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broken jars and bottles, dead flies, odd bits of dirty paper, &c., old book-covers, dung, ordure, filth, putrid carrion, bad meat, mud and dust, slugs, bugs, lice, earwigs, nettles, and other weeds, stagnant water, soot, morasses, cesspools? With such things as these we are often and much disgusted, but only because their inutility is their most conspicuous quality; they tend to breed discomfort and inconvenience and nuisance, bad smells, ill-health, sickness, fever, epidemics, pestilence, and death. Weeds, for example, are injurious to shrubs, plants, flowers, and grass; they grow in abundance, and where they are not wanted; their colour is, as a rule, dull, and their shape frequently unpleasant (though to this there are exceptions); their odour, when they have any, is usually offensive. These facts are sufficient to make weeds seem ugly, and sometimes more than ugly.
Let the element of utility become apparent in any of the above-named objects, and that object at once ceases to be ugly. Let the leaves, flowers, or dung become manure, let the mud be used in building, let the rotten sticks be stored for firewood, and the articles redeem themselves at once. They do not become amirable, it is true, but they cease to be disgusting. A foul odour is very disgusting, and makes us decidly hostile to whatever it comes from ; let the same odour, however, be generated by chemicals in a laboratory, for the purposes of some important experiment, and our disgust is almost annihilated, and the odour becomes much more tolerable. Few things can be uglier than the entrails of a fish flung upon the roadside and covered with flies. Should a passing surgeon, however, noticing in it some very extraordinary formation of organism, have it brought away, preserved in chemicals, sealed in a jar, and placed in a museum, the thing would cease to be ugly, and would become an object of interest and value.
As anything which assists the utility of something else is more or less beautiful, so anything which impedes the utility of something else is more or less ugly; instance flaws in glass, cracks in crockery, rents in curtains, holes in carpets, garments, hats, boots, and umbrellas. Still, the suggestions are more potent than the faults. If a house had no glass at all in its window frames, it would, I think, look less ugly than if all the panes were broken. Plumstones, fruit-skins, and eggshells, are sufficiently devoid of beauty under any circumstances; but mark the different emotions with which we would contemplate such objects on entering a room, if we were to see them on the dinner plates, and if we were to see them strewn upon the carpet. In the latter case we should have suggestions of carelessness, slovenliness, negligence, and dirt; and we would not, we could not, confine these characteristics to the treatment of those particular objects, or even to that class of objects; we should apply them to all the ways and words and works of the household, to the hours kept, to the rules observed, to the economy practised, to the principles maintained, to the life led. In fact, we should not know what to expect in such a family.
Personal ugliness has been impliedly explained in personal beauty. It may, however, be remarked, that red hair, which is more or less in general disrepute in particular countries, is no more ugly in itself than a red flower, a red book-cover, or the fire at which we warm ourselves; it is per se no uglier than black, brown, or sandy hair, nor is one shade of red uglier than another; in fact, it was before shown that mere colour never can be ugly or otherwise. And more than this, we have no right to conclude that red hair, as a sensation of colour, is a whit less pleasant than any other shade, for the contrary is probably the case. The truth is that this colour in hair is held to be forbidding because, whether rightly or wrongly, it is adjudged to be the usual concomitant of questionable features and an unreliable disposition. Were this not so, red hair of whatever shade would be thought quite as beautiful and becoming as any other colour. Very black and very light hair are also thought by many to observe the same rule as red, and these colours, therefore, are often regarded with somewhat of suspicion. They are not always so regarded, however, for the simple reason that such shades are not believed to be the invariable accompaniment of plain features, or to be infallible indications of unlovable characteristics. We all know that every shade of hair sometimes accompanies beauty of countenance, sweetness of temper, sincerity of action, and loftiness of sentiment.
All deformity is ugly because it suggests inutility, i.e., hindrance in avoiding pain or in securing pleasure. From deformity of body we conclude deformity of mind. We do not look for genius amongst dwarfs or giants. We do not expect talent from the monstrous, or anticipate virtue from the ill-made. Primâ facie, such persons are below the common standard of power and of goodness ; appearances are against them, and if they would dislodge suspicion or awaken admiration, they must do so by very positive and unequivocal proofs.
1. Sublimity attaches only to Power.
appearance of Power.
THE appropriate emotion for sublimity is awe, and whereas in deciding upon the existence of beauty in any object, the proper question is—Do we admire it ? and in the case of ugliness — Does it disgust us ? so the test for sublimity is—Does it inspire us with awe? The justness of this position will, I think, appear in the course of the following inquiry. Awe, like admiration and disgust, is a delicate and refined emotion, and, like admiration and disgust also, is apparently shared with the human species by no other animal. This emotion stops short of fear, which, being a coarser and stronger feeling, shatters and dislodges all gentler emotions in proportion to its presence in the mind. Fear must needs be a more vigorous and absorbing affection, because “fear hath torment.” Fear may be induced through that primary form of reason called instinct, while awe can only be awakened by a choice variety of latent suggestions, consequent upon and only possible with the advanced modification of reason experienced in reflection. As beauty has its root in pleasure-considering all pleasure as the absence of pain, and ugliness its root in pain-considering all pain as the absence of pleasure, so in like manner sublimity has its root in power, and meanness in impotence.
Sublimity, like beauty and ugliness, is a relative term, and implies two things—first, an external quality in matter, and secondly, a subjective affection of the mind. The external quality is the suggestion of power, and the affection of mind is the emotion of awe. It is not the perception of innate power that excites awe, but the suggestion of latent power. The emotion of awe, therefore, like every other æsthetic emotion, is consequent upon an operation of the intellect, and when this operation does not take place, there can be no awe. It might be legitimate to dive deeper into the psychology of the subject; it might be possible to show that this emotion is agreeable by reason that we identify ourselves with the source and benefit of the power in question. The mere recognition of innate power in another person or in another thing is never a matter for self-congratulation ; unless we identify ourselves with the origin of such power, or our interest with its good results, it is to us rather a source of humiliation and unhappiness, inasmuch as innate power being a sign of danger, according to its amount, causes fear and not awe. With suggested power the conditions are changed, for then the quality is not innate, but supplied to the object, and supplied by us. To create sublimity, therefore, we require an external object to invest with associated power; having so invested it, we make the object itself subsequently suggest this power; the object is, therefore, dependent on us—precisely the same principle, it will be observed, as obtains in beauty. These considerations are calculated to make us happy. The object then wears as its own, along with its innate power, the power with which we have clothed it; it is therefore independent of us. These considerations are calculated to check our happiness. Hence the emotion of awe would appear to be a perpetual striving of a feeling to rise into happiness upon the occurrence of one set of thoughts, and a perpetual repression of the tendency by the occurrence of another set of thoughts. Awe, therefore, is a higher but less agreeable emotion than admiration,