Yale University. Class of 1842.

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moral sentiments and states. While, on the one hand, the reve-
lation of them is communicated through the medium of sense, «iill
alt mere outwajrd sensations, all tha1r are possible to the mere ani- -
mal, arQ excluded \ and, on the »otl)er^ while only what is peculiar
to the rational world, comes within the sphere of beaoty, all mere
rational abstractions, all pure intellectual states are also.excluded ;
and an absolute objective beauty lies in the moral world. All
such beauty is moral in its essential nature ; and, so far as it is stu-
died, it will exert on. the admiring student, the influence — the as-
similating and moulding influence, of a purely moral subject.*

-If we pass ik)w, ta the other department of positive.beauty, the
separable and changing, as distinguished, from the fixed and inhe-
rent, denominated grace, we perceive that inasmuch as it depends
on motion, it implies necessarily a cause operating in time* Let us
tak«, as before, for the investigation of its mor& precise moral "bear-
ings, an exemplification of grace in the sensible world, and in its
lowest department. The wavy ascent of a sky-rocket produces
within us the effect of grace. That the grace does not consist in
the mere sensible impression, is plain from the fact that the eye
of a child or of a brute even, may receive that as fully and per-
fectljr as the eye of the ssthetic beholder. The sensible im-
pression is but the medium of the effect of the.grace, just as light
IS the medium of the sensation itself. It is not, further^ the mere
motion that produces the grace ; for the heavy fell of the rocket-
staff has no grace. There is something peculiar to that motion,
which it belongs not to every kind of motion to express. The
mere power which all .motion expresses, but which still none but
the eye of reason can discern in any motion, is not the source of
the emotion of grace. It is ike freedom^ with which the power
seems to act, which is the object of the emotion ; that attribute
which essentially characterizes a moral bemg, and is most perfect
in the most perfect moral state. Yet is it not,^so to speak, blind
arbitrary freedom^ it is not the freedom of caprice ; it is the free-
dom of reason. In other words, in all expressions of gn^je, wherever
found in nature, or in its own proper moral field, there is ever
represented the presence of a power working freely , yet rationally,
or in reference to an. end. . There is no grace in the irregular
leaps of a witch-quilL But in the continued upward flight of the
roctet, there is upparent progress towards a destined end ; while
at the same time, the easy wavings s^em to indicate freedom from

> Grecian Art, at its perfect stage, was exclasively elevatingr and purifying in its
moral influence. Its snbjecis being, exclusively, or a pure aesthetic character in all
departments of Art where the subject was free to the artist, as in painting and sculpture,
and the expression of the subject being conformed to the most perfect aesthetic rules, it
could have but one tendency and effect. It is mainly by the corruption of Art in the
selection of low, immoral, «nd consequenUy nn-sesthetic subjects, mat Art came to be
rather an auxiliary, than an antagonist to vice.

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all outward constraint It is the picture of a living thing, possess-
ing freedom, directing its motions in compliance only with its
own rational will. True, in this case, except on the theory which
excludes the operation of second causes in 1he physical world, it is
a kind of ilhision. Yet is it to the sense the form which freedom^
acting rationally, might present; and through the form, the rational
eye discerns the reality represented ; as the mere superficial
forms of a picture, when the pencil of a Guidb Reni has drawn in.
them the scene of the crucifixion, move our tears of sympathy and
gratitude, as if the reality were before us; or as the mutterijigs of
a maniac, repeating words which are to him unmeaning sounds
that have lost their significance, still carry to the rational listener,
a sense which the wretched madman had not thought to put into
his utterances. All grace in the phy^cal yrorld is, thus, the form
caught up without the life, which an irrational nature repeats, and
yet Knows- not what she utters. He that was made in the ima^
of her Creator'and fashioner, recognises its origin, howevrer ; to him
even the dead form utters a living divine that has^ at least, once
animated it ; and .he yields with a ready pleasure to the sweet
illusion. .

The same conclusion would follow from examining an instance
of the grace of repose. . Although the result only of motion, it is
yet only as the motion is recognised, that grace is discerned.
The graceful composure of an infant's limbs in sleep, excites the
idea of the previous grace of motion that has left its trace behind.

We come, then, in this department of beauty, to the result at
which we arrived in our consideration of fixed or absolute beauty :


But grace is a higher department of beauty than the other ;- for
it more directly and immediately reveals moral life. Grace ini^
plies at once the living person moving freely and rationally. It
reveals a moral action ; while fixed beauty expresses only a moral
state. , It has a more engaging charm; Absolute beauty fixes in
mute admiration ; in pleasing contemplation. Grrace vanishes with
a resistless attraction. According to the beautiful Qredaft myth,
the goddess oi beauty charms only with her girdle of grace ; with
qualities of beauty which are not inherent, but only changing and
separable from the wearer** ^

> The view here presented is conceived to be hannoniotis, or, rather, identical with
that of Oothe, given in varioos oi his writings, and sammed up in the ioHowing of
his aphorisms : ,

" Man is only many-sided," i. e. perfect as an artist, "when l)e strives after the
highest, because he must (in earnestness), and descends to the leaser, wh^ he wiU (i.
e, to sporiiveness).'*

His demand, in perfect art. of the onion of earnestness, seems to amount to nothing
else, when strictly interpreted, than to a demand of freedom, working raiionally, i. e.
to a destined end. Pernaps, nowever, as perfect grace must ^er be conformed to
propriety, since perfect rational freedom must ever be conformed to Uruth, this ele-
ment — propriety, may be rewded as included in bis representation.

