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I supposed it to be, for example, a horse; and my eyesight being obedient to the conjecture, I immediately perceive a horse, almost as distinctly as in daylight. This principle is applicable to the case in hand. The most superb front, at a great distance, appears a plain surface: approaching gradually, we begin first to perceive inequalities, and then pillars; but whether round or square, we are uncertain: our curiosity anticipating our progress, cannot rest in suspense: being prompted, by the tendency mentioned, to suppose the most complete pillar, or that which is the most agreeable to the eye, we immediately perceive, or seem to perceive, a number of columns : if upon a near approach we find pilasters only, the disappointment makes these pilasters appear disagreeable; when abstracted from that circumstance, they would only have appeared somewhat less agreeable. But as this deception cannot happen in the inner front inclosing a court, I see no reason for excluding pilasters from such a front, when there is any cause for preferring them before columns.
With respect now to the parts of a column, a bare uniform cylinder without a capital
, appears naked; and without a base, appears too ticklishly placed to stand firm:* it ought therefore to have some finishing at the top and at the bottom. Hence the three chief parts of a column, the shaft, the base, and the capital. Nature, undoubtedly, requires proportion among these parts, but it admits variety of proportion. I suspect that the proportions in use have been influenced in some degree by the human figure; the capital being conceived as the head, the base as the feet. With respect to the base, indeed, the principle of utility interposes to vary it from the human figure: the base must be so proportioned to the whole, as to give the column the appearance of stability.
We find three orders of columns among the Greeks, the Doric, the Ionic, and the Corinthian, distinguished from each other by their destination as well as by their ornaments. It has been warmly disputed, whether any new order can be added to these. Some hold the affirmative, and give for instances the Tuscan and Composite : others deny, and maintain that these properly are not distinct orders, but only the original orders with some slight variations. Among writers who do not agree upon any standard for distinguishing the different orders from each other, the dispute can never have an end. What occurs to me on this subject is what follows.
The only circumstances that can serve to distinguish one order from another, are the form of the column, and its destination. To make the first a distinguishing mark, without regard to the other, would multiply these orders without end; for a color is not more susceptible of different shades, than a column is of different forms. Destination is more limited, as it leads to distinguish columns into three kinds or orders; one plain and strong, for the purpose of supporting plain and massy buildings; one delicate and graceful,
* A column without a base is disagreeable, because it seems in a tottering condition; yet a tree without a base is agreeable; and the reason is, that we know it to be firmly rooted. This observation shows how much taste is influenced by reflection.
for supporting buildings of that character; and between these, one for supporting buildings of a middle character. This distinction, which regards the different purposes of a column, is not naturally liable to any objection, considering that it tends also to regulate the form, and in some measure the ornaments, of a column. To enlarge the division by taking in a greater variety of purposes, would be of little use, and, if admitted, would have no end; for from the very nature of the foregoing division, there can be no good reason for adding a fourth order, more than a fifth, a sixth, &c. without any possible circumscription.
To illustrate this doctrine, I make the following observation. If we regard destination only, the Tuscan is of the same order with the Doric, and the Composite with the Corinthian: but if we regard form merely, they are of different orders.
The ornaments of these three orders ought to be so contrived as to make them look like what they are intended for. Plain and rustic ornaments would be not a little discordant with the elegance of the Corinthian order; and ornaments sweet and delicate no less so, with the strength of the Doric. For that reason, I am not altogether satisfied with the ornaments of the last mentioned order: if they be not too delicate, they are at least too numerous for a pillar in which the character of utility prevails over that of beauty. The crowding of ornaments would be more sufferable in a column of an opposite character. But this is a slight objection, and I wish I could think the same of what follows. The Corinthian order has been the favorite of two thousand years, and yet I cannot force myself to relish its capital. The invention of this florid capital is ascribed to the sculptor Callimachus, who took a hint from the plant Acanihus, growing round a basket placed accidentally upon it: and in fact the capital under consideration represents pretty accurately a basket so ornamented. This object, or its imitation in stone, placed upon a pillar, may look well, but to make it the capital of a pillar intended to support a building, must give the pillar an appearance inconsistent with its destination: an acanthus, or any tender plant, may require support, but is altogether insufficient to support any thing heavier than a bee or a butterfly. This capital must also bear the weight of another objection: to represent a vine wreathing round a column with its root seemingly in the ground, is natural; but to represent an acanthus, or any plant, as growing on the top of a column, is unnatural. The elegance of this capital did probably at first draw a veil over its impropriety; and now by long use it has gained an establishment, respected by every artist, Such is the force of custom, even in contradiction to nature !
