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man would die or suffer bodily pain were he to be deprived of his diamond rings, his pickles, his portraits, his worked slippers, or his strawberries and cream ; nor would a lady find life become unpleasant on being denied her gloves, her ribbons, her cushions, her rugs, her smelling-bottle, or her canaries. Such things as these increase the sensible pleasures of existence, and though by long use they come to be regarded by some as indispensable, and are, in fact, in some cases artificial necessaries, yet their loss implies neither labour nor pain, and would soon cease to be felt by a cheerful or contented mind.
Useless articles are such as do not serve us directly or indirectly in either of the above ways; and to prove that beauty does not attach to them, but is confined to utility, will be a somewhat negative task, and capable only of negative evidence. If something were asserted to be beautiful and yet admitted to be useless, there would be a definite point on which to make an attack; but if everything which is acknowledged to be beautiful can be shown to be useful, we are still outside the precincts of positive proof; and even negative evidence is not exhausted until every object of beauty has been dealt with and its utility established. We must, therefore, proceed hypothetically, nor need we at all regret being obliged to do so, for our hypothetical postulates will be found as satisfactory and conclusive as our empirical premises.
If there were such a thing in external nature as real immutable beauty, it stands to reason that we might have objects totally divested of utility and yet commanding our admiration. Nay, more, we would accumulate such objects in the interests of art, and receive the applause of our fellow-men for so doing. Are there any such objects ? Are there any such accumulations ? And what and where are they? I know of none such, but I shall try the experiment in the interests of science. I shall get an ornament constructed for my drawing-room table which shall be a mere ornament and nothing more; it shall not
represent a bird, or a nest, or an egg, or a flower, or a fruit, or a shell, or a fish, or a dog, or a cat; for that would involve a lesson, however meagre, in natural
, history. It shall not represent a man, or a woman, or a child, or an occupation, or an incident, episode, phase, or condition of life, for that would involve a lesson, however
in moral philosophy. It shall not represent anything; yet in shape it shall combine the spherical with the cylindrical and the undulating; it shall have the “ line of beauty;" it shall be perfectly smooth; and it shall have the best and purest colours, harmoniously arranged. Having placed this object on my table, I shall call in a neighbour and ask him to admire it. “ What is it?” he asks. “It is an ornament," I reply. “Well, but what is it for?” he continues. “It is for nothing but ornament; is it not a beautiful thing ?” I answer. “Nay," persists my neighbour, “I cannot tell you whether it is beautiful or not until I know what purpose it will serve. What is your motive in putting it on your table ?” “I have no other motive than that of attracting attention and awakening admiration, and the thing can serve no other purpose ; it is simply a beautiful object, meant to be looked at and admired, nothing more," I answer. “Well,” rejoins my friend, “ in that case I cannot say I admire your taste. Your thing is undoubtedly round, and smooth, and curved, and of very fine and brilliant hues; but if it is utterly without use, I really cannot help thinking that it is utterly without beauty. It seems to me a very extraordinary ornament, and, in fact, a ridiculous-looking object. Pray what might it be made of ?” “It is made of boxwood and ivory, carefully carved and exquisitely stained and polished, and see how gracefully it rotates." my advice,” responds my neighbour, “and have it re
, moved. Cut it up and make pegtops or chessmen of it; it is only in the way on your table. You will get no one to admire it, and every one you show it to will laugh at it.” Now this episode, we may be verily assured, is
what, under the circumstances indicated, would really happen; for it necessarily follows from the fact that colour, shape, and motion, though they cause pleasant sensations in the mind, are never in themselves objects of admiration, nor can they be admired when co-existent unless they be found to inhere in something possessing a greater amount of utility than the mere optic sensations are capable of constituting. The mere pleasure of such sensations undoubtedly constitutes utility of a certain value, but owing to the microscopic intensity of such pleasure, the great difficulty of making it out and distinguishing it satisfactorily from all considerations of the nature and end of the object in which it is found, and the liability of such pleasure to be swallowed up by the emotions generated by reflection on the ulterior value of the object itself, these pleasurable sensations are insufficient, without the assistance of some more tangible utility, to redeem the object from contempt.
