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chapter v - George Turnbull, Observations upon Liberal Education, in All its Branches 
Observations upon Liberal Education, in All its Branches, ed. Terrence O. Moore, Jr. (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003).
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Of instruction in poetry and her sister arts, painting, sculpture, music and architecture; and the place which these arts of design ought to have in liberal education, in order to form elegant taste, which is one of the best preservatives against luxury, being naturally assistant to, and corroborative of virtue.
The more ordinary course of education hath obliged us to take a great deal of pains to prove a very plain truth, “That science, or real knowledge, and not mere words, ought to be its principal object and scope.” And we have sufficiently shewn what we mean by the science or real knowledge which qualifies for usefulness, whether to one’s self, or to society. The science of nature, which at once teaches men how they may employ material things for their benefit and advantage, and unfolds to them the character of the supreme creator and governor of all things, in conformity to whose will our dignity and happiness must consist: And such a clear and full knowledge of human rights and duties, as that we may be able, in every circumstance of life, however complicated, easily to discern what virtue and public good, and by consequence, the laws of our Maker for our conduct, require at our hands, and oblige us to do, if we would act a truly worthy and right part, and approve ourselves to him who is perfect rectitude. The great art of education therefore lies in contriving and employing proper methods for engaging the young early in the love of these studies, and for early instilling the more important truths belonging to these sciences into their minds, and impressing them deeply upon them. I may perhaps be thought to have taken language in a very uncommon sense in the former chapter, when I hinted, that all that can belong to education may be reduced to these two general heads, science and languages. But that I have used language in its justest, as well as most comprehensive meaning, will be obvious to every one who but reflects, that there can be but two objects of human enquiry; truths themselves, i.e. real connexions in nature or facts, and the various manners of making truths understood and felt. Under science then we comprehend all truths or facts relating to the natural world, or to human nature, which can be discovered by experience or inferred from experiments, and by comparing properties known by experience one with another. So that we may divide science into natural and moral, and both into experimental and abstract; experimental which infers facts and rules from experiences; abstract, which shews what properties may, must, or cannot co-exist. Besides these, there plainly remains no other subject of enquiry to us, but the different methods of expressing, embellishing, or enforcing and recommending truths discovered by either these ways in either kind: And such methods we call in one word languages; under this idea, the didactic stile, oratory, poetry, and likewise all the arts of design, statuary, sculpture, painting, plainly fall. And therefore, if right education ought to teach and instruct first of all, or chiefly in truths, but next in the various good methods or arts of expressing or conveying truths into the mind, no sooner is a pupil led into the discovery of any truth, than he ought to be employed in comparing and examining several different ways, by which it may be unfolded, explained, cleared up, proved, adorned, beautified, or enforced, and recommended by oratory, poetry, or painting. For to apply this general observation to painting, which at first sight appears, and is commonly reckoned so remote from philosophy, nothing is more evident, than that pictures, which neither convey into the mind ideas of material laws, and their effects and appearances, nor moral truths, i.e. moral sentiments and corresponding affections, have no meaning at all; they convey nothing, because there is nothing else to be taught or conveyed. But on the other hand, such pictures as answer any of these ends, must for that reason speak a language, the correctness, strength, purity and beauty of which it must be well worth while to understand as a language, especially, since such a language is, as far as it can go, an universal one, the signs it uses being universal signs of nature’s establishment, the meanings of which never vary, but remain in all countries, and always the same.
The chief and most early care in education ought to be, to form good habits or dispositions in young minds: For unless the mind be, by previous discipline, pure from vice, and regular, docile, and well-disposed, instruction instead of having success, will be quite lost or thrown away upon it. And in this part of education, the principal thing to be aimed at is, to fix or settle early in young minds the considerative temper, or the habit of comparing and computing, before they choose or act: Indeed when patience of thinking, or the deliberative habit is gained, the chief and most difficult point is gained, whether with respect to advancement in science, or with regard to right practice in life. For he who can once settle and fix himself to think, will find no lesson very difficult; far less will he find the most important lessons such, those, to wit, which relate to duty or right conduct. It will be very easy to lead young minds to just and clear conceptions of the rules of life, and thus to furnish them with a measure or standard to judge by, if we can but once rivet in their breasts the love of instruction, and an attentive thinking habit. ’Tis certainly pleasure and pain that move us: Nothing can be the object of aversion and dislike but pain; or on the other hand, the object of affection or desire but pleasure. Pleasures of sense, of contemplation, of sentiment, of self-approbation, and their opposites, are all of them but so many different sorts of pleasures and pains. Let metaphysicians subtilize and wrangle as long as they will, this must be true, and be no more than an identical proposition, That what is pleasing is pleasing, and that pleasure alone can be pleasant. But it is reason’s business to compute and ballance pleasures and pains of all kinds, the more remote as well as those that are nearer; and those that are likely to follow as well as the absolutely certain: And then is reason well-educated, or formed into a really useful, because into a governing principle, when the mind hath acquired the habit of deliberating and computing before it chooses; and is qualified for computing readily as well as truly; which habit or temper can only be attained by inuring the mind betimes to think and reason before it acts, i.e. to compare, weigh, and ballance pleasures and pains in fair and accurate scales, before it determines and gives the preference. It is by this temper that one becomes master of himself, and able to resist all the most inviting specious promises and sollicitations of objects, till their pretensions have been thoroughly tried and canvassed. This disposition is what is properly called virtue or strength of mind: Without it one must be feeble and unsteady, unable to act firmly and regularly a reasonable or becoming part in life: Nay, he must be the sport of contradictory passions and appetites. It is by it alone that one can attain to that harmony and consistency of affections and manners which create peace within, and command trust, love and reverence from all around, even from the most dissolute and vitious: For human nature can never be so depraved as to be rendered quite insensible to the beauty and authority of wise and good conduct.
This temper makes one truly free: It gives us the truest, the most satisfactory and durable power, dominion or independency. Now, in forming this habit of acting with judgment, and in furnishing the minds of youth for judging well, there are two things chiefly to be taken care of. One is to inure youth to reason and compute from experience only, that is, from facts ascertained by observation, and not from abstract imaginary theories and hypotheses. The other is, to inure them to employ their reason chiefly about those objects and connexions in nature, which have the nearest relation to human life and happiness. In order to both which, it is manifest, that they ought to be early taught to take a just view of human nature, and to consider man as he really is, neither as a merely sensitive being, nor as a merely intellectual or moral one, but as a compound of moral and sensitive powers and affections. For in the human composition, those two different sorts of powers and affections are so intimately blended, that it is impossible to avoid errors concerning man’s duties or interests, if any one class of them be considered separately and independently of the other. Conclusions deduced from moral powers and affections considered apart from sensitive ones, cannot make human morality, if man really be a sensitive as well as a moral being, i.e. a being invested with certain moral powers and affections mingled with sensitive ones, both of which are intimately related to and connected with the laws of the sensible world. An exact theory of human morals can only be formed from a full and accurate review of the various natural principles, or natural powers and dispositions of mankind, as these stand related to one another, and to surrounding objects.
It were easy to point out several absurdities or mistakes, which take their rise from dividing those constituent parts of our frame from one another, that are really inseparable in the nature of things. I shall only mention one here, that there will be more occasion for attending to in the subsequent part of this chapter than any other: Hence, I think, it is, that some moralists have railed in such a vague, undetermined manner against luxury, as if all sensible pleasures ought to be despised by good and wise men, and therefore banished human society, but those that are absolutely necessary to our subsistance. In the more general, confused way of declaiming against luxury; all the pleasures of imagination, and all the ornamental arts, are damn’d as absolutely superfluous, nay, as inconsistent with reason and virtue. Cleanliness, not to say elegance, is condemned and interdicted, as if nature had given man eyes, ears, and other senses, with a natural taste of proportion, beauty, order and harmony in material objects, to no purpose. One happy consequence of inuring youth to reason from experience alone; and to employ their reason first and chiefly about those things that have the nearest relation to life, and with which therefore it is our interest to be early acquainted, would be, that the natural desire of knowledge, which is implanted in us on purpose to compel us to seek after that science, which is as necessary to guide our conduct in life, as light is to shew us our road, would not be misled into a way of gratifying itself by enquiries quite remote from the practice and business of the world, or that have no relation to human affairs and duties, as it too often is: For I am apt to imagine, that more are ignorant of life, and quite strangers to the world, and the affairs of human society, in consequence of employing their minds about objects that have little or no concern with men and things, than through mere stupidity or want of capacity. It is false learning that is the most dangerous enemy to the true, or that most effectually supplants it. Nothing therefore is of greater importance in education than to render youth betimes capable of distinguishing useful enquiry from those that ought only to have the place of amusements, like a game at chess or piquet. And for that reason, it would be of more consequence to exercise young people in often reviewing with attention a well-calculated table of arts and sciences, in respect of their different values or degrees of utility, than any other categories or arrangements of ideas whatsoever, that are called logic in the schools, tho’ such likewise may have their use.
