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dance with the genius proper to each kind of imitation. Nothing relative to execution, such as it is understood in ordinary language, is introduced in treating on the theory of these specific
In short, be it understood, that the question to be discussed is the means of imitation, and not those of the imitator.
I do not conceal from myself how much a work on a theory more or less abstract, relating to the fine arts, may have to dread from many of its readers. On a subject of this kind, some would wish to find definite ideas that the mind may easily refer to things of common experience. Others, thinking that in discoursing of the fine arts an ornate style ought only to be employed, require of the author brilliant sketches which may lay hold on the imagination, high sounding passages, and graphic descriptions, pleasing to the ear and the senses, but which leave no permanent idea in the mind. But what was to be done? Every one in treating on a subject selects some particular point of view. To this he ought to adhere, and in consequence must expect that his views will not accord with the opinions or inclinations of all. Every subject, be it what it may, has its own peculiar judges, and it is their suffrages that one ought to be ambitious to obtain ; their actual number being a matter of trifling importance.
I foresee, moreover, an objection that will be
urged. It will be asked what good end such a theory will serve, and whether it can avail towards the production of better works. To this I would reply, — “I think that the beautiful works of art have rather given birth to theories, than theories to beautiful works. But there exist also theories which are, in their kind, beautiful works, and from which many derive pleasure.
derive pleasure. Thus it were not more fitting to ask of what use is the art of poetry, than of what use is a poem.”
OF THE NATURE OF IMITATION IN THE FINE
Non res sed similitudines rerum.
Cicero, De Nat. Deor., L. 1. $ 27.
DEFINITION OF THE ELEMENTARY PRINCIPLE OF IMITATION IN
THE FINE ARTS.
AFTER having restricted the theory of imitation, as will have been seen in the Introduction, to what, by common agreement are termed the fine arts, I here propose to contract still further the circle of ideas which form the subject of this First Part. Far from ranging the circumference, as varied as extensive, of the imitative region of the works of genius, whose effects are every where felt, it is in the very centre of the principle on which that imitation which is proper to the fine arts is constituted, that I purpose to confine myself,
I have then no intention, in treating on the nature of imitation, to scrutinize its secret relations, by an analysis of the different kinds of impressions produced by its works, nor, in short, to lay down all that would be requisite to render the subject com
plete. I wish only to investigate and point out ✓ what imitation in the fine arts ought to be, in order to constitute imitation.
Thus it is its elementary principle, its intrinsic character, in other words, its essence which I design to discover and unfold.
The imitative faculty is truly characteristic of man ; it is concerned in all his acts, it enters into all his works; among all creatures it belongs to him, and to him alone, in such wise that he may be defined by this property, in naming him the imitative animal. Hence, the numberless different significations in which the word imitation is employed; hence, the variety of imitative effects which are continually produced in all the works of human industry; and hence, consequently, the necessity of isolating the theory of imitation in the fine arts, and submitting it to an especial investigation.
In order to define it, it is necessary to disengage the idea or notion of it, from those which characterize the imitation proper to the other arts. The habit of confounding properties inherent in two distinct operations of the imitative faculty is the cause of all the mistakes, which, from the manner