• See Schiller's Essay on Grace and Dignity.

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1847.] Necessity of JSsthetic Culture. 641

The third department of beauty is propriety, or cdnformity to
truth in artistic products. We need spend no time in showing the
close alliaiice this sustaitis to morals. Indeed, when we under-
take to explain the essence of abstract morality, the moral power
itself, and the specific form of it being left out of view, we naturally
fall upon terms identical, or synonymous with those by which we
define artistic propriety, and all propriety, appUed to art, which, .
as we have seen, lies in a moral, |>ecau8e .cestbetic sphere, par-
takes itself of a moral character.

How essential propriety is, in all art, is obvious. Grace itself
must conform to the prescriptioiis of propriety; and all absolute
beauty lies bounded and moulded by the determining lines of pro-

Jriety, just as all moral states are shaped harmoniously with truth,
ust so far as propriety is violated, or seemingly so, the impres-
sions of beauty are hindered. Thus the highest beauty becoqies
repiilsive, if not disgusting, when/ out of place, out of time, out of
character. Hence it is, that a training which is essentially moral
in its character, which, in other words, ha))ituates to a practical
conformity to every behest of duty, is so indispensable in the
accomplished artist.

From this consideration of the elements of objective beauty, it
appears that the entire matter of aesthetics lies in the moral world.
Beauty is, however, still, distinguishable, from morality or virtue.
It is ri^ht revealed to sense. It is holiness, rectitude, purity, moral
perfection, clad in its owii proper vestment, embodied, rs^ther, in
Its own proper form of sense, coming down into the sphere of man,
and wooing to its. embrace by its native charms made manifest to
human sense. While it is not the e>sence, ot^ the one hand, it is
not the mere outward, dead fqrm,OR the other. It. is the harmony
of both ; the harmony of sei^se and spirit. It constitutes precisely
that sphere in which man must effect his transition from flesh to
spirit) in which, on the one hand, the dominion of the flesh must
be thrust off, and, on the oilier, the freedom of the spirit must be

Let not this nature of beauty be lost from view. We are prone
to imagine the existence of a ^orld of beauty^ entirely distinct from
the \<rorld of truth and reality. We are prone to conceive of a
world of art, of imagination, entirely removed from the world of
feet and reason. We thu» separate beauty from truth, the form
from the substs^nce, neither of which can.be without the other.
And we are in danger of doing this, not only in our speculations,
but also in our practice. We press our speculative analysis into
the real concrete ; and act as if virtue had no form of loveliness
peculiar to itself^ and necessary to its perfect existence, at least in
this present world of sense ; and, as if the lovely and graceful in
life were a mere empty bubble, devoid of reality, fit, indeed, to
anMise those who have leisure or capacity to be amused, but worth-

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642 • Taste and Morals ; [July,

less otherwise. This is a grand, pernicious, yet prevalent mistake.
The consequence is, deformed, haggard asceticism and religious
purism, on the one hand, (tnd, on the other, vapid sentimentalism
and heartless formalism. We may not hesitate, perhaps^ if obliged
to choose between these extremes. We may prefer the substance,
haggard, misshapen, repulsive as it is, to mere outside. 'But they
are extremes both. Neithipr cin be perfect without the other; as
there cannot be perfect vigor of intellect in an unsound body, nor
a perfect human body without a healthy spirit to animate it.

Tiuth and beauty stand in this vital relation to each other, each
implying the other, and drstinguished only as the substance which
ever involves the form, is prominent in our idea of the one, and
the form which ever presupposes the substance^ is prominent in
our idea of the other. In a proper worship of truth, we do not,
or need not reject her native form ; in a proper hoi^aage to beauty,
we need not reject its essence. Indeed, us we have seen, beauty
is but the revelation of moral truth, in its proper form to the human

The whole system of recovering grace provided for. man, darkly
delineated in the features o^ his natural constitution, and of the
physical world about him, and expressly, and in word, set forth in
revelation, proceeds upon this principle, that man is to be emanci-
pated and elevated through the attractions of pure virtue revealed
to the sense. What is the power of the cross on the soul of man,
but the power of Divine love and cdmpassion set forth in resistless
beauty and loveliness? What is the power of Christ's incarna-
tion, of his life in the flefsh, but the power of perfect beauty add
loveliness X We speak of the instrumentality only, emplayed by
the Divine Sanctiner* What was the revelation of the Son of
God in the Apostle Paul, but the revelation qf Divine excellence
and love in its perfect attractiveness 1 What does the Apostle
mean, when he speaks of the assimilating power of a contemplated
Christ, changing into the same image from glory to gloiy, in the
manner and way of the sanctifying Spirit 1 What is Christ
formed within us, but the lovely image of his perfect character,
enstamped by him whose office it is to show Chnst to men ? That
the gospel has a voice for the ear of conscience, is tnie. But so far
as the gospel is distinguished from the law in its peciiliair pro-
vince and power, it works through the heart ; though the sesthetie
sense — the capacity within us of discerning and feeling the beauty
of perfect moral excellence, of experiencing its ravishing power,
and through the sympathies. << We love him, because he first
loved us." * While love has a contagious, self-propagating power,
through oiir synipathetic nature, it has also an sesmetic power,
awakening our admiration, ravishing the sense, and captivating the
affections to itself. If the law impels, working from within — ^from
the conscience, the gospel draws, working from without upon the