But having sufficiently discoursed of instruction in science, teaching of words being generally well enough understood, and the fault with regard to that matter lying chiefly in this, that Latin and Greek words engross too much of the care of masters, to the exclusion, for too long a time, of real knowledge; I now proceed to consider instruction in what we have called above languages, viz. the arts of expressing, explaining, proving, embellishing or enforcing truths. The didactic stile ought to be clear, perspicuous and full, diffuse, or duly diversified, i.e. teachers, or those who write upon any science, in order to lead, as it were, by the hand, the raw and unexperienced gradually from truth to truth, till having opened their minds, and strengthened their reason and judgment, they are able to understand a conciser manner of instruction, should deliver their sentiments in the neatest and plainest manner, and endeavour to set what they would establish and inculcate in a great variety of lights, all concurring at once to illustrate or set off to advantage, and to confirm the points in question, and above all, they ought to study the method and order of beginning and proceeding by proper steps from the more simple to the more complex, and from the first and most obvious principles to those that lie next to them, or follow most immediately from them, which will be best learned by familiarity with the ancient geometricians: This didactic art will be learned of course by scholars at the same time that knowledge itself is conveyed to them in that way, if their masters excel in it; and yet more especially, if youth, after they fully understand any truths, are not only accustomed to speak or express them, but employed in teaching them to others but just beginning to learn: The art of teaching or speaking clearly, and of laying open and explaining known truths to others, by a regular progress, i.e. step by step, like all other habits, can only be acquired by practice: And nothing will be found more improving to youth, than to practise them in instructing others in what they have learned and thoroughly understand: Nor can masters, indeed, as will be found by experience, impose a more agreeable task upon scholars: It is a very proper way of rewarding their success; a proper way of honouring and distinguishing them, that will wonderfully flatter a very laudable vanity or ambition. Masters cannot enough study this art themselves, since it is only in proportion to their ability in it, that they can succeed as teachers, however freighted they may be with knowledge: And indeed, as easy an art as it may appear to those who never tried it, the expert teacher will, however, be daily finding new difficulties in it, so various are the turns and casts of human minds, and so imperfect, deficient, or equivocal and ambiguous are many phrases, names or words, in the best, the most improved and refined languages.
But there is an eloquence of another kind that ought not to be neglected in the formation of youth, and that would soon be attained by them, were but this one rule observed in education, viz. to inure students, after they have been led to the knowledge of any truth in the didactic way, to find out the properest methods of expressing it strongly and concisely, or of giving a convincing and emphatical view of it in few words. This last would be teaching them the language in which men ought to speak to men about the same points or truths, which can only be conveyed into the raw unformed, in a more slow and tedious manner. After young people understand any truth, it would neither be unpleasant nor unprofitable, but on the contrary, a very pleasing and useful exercise, to shew them in what different manners or lights different authors have represented it, each according to his own genius, or in order to adapt it to some particular cast of understanding; and then to make them try to find out other ways of expressing the same truth with due force, elegance and perspicuity. But we commonly begin in education with words, as if there were any other way of trying or judging words and phrases, or signs of any kind, but by comparing them with other expressions of the same truths they are intended to signify, and considering which are best, in respect of the sole end of language, which is to convey sentiments with perspicuity and force. The chief thing indeed is to have just or true sentiments, i.e. to have right apprehensions of the connexions in nature, material or moral, well disposed or digested by the judgment, and so ready at hand for use, on every proper occasion: For Horace’s rule will ever hold true,
But that knowledge may take fast hold of our minds, dwell with us, and afford us variety of delight, and that we may be capable of imparting it to others, so as to render it the source of manifold entertainment, as well as of information to them, various proper ways of proving, embellishing, and enforcing truths, ought to be studied. And therefore, in proportion as one acquires knowledge worth communicating, he ought likewise to be made acquainted with all the better ways of evincing and impressing any truths upon the minds of others, and to be practised in speaking, arguing, proving and enforcing; more especially, in giving equally clear and strong views of them in concise speech: For that is the language in which men ought to speak to men, or the improved: Diffuse discourse is proper only for the instruction of novices: It will please them as it lets in upon them light and knowledge altogether new, that wonderfully exhilerates and enlarges their souls: But as for the more advanced, it will be tedious to them, because unnecessary; or rather it will fret and provoke them, because it is a way of addressing them that does not acknowledge their improvements, but treats them upon the same level with the more ignorant and uninstructed. In discourses, and indeed in all kinds of composition designed for them, Cicero’s rule holds true, that the parum is less offensive than the nimium.86 The way to please such is to say just enough to light up their understandings, or warm their fancies, and so guide them to the subject treated of, as that by means of what is said, they may immediately be set a thinking about it in such a manner, as soon to be able to form a very full notion of it, which they shall take to be their own discovery, and think themselves obliged to the author for, only on account of the hints or direction he gave to their own understandings or imaginations, with regard to it. In truth, the great perfection of writing consists in so engaging the reader’s attention, and setting his mind so to work, that he can flatter himself with discovering, by means of the author more than the author intended, or at least all he intended, and much more than he has expresly or particularly spoke. And happy indeed is he who hath this talent, and can be short, substantial and concise, without obscurity; the common error the affectation of brevity leads into being darkness.
But the principles and rules of oratory, both as to what regards stating and proving a point, and what regards the movement of the passions, have often been so fully explained, that I need not dwell longer upon this subject than just to add, 1. That when pupils have once felt the power of some excellent speeches, their beauties will be easily understood by them; and then it will be very proper to read with them the principal passages in Cicero or Quintilian themselves, rather than in any modern copists from these authors; the chief maxims concerning proposing, developing, disintangling, establishing, confirming, amplifying a subject, and interesting the passions of the auditors in it. And 2. That in teaching the rules of oratory, if they are taught as they ought to be, philosophy is not deserted; for they all have their foundation in human nature, by nothing else but arts of moving and leading human affections, which must be deduced from their natures and dependencies; and consequently, to explain them aright, is indeed to lay open the human breast, and the avenues which lead into it, or the means by which its most secret principles of action are bestirred and agitated. For eloquence, as Plato observes, is only the art of directing the minds of people at will: And therefore the chief excellency of this art consists in moving seasonably the various passions, whether gentle or violent, which being to the soul what strings are to a musical instrument, need only be touched by an ingenious and skilful hand, to produce their effects. Now, in order to know how to move the strings of the human heart, its texture must be thoroughly understood: And teaching the arts of moving the affections, must be in effect teaching human nature: These arts can only be inferred from the nature of the human passions: They are nothing else but certain methods of working upon them, which, on the one hand, cannot be known without deep insight into human nature, and without the knowledge of which, on the other hand, human nature is but very imperfectly understood. In one word, oratory being an art which enables us to move and draw forth and lead the passions of others at our pleasure, it is a part of our moral power or dominion, acquirable only in the same way as any branch of our power in the material world is, to wit, by a thorough knowledge of its object: And therefore in a tree of the sciences, representing their dependencies and their unity, oratory would be placed among the practical arts issuing from the knowledge of human passions, and as such, among the arts of government. For of such power is eloquence, especially in free states, (indeed in absolute governments it will always be discouraged, and never come to any perfection, unless we can admit fulsome panegyric to be the chief part of it) that what Valerius Maximus says of Pericles may be applied to many others in the same and other such like ancient states, that there was scarce any other difference betwixt Pisistrates and him, except that the one exercised a tyranical power by force of arms, and the other by the strength of his eloquence, in which he had made a very great progress under Anaxagoras. And let it just be suggested by the by, that a table or tree of all the sciences, representing them springing from the same root, and mutually depending one upon another, would be of no inconsiderable use to young beginners in philosophy, but make a very proper subject for their initiatory lessons. The schoolmen probably meant some such thing, by their trees of science and their categories in their logic. Indeed I have found in practice, a general map of the sciences, shewing them issuing from the same trunk and root, and from one another, and intimately connected together, of great use to open the minds of young people, to inflame their curiosity and desire of knowledge, and above all, to keep for ever in their eye the real unity of all the sciences, into whatever different tribes and classes they are divided. And it is easy to conceive how such a tree may be delineated, since from natural experience, or knowledge of the laws of the material world, immediately and naturally sprout all the mechanical arts, and from moral experience as naturally and immediately sprout all the moral arts, among which the more considerable are politics, oratory and poetry, and all these have evidently a very close reciprocal connexion and dependence.