Billeder på siden

their high official duty as guardians of the faith and morals of the people, and ready to give their countenance to the most sacrile gious and wanton attacks upon the word of God. It would seem strange, indeed, if we did not find, at such a time, the loudest complaints of the increase of juvenile depravity. It is well known there are thousands of children in our large cities who are taught to live by crime; young in years but old in wickedness. In fact the christian religion, in every form, is attacked with more open boldness than at any former period. False philosophy, pretended science, spiritualism, rationalism, are all busily at work ; and the light of the world is growing more and more faint as the clouds of scepticism multiply and thicken around it."

I might easily add to such testimony, but I have taken these witnesses, at an interval of some years, both persons in high official position, well acquainted with their country, men of talents and intelligence. Now it is certain that no mere acquisition of knowledge, however curious or profound, no instruction in any particular sciences, however useful or interesting, can be any remedy for such a state of things, or a safeguard against it. And I have noticed now what is said by these American citizens, that in these our earlier days, in this adjoining country, with much of the same elements both for good or evil amongst us, we may not rest satisfied without having some deeper foundation laid, for the security of our social system and national prosperity. There is something else required to make a nation truly great and her people happy, besides coffers filled with dollars, or a people full of knowledge. A heathen poet would say--Quid leges sine moribus vanæ proficiunt?" "What profit are inoperative laws without morality ?” And how can we hope for morals without religion? and what is religion but submission to the law and will of God? But let us not look forward without good hope for Canada ; at least, let us do our endeavour, that, the foundation being duly laid, the superstructure of her society, from the chambers of her legislature and the seats of justice to the lowliest dwelling, may, as she grows and becomes great and powerful, be yet rendered secure, and not only well able to bear, but able to impart additional force and beauty to all the achievements and triumphs of science and art.


And, with these few observations on the folly, as well as the sin, of supposing that you can rightly educate or improve a nation by merely abstract scientific or intellectual instruction; while looking upon all such work as only the adjuncts and subordinate parts of any system that ought to find favour with Christians, I shall rejoice to see this Institution accomplish the object for which it was incorporated, and in its own place take its due and proper part in the work before us; and, shall be well satisfied to contribute my bor, if I might hope thus to see it succeed. It may become, not all at once, but in due time, an instrument of much use in assisting and forwarding the studies of its members, in the manner I have hinted at in a former part of this lecture; and by-and-by also, as your means and opportunities will allow, by enlarging your library, and establishing in some systematic form, a School of Art and Design. But your young men should feel that Art and Science, to be pursued at all successfully, must be pursued earnestly, with a resolute will, and with some definite object. Nothing is more absurd than that affectation of science, which is now so often witnessed; shreds and scraps of knowledge must be gathered together from all quarters; every book must be opened, and none read; every science heard of, but none studied.

And having enlarged so much upon the pleasure as well as the advantages of studying the best histories and biographies of former times, I will now conclude with a few of the remarks made by the poet, in his conversation with Rasselas, when he tells him that, “there is no part of history so generally useful, as that which relates to the progress of the human mind, the gradual improvement of the reason, the successive advances of science, the vicissitudes of learning and ignorance, which are the light and darkness of thinking beings, the extinction and resuscitation of art, and the revolutions of the intellectual world ?”

[ocr errors]







[ocr errors]

My purpose, in the present Lecture, will be to make a few observations on the faculty of Taste in general, under its definition, as it has been described to be " the power of receiving pleasure from the beauties of nature and of art:" and afterwards, I shall apply the subject more particularly to works of Literature. And I must at once expressly state that I put forward no claims myself to any deep acquaintance with the fine arts, nor to any originality of idea in anything I may say on this occasion. Where it suited my purpose, I have freely availed myself of the assistance of Blair and other writers on the same subjects; not however with any

view of entering into any systematic or learned disquisitions; but simply wishing, in addressing a mixed audience, like the present, to furnish them with a few rules, which may be useful to them hereafter in forming their opinions of, and increasing their relish for, and pleasure to be derived from works of acknowledged excellence.

There is a common saying respecting Tastes, which has passed into a proverb, viz: “that there is no disputing about Tastes ;"

that is, that one person has as much right to his Taste, and to consider it the most correct, as another has to his; and that therefore there are no means of settling the question between them. And this to a certain extent is true. The Tastes of men may differ very considerably as to their object, and yet none of them be wrong. One man relishes Poetry most; another takes pleasure in nothing but History. One prefers Comedy, another Tragedy. One admires the simple, another the ornamented style. In Architecture some prefer the Gothic, some the classical orders. In Painting some may delight most in the bold outlines and glowing colors of Rubens, others in the stateliness and high finish of a Vandyck. In Music some may prefer the simplicity and grandeur of Handel, others the ornate beauty of Mozart, or the elaborate science of Beethoven. Though all differ, yet all pitch upon some one beauty, which peculiarly suits their turn of mind; and therefore no one individual has a title to condemn the rest. It is not in matters of Taste, as in questions of mere reason, and of course specially in the exacter sciences, where there is but one conclusion that can be true, and all the rest are erroneous. Truth, which is the object of reason, is one; beauty, which is the object of Taste, is manifold. Taste, therefore, admits of latitude and diversity of objects; but it must, in each case, be in sufficient consistency with goodness and justness of Taste. And then comes the question, whether there is any standard of Taste ; and, if there be, how it is to be applied ? If Taste be a “power of receiving pleasure from the beauties of Nature and of Art," there must be degrees in the quality of Taste, according to the excellence of the subject matter; and that must be, in a certain degree, tested by reason ; and I may say, by experience also, since a man may in ignorance admire at one time what increased experience will lead him to reject at another. And the works of Nature, which bear the impress of their Divine Original, are, in a certain measure, a guide by which to judge of works of art. But it requires experience to become a good judge. Some people, no doubt, have a certain exquisite innate perception of the beautiful; they possess, what is termed, a natural good Taste, which will manifest itself at all times. But this is not the case with the many. In the same way, we have heard of instances of

« ForrigeFortsæt »