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tures; the painter from treating more than one subject in a picture. It seems to me needless to enter into any lengthened disquisition to prove that the consequences of the same principle apply equally, in every art, to its most important, its moral part, which comprehends whatever is, in any of them, dependent on invention, taste in composition, choice of subjects, and all the properties inherent to their nature.
I can easily conceive that numerous innovators will exclaim against this restrictive system of imitation, and urge in opposition the want of that pleasure which arises from variety, that also being, as heretofore remarked, one of the wants of the mind not to be disregarded in imitation, and which assuredly it must be the artist's care to satisfy.
The same confusion of ideas is prevalent with regard to the notion of variety, as that of unity ; which is natural enough, seeing that the notion of the one is dependent on that of the other. Thus nothing is so common as to see continually renewed efforts to attain imitative variety, not by legitimate means and within the circle of a single art, but by mixing together the heterogeneous elements of many, as though genius were too much straitened when confined within the limits of one department of imitation, and circumscribed within a horizon too narrow to furnish sufficient means of variety, as if those means were or could be exhausted.
Yet is not the field of nature, alike infinite in each of its parts, as in its whole, laid open to us ? Is there any one province of any one art that does not correspond to some one of the parts or divisions of nature? If such be the case, is there a single art that fails in finding the infinite within the space allotted to it, and in which, consequently, the artist has not at command innumerable means of variety for his work? For instance, has a limit ever been assigned to the imitative variety of effects which the single art of painting can produce, by no other means than those of four colours, and without seeking beyond the subjects placed by nature at its disposal.
As each of the fine arts has its imitative unity, , so each must have its corresponding imitative variety; but there can be no correspondence unless its means are restricted within the same circle of unity in art.
It is very evident that they who would substitute universality of imitation in lieu of imitative unity, are also desirous of exchanging imitative variety for diversity of imitation. The spirit of paradox, in subjects like the present, readily finds assistance, or takes refuge in those twofold meanings which the words of a language acquire in general usage, more especially such as admit only of a relative acceptation. Of this kind is the word variety, which sometimes through ignorance, sometimes from want of reflection, but more fre
quently from a spirit of system, is employed as synonymous with other words expressive either of a different idea, or the same idea, though in a very different degree and under different relations.
It is however through a wilful perversion of terms, that medley, confusion and divergence, have ever come to be considered as variety, because, truly enough, there is vuriety in productions where incongruity and confusion are discoverable. But were those words in
it must follow that, as in confusion there is variety, so in variety there must be confusion. The error betrays itself; and thus sufficiently establishes the distinction between the two ideas.
Will any one be bold enough to maintain that there is nothing more than variety, for instance, in those fantastical combinations of different natural objects, by which the imagination is sometimes pleased to create monsters? There would doubtless be a variety of species of animals in a picture representing to us separately the creatures which Horace, in his illustration of extravagance, has thought fit to join together. But if in a painting these several species were found jumbled together, and forming one monstrous, and ridiculous being, would it be variety, would it not rather be considered a masterpiece of incongruities and absurdities? Humano capiti cervicem pictor equinam, &c.
Here then is a twofold example; first, of imi
tative and legitimate variety allowing of none other than natural alliances; and secondly, of corrupt and factitious variety occasioned by a promiscuous and unnatural mingling of heterogeneous beings, productive only of monstrosities. Thus may
the artist find an inexhaustible source of variety in the elements of his own art, those only being his proper instruments. But what he seeks to attain by an allayment of the different natures of two or more arts, is not variety. I say allayment, because that word is directly expressive of an idea very distinct from that of union. Allayment tends to form but one substance out of many; while union leaves each material distinct.
Now, as we shall presently see, it is no infringement on the principle of imitative unity and variety, when different arts concur in a composition which may be the conjoint work of several, but only when they mingle together and surreptitiously intervene in what ought to be the work of a single art.
CONCERNING THE NATURE AND SPIRIT OF THE UNIONS FORMED
OF SEVERAL ARTS WHEN THEY ARE COLLECTIVELY EMPLOYED
ABOUT A WORK IN COMMON.
We have already had occasion to maintain, (see Chap. vi.), that the mind cannot be susceptible of two impressions at once, that where several are received they must be received in succession, and that the impressions are slighter in proportion as that succession is more rapid.
In order to arrive at this conviction, let us examine more narrowly into what takes place in the operation of the senses.
It cannot have escaped the observation of any one that as the number of objects in propinquity to the
eye is greater, it becomes less capable of including many of them within its range. At a farther distance, not only will the eye discern a greater number of them at once, but will be even able to regard several fixedly and together. Why is this? because, through the effect of distance the objects lose more or less of their apparent