—But not to make too long a digression from our subject: The rules of oratory being founded in human nature, to develop them is certainly to unfold a considerable part of human nature: It therefore coincides with, or makes a part of moral philosophy, and ought to be taught like the other parts of it, in proportion as examples occur in history, of its power and excellence, which exemplify or point forth the dispositions of the human mind, on which it depends, or which lay a foundation for it. Accordingly Aristotle’s book on rhetoric is really a very profound treatise on the human passions, in order to shew what rules an art that would move them must observe. And of the same kind is his short art of poetry, and all the better commentaries of moderns upon it. For the principal end of poetry being to touch the heart, or to move some passion, pity or fear in particular, what hath been just now said of teaching aright the foundations of oratorical rules, must likewise hold true of poetical rules and maxims. It is impossible to teach or explain them well, without entering very deep into the contexture of the human mind, and the various turns, bearings, connexions and dependencies of our passions. But this subject also having been often very fully and well explained, we shall content ourselves with the few following observations upon it. 1. Plutarch in his excellent discourse upon hearing or reading the poets with young scholars (for that is evidently the design of his treatise, entitled, concerning hearing the poets) has some admirable observations upon the caution with which the poets ought to be read with young people, that well deserve the attention of all concerned in the education of youth. He shews that the philosopher may make a very happy use of good poetry, in teaching human nature and human duties: And that philosophers ought to make it a part of their business in the institution of youth, to point out to them the true design and the real excellency of that art. Two things which he remarks upon this subject particularly deserve our notice. In the first place, he says, that in reading the poets with young people, they ought early to be informed, why it is that poetry feigns lies, or contrives fables, and how it ought to feign or lie, namely, agreeably to nature, or with probability, and always in order to give a just view of some part of human nature, and to recommend some virtue or dissuade from some vice. He does not give the name of poets to all versifiers, but only to the writers of agreeable and useful fables in verse: And as the poet’s art chiefly consists in lying speciously or probably, in order to convey pleasantly and forcibly into the mind some useful and instructive lesson, so youth ought early to be taught and inured to consider poems as fictions copied from nature, or as imitations of nature, not taken indeed from any particular facts, but from the general laws and rules of nature. For thus they will learn to consider poems in their true light: Thus they will learn to look upon characters as pictures, and to consider whether they are well drawn or not, and so be led by characters into the examination of human nature itself, the original from which they are taken: And there will thus be no danger of their mistaking the poet, as if he intended to recommend every character he paints out to the life, or to instruct his hearers in every art of intrigue, dissimulation or cunning, for example, he describes, when his design is really no more than to exhibit such characters to view in their true light, and is indeed rather to create aversion against them, than to beget a liking to them. Another thing he observes is, that in order to lead youth to a just notion of poetry, moral poetry in particular, which imitates human life and manners (for it is that species he seems chiefly to have in view) teachers would do well to inure youth to consider poems as pictures, and for that reason, to shew them the strict natural relation or close affinity there is between these two arts, both with respect to their best, their only laudable aims, and the methods of accomplishing them. The pleasure, says he, the poet intends to give by drawing the character of any villain, or of any particular vice, is the same the painter proposes by portaiting the image of any ugly or monstrous creature, to please, to wit, by hitting of likeness, and to entertain our mind by raising our horror or loathing to a degree that does not torment. For as truth in imitation pleases as such, so likewise do all the passions, all the emotions of the mind, give pleasure by their exercises, when they are worked up by proper objects within certain bounds, especially by fiction; for an object that would create a painful horror, were it really present, excites a pleasing one, when it is but only present in effigy or semblance. We find Aristotle, in like manner, often borrowing illustrations from the art of painting in his discourse upon poetical imitation. And indeed the most successful way of giving a distinct notion of either of them, is to join them together in teaching, and to make them mutually illustrate one another.
2. It is certainly very proper in education to make use of dramatical poetry, and not only to read good comedies and tragedies with young people, but to carry them to see them well represented. It would be preposterous, as has been already observed, to think of explaining to youth the principles and rules of dramatical composition, till they had in several instances fully felt the effects of them. But having been frequently tried by good theatrical pieces, and having often experienced their pleasant and instructive influences, they will then easily understand a master, when he talks to them of their design, and represents them as imitations of human manners, and contrived for certain moral ends: They will then easily comprehend what Aristotle means by saying, the design of tragedy is to purge or refine our pity or our fear, and to work up gradually in the mind, an emotion that shall have in itself a very happy effect upon the temper: They will easily comprehend, that the rules for gaining such an end, must be fetched from human nature: And that pieces calculated to produce such effects, must be so conducted as that they shall be found, upon a critical examination, to be experiments or samples confirming some moral truths or maxims; and they will take pleasure in examining the progress of such pieces, the fable, the plot, and the unraveling, and by this exercise, they will at one and the same time, be learning human nature, and the rules resulting from thence for compositions, by which their authors would move the human heart, and agreeably agitate any of our affections: They will find such pieces to be an unanswerable proof of the sociality of the human mind, and the natural amiableness of virtue and deformity of vice; and will perceive, that such writing is not only an excellent moral school, but can indeed do more than merely teach, since by good performances of this kind, not only may very important truths relating to human nature and human affairs be demonstrated as by experiments, but by them the human mind is actually tried and exercised in such a manner, as hath immediately and directly a very salutary influence upon it.
So much for tragedy: And would a master effectually shew the ridicule of any vice, or strongly exhibit any character to his pupils, satyr and comedy, the latter more especially, are his properest instruments. None acquainted with human nature will doubt, that the best way of correcting any bad propension or habit in youth, is not directly to charge the young man with it, but to put some comedy in his hand, as it were by chance, that will shew him his fault, and the deformity and bad tendency of it in some well drawn character, as a mirror shews us the spots in our face.
3. The history of Greece will afford masters an opportunity of shewing their pupils the rise and progress of all the various species of poetry, the dramatical kind in particular. For there it was that these arts had their birth, or at least that they were brought to their perfection, and that chiefly by means of critics, who pursued a higher aim, than what in modern times assumes the name of criticism, and by laying open the truths poetical imitations ought to teach, and the salutary manners in which they ought to move our affections, and by consequence, all the springs and principles of motion in the human breast, from the workings of which these arts must derive their rules, taught poets how to model and conduct their fictions, agreeably to truth or nature, how to draw their characters and personages, in what circumstances to place them, what language to put in their mouths, conformably to their tempers and passions, and how to make them look and act, what moral ends they ought to propose to themselves, and what maxims and rules, in fine, they must observe in the whole contexture and process of their representations, to gain truly good, wholesome and praise-worthy ends. Thus was the taste of authors and auditors gradually refined and perfected.
4. Let it just be added, that there can be no objection against using Virgil, Homer, or Horace, merely for teaching the words and syntax of the languages in which they are writ, or to inure youth by reading them, to read and pronounce justly and with good grace: Yet these authors cannot be understood by boys quite unacquainted with the beauties of nature and with mankind; and therefore explaining upon them, ought to be delayed till students are by other proper studies qualified for entering into all their beauties, and all the truths they set in the most agreeable lights. But at whatever time they are read with pupils, we have a commentary upon one of them (Homer, to wit) in our own language, which shews what criticism should propose and do, and what commentators and masters ought to aim at in their lessons upon such classics: I mean Mr. Pope’s notes added to his admirable translation of Homer. He who hath read Homer with this help, so as to be able to discern all the beauties in his poems which these notes point out, will not satisfy himself with one reading, and is indeed capable of entering into the spirit of any author, or of comprehending any thing relating to human life and manners, or the design and rules of the highest kind of poetry. It could hardly be said before the English readers were obliged with this commentary on Homer, that we had any thing in any language upon any Greek or Latin authors, upon any poet at least, that answered the ends of true criticism, or that it was not really dangerous to put into the hands of youth, for fear of giving them the very worst of turns, a propension towards mere verbal criticism, which, if it be not pedantry, false erudition, empty, vain puffing up science, what can be so called?
