The Invention Of Different Arts
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
MODE OF INVENTION OF DIFFERENT ARTS
IN the preceding Chapter I endeavoured to trace out in the constitution of human nature, and in the adaptation of our various faculties and endowments for art, the origin of this pursuit, and to discover the germ of it in the mind. We must next proceed to the inquiry respecting the invention of different arts through the application of these powers to the several efforts of this kind that engage mankind, and which will form the subject of the present Chapter.
Whatever doubts may be reasonably entertained as to the strict veracity of the accounts which have been given of the early invention of different arts, many of which must be regarded as purely fabulous ; yet these narratives, whether apocryphal or entirely imaginary, may, nevertheless, serve very correctly and very forcibly to illustrate the mode in which these arts of each kind were first invented, and in most cases to point out the circumstances which more immediately led to their discovery. At all events, the description may be strictly correct as illustrative of the process by which the result in question was obtained. In this respect it possesses both the truth and the falsity of a romance. This is alike applicable to the invention of art, and to the use of accidents to aid its progress.
Man, as was observed in the preceding Chapter, is naturally prone to imitate, and is mainly stimulated to exertion by his capacities for this purpose, which is observable in children, who are ever wont to copy the manners and actions and peculiarities of those about them.
The desire of imitation is the exciting cause which directly contributed to the invention of each of the arts; from this source all of them are derived, and in their early stage they severally exhibit tokens of their origin, being more or less directly imitative. Nature, in some shape or other, is that which in every case forms the object of imitation. Imitation, however, is the source merely of art. But it is not, therefore, to be regarded as the end, much less as the only end of art of either kind.
Certain of the arts, such as painting and sculpture, subsist by themselves independently, and are at once produced by the imitative effort which calls them into being. Other arts, such as architecture and eloquence, can never subsist by themselves independently, but require to be grafted on some other pursuit, which serves as the sustaining medium on which they are founded, and through which they are originated. Such, for in-stance, is building in the case of architecture, and speaking in that of eloquence, out of which the arts attached to them spring, and constitute, not indeed the essence, but the ornament only of the practical pursuit.
The circumstances or causes which mainly contributed, in some cases, to the invention of these arts themselves, in other cases, to the invention only of the pursuit or sustaining medium out of which the art itself originated or grew, were the wants or the necessities of the people who first used them.
In the invention of each art two things are required : an accident or a necessity to produce or call forth the invention of the art or practical pursuit on which it is grafted, and a capacity of mind to take advantage of this circumstance, for which latter art is indebted rather to origination than imitation. Utility ordinarily precedes ornament in all inventions ; the one is the parent, the other the refiner and perfecter of the discovery. Thus, in the case of architecture, the different orders of it are said to have been invented from the imitation of natural structures; while the sustaining medium of the art itself owes its invention to the necessity to which mankind were driven to construct habitations for themselves, and in the building of which by degrees they were led to aim at ornament and beauty in their edifices, and thus insensibly formed principles of architecture.
In most of the arts, indeed, the invention of the practical part of the subject, which constitutes the sustaining medium of the art, belongs to science ; while the ornamental alone relates strictly to, and in fact constitutes art. Thus in architecture, and also in eloquence and costume, the invention of the mode of constructing convenient residences or edifices, of adapting words to convey adequate notions of certain ideas or sentiments, and of supplying clothes to protect the body from cold, were matters appertaining strictly rather to science than to art, which in many cases is the mother of the latter. It is the embellishment of these discoveries,-the erection of the building with due regard to beauty and elegance, the arrangement of the words in tasteful order, and the forming and decoration of the dress according to the principles of taste,—in which alone art consists; and where, in each of these inventions, it is first evinced.
Painting and sculpture, which originate entirely in the tation of nature, have been thought by some to have owed their invention to the necessity which mankind experienced in the earlier ages of the world, when the use of conventional terms was first found requisite, of forming symbols of ideas and words, such as figures or representations of objects in nature, of which all might be able to understand the meaning. Of this class were the hieroglyphics in use among the ancient Egyptians,—the earliest specimens of pictorial art extant. In this case, however, it is obvious that the resort to hieroglyphics cannot reasonably be considered to have constituted a sustaining medium which served to originate either painting or sculpture ; but that, on the contrary, it was not until long after these arts were invented, and had arrived at some degree of maturity, that they were incidentally and occasionally applied as hieroglyphics, not as their main end, but for a collateral purpose only.