
In the silence and solitude of this occupation, in a moment,
"with touch as gentle as the morning light," which was even then
approaching, his spirit was called away to its proper home.


Preface By The Editor

Lectures on Art.
Preliminary Note.--Ideas
Introductory Discourse

Sentences Written by Mr. Allston on the Walls of His Studio

The Hypochondriac

Lectures on Art.

Preliminary Note.


As the word _idea_ will frequently occur, and will be found
also to hold an important relation to our present subject, we shall
endeavour, _in limine_, to possess our readers of the particular
sense in which we understand and apply it.

An Idea, then, according to our apprehension, is the highest or most
perfect _form_ in which any thing, whether of the physical, the
intellectual, or the spiritual, may exist to the mind. By form, we do not
mean _figure_ or _image_ (though these may be included in relation to the
physical); but that condition, or state, in which such objects become
cognizable to the mind, or, in other words, become objects of

Ideas are of two kinds; which we shall distinguish by the terms _primary_
and _secondary_: the first being the _manifestation_ of objective
realities; the second, that of the reflex product, so to speak, of the
mental constitution. In both cases, they may be said to be
self-affirmed,--that is, they carry in themselves their own evidence;
being therefore not only independent of the reflective faculties, but
constituting the only unchangeable ground of Truth, to which those
faculties may ultimately refer. Yet have these Ideas no living energy in
themselves; they are but the _forms_, as we have said, through or in which
a higher Power manifests to the consciousness the supreme truth of all
things real, in respect to the first class; and, in respect to the second,
the imaginative truths of the mental products, or mental combinations. Of
the nature and mode of operation of the Power to which we refer, we know,
and can know, nothing; it is one of those secrets of our being which He
who made us has kept to himself. And we should be content with the
assurance, that we have in it a sure and intuitive guide to a reverent
knowledge of the beauty and grandeur of his works,--nay, of his own
adorable reality. And who shall gainsay it, should we add, that this
mysterious Power is essentially immanent in that "breath of life," by
which man becomes "a living soul"?

In the following remarks we shall confine ourself to the first
class of Ideas, namely, the Real; leaving the second to be noticed

As to number, ideas are limited only by the number of kinds, without
direct relation to degrees; every object, therefore, having in itself
a _distinctive essential_, has also its distinct idea; while two
or more objects of the same kind, however differing in degree, must
consequently refer only to one and the same. For instance, though a
hundred animals should differ in size, strength, or color, yet, if
none of these peculiarities are essential to the species, they would
all refer to the same supreme idea.

The same law applies equally, and with the same limitation, to
the essential differences in the intellectual, the moral, and the
spiritual. All ideas, however, have but a potential existence until
they are called into the consciousness by some real object; the
required condition of the object being a predetermined correspondence,
or correlation. Every such object we term an _assimilant_.

With respect to those ideas which relate to the physical world, we
remark, that, though the assimilants required are supplied by
the senses, the senses have in themselves no _productive,
cooeperating_ energy, being but the passive instruments, or medium,
through which they are conveyed. That the senses, in this relation,
are merely passive, admits of no question, from the obvious difference
between the idea and the objects. The senses can do no more than
transmit the external in its actual forms, leaving the images in the
mind exactly as they found them; whereas the intuitive power rejects,
or assimilates, indefinitely, until they are resolved into the proper
perfect form. Now the power which prescribes that form must, of
necessity, be antecedent to the presentation of the objects which it
thus assimilates, as it could not else give consistence and unity to
what was before separate or fragmentary. And every one who has
ever realized an idea of the class in which alone we compare the
assimilants with the ideal form, be he poet, painter, or philosopher,
well knows the wide difference between the materials and their result.
When an idea is thus realized and made objective, it affirms its own
truth, nor can any process of the understanding shake its foundation;
nay, it is to the mind an essential, imperative truth, then emerging,
as it were, from the dark potential into the light of reality.

If this be so, the inference is plain, that the relation between the
actual and the ideal is one of necessity, and therefore, also, is the
predetermined correspondence between the prescribed form of an
idea and its assimilant; for how otherwise could the former become
recipient of that which was repugnant or indifferent, when the
presence of the latter constitutes the very condition by which it is
manifested, or can be known to exist? By actual, here, we do not mean
the exclusively physical, but whatever, in the strictest sense, can be
called an _object_, as forming the opposite to a mere subject of
the mind.

It would appear, then, that what we call ourself must have a
_dual_ reality, that is, in the mind and in the senses, since
neither _alone_ could possibly explain the phenomena of the
other; consequently, in the existence of either we have clearly
implied the reality of both. And hence must follow the still more
important truth, that, in the _conscious presence_ of any
_spiritual_ idea, we have the surest proof of a spiritual object;
nor is this the less certain, though we perceive not the assimilant.
Nay, a spiritual assimilant cannot be perceived, but, to use the words
of St. Paul, is "spiritually discerned," that is, by a sense, so to
speak, of our own spirit. But to illustrate by example: we could not,
for instance, have the ideas of good and evil without their objective
realities, nor of right and wrong, in any intelligible form, without
the moral law to which they refer,--which law we call the Conscience;
nor could we have the idea of a moral law without a moral lawgiver,
and, if moral, then intelligent, and, if intelligent, then personal;
in a word, we could not now have, as we know we have, the idea of
conscience, without an objective, personal God. Such ideas may well be
called revelations, since, without any perceived assimilant, we find
them equally affirmed with those ideas which relate to the purely

But here it may be asked, How are we to distinguish an Idea from a mere
_notion_? We answer, By its self-affirmation. For an ideal truth, having
its own evidence in itself, can neither be proved nor disproved by any
thing out of itself; whatever, then, impresses the mind _as_ truth, _is_
truth until it can be _shown_ to be false; and consequently, in the
converse, whatever can be brought into the sphere of the understanding, as
a dialectic subject, is not an Idea. It will be observed, however, that we
do not say an idea may not be denied; but to deny is not to disprove. Many
things are denied in direct contradiction to fact; for the mind can
command, and in no measured degree, the power of self-blinding, so that it
cannot see what is actually before it. This is a psychological fact, which
may be attested by thousands, who can well remember the time when they had
once clearly discerned what has now vanished from their minds. Nor does
the actual cessation of these primeval forms, or the after presence of
their fragmentary, nay, disfigured relics, disprove their reality, or
their original integrity, as we could not else call them up in their
proper forms at any future time, to the reacknowledging their truth: a
_resuscitation_ and result, so to speak, which many have experienced.

In conclusion: though it be but one and the same Power that prescribes
the form and determines the truth of all Ideas, there is yet an
essential difference between the two classes of ideas to which we have
referred; for it may well be doubted whether any Primary Idea can ever
be fully realized by a finite mind,--at least in the present state.
Take, for instance, the idea of beauty. In its highest form, as
presented to the consciousness, we still find it referring to
something beyond and above itself, as if it were but an approximation
to a still higher form. The truth of this, we think, will be
particularly felt by the artist, whether poet or painter, whose mind
may be supposed, from his natural bias, to be more peculiarly capable
of its highest developement; and what true artist was ever satisfied
with any idea of beauty of which he is conscious? From this
approximated form, however, he doubtless derives a high degree of
pleasure, nay, one of the purest of which his nature is capable;
yet still is the pleasure modified, if we may so express it, by an
undefined yearning for what he feels can never be realized. And
wherefore this craving, but for the archetype of that which called it
forth?--When we say not satisfied, we do not mean discontented, but
simply not in full fruition. And it is better that it should be
so, since one of the happiest elements of our nature is that which
continually impels it towards the indefinite and unattainable. So
far as we know, the like limits may be set to every other primary
idea,--as if the Creator had reserved to himself alone the possible
contemplation of the archetypes of his universe.

With regard to the other class, that of Secondary Ideas, which we
have called the reflex product of the mind, their distinguishing
characteristic is, that they not only admit of a perfect realization,
but also of outward manifestation, so as to be communicated to others.
All works of imagination, so called, present examples of this. Hence
they may also be termed imitative or imaginative. For, though they
draw their assimilants from the actual world, and are likewise
regulated by the unknown Power before mentioned, yet are they but the
forms of what, _as a whole_, have no actual existence;--they are
nevertheless true to the mind, and are made so by the same Power which
affirms their possibility. This species of Truth we shall hereafter
have occasion to distinguish as Poetic Truth.

Introductory Discourse.

Next to the developement of our moral nature, to have subordinated the
senses to the mind is the highest triumph of the civilized state. Were
it possible to embody the present complicated scheme of society, so as
to bring it before us as a visible object, there is perhaps nothing
in the world of sense that would so fill us with wonder; for what is
there in nature that may not fall within its limits? and yet how small
a portion of this stupendous fabric will be found to have any direct,
much less exclusive, relation to the actual wants of the body! It
might seem, indeed, to an unreflecting observer, that our physical
necessities, which, truly estimated, are few and simple, have rather
been increased than diminished by the civilized man. But this is not
true; for, if a wider duty is imposed on the senses, it is only to
minister to the increased demands of the imagination, which is now so
mingled with our every-day concerns, even with our dress, houses, and
furniture, that, except with the brutalized, the purely sensuous wants
might almost be said to have become extinct: with the cultivated and
refined, they are at least so modified as to be no longer prominent.

But this refilling on the physical, like every thing else, has had its
opponents: it is declaimed against as artificial. If by artificial is
meant unnatural, we cannot so consider it; but hold, on the contrary,
that the whole multiform scheme of the civilized state is not only in
accordance with our nature, but an essential condition to the proper
developement of the human being. It is presupposed by the very wants
of his mind; nor could it otherwise have been, any more than could
have been the cabin of the beaver, or the curious hive of the bee,
without their preexisting instincts; it is therefore in the highest
sense natural, as growing out of the inherent desires of the mind.

But we would not be misunderstood. When we speak of the refined
state as not out of nature, we mean such results as proceed from the
legitimate growth of our mental constitution, which we suppose to
be grounded in permanent, universal principles; and, whatever
modifications, however subtile, and apparently visionary, may follow
their operation in the world of sense, so long as that operation
diverge not from its original ground, its effect must be, in the
strictest sense, natural. Thus the wildest visions of poetry, the
unsubstantial forms of painting, and the mysterious harmonies of
music, that seem to disembody the spirit, and make us creatures of the
air,--even these, unreal as they are, may all have their foundation
in immutable truth; and we may moreover know of this truth by its own
evidence. Of this species of evidence we shall have occasion to speak
hereafter. But there is another kind of growth, which may well be
called unnatural; we mean, of those diseased appetites, whose effects
are seen in the distorted forms of the _conventional_, having no
ground but in weariness of the true; and it cannot be denied that this
morbid growth has its full share, inwardly and outwardly, both of
space and importance. These, however, must sooner or later end as they
began; they perish in the lie they make; and it were well did not
other falsehoods take their places, to prolong a life whose only
tenure is inconsequential succession,--in other words, Fashion.

