Union And Co-operation Of Art And Literature
( Originally Published 1869 )
But although the arts have a beneficial influence over a nation in refining and elevating it, they may also have a tendency to render the people effeminate, and too much to call off their attention from martial and manly occupations. They consequently require to be blended with other studies, which may not so much counteract as correct their influence in this respect. Indeed, art when followed by itself not only over-refines the mind of the individual devoted to it, but over-refines also itself, and consequently requires to be blended with other pursuits, as much on its own account as for the sake of those who follow it. Thus it degenerates and becomes corrupted. With the loss of its vigour decay soon commences.
Art is to intellectual pursuits in general, what the flower is to the plant. It is the ornament, but not the substantial part of the vegetable from which it derives its support, as art does from knowledge in general. The arts should therefore be blended both with each other, and with pursuits of a different nature. Any art studied by itself alone, is too absorbing and exclusive, and too narrowing. If studied with other arts only, the occupation is too refining. If followed in conjunction with other pursuits, each aids the other in enlarging invigorating ennobling, and indeed in perfecting the mind.
The arts should, moreover, be blended with and should exercise an influence over the pursuits of life ; and the pursuits of life should in their turn be blended with, and exercise an influence over the arts. In this respect, perhaps, it is that there is the greatest difference between the ancients and the moderns. The former made art a part of every-day life ; of their occupations, of their studies, and of their recreations. The latter consider it as a distinct pursuit altogether; as a trifling occupation, and fitted only for holidays.
It appears also to be a great disadvantage that we study art in the same dry uninteresting manner in which the other branches of literature are wont to be pursued. Thus, while reading the works of the great poets and orators of old, the attention of the scholar is in many cases mainly directed to the grammatical structure and philological correctness of the sentences, while the beauties and real excellences of the writer are wholly overlooked, or not even sought for. Thus, too, in the study of painting and sculpture, the grammar only, or mere mechanical branch of the art, is too often alone attended to, while all its higher intellectual merits and capabilities are utterly lost sight of. As in the case of art and science, the two should not only both be studied, but both studied together.
Hence the study of the arts and of general literature re-quires to be more closely united, and more generally followed together : so that, as among artists, their attention to literature should be combined with that of their own professional and artistical pursuits ; among the general cultivators of learning, the study of the arts should form an essential branch of education. The arts are indeed not so much adapted for a separate and independent pursuit, as to embellish and refine other departments of literature with which therefore they should be united. Beautiful and enchanting and ennobling as is their nature, they require some standard for support which they may embrace, and which they would embellish; as if left of themeselves to run wild, without being trained to adorn some of the more substantial occupations of life, they are but too apt to prove barren; while aided in this mode they not only increase in their own fruitfulness, but adorn and enrich those branches of intellectual knowledge round which they cling.
The arts of poetry and eloquence, and also music, we do, in-deed, find pretty generally blended with the other branches of learning, while painting and sculpture are neglected. It is therefore only when these latter arts are made to form an essential part of education, that the real principles upon which they are founded will be understood; that their capacities and their utility will be duly appreciated, and that they will, like the other departments of the arts which have been so followed, advance to eminence, and high intellectual merit, in this nation.
It is impossible that any one who has duly considered the purposes for which the arts are fitted to be employed,—whether as regards the improvement and advancement of our manufactures, our literary works, which they are capable of enriching and illustrating, or the general refinement and enenobling of the mind;—or whether in relation to the benefits they may confer on each individual who studies them, or on the nation in which they are cultivated;—can hesitate to pronounce them to be well deserving of being adopted as a general branch of education, and in favour of which also the example of the greatest and most refined geniuses that the world has produced have borne ample and honourable testimony.
But it has been said by some that this is not the age of art, which was the province of the ancients ; and that the era of science is that during which we exist. That practical science is that which draws into its vortex the attention of the great mass of mankind at the present day, I have already observed. On that account, however, art is now more than ever essential, in order to counteract whatever is debasing and sordid in the mere practical avaricious pursuit of the former, and by which the minds of so many must be influenced. As observed in the concluding section of the first chapter of this work, "the two should be ever united, and should advance hand-in-hand together." Art should be employed in elevating and refining the pursuit of science.
Perhaps, indeed, it is not too much to assert, considering how much this country owes to her commerce, and how entirely in the present day science seems to monopolize the whole mind of the world; that of all ages which the world has yet passed through, this is the one in which art is chiefly required, where its high influences are most needed; and that our own is of all the nations of the world that in which at the present day the extensive cultivation of art is essential.
In one respect art has in modern times received constant and essential aid from science. The skill and excellence with which engravings of different works of art in painting sculpture and architecture have been executed, are proofs of this fact ; and so far at least the moderns have far excelled the ancients in their most palmy days. Art and science are here not only united, but aiding and coeoperating with each other. Whatever is most excellent in engraving as regards the dexterity of the workmanship and the closeness of the imitation, be-longs, moreover, not to art but to science.