It is indeed strange, that after all the just raillery by which men of true classical taste have exposed the ridiculousness of the pretended notes and commentaries with which ancient authors are encumbered; the vanity, impertinence and idleness, nay perniciousness to true learning and scholarship, of that which in certain countries hath long passed for polite literature, the learned world should still be pestered with, or which is worse, should still give encouragement to such dregs. For nothing certainly requires so little genius, nay, nothing so absolutely requires dullness and want of genius, as to compile large volumes under the name of notes or commentaries, like those of the celebrated Barmannus (for instance) with the help of indexes to classics, and a few dictionaries and books of mythology, without pointing out one beautiful sentiment in the authors that abound with them, or without suggesting any thing that can lead a scholar to think of learning any thing from books full of moral or political instructions, besides grammatical subtleties or various conjectural readings. Let the notes we have mentioned be compared with those upon the same author, or any other, by any of the Dutch or German commentators; and then let any one who does not prefer words, idle contentions about words, to solid and useful observations, decide who has best merited the name of a commentator, or by acquaintance with which of the two kinds, a young man is most likely to be led and formed into the best taste: Let them think which of the two kinds the original authors themselves would have preferred, or to which of them solid science is most indebted. The Casaubons, the Daciers, Gataker, and a few others, deserve praise: But yet never was there so perfect a commentary or critical survey of any author, as that of Homer by our excellent poet, or any system of notes so well adapted to initiate one into the right method of reading and considering an ancient poet: And it is indeed a pity that they are not translated into Latin, that foreign pedants might learn from that model how far their labours fall short of, nay how opposite they are to truly genuine and useful criticism. ’Tis plain from the notes this commentator has collected with so much judgment from the ancients upon his author, that he had learned the art of criticising and commenting from the best ancient critics: And we may judge of the extraordinariness of the genius he carried with him to that school, by the sublime height he hath carried almost every more useful kind of poetry in our language. Dictionary compilers, and other such collectors and explainers of words and phrases, are no doubt a useful set of labourers in the literary commonwealth: But is this a turn to be studiously given to youth, whose birth and fortunes call upon them to qualify themselves early for public service? Or is this the science, the learning that ought to be chiefly encouraged by the public, or by men in power, when it is so evident, that it is upon the promotion and cultivation of arts and sciences of a very different kind and rank, that the principal interests of the public depend; the knowledge of nature, and the knowledge of mankind and human rights and duties, and the best maxims of civil policy and government? For hence spring the arts, and hence alone can the arts spring that teach and enable nations to get wealth and power by commerce, and to employ wealth in an elegant, truly rational manner; the arts which teach subjects their rights, and magistrates their duties, and shew how a people may, and only can make themselves great and happy; how, in fine, a people may preserve, maintain, and secure that liberty without which a people are hardly men, and nothing indeed that is good, great or conspicuous in human life can subsist: For all history confirms what old Homer hath long ago sung.
So much for poetry: Let us now consider her sister arts, sculpture and painting, and the place they ought to have in education. Now, if these arts be languages by which useful truths, or agreeable ideas and sentiments may be conveyed into the mind, or may be pleasantly expressed, they are certainly worth our understanding as such, and instruction in them ought not to be neglected in truly liberal education. But that they are, will be very evident, if we consider that all these arts, painting in particular, can exhibit to us beautiful parts or effects of the visible world, of which kind are landscapes: And they can also represent moral actions and characters; and pictures of this kind are called history-pieces: And to these two classes, all paintings and sculptures may be reduced. Let us examine a little into the uses and rules of both these kinds.
In the first place, pictures exhibiting whether real views of nature, having been copied into the canvass from real appearances, or imaginary views, or such as tho’ perhaps the painter never saw, but in his own imagination, yet being congruous to nature’s laws, make beautiful as well as possible representations.—Landscapes of both these sorts are not only exceedingly entertaining to a well-formed eye and judgment, but they have a very near relation to, and are of very considerable use in natural philosophy: For they are samples or experiments of what the laws of light, shade and colours do or would produce in certain circumstances; and they are in this respect very proper for giving us a fuller idea of the nature, use and extent of these laws than we can learn from the more common course of nature, at least, without such assistance. As such pieces cannot, on the one hand, be painted without knowledge of light and shade, and of perspective, aerial perspective in particular, so it is scarcely possible to give beginners in the study of nature a just and clear notion of the manner in which nature herself paints various degrees of distances, more especially, and by means of light, shade, and various colouring, exhibites all the immense diversity that constitutes the visible world, in such a manner as to render it a steady and sure guide to our touch, feeling, and motions, as it really is, in consequence of the established connexions between appearances to our eyes and our sensations by touch;—it is hardly possible, I say, to give young beginners in philosophy a clear apprehension of this so fundamental a truth in natural philosophy, that not to mention optics merely, scarcely any branch of it can be conceived of as it ought, or is not very difficult, without a just conception of it.—This is scarcely practicable, unless the teacher calls in pictures to his assistance, and teach his pupils to attend, how it is that the figures in them appear round and solid, and stand out; or how it is, on the other hand, that they retire and fly off; how, in fine, it is, that various grounds and distances are there represented: But by comparing good landscapes with nature, this matter soon becomes easy to be understood, familiar to the mind: And thus many difficulties that before perplexed the study of optics, more particularly, immediately evanish.
Now the same relation that landscapes bear to natural philosophy, do moral or historical paintings bear to moral philosophy. Such of them as represent ancient customs and usages, civil or religious, preserve clearer ideas of these usages and manners than can possibly be conveyed by words; and are therefore of great use for understanding ancient authors: And they properly have their place in education, when descriptions of them, or references to them in history, or allusions to them in poets occur, as hath been already observed. But such as exhibit any great man doing any great or heroic action; such as represent various passions moved in spectators of different ages, tempers, conditions and countries, by any action done, or any event happening in their sight—all such pieces are exhibitions of human nature, if they be agreeable to truth, and consequently are specimens or samples from which moralists may draw many very useful remarks: And accordingly we are told, that the ancient sages at Athens, where the porticoes, temples, and all public edifices were adorned with capital pictures, representing the characters and actions of their more remarkable heroes, and the more noted events that had happened in their state, often made such pictures the subjects of their moral lessons. Socrates himself often taught in this manner. One thing is very evident: They serve admirably to preserve the memory of great men and glorious actions: And hardly will any one call this use or benefit of them into doubt, who knows how much such monuments contributed, amongst the ancient Greeks, to support and promote public spirit and true courage: For that they may be most successfully employed to reward and encourage virtue is certain, since all ancient historians agree, that the statues, pictures, and other monuments erected by the Athenians, in favour not only of the commanders, but of the common soldiers, who had signalized themselves in the defence of their country and the public liberty, conduced exceedingly to enhance the merit of their valour, and of the services they rendered to their country, and to inspire the spectators with emulation and courage, and thus to cultivate and perpetuate a spirit of bravery and public zeal in the people, and render their troops victorious and invincible. Those that were slain in the famous battle of Marathon, had all the honour immediately paid to them that was due to their merit. Illustrious monuments were raised to them all, upon which their own names and that of their tribes were recorded, in the very place where the battle was fought. There were three distinct sets of monuments separately set up, one for the Athenians, another for the Platians, and a third for the slaves, whom they had admitted among their soldiers on that occasion. All the honour that was paid to Miltiades himself, the great deliverer of Athens and of all Greece, was, that in a picture of the battle of Marathon, drawn by order of the Athenians, he was represented at the head of the ten commanders, exhorting the soldiers, and setting them an example of their duty. Now Plato often makes it his business to extol the battle of Marathon, and is for having that action considered as the source and original cause of all the victories that were gained afterwards. And indeed on all important occasions, it was customary among them to put the people in mind of the monuments erected to Miltiades, and his invincible troop, that is, of a little army of heroes, whose intrepidity and bravery had done so much honour to Athens, and this motive wonderfully quickened and animated them. The picture of Miltiades was kept at Athens, in a gallery adorned and enriched with different paintings, all excellent in their kind, and done by the greatest masters, which for that reason was called ποικιλη,89 signifying varied and diversified. The celebrated Polygnotus, a native of the island of Thusos, and one of the best painters of his time, painted this picture, or at least the greatest part of it; and as he valued himself upon his honour, and was more attached to glory than interest, he did it gratis, and would not receive any recompence for it. The city of Athens therefore rewarded him with a sort of coin, that was more acceptable to his taste, by procuring him an order from the Amphictyons to appoint him a public lodging in the city, where he might live during his own pleasure. I need not say more to prove the moral uses pictures and sculptures are very proper to serve: Those who are acquainted with the history-pieces of the best painters, are already convinced of it: And as for others, there is no way of enabling them to conceive the power of pictures, to represent characters and actions, and thereby move the affections of spectators in a very beneficial and agreeable manner, but by presenting good pieces of the moral kind to them. Besides, I have elsewhere treated on this subject expresly at great length;90 where I have shewed what good taste of painting means, and how it may be acquired; and wherein it differs from the mere virtuosoship that no less generally passes for good taste in painting, than mere verbal skill does for good taste in classical literature.