It will not be gaining much ground to urge, that the basket, or vase, is understood to be the capital, and that the stems and leaves of the plant are to be considered as ornaments merely; for, excepting a plant, nothing can be a more improper support for a great building than a basket or vase even of the firmest texture.
With respect to buildings of every sort, one rule, dictated by utility, is, that they be firm and stable. Another rule, dictated by
beauty, is, that they also appear so: for what appears tottering and in hazard of tumbling, produces in the spectator the painful emotion of fear, instead of the pleasant emotion of beauty; and, accordingly, it is the great care of the artist, that every part of his edifice appear to be well supported. Procopius, describing the church of St. Sophia in Constantinople, one of the wonders of the world, mentions with applause a part of the fabric placed above the east front in form of a half-moon, so contrived as to inspire both fear and admiration : for though, says he, it is perfectly well supported, yet it is suspended in such a manner as if it were to tumble down the next moment. This conceit is a sort of false wit in architecture, which men were fond of in the infancy of the fine arts. A turret jutting out from an angle in the uppermost story of a Gothic tower, is a witticism of the same kind.
To succeed in allegorical or emblematic ornaments, is no slight effort of genius; for it is extremely difficult to dispose them so in a building as to produce any good effect. The mixing them with realities, makes a miserable jumble of truth and fiction.* In a basso-relievo on Antonine's pillar, rain obtained by the prayers of a Christian legion, is expressed by joining to the group of soldiers a rainy Jupiter, with water in abundance falling from his head and beard. De Piles, fond of the conceit, carefully informs his reader, that he must not take this for a real Jupiter, but for a symbol which among the Pagans signified rain: he never once considers, that a symbol or emblem ought not to make part of a group representing real objects or real events; but be so detached, as even at first view to appear an emblem. But this is not all, nor the chief point : every emblem ought to be rejected that is not clearly expressive of its meaning; for if it be in any degree obscure, it puzzles, and does not please. The temples of Ancient and Modern Virtue in the
gardens of Stow, appear not at first view emblematical; and when we are informed that they are so, it is not easy to gather their meaning: the spectator sees one temple entire, another in ruins; but without an explanatory inscription, he may guess, but cannot be certain, that the former being dedicated to Ancient Virtue, the latter to Modern Virtue, are intended a satire upon the present times. On the other hand, a trite emblem, like a trite simile, is disgustful. Nor ought an emblem more than a simile to be founded on low or familiar objects; for if these be not agreeable as well as their meaning, the emblem
the whole will not be relished. A room in a dwellinghouse containing a monument to a deceased friend, is dedicated to Melancholy: it has a clock that strikes every minute, to signify how swiftly time passes—upon the monument, weeping figures and other hackneyed ornaments commonly found upon tombstones, with a stuffed raven in a corner-verses on death, and other serious subjects, inscribed all around. The objects are too familiar, and the artifice too apparent, to produce the intended effect. I * See Chap. 20. sect. 5.
+ See Chap. 8. In the city of Mexico, there was a palace termed the house of afliction, where Montezuma retired upon losing any of his friends, or upon any public calamity.
The statue of Moses striking a rock from which water actually issues, is also in a false taste; for it is mixing reality with representation. Moses himself may bring water out of the rock, but this miracle is too much for his statue. The same objection lies against a cascade where the statue of a water-god pours out of his urn real water.
