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In every sort of writing intended for amusement, variety is necessary in proportion to the length of the work. Want of variety is sensibly felt in Davila's history of the civil wars of France: the events are indeed important and various; but the reader languishes by a tiresome monotorty of character, every person engaged being figured a con. summate politician, governed by interest only. It is bard to say, whether Ovid disgusts more by too great variety, or too great uniformity: his stories are all of the same kind, concluding invariably with the transformation of one being into another; and so far he is tiresome by excess in uniformity : he is not less fatiguing by excess in variety, burrying his reader incessantly from story to story. Ariosto is still more fatiguing than Ovid, by exceed. ing the just bounds of variety: not satisfied, like Ovid, with a succession in his stories, he distracts the reader, by jumbling together a multitude of them without any connexion. Nor is the Orlando Furioso less tiresome by its uniformity than the Metamorphoses, though in a different manner : after a story is brought to a crisis, the reader, intent on the catastrophe, is suddenly snatched away to a new story, which makes no impression so long as the mind is occupied with the former. This tantalising method, from which the author never once swerves during the course of a long work, beside its uniformity, has another bad effect: it prevents that sympatby, which is raised by an interesting event when the reader meets with no interruption.
The emotions produced by our perceptions in a train, have been little considered, and less understood ; the subject therefore required an elaborate discussion. It may surprise some readers to find variety treated as only contributing to make a train of perceptions pleasant, when it is commonly held to be a necessary ingredient in beauty of whatever kind; according to the definition, “ That beauty 66 consists in uniformity amid variety.” But, after the subject is explained and illustrated as above, I presume it will be evident, that this definition, bow. ever applicable to one or other species, is far from being just with respect to beauty in general: varie. ty contributes no share to the beauty of a moral action, nor of a mathematical theorem: and numberless are the beautiful objects of sight that have little or no variety in them; a globe, the most uniform of all figures, is of all the most beautiful; and a square, though more beautiful than a trape. zium, hath less variety in its constituent parts. The foregoing definition, which at best is but obscurely expressed, is only applicable to a number of objects in a group or in succession, among which indeed a due mixture of uniformity and variety is always agreeable ; provided the particular objects, separately considered, be in any degree beautiful, for uniformity amid variety among ugly objects, affords no pleasure. This circumstance is totally omitted in the definition ; and indeed to have men. tioned it, would at the very first glance have shown the definition to be imperfect: for to define beauty as arising from beautiful objects blended together in a due proportion of uniformity and variety, would be too gross to pass current: as nothing can be more gross, than to employ in a definition the very term that is to be explained. APPENDIX TO CHAPTER IX.
Concerning the Works of Nature, chiefly with respect to
Uniformity and Variety.
In things of Nature's workmanship, whether we regard their internal or external structure, beau. ty and design are equally conspicuous. We shall begin with the outside of nature, as what first presents itself.
The figure of an organic body is generally regular. The trunk of a tree, its branches, and their ramifications, are nearly round, and form a series regularly decreasing from the trunk to the smallest fibre: uniformity is no where more remarkable than in the leaves, which, in the same species, have all the same colour, size, and shape : the seeds and fruits are all regular figures, approaching for the most part to the globular form. Hence a plant, especially of the larger kind, with its trunk, branches, foliage, and fruit, is a charming object.
In an animal, the trunk, which is much larger than the other parts, occupies a chief place : its shape, like that of the stem of plants, is nearly round; a figure which of all is the most agreeable : its two sides are precisely similar: several of the under parts go off in pairs; and the two individuals of each pair are accurately uniform: the single parts are placed in the middle: the limbs bearing a certain proportion to the trunk, serve to support it, and to give it a proper elevation : upon one extremity are disposed the neck and head, in the di. rection of the trunk : the head being the chief part, possesses with great propriety the chief place. Hence, the beauty of the whole figure, is the result of many equal and proportional parts orderly disposed; and the smallest variation in number, equality, proportion, or order, never fails to produce a perception of deformity.
Nature in no particular seems more profuse of ornament, than in the beautiful colouring of her works. The flowers of plants, the furs of beasts, and the feathers of birds, vie with each other in the beauty of their colours, which in lustre as well as in barmony are beyond the power of imitation. Of all natural appearances, the colouring of the human face is the most exquisite: it is the strongest instance of the ineffable art of nature, in adapting and proportioning its colours to the magnitude, figure, and position, of the parts. In a word, colour seems to live in nature only, and to languish under the finest touches of art,
When we examine the internal structure of a plant or animal, a wonderful subtilty of mechanism is displayed. Man, in bis mechanical operations, is confined to the surface of bodies; but the operations of nature are exerted through the whole substance, so as to reach even the elementary parts. Thus the body of an animal, and of a plant, are composed of certain great vessels; these of small. er; and these again of still smaller, without end, as far as we can discover. This power of diffusing mechanism through the most intimate parls, is peculiar to nature, and distinguishes her operations, most remarkably, from every work of art. Such texture, continued from the grosser parts to the most minute, preserves all along the strictest regularity: the fibres of plants are a bundle of cylindric canals, lying in the same direction, and parallel or nearly parallel to each other : in some instances, a most accurate arrangement of parts is discovered, as in onions, formed of concentric coats, one within another, to the very centre. An animal body is still more admirable, in the disposition of its internal parts, and in their order and symmetry; there is not a bone, a muscle, a blood vessel, a nerve, that hath not one corresponding to it on the opposite side; and the same order is carried through the most minute parts : the lungs are composed of two parts, which are disposed upon the sides of the thorax; and the kidneys, in a lower situation, have a position no less orderly: as to the parts that are single, the heart is advantageously situated near the middle; the liver, stomach, and spleen, are disposed in the upper region of the abdomen, about the same height: the bladder is placed in the middle of the body, as well as the intestinal canal, which fills the whole cavity with its convolutions.
The mechanical power of nature, not confined to small bodies, reacheth equally those of the greatest size; witness the bodies that compose the solar system, which, however large, are weighed, measured and subjected to certain laws, with the utmost accuracy. Their places round the sun, with their distances, are determined by a precise rule, corresponding to their quantity of matter. The superior dignity of the central body, in respect to its bulk and lucid appearance, is suited to the place it occupies. The globular figure of these bodies, is not only in itself beautiful, but is above all others fitted for regular motion. Each planet revolves about its own axis in a given time; and each moves round the sun, in an orbit nearly circular, and in a time proportioned to its distance. Their velocities, directed by an established law, are perpetually changing by regular accelerations and retardations. In fine, the great variety of regular appearances, joined with the beauty of the system itself, cannot fail to produce the highest delight in every one who is sensible of design, power, or beauty.