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common with B; B a quality in common with C; C a quality in common with Dj D a quality in common with E;—while at the same time no quality can be found which belongs in common to any three objects in the series. Is it not conceivable that the affinity between A and B may produce a transference of the name of the first to the second; and that, in consequence of the other affinities which connect the remaining objects tegether, the same name may pass in succession from B to C ; from C to D; and 1rom D to E2 In this manner a common appellation will arise between A and E, though the two objects may in their nature and properties be so widely distant from each other, that no stretch of imagination can conceive how the thoughts were led from the former to the latter. The transitions, nevertheless, may have been all so easy and gradual, that, were they successfully detected by the fortunate ingenuity of a theorist, we should instantly recognize not only the verisimilitude but the truth of the conjecture;—in the same way as we admit with the confidence of intuitive conviction the certainty of the well-known etymological process which connects the Latin preposition E, or Er, with the English substantive strunger, the moment that the intermediate links of the chain are submitted to our examination.” pp. 214,216, 217. There is a plain good sense, as well as a profound philosophy, in this theory, which recommends it to the understanding as soon as it is stated; and few, probably, of Mr. Stewart's readers will peruse the passage which we have here extracted, without feeling some surprise that a truth at once so simple and so incontrovertible should have been very imperfectly understood by many of our most eminent writers. For the purpose of developing more completely , the principle already stated, Mr. Stewart traces the probable progress of the term beauty from its earliest meaning to some of its more remote applications. It is evident that any attempt to pursue a word employed in a very extended sense through all its wanderings, directed as they must have been sometimes by accident and caprice, as well as by natural associations, must be considered rather as a specimen of what is possible, than as a
history of what actually happened. The truth of the principle does not, however, at all depend on the accuracy with which such an investigation is conducted. Mr. Stewart may be wrong in his conjecture respecting the primitive meaning of the word Beauty; he may be wrong in every step which he assigns of its subsequent progress: still it remains indisputable, that the word was originally applied to some one object; and it is, at the least, in a very high degree probable, that it thence travelled, in consequence of a variety of slight associations, through a vast succession of different ideas to which we find it now applied, but to which, by its application, it certainly conveyed no common principles of similarity. In saying this, we do not mean to intimate that the series of probable connections which Mr. Stewart has pointed out is open to any considerable exceptions. On the contrary, we consider them, so far as they extend, as not only ingenious, but wearing many of the characters of truth. Mr. Stewart supposes the idea of beauty to be first acquired from colours; that the word is thence applied to forms; and afterwards to motions. He suggests, also, many plausible and satisfactory reasons for its subsequent transference to sounds; but, though his essay supplies many other illustrations of his general principle, he does not systematically pursue the progress of this word further. He supposes the term sublime to have been first suggested by some of the celestial phenomena; from thence to have passed to space in its other dimensions; and gradually, through many very natural and almost universal associations, which he suggests, to have been engrafted on a variety of the most exalted moral and physical ideas. The essay upon the Beautiful contains, besides the exposition of Mr. Stewart's doctrine upon the subject, a variety of curious and valuable remarks on the theory of Mr. Burke; on the additions. proposed to be
made to it by his very ingenious pupil and advocate, Mr. Price; and also on the opinions maintained by Sir Joshua Reynolds and Father Busfier. We have not room to enter upon these criticisms, which are executed with the hand of a master and the spirit of a gentleman. All the writers above named have undoubtedly fallen into considerable errors upon these subjects; but it must not thence be inferred that their labours have been altogether fruitless. The alchemists had a notion in ancient times, that there was but one great principle at the foundation of all things; and that if they could reach this, the whole mystery of material nature would be easily unravelled. Nothing, to be sure, could be more fanciful than their hypothesis; but the efforts that were made in search of this fugitive essence enriched chymistry with much of its most valuable materials. Thus it has happened also in philosophical criticism ; and of all those who have gone astray in pursuit of a metaphysical quiddity, there is not one who can be considered as having wandered in vain. All have missed the object of their pursuit; but all have returned home rich with spoils, which are more than an adequate compensation for their labours and their disappointments. The principle which Mr. Stewart has stated and illustrated in his Essay on the Beautiful, is one of very general application, and of great practical importance. It affects, in a greater or less degree, every part of language ; and of course therefore, as language is the great instrument of thought and communication among men, it connects itself with the most considerable and the most ordinary concerns of human life. This is a fact which it is not disficult, and may perhaps be useful, to establish. Take them, by way of example, a quality which all admire, and most wish to have the credit of possessing—courage. Who, in ancient or modern days, bas hesitated to applaud it? With
what enthusiasm has it been extolled by poets and orators; by warriors in the field, and statesmen in the senate | Yet the term which custom has thus consecrated, is indifferently applied to subjects of a dissimilar and even opposite complexion. Courage may be mere insensibility to danger; as when Charles the Twelfth received the French ambassador in the trenches, while the balls were tearing up the earth around them. It may be nothing better than a proud obstinacy; as in the Satan of Milton, “ Courage never to submit or yield.” It may be only a disguised sort of cowardice; as in many duels, and perhaps also in suicides: Condorcet poisoned himself, because he was afraid to die upon a scaffold. It may be the high blood and boiling spirit of a hero; as in the Duke of Savoy at the battle of Villafranca; and in Condé, when he threw his marshall's staff into the Austrian lines at Fribourg. It may be an effort of manly reason, in choosing the least of two dangers; as when Caesar saved his army from destruction in Gaul, by seizing the shield and spear of a legionary, and fighting in the first ranks as a private soldier. Or, lastly, it may be the triumph of conscience and religion over the natural fear of death; as in the confessions of the saints, and “victorious agonies” of the martyrs. The same word, it is plain, is employed to denote a virtue, a vice, and an instinct, which is neither the one nor the other. To do homage, then, to every thing that is called courage, is to allow ourselves to be cheated of our understandings by a sound. Yet this imposture is neither uncommon nor unimportant. It is capable of affecting, in a wonderful manner, the daily sentiments and actions of men, so as exceedingly to disarrange the moral order of things. Thus, during several periods of the French history, the consideration in which a nobleman was held depended, in no trifling degree, on the number of duels that he had sought. And even to the present day, while courage is universally admired and exacted in men, timidity is thought to be not only pardonable, but even graceful, in the softer sex; — a confusion of ideas that evidently has arisen out of the ambiguous meaning of the term courage; for though a high bouillant spirit may not be very becoming in women, a rational superiority to infirm fears, and self-possession in danger, are equally virtuous, and nearly equally valuable, in both sexes.
