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sure is more pure and unmixed: and as it is merely a pleasure of the imagination, it is much higher than any which is derived from a rectitude of the judgment.
The judgment is for the greater part employed in throwing stumbling blocks in the way of the imagination, in dissipating the scenes of its enchantment, and in tying us down to the disagreeable yoke of our reason; for almost the only pleasure that men have in judging better than others, consists in a sort of conscions pride and superiority, which arises from thinking rightly; but then this is an indirect pleasure, a pleasure which does not immediately result from the object which is under contemplation. In the morning of our days, when the senses are unworn and tender, the whole man is awake in every part, and the gloss of novelty fresh upon all the objects that surround us. How lively at that time are our sensations, but how false and inaccurate the judgments we form of things! I despair of ever receiving the same degree of pleasure from the most excellent performances of genius, which I felt at that age from pieces which my present judgment regards as trifling and contemptible. Every trivial cause of pleasure is apt to affect the man of too sanguine a complexion: his appetite is too keen to suffer
his taste to be delicate: and he is in all respects what Ovid says of himself in love,
"Molle meum levibus cor est violabile telis,
My heart is easily pierced by the slightest darts,
One of this character can never be a refined judge; never what the comic poet calls elegans formarum spectator. The excellence and force of a composition must always be imperfectly estimated from its effects on the minds of any, except we know the temper and character of those minds. The most powerful effects of poetry and music have been displayed, and perhaps are still displayed, where these arts are but in a very low and imperfect state. The rude hearer is affected by the principles which operate in these arts even in their rudest condition; and he is not skilful enough to perceive the defects. But as arts advance towards their perfection, the science of criticism advances with equal pace, and the pleasure of judges is frequently interrupted by the faults which are discovered in the most finished compositions.
Before I leave this subject, I cannot help taking notice of an opinion which many persons entertain, as if the taste were a separate faculty
of the mind, and distinct from the judgment and imagination; a species of instinct by which we are struck naturally, and at the first glance, without any previous reasoning, with the excelJencies or defects of a composition. So far as the imagination and the passions are concerned, I believe it true that the reason is little consulted; but where disposition, where decorum, where congruity are concerned, in short, where the best taste differs from the worst, I am convinced that the understanding operates, and nothing else; and its operation is in reality far from being always sudden, or when it is sudden, it is often far from being right. Men of the best taste by consideration frequently change these early and precipitate judgments, which the mind from its aversion to neutrality and doubt, loves to form on the spot.
It is known that the taste (whatever it is) is improved exactly as we improve our judgment, by extending our knowledge, by a steady attention to our object, and by frequent exercise. They who have not taken these methods, if their taste decides quickly, it is always uncertainly; and their quickness is owing to their presumption and rashness, and not to any hidden irradi ation that in a moment dispels all darkness from heir minds.
But they, who have cultivated that species of knowledge which makes the object of taste, by degrees and habitually, attain not only a soundness but a readiness of judgment, as men do by the same methods on all other occasions. At first they are obliged to spell, but at last they read with ease and with celerity; yet this celerity of its operation is no proof that the taste is a distinct faculty. Nobody, I believe, has attended the course of a discussion, which turned upon matters within the sphere of mere naked reason, but must have observed the extreme readiness with which the whole process of the argument is carried on, the grounds discovered, the objections raised and answered, and the conclusions drawn from premises, with a quickness altogether as great as the taste can be supposed to work with; and yet where nothing but plain reason either is or can be suspected to operate. To multiply principles for every different appearance is useless, and unphilosophical too, in a high degree.
ON THE DIFFERENT CHARACTERS OF
POPE lays it down as a maxim, that
"The proper study of mankind is man."
There cannot indeed be a more useful, nor perhaps a more easy science; so many lessons of this kind are every moment forcing themselves upon our observation, that it should seem scarce possible not to be well acquainted with the various turns and dispositions of the human heart. And yet there are so few who are really adepts in this article, that to say of a man he knows the world, is generally esteemed a compliment of the most significant kind.
The reason, perhaps, of the general ignorance which prevails in this sort of knowledge, may arise from our judging too much by universal principles. Whereas there is a wonderful disparity in mankind, and numberless characters