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Our merely animal appetites we share in common with the creatures of a lower order of being; but, in all that pertains to the exercise of reason and intellectual gifts, man stands alone. And in proportion as we can enter into, aud duly appreciate the finest works of Art and Literature, and acquire a correct Taste, and see their real points of excellence, we are thus creating food for the strengthening and enjoyment of some of our better gifts, for the possession of which we must; one day, render account. Such pursuits will always, in their degree, have a tendency to raise the tone and character of a people; and leave them less time, less inclination, and less bad Taste, for the indulgence of mere sensual pleasures, vice, and, what always leads to vice, unoccupied time and vacancy of mind.
Amusement and recreations of some kind we all want; and we have different vocations in life, wherein some are called more directly to work with the hand, and some are called more directly to work with the head. But it would not be much out of place, if we all remembered in maturer age, applying it to our altered cireumstances, what perhaps most of us have, often too thoughtlessly, repeated in our childhood, out of one of Dr. Watt's simplest little Hymns :
In books or works or HEALTHFUL play,
May my first years be past,
Some good account at last. In the simplicity of the diction we forget the greatness of the thought. And having referred to the example of the bee, which gathers food from every flower, and usefully employs its time, and which may teach us the duty of gathering-in wholesome food and improvement from all the works of God, the Hymn concludes with what is of universal application to young and old, and will refer as well to idle heads and tongues, as to idle hands :
In works of labor or of skill
I would be busy too:
For idle hands to do.
NOTE.It may interest some readers to examine the following "Definitions of Taste," which I have noted down since I delivered this Lecture :
“The best definition of Taste was given by the earliest editor of Spercer, who proved himself to possess any, (Mr. Hughes), when he called it a kind of extempore judgment. Burke's view was not dissimilar. He explained it to be an instinct, which immediately awakens the emotion of pleasure or dislike.' Akenside is clear, as he is poeticals on the question :
'What, ther, is Taste, but those internal powers,
Imprints the secret bias of the soul.' "We may, therefore, consider Taste to be a settled habit of discerning faults and excellencies in a moment,—the mind's independent expression of approval or aversion. It is that faculty by which we discover and enjoy the beautiful, the picturesque, and the sublime in literature, art, and nature; which recognizes a noble thought, as a virtuous mind welcomes & virtuous sentiment, by an involuntary glow of satisfaction. But while the principle of perception is inherent in the soul, it requires a certain amount of knowledge to draw out and direct it. The uttermost ignorance has no curiosity. Captain Cook met with some savages who entirely disregarded his ship--the first they had ever seen as it sailed by them. Taste is not stationary.
A taste enriched by observation and training, sensitive even to the tremble of the balance by which the scale is suspended, is probably one of the most desirable endowments of the mind. It enjoys some of the humbler qualities of invention."-Willmott's “ Pleasures of Literature."
The late John Bowdler, jr., in one of his essays, (a Review of Dugald Stewart's Philosophical Essays), after giving the definitions of Blair and Akenside, says :-"According to both these writers, Taste is merely, or exactly synonymous with Sensibility. Mr. Burke long ago objected to these and similar definitions; and Mr. Stewart has satisfactorily shewn that they are erroneous. Taste and Sensibility are certainly not conceived to be synonymous terms in the common apprehensions of man
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kind. Sensibility is often possessed, even to excess, by persons who are very deficient in Taste.
Mr. Stewart's account of this power is to the following effect: 'In objects presented to the mind an indefinite variety of circumstances may concur in producing that agreeable impression to which all give the name of Beauty. Yet the impression, as far as our consciousness can judge of it, is simple and uncompounded. It is impossible, then, for the most acute Sensibility, united with the greatest sagacity, to say, upon a single experiment, what are the circumstances in the supposed object to which we are chiefly indebted for the agreeable impression produced; what those, if any, that may be considered neutral; and what those which tend to diminish and injure the general effect. It is only by watching attentively a great variety of experiments upon different things that we can arrive at that discriminating knowledge which enables us to separate, in every expression, those circumstances which have been favourable to the general result from those which have been injurious to it. This power of discrimination we call Taste. It supposes of necessity some sensibility to pleasure and pain; but it is formed to the perfection, in which we see it often possessed, chiefly by diligence in multiplying, and accuracy in watching, those intellectual experiments from whence the materials which inform and exercise it are supplied. Mr. Stewart says: 'It is observed by Shenstone, that good Taste and good-nature are inseparably united ; and although the observation is by no means true, when thus stated as an unqualified proposition, it will be found to have a sufficient foundation in fact to deserve the attention of those who have a pleasure in studying the varieties of human character.""
