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HAND-BOOK OF TASTE.
1. The earliest productions of imitative art pretended to nothing but a certain degree of manual dexterity ; and even this was at first so rude and imperfect, that the artist felt himself obliged to inscribe upon his work the name of the object intended to be represented, in order to make it recognisable. But, as he was his own commentator, no exertion was required of the observer, beyond the making use of his eyes, to enable him to judge of the resemblance, which was all that 2. When these imitations were sufficiently true and correct to speak for themselves without comment or inscription, a great step was gained; yet, as the objects represented were single figures and simple subjects, the whole aim of the artist being still confined to the mere attempt of producing an exact copy of the original he imitated, every person was equally capable of appreciating their merits or defects, without any other assistance than that which a correct eye naturally
was aimed at.
3. In process of time men were no longer content with the mere representation of what was constantly before their eyes; and the artist then took higher ground. He began to embellish and improve upon the model which nature afforded him, by selecting only such subjects as were more perfect than the rest, correcting the faulty parts of his original, or substituting others from more chosen specimens. Still his appeal
was not to the understanding, but to the sight. If that received gratification, his object was gained ; and though something more would be required of the spectator to fit him for a judge, yet his eye would easily obtain the power of distinguishing defects from beauties by a little observation and practice.
4. But when the arts attained their highest grade of perfection - when they required the greatest stretch of genius for their production when they laid, as it were, all the sciences under contribution, by making each contribute to their
when they strove to depict emotions, passions, and sentiments, to portray virtue and vice, nobility and dignity, grace and elegance, truth and justice — when they became the records and chronicles of persons and events — when they resorted to the artifice of composition, chiaroscuro, and colouring, in order to enhance the effect they sought to produce — when, in short,
they were employed, as we propose to employ them, as a fitting decoration for the building whence shall emanate the laws of an empire within whose limits the sun never sets,—it is clear that the artist had a higher calling than the paperhanger or upholsterer, and that an aim so insignificant as that of mere visual gratification could never be the real object of his attain
5. The sight of any thing beautiful pleases us; but that pleasure ought not to end there : it ought to procure us some positive benefit. Real pleasures are fertile in utility; those which bear no fruit are vain, silly, and deceptious. What would an elegant architectural decoration be, if it merely served to please the eye without any ulterior purpose?-an idle outlay of time and money. Nature has, furnished us with wants, thence to provide us with pleasures ; to procure us, in short, by means of these wants, some great