By means of a similar analysis it might be shewn, that a considerable number of those terms which are employed to express moral qualities, become, from the latitude and occasional inaccuracy with which they are used, the sources of practical error. Good-nature is universally approved; yet the shades of our approbation, perhaps, are not always distinguished by a reference to the real merit of the quality which it expresses. Frequently it means only a certain unresisting facility of nature, which, though in some respects engaging, is weak and dangerous. It is occasionally used to express a general cheerfulness of temper. Sometimes it means an instinctive sweetness of disposition, which is very amiable. Sometimes it is applied to an habitual self-restraint, controuling every unkind emotion; which is more respectable, though less lovely, than the quality last mentioned. And sometimes it is confounded with that genuine Christian love, which is the noblest of virtues and best of blessings. It is impossible, in the same manner, not to be struck with the variety of meanings in which the highly important words, Faith and Grace, are used by the writers of the New Testament; though to follow these and other expressions, to which the like observation is applicable, through their different ac‘eptations, would require a long dissertation.
It may, then, safely be stated, as
a general principle in the history of language, that the identity of the term employed to express certain ideas, by no means proves that there is a radical similarity in the ideas themselves. Because they bear the same name, it does not follow that they belong to the same family. Affinities, merely apparent or accidental, are frequently sufficient to account for their being assembled under a common appellation; so that it is impossible for us to be secure of thinking, speaking, or acting with correctness, unless we accustom ourselves to look into the nature of things, and employ the sign only to conduct us to the thing signified. We are all partially acquainted with this truth. Our ordinary intercourse with men forces it upon our attention, and we hear abundant complaints of the inacceracy of most of those around us. But few, comparatively, are aware how deeply the foundations of error are laid in the nature of language itself; and how much diligence and attention are requisite, in order to be tolerably correct in our notions, even where there is a hearty desire to avoid deceiving, or being deceived. The truth is, that language, though an instrument so beautiful, that it is difficult not to suppose it of Divine invention, is, and always must be, essentially imperfect. Nor is this a matter which ought at all to surprise us. It is plainly a charac: teristic feature in the works and ways of God, that they are not understood upon a slight inspection. The truths of natural religion are so far from presenting themselves to the understanding at the first survey of the material and moral world, that it was with difficulty the most renowned masters of wisdom, in * cient days, reached a few of the more important of them. The “” dences of revealed religion are oper to many plausible exceptions; and its true meaning, its sublime dootrines, its spiritual precepts, its * mating promises, its heavenly * solations, are to be understood *
according to the measure of sincere anxiety with which they are investigated. To the thoughtless and inattentive, the Bible is almost a sealed book. Revelation is not to be trifled with. In the providential dispensations of God in this world, the same character appears : all is contradiction and mystery to the careless inspector; to him who diligently watches, and faithfully obeys, much is unveiled. The great Author of all things sits (as the poet sublimely expresses it) “ unseen, behind his own creation.” And St. Paul explains to us a part of the reason for this mystery; “ that we should seek the Lord; if haply we may feel after him and find him; although he be not far from any of us.” Can it, then, be a matter of astonishment to find, that the great
fest duty to cultivate habits of vigilance, assiduity, and a practical love of truth, when every thing within us and around us so plainly calls for them * The Essay on the Sublime was, Mr. Stewart informs us, with the exception of a few pages, written during a summer's residence in “a distant part of the country, where he had no opportunity of consulting books;” and he has thought it necessary to apologise to his readers for the selection of his illustrations; which he apprehends “may appear too hackneyed to be introduced into a disquisition, which it would have been desirable to enliven and adorn by examples possessing something more of the zest of novelty and variety.” We certainly are not among the number of those to whom it could be necessary to address such an apology. We are particularly fond of seeing great men in their undress; of observing what is the train of thoughts which presents itself the most naturally to their minds; and which, among the more Chaist, Oeskry, No. 130.
