« PreviousContinue »
not always necessary that the plant spring from the seed, a slip from another plant will often answer the purpose.
There is, however, a very considerable difference in the expectations that may justly be raised from the different methods followed in the acquisition of the art. Improvements, unless in extraordinary instances of genius and sagacity, are not to be expected from those who have acquired all their dexterity from imitation and habit. One who has had an education no better than that of an ordinary mechanic, may prove an excellent manual operator; but it is only in the well instructed mechanician that you would expect to find a good mechanist. The analogy to vegetation, above suggested, holds here also. The offset is commonly no more than a mere copy of the parent plant. It is from the seed only you can expect, with the aid of proper culture, to produce new varieties, and even to make improvements on the species. "Expert men," says Lord Bacon, can execute and judge of particulars, one by one; but the general counsels, and the plots and marshalling affairs, come best from those that are learned."
Indeed, in almost every art, even as used by mere practitioners, there are certain rules, as hath been already hinted, which must carefully be followed, and which serve the artist instead of principles. An acquaintance with these is one step, and but one step towards science. Thus in the common books of arithmetic, intended solely for practice, the rules laid down for the ordinary operations, as for numeration, or numerical notation, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and a few others, which are sufficient for all the purposes of the accountant, serve instead of principles; and, to a superficial observer, may be thought to supersede the study of any thing further. But their utility reaches a very little way, compared with that which results from the knowledge of the foundations of the art, and of what has been, not unfitly, styled arithmetic universal. It may be justly said that, without some portion of this knowledge, the practical rules had never been invented. Besides, if by these the particular questions which come exactly within the description of the rule may be solved; by the other, such general rules themselves, as serve for the solution of endless particulars, may be discovered.
The case I own is somewhat different with those arts which are entirely founded on experiment and observation, and are not derived, like pure mathematics, from abstract and universal axioms. But even in these, when we rise from the individual to the species, from the species to the genus, and thence to the most extensive orders and classes, we arrive, though in a different way, at the knowledge of general truths, which, in a certain sense, are also scientific, and answer a similar purpose. Our acquaintance with nature and its laws is so much extended,
that we shall be enabled, in numberless cases, not only to apply to the most profitable purposes the knowledge we have thus acquired, but to determine beforehand, with sufficient certainty, the success of every new application. In this progress we are like people who, from a low and narrow bottom, where the view is confined to a few acres, gradually ascend a lofty peak or promontory. The prospect is perpetually enlarging as we mount, and when we reach the summit, the boundless horizon, comprehending all the variety of sea and land, hill and valley, town and country, arable and desert, lies under the eye at
Those who in medicine have scarcely risen to the discernment of any general principles, and have no other directory but the experiences gained in the first and lowest stage, or as it were at the foot of the mountain, are commonly distinguished by the name of empirics. Something similar may be said to obtain in the other liberal arts; for in all of them more enlargement of mind is necessary than is required for the exercise of those called mechanical. The character directly opposite to the empiric is the visionary; for it is not in theology only that there are visionaries. Of the two extremes I acknowledge that the latter is the worse. The first founds upon facts, but the facts are few, and commonly in his reasonings, through his imperfect knowledge of the subject, misapplied. The second often argues very consequentially from principles which, having no foundation in nature, may justly be denominated the illegitimate issue of his own imagination. He in this resembles the man of science, that he acts systematically, for there are false as well as true theorists, and is influenced by certain general propositions, real or imaginary. But the difference lies here, that in the one they are real, in the other imaginary. The system of the one is reared on the firm basis of experience, the theory of the other is no better than a castle in the air. I mention characters only in the extreme, because in this manner they are best discriminated. In real life, however, any two of these, sometimes all the three, in various proportions, may be found blended in the same person.
The arts are frequently divided into the useful, and the polite, fine, or elegant; for these words are, in this application, used synonymously. This division is not coincident with that into the mechanical and the liberal. Physic, navigation, and the art of war, though properly liberal arts, fall entirely under the denomination of the useful; whereas painting and sculpture, though requiring a good deal of manual labour, and in that respect more nearly related to the mechanical, belong to the class denominated elegant. The first division arises purely from the consideration of the end to be attained; the second from the consideration of the means to be employed. In re
spect of the end, an art is either useful or elegant; in respect of the means, it is either mechanical or liberal. The true foundation of the former distribution is, that certain arts are manifestly and ultimately calculated for profit or use; whilst others, on the contrary, seem to terminate in pleasing. The one supplies a real want, the other only gratifies some mental taste. Yet, in strictness, in the execution of the useful arts there is often scope for elegance, and the arts called elegant are by no means destitute of use. The principal difference is, that use is the direct and avowed purpose of the former, whereas it is more latently and indirectly affected by the latter. Under this class are commonly included, not only the arts of the painter and the statuary, but those also of the musician and the poet. Eloquence and architecture, by which last term is always understood more than building merely for accommodation, are to be considered as of a mixed nature, wherein utility and beauty have almost equal influence.
