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Any material object which can give us pleasure in the simple contemplation of its outward qualities, without any direct and definite exertion of the intellect, I call in some way, or in some degree, beautiful. Why we receive pleasure from some forms and colors, and not from others, is no more to be asked or answered than why we like sugar and dislike wormwood. The utmost subtilty of investigation will only lead us to ultimate instincts and principles of human nature, for which no further reason can be given than the simple will of the Deity that we should be so created. We may, indeed, perceive, as far as we are acquainted with His nature, that we have been so constructed as, when in a nealthy and cultivated state of mind, to derive pleasure from whatever things are illustrative of that nature; but we do not receive pleasure from them because they are illustrative of it, nor from any perception that they are illustrative of it, but instinctively and necessarily, as we derive sensual pleasure from the scent of a rose. On these primary principles of our nature, education and accident operate to an unlimited extent; they may be cultivated or checked, directed or diverted, gifted by right guidance with the most acute and faultless sense, or subjected by neglect to every phase of error and disease. He who has followed up these natural laws of aversion and desire, rendering them more and more authorita tive by constant obedience, so as to derive pleasure always from that which God originally intended should
and who derives the greatest possible sum of pleasure from any given object, is a man of taste.
This, then, is the real meaning of this disputed word. Perfect taste is the faculty of receiving the greatest possible pleasure from those material sources which are attractive to our moral nature in its purity and perfection. He who receives little pleasure from these sources, wants taste; he who receives pleasure from any other sources, has false or bad taste.
And it is thus that the term “taste" is to be distinguished from that of “judgment,” with which it is constantly confounded. Judgment is a general term, expressing definite action of the intellect, and applicable to every kind of subject which can be submitted to it. There may be judgment of congruity, judgment of truth, judgment of justice, and judgment of difficulty and excellence. But all these exertions of intellect are totally distinct from taste, properly so called, which is the instinctive and instant preferring of one material object to another without any obvious reason, that it is proper to human nature in its perfection se to do.
Observe, however, I do not mean by excluding direct exertion of the intellect from ideas of beauty, that beauty has no effect upon nor connexion with the intellect. All our moral feelings are so inwoven with our intellectual powers, that we cannot affect the one without, in some degree, addressing the other; and in all high ideas of beauty it is more than probable that much of the pleasure depends on delicate and untraceable perceptions of fitness, propriety, and relation, which are purely intellectual, and through which we arrive at our noblest ideas of what is commonly and rightly called “intellectual beauty." But there is yet no immediate exertion of the intellect ; that is to say, if a person, receiving even the noblest ideas of simple beauty, be asked why he likes the object exciting them, he will not be able to give any distinct reason, nor
to trace in his mind any formal thought to which he can appeal as a source of pleasure. He will say that the thing gratifies, fills, hallows, exalts his mind, but he will not be able to say why, or how. If he can, and if he can show that he perceives in the object any expression of distinct thought, he has received more than an idea of beauty-it is an idea of relation.
By the term ideas of relation, I mean to express all those sources of pleasure which involve and require, at the instant of their perception, active exertion of the intellectual powers.
The sensation of Beauty is not sensual on the one hand, nor is it intellectual on the other, but is dependent on a pure, right, and open state of the heart, both for its truth and its intensity, insomuch that even the right after-action of the intellect upon facts of beauty so apprehended, is dependent on the acuteness of the heart-feeling about them; and thus the apostolic words come true, in this minor respect as in all others, that men are alienated from the life of God, “ through the ignorance that is in them, having the understanding darkened, because of the hardness of their hearts, and so being past feeling, give themselves up to lasciviousness;" for we do indeed see constantly that men having naturally acute percep tions of the beautiful, yet not receiving it with a pure heart, nor into their hearts at all, never comprehend it, nor receive good from it, but make it a mere minister to their desires, and accompaniment and seasoning of lower sensual pleasures, until all their emotions take the same earthly stamp, and the sense of beauty sinks into the servant of lust.
Nor is what the world commonly understands by the cultivation of taste, anything more or better than this, at least in times of corrupt and over-pampered civilization, when men build palaces, and plant groves, and gather luxuries, that they and their devices may hang in the corners of the world like fine-spun cobwebs, with greedy, puffed up, spider-like lusts in the middle. And this, which in Christian times is the abuse and corruption of the sense of beauty, was in that Pagan life of which St. Paul speaks little less than the essence of it, and the best they had; for I know not that of the expressions of affection towards external Nature to be found among Heathen writers, there are any of which the balance and leading thought cleaves not towards the sensual parts of her. Her beneficence they sought, and her power they shunned; her teaching through both they understood never. The pleasant influences of soft winds, and singing streamlets, and shady coverts, of the violet couch and plane-tree shade, they received, perhaps, in a more noble way than we, but they found not anything except fear, upon the bare mountain or in the ghastly glen. The Hybla heather they loved more for its sweet hives than its purple hues. But the Christian theoria seeks not, though it accepts, and touches with its own purity, what the Epicurean sought, but finds its food and the objects of its love everywhere, in what is harsh and fearful, as well as what is kind, nay even in all that seems coarse and common-place; seizing that which is good, and delighting more sometimes at finding its table spread in strange places, and in the presence of its enemies, and its honey coming out of the rock, than if all were harmonized into a less wondrous pleasure ; hating only what is self-sighted and insolent of men's work, despising all that is not of God; yet able to find evidence of Him still, where all seems forgetful of Him, and to turn that into a witness of His working which was meant to obscure it, and so with clear and unoffending sight beholding Him for ever, according to the written promise,—“ Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
sented to the human mind, invariably exalting and pu.ifying it according to their degree; and it would appear that we are intended by the Deity to be constantly under their influence, because there is not one single object in nature which is not capable of conveying them, and which, to the rightly perceiving mind, does not present an incalculably greater number of beautiful, than of deformed parts; there being in fact scarcely anything, in pure, undiseased Nature, like positive deformity, but only degrees of beauty, or such slight and rare points of permitted contrast as may render all around them more valuable by their opposition; spots of blackness in creation, to make its colors felt. But although everything in Nature is more or less beautiful, every species of object has its own kind and degree of beauty; some being in their own nature more beautiful than others, and few, if any individuals, possess ing the utmost beauty of which the species is capable. This utmost degree of specific beauty, necessarily co-existent with the utmost perfection of the object in other respects, is the ideal of the object.
We must be modest and cautious in the pronouncing of positive opinions on the subject of beauty; for every one of us has peculiar sources of enjoyment necessarily opened to him in certain scenes and things, sources which are sealed to others; and we must be wary, on the one hand, of confounding these in ourselves with ultimate conclusions of taste, and so forcing them upon all as authoritative; and on the other, of supposing that the enjoyments, which we cannot share, are shallow or unwarrantable, because incommunicable. By the term Beauty, two things are signified; First, that external quality of bodies which may be shown to be in some sort typical of the Divine attributes, and which, therefore, I shall for distinction's sake call typical beauty; and second, the