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humid climate * Were they to draw an image
. of female perfection, or a goddess of love and beauty, she would have a broad flat nose, high cheeks, woolly hair, a jet black skin, and squat thick form, with breasts reaching to her navel. To us imagination can scarcely present a more disgusting mass of deformity; but perhaps at Tomboctoo the fairest nymph of St. James's, who, while she treads the mazes of the dance, displays her light and slender form through transparent folds of muslin, might make the
• See Park's Journey to the Niger. A Birman describing a very ugly race of people to Captain Symes, the English ambassador, mentioned white teeth as a principal characteristic of their ugliness; the inhabitants of that empire, like those of many other countries of the East, staining their teeth black.--Voyage to Ava, c. x. p. 264.
Mr. Hearne, who resided more than twenty years among the nations of the frozen regions of North Amesame impression; and who shall decide which party is right, or which is wrong; or whether the black or white model be, according to the laws of nature, the most perfect specimen of a perfect woman? The late great physiologist, John Hunter, used to maintain (and I think he proved it), that the African black was the true original man, and all the others only different varieties derived from him, and more or less debased or improved. If so, what more infallible criterion can there be for judging of the natural taste and inclination of mankind, than the unsophisticated sentiments of the most natural and original of the species? We can neither weigh nor measure the results of feeling or sentiment; and can only judge whe.ther they are just and natural, or corrupt and artificial, by comparing them with the general laws of nature; that is, with the general deduc- . tions, which we make from the particular operations of nature, which fall under our observation: for of the real laws of nature we know nothing; these deductions amounting to no more than rules of analogy of our own forming; by which, we judge of the future by the past, and form opinions of things, which we do not know, by things which we do.
« Ask a northern Indian what is beauty, he will answer, a broad flat face, small eyes, high cheek bones, three or four black lines across each cheek, a low forehead, a large broad chin, a clumsy hook nose, a tawny hide, and breasts hanging down to the belt.”
The same people were so far from thinking the whiteness of an European skin at all conducive to beauty, that it only excited in then the disgusting idea of dead Aesh sodden in water till all the blood and juices were extracted.--Journey from Hudson's Bay to the Northern Ocean, &c. p. 88 and 122.
See various other opposite opinions on this subject, cited by Buffon, Hist. Nat. t. ii. p. 555.
10. It was, probably, from observing this marked difference, and even direct opposition of tastes, in matters which affect the primary
and innate sentiments of man, that an acute and ingenious sceptic has ventured to assert, that all beauty is merely ideal and imaginary, and not in any case an inherent quality in external objects. Beauty,” says Mr. Hume,“ is no “ quality in things themselves : it exists merely “ in the mind, which contemplates them, and “ each mind perceives a different beauty. One
person may even perceive deformity where “ another is sensible of beauty; and every in“ dividual ought to acquiesce in his own senti
ment, without pretending to regulate those of “ others. To seek the real beauty or real de“ formity is as fruitless an inquiry, as to pretend “ to ascertain the real sweet or real bitter. Ac
cording to the disposition of the organs the “ same object may be both sweet and bitter; “ and the proverb has justly determined it to “ be fruitless to dispute concerning tastes. It is “ very natural, and even quite necessary, to ex“ tend this axiom to mental as well as bodily “ taste; and thus common sense, which is often “ at variance with philosophy, especially with the “ sceptical kind, is found, in one instance at least, “ to agree in pronouncing the same decision.”
Whether this subtle philosopher has not, like many others, applied the analogy of sexual sympathy to things beyond its reach, and made his negative axiom too general, will, perhaps, appear in the following inquiry. At present I
shall only remark, that the illustration, which he employs, of the confused sensations of morbid or vitiated organs, is quite unfair. To every sound and uncorrupted palate, sugar is sweet, and gall bitter; and though they may not be so to an individual. labouring under disease, yet the exception is of that kind, which confirms instead of invalidating the general principle of discrimination. Even persons of the most vitiated palates, though they may prefer bitter to sweet, still agree in calling sweet, sweet, and bitter, bitter; and those whó, through disease, find bitter in every thing, have the bitter really in their mouths, mixed with the saliva, and consequently incorporated with every thing that they taste. The African, who prefers a black complexion to a white one, perceives that it is black as clearly as we do; and black has the same analogy with darkness, in his eyes, as in ours, and consequently makes a similar impression, notwithstanding that it embellishes the charms, and increases the attractions, of his mistress.
11. The sexual desires of brutes are probably more strictly natural inclinations, and less changed or modified by the influence of acquired ideas, or social habits, than those of any race of mankind; but their desires seem, in general, to be excited by smell, rather than by sight or contact. If, however, a boar can
think a sow the sweetest and most lovely of living creatures, we can have no difficulty in believing that he also thinks her the most beautiful: for the sense of smell is much more impartial, and less liable to be influenced or perverted by mental sympathies, than that of sight; there being no communications of thought or sentiment from one mind to another (at least among human creatures) by the nose, as there are by the eyes.
12. The sense of taste is equally impartial; being equally unconnected with, and uninfluenced by, the higher faculties of the mind : it is also the first that is employed in preserving life by selecting nourishment; and that which hath consequently given a name to that rule or criterion of just exertion in all the rest, which is the subject of the present inquiry : wherefore I shall examine it first; and, after comparing it with those of its two kindred organs
of smell and touch, in order to ascertain the principles of sensation in general, proceed to the examination of the remaining two, whose objects are the proper objects of taste in the more general sense of the word, as used to signify a general discriminative faculty arising from just feeling and correct judgment implanted in the mind of man by his Creator, and improved by exercise, study, and meditation,