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thoughtless indulgences of vice and extrava
gance: but no person, in his senses, was ever Of the Ridi- led into enterprises of such dangerous importculous.
ance by the romantic desire of imitating the fictions of a drama. If the conduct of any per
. sons is influenced by the examples exhibited in such fictions, it is that of young ladies in the affairs of love and marriage: but I believe that such influence is much more rare, than severe moralists are inclined to suppose;. since there were plenty of elopements, and stolen matches, before comedies, or plays of any kind, were known" viderunt primos argentea secula machos."-If, however, there are any romantic minds, which feel this influence, they may draw an awful lesson concerning its consequences from the same source; namely, that the same kind of marriage, which usually ends a comedy, as usually begins a tragedy.
1. It has been observed, in a preceding part of this inquiry, that every natural sentiment or sensation, when long continued without varia
Of Novelty tion or interruption, becomes an habitual mode of existence instead of a transitory affection; and, therefore, ceases to produce any marked degree either of pleasure or pain. Even if repeated very frequently, and always in the same mode and degree, it will become so far habitual as to be very insipid; though not quite neutral or imperceptible: for if the revival of it can so far awaken attention as to be perceived and noted, its impression must be either pleasing or the contrary; though, perhaps, in so slight a degree, as scarcely to relieve the mind from that painful listlessness, which arises from the sense of mere unemployed and unvaried existence.
2. Change and variety are, therefore, necessary to the enjoyment of all pleasure; whether sensual or intellectual: and so powerful is this principle, that all change, not so violent as to produce a degree of irritation in the organs
absolutely painful, is pleasing; and preferable
to any uniform and unvaried gratification. Of Novelty.
3. It might naturally be supposed, when standards of excellence were universally acknowledged and admired in every art; in poetry and elocution; in painting and sculpture; in personal dress, decoration, and demeanor ; it
: might naturally be supposed, I say, that the style and manner at least of those standards would be universally followed; and that the wit and ingenuity of man would only be employed in adding the utmost refinements of execution to that, which admitted of no improvements from invention. But this is by no means the case :-on the contrary, ita comparatum est humanum ingenium, ut optimarum rerum satietate defatigetur; unde fit, artes, necessitatis vi crescere, aut decrescere semper ; et ad fastigium evectas, ibi non posse consistere. Perfection in taste and style has no sooner been reached, than it has been abandoned, even by those, who not only professed the warmest, but felt the sincerest admiration for the models, which they forsook. The style of Virgil and Horace in poetry, and that of Cæsar and Cicero in prose, continued to be admired and applauded through all the succeeding ages of Roman eloquence, as the true standards of taste and eloquence in writing. Yet no one ever attempted to imitate them; though there is no reason to suspect that their CHAP.
III. praises were not perfectly sincere: but all writers
Of Novelty. seek for applause; and applause is only to be gained by novelty. The style of Cicero and Virgil was new in the Latin language, when they wrote; but, in the age of Seneca and Lucan, it was no longer so; and though it still imposed by the stamp of authority, it could not even please without it; so that living writers, whose names depended on their works, and not their works upon their names, were obliged to seek for other means of exciting public attention, and acquiring public approbation. In the succeeding age the refinements of these writers became old and insipid; and those of Statius and Tacitus were successfully employed to gratify the restless pruriency of innovation. In all other ages and countries, where letters have been successfully cultivated, the progression has been nearly the same; and in none more distinctly than in our own: from Swift and Addison to Johnson, Burke and Gibbon, is a transition exactly similar to that from Cæsar and Cicero to Seneca and Tacitus.
4. In imitative art, the progress of corruption has been nearly the same. The taste for pure design in Italy arose and perished with Raphael ; whose immediate scholars and successors deviated into extravagance and distortion, that they might appear original, and gain
the applause of their contemporaries by surpassing what was simply excellent; in which, if they did not succeed, they at least succeeded in producing something new; which equally answered their purpose. In the following age, novelties still more fascinating and various were displayed by the masterly hands and luxuriant imaginations of Lanfranc and Pietro da Cortona; whence the style of art became entirely changed; and though Raphael was still looked up to, as the most perfect master of design, those, who most implicitly acknowledged the authority of his name, had evidently lost all relish for the merits, by which it was acquired. They admired the vigour of his genius, and applauded the purity of his taste; but lamented that he had not been acquainted with the principle of pyramidal grouping, the flowing line, and all those systematic tricks of false refinement, to the want of which, he in a great degree owed that reputation, which alone recommended his works to their notice or approbation.
5. The words genius and taste are, like the words beauty and virtue, mere terms of general approbation, which men apply to whatever they approve, without annexing any specific ideas to them. They are, therefore, as often employed to signify extravagant novelty as genuine merit; and it is only time that arrests the abuse. Purity, simplicity, grace, and elegance, are, as well