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imitation of man, than that of a man; who, mistaken in their notions of imitative variety, (see Chap. vii.) set the pleasure it occasions to the account of the promiscuous commingling of different forms of composition; and finally, who believe they are rendering a service to art by removing the difficulty that attends the attainment of positive truth in images which are but fictious, and the production of a complete resemblance by means fitted only to make it less perfect?
What result can possibly follow from all such endeavours; but that, while believing they are adding to the efficacy of art by augmenting the identity between the image and its model, they are more or less enfeebling the distinctness of that line of demarcation which ought to separate nature from imitation; and the consequence must be that both the truth of art and of nature will alike be absent. To deliver art from the trammels which occasion the difficulty of its operations would be to dispense with the efforts it must make in order to appear not to need such exemption. To take away its subserviency would be to cut off from it the source of that resistance which is the cause of its strength. It would be just as though one were to free the dancer from the clog of keeping time, while the merit as well as the pleasure of the dance arises from the very circumstance that its action is subjected to that clog.
How strange is the ignorance, how singular the delusion evinced by that inability to discern what constitutes, throughout every form of composition, the merit and the pleasure of imitation ! which merit and pleasure consist in producing resemblance, notwithstanding the dissimilarity, in giving the effect of the reality and of the object despite what is wanting in order to its being the real object; in appearing the thing itself, by means different and far distant from it; in the banishing even a suspicion of constraint while under the very yoke of rules, attaining the charm of ease in the midst of difficulties, producing an impression of the true with the elements of the false, giving life to what is but a shadow, and from the nonentity of fiction calling forth the wonder of existence.
IN WHAT MANNER AND BY WHAT MEANS ART IS ENABLED TO
CORRECT THE FICTIOUS, AND TO COMPENSATE THE INCOM
PLETE, NECESSARILY INHERENT IN IT.
In subjects like the present, too much attention cannot be paid in order to render one's meaning clear and intelligible. Gross errors border closely on subtle truths, and an almost imperceptible partition frequently separates the rational from the absurd.
We have now before us an instance where the true and the false appear to come in contact. Nothing more possible than that ignorance or inattention should mistake the sense of the words and make the thing expressed belie the idea, and the idea its expression.
In this way the most startling consequences might be drawn from what we have advanced on the nature of imitation, and the importance it is of to the arts that it should never cease to appear imitation; from the opinion we entertain (as will be developed in the following chapter,)that illusion,
as it is usually understood, is not the legitimate end of imitation, and finally that something fictious and incomplete must form part of the character of every art.
Undoubtedly we do not mean that the artist ought to render that deficiency, inherent in every mode of imitation, still more evident than it is. We do not mean that art should make a parade if we may so speak, of what is wanting to it; that, turning traitor to itself, it herald its own impotence, and put the mind on its guard against every
) kind of seduction. : If that were the only purpose of the artist, his task would be easy indeed. . We know but too well how numerous are the means within the reach of every body for preserving the eye and the mind from every possible charm. Such art has small need of theory or precept.
A moment's consideration will suffice to decide that to draw such an inference would be a ridiculous exaggeration, not to say parody.
Not only should the artist be careful not to overstrain the degree of that kind of improbability, fiction and incompleteness, which is con-] ditional to his art; but he must exert all his talent to palliate its result, and its effect on the senses or the mind.
I have already said that the merit and the charm of every art consists in pleasing, notwithstanding the hindrances that render success dif
ficult. I am now about to show in what
all may succeed, and by what secret they may triumph over every opposing obstacle.
That secret is universally known, nor is there
It is perfection ; and this word requires no explanation, since it serves to characterise all the kinds of qualities and excellencies that can be combined in a work.
Perfection it is that must compensate and that does in fact compensate, in the partial work of imitation, otherwise speaking, in the image, for all that nature denies to art in order to its being or appearing its equal.
That perfection, when it exists in a work, becomes an indemnity for what is wanting to every art. So great is the sufficiency of such indemnity, that we not only do not think of complaining of what is deficient, but we no longer perceive it, or, if we should chance to do so, it is but that we may applaud.
The hardness of the material of a fine statue and its black or white colour, is not only far from offending us, but if we advert to it, it proves an additional pleasure, and instead of complaining of the hardness of the stone, we are desirous that it should be the very hardest. In a master-piece of painting, the perfection of the harmony and the perspective, makes us forget its limited
and flat surface. Neither does the want of resem