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UNIFORMITY, SIMPLICITY, INTRICACY, and QUANTITY;-all which co-operate in the production of beauty, mutually correcting and restrain'ng each other occasionally.
ANALYSIS OF BEAUTY.
FITNESS of the parts to the design for which every individual thing is formed, either by art or nature, is first to be considered, as it is of the greatest consequence to the beauty of the whole. This is so evident, that even the sense of seeing, the great inlet of beauty, is itself so strongly biassed by it, that if the mind, on account of this kind of value in a form, esteem it beautiful, though on all other considerations it be not so; the eye grows insensible of its want of beauty, and even begins to be pleased, especially after it has been a considerable time acquainted with it.
It is well known on the other hand, that forms of P. 14 great elegance often disgust the eye by being improperly applied. Thus twisted columns are undoubtedly ornamental; but as they convey an idea of weakness, they always displease, when they are improperly made VOL. II.
use of as supporters to any thing that is bulky, or appears heavy.
The bulks and proportions of objects are governed by fitness and propriety. It is this that has established the size and proportion of chairs, tables, and all sorts of utensils and furniture. It is this that has fixed the dimensions of pillars, arches, &c. for the support of great weight, and so regulated all the orders in architecture, as well as the sizes of windows and doors, &c. Thus though a building were ever so large, the steps of the stairs, the seats in the windows must be continued of their usual heights, or they would lose their beauty with their fitness: and in shipbuilding the dimensions of every part are confined and regulated by fitness for sailing. When a vessel sails well, the sailors always call her a beauty; the two ideas have such a connexion!
The general dimensions of the parts of the human body are adapted thus to the uses they are designed for. The trunk is the most capacious on account of the quantity of its contents, and the thigh is larger than the leg, because it has both the leg and foot to move, the leg only the foot, &c.
Fitness of parts also constitutes and distinguishes in a great measure the characteristics of objects; as for example, the race-horse differs as much in quality, or character, from the war-horse, as to its figure, as the Hercules from the Mercury.
The race-horse, having all its parts of such dimensions as best fit the purposes of speed, acquires on that account a consistent character of one sort of beauty, To illustrate this, suppose the beautiful head and gracefully-turned neck of the war-horse were placed on the shoulders of the race-horse, instead of his own awkward straight one: it would disgust, and deform, instead of adding beauty; because the judgment would condemn it as unfit.
The Hercules, by Glicon*, hath all its parts finely fitted for the purposes of the utmost strength, the texture of the human form will bear. The back, breast and shoulders have huge bones, and muscles adequate to the supposed active strength of its upper parts; but as less strength was required for the lower parts, the judicious sculptor, contrary to all modern rule of en. larging every part in proportion, lessened the size of the muscles gradually down towards the feet; and for the same reason made the neck larger in circumference than any part of the head; otherwise the figure would have been burdened with an unnecessary weight, which would have been a drawback from his strength, and in consequence of that, from its characteristic beauty.
These seeming faults, which show the superior P.16 anatomical knowledge as well as judgment of the ancients, are not to be found in the leaden imitations of it near Hyde Park. These saturnine geniuses imagined they knew how to correct such apparent disproportions.
These few examples may be sufficient to give an idea of what I mean, (and would have understood) by the beauty of fitness, or propriety.
How great a share variety has in producing beauty may be seen in the ornamental part of nature.
The shapes and colours of plants, flowers, leaves, the paintings in butterflies wings, shells, &c. seem of little other intended use, than that of entertaining the eye with the pleasure of variety.
All the senses delight in it, and equally are averse to sameness. The ear is as much offended with one even continued note, as the eye is with being fixed to a point, or to the view of a dead wall.
Yet when the eye is glutted with a succession of variety, it finds relief in a certain degree of sameness; and even plain space becomes agreeable, and properly introduced, and contrasted with variety, adds
to it more variety. P. 17 I mean here, and every where indeed, a composed
variety; for variety uncomposed, and without design, is confusion and deformity.
Observe, that a gradual lessening is a kind of varying that gives beauty. The pyramid diminishing from its basis to its point, and the scroll or voluta, gradually lessening to its center, are beautiful forms. So also objects that only seem to do so, though in fact they do not have equal beauty; thus perspective views, and particularly those of buildings, are always pleasing to the eye.