« 上一頁繼續 »
apply the word beauty we do not mean always by it a more beautifuł form, but something valuable on account of its rarity, usefulness, colour, or any other property. A horse is said to be a beautiful animal; but, had a horse as few good qualities as a tortoise, I do not imagine that he would then be esteemed beautiful.
A fitness to the end proposed, is said to be another cause of beauty; but supposing we were proper judges of what form is the most proper in an animal to constitute strength or swiftness, we always determine concerning its beauty, before we exert our understanding to judge of its fitness,
From what has been said, it may be inferred, that the works of nature, if we compare one species with another, are all equally beautiful; and that preference is given from custom, or some association of ideas: and that, in creatures of the same species, beauty is the medium or centre of all various forms.
To conclude, then, by way of corollary: if it has been proved, that the painter, by attending to the invariable and general ideas of nature, produces beauty, he must, by regarding minute particularities and accidental discriminations, deviate from the universal rule, and pollute his canvass with deformity.*
N° 83. SATURDAY, November 17, 1759.
TO THE IDLER.
weeks I promised to send you an account of my companions at the Wells. You would not deny me a place among the most faithful votaries of idleness, if you knew how often I have recollected my engagement, and contented myself to delay the performance for some reason which I durst
By Sir Joshua Reynolds.
not examine because I knew it to be false; how often I have sat down to write, and rejoiced at interruption; and how often I have praised the dignity of resolution, determined at night to write in the morning, and deferred it in the morning to the quiet hours of night.
I have at last begun what I have long wished at an end, and find it more easy than I expected to continue my narration.
Our assembly could boast of no such constellation of intellects as Clarendon's band of associates. We had among us no Selden, Falkland, or Waller; but we had men not less important in their own eyes, though less diss tinguished by the publick; and many a time have we lamented the partiality of mankind, and agreed that men of the deepest inquiry sometimes let their discoveries die away in silence, that the most comprehensive observers have seldom opportunities of imparting their remarks, and that modest merit passes in the crowd unknown and unheeded.
One of the greatest men of the society was Sim Scruple, who lives in a continual equipoise of doubt, and is a constant enemy to confidence and dogmatism. Sim's favourite to pick of conversation is the narrowness of the human mind, the fallaciousness of our senses, the prevalence of early prejudice, and the uncertainty of appearances. Sim has many doubts about the nature of death, and is sometimes. inclined to believe that sensation may survive motion, and that a dead man may feel though he cannot stir. He has sometimes hinted that man might perhaps have been naturally a quadruped, and thinks it would be very proper, that at the Foundling Hospital some children should be enclosed in an apartment in which the nurses shoulu be obliged to walk half upon four and half upon two, that the younglings being bred without the prejudice of example, might have no other guide than nature, and might at last come forth into the world as genius should direct, erect or prone, on two legs or on four.
The next in dignity of mien and fluency of talk was.
Dick Wormwood, whose sole delight is to find every thing wrong. Dick never enters a room but he shews that the door and the chimney are ill-placed. He never walks into the fields but he finds ground ploughed which is fitter for pasture. He is always an enemy to the present fashion. He holds that all the beauty and virtue of women will soon be destroyed by the use of tea. He triumphs when he talks on the present system of education, and tells us with great vehemence, that we are learning words when we should learn things. He is of opinion that we suck in errours at the nurse's breast, and thinks it extremely ridiculous that children should be taught to use the right hand rather than the left.
Bob Sturdy considers it a point of honour to say again what he has once said, and wonders how any man that has been known to alter his opinion, can look his neighbours in the face. Bob is the most formidable disputant of the whole company; for without troubling himself to search for reasons, he tires his antagonist with repeated affirmations. When Bob has been attacked for an hour with all the powers of eloquence and reason, and his position appears to all but himself utterly untenable, he always closes the debate with his first declaration, introduced by a stout preface of contemptuous civility. “ All this is very judicious; you may talk, Sir, as you please; but I will still what I said at first.” Bob deals much in universals, which he has now obliged us to let pass without exceptions. He lives on an annuity, and holds that there are as many thieves as traders: he is of loyalty unshaken, and always maintains, that he who sees a Jacobite sees a rascal.
Phil Gentle is an enemy to the rudeness of contradiction and the turbulence of debate. Phil has no notions of his own, and therefore willingly catches from the last speaker such as he shall drop. This flexibility of ignorance is easily accommodated to any tenet; his only difficulty is, when the disputants grow zealous, how to be of two contrary opinions at once. If no appeal is made to his judgment, he has the art of distributing his attention
and his smiles in such a manner, that each thinks him of his own party ; but if he is obliged to speak, he then observes that the question is difficult; that he never received so much pleasure from a debate before; that neither of the controvertists could have found his match in any other company; that Mr. Wormwood's assertion is
very ported, and yet there is great force in what Mr. Scruple advanced against it. By this indefinite declaration both are commonly satisfied; for he that has prevailed is in good humour; and he that has felt his own weakness is very glad to have escaped so well.
I am, Sir, yours, &c.
N° 84. Saturday, November 24, 1759.
BIOGRAPHY is, of the various kinds of narrative writing, that which is most eagerly read, and most easily applied to the purposes of life.
In romances, when the wild field of possibility lies open to invention, the incidents may be easily made more numerous, the vicissitudes more sudden, and the events more wonderful; but from the time of life when fancy begins to be over-ruled by reason and corrected by experience, the most artful tale raises little curiosity when it is known to be false; though it may, perhaps, be sometimes read as a model of a neat or elegant style, not for the sake of knowing what it contains, but how it is written; or those that are weary of themselves, may have recourse to it as a pleasing dream, of which, when they awake, they voluntarily dismiss the images from their minds.
The examples and events of history press, indeed, upon the mind with the weight of truth ; but when they are reposited in the memory, they are oftener employed for show than use, and rather diversify conversation than regulate life. Few are engaged in such scenes as give them op
portunities of growing wiser by the downfal of statesmen or the defeat of generals. The stratagems of war, and the intrigues of courts, are read by far the greater part of mankind with the saine indifference as the adventures of fabled heroes, or the revolutions of a fairy region. Between falsehood and useless truth there is little difference. As gold which he cannot spend will make no man rich, so knowledge which he cannot apply, will make no man wise.
The mischievous consequences of vice and folly, of irregular desires and predominant passions, are best discovered by those relations which are levelled with the general surface of life, which tell not how any man became great, but how he was made happy; not how he lost the favour of his prince, but how he became discontented with himself.
Those relations are therefore commonly of most value in which the writer tells his own story. He that recounts the life of another, commonly dwells most upon conspicuous events, lessens the familiarity of his tale to increase its dignity, shews his favourite at a distance, decorated and magnified like the ancient actors in their tragick dress, and endeavours to hide the man that he may produce a hero.
But if it be true, which was said by a French prince, “That no man was a hero to the servants of his chamber," it is equally true, that every man is yet less a hero to himself. He that is most elevated above the crowd by the importance of his employments, or the reputation of his genius, feels himself affected by fame or business but as they influence his domestick life. The high and low, as they have the same faculties and the same senses, have no less similitude in their pains and pleasures. The sensations are the same in all, though produced by very different oceasions. The prince feels the same pain when an invader seizes a province, as the farmer when a thief drives away his cow. - Men thus equal in themselves will appear equal in honest and impartial biography; and those whom