But in order to understand and relish painting, tho’ much more be necessary than knowledge of drawing, even skill in human nature, and in the unity and truth of ordinance and disposition in imitating any action, in order to make a pleasing and beautiful consistent whole, yet intelligence in drawing is absolutely requisite. And indeed that skill is of such universal use in all the businesses and arts of life, that it certainly should, as Aristotle has recommended, and as it did amongst the Greeks, make an early part in the education of all sorts and ranks of people: In forming young gentlemen after they are taught to write, they should be taught to draw: For it is by such instruction, and by frequent practice in examining good pictures and drawings, or good prints of them, that the eye is formed to a just understanding and relish of proportion, harmony and beauty, in buildings, pictures, and all works of design. And why should not both the ear and the eye be improved in education by proper exercises, till they are become truly intelligent, skilful, delicate and just? Hath nature given us eyes or ears capable of improvement, without intending that we should be at proper pains to teach, instruct, form or improve them? Nature hath given eyes and ears to all animals, but to man nature hath not given mere common eyes and ears, but hath joined with these senses in us, as Cicero hath observed, a relish or taste of harmony and proportion, by means of which they are capable of being qualified for enjoyments far above all the pleasures the gross senses of other animals can afford to them, for enjoyments truly rational and elegant. And are such excellent gifts of nature to be quite despised and neglected? to be quite overlooked in education, or are such valuable faculties to have no culture, no instruction bestowed upon them? Young gentlemen, who have higher business to mind, which requires much time and application, ought neither to throw away their precious time in learning to paint, nor to play upon musical instruments; but they ought to have their eyes so formed, by a little practice in drawing, and instruction in the principles of the art, as to be able to judge of and relish truth and proportion in drawing, and their ears so improved by instruction in the principles of music, and accustomance to music, as that they may be able to receive pleasure from sentiments well expressed, and set to proper music, when well performed by voices, accompanied with instruments: For music certainly is one of the best relaxations from severer studies and employments, when employed to excite wholesome affections, and not to inflame hurtful ones, and when good sentiments as well as sounds are conveyed. And accordingly in ancient education both these arts had early their proper share. In truth, what in one sense is called improving the eye and the ear, is more strictly and properly speaking, improving and forming the imagination. And surely none will say that education ought to leave this faculty quite uncultivated: None will say, that it is of no consequence whether youth are formed or not by proper care, to a just notion of the pleasures of imagination, and of the arts, by consequence, which have the entertainment of a well-formed imagination for their object and scope. If any one can make a question of this, let him read, for his better information, the admirable essays of Mr. Addison, in the sixth volume of the spectator, upon the pleasures and arts of imagination.91 And there he will see, that the whole of what belongs to the discipline, improvement or culture of the imagination, is reducible into what may simply be called a just notion of truth, proportion and harmony, and is nearly allied to virtue: For a fine correct imagination is a fancy able to entertain itself with true and just images of beautiful or great objects, or able to draw to itself fine pictures worthy of contemplation, as well as to comprehend and relish good images or pictures, when set before it by an Author of taste, or an intelligent artist. Solidity is, properly speaking, a quality of the judgment; and good taste or genius, properly so called, is a quality of the imagination. The excellency or perfection of reason and judgment consists in distinguishing differences amidst resemblances, the discovery of which requires very close and accurate inspection into objects, and in discerning just and strict reasoning, in which every step naturally leads to that which follows, and the whole of which makes one closely connected chain from artful specious sophistry; or lastly, in accurately weighing and balancing probabilities, without missing or overlooking the minutest circumstance belonging to either side of the question: These are the principal offices and exercises of judgment: And in being able to perform these well, does its strength and virtue principally lie. On the other hand, the excellency and perfection of imagination consists in being quick and ready in finding out likenesses or analogies; and with regard to this faculty, the rule is, That as resemblances, when pointed out, please the more, the less they were expected, if they be true, and can abide examination; so it is by hitting of uncommon likenesses in such a manner, that all to whom they are discovered, wonder that such resemblances were never observed before that genius appears, or wit most shines, and best shews at once its fertility and correctness: Accordingly, the chief businesses of imagination are to bring ideas seemingly very remote from a subject, which dart an agreeable but surprizing uncommon light upon it; to be able to cloath intellectual or moral ideas with proper material forms and dresses; and to know how to bedeck or attire every truth in the garb most suited to it and best becoming it, or that sets it off to the best advantage. There are therefore two chief species of it; one which is dextrous in pointing out beauties; and another which excels in shewing the ridicule of follies and errors, or of vices and falshoods. These two talents seldom meet in the same person, being opposite turns of mind; yet to both belong a happy fertility in inventing metaphors and similitudes, and a just discernment or taste of their propriety and fitness. These are the natural instruments or weapons of wit in every kind of it. Now, as it will readily be owned to be the proper work of education to ripen, strengthen, and improve the judgment; so that, next to this, due care to enrich and correct imagination and taste, is the other main business of education, cannot be denied, whether we consider of what consequence it is with regard to private happiness to possess an imagination capable of entertaining itself in a variety of agreeable manners, all of them able to stand the test and trial of reason in every respect, instead of a dull, lifeless, insipid, or which is worse, a loose, impure, rambling and undisciplin’d one: Or whether we consider ourselves as social creatures, made for conversation and mutual commerce, and consequently, for reciprocally instructing and entertaining one another, by imparting our ideas, sentiments and knowledge to one another, in pleasing and agreeable lights? By the exercises and improvements of the intellect, one may become profoundly knowing; but if he be a stranger to the arts and exercises by which imagination is enriched and refined, he cannot communicate his science to others in a winning, agreeable way, because he will be unable to dress his sentiments and set them out as they ought to be, to attract attention and gain admittance, into polite company, more especially: He may indeed be useful to profound scholars, but he is not qualified for informing the ignorant, or alluring youth to the love of true wisdom. Besides, there is false wit as well as false reasoning; and is it not of consequence, to render youth capable of distinguishing false from true wit, and thus to fortify and guard them against all the deceitful arts of error or vice? To conclude, by plain, naked or simple reasoning, the understanding may be enlightened and convinced: But it is through the imagination only, that truth can find a passage into the heart, to move and interest our affections. For how else is it that oratory or poetry are able to agitate our minds, and lead our passions captive at their will, but by raising up in the imagination, warm, lively, moving pictures? The fancy is first not only struck but heated and briskly agitated, before any of our violent passions are inflamed? And in order to produce the soft and tender affections the same fancy must first be soothed and softened. If therefore we would qualify youth either on the one hand, for being suitably entertained and affected by just and proper addresses to their imaginations, and through it to their passionate part; or guard them, on the other, against all base, all misleading and corruptive impressions; in one word, if we would qualify them for relishing the beauties of poets or orators, it is of the greatest moment to bestow proper culture and improvement upon their imagination or fancy; a wonderfully active, busy and rich faculty, without which human life would indeed be very listless and insipid, in comparison of what its improvements render it; tho’ on the other side, to its irregularities and extravagancies be owing a very considerable part of the vices and miseries of mankind. In truth, they must be great strangers to human nature, who know not of what moment it is to have a chaste well-regulated imagination formed to the love of order and proportion, and interested in favour of virtue, which is order in the affections, producing similar order and consistency in outward conduct: For if the fancy be not under due discipline, and hath not been taught to exert and entertain itself with true beauty and harmony, it will be tumultuous and irregular, and be ever rebelling against reason, and pursuing some equally false and pernicious species of beauty: The fancy cannot be without a Venus: “It will always be courting, says an excellent writer, a beauty, and pursuing a Venus of one kind or another. The species of fair, noble, handsome, great, will discover itself on a thousand occasions, and on a thousand subjects. The spectre still will haunt us in some shape or other; and when driven from our cool thoughts, and frighted from the closet, will meet us even at court, and fill our heads with dreams of grandeur, titles, honours, and a false magnificence to which we are ready to sacrifice our greatest pleasure and ease, and for the sake of which we become the meanest drudges and most abject slaves.” Now how alone can the fancy be kept from false or pernicious pursuits; how alone can it be secured against error, deceit, or imposition of whatever sort, but by early giving it a right taste of the true venustum or honestum, and a strong propensity towards it, and the ideas of beauty, order and greatness, which are not only consistent with virtue, but assistant to and corroborative of it: A true taste of wit and ingenuity; a sound relish of order and decorum in ingenious compositions of every kind, or in all works of fancy; and that quick discernment of proportion, even in material objects, without which our senses of hearing and seeing are equally gross with those organs in the lowest kind of animals, and far from being improved and exalted to that superior pitch of perfection for which nature certainly intended them, by uniting with them in our contexture a sense of natural order, beauty and harmony, so nearly allied to our moral sense, that the one cannot reside where the other is not in some degree prevalent; and that he who hath a just notion of beauty and harmony of the first sort, if he be dissolute and irregular in his heart and manners, must live in downright contradiction to the principles from which he professes to derive his favourite entertainments. The truth of this will more fully appear from the following observation, which is the only maxim I shall at present mention with regard to teaching good taste in poetry, and in all the arts of design and fancy conjointly, having elsewhere discoursed very fully upon this subject. It is, that the main thing in instructing youth in the principles, foundations, and maxims of the polite arts, is to engage their attention to this sovereign, universal rule in nature, from which the imitative arts can never depart, without falling proportionably short of the harmony and truth which is their aim, and by which alone they can please, viz. “That what is beautiful is harmonious and proportioned, what is harmonious and proportioned is true, and what is at once both beautiful and true is of consequence agreeable and good.” In other words, “Beauty, truth and utility are inseparably connected, or more properly speaking, are one and the same in nature, and therefore they cannot be disjoined in the arts which profess to imitate nature.” Accordingly, beauty and truth are plainly joined with the notion of ability and conveniency in the apprehension of every ingenious artist; the statuary, the painter, the architect, the gardner: they do and know they must conform to this rule, because it is universally so throughout all nature. The same features which occasion deformity, create sickness and disease. The proportionate and regular state is the truly prosperous, sound and natural one in every subject. Health of the body is the just proportion, balance, and regular course of things in the constitution. And what else is health or soundness of mind, but harmony, or a just and equal balance of the affections? Or what else is it that produces deformity of the moral kind, but something that tends to the ruin and dissolution of the mental fabric? And in every ingenious art or composition, what is not useful, and strictly related to the whole, can never be beautiful: Ornaments which do not naturally rise out of the subject, and have not a due reference and subordination to the principal design, are not only superfluous and an incumbrance, but they are really noxious and hurtful with regard to the proposed end or effect of the whole, into which they are forced.