If it be true, then, that even the commonplaces of life must all in
some degree partake of the mental, there can be but one rule by which
to determine the proper rank of any object of pursuit, and that is by
its nearer or more remote relation to our inward nature. Every system,
therefore, which tends to degrade a mental pleasure to the subordinate
or superfluous, is both narrow and false, as virtually reversing its
natural order.

It pleased our Creator, when he endowed us with appetites and
functions by which to sustain the economy of life, at the same time to
annex to their exercise a sense of pleasure; hence our daily food, and
the daily alternation of repose and action, are no less grateful than
imperative. That life may be sustained, and most of its functions
performed, without any coincident enjoyment, is certainly possible.
Our food may be distasteful, action painful, and rest unrefreshing;
and yet we may eat, and exercise, and sleep, nay, live thus for years.
But this is not our natural condition, and we call it disease. Were
man a mere animal, the very act of living, in his natural or healthy
state, would be to him a continuous enjoyment. But he is also a moral
and an intellectual being; and, in like manner, is the healthful
condition of these, the nobler parts of his nature, attended with
something more than a consciousness of the mere process of existence.
To the exercise of his intellectual faculties and moral attributes the
same benevolent law has superadded a sense of pleasure,--of a kind,
too, in the same degree transcending the highest bodily sensation, as
must that which is immortal transcend the perishable. It is not for us
to ask why it is so; much less, because it squares not with the
poor notion of material usefulness, to call in question a fact that
announces a nature to which the senses are but passing ministers. Let
us rather receive this ennobling law, at least without misgiving, lest
in our sensuous wisdom we exchange an enduring gift for a transient

Of the peculiar fruits of this law, which we shall here distinguish by
the general term _mental pleasures_, it is our purpose to treat
in the present discourse.

It is with no assumed diffidence that we venture on this subject; for,
though we shall offer nothing not believed to be true, we are but too
sensible how small a portion of truth it is in our power to present.
But, were it far greater, and the present writer of a much higher
order of intellect, there would still be sufficient cause for
humility in view of those impassable bounds that have ever met every
self-questioning of the mind.

But whilst the narrowness of human knowledge may well preclude all
self-exaltation, it would be worse than folly to hold as naught the
many important truths which have been wrought out for us by the mighty
intellects of the past. If they have left us nothing for vainglory,
they have left us at least enough to be grateful for. Nor is it
a little, that they have taught us to look into those mysterious
chambers of our being,--the abode of the spirit; and not a little,
indeed, if what we are there permitted to know shall have brought with
it the conviction, that we are not abandoned to a blind empiricism, to
waste life in guesses, and to guess at last that we have all our
lives been guessing wrong,--but, unapproachable though it be to the
subordinate Understanding, that we have still within us an abiding
Interpreter, which cannot be gainsaid, which makes our duty to God and
man clear as the light, which ever guards the fountain of all true
pleasures, nay, which holds in subjection the last high gift of the
Creator, that imaginative faculty whereby his exalted creature, made
in his image, might mould at will, from his most marvellous world, yet
unborn forms, even forms of beauty, grandeur, and majesty, having all
of truth but his own divine prerogative,--_the mystery of Life_.

As the greater part of those Pleasures which we propose to discuss are
intimately connected with the material world, it may be well, perhaps,
to assign some reason for the epithet _mental_. To many, we know,
this will seem superfluous; but, when it is remembered how often we
hear of this and that object delighting the eye, or of certain sounds
charming the ear, it may not be amiss to show that such expressions
have really no meaning except as metaphors. When the senses, as the
medium of communication, have conveyed to the mind either the sounds
or images, their function ceases. So also with respect to the objects:
their end is attained, at least as to us, when the sounds or images
are thus transmitted, which, so far as they are concerned, must for
ever remain the same within as without the mind. For, where the
ultimate end is not in mere bodily sensation, neither the senses nor
the objects possess, of themselves, any productive power; of the
product that follows, the _tertium aliquid_, whether the pleasure
we feel be in a beautiful animal or in according sounds, neither the
one nor the other is really the cause, but simply the _occasion_.
It is clear, then, that the effect realized supposes of necessity
another agent, which must therefore exist only in the mind. But of
this hereafter.

If the cause of any emotion, which we seem to derive from an outward
object, were inherent exclusively in the object itself, there could
be no failure in any instance, except where the organs of sense were
either diseased or imperfect. But it is a matter of fact that they
often do fail where there is no disease or organic defect. Many of us,
perhaps, can call to mind certain individuals, whose sense of hearing
is as acute as our own, who yet can by no possibility be made to
recognize the slightest relation between the according notes of the
simplest melody; and, though they can as readily as others distinguish
the individual sounds, even to the degrees of flatness and sharpness,
the harmonic agreement is to them as mere noise. Let us suppose
ourselves present at a concert, in company with one such person and
another who possesses what is called musical sensibility. How are
they affected, for instance, by a piece of Mozart's? In the sense
of hearing they are equal: look at them. In the one we perceive
perplexity, annoyance, perhaps pain; he hears nothing but a confused
medley of sounds. In the other, the whole being is rapt in ecstasy,
the unutterable pleasure gushes from his eyes, he cannot articulate
his emotion;--in the words of one, who felt and embodied the subtile
mystery in immortal verse, his very soul seems "lapped in Elysium."
Now, could this difference be possible, were the sole cause, strictly
speaking, in mere matter?

Nor do we contradict our position, when we admit, in certain
cases,--for instance, in the producer,--the necessity of a nicer
organization, in order to the more perfect _transmission_ of the
finer emotions; inasmuch as what is to be communicated in space and
time must needs be by some medium adapted thereto.

Such a person as Paganini, it is said, was able to "discourse most
excellent music" on a ballad-monger's fiddle; yet will any one
question that he needed an instrument of somewhat finer construction
to show forth his full powers? Nay, we might add, that he needed no
less than the most delicate _Cremona_,--some instrument, as it
were, articulated into humanity,--to have inhaled and respired those
attenuated strains, which, those who heard them think it hardly
extravagant to say, seemed almost to embody silence.

Now this mechanical instrument, by means of which such marvels were
wrought, is but one of the many visible symbols of that more subtile
instrument through which the mind acts when it would manifest itself.
It would be too absurd to ask if any one believed that the music we
speak of was created, as well as conveyed, by the instrument. The
violin of Paganini may still be seen and handled; but the soul that
inspired it is buried with its master.

If we admit a distinction between mind and matter, and the result we
speak of be purely mental, we should contradict the universal law
of nature to assign such a product to mere matter, inasmuch as the
natural law forbids in the lower the production of the higher. Take
an example from one of the lower forms of organic life,--a common
vegetable. Will any one assert that the surrounding inorganic elements
of air, earth, heat, and water produce its peculiar form? Though some,
or all, of these may be essential to its developement, they are so
only as its predetermined correlatives, without which its existence
could not be manifested; and in like manner must the peculiar form of
the vegetable preexist in its life,--in its _idea_,--in order to
evolve by these assimilants its own proper organism.

No possible modification in the degrees or proportion of these
elements can change the specific form of a plant,--for instance, a
cabbage into a cauliflower; it must ever remain a cabbage, _small or
large, good or bad. _ So, too, is the external world to the
mind; which needs, also, as the condition of its manifestation, its
objective correlative. Hence the presence of some outward object,
predetermined to correspond to the preexisting idea in its living
power, is essential to the evolution of its proper end,--the
pleasurable emotion. We beg it may be noted that we do not say
_sensation_. And hence we hold ourself justified in speaking of
such presence as simply the occasion, or condition, and not, _per
se_, the cause. And hence, moreover, may be inferred the absolute
necessity of Dual Forces in order to the actual existence of any
thing. One alone, the incomprehensible Author of all things, is
self-subsisting in his perfect Unity.

We shall now endeavour to establish the following proposition: namely,
that the Pleasures in question have their true source in One Intuitive
Universal Principle or living Power, and that the three Ideas of
Beauty, Truth, and Holiness, which we assume to represent the
_perfect_ in the physical, intellectual, and moral worlds, are
but the several realized phases of this sovereign principle, which we
shall call _Harmony_.

Our first step, then, is to possess ourself of the essential or
distinctive characteristic of these pleasurable emotions. Apparently,
there is nothing more simple. And yet we are acquainted with no single
term that shall fully express it. But what every one has more or less
felt may certainly be made intelligible in a more extended form, and,
we should think, by any one in the slightest degree competent to
self-examination. Let a person, then, be appealed to; and let him put
the question as to what passes within him when possessed by these
emotions; and the spontaneous feeling will answer for us, that what we
call _self_ has no part in them. Nay, we further assert, that,
when singly felt, that is, when unallied to other emotions as
modifying forces, they are wholly unmixed with _any personal
considerations, or any conscious advantage to the individual_.

Nor is this assigning too high a character to the feelings in question
because awakened in so many instances by the purely physical; since
their true origin may clearly be traced to a common source with those
profounder emotions which we are wont to ascribe to the intellectual
and moral. Besides, it should be borne in mind, that no physical
object can be otherwise to the mind than a mere _occasion_; its
inward product, or mental effect, being from another Power. The proper
view therefore is, not that such alliance can ever degrade the higher
agent, but that its more humble and material _assimilant_ is thus
elevated by it. So that nothing in nature should be counted mean,
which can thus be exalted; but rather be honored, since no object can
become so assimilated except by its predetermined correlation to our
better nature.

Neither is it the privilege of the exclusive few, the refined and
cultivated, to feel them deeply. If we look beyond ourselves, even to
the promiscuous multitude, the instance will be rare, if existing at
all, where some transient touch of these purer feelings has not raised
the individual to, at least, a momentary exemption from the common
thraldom of self. And we greatly err if their universality is not
solely limited by those "shades of the prison-house," which, in the
words of the poet, too often "close upon the growing boy." Nay, so
far as we have observed, we cannot admit it as a question whether any
person through a whole life has always been wholly insensible,--we
will not say (though well we might) to the good and true,--but to
beauty; at least, to some one kind, or degree, of the beautiful. The
most abject wretch, however animalized by vice, may still be able to
recall the time when a morning or evening sky, a bird, a flower, or
the sight of some other object in nature, has given him a pleasure,
which he felt to be distinct from that of his animal appetites, and
to which he could attach not a thought of self-interest. And, though
crime and misery may close the heart for years, and seal it up for
ever to every redeeming thought, they cannot so shut out from the
memory these gleams of innocence; even the brutified spirit, the
castaway of his kind, has been made to blush at this enduring light;
for it tells him of a truth, which might else have never been
remembered,--that he has once been a man.

And here may occur a question,--which might well be left to the ultra
advocates of the _cui bono_,--whether a simple flower may not
sometimes be of higher use than a labor-saving machine.

As to the objects whose effect on the mind is here discussed, it is
needless to specify them; they are, in general, all such as are known
to affect us in the manner described. The catalogue will vary both in
number and kind with different persons, according to the degree of
force or developement in the overruling Principle.