celebrated writers, are those with whom they are most intimate. The unstudied effusions of an author present us with a far better history of his mind, and furnish a much truer indication of what are his real tastes and preferences, than his elaborate performances. Those must be incurious, indeed, who have no desire to have some acquaintance with Mr. Stewart's literary predilections; and mone, we think, can be aware of the extent and variety of his acquirements, without wishing that he had more frequently indulged himself in the privilege of citing, without the fatigue of research, the passages which are most familiar to his imagination. In the fifth chapter of this Essay, Mr. Stewart intimates an opinion, which none, doubtless, who are curious in matters of taste, will omit to notice. We say intimates, for his expressions are cautious ; but, the passages which we are about to extract seem to imply, that, in his judgment, at least as much, and perhaps rather more, of the true sublime is connected with natural objects, than with sentiments and actions which possess a moral dignity. “Although I have attempted to shew, at some length, that there is a specific pleasure connected with the simple idea of sublimity or elevation, I am far from thinking that the impressions produced by such adjuncts as etermity or power, or even by the physical adjuncts of horizontal extent und of depth, are wholly resolvable into their association with this common and central conception. I own, however, I am of opinion, that in most cases the pleasure attached to the conception of literal sublimity, identified, as it comes to be, with those religious impressions which are inseparable from the human mind. is one of the chief ingredients in the complicated emotion, and that in every case it either palpably or latently contributes to the effect." p. 411. • In confirmation of what I have stated . concerning the primary or central ideo of elevation, it may be farther remarked, that when we are anxious to communicate the highest possible character of sublimity to any thing we are describing, we generally
contrive, somehow or other, either directly, or by means of some strong and obvious association, to introduce the image of the heaveus or of the clouds; or, in other words, of sublimity literally so called. The idea of eloquence is undoubtedly sublime in itself, being a source of the proudest and noblest species of power which the mind of one man can exercise over those of others: but how wonderfully is its sublimity increased when connected with the image of thunder; as when we speak of the thunder of Temosthenes! “Demosthenis non tam vibrarentfulmina nisi numeris contorta ferrentur." Milton has sully availed himself of both these associations, in describing the orators of the Greek republic:
“Resistless eloquence Wielded at will the fierce democracy; Shook th’ arsenal, and fulmined over Greece, To Macedon and Artaxerxes' throne.” - p. 413. “In the concluding stanza of one of Gray's Odes, if the bard, after his apostrophe to Edward, had been represented as falling on his sword, or as drowning himself in a pool at the summit of the rock, the moral sublime, so far as it arises from his heroical determination ‘to conquer and to die, would not have been in the least diminished ; but how different from the complicated emotion produced by the images of altitude; of depth; of an impetuous and foaming flood; of darkness, and of eternity; all of which are crowded into the two last lines.
“He spoke, and headlong from the mountain's height
Deep in the roaring tide he plunged to endless might.
In the following well-known illustration of the superiority of the moral above the physical sublime, it is remarkable, that while the author exemplifies the latter only by the magnitude and momentum of dead masses, and by the immensity of space considered in general, he not only bestows on the former the interest of an historical painting, exhibiting the majestic and commanding expression of a Roman form, but lends it the adventitious aid of an allusion, in which the imagination is carried up to Jupiter armed with his bolt. In fact, it is not the two different kinds of sublimity which he has contrasted with each other, but a few of the constituents of the physical sublime, which he has compared in point of effect with the powers both of the physical and moral sublime, combined together in their joint •peration:
“Look then abroad through nature, through the range Of planets, suns, and adamantine spheres, Wheeling, unshaken, through the vaultimmense; And speak, oh man, does this capacious scene,” &c. &c. p. 417. We do not give the quotation at length, for the sake of economising our space, and because it must be familiar to the recollection of all our readers. Much of what is insisted upon by Mr. Stewart in the above extracts, is undoubtedly true. We are far from agreeing with those, who think that objects, which are only physically sublime, exercise little or no influence upon the mind; or who can discern no grandeur in the fine mountain scenery of Wales or Scotland, without the aid of Caractacus and Ossian. Such frigid travellers are either deficient in sensibility, or eat up with an affectation of being vastly more intellectual than their neighbours; which they manifestly are not, or they would be free from all such pedantry. We have no doubt, too, that in almost all sublime descriptions, the natural images which are employed to convey moral ideas, assist very materially in producing the general effect; and in such cases we admit that it is difficult to analyse the impressions, and assign to each the exact proportion of its influence. Yet, all this, notwithstanding, we are persuaded that there is a difference in the nature of things between physical and moral sublimity, and that
the latter possesses an essential su
periority over the former. “The material part of the creation” (says a profound and eloquent writer*} “was formed for the sake of the immaterial; and of the latter the most momentous characteristicis, its moral and accountable nature, or, in other words, its capacity of virtue and vice.” There is, undoubtedly, a gradation in the order of created
* Discourse on the Discouragements and Supports of the Christian Minister. By Robert Hall.