The Roman architect Vitruvius makes this observation with regard to all the arts, and applies it to his own, in particular, with great propriety and strength of reasoning. Quintilian has explained the same maxim, and unfolded its extent in a great variety of instances with his usual elegance: He thus concisely expresses the rule itself: “Nunquam veri species ab utilitate dividitur.”92 Cicero, whom he every where follows, had charmingly confirmed this truth long before in several beautiful passages of his writings on oratory: For he extends the rule to that art also, and lays it down as an essential one in it. One passage in particular, Orator. l. 3. c. 45, &c.93 is well worth pointing out to the reader.—“Sed in plerisque rebus incredibiliter hoc natura est ipsa fabricata: Sic in oratione, ut ea, quae maximam utilitatem in se continerent, eadem haberent plurimum vel dignitatis, vel saepe etiam venustatis. Incolumitatis, ac salutis omnium causa, videmus hunc statum esse hujus totius mundi atque naturae.—Haec tantam habent vim ut paulum immutata cohaerere non possint: Tantam pulchritudinem, ut nulla species ne excogitari quidem possit ornatior. Referte nunc animum ad hominum vel etiam caeterarum animantium formam & figuram. Nullam partem corporis sine aliqua necessitate affictam, totamque formam quasi perfectam reperietis arte non casu. Quid in arboribus, in quibus non truncus, non rami, non folia sunt denique, nisi ad suam retinendam, conservandamque naturam? Nusquam tamen est ulla pars nisi venusta.—Linquamus naturam, artesque videamus. Quid tam in navigio necessarium quam latera, quam carinae, quam mali, quam vela, quam prora, quam puppis, quam antennae? Quae tamen hanc habent in specie venustatem; ut non solum salutis, sed etiam voluptatis causa inventa esse videantur. Columnae, & templa, & porticus sustinent. Tamen habent non plus utilitatis quam dignitatis. Capitolii fastigium illud, & caeterarum aedium, non venustas sed necessitas ipsa fabricata est. Nam cum esset habita ratio, quemadmodum, ex utraque tecti parte aqua dilaberetur: Utilitatem templi fastigii dignitas consecuta est: Ut etiam si in coelo statueretur, ubi imber esse non possit nullam sine fastigio dignitatem habituram fuisse videatur. Hoc in omnibus item partibus, orationis evenit, ut utilitatem ac prope necessitatem suavitas quaedam ac lepos consequatur.” Compare the whole with what he says to the same purpose, Orator. c. 25. and concerning our senses, as they are distinguished from those of the brutes, by our natural sense of beauty and harmony, which is united with them, de natura Deorum, lib. 2. c. 58, &c. For these passages furnish the proper materials for explaining the first principles and chief rules of all the ingenious arts. The chief excellence in them all is simplicity or frugality, and is therefore often called by ancient critics αφελεια:94 For the arts which imitate nature must conform to her; and her beauty in all her works results from her simplicity, or her steady observance of this rule: “Natura nil frustra facit”:95 Arts, in order to be natural, and please as such, must be frugal and reserved as nature; like her, never profuse to any particular part, but bountiful to all in due proportion; never employing in one thing more than enough, but with exact oeconomy retrenching the superfluous, and adding force to what is principal in every thing, and thus managing all for the best. This is nature’s method throughout all her infinitely various operations: And therefore the rule in imitating her, in whatever composition, is,
We have said enough of poetry and oratory: And to form the eye and judgment to a just notion of drawing and proportion, nothing more is necessary than practice in drawing, and accustoming the eye to good drawings: And if we would form a just taste of painting, let youth be often assisted in attending to the disposition, ordonance and unity of pictures, and examining well composed ones, or good prints of them, by these and the like questions. “Is the subject worthy of being represented, and doth the representation excite a lively and just idea of it? To what end is the composition adapted, and what effect hath it upon the minds of attentive observers? Doth it fully fill and employ the mind? Have all the parts a just relation to the principal design? Or is the sight splitted, divided and perplexed by parts either not essential, or not duly subordinated to the whole? Is the colouring proper to the subject and design; and is it of a proportional consistent character throughout the whole, to that of the principal figure? Doth the same genius and spirit reign throughout all the work? Is there a sufficient and well chosen variety of contrasts? Is there too little or too much expressed? Of whatever kind it is, landscape or historical, doth it make a beautiful or a great whole? Is it a true and compatible choice of nature? Is there nothing repugnant to nature’s laws and proportions? And above all, what influence hath it upon the mind? Doth it instil or call up great, uncommon, beautiful, or delightful ideas? Doth it light up the understanding, spread the imagination, and set the mind a thinking? Doth it shew a fine taste of nature, an exalted idea of beauty and grace, and raise the soul to the conception and love of what is truly great, beautiful and decent in nature and in arts?”
By these and such like questions, ought pictures as well as poems to be tried and criticised. And such an examination of either is a truly philosophical employment. There is indeed a false learning or taste with regard to the plastic arts, corresponding to pedantry, verbal criticism, or false taste in classical learning, which is entirely occupied and taken up about names, and hands, and rarity or antiquity, without ever considering the meaning and design of pictures, or their contrivance and ordonance: But the best security against both is to teach and inure pupils to examine both poems and pictures, compositions, in fine, of all kinds, with a philosophical eye, and to seek first and above all, for sense, judgment and truth in them. This false taste is excellently described and chastised in an admirable Canto in imitation of Spencer, from which give me leave just to copy these lines.
I shall just observe, before I quit this subject, that because the arts of design have been sadly perverted and abused to the worst of purposes, they have therefore been confounded with luxury, and misrepresented as rather pernicious than useful, or even ornamental to states. But according to this argument, must not poetry likewise be banished: For what hath been more abused and prostituted than the magic of numbers? According to this argument, what ought not to be called luxury? For hath not, not only wit, but philosophy, and even religion itself, been rendered by abuse exceeding mischievous, exceeding corruptive of honesty and good morals? At what, in fine, that is good or great does not this argument from the abuse of things strike as strongly as at the ingenious arts? In the times when oratory and poetry were at their highest perfection, painting and sculpture were also in their greatest glory: All the arts mutually lent aids, and charms and graces one to another.
These arts are dragged into the service of vice with no less reluctance than Homer beautifully describes poetry to yield to any vile prostitution of her powers and graces.
Pope’s Odyss. l. 22. v. 582.99
’Tis to virtue and truth alone they willingly impart their ornaments and charms. Indeed all the nobler ends and uses of poetry described by Theocritus in his delightful idyllion, Αιεὶ τουτο Διὸς κουράις,100 &c. or by Horace in his sublime ode in praise of poesy, Donarem pateras, &c. are likewise the ends and uses in which her sister arts most delight, and best shew their genuine force and beauty.
