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For know, that blood-discolour'd dagger there,
Its veriest scratch insures eternal sleep.'” The affection and heroisin of Isabel, which, by the loss of her own, saves the life of her husband, are done justice to by the language in which they are represented. We cannot help thinking, however, that her aid, according to the operations of nature, would have come a little too late, for the poison when she is supposed to have drawn it from the wound, had already spread through the frame of the hero.
“My spouse was watching o'er my fleeting breath;
Cease, cease to chide,' rejoin'd the lovely saint,
O do not chide thine Isabel's fond love!
Come near—yet closer-Oh farewel!'” In these extracts, which are all our limits will allow, were we fastidious, we might dwell upon several bad lines and inelegant expressions. “ Dark villain! what may this de. note ?" is not a very appropriate exclamation to a man who was about to stab the wife of the person employing it; tool of guilt is very objectionable as applied to a poignard; and the description of Isabel with her lips glued around the cankered wound of her husband, is positively disgusting. It is, however, the lowest and the last duty of criticism, to point out such defects as will be corrected by the improving taste of a young man, especially where they are compensated by beauties of no ordinary or vulgar kind.
ART. VII.-Theory on the Classification of Beauty and
Deformily, and their correspondence with Physiognomic Expression, exemplified in various Works of Art and Natural Objects, and illustrated with four general charts and thirty-eight copper-plates. By MARY ANNE SCHIMMEL
PENNINCK. London, Arch, 1815. 4to. pp. 431. Beauty, the delight and torment of mankind, is the subject of this work. That which some authors have considered to be so mysterious in its character as not to be unveiled by human art, is here presented to us in the pages of a ponderous quarto, dissected and exposed in all the divisions and subdivisions, the classes, orders, genera, species, and varieties of the Swedish naturalist; and by the hand of a didactic lady. It may appear a formidable un
dertaking for recluse critics to enter into any discussion with such a competitor on beauty, the influence of which she is so well acquainted with wherever she turns, and we should abandon the attempt if it were not discovered to be common to human nature, in both sexes, to be least acquainted with those qualities they themselves possess ;not that any woman is insensible to the power of her own charms, but she can see the effect in real life, and the cause only in her mirror.
Some writers have the vanity to attach to their works their own portrait, and it is frequently convenient, as that production may find a sale from the skill of the artist, which would meet with none from the science of the author; but on this occasion we should have been gratified from better motives if a thirty-ninth copper-plate had been added, exhibiting the lady in propria persona, as the best illustration of her own theory.
Reid, in his Essay on the Intellectual Powers of Man, says, that beauty is found in things so various, and so very different in nature, that it is difficult to say wherein it consists, or what can be common to all the objects in which it is found. Why then, be inquires, should they be called by the same name? They please, be proceeds, and are denominated beautiful; not in virtue of any one quality common to themselves, but by means of several different principles in human nature. Our author disagrees with this metaphysician; and venturing to analyze the constituent principle both of beauty and deformity, she points out the sources and distinctions of that agreeable or disagreeable expression which pleases or offends the taste, whether in art or nature. She further aspires to reduce all the varieties of expression to a fixed and determinate classification, and to distinguish the signs which characterize the classes, with the undeviating laws by wbich they severally find utterance through the medium of sensation.
Beauty, which Theophrastus denominates a silent fraud, and Socrates a short-lived tyranny, is here not merely the subject of an epithet, but is most learnedly defined in different ways, but all reducible to this short form, as being that which gives pleasure to the mind in objects of sense. Dr. Hutchison, in his Inquiry concerning Beauty, says, that the word signifies the idea raised in us, and that the sense of beauty is the power of receiving this idea—The idea itself he denominates an internal sense.
Having settled her definition as was proper in such re
gular advances, she next observes, that beauty may be reduced to a fixed standard, in its own nature essentially distinct from deformity; and that this standard includes not one, but several species, distinct in their constituent parts, as well as in the objects to which they are applicable. Dr, Sayer, in his Disquisitions Metaphysical and Literary, has given us a new analysis of beauty, and says, that object may be justly esteemed a standard of beauty, with the whole appearance, or with the component parts of which all the excellencies of it can be universally associated. This writer adopts the Hartleyan theory applied by Dr. Priestly, in his Lectures on Oratory and Criticism, and by Mr. Allison in his Essays on Taste.
Thus beauty, having been by our author defined to be that which gives pleasure to the mind through the medium of the senses, she next inquires, What that is which gives this pleasure? Is it any thing in form, colour, hearing, touch, taste, or smell? Here a wide range of examination is pursued, as to the answer that would be given by the ancient feudatory, the Swiss mountaineer, the modern Peruvian he historian, and the poet, and from the general review of the peculiarities of these different characters, she assuines, that beauty consists not in mere form, colour, and other sensible qualities, but that form, colour, &c. only become beautiful as being the vehicle by which mind is expressed.
Some bave considered beauty as extended to every thing that pleases; others have restricted it to objects of sight, comprehending however not only those which are the immediate subjects of vision, but also those which may be reinembered or imagined. Certain it is that persons blind from their birth may be competent judges of the beauty of sound, composition, character, affection, conduct: all that belongs to the honestum (direcson) as distinguished from the pulchrum (xador) in its most limited construction. Consistently with these latter distinctions, Dr. Price, in his Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas, explains the difference between those of beauty and 'deformity, and of right and wrong, and in allusion to the popular errors on the subject, shews that right and pleasure, and wrong and pain, stand in the precise relation of cause and effect. Our author resumes,
“ Mind alone can give emotion to mind. Where there is no mind or character expressed, there can be no beauty." (p. 14.)
Plato and Xenophon among the ancients, and Shaftsbury
and Akengide among the moderns, considered that beauty originally dwells in the moral and intellectual perfections, and in the active powers of mind; and that from this source as the fountain, all the beauty we behold in the visible world is derived.
“ Mind, mind alone! hear witness earth and heaven,
AKENSIDE. The argumentative arithmetic of the lady in the following passage is not, to our judgment, in the most satisfactory form; inasmuch as we can discover no similarity between the positive and negative in the medium of comparison, and the two positives in the subject compared.
Inconsistency of expression destroys character. On the same principle by which in algebra a plus two added to a rinus two destroy each other, and leave nothing; so in matters of taste, a positive beauty of one sort, added to a positive beauty of equal force, of a contrary description, as certainly destroy each other, and leave nothing but a complete blank of expression.” (p. 14–15.)
Nor are we pleased with the butchers' shops into which our author would thrust some of our best novelists, or the connection given to the facetious knight and the monster Caliban in the subsequent remarks.
6. In the intellectual tastes the same rule obtains.
“ Hence statues of Silenus, pictures of butchers' shops, novels like those of Fielding and Smollett, or the character of Falstaff ar Caliban, have obtained a value and currency, vot from their beauty, but from the pleasure which is given to some minds even by a consistent deformity." (p. 17.)
Our readers are not prepared (and cannot be in our cursory view of the work) for all the minute distinctions of the author: otherwise instead of referring to it, we would observé upon a classification of the best writers of ancient and modern times, (in page 380), where we have an arrangement of poets into the passive and active, the sublime, the sentimental, the sprightly, with the interchanges and intermixtures of these in all the permutations of quantity.
Mr. Burke speaking of beauty, says, “I mean that quality or those qualities of bodies by which they cause love or