We proceed, then, to reply to such objections as will doubtless be
urged against the characteristic assumed. And first, as regards the
Beautiful, we shall probably be met by the received notion, that we
experience in Beauty one of the most powerful incentives to passion;
while examples without number will be brought in array to prove it
also the wonder-working cause of almost fabulous transformations,--as
giving energy to the indolent, patience to the quick, perseverance
to the fickle, even courage to the timid; and, _vice versa_, as
unmanning the hero,--nay, urging the honorable to falsehood, treason,
and murder; in a word, through the mastered, bewildered, sophisticated
_self_, as indifferently raising and sinking the fascinated
object to the heights and depths of pleasure and misery, of virtue and

Now, if the Beauty here referred to is of the _human being_, we
do not gainsay it; but this is beauty in its _mixed mode_,--not
in its high, passionless form, its singleness and purity. It is not
Beauty as it descended from heaven, in the cloud, the rainbow, the
flower, the bird, or in the concord of sweet sounds, that seem to
carry back the soul to whence it came.

Could we look, indeed, at the human form in its simple, unallied
physical structure,--on that, for instance, of a beautiful woman,--and
forget, or rather not feel, that it is other than a _form_, there
could be but one feeling: that nothing visible was ever so framed to
banish from the soul every ignoble thought, and imbue it, as it were,
with primeval innocence.

We are quite aware that the doctrine assumed in our main proposition
with regard to Beauty, as holding exclusive relation to the Physical,
is not very likely to forestall favor; we therefore beg for it only
such candid attention as, for the reasons advanced, it may appear to

That such effects as have just been objected could not be from Beauty
alone, in its pure and single form, but rather from its coincidence
with some real or supposed moral or intellectual quality, or with the
animal appetites, seems to us clear; as, were it otherwise, we might
infer the same from a beautiful infant,--the very thought of which is
revolting to common sense. In such conjunction, indeed, it cannot but
have a certain influence, but so modified as often to become a mere
accessory, subordinated to the animal or moral object, and for the
attainment of an end not its own; in proof of which, we find it almost
uniformly partaking the penalty imposed on its incidental associates,
should ever their desires result in illusion,--namely, in the aversion
that follows. But the result of Beauty can never be such; when it
seems otherwise, the effect, we think, can readily be traced to other
causes, as we shall presently endeavour to show.

It cannot be a matter of controversy whether Beauty is limited to the
human form; the daily experience of the most ordinary man would answer
No: he finds it in the woods, the fields, in plants and animals,
nay, in a thousand objects, as he looks upon nature; nor, though
indefinitely diversified, does he hesitate to assign to each the same
epithet. And why? Because the feelings awakened by all are similar in
kind, though varying, doubtless, by many degrees in intenseness. Now
suppose he is asked of what personal advantage is all this beauty to
him. Verily, he would be puzzled to answer. It gives him pleasure,
perhaps great pleasure. And this is all he could say. But why should
the effect be different, except in degree, from the beauty of a human
being? We have already the answer in this concluding term. For what is
a human being but one who unites in himself a physical, intellectual,
and moral nature, which cannot in one become even an object of thought
without at least some obscure shadowings of its natural allies? How,
then, can we separate that which has an exclusive relation to his
physical form, without some perception of the moral and intellectual
with which it is joined? But how do we know that Beauty is limited
to such exclusive relation? This brings us to the great problem; so
simple and easy of solution in all other cases, yet so intricate and
apparently inexplicable in man. In other things, it would be felt
absurd to make it a question, whether referring to form, color, or
sound. A single instance will suffice. Let us suppose, then, an
unfamiliar object, whose habits, disposition, and so forth, are wholly
unknown, for instance, a bird of paradise, to be seen for the
first time by twenty persons, and they all instantly call it
beautiful;--could there be any doubt that the pleasure it produced
in each was of the same kind? or would any one of them ascribe his
pleasure to any thing but its form and plumage? Concerning natural
objects, and those inferior animals which are not under the influence
of domestic associations, there is little or no difference among men:
if they differ, it is only in degree, according to their sensibility.
Men do not dispute about a rose. And why? Because there is nothing
beside the physical to interfere with the impression it was
predetermined to make; and the idea of beauty is realized instantly.
So, also, with respect to other objects of an opposite character; they
can speak without deliberating, and call them plain, homely, ugly, and
so on, thus instinctively expressing even their degree of remoteness
from the condition of beauty. Who ever called a pelican beautiful, or
even many animals endeared to us by their valuable qualities,--such as
the intelligent and docile elephant, or the affectionate orang-outang,
or the faithful mastiff? Nay, we may run through a long list of most
useful and amiable creatures, that could not, under any circumstances,
give birth to an emotion corresponding to that which we ascribe to the

But there is scarcely a subject on which mankind are wider at
variance, than on the beauty of their own species,--some preferring
this, and others that, particular conformation; which can only be
accounted for on the supposition of some predominant expression,
either moral, intellectual, or sensual, with which they are in
sympathy, or else the reverse. While some will task their memory,
and resort to the schools, for their supposed infallible
_rules_;--forgetting, meanwhile, that ultimate tribunal to which
their canon must itself appeal, the ever-living principle which first
evolved its truth, and which now, as then, is not to be reasoned
about, but _felt_. It need not be added how fruitful of blunders
is this mechanical ground.

Now we venture to assert that no mistake was ever made, even in a
single glance, concerning any natural object, not disfigured by human
caprice, or which the eye had not been trained to look at through
some conventional medium. Under this latter circumstance, there are
doubtless many things in nature which affect men very differently; and
more especially such as, from their familiar nearness, have come under
the influence of _opinion_, and been incrusted, as it were, by
the successive deposits of many generations. But of the vast and
various multitude of objects which have thus been forced from their
original state, there is perhaps no one which has undergone so many
and such strange disfigurements as the human form; or in relation to
which our "ideas," as we are pleased to call them, but in truth our
opinions, have been so fluctuating. If an Idea, indeed, had any thing
to do with Fashion, we should call many things monstrous to
which custom has reconciled us. Let us suppose a case, by way of
illustration. A gentleman and lady, from one of our fashionable
cities, are making a tour on the borders of some of our new
settlements in the West. They are standing on the edge of a forest,
perhaps admiring the grandeur of nature; perhaps, also, they are
lovers, and sharing with nature their admiration for each other, whose
personal charms are set off to the utmost, according to the most
approved notions, by the taste and elegance of their dress. Then
suppose an Indian hunter, who had never seen one of our civilized
world, or heard of our costume, coming suddenly upon them, their faces
being turned from him. Would it be possible for him to imagine what
kind of animals they were? We think not; and least of all, that he
would suppose them to be of his own species. This is no improbable
case; and we very much fear, should it ever occur, that the unrefined
savage would go home with an impression not very flattering either to
the milliner or the tailor.

That, under such disguises, we should consider human beauty as a kind
of enigma, or a thing to dispute about, is not surprising; nor even
that we should often differ from ourselves, when so much of the
outward man is thus made to depend on the shifting humors of some
paramount Petronius of the shears. But, admitting it to be an easy
matter to divest the form, or, what is still more important, our
own minds, of every thing conventional, there is the still greater
obstacle to any true effect from the person alone, in that moral
admixture, already mentioned, which, more or less, must color the
most of our impressions from every individual. Is there not, then,
sufficient ground for at least a doubt if, excepting idiots, there is
one human being in whom the purely physical is _at all times_ the
sole agent? We do not say that it does not generally predominate. But,
in a compound being like man, it seems next to impossible that the
nature within should not at times, in some degree, transpire through
the most rigid texture of the outward form. We may not, indeed, always
read aright the character thus obscurely indexed, or even be able to
guess at it, one way or the other; still, it will affect us; nay, most
so, perhaps, when most indefinite. Every man is, to a certain extent,
a physiognomist: we do not mean, according to the common acceptation,
that he is an interpreter of lines and quantities, which may be
reduced to rules; but that he is born one, judging, not by any
conscious rule, but by an instinct, which he can neither explain nor
comprehend, and which compels him to sit in judgment, whether he will
or no. How else can we account for those instantaneous sympathies and
antipathies towards an utter stranger?

Now this moral influence has a twofold source, one in the object,
and another in ourselves; nor is it easy to determine which is the
stronger as a counteracting force. Hitherto we have considered only
the former; we now proceed with a few remarks upon the latter.

Will any man say, that he is wholly without some natural or acquired
bias? This is the source of the counteracting influence which we speak
of in ourselves; but which, like many other of the secret springs,
both of thought and feeling, few men think of. It is nevertheless one
which, on this particular subject, is scarcely ever inactive;
and according to the bias will be our impressions, whether we be
intellectual or sensual, coldly speculative or ardently imaginative.
We do not mean that it is always called forth by every thing we
approach; we speak only of its usual activity between man and man; for
there seems to be a mysterious something in our nature, that, in spite
of our wishes, will rarely allow of an absolute indifference towards
any of the species; some effect, however slight, even as that of the
air which we unconsciously inhale and again respire, must follow,
whether directly from the object or reacting from ourselves. Nay, so
strong is the law, whether in attraction or repulsion, that we cannot
resist it even in relation to those human shadows projected on air by
the mere imagination; for we feel it in art only less than in nature,
provided, however, that the imagined being possess but the indication
of a human soul: yet not so is it, if presenting only the outward
form, since a mere form can in itself have no affinity with either
the heart or intellect. And here we would ask, Does not this
striking exception in the present argument cast back, as it were, a
confirmatory reflection?

We have often thought, that the power of the mere form could not be
more strongly exemplified than at a common paint-shop. Among the
annual importations from the various marts of Europe, how
many beautiful faces, without an atom of meaning, attract the
passengers,--stopping high and low, people of all descriptions,
and actually giving pleasure, if not to every one, at least to the
majority; and very justly, for they have beauty, and _nothing
else_. But let another artist, some man of genius, copy the same
faces, and add character,--breathe into them souls: from that moment
the passers-by would see as if with other eyes; the affections and
the imagination then become the spectators; and, according to the
quickness or dulness, the vulgarity or refinement, of these, would be
the impression. Thus a coarse mind may feel the beauty in the hard,
soulless forms of Van der Werf, yet turn away with apathy from the
sanctified loveliness of a Madonna by Raffaelle.

But to return to the individual bias, which is continually inclining
to, or repelling, What is more common, especially with women, than
a high admiration of a plain person, if connected with wit, or a
pleasing address? Can we have a stronger case in point than that of
the celebrated Wilkes, one of the ugliest, yet one of the most
admired men of his time? Even his own sex, blinded no doubt by their
sympathetic bias, could see no fault in him, either in mind or
person; for, when it was objected to the latter, that "he squinted
confoundedly," the reply was, "No, Sir, not more than a gentleman
ought to squint."

