Графични страници
PDF файл


J. W. De Winter, the Dutch Admiral, was, on account of the valour with which he fought, treated by us with respect. This was characteristic of a great nation. He was a man of easy and pleasant manIt is reported, that immediately upon


coming on board the Venerable, he, after the first change of compliments, said—“ It was a matter of surprise to him how such gigantic objects as Lord Duncan and himself (he also being remarkably tall) had escaped the carnage of the day.'

To the honour of the BRITISH NATioN be it spoken, large sums were raised for the widows and children of these unfortunate men who fell on that memorable day. An attention to these objects constitutes true glory! On such exertions we may safely pride ourselves. Indeed Greenwich and Chelsea are standing monuments of public generosity. There, provision is made for the relief of those brave fellows whose youthful vigour has been exhausted in behalf of their native land. After long and laborious services, here they repose from the toils they have endured, and from the dangers to which they have been exposed. In this haven of comfort which they have at last safely entered, they partake of the blessings which their grateful countrymen have provided for them. They can look back to that tempestuous fea, on whose agitated surface they have been often borne, with satisfaction. They can behold with no small complacency others rising in their stead, who are equally ready to hazard their lives in the defence of their country!

We have just learnt that the gallant ADMIRAL DUNCAN has taken leave of his Majesty, and has resumed the command of his squadron destined for the North Seas. This information must impart pleasure to every lover of his country. May Duncan, in whose character courage and humanity are united, long defend the shores of Britain, now threatened by an inveterate foe! May success attend his patriotic measures, and may England be blessed with such commanders, till the world be hushed into universal peace.


(No. XVII.]

[ocr errors]

This, nor gems, nor stores of gold,
Nor purple state, nor culture can bestow;
But God alone, when first his active hand
Imprints the sacred bias of the soul.

PON Genius, Taste, and other subječts compre-

, written by men of distinguished celebrity. It is not my purpose to start any new opinion on these topics, or even to concentrate into one point all that has been advanced by others. The Reflector is only a repository for cursory remarks on subjects, connected with the instruction and entertainment of those who honour it with a perusal.

Between GENIUS and TASTE there fubfifts an inti. mate connection which renders it necessary that they Ihould be considered in sublerviency to each other. Thus will they reflect a mutual light, capable of aiding us in the illustration of them. Apart, they cannot be so thoroughly investigated, and therefore we are justified in rendering them subjects of discussion in two successive Numbers. In this point of view would we have them contemplated. We are not without some hope that such a joint consideration of them will carry along with it several substantial advantages.

The term TASTE, applicd to composition, must be understood in a figurative sense. Its original signification refers directly to the palate, by which we are enabled to ascertain the quality of the food presented to us for our nourishment and support. In a similar manner the mind is endowed with a power of discrimination rese pecting the subjects which engage its attention. No

thing thing is more generally understood than the faculty of Taste. It is in the mouth of all, though few, perhaps, have philosophically investigated it. Nor is it indeed necessary. Providence hath wisely appointed that we should use both our faculties and our senses without be. ing profoundly acquainted with_the nature or extent of them. This measure is wisely ordered, since men were designed more for action in this present life than for contemplation. It is, nevertheless, highly useful for those who have ability and leisure, to 'enquire into such things. The investigation exalts our opinion of the Deity in the formation of man, and proves a powerful incitement to the proper exercise of those powers with which we are furnished.

Taste hath been thus justly defined by a writer who possesses no inconsiderable portion of it.

“ It is," says Dr. Blair, “ the power of receiving pleasure from the beauties of nature and art.” Now that such a power is possessed by individuals in various degrees, is obvious to every one who has the least acquaintance with mankind. Not only in the different stages of life, but in the different classes of men, variety of tastes to a very great extent prevails. What diffonance subsists between the crude perceptions of a child, and the mature judgment of a veteran in the republic of letters? How much at variance are the tastes of the rude rustic who has seen nature in her most unfinished forms, and of the polished scholar whose mind, to use the words of Akenside,

66 Is feelingly alive to cach fine impulse ?" Tastes are, in reality, as various as the human coun. tenance; under every aspect a difference obtains. Hence both in kind and degree it affords ample matter for discufsion. On this account the subject distributes itself into two branches, which have been duly noticed by philologists. Let us consider them with some minuteness.

Delicacy and correctness are the two qualities ascribed


to Taste in its most perfect state. Delicacy respects the sensibility with which our nature is endowed for the perception of beauty. S me minds are so torpid, that nothing can arouse them, whilft another clats'fhall be affected by every breath of wind, however gently it plays upon them. These are evidently extremes which must be avoided. Now delicacy consists in a re

refinement of fenfation easier to be conceived than expressed. As the senses of some men are far more exquisite than those of others, so their taste is equally diftinguished by the various degrees of fineness which it assumes. A man of delicate taste is always understood to discern beauties which escape the vulgar. Some latent excellencies are discovered which charm the eye and conciliate the heart. Correctness, the other quality of a perfect taste, respects the improvement which it has received by means of the understanding operating to the formation of a just judgment. It implies the individual's possellion of certain rules by which every object is to be estimated. His opinion is not formed at random. His principles of judging are not subject to a childish caprice, or to an humoursome fluctuation. He understands what, and knows why he approves. This is a valuable acquisition, and, united to delicacy of taste, constitutes the man of eminent genius. But it is to be remarked, that correctness and delicacy are by no means constant companions. Apart are they frequently found, and numerous instances of this truth might be adduced. Hence Blair justly ob: ferves, that * Among the ancient writers, Longinus poffeffed most delicacy, Aristotle most correctness. Among the moderns, Addison is a high example of de. licate taste; Dean Swift, had he written on the subject of criticism, would perhaps have afforded the example of a correct one." There instances are well chosen, and happily illustrate the topic which is now under investigation.

Having touched on the two qualities usually ascribed to Taste in its most perfect state, I may next proceed to VOL. IV,


enquire enquire into the standard of Taste. This subject has occafioned no small altercation between the critics.

Among the endless diversities of taste, how is it poffible (exclaims the young student) to ascertain a criterion for true taste ? Looking abroad among mankind, we perceive this power of the mind to be as various as the human countenance. Even delicacy and correctness, che characteristic properties of a true taste, exist in different degrees in our buit writers. Each author is praised for his tafte, while they agree in no one thing except the diversity of those faculties with which nature hath furnished them.”

To this natural exclamation, it may be replied, that the diversity cannot be questioned. But it does not follow that on this account no standard of Taste can be obtained by which beauties can be estimated. A general, and therefore a sufficient standard for Taste may be found by adverting to those qualities which universally please mankind, particularly what pleases persons who have been placed in circumstances most favourable to the cultivation of their taste. For there are beauties which, displayed in a just point of view, must impart, even to the rudest mind, a degree of pleasure. In the very nature of some objects, a foundation is laid for agreeable contemplation. There are certain latent seeds of beauty, certain hidden excellencies, scattered by the hand of the Almighty throughout the whole extent of his dominions ! Nor is this observation to be confined to the works of nature, it must be extended also to the productions of art. Most arts are successful imitations of nature. Little, therefore, need be here said to prove that the remark just made is of equal application. Every, performance describes either the sentiments or actions of mankind, and hence the more perfect the description, the more entire is the resemblance to nature, which has ever charms to fascinate the heart. Homer's Iliad, Virgil's Eneid, and Milton's Paradise Lost, are admirable instances of what a just taste is able to effect in this pare


[ocr errors]
« ПредишнаНапред »