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CHAPTER VII.

OF UNITY AND VARIETY IN IMITATION.

OF THE FALSE NO

TIONS ARISING FROM A MISCONCEPTION OF THOSE WORDS.

A NECESSARY consequence of the unity of the mind, and the unity of its action, is the principle of the different laws of unity, the observance of which, imposed by nature on every imitative mode, and on every work of imitation, is a condition of their existence as such, and of their means of affording pleasure.

But this unity of the mind, when considered (see the preceding Chapter) in the effects which disclose it to us, and the unity of its action, when studied in the impressions we receive from objects, does not admit of being, and must not be, applied in so strict a sense as that we attach, for instance, to a mathematical point, or numerical unity.

It has been already observed, that the facility with which the mind can pass from one object to another, seems to us to endow it with a power of giving to what is plural, the force and effect of unity; which is as much as to say that it transforms into a whole, parts remote or distinct from one another. But a limit is set to this faculty in the comparative distance or difference of objects; and it is for reason and taste to define that limit, since it is by the abuse of one or other of them, that those errors are committed, which it is our present purpose to correct.

If reason is so far abused as to restrict the idea of unity in imitation, by reducing it as nearly as possible to that of unity, mathematically understood, every art and every work of art will become so devoid of means, and so uniform in effect, that scarcely any scope will be left to the mind, and its action will be rendered next to useless.

If, allowing an excessive freedom to taste, the idea of unity, morally considered, be too far generalized, and the power of that faculty which the mind possesses of bringing near together and combining objects, be over estimated, every art will be compelled to abandon its unity, and become multiple, and every work will necessarily present to us, not well arranged images, but complications of images, which, instead of forming a whole, will consist of several incoherent wholes, and the mind with its utmost attention will be unable to grasp them.

The first of these two errors consists in con- !

founding unity with uniformity; the second, in taking universality for unity.

Uniformity far from being the same as unity, is, on the contrary, with reference to art and imitation, its very antagonist principle. The mind requires unity, because it requires that whatever is presented for it to view or comprehend, be, above all, clear and distinct, and because confusion is a source of toil. It is the simplicity attendant on unity that renders the act of viewing, comparing, and judging comparatively easy. But are we therefore to infer that the mind requires from painting, nothing more than figures arranged in a straight line ; from architecture than a façade without division and without details; from the art of speaking than a discourse without alternations; from that of singing than unisonant concords; from the poet than a drama without action, recitals without fiction, compositions without episodes? Assuredly not. On the contrary, it calls in variety to the aid of unity. Variety acts as a stimulant to excite and keep alive the appetite.

The very clear and simple notion of the two opposites of unity and universality will readily enable us to understand how little synonymous they

As plurality is the opposite of unity, so, as we have already said in the preceding chapter, the opposite of the universal is the partial. It would therefore evince a total neglect, in theory, of the imitative unity belonging to every art, to transfer the notion of art in general to that of a single art in particular, or to attribute to its individual properties the collective power of those that would belong to universal imitation, could such a thing exist. It would evince an equal neglect of imitative unity, in practice, to endeavour to substitute for the unity of the partial image, which gives only one of the aspects of the object imitated, the universality of the model, that is, in all its points of view; and to aim at crowding together in one work of art, by borrowing and filching from the properties of the rest, those qualities which nature, as we have seen, has divided and parcelled out among them all.

are.

I should also be departing from the unity of my subject, did I follow out these few notions, in all the universality they would well require. In adverting to the two principal errors to which the notion of imitative unity is liable, I have merely endeavoured to shed some little light on a point, which the ambiguity of language has served to render still more obscure, and at the same time to explain clearly the sense in which I have here I made use of the words imitative unity.

Now that sense is here rather that which belongs to the general idea of imitation, than to its particular acceptation, to the imitative system and not to the work of the imitator; in short, to the art rather than to its work. Not that I have forgotten the particular kind of unity belonging to the work, and to which the artist is subjected in the composition and execution of his subjects, in order to render them clear, intelligible, and harmonious, to the eye and the mind.

But the law of this kind of unity is secondary, and is found to be necessarily comprised in the more general principle of imitative unity, belonging to art in the abstract, which principle imposes an obligation on every art to employ exclusively in the execution of its works, such imitative means as lie within its own proper sphere and prerogative.

The principle of imitative unity it is, that requires that each of the fine arts, and, in the same art, as poetry, each of the forms of composition, distinguished by name only, but separated from each other by nature, should be restricted from calling to its aid, in its own proper work, any other art, or form of composition in art, in order to add other and foreign resources to its own proper ones, -- to increase the share of the universal model that belongs to it for imitation.

With a view to render the application of this principle of imitative unity still clearer, it will be well to exemplify it by a few instances drawn from the technical or material labours of some of the arts. By it, the sculptor is interdicted from aiming at the effect of distances or perspective drawing in his basso relievo; the personages in pantomime from speaking otherwise than by ges

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