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Nature hath a wonderful power of connecting systems with each other, and of propagating that connexion through all her works. Thus the constituent parts of a plant, the roots, the stem, the branches, the leaves, the fruit, are really different systems, united by a mutual dependence on each other : in an animal, the lymphatic and lacteal ducts, the blood vessels and nerves, the muscles and glands, the bones and cartilages, the membranes and bowels, with the other organs, form distinct systems, which are united into one whole. There are, at the same time, other connexions less intimate : every plant is joined to the earth by its roots; it requires rain and dews to furnish it with juices ; and it requires heat to preserve these juices in fluidity and motion : every animal, by its gravi. ty, is connected with the earth, with the element in which it breathes, and with the sun, by deriving from it cherishing and enlivening heat: the earth furnisheth aliment to plants, these to animals, and these again to other animals, in a long train of dependence: that the earth is part of a greater system, comprehending many bodies mutually attracting each other, and gravitating all toward one common centre, is now thoroughly explored. Such a regular and uniform series of connexions, propagated through so great a number of beings, and through such wide spaces, is wonderful: and our wonder must increase, when we observe these connexions propagated from the minutest atoms to bodies of the most enormous size, and so widely diffused as that we can neither perceive their beginning nor their end. That these connexions are not confined within our own planetary system, is certain : they are diffused over spaces still more remote, where new bodies and systems rise without end. All space is filled with the works of God,
which are conducted by one plan, to answer on. erringly one great end.
But the most wonderful connexion of all, though not the most conspicuous, is that of our internal frame with the works of nature : man is obyiously fitted for contemplating these works, because in this contemplation he has great delight. The works of nature are remarkable in their uniformity no less than in their variety; and the mind of man is fitted to receive pleasure equally from both, Uniformity and variety are interwoven in the works of nature with surprising art: variety, however great, is never without some degree of uniformity; nor the greatest uniformity without some degree of variety : there is great variety in the same plant, by the different appearances of its stem, branches, leaves, blossoms, fruit, size, and colour; and yet, when we trace that variety through different plants, especially of the same kind, there is discovered a surprising uniformity: again, where nature seems to have intended the most exact uniformity, as among individuals of the same kind, there still appears a diversity, which serves readily to distinguish one individual from another. It is indeed admirable, that the human visage, in which uniformity is so prevalent, should yet be so marked, as to leave no room, among millions, for mistaking one person for another: these marks, though clearly perceived, are generally so delicate, that words cannot be found to describe them. A correspondence so perfect between the human mind and the works of nature, is extremely remarkable. The opposition between variety and uniformity is so great, that one would not readily imagine they could both be relished by the same palate ; at least not in the same object, nor at the same time : it is however true, that the pleasures they afford, being VOL. I.
happily adjusted to each other, and readily mixing in intimate union, are frequently produced by the same individual object. Nay, further, in the objects that touch us the most, uniformity and variety are constantly combined; witness natural objects, where this combination is always found in perfection. Hence it is, that natural objects readily form themselves into groups, and are agreeable in whatever manner combined : a wood with its trees, shrubs, and herbs, is agreeable: the music of birds, the lowing of cattle, and the murmuring of a brook, are in conjunction delightful; though they strike the ear without modulation or harmony. In short, nothing can be more happily accommodated to the inward constitution of man, than tbat mixture of uniformity with variety, which the eye dis- . covers in natural objects; and, accordingly, the mind is never more highly gratified than in contemplating a natural landscape.
Congruity and Propriety.
MAN is superior to the brute, not more by his rational faculties, than by his senses. With respect to external senses, brutes probably yield not to men; and they may also have some obscore perception of beauty : but the more delicate sepses of regularity, order, uniformity, and congruity, be. ing connected with morality and religion, are reserved to dignify the chief of the terrestrial crea. tion. Upon that account, no discipline is more suitable to man, nor more congruous to the dignity of his nature, and that which refines bis taste, and leads him to distinguish, in every subject, what is regular, what is orderly, what is suitable, and what is fit and proper.*
It is clear from the very conception of the terms congruity and propriety, that they are not applicable to any single object : they imply a plurality, and obviously signify a particular relation between different objects. Thus we say currently, that a decent garb is suitable or proper for a judge, modest behaviour for a young woman, and a lofty
* Nec vero illa parva vis naturæ est rationisque, quod unum hoc animal sentit quid sit ordo, quid sit quod deceat in factis dictisque, qui modus. Itaque eorum ipsorum, quæ aspectu sentiuntur, nullum aliud animal, pulchritudinem, venustatem, convenientiam partium sentit. Quam similitudinem natura ratioque ab oculis ad animum transferens, multo etiam magis pulchritudinem, constantiam, ordi. nem, in consiliis factisque conservandum putat, cavetque ne quid in. decore effeminateve faciat; tum in omnibus et opinionibus et factis ne quid libidinose aut faciat aut cogitet. Quibus ex rebus conflatur et efficitur id, quod quærimus, honestum. Cicero de Oficiis, l.i.
style for an epic poem : and, on the other hand, that it is unsuitable or incongruous to see a little woman sunk in an overgrown farthingale, a coat richly embroidered covering coarse and dirty linen, a mean subject in an elevated style, an elevated subject in a mean style, a first minister darning his wife's stocking, or a reverend prelate in lawn sleeves dancing a hornpipe.
The perception we have of this relation, which seems peculiar to man, cannot proceed from any other cause, but from a sense of congruity or propriety; for, supposing us destitute of that sense, the terms would be to us unintelligible. *
It is matter of experience, that congruity or propriety, wherever perceived, is agreeable; and that incongruity or impropriety, wherever perceived, is disagreeable. The only difficulty is, to ascertain what are the particular objects that in conjunction suggest these relations; for there are many objects that do not: the sea, for example, viewed in conjunction with a picture, or a man viewed in conjunction with a mountain, suggest not either congruity or incongruity. It seems natural to infer,
* From many things that pass current in the world without being generally condemned, one at first view would imagine, that the sense of congruity or propriety hath scarce any foundation in nature ; and that it is rather an artificial refinement of those who affect to distin. guish themselves from others. The fulsome panegyrics bestowed upon the great and opulent, in epistles dedicatory and other such compositions, would incline us to think so. Did there prevail in the world, it will be said, or did nature suggest, a taste of what is suitable, decent, or proper, would any good writer deal in such compositions, or any man of sense receive them without disgust? Can it be supposed that Lewis XIV. of France was endued by nature with any sense of propriety, when, in a dramatic performance purposely composed for his entertainment, he suffered himself, publicly and in his presence, to be styled the greatest king ever the earth produced? These, it is true, are strong facts ; but luckily they do not prove the sense of propriety to be artificial : they only prove, that the sense of propriety is at times overpowered by pride and vanity ; which is no singular case, for that sometimes is the fate even of the sense of jus. tice.