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that the Spaniards are beginning to reform their dramá, and the Germans to create one.
Of National Taste. There is beauty of all times and of all places, and there is likewise local beauty. Eloquence ought to be everywhere persuasive, grief affecting, anger impetuous, wisdom tranquil; but the details which may gratify a citizen of London, would have little effect upon an inhabitant of Paris. The English drew some of their most happy metaphors and comparisons from the marine, while Parisians seldom see anything of ships. All which affects an Englishman in relation to liberty, his rights and his privileges, would make little impression upon a Frenchman.*
The state of the climate will introduce into a cold and humid country a taste for architecture, furniture and clothing, which may be very good, but not admissible at Rome or in Sicily.
Theocritus and Virgil, in their eclogues, boast of the shades and of the cooling freshness of the fountains. Thomson, in his Seasons, dwells upon contrary attractions.
An enlightened nation with little sociability, will not have the same points of ridicule as a nation equally intellectual, which gives in to the spirit of society even to indiscretion; and in consequence, these two nations will differ materially in their comedy.
Poetry will be very different in a country where women are secluded, and in another in which they enjoy liberty without bounds.
But it will be always true that the pastoral painting of Virgil exceeds that of Thomson, and that there has been more taste on the banks of the Tiber than on those of the Thames; that the natural scenes of the Pastor Fido are incomparably superior to the shepherdising of Racan; and that Racine and Molière are inspired persons in comparison with the dramatists of other theatres.
* Happily this is not quite so much the case at present.—T.
Of the Taste of Connoisseurs. In general, a refined and certain taste consists in a quick feeling of beauty amidst defects, and defects amidst beauties.
The epicure is he who can discern the adulteration of wines, and feel the predominating flavour in his viands, of which his associates entertain only a confused and general perception.
Are not those deceived who say that it is a misfortune to possess too refined a taste, and to be too much of a connoisseur; that in consequence we become too much occupied by defects, and insensible to beauties, which are lost by this fastidiousness? Is it not on the contrary certain, that men of taste alone enjoy true pleasure, who see, hear and feel that which escapes persons less sensitively organised, and less mentally disciplined.
The connoisseur in music, in painting, in architecture, in poetry, in medals, &c. experiences sensations of which the vulgar have no comprehension; the discovery even of a fault pleases him, and makes him feel the beauties with more animation. It is the advan tage of a good sight over a bad one. The man of taste has other eyes, other ears, and another tact from the uncultivated man; he is displeased with the poor draperies of Raphael, but he admires the noble purity of his conception. He takes a pleasure in discovering that the children of Laocoon bear no proportion to the height of their father, but the whole group makes him tremble, while other spectators are unmoved.
The celebrated sculptor, man of letters and of genius, who placed the colossal statue of Peter the Great at St. Petersburgh, criticises with reason the attitude of the Moses of Michael Angelo, and his small tight vest, which is not even an oriental costume; but at the same time he contemplates the air and expression of the head with extacy.
Rarity of Men of Taste. It is afflicting to reflect on the prodigious number of men (above all, in cold and damp climates) who possess not the least spark of taste, who care not for the fine arts, who never read, and of whom a large portion read only a journal once a month, in order to be put in possession of current matter, and to furnish themselves with the ability of saying things at random, upon subjects in regard to which they have only confused ideas.
Enter into a small provincial town: how rarely will you find more than one or two good libraries, and those private. Even in the capital of the provinces, which possess academies, taste is very rare.
It is necessary to select the capital of a great kingdom to form the abode of taste, and yet even there it is very partially divided among a small number, the
opulace being wholly excluded. It is unknown to the families of traders and those who are occupied in making fortunes, who are either engrossed with domestic details, or divided between unintellectual idleness and a game at cards. Every place which contains the courts of law, the offices of revenue, government, and commerce, is closed against the fine arts. It is the reproach of the human mind that a taste for the common and ordinary introduces only opulent idleness. I knew a commissioner in one of the offices at Versailles, who exclaimed—“I am very unhappy, I have not time to acquire a taste.”
In a town like Paris, peopled with more than six hundred thousand persons, I do not think there are three thousand who cultivate a taste for the fine arts. When a dramatic masterpiece is represented, a circumstance so very rare, people exclaim, “ All Paris is enchanted :" but three thousand copies more or less only are printed.
Taste then, like philosophy, belongs only to a small number of privileged souls.
It was therefore great happiness for France to possess in Louis XIV. a king born with taste.
Pauci, quos æquus amavit
Eneid, b. vi. v. 129 and s.
DRYDEN. Ovid has said in vain, that God has created us to look up to heaven: Erectos ad sidera tollere vultus.' Men are always crouching on the ground.
Why has a misshapen statue, or a bad picture, where the figures are disproportionate, never passed for a master-piece? Why has an ill-built house never been regarded as a fine monument of architecture? Why in music will not sharp and discordant sounds please the ears of any one? And yet very bad and barbarous tragedies, written in a style perfectly allobrogian, have succeeded, even after the sublime scenes of Corneille, the affecting ones of Racine, and the fine pieces written since the latter poet. It is only at the theatre that we sometimes see detestable compositions succeed both in tragedy and comedy.
What is the reason of it? It is, that a species of delusion prevails at the theatre; it is, that the success depends upon two or three actors, and sometimes even upon a single one; and above all, that a cabal is formed in favour of such pieces, whilst men of taste never form any.
This cabal often lasts for an entire generation, and it is so much the more active, as its object is less to elevate the bad author than to depress the good
A century possibly is necessary to adjust the real value of things in the drama.
There are three kinds of taste, which in the long run prevail in the empire of the arts. Poussin was obliged to quit France and leave the field to an inferior painter ; Le Moine killed himself in despair; and Vanloo was near quitting the kingdom, to exercise his talents elsewhere. Connoisseurs alone have put all of them in possession of the rank belonging to them. We often witness all kinds of bad works meet with prodigious success. The solecisms, barbarisms, false statement, and extravagant bombast, are not felt for awhile, because the
cabal and the senseless enthusiasm of the vulgar produce an intoxication which discriminates in nothing. The connoisseurs alone bring back the public in due time; and it is the only difference which exists between the most enlightened and the most cultivated of nations; for the vulgar of Paris are in no respect beyond the vulgar of other countries; but in Paris there is a sufficient number of correct opinions to lead the crowd. This crowd is rapidly excited in popular movements, but many years are necessary to establish in it a general good taste in the arts.
TAUROBOLIUM, a sacrifice of expiation, very common in the third and fourth centuries. The throat of a bull was cut on a great stone slightly hollowed and perforated in various places. Underneath this stone was a trench, in which the person whose offence called for expiation received upon his body and his face the blood of the immolated animal. Julian the Philosopher condescended to submit to this expiation, to reconcile himself to the priests of the Gentiles.
Pope Pius II., in an epistle to John Peregal,* acknowledges that the Roman court gives nothing without money; it sells even the imposition of hands and the gifts of the Holy Ghost; nor does it grant the remission of sins to any but the rich.
Before him St. Antonine, archbishop of Florence,t had observed, that in the time of Boniface IX., who died in 1404, the Roman court was so infamously stained with simony, that benefices were conferred, not so much on merit, as on those who brought a deal of money. He adds, that this pope filled the world with plenary indulgences; so that the small churches, on their festival days, obtained them at a low price.
* Epist. Ixvi.
+ Chronicle, part iii. tit. 22.