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Since, by the laws of nature, an art can be nothing else than a manner of seizing and presenting a single aspect of the universal model, nothing can be more futile than any effort on the part of the artist to give to his image an additional truth, or an increase of resemblance elicited from a source beyond the sphere of its imitation. In whatever way he borrows, from whencesoever he may draw his resources, whether by an admixture of forms of composition, by a complication of means, by : inclining to identical fidelity, or by all and every transfer of physical or moral qualities from the field of reality to that of imitation, the error is the same, and the result will be alike in all. The efficacy of imitation is destroyed precisely by what it were thus supposed would add to it, and in that case also the mixture of elements neutralizes them.
Of a truth, it is the fictious and incomplete in
every art that constitute it art. It is thence that it derives its principal force, and the effect of its action. And thence, too, proceeds its power of giving pleasure.
It is indeed on this two-fold defect that the condition of the pleasure we receive from imitation is dependent. That condition consists in the mind being apprised, and clearly perceiving that, though the scheme of seducing it may be entertained, the means of deceiving it are wanting, (see hereafter Chap. xiv. on Illusion,) and that what is presented to it, is truly a thing which is the image of some other. Then, nowise doubting but that the imitable object or subject is shown only in a single one of its aspects, it enjoys so much the more in proportion as, captivated by the art that concentres it in that one point of view, it neither desires, nor thinks of suspecting there is
Let the real be substituted more or less in place of the fictious, by a near approach in the work of imitation to that physical or moral identity of which we have so often spoken ; let the resemblance in every art be rendered absolutely complete by a superaddition of individual and vulgar truth, or by the combination of means appertaining to another imitative mode ; let, for instance, all that art has clothed with poetical metaphor, be restored to precise language, and what will be the consequence? The disenchant
ment of reality substituted for the charm of imitation. But it is argued that there will be the pleasure to be derived from nature. Even so; but art has nothing to do with such pleasure. It is not concerned about the pleasure experienced on viewing nature herself and in herself, but contrariwise, nature in her image. To enjoy nature, requires neither forms nor means of art. To disannul art, or, which is the same thing, the representative effect of its image, would be doing like the child, who, when breaking the mirror, in order to lay hold on his own reflected appearance, annihilated the one by destroying the other.
Such, then, is the result of that complement which foolish and ignorant persons would fain add to every imitative mode; and it is the same in all, save that it will be more palpable with regard to those, which, by material means, directly affect the external organs.
Let, for instance, the reality instead of the image of the objects be introduced in the scenery of the stage. Let me behold through a real opening at the extremity of the stage, the mountains of the country beyond, and the sea with vessels floating on its waves, instead of the pictorial representation of a similar scene. Substitute, for the curtain and the side scenes, natural trees and solid columns and buildings; I know not what
As at the theatre at Lisbon.
pleasure the display of such realities might afford me; but I am very certain that whatever pleasure I might experience, it would not be that which
must result from imitation. Г r Suppose that in the pantomimic fictions of bat
tles, sieges, onsets or assaults, some real circumstance should change the combatants into actual antagonists ... You exclaim, stop! for humanity revolts at it . . . And should not good taste equally revolt at appearances bordering so closely on the thing itself, which, by means of a coarse illusion, give too violent a shock to the senses? Such is in fact the case, when in the midst of the sacking and burning of towns, we see little puppets thrown down into the flames, and imitation so far belied through an excess of truth, as that those factitious tumbles are even accompanied by
real cries, and that too when the sight is the only L organ that ought rightly to be addressed.
Errors are better understood, and more readily acknowledged when they are such that the external sense is a sufficient judge. No one therefore attempts to justify the spurious illusion of those painted statues which at a distance surprise the inattentive beholder. Every one knows that the effect of such imitative combination is null, inasmuch as it is not perceived, and perhaps it is still more so when it is found out. For it
well be said of it, Tant qu'on ne le sait pas, ce n'est rien ; dès qu'on le sait, c'est peu
Nevertheless, the very same thing that is by common agreement censured in all those cases, as destroying, in regard to the sight, the very essence of imitation, by depriving it of its fictious attributes, is committed and approved of towards the mind in those arts, and in those divisions of them, which are less in affinity with matter and with the senses.
And what other result do they attain, than that of diminishing and frequently disannulling the efficacy of their own imitation, who associate with it either an alien imitation, or a charm-dispelling reality, and who consider themselves warranted (as we have before seen) in introducing vulgar language into an heroic action, by an alliance of elements altogether incompatible; who mingle, with the sublime sentiments of the most affecting incidents, burlesque circumstances derived from the social condition of the lowest grades; who are desirous that every thing should be done and said, in poetry, and on the stage, as it actually takes place on the world's stage; who think that theatrical delivery should not differ from common conversation, nor theatrical action from familiar bearing; who, not knowing how to distinguish imitative truth from servile transcript, would wish that the fidelity of the pantographe, or the cameraobscura should be the measure of pictorial verisimilitude in the arts of design; who acknowledge no other resemblance than that of portraiture, no other