The elegant arts, as well as the useful, are founded in experience, but from the difference of their nature there arises a considerable difference both in their origin and in their growth. Necessity, the mother of invention, drives men, in the earliest state of society, to the study and cultivation of the useful arts; it is always leisure and abundance which lead men to seek gratifications no way conducive to the preservation either of the individual or of the species. The elegant arts, therefore, are doubtless to be considered as the younger sisters. The progress of the former towards perfection is, however, much slower than that of latter. Indeed, with regard to the first, it is impossible to say, as to several arts, what is the perfection of the art; since we are incapable of conceiving how far the united discernment and industry of men, properly applied, may yet carry them. For some centuries backwards, the men of every age have made great and unexpected improvements on the labours of their predecessors. And it is very probable that the subsequent age will produce discoveries and acquisitions, which we of this age are as little capable of foreseeing, as those who preceded us in the last century were capable of conjecturing the progress that would be made in the present. The case is not entirely similar in the fine arts. These, though later in their appearing, are more rapid in their advancement. There may, indeed, be in these a degree of perfection beyond what we have experienced; but we have some conception of the very utmost to which it can proceed. For instance, where resemblance is the object, as in a picture or statue, a perfect conformity to its archetype is a thing at least conceivable. In like manner, the utmost pleasure of which the imagination is susceptible, by a poetical narrative or exhibition, is a thing, in my judgment, not inconceivable. We Britons, for example, do,
by immense degrees, excel the ancient Greeks in the arts of navigation and ship-building; and how much further we may still excel them in these, by means of discoveries and improvements yet to be made, it would be the greatest presumption in any man to say. But as it requires not a prophetic spirit to discover, it implies no presumption to affirm, that we shall never excel them so far in poetry and eloquence, if ever in these respects we come to equal them. The same thing might probably be affirmed in regard to painting, sculpture, and music, if we had here as ample a fund of materials for forming a comparison.
But let it be observed, that the remarks now made regard only the advancement of the arts themselves; for though the useful are of slower growth than the other, and their utmost perfection cannot always be so easily ascertained, yet the acquisition of any one of them by a learner in the perfection which it has reached at the time, it is much easier matter than the acquisition of any of the elegant arts;-besides that the latter require much more of a certain happy combination in the original frame of spirit, commonly called genius, than is necessary to the other.
Let it be observed further, that as the gratification of taste is the immediate object of the fine arts, their effect is in a manner instantaneous, and the quality of any new production in these is immediately judged by every body; for all have in them some rudiments of taste, though in some they are improved by a good, in others corrupted by a bad education, and in others almost suppressed by a total want of education. In the useful arts, on the contrary, as more time and experience are requisite for discovering the means by which our accommodation is effected, so it generally requires examination, time, and trial, that we may be satisfied of the fitness of the work for the end proposed. In these we are not near so apt to consider ourselves as judges, unless we be either artists, or accustomed to employ and examine the work of artists in that particular profession.
I mentioned some arts that have their fundamental principles in the abstract sciences of geometry and arithmetic, and some in the doctrine of gravitation and motion. There are others, as the medical and chirurgical arts, which require a still broader foundation of science and anatomy, the animal economy, natural history, diseases, and remedies.-Those arts which, like poetry, are purely to be ranked among the elegant, as their end is attained by an accommodation to some internal taste, so the springs by which alone they can be regulated must be sought for in the nature of the human mind, and more especially in the principles of the imagination. It is also in the human mind that we must investigate the source of some of the useful arts. Logic, whose end is the discovery of truth, is founded in the
doctrine of the understanding: and ethics (under which may be comprehended economics, politics, and jurisprudence) are founded in that of the will.
This was the idea of Lord Verulam1, perhaps the most comprehensive genius in philosophy that has appeared in modern times. But these are not the only arts which have their foundation in the science of human nature. Grammar too, in its general principles, has a close connexion with the understanding, and the theory of the association of ideas.
But there is no art whatever that hath so close a connexion with all the faculties and powers of the mind, as eloquence, or the art of speaking, in the extensive sense in which I employ the term. For in the first place, that it ought to be ranked among the polite or fine arts, is manifest from this, that in all its exertions, with little or no exception, (as will appear afterwards,) it requires the aid of the imagination. Thereby it not only pleases, but by pleasing commands attention, rouses the passions, and often at last subdues the most stubborn resolution. It is also a useful art. This is certainly the case if the power of speech be a useful faculty, as it professedly teaches us how to employ that faculty with the greatest probability of success. Further, if the logical art, and the ethical, be useful, eloquence is useful, as it instructs us how these arts must be applied for the conviction and the persuasion of others. It is indeed the grand art of communication, not of ideas only, but of sentiments, passions, dispositions, and purposes. Nay, without this the greatest talents, even wisdom itself, lose much of their lustre, and still more of their usefulness. "The wise in heart," saith Solomon, "shall be called prudent, but the sweetness of the lips increaseth learning." By the former a man's own conduct may be well regulated, but the latter is absolutely necessary for diffusing valuable knowledge, and enforcing right rules of action upon others.
Poetry indeed is properly no other than a particular mode or form of certain branches of oratory. But of this more afterwards. Suffice it only to remark at present, that the direct end of the former, whether to delight the fancy as in epic, or to move the passions as in tragedy, is avowedly in part the aim, and sometimes the immediate and proposed aim, of the
1 Doctrina circa intellectum, atque illa altera circa voluntatem hominis, in natalibus suis tanquam gemellæ sunt. Etenim illuminationis puritas et arbitrii libertas simul inceperunt, simul corruerunt. Neque datur in universitate rerum tam intima sympathia quam illa Veri et Boni.-Venimus jam ad doctrinam circa usum et objecta facultatum animæ humanæ. Illa duas habet partes easque notissimas, et consensu receptas, Logicam et Ethicam.- Logica de intellectu et ratione: Ethica de voluntate, appetitu, et effectibus disserit. Altera decreta, altera actiones progignit. De Aug. Sci. 1. v. c. 1.
2 Prov. xvi. 21.