I am more doubtful whether the same objection lies against the employing statues of animals as supports, that of a negro, for example, supporting a dial, statues of fish supporting a bason of water, Termes supporting a chimney-piece; for when a stone is used as a support, where is the incongruity, it will be said, to cut it into the form of an animal? But leaving this doubtful, another objection occurs—that such designs must in some measure be disagreeable, by the appearance of giving pain to a sensitive being.
It is observed above of gardening, that it contributes to rectitude of manners, by inspiring gayety and benevolence. I add another observation, that both gardening and architecture contribute to the same end, by inspiring a taste for neatness and elegance. In Scotland, the regularity and polish even of a turnpike-road has some influence of this kind upon the low people in the neighborhood They become fond of regularity and neatness; which is displayed, first upon their yards and little inclosures, and next within doors. A taste for regularity and neatness, thus acquired, is extended by degrees to dress, and even to behavior and manners. The author of a history of Switzerland, describing the fierce manners of the plebeians of Bern three or four centuries ago, continually inured to success in war, which made them insolently aim at a change of government in order to establish a pure democracy, observes, that no circumstance tended more to sweeten their manners, and to make them fond of peace, than the public buildings carried on by the senate for ornamenting their capital; particularly a fine town-house, and a magnificent church, which to this day, says our author, stands its ground as one of the finest in Europe. This house was better adjusted to its destination: it inspired a sort of horror: all was black and dismal: small windows shut up with grates, scarce allowing passage to the light.
STANDARD OF TASTE.
bado No disputing about taste, a generally received saying, The difficulty of sapping lere
the foundation of this proverb-The proverb in some cases true and in others not-Nature sparing in her divisions of the scale of pleasures—The difficulties "to be encountered in applying the proverb to subjects of taste in general-Qur conviction of a common nature. The common nature of man invariable This common nature also perfect-A right and a wrong taste in morals accounted for on this conviction of a common nature-Opinions in matters of importance rejected, creates uneasiness—The disgust produced by differing from what is judged to be the common standard— The final causes to which uniformity of taste leads To ascertain what the standard of nature is, of importance - The common sense of mankind, the only standard in the fine arts—The corrupting effect of voluptuousn
sness— The number qualified to be judges in the fine arts, few— The difference of taste in the fine arts, less than is commonly imagined.
"That there is no disputing about taste," meaning taste in its figurative as well as proper sense, is a saying so generally received as to have become a proverb. One thing even at first view is evident, that if the proverb hold true with respect to taste in its proper meaning, it must hold equally true with respect to our other external senses: if the pleasures of the palate disdain a comparative trial, and reject all criticism, the pleasures of touch, of smell, of sound, and even of sight, must be equally privileged. At that rate, a man is not within the reach of censure, even where he prefers the Saracen's head upon a sign-post before the best tablature of Raphael, or a rude Gothic tower before the finest Grecian building; or where he prefers the smell of a rotten carcass to that of the most odoriferous flower, or discords before the most exquisite harmony.
But we cannot stop here. If the pleasures of external sense be exempted from criticism, why not every one of our pleasures, from whatever source derived ? if taste in its proper sense cannot be disputed, there is little room for disputing it in its figurative sense. The proverb accordingly comprehends both; and in that large sense may be resolved into the following general proposition, that with respect to the perceptions of sense, by which some objects appear agreeable, some disagreeable, there is not such a thing as a good or a bad, a right, or a wrong; that every man's taste to himself an ultimate standard without appeal; and consequently that there is no ground of censure against any one, if such a one there be, who prefers Blackmore to Homer, selfishness to benevolence, or cowardice to magnanimity.
The proverb in the foregoing examples is indeed carried very far: it seems difficult, however, to sap its foundation, or with success to attack it from any quarter : for is not every man equally a judge of what ought to be agreeable or disagreeable to himself? does it seem whimsical, and perhaps absurd, to assert, that a man ought not to be pleased when he is, or that he ought to be pleased when he is not?
This reasoning may perplex, but will never afford conviction. every one of taste will reject it as false, however unqualified to detect