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heroes are every thing but men-their heroines any thing but women! They throw just such characters on the glowing canvas of description as are not to be found in the world. This kind of writing generates no principles which can be applied to real life--it inculcates no truths which can make us useful in our day and generation-it begets a love of adventure, produces a dissatisfaction with the situation in which Providence has placed us, and palls the taste towards all those homely truths and sober maxims which we bring with us from our cradles.
“ Whilst I deprecate productions of this sort, I could wish to see the number of dull writers on morality, and drowsy teachers of religion, considerably diminished I could wish that pleasure should be combined with improvement ; that truth should assume a pleasing garb, and yet at the same time lose none of its dignity ; that even abstruse speculations should be rendered interesting; and that science, stript of the pedantry of learning, should be familiarised to the understandings of the simple ; and the highest subjects brought down to the ease of social conversation.
By this time we had nearly reached the habitation of Mr. Clairmont, for such was the good old gentleman's name, whom mere accident had brought me acquainted with. My horse was going at an easy pace, and I deep in meditation in the corner of my chaise, when I was suddenly startled by the rattling of a carriage moving towards me at a rapid rate; the Coachman was lolling on the box, and the Master driving four in hand-the road was rather narrow, and the driver kept the middle, and kept his pace, totally disregarding so humble an individual as myself; although I pulled up nearly into the hedge to make way, it was in vain--the Gentleman contrived to come in contact with my wheel with considerable violencemy horse, who was no philosopher, and not used to stand against the sudden shocks of fate, took fright, and the wheel which had received the blow, performed very few revolutions before it came off.
I soon found myself on my legs again without sustaining any personal injury, except the mortification of seeing the good-hearted gentleman on the box cutting along as though no accident had happened. The landlord of a small publichouse by the road side, informed me, that the gentleman was 'Squire Dashwood, the Justice of Peace," and that he was reckoned the best whip in all the county that his horses were all blood and thorough bred I “ The horses may be very well-bred for ought I know (said I, surveying my fractured chaise); I wish I could say as much of the master-I suppose he imagines we honest folks are peither flesh nor blood."
The country people seemed to pity my misfortune; but they assured ine the gentleman was the Justice of Peace !" 1 remonstrated in severe terms against his insolence and carelessness, to all which I could only hear, for my consolation, that he was "the Justice of Peace?” I said no more, judging that these poor country fellows considered it a sort of favour to be overturned, or to have one's neck broke by a Justice of Peace! Just at this moment Mr. Clairmont came up, and learning the particulars of my accident, he advised me to send the chaise to the next village to be repaired. I gave directions to the ostler accordingly, and we walked from the group which curiosity had brought together. Conversation stole imperceptibly upon us-Mr. Clairmont looked all intelligence-the hauteur of the rich, and the servility of the poor, gave rise to other subjects. The old gentleman was communicative, and by no means tenacious of expressing his opinions—he displayed evident powers of mind and a strength of thinking, added to a dignity of manner and a facility of expression, which rendered his conversation highly interesting. His notions on Religion, though in some respects novel to me, and even alarming, were no idle speculations taken up without investigation; but were obviously the result of enquiry and scriptural research.
“Of the Deity (said he), we should form the most grand and exalted conceptions ;-all that is vast!-that is immutable ! that is wise !--that is benevolent! should possess our minds in the contemplation of the God of heaven and earth!—and all true religion must be moulded consonant with the attributes and perfections of such a Being. Religion must be clear, must be rational, must not be veiled in mystery, but cloathed in the simple majesty of truth ;-and such was Christianity! but, alas! things are strangly altered."
Of existing establishments, which I had been taught from my infancy to respect, he spoke with a degree of freedom bordering on levity, and which I could not but think unbecoming. “ How (exclaimed he) is the human judgment perverted, and poisoned by prejudice-our very notions of right and wrong are merely the received maxims of the age, and measured by the currupt standard of political institutions—the poor wretch who is placed in the stocks, or dragged through a horse-pond, for some slight offence, is not half so obnoxious to the public good as the wicked prince, or the servile courtier, who receive nothing but adulation; and many a forlora miscreant, who has ended his days at Tyburn, may have been in reality less amenable to the eternal laws of justice than the judge who condemned him, or the priest who prayed for the good of his soul!
“ We boast of being governed by laws framed by the wisdom of our forefathers--absurd boast! as well might a parent boast of being governed by the wisdom of his children !-as well might manhood boast of walking in leading strings, or old age of moving in the go-cart of infancy!” And yet Mr. Clairmont is no misanthropewno noisy declaimer-all his observations seem to flow from the head and the heart. He takes an enlarged and philosophic view of things, tracing effects to their causes, and attributing the prejudices, the ignorance, and the vices of man, to the condition of his nature. But man he considers improvable, and his knowledge progressive; and on this account he
argues it is laudable to explode all those principles which stand opposed to general improvement, and whose removal may hetter the condition of society.
Mr. Clairmont had invited me very strongly to walk with him to his house, as the chaise could not possibly be ready till the morning; and indeed his conversation was so pleasing, and his manners so pre-possessing, that I required little pressing. He had hardly closed his observations on the manner of conveying truth to the mind, when we came to a part of the road which suddenly opens on a very extensive and picturesque track of country--we.stopt, as if intuitively, to gaze around us. Mr. Clairmont seated himself on the protuberant trunk of an old oak-'twas in the cool of a fine summer's evening-the scenery was rich and beautiful beyond description-fields of a thousand hues, and trees of every green, presented themselves to the eye on either side the regularity of cultivation was blended with the wild exuberance of nature_here the proud portico of some stately mansion reared its head in silent grandeur-there the scattered cottages, embosomed in trees, reflected from their humble windows the last beam of the setting sun-and the sight, after wandering over a pleasing diversity of hill and valley, wood and heath, is terminated by a chain of distant mountains, whose rugged outline projects itself to heaven.
