Powers In Certain Subjects To Excite Operations In The Mind
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
The nature of man being so constituted as that there are particular feelings agreeable to the touch, and certain particular tastes pleasant to the palate ; so there are allied to or arising from various subjects or objects, certain specific colours and shapes and sounds, which, through some cause or other, are naturally agreeable and attractive to the eye and the ear,—or are calculated to call forth, through those senses, pleasurable emotions in the mind,—and therefore, whenever they are experienced, excite sensations of this character. Forms or shapes, colours and sounds, and the due and proper arrangement and distribution of them one with another, appear to be the primary elements to which the artistical capacities of the mind originally direct themselves. As regards the application of these elements, it may be observed that colours and shapes please by their brilliancy or their variety. Sounds are eminently calculated to excite emotions within us, corresponding to their own quality, although different persons differ much as to the manner in which they are so moved. The mode in which any one is affected by any particular object of taste, must depend in part on the acuteness of his senses, in part on the fineness of his taste, and in part on his liability to be excited by emotions of this nature ; as, also, in part on his passions and feelings, and indirectly on his general moral character and disposition. For instance, with regard to colours, we may perhaps venture to surmise that persons of an active or volatile temperament, such as children, delight in variety and brilliancy, while those of less excitable minds, and of more sober age, prefer those of a less glaring hue. The truth of this will be found to be illustrated no less by national than by individual taste.
The circumstance that the generality of persons are at once attracted by gay colours,—and which we observe to be the case with savages as well as civilized people, and also with children, and, indeed, with animals,—of itself and conclusively proves the taste for them to be real and natural and innate, and not derived from education or prejudice, or the imitation of others.
Probably, however, as already suggested, it would be found, on minute examination, that a portion merely even of the visible qualities of different objects which are actually available for this purpose are represented by any particular branch of art. A selection only is made of those most applicable for the end in view.
By the art of poetry, and also by painting, eloquence, and acting, emotions and feelings and passions are excited in the mind without the attendant pain and fear which called them forth when the real event occurred ; and they, therefore, move us only gently, and just enough to produce gratification; as in our menageries and museums we possess specimens of various savage and noxious animals, and are there able to examine them without danger, and to reap instruction and pleasure from their contemplation.