Imágenes de páginas

tiful; it is but a relation which they have with us, like cold and colour, which have no existence but in our perception of them.

In archilecture, sculpture, painting, poelry, oratory, in all the fine arts, as in the mechanical arts and trades, our law of harmonies, the necessary source of a delicate and exquisite tact, which men have concurred to call taste,* and the prin. ciple of genuine beauty of every kind, determines the proportions, the relations, the shades, of the different parts of a building, the sentences of an oration, and the colours and details of a picture.

66 The administration of a great state,” observes Fenelon, “ requires a certain harmony, like music, and just proportions, like architecture.”

The art of employing time, as well as education, and the different means which it employs, ought to be modified in practice, with reference to age, sex, condition, fortune, destination, or station in

Taste, according to the definition given of it by the author of an elementary work on rhetoric, is the feeling of what is fit and suitable. The man of taste, in literature, writes nothing that can offend the ear; in the arts, produces nothing that can hurt the eye; in society, always employs the tone and language suited to the place where, and the persons with whom, he is. A person possesses taste when he is apprised by a quick and lively sensation, agreeable or disagreeable, of what is beautiful or ug!y, good, middling, or bad, in what he sees, reads, or hears.

society, the general circumstances of the country, the nature of the government and of the climate, and the differences and varieties of constitutions, passions, and dispositions.

The art of questioning, which is a branch of the science of employing time, or the manner of interrogating with benefit such persons as we meet with in society, and of availing ourselves, for our personal instruction, of the experience and knowledge peculiar to each, consists in the talent and habit of discovering what interests or is relative to them, and adapting our questions and conversation to the subjects with which they are familiar. *

In short, the proportions or harmony between the means and the end, causes and effects, efforts and results, faculties and desires,+ income and

* See the two chapters of the following Essay, on the Art of questioning, and the Art of employing Men.

+ Objects, powers, appetites, heaven suits in all,

Nor, nature through, e'er violates this sweet,

Eternal concord on her tuneful string. Now virtue, it is universally admitted, does not receive upon earth a recompence adequate to its afflictions and its combats. We must therefore assume, that there is reserved for it a reward proportionate to the pains it suffers, and the sacrifices it enjoins. Thus the application of our law of proportions, like our preceding laws, leads to the sublime and cheering idea of the immortality of the soul.

expenditure, men and their different employments, the characters of nations and the laws that are given to them, seem to furnish a universal rule in morality, legislation, politics, and philosophy, as well as in architecture, mechanics, mathematics, music, literature, and all the arts and sciences.


In all Things there must be an Aim, End, or Object.

The word aim properly signifies a point which we strive to hit with something. In the figurative and more general signification, it is a foreseen and desired effect which we seek to produce by certain actions. None, therefore, can have an aim but an intelligent being, who has at least a confused notion of an effect, who foresees, who wishes it, who acts spontaneously to obtain it, and who accordingly acts in the manner that he thinks most likely to produce it. An aim always presupposes an intelligence and a will, and cannot exist without them. It is the idea of the foreseen effect, and the intention of the agent,

[ocr errors]

that determine the reality and extent of the aim which he proposes to himself. The characteristic distinction of intelligent beings is to have an aim in all their voluntary actions; and this aim is always an effect which they consider as necessary to their improvement and felicity.

The particular aim of the individual is happiness or well-being—a result of the development or improvement of his faculties.

The general aim of the species, which is at the same time the aim of the sciences, of inventions, and of every man who aspires to real, solid glory, founded on the happiness of his fellow-creatures, is the melioration of the human condition upon earth. The treasures of human knowledge are not destined either to flatter the pride of man, to feed his curiosity, or to amuse his leisure. They should be made subservient to his preservation, (which is their common aim) or to the alleviation of the numberless evils with which he is every moment beset.

To diffuse pleasures and enjoyments every kind among a greater number of persons, and thus to create their own happiness, is the common, rational, and legitimate aim of all those who concur in the advancement of the sciences. It is likewise the aim of each science in particular,


and especially of morality, legislation, politics, and genuine philosophy.

The object of morality is to teach man wherein consists that happiness the acquisition of which is his general aim ; to direct him in the choice of the particular aims which he ought to propose to himself, according to circumstances, to attain happiness, and to point out to him the best ways of accomplishing these different aims.

The proper object of politics is to render a nation prosperous at home, and respected abroad.

Besides the general and common aim which we have assigned to all the sciences, each art and each science has its particular object or aim, which ought to be thoroughly studied by him who wishes to become a proficient in it, to improve its methods, or to extend its sphere.

In natural philosophy, whose object is a knowledge of the phænomena of nature, the experiments in which our various instruments are employed are nothing but imitations of those phænomena, the aim of which is to unfold to us their


The essential principle and aim of the imitative arts is not only to produce representations of objects, but also to give to those representations ideal beauties, the association of which is capabl

« AnteriorContinuar »