Of the tendency to particular pursuits,--to art, science, or any
particular course of life,--we do not speak; the bias we allude to is
in the more personal disposition of the man,--in that which gives a
tone to his internal character; nor is it material of what
proportions compounded, of the affections, or the intellect, or the
senses,--whether of some only, or the whole; that these form the
ground of every man's bias is no less certain, than the fact that
there is scarcely any secret which men are in the habit of guarding
with such sedulous care. Nay, it would seem as if every one were
impelled to it by some superstitious instinct, that every one might
have it to say to himself, There is one thing in me which is all _my
own_. Be this as it may, there are few things more hazardous than
to pronounce with confidence on any man's bias. Indeed, most men would
be puzzled to name it to themselves; but its existence in them is
not the less a fact, because the form assumed may be so mixed and
complicated as to be utterly undefinable. It is enough, however, that
every one feels, and is more or less led by it, whether definite or

This being the case, how is it possible that it should not in some
degree affect our feelings towards every one we meet,--that it should
not leave some speck of leaven on each impression, which shall
impregnate it with something that we admire and love, or else with
that which we hate and despise?

And what is the most beautiful or the most ungainly form before a
sorcerer like this, who can endow a fair simpleton with the rarest
intellect, or transform, by a glance, the intellectual, noble-hearted
dwarf to an angel of light? These, of course, are extreme cases. But
if true in these, as we have reason to believe, how formidable the

But though, as before observed, we may not read this secret with
precision, it is sometimes possible to make a shrewd guess at the
prevailing tendency in certain individuals. Perhaps the most obvious
cases are among the sanguine and imaginative; and the guess would be,
that a beautiful person would presently be enriched with all possible
virtues, while the colder speculatist would only see in it, not what
it possessed, but the mind that it wanted. Now it would be curious to
imagine (and the case is not impossible) how the eyes of each might be
opened, with the probable consequence, how each might feel when his
eyes were opened, and the object was seen as it really is. Some
untoward circumstance comes unawares on the perfect creature: a burst
of temper knits the brow, inflames the eye, inflates the nostril,
gnashes the teeth, and converts the angel into a storming fury. What
then becomes of the visionary virtues? They have passed into air, and
taken with them, also, what was the fair creature's right,--her
very beauty. Yet a different change takes place with the dry man of
intellect. The mindless object has taken shame of her ignorance; she
begins to cultivate her powers, which are gradually developed until
they expand and brighten; they inform her features, so that no one can
look upon them without seeing the evidence of no common intellect: the
dry man, at last, is struck with their superior intelligence, and what
more surprises him is the grace and beauty, which, for the first time,
they reveal to his eyes. The learned dust which had so long buried his
heart is quickly brushed away, and he weds the embodied mind. What
third change may follow, it is not to our purpose to foresee.

Has human beauty, then, no power? When united with virtue and
intellect, we might almost answer,--All power. It is the embodied
harmony of the true poet; his visible Muse; the guardian angel of his
better nature; the inspiring sibyl of his best affections, drawing him
to her with a purifying charm, from the selfishness of the world, from
poverty and neglect, from the low and base, nay, from his own frailty
or vices:--for he cannot approach her with unhallowed thoughts, whom
the unlettered and ignorant look up to with awe, as to one of a
race above them; before whom the wisest and best bow down without
abasement, and would bow in idolatry but for a higher reverence.
No! there is no power like this of mortal birth. But against the
antagonist moral, the human beauty of itself has no power, no
self-sustaining life. While it panders to evil desires, then, indeed,
there are few things may parallel its fearful might. But the unholy
alliance must at last have an end. Look at it then, when the beautiful
serpent has cast her slough.

Let us turn to it for a moment, and behold it in league with elegant
accomplishments and a subtile intellect: how complete its triumph! If
ever the soul may be said to be intoxicated, it is then, when it feels
the full power of a beautiful, bad woman. The fabled enchantments
of the East are less strange and wonder-working than the marvellous
changes which her spell has wrought. For a time every thought seems
bound to her will; the eternal eye of the conscience closes before
her; the everlasting truths of right and wrong sleep at her bidding;
nay, things most gross and abhorred become suddenly invested with
a seeming purity: till the whole mind is hers, and the bewildered
victim, drunk with her charms, calls evil good. Then, what may follow?
Read the annals of crime; it will tell us what follows the broken
spell,--broken by the first degrading theft, the first stroke of the
dagger, or the first drop of poison. The felon's eye turns upon the
beautiful sorceress with loathing and abhorrence: an asp, a toad, is
not more hateful! The story of Milwood has many counterparts.

But, although Beauty cannot sustain itself permanently against what is
morally bad, and has no direct power of producing good, it yet may,
and often does, when unobstructed, through its unimpassioned purity,
predispose to the good, except, perhaps, in natures grossly depraved;
inasmuch as all affinities to the pure are so many reproaches to the
vitiated mind, unless convertible to some selfish end. Witness the
beautiful wife, wedded for what is misnamed love, yet becoming the
scorn of a brutal husband,--the more bitter, perhaps, if she be also
good. But, aside from those counteracting causes so often mentioned,
it is as we have said: we are predisposed to feel kindly, and to think
purely, of every beautiful object, until we have reason to think
otherwise; and according to our own hearts will be our thoughts.

We are aware of but one other objection which has not been noticed,
and which might be made to the intuitive nature of the Idea. How is
it, we may be asked, that artists, who are supposed, from their early
discipline, to have overcome all conventional bias, and also to have
acquired the more difficult power of analyzing their models, so as to
contemplate them in their separate elements, have so often varied as
to their ideas of Beauty? Whether artists have really the power thus
ascribed to them, we shall not here inquire; it is no doubt, if
possible, their business to acquire it. But, admitting it as true, we
deny the position: they do not change their ideas. They can have but
one Idea of Beauty, inasmuch as that Idea is but a specific phase of
one immutable Principle,--if there be such a principle; as we shall
hereafter endeavour to show. Nor can they have of it any
essentially different, much less opposite, conceptions: but their
_apprehension_ of it may undergo many apparent changes, which,
nevertheless, are but the various degrees that only mark a fuller
conception; as their more extended acquaintance with the higher
outward assimilants of Beauty brings them, of course, nearer to a
perfect realization of the preexisting Idea. By _perfect_, here,
we mean only the nearest approximation by man. And we appeal to every
artist, competent to answer, if it be not so. Does he ever descend
from a higher assimilant to a lower? Suppose him to have been born in
Italy; would he go to Holland to realize his Idea? But many a Dutchman
has sought in Italy what he could not find in his own country. We
do not by this intend any reflection on the latter,--a country so
fruitful of genius; it is only saying that the human form in Italy is
from a finer mould. Then, what directs the artist from one object to
another, and determines him which to choose, if he has not the guide
within him? And why else should all nations instinctively bow before
the superior forms of Greece?

We add but one remark. Supposing the artist to be wholly freed from
all modifying biases, such is seldom the case with those who criticize
his work,--especially those who would show their superiority by
detecting faults, and who frequently condemn the painter simply for
not expressing what he never aimed at. As to some, they are never
content if they do not find beauty, whatever the subject, though
it may neutralize the character, if not render it ridiculous. Were
Raffaelle, who seldom sought the purely beautiful, to be judged by
the want of it, he would fall below Guido. But his object was much
higher,--in the intellect and the affections; it was the human being
in his endless inflections of thought and passion, in which there is
little probability he will ever be approached. Yet false criticism has
been as prodigal to him in the ascription of beauty, as parsimonious
and unjust to many others.

In conclusion, may there not be, in the difficulty we have thus
endeavoured to solve, a probable significance of the responsible, as
well as distinct, position which the Human being holds in the world of
life? Are there no shadowings, in that reciprocal influence between
soul and soul, of some mysterious chain which links together the human
family in its two extremes, giving to the very lowest an indefeasible
claim on the highest, so that we cannot be independent if we would,
or indifferent even to the very meanest, without violation of an
imperative law of our nature? And does it not at least _hint_
of duties and affections towards the most deformed in body, the most
depraved in mind,--of interminable consequences? If man were a mere
animal, though the highest animal, could these inscrutable influences
affect us as they do? Would not the animal appetites be our true and
sole end? What even would Beauty be to the sated appetite? If it did
not, as in the last instance, of the brutal husband, become an object
of scorn,--which it could not be, from the necessary absence of moral
obliquity,--would it be better than a picked bone to a gorged dog?
Least of all could it resemble the visible sign of that pure idea, in
which so many lofty minds have recognized the type of a far higher
love than that of earth, which the soul shall know, when, in a better
world, she shall realize the ultimate reunion of Beauty with the
coeternal forms of Truth and Holiness.

We will now apply the characteristic assumed to the second leading
Idea, namely, to Truth. In the first place, we take it for granted,
that no one will deny to the perception of truth some positive
pleasure; no one, at least, who is not at the same time prepared to
contradict the general sense of mankind, nay, we will add, their
universal experience. The moment we begin to think, we begin to
acquire, whether it be in trifles or otherwise, some kind of
knowledge; and of two things presented to our notice, supposing one to
be true and the other false, no one ever knowingly, and for its own
sake, chooses the false: whatever he may do in after life, for some
selfish purpose, he cannot do so in childhood, where there is no such
motive, without violence to his nature. And here we are supposing the
understanding, with its triumphant pride and subtilty, out of the
question, and the child making his choice under the spontaneous sense
of the true and the false. For, were it otherwise, and the choice
indifferent, what possible foundation for the commonest acts of life,
even as it respects himself, would there be to him who should sow with
lies the very soil of his growing nature. It is time enough in manhood
to begin to lie to one's self; but a self-lying youth can have no
proper self to rest on, at any period. So that the greatest liar, even
Ferdinand Mendez Pinto, must have loved the truth,--at least at one
time of his life. We say _loved_; for a voluntary choice implies
of necessity some degree of pleasure in the choosing, however faint
the emotion or insignificant the object. It is, therefore, _caeteris
paribus_, not only necessary, but natural, to find pleasure in

Now the question is, whether the pleasurable emotion, which is, so
to speak, the indigenous growth of Truth, can in any case be free of
self, or some personal gratification. To this, we apprehend, there
will be no lack of answer. Nay, the answer has already been given from
the dark antiquity of ages, that even for her own exceeding loveliness
has Truth been canonized. If there was any thing of self in the
_Eureka_ of Pythagoras, there was not in the acclamations of
his country who rejoiced with him. But we may doubt the feeling, if
applied to him. If wealth or fame has sometimes followed in the track
of Genius, it has followed as an accident, but never preceded, as the
efficient conductor to any great discovery. For what is Genius but the
prophetic revealer of the unseen True, that can neither be purchased
nor bribed into light? If it come, then, at all, it must needs be
evoked by a kindred love as pure as itself. Shall we appeal to the
artist? If he deserve the name, he will disdain the imputation that
either wealth or fame has ever aided at the birth of his ideal
offspring: it was Truth that smiled upon him, that made light his
travail, that blessed their birth, and, by her fond recognition,
imparted to his breast her own most pure, unimpassioned emotion. But,
whatever mixed feeling, through the infirmity of the agent, may have
influenced the artist, whether poet or painter, there can be but one
feeling in the reader or spectator.