They are thus described by an admirable poet with great spirit and taste.
In poor and indigent states, forced to toil and drudge for the necessaries of life, there is neither leisure nor spirit for cultivating ingenious, ornamental sciences and arts: It is only in opulent countries that men will think of applying themselves to what is not absolutely requisite to their convenient subsistence. Yet such, on the other hand, is the ordinary course of human affairs, that a people no sooner become rich, than they become wanton and sensual: Necessity begets industry, but so soon as industry has brought wealth into a nation, affluence and ease beget impatience of discipline and dissoluteness of manners, that quickly corrupt not only all the ingenious arts, but even philosophy itself: So true is this, that in no country where the polite arts have at any time flourished, did they ever begin to decline from their perfection, and to be prostituted to wicked uses, till philosophy itself had sadly degenerated into a very loose and profligate doctrine, unworthy of that sacred name; which signifies just ideas of the government of the world, and of good conduct in life, in conformity to the character and will of the supreme parent of all things: This was the case both at Athens and at Rome. In the former republic, all the arts declined in proportion as false philosophy and corruption of manners gained ground: When their ancient virtue was gone, the spirit of tragedy went with it, and all the other arts soon gave way to shew, farce, effeminate music, or lascivious mimic-dances, horse-races, and such like trifling gaudy entertainments. In the latter, venality, luxury and voluptuousness were come to a very great height, before the polite arts were known in it; and for that reason, they never came to any considerable degree of perfection there: All the polite arts, according to the history of that state, after they had once been introduced into it, revived or faded, as liberty and virtue lift up their heads, prospered or declined. Under the wicked tyrants, after the dissolution of the commonwealth, whatever sumptuous works were carried on that are justly called by the best historians, “Ostentatio stultissima regum”: and on account of which the taste of these princes is not celebrated, but they are set forth in their true light, as “incredibilium cupitores,” (so Tacitus speaks of Nero in particular) true taste sadly degenerated.102 But under another race of good ones, it rose, as it were from the dead, and made considerable progress. Tho’ the polite arts may, and often have been made in corrupt times incentives, panders to vice; yet they in fact have always soon evanished and disappeared, after they begun to be perverted to ends repugnant to their genius, and natural tendency and scope. This is the remark of one of the best ancient critics, who thus reasons the matter. “Quis inter haec literis, aut ullae bonae arti locus? non Hercule magis quam frugibus in terra sentibus ac rubis occupata. Age. Non ad perferendos studiorum labores necessaria frugalitas? Quid ergo ex libidine ac luxuria spei? Nam praecipue acuit ad cupiditatem literarum amor laudis. Num igitur malis esse laudem curae putamus?”103
Carthage, sure, was not ruined by the prevalency of arts, absolutely unknown in that rich state: Nor could the arts which were totally excluded from Sparta by its constitution have had any hand in its fall. The latter, as well as the former, fell a sacrifice to the lust of power and avarice, as the famous Pythian oracle is said to have foretold concerning Sparta. Cicero’s remark upon this subject deserves to be mentioned. “Nullum vitium tetrius quam avaritia, praesertim in principibus & rempublicam gubernantibus. Habere enim quaestui rempublicam non modo turpe est, sed sceleratum etiam & nefarium. Itaque quod Apollo Pythius oraculo edidit, Spartam nulla alia re nisi avaritia perituram, id videtur non solum, Lacedaemoniis sed & omnibus opulentis populis praedixisse.”104 The Persian empire perished, as both historians and philosophers have observed, through the bad education of their princes, and the gross voluptuousness which soon spread itself over the whole body, after the union of the Persians with the soft Medes, and the vast conquests of Cyrus, who was indeed an awful instance of the truth of an ancient observation which a Latin historian thus expresses: “Secundae res sapientium animos fatigant.”105
A private man may throw away too much of his time, as well as of his fortune, upon pictures, statues and coins, through a disproportioned admiration of these arts, which generally is not an intelligent one. But if any one should object, for this reason, against giving proper encouragement to the ingenious arts in a state, Horace furnishes us with the topic for a very proper answer.
The character to be recommended to the imitation of youth, in order to guard them against this folly, is that of Atticus in Nepos. “Elegans non magnificus, splendidus non sumptuosus, omni diligentia munditiam non affluentem affectabat. Supellex non modica, non multa, ut in neutram partem conspici possit.”107 Here elegance is well distinguished from luxury. And indeed so true is it, that good taste and true art were never able to subsist long, after affectation of magnificence and expence had spread from courts, corrupted with a false opinion of pomp and splendour, like a contagion over the land, that it quickly happens, every where in such cases, as Pliny the elder tells us it happened a little before his time in the Roman empire, viz. “That in statuary, painting, and architecture, nothing is admired but what is sumptuous and costly in the mere materials of the work. Precious metals, glittering stones, every thing that is merely shewy and glaring and poisonous to art, comes every day more into request, and are imposed upon masters as necessary materials to the ruin of good taste.” Indeed, as our own poet happily expresses it,
A Pericles may have expended in superfluous buildings, and vain decorations, the treasury that was destined for carrying on a war in the defence of the common liberty of Greece: And Plato, who formed a judgment of things, not from outward splendour, but from truth, after his master Socrates, may have had reason to say of him, that with all his grand edifices and other works, he had not improved the mind of one of the citizens in virtue, but had rather corrupted the purity and simplicity of their ancient manners. A Verres may, without any taste or intelligence of the ingenious arts, have plundered and robbed cities and provinces, to adorn his own palace with pictures, statues, and antique vases. But still it will not follow from these or any other such examples, that a very proper use may not be made of these arts for promoting true virtue; or that monuments perpetuating the memory of great men, by just representations of their noble deeds, are not very becoming decorations for courts of justice, assemblies of the public states, colleges, schools, and all other public edifices, or that there is not an elegant way of laying out wealth, which is very opposite to gross voluptuousness, and indeed the best preservative against it: For order and proportion in buildings and gardens, and monuments that shew judgment, and have a virtuous meaning and tendency, are certainly the very reverse of tasteless waste, mere glare, idle unmeaning expence, and coarse sensuality; or reason, virtue, taste and judgment are empty names. The best things may be perverted; but surely the securest barrier against bad taste or corruption of any kind, is to form early, by proper education in young minds, a just sense of the excellency of virtue, and a thorough good taste of all the arts that may be rendered subservient to it, or from which men of easy fortunes may fetch amusements to themselves, without making one step towards vice; and an aversion from every abuse of them. And in order to gain this purpose, education must unite the ingenious arts and liberal exercises with philosophy, and by proper examples, teach her pupils what is beautiful in nature, or whence the beauty of nature proceeds; what is orderly and decent in the conduct of life; what produces and supports public order and happiness; and what is beautiful, elegant and decent in arts. Now all the parts of this lesson are strictly coherent: They cannot be severed without sadly maiming the true philoso phy, and strangely stinting and confining young understandings, instead of expanding and enlarging them. For indeed, as Plato long ago observed, all the liberal arts and sciences which have any connexion with human affairs, or tendency to humanize the mind, have a strict and intimate affinity, and are bound together by a very close common bond, or natural relation.
Every more important question relative to liberal education, hath (I think) been handled in this enquiry at great length; some questions, indeed, too minutely and particularly, were this treatise designed merely for such as only want hints. All therefore that remains to be treated of is travelling: And this indeed is a copious and important subject, that well deserves to be fully considered, and would require a volume by itself: We shall only suggest here a few observations upon it, which are indeed very obvious, but yet very little attended to in practice.
’Tis very plain that youth cannot be qualified for taking any advantageous notices of the state of learning in foreign countries, unless they be already very well acquainted with the chief branches of true learning, or the more useful sciences.
’Tis equally manifest, that without acquaintance with agriculture, manufactures and mechanical arts, they cannot be capable of making any useful observations for the benefit of their country upon these very important matters: And the same is likewise true with regard to commerce or trade.
’Tis no less evident, that they are not prepared for considering with intelligence the governments of foreign countries, their customs, manners, and maxims of policy, and the effects of different civil constitutions upon their respective subjects, till they have been considerably practised in reading history, and making political reflections: Unless they are well instructed in the nature of civil government in general, and the ends which laws and political orders ought to propose, they can no more profit by visiting foreign states than one unacquainted with the principles of mechanism, can by seeing engines and machines.
’Tis fully as conspicuous, that raw unexperienced youth are not qualified for gathering information from the conversation of knowing men, or for seeing into men’s characters and dispositions.
