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---εστι δε τοις ευπορσηαι βελομενοις προυργε το διαπορησαι καλως· ἡ γαρ ύστερον ευπορια λυσις των προτέρων απορεμένων εστια Aristot. Metaphys. Lib. III. C. i.



ASTE is a subject upon which it might naturally be supposed that all mankind would agree; since all know instinctively what pleases, and what displeases them; and, as the organs of feeling and perception appear to be the same in the whole species, and only differing in degrees of sensibility, it should naturally follow that all would be pleased or displeased more or less, according to those different degrees of sensibility, with the same objects.

2. This is, however, so far from being the case, that there is scarcely any subject, upon which men differ more than concerning the objects of their pleasures and amusements and this difference subsists, not only among individuals, but among ages and nations; almost every generation accusing that which immediately preceded it, of bad taste in building, furniture, and dress; and almost every nation having its


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own peculiar modes and ideas of excellence in these matters, to which it pertinaciously adheres, until one particular people has acquired such an ascendancy in power and reputation, as to set what is called the fashion; when this fashion is universally and indiscriminately adopted upon the blind principle of imitation, and without any consideration of the differences of climate, constitution, or habits of life; and every one, who presumes to deviate from it, is thought an odd mortal-a humourist void of all just feeling, taste, or elegance. This fashion continues in the full exercise of its tyranny for a few years or months; when another, perhaps still more whimsical and unmeaning, starts into being and deposes it: all are then instantly astonished that they could ever have been pleased, even for a moment, with any thing so tasteless, barbarous, and absurd. The revolutions in dress only, not to mention those in building, furnishing, gardening, &c. which have taken place within the last two centuries, afford ample illustration; and it is not the least extraordinary circumstance in these revolutions, that they have been the most violent, sudden, and extravagant in the personal decorations of that part of the species; which, having most natural, has least need of artificial charms; which is always most decorated when least adorned ;

and which, as it addresses its attractions to the primordial sentiments and innate affections of man, would, it might reasonably be supposed, never have attempted to increase them by distortion and disguise. Yet art has been wearied, and nature ransacked; tortures have been endured, and health sacrificed; and all to enable this lovely part of the creation to appear in shapes as remote as possible from that in which all its native loveliness consists. Only a few years ago, a beauty equipped for conquest was a heterogeneous combination of incoherent forms, which nature could never have united in one animal, nor art blended in one composition: it consisted of a head, disguised so as to resemble that of no living creature, placed upon an inverted cone, the point of which rested upon the centre of the curve of a semieliptic base, more than three times the diameter of its own. Yet, if highdressed heads, tight-laced stays, and wide hoops, had not been thought really ornamental, how came they to be worn by all who could afford them? Let no one imagine that he solves the question by saying, that there have been errors in taste, as there have been in religion and philosophy: for the cases are totally different; religion and philosophy being matters of belief, reason, and opinion; but taste being a matter of feeling, so that whatever was

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