Indeed, so imperishable is this property of Truth, that it seems to
lose nothing of its power, even when causing itself to be reflected
from things that in themselves have, properly speaking, no truth. Of
this we have abundant examples in some of the Dutch pictures, where
the principal object is simply a dish of oysters or a pickled herring.
We remember a picture of this kind, consisting solely of these very
objects, from which we experienced a pleasure _almost_ exquisite.
And we would here remark, that the appetite then was in no way
concerned. The pleasure, therefore, must have been from the imitated
truth. It is certainly a curious question why this should be, while
the things themselves, that is, the actual objects, should produce no
such effect. And it seems to be because, in the latter case, there was
no truth involved. The real oysters, &c., were indeed so far true as
they were actual objects, but they did not contain a _truth_ in
_relation_ to any thing. Whereas, in the pictured oysters,
their relation to the actual was shown and verified in the mutual

If this be true, as we doubt not, we have at least one evidence, where
it might not be looked for, that there is that in Truth which is
satisfying of itself. But a stronger testimony may still be found
where, from all _a priori_ reasoning, we might expect, if not
positive pain, at least no pleasure; and that is, where we find it
united with human suffering, as in the deep scenes of tragedy. Now it
cannot be doubted, that some of our most refined pleasures are often
derived from this source, and from scenes that in nature we could
not look upon. And why is this, but for the reason assigned in the
preceding instance of a still-life picture? the only difference being,
that the latter is addressed to the senses, and the former to the
heart and intellect: which difference, however, well accounts for
their vast disparity of effect. But may not these tragic pleasures
have their source in sympathy alone? We answer, No. For who ever felt
it in watching the progress of actual villany or the betrayal of
innocence, or in being an eyewitness of murder? Now, though we revolt
at these and the like atrocities in actual life, it would be both new
and false to assert that they have no attraction in Art.

Nor do we believe that this acknowledged interest can well be traced
to any other source than the one assumed; namely, to the truth
of _relation_. And in this capacity does Truth stand to the
Imagination, which is the proper medium through which the artist,
whether poet or painter, projects his scenes.

The seat of interest here, then, being _in_ the imagination, it
is precisely on that account, and because it cannot be brought home to
self, that the pleasure ensues; which is plainly, therefore, derived
from its verisimilitude to the actual, and, though together with its
appropriate excitement, yet without its imperative condition, namely,
its call of _life_ on the living affections.

The proper word here is _interest_, not sympathy, for sympathy
with actual suffering, be the object good or bad, is in its nature
painful; an obvious reason why so few in the more prosaic world have
the virtue to seek it.

But is it not the business of the artist to touch the heart?
True,--and it is his high privilege, as its liege-lord, to sound its
very depths; nay, from its lowest deep to touch alike its loftiest
breathing pinnacle. Yet he may not even approach it, except through
the transforming atmosphere of the imagination, where alone the
saddest notes of woe, even the appalling shriek of despair, are
softened, as it were, by the tempering dews of this visionary region,
ere they fall upon the heart. Else how could we stand the smothered
moan of Desdemona, or the fiendish adjuration of Lady Macbeth,--more
frightful even than the after-deed of her husband,--or look upon the
agony of the wretched Judas, in the terrible picture of Rembrandt,
when he returns the purchase of blood to the impenetrable Sanhedrim?
Ay, how could we ever stand these but for that ideal panoply through
which we feel only their modified vibrations?

Let the imitation, or rather copy, be so close as to trench on
deception, the effect will be far different; for, the _condition_
of _relation_ being thus virtually lost, the copy becomes as
the original,--circumscribed by its own qualities, repulsive or
attractive, as the case may be. I remember a striking instance of this
in a celebrated actress, whose copies of actual suffering were so
painfully accurate, that I was forced to turn away from the scene,
unable to endure it; her scream of agony in Belvidera seemed to ring
in my ears for hours after. Not so was it with the great Mrs. Siddons,
who moved not a step but in a poetic atmosphere, through which the
fiercest passions seemed rather to _loom_ like distant mountains
when first descried at sea,--massive and solid, yet resting on air.

It would appear, then, that there is something in truth, though but
seen in the dim shadow of relation, that enforces interest,--and, so
it be without pain, at least some degree of pleasure; which, however
slight, is not unimportant, as presenting an impassable barrier to the
mere animal. We must not, however, be understood as claiming for this
Relative Truth the power of exciting a pleasurable interest in
all possible cases; there are exceptions, as in the horrible, the
loathsome, &c., which under no condition can be otherwise than
revolting. It is enough for our purpose, to have shown that its effect
is in most cases similar to that we have ascribed to Truth absolute.

But objections are the natural adversaries of every adventurer: there
is one in our path which we soon descried at our first setting
out. And we find it especially opposed to the assertion respecting
children; namely, that between two things, where there is no personal
advantage to bias the decision, they will always choose that which
seems to them true, rather than the other which appears false. To
this is opposed the notorious fact of the remarkable propensity which
children have to lying. This is readily admitted; but it does not meet
us, unless it can be shown that they have not in the act of lying an
eye to its _reward_,--setting aside any outward advantage,--in
the shape of self-complacent thought at their superior wit or
ingenuity. Now it is equally notorious, that such secret triumph will
often betray itself by a smile, or wink, or some other sign from
the chuckling urchin, which proves any thing but that the lie was
gratuitous. No, not even a child can love a lie purely for its own
sake; he would else love it in another, which is against fact. Indeed,
so far from it, that, long before he can have had any notion of what
is meant by honor, the word _liar_ becomes one of his first and
most opprobrious terms of reproach. Look at any child's face when he
tells his companion he lies. We ask no more than that most logical
expression; and, if it speak not of a natural abhorrence only to be
overcome by self-interest, there is no trust in any thing. No. We
cannot believe that man or child, however depraved, _could_ tell
an _unproductive, gratuitous lie_.

Of the last and highest source of our pleasurable emotions we need say
little; since no one will question that, if sought at all, it can
only be for its own sake. But it does not become us--at least in this
place--to enter on the subject of Holiness; of that angelic state,
whose only manifestation is in the perfect unison with the Divine
Will. We may, however, consider it in the next degree, as it is known,
and as we believe often realized, among men: we mean Goodness.

We presume it is superfluous to define a good act; for every one
knows, or ought to know, that no act is good in its true sense, which
has any, the least, reference to the agent's self. Nor is it necessary
to adduce examples; our object being rather to show that the
recognition of goodness--and we beg that the word be especially
noted--must result, of necessity, in such an emotion as shall partake
of its own character, that is, be entirely devoid of self-interest.

This will no doubt appear to many a startling position. But let it be
observed, that we have not said it will _always_ be recognized.
There are many reasons why it should not be, and is not. We all know
how easy it is to turn away from what gives us no pleasure. A long
course of vice, together with the consciousness that goodness has
departed from ourselves, may make it painful to look upon it. Nay,
the contemplation of it may become, on this account, so painful as to
amount to agony. But that Goodness can be hated for its own sake we do
not believe, except by a devil, or some irredeemable incarnation of
evil, if such there be on this side the grave. But it is objected,
that bad men have sometimes a pleasure in Evil from which they neither
derive nor hope for any personal advantage, that is, simply _because
it is evil_. But we deny the fact. We deny that an unmixed
pleasure, which is purely abstracted from all reference to self, is in
the power of Evil. Should any man assert this even of himself, he is
not to be believed; he lies to his own heart,--and this he may do
without being conscious of it. But how can this be? Nothing more
easy: by a simple dislocation of words; by the aid of that false
nomenclature which began with the first Fratricide, and has
continued to accumulate through successive ages, till it reached
its consummation, for every possible sin, in the French Revolution.
Indeed, there are few things more easy; it is only to transfer to the
evil the name of its opposite. Some of us, perhaps, may have witnessed
the savage exultation of some hardened wretch, when the accidental
spectator of an atrocious act. But is such exultation pleasure? Is it
at all akin to what is recognized as pleasure even by this hardened
wretch? Yet so he may call it. But should we, could we look into his
heart? Should we not rather pause for a time, from mere ignorance of
the true vernacular of sin. What he feels may thus be a mystery to all
but the reprobate; but it is not pleasure either in the deed or the
doer: for, as the law of Good is Harmony, so is Discord that of Evil;
and as sympathy to Harmony, so is revulsion to Discord. And where is
hatred deepest and deadliest? Among the wicked. Yet they often hate
the good. True: but not goodness, not the good man's virtues; these
they envy, and hate him for possessing them. But more commonly the
object of dislike is first stripped of his virtues by detraction; the
detractor then supplies their place by the needful vices,--perhaps
with his own; then, indeed, he is ripe for hatred. When a sinful act
is made personal, it is another affair; it then becomes a _part_
of _the man_; and he may then worship it with the idolatry of
a devil. But there is a vast gulf between his own idol and that of

To prevent misapprehension, we would here observe, that we do not
affirm of either Good or Evil any irresistible power of enforcing
love or exciting abhorrence, having evidence to the contrary in
the multitudes about us; all we affirm is, that, when contemplated
abstractly, they cannot be viewed otherwise. Nor is the fact of
their inefficiency in many cases difficult of solution, when it is
remembered that the very condition to their _true_ effect is
the complete absence of self, that they must clearly be viewed _ab
extra_; a hard, not to say impracticable, condition to the very
depraved; for it may well be doubted if to such minds any act or
object having a moral nature can be presented without some personal
relation. It is not therefore surprising, that, where the condition is
so precluded, there should be, not only no proper response to the
law of Good or Evil, but such frequent misapprehension of their true
character. Were it possible to see with the eyes of others, this might
not so often occur; for it need not be remarked, that few things, if
any, ever retain their proper forms in the atmosphere of self-love;
a fact that will account for many obliquities besides the one in
question. To this we may add, that the existence of a compulsory power
in either Good or Evil could not, in respect to man, consist with his
free agency,--without which there could be no conscience; nor does it
follow, that, because men, with the free power of choice, yet so often
choose wrong, there is any natural indistinctness in the absolute
character of Evil, which, as before hinted, is sufficiently apparent
to them when referring to others; in such cases the obliquitous choice
only shows, that, with the full force of right perception, their
interposing passions or interests have also the power of giving their
own color to every object having the least relation to themselves.

Admitting this personal modification, we may then safely repeat our
position,--that to hate Good or to love Evil, solely for their own
sakes, is only possible with the irredeemably wicked, in other words,
with devils.

