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ON CERTAIN INCONSISTENCIES IN SIR
JOSHUA REYNOLDS'S DISCOURSES.
The two chief points which Sir Joshua aims at in his Discourses are to shew that excellence in the Fine Arts is the result of pains and study, rather than of genius, and that all beauty, grace and grandeur are to be found, not in actual nature, but in an idea existing in the mind. On both these points he appears to have fallen into considerable inconsistencies or very great latitude of expression, so as to make it difficult to know what conclusion to draw from his various reasonings. I shall attempt little more in this Essay than to bring together several passages,
that from their contradictory import seem to imply some radical defect in Sir Joshua's theory, and a doubt as to the possibility of placing an implicit reliance on his authority.
To begin with the first of these subjects, the question of original genius.
genius. In the Second
you have but
Discourse, On the Method of Study, Sir Joshua observes towards the end,
“ There is one precept, however, in which I shall only be opposed by the vain, the ignorant, and the idle. I am not afraid that I shall repeat it too often. You must have no dependence on your own genius. If you have great talents, industry will improve them : if moderate abilities, industry will supply their deficiency. Nothing is denied to well-directed labour; nothing is to be obtained without it. Not to enter into metaphysical discussions on the nature or essence of genius, I will venture to assert, that assiduity unabated by difficulty and a disposition eagerly directed to the object of its pursuit, will produce effects similar to those which some call the result of natural powers."-Vol. I. p. 44. .
The only tendency of the maxim here laid down seems to be to lure those students on with the hopes of excellence who have no chance of succeeding, and to deter those who have, from relying on the only prop and source of real excellence-the strong bent and impulse of their natural powers. Industry alone can only produce mediocrity; but mediocrity in art is not worth the trouble of industry. Genius, great natural powers will give industry and ardour in