And to conclude, without knowing the state of one’s own country, none can judge how other nations stand related to it, or wherein their interests agree or jar and differ: Now it will readily be owned to be very dangerous to send youth, for the sake whether of languages or exercises, abroad to receive their first tincture, their first impressions and habits.—From these considerations therefore it is obvious, who alone are qualified for travelling to any good purpose, however promiscuously and indiscriminately all our young people of birth and fortune may be sent to travel about seventeen or eighteen years of age:—and what preparation, what qualifications are necessary for travelling? The false, the very pernicious taste our young travellers into France and Italy too often bring back with them, is strongly painted out, and very justly satyrized in a beautiful canto in imitation of Spencer, which travellers into these parts ought indeed to carry along with them, as a preservative against the infection they are there so liable to be tainted with. As to a proper directory for travellers, I know of none: some such thing beginning with reflections upon our own government, and the interest of our own country, and pointing out the ends which travellers ought principally to have in their view, with proper instructions in the different manners, customs and governments of the foreign countries our travellers more generally visit, is greatly wanting. But from Homer’s Odyssey a young man may learn what should chiefly be attended to by those who would learn the knowledge of men; for Homer certainly intended to give us the character of a wise traveller, a sagacious inspector into men and things, escaping many snares and temptations, and guiding himself through various dangers by his prudence and virtue, and improving in true wisdom by every incident in the person of Ulysses, as Horace twice tells us.
Ep. 2. l. 1.1
After one hath well digested Xenophon’s Cyropoedeia, a careful reading of one of the best of modern books, Telemachus’s adventures, will likewise be of great advantage; and to these the travels of Cyrus deserve to be added. But besides these, it will be proper, after acquainting themselves with the history, natural and moral, of the country they design to travel into, to read some books of travels, in which not merely buildings, pictures, or antiquities are described, tho’ these should by no means be totally neglected, but the policy, the commerce, the religion, the manners of these nations or states are laid open: Such as Lord Molesworth’s account of Denmark, Sir William Temple’s account of the Netherlands, Busbequii epistolae, and several other such treatises, wrote by men capable of taking large and just views of men and things, and versed in public affairs. Above all, our travellers ought to begin at home, and be initiated, by the assistance of a qualified guide, in a journey through their own country, into the truly useful way of travelling. And they ought to lay themselves out to get all the information they can about the countries they propose to see, by frequenting the conversation of those who have travelled into them, and made useful observations. In fine, we may safely venture to say, that till one is well acquainted with geography, ancient and modern, hath pleasure in reading history, and can draw solid instructions from it, and hath withal been accustomed to truly manly and useful conversation, he is not at all fitted for improvement by travelling: But if this be the case, then it is very evident what one must do to prepare and qualify himself for travel. On this subject, however, we did not propose to enter; and therefore we shall only add, that the education here delineated, is the proper one to prepare for travelling, and that travelling would indeed render it perfect.
F I N I S.
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[10. ]James Barclay, A Treatise on Education (Edinburgh: James Cochran, 1743), 217–18. George Chapman, A Treatise on Education, 4th ed. (London, 1790), appendix.
[11. ]Franklin identified the authors he consulted while writing the Proposals as Milton, Locke, Hutcheson, Obadiah Walker, Rollin, and George Turnbull, in that order. Franklin actually mistook David Fordyce for Francis Hutcheson. See Benjamin Franklin, Writings (New York: Library of America, 1987), 323–44.
[85. ][Horace, Ars Poetica, lines 40–41: “Whoever shall choose a theme within his range, neither speech will fail him, nor clearness of order.”]
[86. ][“Too little … too much.”]
[87. ][[Horace, Ars Poetica, lines 25–26: “[We] deceive ourselves by the semblance of truth. Striving to be brief, I become obscure.”]]
[88. ][Alexander Pope, The Odyssey of Homer, 17.392–93.]
[89. ][Turnbull has included the translation of this word, within the same sentence, as “varied and diversified.”]
[90. ]Turnbull on ancient painting, &c.
[91. ][The Spectator, nos. 411–21.]
[92. ][Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 8.3.11: “In fact true beauty and usefulness always go hand in hand.”]
[93. ][Cicero, De Oratore, 3.45.178–81: “But in oratory as in most matters nature has contrived with incredible skill that the things possessing most utility also have the greatest amount of dignity, and indeed frequently of beauty also. We observe that for the safety and security of the universe this whole ordered world of nature … [Turnbull omits a geocentric description of the universe]. This system is so powerful that a slight modification of it would make it impossible for it to hold together, and it is so beautiful that no lovelier vision is ever imaginable. Now carry your mind to the form and figure of human beings or even of the other living creatures: you will discover that the body has no part added to its structure that is superfluous, and that its whole shape has the perfection of a work of art and not of accident. Take trees: in these the trunk, the branches and lastly the leaves are all without exception designed so as to keep and to preserve their own nature, yet nowhere is there any part that is not beautiful. Let us leave nature and contemplate the arts: in a ship, what is so indispensable as the sides, the hold, the bow, the stern, the yards, the sails and the masts? Yet they all have such a graceful appearance that they appear to have been invented not only for the purpose of safety but also for the sake of giving pleasure. In temples and colonnades the pillars are to support the structure, yet they are as dignified in appearance as they are useful. Yonder pediment of the Capitol and those of the other temples are the product not of beauty but of actual necessity; for it was in calculating how to make the rain-water fall off the two sides of the roof that the dignified design of the gables resulted as a by-product of the needs of the structure—with the consequence that even if one were erecting a citadel in heaven, where no rain could fall, it would be thought certain to be entirely lacking in the dignity without a pediment. The same is the case in regard to all the divisions of a speech—virtually unavoidable practical requirements produce charm of style as a result” (Loeb translation by H. Rackham).]
[94. ][Turnbull has included the translation of this word, within the same sentence, as “simplicity or frugality.”]
[95. ][“Nature does nothing in vain.”]
[96. ][Horace, Ars Poetica, line 23: “In short, be the work what you will, let it at least be simple and uniform.”]
[97. ][Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism, 68–79.]
[98. ][Alexander Pope, Epistle to Mr. Addison, Occasioned by His Dialogues on Medals.]
[99. ][Pope, The Odyssey of Homer, 22.382–92.]
[100. ][Theocritus, Idyl 16, line 1: “This is ever the care of Zeus’ maidens (i.e., the muses).”]
[101. ][James Thomson, Liberty, A Poem, 5.374–99.]
[102. ][“The stupidest ostentation of kings,” and “desirous ones of incredible things.”]
[103. ][Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 12.1.7–8: “Amid such passions as these what room is there for literature or any virtuous pursuit? You might as well look for fruit in land that is choked with thorns and brambles. Well, then, I ask you, is not simplicity of life essential if we are to be able to endure the toil entailed by study? What can we hope to get from lust or luxury? Is not the desire to win praise one of the strongest stimulants to a passion for literature? But does that mean that we are to suppose that praise is an object of concern to bad men?”]
[104. ][Cicero, De Officiis, 2.77: “There is … no vice more offensive than avarice, especially in men who stand foremost and hold the helm of state. For to exploit the state for selfish profit is not only immoral; it is criminal, infamous. And so the oracle, which the Pythian Apollo uttered, that ‘Sparta should not fall from any other cause than avarice,’ seems to be a prophecy not to the Lacedaemonians alone, but to all wealthy nations as well.”]
[105. ][Sallust, Bellum Catilinae, 11.8: “Even the wise have their temper tried by prosperity” (trans. Alfred W. Pollard, London: MacMillan, 1882).]
[106. ][Horace, Epistles, 1.6.15–18: “Let the wise man bear the name of madman, the just of unjust, should he pursue Virtue herself beyond due bounds. Go now, gaze with rapture on silver plate, antique marble, bronzes and works of art; ‘marvel’ at gems and Tyrian dyes.”]
[107. ][Cornelius Nepos, “Life of Atticus,” 8.5: “He was tasteful rather than magnificent, distinguished rather than extravagant; and all his efforts were in the direction of elegance, not of excess. His furniture was modest, not abundant, so that it attracted attention in neither direction” (Loeb translation by John C. Rolfe).]
[108. ][Alexander Pope, Epistle to Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington, lines 179–80.]
[1. ][Horace, Odes, 4.4.33–34: “Yet training increases inborn worth, and righteous ways make strong the heart” (Loeb translation by C. E. Bennett). This is also Locke’s motto for Some Thoughts Concerning Education.]
[2. ][Horace, Ars Poetica, lines 141–42: “Sing, Muse, for me the man who on Troy’s fall / Saw the wide world, its ways and cities all” (the opening of the Odyssey).]