We now proceed to the latter clause of our general proposition. And here
it may be asked, on what ground we assume one intuitive universal
Principle as the true source of all those emotions which have just been
discussed. To this we reply, On the ground of their common agreement. As
we shall here use the words _effect_ and _emotion_ as convertible terms,
we wish it to be understood, that, when we apply the epithet _common_ or
_same_ to _effect_, we do so only in relation to _kind_, and for the
sake of brevity, instead of saying the same _class_ of effects; implying
also in the word _kind_ the existence of many degrees, but no other
difference. For instance, if a beautiful flower and a noble act shall be
found to excite a kindred emotion, however slight from the one or deep
from the other, they come in effect under the same category. And this we
are forced to admit, however heterogeneous, since a common ground is
necessarily predicated of a common result. How else, for instance, can
we account for a scene in nature, a bird, an animal, a human form,
affecting us each in a similar way? There is certainly no similitude in
the objects that compose a landscape, and the form of an animal and man;
they have no resemblance either in shape, or texture, or color, in
roughness, smoothness, or any other known quality; while their several
effects are so near akin, that we do not stop to measure even the wide
degrees by which they are marked, but class them in a breath by some
common term. It is very plain that this singular property of
assimilating to one what is so widely unlike cannot proceed from any
similar conformation, or quality, or attribute of mere being, that is,
of any thing essential to distinctive existence. There must needs, then,
be some common ground for their common effect. For if they agree not in
themselves one with the other, it follows of necessity that the ground
of their agreement must be in relation to something within our own
minds, since only _there_ is this common effect known as a fact.

We are now brought to the important question, _Where_ and
_what_ is this reconciling ground? Certainly not in sensation,
for that could only reflect their distinctive differences. Neither can
it be in the reflective faculties, since the effect in question, being
co-instantaneous, is wholly independent of any process of reasoning;
for we do not feel it because we understand, but only because we are
conscious of its presence. Nay, it is because we neither do nor can
understand it, being therefore a matter aloof from all the powers of
reasoning, that its character is such as has been asserted, and, as
such, universal.

Where, then, shall we search for this mysterious ground but in the
mind, since only there, as before observed, is this common effect
known as a fact? and where in the mind but in some inherent Principle,
which is both intuitive and universal, since, in a greater or less
degree, all men feel it _without knowing why?_

But since an inward Principle can, of necessity, have only a potential
existence, until called into action by some outward object, it is also
clear that any similar effect, which shall then be recognized through
it, from any number of differing and distinct objects, can only arise
from some mutual relation between a _something_ in the objects
and in the Principle supposed, as their joint result and proper

And, since it would appear that we cannot avoid the admission of
some such Principle, having a reciprocal relation to certain outward
objects, to account for these kindred emotions from so many distinct
and heterogeneous sources, it remains only that we give it a name;
which has already been anticipated in the term Harmony.

The next question here is, In what consists this _peculiar relation?_ We
have seen that it cannot be in any thing that is essential to any
condition of mere being or existence; it must therefore consist in some
_undiscoverable_ condition indifferently applicable to the Physical,
Intellectual, and Moral, yet only applicable in each to certain kinds.

And this is all that we do or _can_ know of it. But of this we
may be as certain as that we live and breathe.

It is true that, for particular purposes, we may analyze certain
combinations of sounds and colors and forms, so as to ascertain their
relative quantities or collocation; and these facts (of which we shall
hereafter have occasion to speak) may be of importance both in Art and
Science. Still, when thus obtained, they will be no more than mere
facts, on which we can predicate nothing but that, when they are
imitated,--that is, when similar combinations of quantities, &c., are
repeated in a work of art,--they will produce the same effect. But
_why_ they should is a mystery which the reflective faculties do
not solve; and never can, because it refers to a living Power that is
above the understanding. In the human figure, for instance, we can
give no reason why eight heads to the stature please us better than
six, or why three or twelve heads seem to us monstrous. If we say, in
the latter case, _because_ the head of the one is too small and
of the other too large, we give no _reason_; we only state the
_fact_ of their disagreeable effect on us. And, if we make the
proportion of eight heads our rule, it is because of the fact of its
being more pleasing to us than any other; and, from the same feeling,
we prefer those statures which approach it the nearest. Suppose we
analyze a certain combination of sounds and colors, so as to ascertain
the exact relative quantities of the one and the collocation of the
other, and then compare them. What possible resemblance can the
understanding perceive between these sounds and colors? And yet a
something within us responds to both in a similar emotion. And so with
a thousand things, nay, with myriads of objects that have no other
affinity but with that mysterious harmony which began with our being,
which slept with our infancy, and which their presence only seems to
have _awakened_. If we cannot go back to our own childhood, we
may see its illustration in those about us who are now emerging into
that unsophisticated state. Look at them in the fields, among the
birds and flowers; their happy faces speak the harmony within them:
the divine instrument, which these have touched, gives them a joy
which, perhaps, only childhood in its first fresh consciousness can
know. Yet what do they understand of musical quantities, or of the
theory of colors?

And so with respect to Truth and Goodness; whose preexisting Ideas,
being in the living constituents of an immortal spirit, need but the
slightest breath of some outward condition of the true and good,--a
simple problem, or a kind act,--to awake them, as it were, from their
unconscious sleep, and start them for eternity.

We may venture to assert, that no philosopher, however ingenious,
could communicate to a child the abstract idea of Right, had the
latter nothing beyond or above the understanding. He might, indeed, be
taught, like the inferior animals,--a dog, for instance,--that, if he
took certain forbidden things, he would be punished, and thus do
right through fear. Still he would desire the forbidden thing,
though belonging to another; nor could he conceive why he should not
appropriate to himself, and thus allay his appetite, what was held by
another, could he do so undetected; nor attain to any higher notion of
right than that of the strongest. But the child has something higher
than the mere power of apprehending consequences. The simplest
exposition, whether of right or wrong, even by an ignorant nurse, is
instantly responded to by something _within him_, which, thus
awakened, becomes to him a living voice ever after; and the good and
the true must thenceforth answer its call, even though succeeding
years would fain overlay them with the suffocating crowds of evil and

We do not say that these eternal Ideas of Beauty, Truth, and Goodness
will, strictly speaking, always act. Though indestructible, they may
be banished for a time by the perverted Will, and mockeries of the
brain, like the fume-born phantoms from the witches' caldron in
Macbeth, take their places, and assume their functions. We have
examples of this in every age, and perhaps in none more startling than
in the present. But we mean only that they cannot be _forgotten_:
nay, they are but, too often recalled with unwelcome distinctness.
Could we read the annals which must needs be scored on every
heart,--could we look upon those of the aged reprobate,--who will
doubt that their darkest passages are those made visible by the
distant gleams from these angelic Forms, that, like the Three which
stood before the tent of Abraham, once looked upon his youth?

And we doubt not that the truest witness to the common source of these
inborn Ideas would readily be acknowledged by all, could they return
to it now with their matured power of introspection, which is, at
least, one of the few advantages of advancing years. But, though
we cannot bring back youth, we may still recover much of its purer
revelations of our nature from what has been left in the memory. From
the dim present, then, we would appeal to that fresher time, ere
the young spirit had shrunk from the overbearing pride of the
understanding, and confidently ask, if the emotions we then felt from
the Beautiful, the True, and the Good, did not seem in some way to
refer to a common origin. And we would also ask, if it was then
frequent that the influence from one was _singly_ felt,--if it
did not rather bring with it, however remotely, a sense of something,
though widely differing, yet still akin to it. When we have basked in
the beauty of a summer sunset, was there nothing in the sky that spoke
to the soul of Truth and Goodness? And when the opening intellect
first received the truth of the great law of gravitation, or felt
itself mounting through the profound of space, to travel with the
planets in their unerring rounds, did never then the kindred Ideas of
Goodness and Beauty chime in, as it were, with the fabled music,--not
fabled to the soul,--which led you on like one entranced?

And again, when, in the passive quiet of your moral nature, so predisposed
in youth to all things genial, you have looked abroad on this marvellous,
ever teeming Earth,--ever teeming alike for mind and body,--and have felt
upon you flow, as from ten thousand springs of Goodness, Truth, and
Beauty, ten thousand streams of innocent enjoyment; did you not then
_almost hear_ them shout in confluence, and almost _see_ them gushing
upwards, as if they would prove their unity, in one harmonious fountain?

But, though the preceding be admitted as all true in respect to
certain "gifted" individuals, it may yet be denied that it is equally
true with respect to all, in other words, that the Principle assumed
is an inherent constituent of the human being. To this we reply, that
universality does not necessarily imply equality.

The universality of a Principle does not imply _everywhere_ equal
energy or activity, or even the same mode of manifestation, any more
than do the essential Faculties of the Understanding. Of this we have
an analogous illustration in the faculty of Memory; which is almost
indefinitely differenced in different men, both in degree and mode. In
some, its greatest power is shown in the retention of thoughts, but
not of words, that is, not of the original words in which they were
presented. Others possess it in a very remarkable degree as to forms,
places, &c., and but imperfectly for other things; others, again,
never forget names, dates, or figures, yet cannot repeat a
conversation the day after it took place; while some few have the
doubtful happiness of forgetting nothing. We might go on with a long
list of the various modes and degrees in which this faculty, so
essential to the human being, is everywhere manifested. But this is
sufficient for our purpose. In like manner is the Principle of Harmony
manifested; in one person as it relates to Form, in another to Sound;
so, too, may it vary as to the degrees of truth and goodness. We say
degrees; for we may well doubt whether, even in the faculty of memory,
its apparent absence as to any one essential object is any thing more
than a feeble degree of activity: and the doubt is strengthened by the
fact, that in many seemingly hopeless cases it has been actually, as
it were, brought into birth. And we are still indisposed to admit its
entire absence in any one particular for which it was bestowed on man.
An imperfect developement, especially as relating to the intellectual
and moral, we know to depend, in no slight measure, on the _will_
of the subject. Nay, (with the exception of idiots,) it may safely be
affirmed, that no individual ever existed who could not perceive the
difference between what is true and false, and right and wrong. We
here, of course, except those who have so ingeniously _unmade_
themselves, in order to reconstruct their "humanity" after a better
fashion. As to the "_why_" of these differences, we know nothing;
it is one of those unfathomable mysteries which to the finite mind
must ever be hidden.

