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membrance what led us to this last description of what the Italians call, Il poco piu (the little more that is expected from the hand of a master) will, in my mind, want very little more than what his own observation on the works of art and nature will lead him to, to acquire a true idea of the word Taste, when applied to form ; however inexplicable this word may hitherto have been imagined.
We have all along had recourse chiefly to the works of the ancients, not because the moderns have not produced some as excellent; but because the works of the former are more generally known: nor would we have it thought, that either of them have ever yet come up to the utmost beauty of nature. Who but a bigot, even to the antiques, will say that he has not seen faces and necks, hands and arms in living women, that even the Grecian Venus doth but
coarsely imitate? P.67 And what sufficient reason can be given why the
same. may not be said of the rest of the body?.
If any one should ask, what it is that constitutes a fine-proportioned human figure? how ready and seemingly decisive is the common answer: a just symmetry and harmony of parts with respect to the whole. But as probably this vague answer took its rise from doctrines not belonging to form, or idle schemes built on them, I apprehend it will cease to be thought much to the purpose after a proper enquiry has been made.
Preparatory to which, it becomes necessary in this place, to mention one reason more which may be added to those given in the introduction, for my having persuaded the reader to consider objectsscooped out like thin shells; which is; that partly by this conception, he may be the better able to separate and keep asunder the two following general ideas, as we will call them, belonging to form';, which are apt to coincide and mix with each other in the mind, and which it is necessary (for the sake of making each more fully and particularly clear) should be kept apart, and considered singly.
First, the general ideas of what hath already been discussed in the foregoing chapters, which only com.
prehends the surface of form, viewing it in no other
light than merely as being ornamental or not. P.08 Secondly, that general idea, now to be discussed,
which we commonly have of form altogether, as arising chiefly from a fitness to some designed purpose or use.
Hitherto our main drift hath been to establish and illustrate the first idea only, by shewing, first the nature of variety, and then its effects on the mind; with the manner how such impressions are made by means of the different feelings given to the eye, from its movements in tracing and coursing' over surfaces of all kinds.
The surface of a piece of ornament, that hath every turn in it that lines are capable of moving into, and at the same time no way applied, nor of any manner of use, but merely to entertain the eye, would be such an object as would answer to this first idea alone.
The figure like a leaf, at the bottom of plate l, near to fig. 67, is something of this kind; it was taken from an ash-tree, and was a sort of Lusus naturæ, growing only like an excrescence, but so beautiful in the lines of its shell-like windings, as would have been above the power of a Gibbons to have equalled, even in its own materials; nor could the graver of an Edlinck, or Drevet, have done it justice on copper.
Note, the present taste of ornaments seems to have been partly taken from productions of this sort,
See Chap. 5. page 25.
which are to be found about autumn among plants, particularly asparagus, when it is running to seed.
I shall now endeavour to explain what is included P. 69 in what I have called for distinction sake, the second general idea of form, in a much fuller manner than was done in chapter I. of Fitness. And begin with observ-' ing, that though surfaces will unavoidably be still included, yet we must no longer confine ourselves to the particular notice of them as surfaces only, as we heretofore have done'; we must now open our view to general, as well as particular bulk and solidity; and also look into what may have filled up, or given rise thereto, such as certain given quantities and dimensions of parts, for inclosing any substance, or for performing of motion, purchase, stedfastness, and other matters of use to living beings, which, I apprehend, at length, will bring us to a tolerable conception of the word proportion.
As to these joint-sensations of bulk and motion, do we not at first sight almost, even without making trial, seem to feel when a leaver of any kind is too weak, or not long enough to make such or such a purchase? or when a spring is not sufficient? and don't we find by experience what weight, or dimension should be given, or taken away, on this or that account? if so, as the general as well as particular bulks of form, are made up of materials moulded together under mechanical directions, for some known purpose or other; how naturally, from these considerations, shall we fall into a judgment of fit proportion ; which is one part of beauty to the mind though not always so to the eye. .
P.70 Our necessities have taught us to mould matter
into various shapes, and to give them fit proportions for particular uses, as bottles, glasses, knives, dishes, &c. Hath not offence given rise to the form of the sword, and defence to that of the shield? And what else but proper fitness of parts hath fixed the different dimensions of pistols, common guns, great guns, fowling-pieces and blunderbusses; which differences as to figure, may as properly be called the different characters of fire-arms, as the different shapes of men are called characters of men.
We find also that the profuse variety of shapes, which present themselves from the whole animal création, arise chiefly from the nice fitness of their parts, designed for accomplishing the peculiar movements of eat'.
And here I think will be the proper place to speak of a most curious difference between the living machines of nature, in respect of fitness, and such poor ones, in comparison with them, as men are only capable of making; by means of which distinction, I am in hopes of shewing what particularly constitutes the utmost beauty of proportion in the human figure.
A clock, by the government's order, has been made, and another now making, by Mr. Harrison, for the keeping of true time at sea; which perhaps is one of the most exquisite movements ever made. Happy the ingenious contriver! although the form
of the whole, or of every part of this curious machine, P.71 should be ever so confused, or displeasingly shaped to
the eye; and although even its movements should be disagreeable to look at, provided it answers the