Flowers will afford an appropriate illustration of the foregoing remarks. For what is the utility of flowers ? Is it anything more than colour, shape, and motion? Assuredly it is. Their utility is made up of a structural organism and a physiological system containing a mine of wonderful instruction and constituting a science in itself. The lessons to be derived from the structure and physiology of plants are varied and innumerable; they elevate the mind to the contemplation of that “ stupendous whole whose body nature is and God the soul," and of which flowers are little representative fragments; they are equal to the acquisition of a language; they are worth the society of men whose acquaintance is said to be a liberal education. Add to this the delicious fragrance which so many garden flowers exhale, and which constitutes a very tangible utility ; where this is wanting, however, observe the excellent richness, variety, and purity of colour which the majority of garden flowers display_hues with which no artistic imitations can for
a moment compare. There is nothing in pictures or in ornaments to equal the colours of the commonest garden flowers; they baffle all reproduction and beggar all description; they are incomparably fine and perfect beyond anything that human effort can achieve. All the artists in the world could not produce anything equal to the petal of a geranium, and the very best approaches to nature which canvas or paper can exhibit are inevitably dimmed and spoiled by time. Flowers themselves only retain their brilliant hues while alive and healthy; so long, therefore, only is our admiration accorded, for dead or withered flowers are ugly and contemptible. Certain gems owe half their value or utility to that quality which neither flowers possess nor painters can bestow—the quality of perpetual freshness. Flowers secrete nectar; they also possess a sanitary advantage connected with the absorption of carbonic acid gas from the air. Putting all these items together, they constitute a very small yet decided aggregate of utility; and flowers notwithstanding, it will be admitted on all hands, serve to sustain a very large amount of beauty-a coincidence perfectly consistent with the rules we are testing, as the sequel will show.
Certain objects made by deceptive associations to appear beautiful are much admired until the deception is discovered, when their beauty vanishes and they no longer solicit our admiration. Artificial flowers and fruit are instances of this. We cannot, for a time perhaps, help admiring a window full of those articles, because we cannot, for a time, help being deceived by the excellence of their colouring and the fidelity of their resemblance to nature, though we should never admire them as much as a person who took them to be real flowers and fruit. Passing the shop every day, however, the fact gradually comes home to us; we inevitably realise that the things are only imitations, and in the same degree do they cease to evoke our admiration. A bouquet of artificial flowers under a glass case, on our mantelpiece or elsewhere, may
be long endured for its quondam power of decoying into an agreeable emotion ; but after this power is quite worn out, taken away by an appreciation of the cheat, neither the ingenuity of the artist nor the excellence of the colouring can atone for the loss. The object becomes little better than an eyesore, a mockery, and a snare; we contemplate it with positive repugnance, as displaying a disposition without the ability to deceive, and as reminding us of our own former ignorance and simplicity. The smallest apology for utility, however, will suffice to avert this repugnance. Place one of these artificial flowers in a lady's bonnet, and see what a change ensues. The utility or use the flower is now made to yield is indeed extremely small— perhaps only enough for an apology; yet, compared with its former duties, it is palpable, genuine, and redeeming; for a bonnet is a covering for the head and worn for protection from the weather, and this protection is not a thing that can be weighed or measured.
Many proofs of this law might be obtained from the art of architecture, whose details constitute a fertile field for speculation. Architecture boasts of embracing a large and important department of artificial beauty; yet I venture to premise that in all its ways and operations it acknowledges the force of the law in question, and can present us with no beauty apart from utility. Were there such a thing as beauty independent of utility, Corinthian columns and capitals would be beautiful not merely in their accustomed places supporting an entablature, but in places where they could serve no purpose whatever—at the corners of streets, in markets, in vacant spaces, in parks, and squares, and gardens, in the middle of lawns, or by the sea-shore, &c. But who ever erects them in such places ? or who, if they were so erected, would not call them preposterous and absurd ? And why so ? Because it would be an attempt to cultivate abstract beauty, to create admiration without utility, which is impossible. If the most skilful sculpturing can be admired irrespective