Though it has been our purpose, throughout this discourse, to direct
our inquiries mainly to the essential Elements of the subject, it may
not be amiss here to take a brief notice of their collateral product
in those mixed modes from which we derive so large a portion of our
mental gratification: we allude to the various combinations of the
several Ideas, which have just been examined, with each other as well
as with their opposites. To this prolific source may be traced much
of that many-colored interest which we take in their various forms as
presented by the imagination,--in every thing, indeed, which is true,
or even partially true, to the great Principle of Harmony, both in
nature and in art. It is to these mixed modes more especially, that we
owe all that mysterious interest which gives the illusion of life to a
work of fiction, and fills us with delight or melts with woe, whether
in the happiness or the suffering of some imagined being, uniting
goodness with beauty, or virtue with plainness, or uncommon purity and
intellect even with deformity; for even that may be so overpowered in
the prominent harmony of superior intellect and moral worth, as to be
virtually neutralized, at least, to become unobtrusive as a discordant
force. Besides, it cannot be expected that _complete_ harmony is
ever to be realized in our imperfect state; we should else, perhaps,
with such expectation, have no pleasures of the kind we speak of:
nor is this necessary, the imagination being always ready to supply
deficiencies, whenever the approximation is sufficiently near to
call it forth. Nay, if the interest felt be nothing more than mere
curiosity, we still refer to this presiding Principle; which is no
less essential to a simple combination of events, than to the higher
demands of Form or Character. But its presence must be felt, however
slightly. Of this we have the evidence in many cases, and, perhaps,
most conclusive where the partial harmony is felt to verge on a
powerful discord; or where the effort to unite them produces that
singular alternation of what is both revolting and pleasing: as in the
startling union of evil passions with some noble quality, or with a
master intellect. And here we have a solution of that paradoxical
feeling of interest and abhorrence, which we experience in such a
character as King Richard.

And may it not be that we are permitted this interest for a deeper
purpose than we are wont to suppose; because Sin is best seen in the
light of Virtue,--and then most fearfully when she holds the torch to
herself? Be this as it may, with pure, unintellectual, brutal evil
it is very different. We cannot look upon it undismayed: we take no
interest in it, nor can we. In Richard there is scarce a glimmer of
his better nature; yet we do not despise him, for his intellect and
courage command our respect. But the fiend Iago,--who ever followed
him through the weaving of his spider-like web, without perpetual
recurrence to its venomous source,--his devilish heart? Even the
intellect he shows seems actually animalized, and we shudder at its
subtlety, as at the cunning of a reptile. Whatever interest may have
been imputed to him should be placed to the account of his hapless
victim; to the first striving with distrust of a generous nature; to
the vague sense of misery, then its gradual developement, then the
final overthrow of absolute faith; and, last of all, to the throes
of agony of the noble Moor, as he writhes and gasps in his accursed

To these mixed modes may be added another branch, which we shall term the
class of Imputed Attributes. In this class are concerned all those natural
objects with which we connect (not by individual association, but by a
general law of the mind) certain moral or intellectual attributes; which
are not, indeed, supposed to exist in the objects themselves, but which,
by some unknown affinity, they awaken or occasion in us, and which we, in
our turn, impute to them. However this be, there are multitudes of objects
in the inanimate world, which we cannot contemplate without associating
with them many of the characteristics which we ascribe to the human being;
and the ideas so awakened we involuntarily express by the ascription of
such significant epithets as _stately, majestic, grand_, and so on. It is
so with us, when we call some tall forest stately, or qualify as majestic
some broad and slowly-winding river, or some vast, yet unbroken waterfall,
or some solitary, gigantic pine, seeming to disdain the earth, and to hold
of right its eternal communion with air; or when to the smooth and
far-reaching expanse of our inland waters, with their bordering and
receding mountains, as they seem to march from the shores, in the pomp of
their dark draperies of wood and mist, we apply the terms _grand_ and
_magnificent_: and so onward to an endless succession of objects,
imputing, as it were, our own nature, and lending our sympathies, till the
headlong rush of some mighty cataract suddenly thunders upon us. But how
is it then? In the twinkling of an eye, the outflowing sympathies ebb back
upon the heart; the whole mind seems severed from earth, and the awful
feeling to suspend the breath;--there is nothing human to which we can
liken it. And here begins another kind of emotion, which we call Sublime.

We are not aware that this particular class of objects has hitherto
been noticed, at least as holding a distinct position. And, if we
may be allowed to supply the omission, we should assign to it the
intermediate place between the Beautiful and the Sublime. Indeed,
there seems to be no other station so peculiarly proper; inasmuch as
they would thus form, in a consecutive series, a regular ascent from
the sensible material to the invisible spiritual: hence naturally
uniting into one harmonious whole every possible emotion of our higher

In the preceding discussion, we have considered the outward world
only in its immediate relation to Man, and the Human Being as the
predetermined centre to which it was designed to converge. As the
subject, however, of what are called the sublime emotions, he holds a
different position; for the centre here is not himself, nor, indeed,
can he approach it within conceivable distance: yet still he is drawn
to it, though baffled for ever. Now the question is, Where, and
in what bias, is this mysterious attraction? It must needs be in
something having a clear affinity with us, or we could not feel it.
But the attraction is also both pure and pleasurable; and it has just
been shown, that we have in ourselves but one principle by which
to recognize any corresponding emotion,--namely, the principle of
Harmony. May we not then infer a similar Principle without us, an
Infinite Harmony, to which our own is attracted? and may we not
further,--if we may so speak without irreverence,--suppose our own to
have emanated thence when "man became a living soul"? And though this
relation may not be consciously acknowledged in every instance, or
even in one, by the mass of men, does it therefore follow that it does
not exist? How many things act upon us of which we have no knowledge?
If we find, as in the case of the Beautiful, the same, or a similar,
effect to follow from a great variety of objects which have no
resemblance or agreement with one another, is it not a necessary
inference, that for their common effect they must all refer to
something without and distinct from themselves? Now in the case of
the Sublime, the something referred to is not in man: for the emotion
excited has an outward tendency; the mind cannot contain it; and the
effort to follow it towards its mysterious object, if long continued,
becomes, in the excess of interest, positively painful.

Could any finite object account for this? But, supposing the Infinite,
we have an adequate cause. If these emotions, then, from whatever
object or circumstance, be to prompt the mind beyond its prescribed
limits, whether carrying it back to the primitive past, the
incomprehensible _beginning_, or sending it into the future, to
the unknown _end_, the ever-present Idea of the mighty Author of
all these mysteries must still be implied, though we think not of it.
It is this Idea, or rather its influence, whether we be conscious of
it or not, which we hold to be the source of every sublime emotion. To
make our meaning plainer, we should say, that that which has the power
of possessing the mind, to the exclusion, for the time, of all other
thought, and which presents no _comprehensible_ sense of a whole,
though still impressing us with a full apprehension of such as a
reality,--in other words, which cannot be circumscribed by the forms
of the understanding while it strains them to the utmost,--that we
should term a sublime object. But whether this effect be occasioned
directly by the object itself, or be indirectly suggested by its
relations to some other object, its unknown cause, it matters not;
since the apparent power of calling forth the emotion, by whatever
means, is, _quoad_ ourselves, its sublime condition. Hence, if a
minute insect, an ant, for instance, through its marvellous instinct,
lift the mind of the amazed spectator to the still more inscrutable
Creator, it must possess, as to _him_, the same power. This is,
indeed, an extreme case, and may be objected to as depending on the
individual mind; on a mind prepared by cultivation and previous
reflection for the effect in question. But to this it may be replied,
that some degree of cultivation, or, more properly speaking, of
developement by the exercise of its reflective faculties, is obviously
essential ere the mind can attain to mature growth,--we might almost
say to its natural state, since nothing can be said to have attained
its true nature until all its capacities are at least called into
birth. No one, for example, would refer to the savages of Australia
for a true specimen of what was proper or natural to the human mind;
we should rather seek it, if such were the alternative, in a civilized
child of five years old. Be this as it may, it will not be denied
that ignorance, brutality, and many other deteriorating causes, do
practically incapacitate thousands for even an approximation, not only
to this, but to many of the inferior emotions, the character of
which is purely mental. And this, we think, is quite sufficient to
neutralize the objection, if not, indeed, to justify the application
of the term to all cases where the _immediate_ effect, whether
directly or indirectly, is such as has been described. But, to reduce
this to a common-sense view, it is only saying,--what no one will
deny,--that a man of education and refinement has not only more, but
higher, pleasures of the mind than a mere clown.

But though the position here advanced must necessarily exclude many
objects which have hitherto, though, as we think, improperly, been
classed with the sublime, it will still leave enough, and more than
enough, for the utmost exercise of our limited powers; inasmuch as, in
addition to the multitude of objects in the material world, not only
the actions, passions, and thoughts of men, but whatever concerns the
human being, that in any way--by a hint merely--leads the mind, though
indirectly, to the Infinite attributes,--all come of right within the
ground assumed.

It will be borne in mind, that the conscious presence of the Infinite
Idea is not only _not_ insisted on, but expressly admitted to be, in
most cases, unthought of; it is also admitted, that a sublime effect is
often powerfully felt in many instances where this Idea could not truly
be predicated of the apparent object. In such cases, however, some kind
of resemblance, or, at least, a seeming analogy to an infinite
attribute, is nevertheless essential. It must _appear_ to us, for the
time, either limitless, indefinite, or in some other way beyond the
grasp of the mind: and, whatever an object may _seem_ to be, it must
needs _in effect_ be to _us_ even that which it seems. Nor does this
transfer the emotion to a different source; for the Infinite Idea, or
something analogous, being thus imputed, is in reality its true cause.

It is still the unattainable, the _ever-stimulating_, yet
_ever-eluding_, in the character of the sublime object, that
gives to it both its term and its effect. And whence the conception of
this mysterious character, but from its mysterious prototype, the Idea
of the Infinite? Neither does it matter, as we have said, whether
actual or supposed; for what the imagination cannot master will master
the imagination. Take, for instance, but a single _passion_, and
clothe it with this character; in the same instant it becomes sublime.
So, too, with a single thought. In the Mosaic words so often quoted,
"Let there be light, and there was light," we have the sublime of
thought, of mere naked thought; but what could more awe the mind with
the power of God? Of like nature is the conjecture of Newton, when he
imagined stars so distant from the sun that their coeval light has not
yet reached us. Let us endeavour for one moment to conceive of this;
does not the soul seem to dilate within us, and the body to shrink
as to a grain of dust? "Woe is me! unclean, unclean!" said the holy
Prophet, when the Infinite Holiness stood before him. Could a more
terrible distance be measured, than by these fearful words, between
God and man?

If it be objected to this view, that many cases occur, having the same
conditions with those assumed in our general proposition, which are
yet exclusively painful, unmitigated even by a transient moment of
pleasure,--in Despair, for instance,--as who can limit it?--to this we
reply, that no emotion having its sole, or circle of existence in
the individual mind itself, can be to that mind other than a
_subject_. A man in despair, or under any mode of extreme
suffering of like nature, may, indeed, if all interfering sympathy
have been removed by time or after-description, be to _another_
a sublime object,--at least in one of those suggestive forms just
noticed; but not to _himself_. The source of the sublime--as all
along implied--is essentially _ab extra_. The human mind is not
its centre, nor can it be realized except by a contemplative act.