Mrs. Piozzi remarks: “It is observable that the further people advance in elegance, the less they value splendour; distinction being at last the positive thing, which mortals elevated above competency naturally desire. Necessity must, we know, be first supplied ; convenience then requires to be contented; but so soon as men can find means after that period to make themselves eminent for Taste, they learn to despise those paltry distinctions which riches alone can bestow."
" “SOME RECOLLECTIONS OF A VISIT TO ABBOTSFORD.
SIR WALTER SCOTT AND HIS CONTEMPORARIES."
THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND ASSOCIATION FOR YOUNG MEN,
IN THE BONAVENTURE HALL,
ON MONDAY EVENING, THE 10TH OF JANUARY, 1859.
ABOUT three weeks
I delivered the first of a Course of Lectures before such of the members of this Association as attend the Bible class; and this evening I am to commence another Course of a more general character, in the delivering of which we shall also have the assistance of some of the talent and learning of our Lay brethren. Notwithstanding the severity of the cold this day, unprecedented for the last thirty years, I am pleased to see so many assembled on this occasion; and I trust that the Course arranged by the Association, and thus auspiciously commenced, will be successful, not only in a pecuniary point of view, and thereby encreasing the funds at its command, but also in providing the means of usefully and pleasantly passing an evening--attracting a fair attendance of auditors, who may receive instruction in many useful general subjects, and an additional incentive to seek the improvement of their minds, and the cultivation of their tastes. And I do feel that if this end be answered, we shall not have altogether spent our labors in vain. With this object in view, I propose on the present occasion to put together a few remarks respecting some of our modern English poets : rather, however, by way of anecdote, than as entering upon any general disquisition respecting them, but still giving occasionally a few quotations for the purpose of illustration.
It has been observed by a late English critic that, whatever be the cause, the effect appears undeniable, that we shall generally look in vain for satisfactory lives of the poets of the highest order: such lives as may furnish a real account, not merely a conjectural solution, of the chief facts in their history-their works. Of Homer for instance, who can affirm anything positive beyond the simple matters in the fragment preserved by Thucydides: that he was blind, that he resided in Chios, that he exercised the profession of aoidos (minstrel or bard), and in that character went occasionally (amongst other places) to Delos ? Of the great father of tragic poetry, Æschylus, we can hardly be said to know more facts; but those which are preserved to us are more important, they are the critical points of his life-that he served actively as a soldier, that he fought at Salamis, that he invented additions of no small moment to the mechanical and scenical part of tragedy, that finding himself eclipsed by Sophocles he retired in his old age from Athens to Sicily; and lastly, and perhaps we may say chiefly, with regard to his cast of poetry, that he was a disciple of the Pythagorean school. The histories of Pindar, Lucretius, Virgil, and our own Spenser and Shakspeare, so much of them as is certainly known, might be related in as few and as brief sentences as these. Our modern poets suffer rather from an inconvenience of a different kind : not always happy in their biographers, the public are too often wearied with voluminous and uninteresting correspondence, and minute details, which are not given with spirit, and have no tendency even to illustrate character. Consequently, though their biographies are written in fullest detail, they are comparatively but little read ; and thus much of the interest that might be attached to their works is lost. This is very much the case with recent biographies of Camp bell, Wordsworth, Southey. and Moore. Indeed, it requires no small judgment and peculiar talent to compose a successful and characteristic Biography, specially of an eminent poet,