I could but express the highest admiration of the prospect before me. Here (said Mr. Clairmont) at the dawn of day, or the still of evening, I usually repair ; there is something in the contemplation of nature which refines the mind and sublimates the feeling-this scenery an artist might choose to form his taste in landscape painting. I have often conjectured (added he) that there is a connection between taste and virtue. To this latter observation I replied, that for myself I had been in the habit of setting but little value on what was called taste; in fact, that I considered it a mere phantom, as men differ so widely in their judgment of taste.“ The same may be said of reason (replied Mr. C.)-reason may be treated as a phantom, on a similar ground; for men will differ widely in reason
ing on the same subject. It is certainly difficult to fix any standard of taste, and so it would be to fix a standard of reason; yet as in reasoning there are certain axioms, or first tru, hs, on which all men are agreed, so in taste there are certain principles common to all."
Here I interrupted Mr. Clairmont, by asking him to favour me with a definition of taste." By Taste (continued he) 1 mean the power or capacity of the mind to form a judgment of Beauty. Our ideas of Beauty must be received, as are all our other ideas, through the medium of the senses, and the impression of external objects on the organs of sense must be mechanical, and in all men in a great measure similar. There are-certain substances more agreeable to the touch than others : there are certain sounds more pleasing to the ear than others; the same may be said of odours most grateful to the smell, and objects delightful to the eye. All men will admire the plumage of the peacock, and the colours of the rainbow; and as in our simple ideas we mostly agree, so in the first principles of taste, the sensations excited by outward objects are alike; and it is only in the combination of those sensations, and diversification of their operations, that so much difference exists, babit and education being taken into the account, as varying, modifying, and often obliterating the primary and natural impressions. Order and proportion seem essential to beauty-whatever violates these offends the eye. A wall out of perpendicular-windows which do not range with each other-massy columns to carry a light pediment-a tree growing in an awkward and unnatural direction-will al. ways strike ihe feelings unpleasantly ; and thougli children
may express pleasure at sights out of nature, it is the novelty and not the beauty which pleases.
“ That t'ere is a sensible difference in the impression of objects inust then be admitted--some exciting pleasurable, and others painful sensations, and this necessarily so - and the cause of this difference might, perhaps, be traced to the very texture and formation of the organs of sense. Any thing rough, ragged, and uneven, excites an unpleasant feel ing-the sharp points and angles, perhaps, irritating too strongly the delicate structure of the optics. Look at the porcupine and look at the dove; how opposite are the feelings excited--the eye is pained by the sharp and fretful quills of the porcupine, and fixes with pleasure on the soft image of the dove - where, to use the expression of Mr. Burke, " its parts are melted into one another.” It is the same with the touch--pass your hand over a polished surface of marblebreak it, and apply your fingers to the broken end, and the sensation will be as opposite as in the former case. Roughness then; and irregularity, seem incompatible with our ideas of beauty; all the parts must bear a relation to the wholemust be softened into each other, as it is with the landscape before us. Those distant mountains which, to borrow the illustration of an accomplished writer, like Virgil's Fame, tread on earth, and lift their heads to heaven--those mountains, I say, looked at singly and alone, would fatigue the eye; but embraced with the whole span of country, add to the effect, and become a prominent beauty.
“ Ifthen, as we have seen, pleasureable and painful sensations are excited by the different impressions of objects, Taste may be said to be founded in the very mechanism of the human mind;
and all men possess Taste in a degree, as all are more or less affected by beauty. But the man of taste is he who can most readily detect the deformity of an object, trace its latent beauties, and follow with chaste and perfect eye the nice dis. position of all its parts; and such a man has in himself a rich source of pleasure, to which the clown is a stranger.
66 To establish the connection between taste and virtue would, perhaps, be impossible; it is one of those subjects on which we can conceive much more than we can express; but taste and virtue both certainly tend to refine the feelings, and as taste seems to consist in judging of beauty, so virtue may
be considered the beauty of the mind, and, depending on the order and proportion of human action, becomes in some mea. sure an object of taste.
“The pleasures of Taste are excited in us from the contem, plation of the beauty, the harmony, and the regularity of ob. jects; and so the pleasures communicated by virtue must depend on the harmony and regularity of the passions and it seems natural to conclude, that Taste, which is conversant with the relation of things to each other, should assist us in tracing the bearings and relations of the moral duties-that it should give a clearness and quickness of perception into the nature of things. And though this connection may appear in some measure forced; yet it will certainly be conceded, that the pursuits of taste are eminently calculated to exalt the feelings, to expand the mind, and to lift the man from low and sensual gratification. Who that can admire the beauty of the scenery before us, but must despise the deformity of vice! who would not seek to possess that peace within, which reigns every where around him?"
Mr. Clairmont laboured his point for some time, though be was by no means tedious. The connection of taste and virtue seems a favourite subject with him, and he endeavoured to support it with many more acute and ingenious observations ; at last he pleasantly said, “ well, Sir! though I cannot make