Besides, as a mental pleasure,--indeed the highest known,--to
be recognized as such, it must needs be accompanied by the same
_relative character_ by which is tested every other pleasure
coming under that denomination; namely, by the entire absence
of _self_, that is, by the same freedom from all personal
consideration which has been shown to characterize the true effect of
the Three leading Ideas already considered. But if to this also it be
further objected, that in certain particular cases, as of
personal danger,--from which the sublime emotion has often been
experienced,--some personal consideration must necessarily be
involved, as without a sense of security we could not enjoy it; we
answer, that, if it be meant only that the mind should be in such a
state as to enable us to receive an unembarrassed impression, it seems
to us superfluous,--an obvious truism placed in opposition to an
absurd impossibility. We needed not to be told, that no pleasurable
emotion is likely to occur while we are unmanned by fear. The same
might be said, also, in respect to the Beautiful: for who was ever
alive to it under a paroxysm of terror, or pain of any kind? A
terrified person is in any thing but a fit state for such emotion. He
may indeed _afterwards_, when his fear is passed off, contemplate
the circumstance that occasioned it with a different feeling; but the
object of his dismay is _then_ projected, as it were, completely
from himself; and he feels the sublimity in a contemplative state:
he can feel it in no other. Nor is that state incompatible with a
consciousness of peril, though it can never be with personal terror.
And, if it is meant that we should have a positive, present
conviction that we are in no danger, this we must deny, as we find it
contradicted in innumerable instances. So far, indeed, is a sense of
security from being essential to the condition of a sublime emotion,
that the sense of danger, on the contrary, is one of its most exciting
accompaniments. There is a fascination in danger which some persons
neither can nor would resist; which seems, as it were, to disenthral
them of self;--as if the mysterious Infinite were actually drawing
them on by an invisible power.

Was it mere scientific curiosity that cost the elder Pliny his life?
Might it not have been rather this sublime fascination? But we have
repeated examples of it in our own time. Many who will read this may
have been in a storm at sea. Did they never feel its sublimity while
they knew their danger? We will answer for ourselves; for we have been
in one, when the dismasted vessels that surrounded us permitted no
mistake as to our peril; it was strongly felt, but still stronger was
the sublime emotion in the awful scene. The crater of Vesuvius is even
now, perhaps for the thousandth time, reflecting from its lake of fire
some ghastly face, with indrawn breath and hair bristling, bent, as by
fate, over its sulphurous brink.

Let us turn to Mont Blanc, that mighty pyramid of ice, in whose shadow
might repose all the tombs of the Pharaohs. It rises before the
traveller like the accumulating mausoleum of Europe: perhaps he looks
upon it as his own before his natural time; yet he cannot away from
it. A terrible charm hurries him over frightful chasms, whose blue
depths seem like those of the ocean; he cuts his way up a polished
precipice, shining like steel,--as elusive to the touch; he creeps
slowly and warily around and beneath huge cliffs of snow; now he looks
up, and sees their brows fretted by the percolating waters like a
Gothic ceiling, and he fears even to whisper, lest an audible breath
should awaken the avalanche: and thus he climbs and climbs, till the
dizzy summit fills up his measure of fearful ecstasy.

Now, though cases may occur where the emotion in question is attended
with a sense of security, as in the reading or hearing the description
of an earthquake, such as that of 1768 in Lisbon, while we are safely
housed and by a comfortable fire, it does not therefore follow, that
this consciousness of safety is its essential condition. It is merely
an accidental circumstance. It cannot, therefore, apply, either as a
rule or an objection. Besides, even if supported by fact, we might
well dismiss it on the ground of irrelevancy, since a sense of
personal safety cannot be placed in opposition to and as inconsistent
with a disinterested or unselfish state; which is that claimed for
the emotion as its true condition. If there be not, then, a sounder
objection, we may safely admit the characteristic in question; for
the reception of which we have, on the other hand, the weight of
experience,--at least negatively, since, strictly speaking, we cannot
experience the absence of any thing.

But though, according to our theory, there are many things now called
sublime that would properly come under a different classification, such
as many objects of Art, many sentiments, and many actions, which are
strictly human, as well in their _end_ as in their origin; it is not to
be inferred that the exclusion of any work of man is _because_ of _its
apparent origin_, but of its _end_, the end only being the determining
point, as referring to its _Idea_. Now, if the Idea referred to be of
the Infinite, which is _out_ of his nature, it cannot strictly be said
to originate with man,--that is, absolutely; but it is rather, as it
were, a reflected form of it from the Maker of his mind. If we are led
to such an Idea, then, by any work of imagination, a poem, a picture, a
statue, or a building, it is as truly sublime as any natural object.
This, it appears to us, is the sole mystery, without which neither
sound, nor color, nor form, nor magnitude, is a true correlative to the
unseen cause. And here, as with Beauty, though the test of that be
within us, is the _modus operandi_ equally baffling to the scrutiny of
the understanding. We feel ourselves, as it were, lifted from the earth,
and look upon the outward objects that have so affected us, yet learn
not how; and the mystery deepens as we compare them with other objects
from which have followed the same effects, and find no resemblance. For
instance; the roar of the ocean, and the intricate unity of a Gothic
cathedral, whose beginning and end are alike intangible, while its
climbing tower seems visibly even to rise to the Idea which it strives
to embody,--these have nothing in common,--hardly two things could be
named that are more unlike; yet in relation to man they have but one
end: for who can hear the ocean when breathing in wrath, and limit it in
his mind, though he think not of Him who gives it voice? or ascend that
spire without feeling his faculties vanish, as it were with its
vanishing point, into the abyss of space? If there be a difference in
the effect from these and other objects, it is only in the intensity,
the degree of impetus given; as between that from the sudden explosion
of a volcano and from the slow and heavy movement of a rising
thunder-cloud; its character and its office are the same,--in its awful
harmony to connect the created with its Infinite Cause.

But let us compare this effect with that from Beauty. Would the
Parthenon, for instance, with its beautiful forms,--made still more
beautiful under its native sky,--seeming almost endued with the breath
of life, as if its conscious purple were a living suffusion brought
forth in sympathy by the enamoured blushes of a Grecian sunset;--would
this beautiful object even then elevate the soul above its own roof?
No: we should be filled with a pure delight,--but with no longing to
rise still higher. It would satisfy us; which the sublime does not;
for the feeling is too vast to be circumscribed by human content.

On the supernatural it is needless to enlarge; for, in whatever form
the beings of the invisible world are supposed to visit us, they are
immediately connected in the mind with the unknown Infinite; whether
the faith be in the heart or in the imagination; whether they bubble
up from the earth, like the Witches in Macbeth, taking shape at will,
or self-dissolving into air, and no less marvellous, foreknowing
thoughts ere formed in man; or like the Ghost in Hamlet, an
unsubstantial shadow, having the functions of life, motion, will,
and speech; a fearful mystery invests them with a spell not to be
withstood; the bewildered imagination follows like a child, leaving
the finite world for one unknown, till it aches in darkness,
trackless, endless.

Perhaps, as being nearest in station to the unsearchable Author of
all things, the highest example of this would be found in the
Angelic Nature. If it be objected, that the poets have not always so
represented it, it rests with them to show cause why they have not.
Milton, no doubt, could have assigned a sufficient reason in _the
time chosen for his poem_,--that of the creation of the first man,
when his intercourse with the highest order of created beings was not
only essential to the plan of the poem, but according with the express
will of the Creator: hence, he might have considered it no violation
of the _then_ relation between man and angels to assign even the
epithet _affable_ to the archangel Raphael; for man was then
sinless, and in all points save knowledge a fit object of regard, and
certainly a fit pupil to his heavenly instructor. But, suppose the
poet, throughout his work, (as in the process of his story he was
forced to do near the end,)--suppose he had chosen, assuming the
philosopher, to assign to Adam the _altered relation of one of his
fallen posterity_, how could he have endured a holy spiritual
presence? To be consistent, Adam must have been dumb with awe,
incapable of holding converse such as is described. Between sinless
man and his sinful progeny, the distance is immeasurable. And so, too,
must be the effect on the latter, in such a presence; and for this
conclusion we have the authority of Scripture, in the dismay of the
soldiers at the Saviour's sepulchre, on which more directly. If there
be no like effect attending the other angelic visits recorded in
Scripture, such as those to Lot and Abraham, the reason is obvious in
the _special mission_ to those individuals, who were doubtless
_divinely prepared_ for their reception; for it is reasonable
to suppose the mission had else been useless. But with the Roman
soldiers, where there was no such qualifying circumstance, the case
was different; indeed, it was in striking contrast with that of the
two Marys, who, though struck with awe, yet being led there, as
witnesses, by the Spirit, were not so overpowered.

And here, as the Idea of Angels is universally associated with every
perfection of _form_, may naturally occur the question so often
agitated,--namely, whether Beauty and Sublimity are, under any
circumstances, compatible. To us it seems of easy solution. For we see
no reason why Beauty, as the condition of a subordinated object or
component part, may not incidentally enter into the Sublime, as well
as a thousand other conditions of opposite characters, which pertain
to the multifarious assimilants that often form its other components.

When Beauty is not made _essential_, but enters as a mere
contingent, its admission or rejection is a matter of indifference. In
an angel, for instance, beauty is the condition of his mere form; but
the angel has also an intellectual and moral or spiritual nature,
which is essentially paramount: the former being but the condition, so
to speak, of his visibility, the latter, his very life,--an Essence
next to the inconceivable Giver of life.

Could we stand in the presence of one of these holy beings, (if to
stand were possible,) what of the Sublime in this lower world would so
shake us? Though his beauty were such as never mortal dreamed of,
it would be as nothing,--swallowed up as darkness,--in the awful,
spiritual brightness of the messenger of God. Even as the soldiers
in Scripture, at the sepulchre of the Saviour, we should fall before
him,--we should "become," like them, "as dead men."

But though Milton does not unveil the "face like lightning"; and
though the angel Raphael is made to hold converse with man, and the
"severe in youthful beauty" gives even the individual impress to
Zephon, and Michael and Abdiel are set apart in their prowess; there
is not one he names that does not breathe of Heaven, that is not
encompassed with the glory of the Infinite. And why the reader is not
overwhelmed in their supposed presence is because he is a beholder
_through_ Adam,--through him also a listener; but whenever he is
made, by the poet's spell, to forget Adam, and to see, as it were in
his own person, the embattled hosts....

If we dwell upon Form _alone_, though it should be of surpassing
beauty, the idea would not rise above that of man, for this is
conceivable of man: but the moment the angelic nature is touched, we
have the higher ideas of supernal intelligence and perfect holiness,
to which all the charms and graces of mere form immediately
become subordinate, and, though the beauty remain, its agency is
comparatively negative under the overpowering transcendence of a
celestial spirit.

As we have already seen that the Beautiful is limited to no particular
form, but possesses its power in some mysterious _condition_,
which is applicable to many distinct objects; in like manner does the
Sublime include within its sphere, and subdue to its condition, an
indefinite variety of objects, with their distinctive conditions; and
among them we find that of the Beautiful, as well as, to a _certain
degree_, its reverse, so that, though we may truly recognize their
coexistence in the same object, it is not possible that their effect
upon us should be otherwise than unequal, and that the higher law
should not subordinate the lower. We do not deny that the Beautiful
may, so to speak, mitigate the awful intensity of the Sublime; but it


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