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and deprived of every characteristic of true imitation.
It may further be remarked, how pervading is the influence of a false principle, and how, without any attention being paid to it, it is the means of corrupting little by little the works of an age or nation, owing both to the genius that produces and the taste that encourages them.
Is it possible that we can be mistaken in attributing to this true materialism, this purely sensual taste, the indifference evinced towards historical painting, which, above all other, should appeal to the mind, and the preference for a form of composition branded with disgrace by the ancients in the name they applied to it,* and which is become so dear to modern times, revelling as it does in the objects of vulgar nature, in all that is base and ignoble in the condition of society, and finding numbers of admirers, now that nothing more than material enjoyments for the senses are any longer required ?
Is not the effect of this principle betrayed in the predilection which has for a long time been evinced by our audiences, for the depicting, or rather the absolute reality of subjects produced from the very filth of the kennels, from the vilest wretches and miscreants that crowd our streets,
Rhyparography. The depicting obscene and vulgar things. and which are no longer brought forward on the stage with the mask of caricature, that might at least become the image of them, and assist comparison, but with so shameless and gross a reality; that there is no necessity to have actors to perform such pieces, and still less authors to com
IN EVERY ART THERE MUST BE, WITH RESPECT TO TRUTH,
SOME FICTION, AND, WITH RESPECT TO RESEMBLANCE, SOMETHING INCOMPLETE.
If it be true that each of the fine arts can only comprehend a part of the great and universal model, and can only reproduce that portion corresponding with the means that are appropriate to it, by what is termed an image, one is compelled to acknowledge that the imitation granted by nature to every imitative mode, must necessarily remain incomplete as regards similarity, and fictious in what appertains to truth.
These two facts, whose consequences are as important as they are numerous, cannot be impugned in any thing whatever relating to the function of the senses. As, for instance, the figure designed under one point of view, is evidently deficient in all the others under which the same figure might have been represented; it is in like manner fully as evident, with respect to the mind, that whatever qualities and properties are depen
dent on the especial nature of the model, material, or instruments of any art, will be wanting to another whose model, material, and instruments are different. And this is what constitutes the incompleteness of every art in as far as resemblance is concerned.
What constitutes the fictious character of an art, is its inability to produce any other than an apparent and feigned impression of the imitable object, one which is opposed to that of the thing itself or of the absolute truth. Thus no one mistakes the nature of that fictious truth which occasions us pleasure on seeing the bust of a person chiselled out of a bit of white marble or cast in bronze; on seeing an actor personate on the stage a very different being from himself; in hearing the poet compensate, by his artificial and measured language, for the freedom of actual speech, or the sounds of instruments, substituted for the effects of the real noise or articulation of the voice. All these are so many fictions that cannot be mistaken. Every one is compelled to admit their existence with respect to the material or mechanical part of all the fine arts, since they are so many facts attested by the external senses.
But to acknowledge that every art is, as a consequence of the physical laws of nature, limited to an incomplete and fictious imitation, is to acknowledge, as contrary to nature, every borrowed means, by which one art might acquire, at the expense of another, an increase of physical resemblance, or an excess of absolute truth.
We have before demonstrated, (see Chapter iv.) that whatever is indisputable according to the physical laws of imitation, cannot but hold good with respect to the moral ideas or intellectual qualities, which it is the office of the mind to judge of.
It remains then to show by virtue of the laws that govern the nature of moral imitation, that the means derived from it impose on every art the necessity of presenting to the mind none but fictious and incomplete images.
Take for example the dramatic art ; in what other is the necessity for that sort of falsity, that fiction which is the main support of verisimilitude on the stage, so clearly manifested to the taste and understanding ?
What more appropriate name could be adopted for that altogether conventional arrangement to which the poet is bound to subordinate all his facts, all the incidents that form the ground-work of his subject, or, to use a preferable term, of his fable? What is that agreement which he would fain institute between the causes of the event that he modifies, and the effects he requires them to produce ? What are those contrasted combinations of forms and features, with which his imagination clothes all the characters that he traces, in order to render them mutually more forcible and vivid ?