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1 847.] Necessity of JEsthetic CuUure. 643

love of what is good and perfect. If the law commands and drives,
the gospel woos. And this motive — ^infiuencef from without, that
thus draws' and woos is, aside from the power of sympathy in-
volved with it, essentially an aesthetic influence working upon our
admiration of wh*at is great and good, our^ love of what is excel-
lent, and our consequent desire to' make such admired and loved
Excellence our own. God, as worthy to be obeyed, is revealed to
the conscience ; God, as worthy to be loved, is revealed to the
heart in its sBSthetic susceptibilities. All natural beauty is the ex-
press image of the Creators moral perfections. It is the revelation
of his perfect freedom, working unrestrained, and with a hi^h
ratijonal aim in its department of grace ; and the revelation of his
perfect character, all whose thoughts and sentiments and moral
states are pure and lovely, in whatever it has of fixed and inherent
beauty. While the accordance of all in nature which excites our
admiration, and our aesthetic love, with the principles of propriety,
evinces to us the harmony of hi§ character and acts with the
absolute Standard of right. Even the beauty of human art has the
same tendency and e^ct remotely. For man himself, as a free-
working artist, is so far only the image of his Maker ; and his
works, so far as possessing artistic excellence, are but the simili-
tudes of the Divine creations.

All aesthetic beauty thus discovers a God — ^a being perfect in
character, and worthy of universal hpmaee and love. All its dis-
coveries are in perfect accordance with tlU revelations of God in
the strictly moral world, whether made through the conscience, or
through the allotments of the external wprld, exhibiting moral
sajictions and inculcating moral duties. It leads up in its own

{►roper tendency, to the perfect living Creator and governor of all.
t displays him to the soul with a power peculiar to itself; — not in
the inanimate form of abstract influence and deduction ; not in the*
repelling, overwhelming terrors of mere rigorous sovereignty and
dominion ; but in the bright, attractive, wooing character of a God of
perfect loveliness. Itfurnishesevidencetothe heart, fleeper, stronger
than any which the speculative reason, marking the correspondence
of all the nsvelations. of wisdom and power in nature with its own ideal
of a perfect beings or the conscience testifying to' the demands made
upon it from without, can furnish* It is evidence which, tried by the
tnost critical philosophy, must be .pronounced valid and aiitborita-
tive. The soul of man, thus trained under a true aesthetic culture,
is ushered into a world of moral light and power, in whiqh it feels
the mightiest impulses, encouragements, and aids to holiness ; ^nds
at once its model and end, and its needed means and instruments.
With all this, we are to bear in mijid that the moral influence
of aesthetic culture reaches men in their own sphere of sense.
Imprisoned, as he is, in the flesh, it visits him in his prison, and
with a gentle hand unrivets his fetters. It takes the wise in their

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644 Taste and Morals ; [J^y»

own craftiness, and with the weapons of sense destroys the domi-
nion of sense. The elevation and purification of toen, instrumen-
tally through their aesthetic culture, is thus a process fitted to
their condition \ adapted tp reach the ^otil without a w&kening its
prejudices or its apprehensions ; inviting and attracting in its out-
ward character, and drawihg under its influence, and effecting its
work before the subject is hardly aware of ifs design. While the
perverse will and the corrupt heart turn away, in deep aversion
and stubborn ^opposition and hatred, from the unveiled substance
of duty and right ; under the attractive, subduing power of its
lovely form, they bend, and n^eet, and receive a new impress and
a new law of guidance. .

There is another aspect of the influence of Esthetics on practical
morality, not less worthy of consideration lian this view which we
" have taken of its objective influence on the bearing of the essential
nature of its object on maj"al refinement and elevation. True vir-
tue appears even in a perfept form. Perfect beauty and loveliness
is the appropriate body ©f perfect virtue, in which it ever seeks to
embody itself; through which it must develope, expand, and
invigorate itself. In the culture and invigoration of true virtuous
principle, therefore, provision must be made for its proper embodi-
ment. The proper form must be provided. In other words, it
must be furnished with the opportunity and means of assuming its
own proper form and outward development.

In mere nature, where blind instinct only rules, the form is
purely spontaneous. Thie developing germ, by a law wflhin itself^
determines it;s appropriate form. And the analogy has been car-
ried into the moral world. There have been those who have in-
sisted that the unregulated, spontaneous development of the hu-
man soul is the only proper development, and the only one that
will give it perfection. They have overlooked the fact that there
is something in man besides mere nature. There is a power to
control his own development; to make it good or evil. He is his
own law to a certain extent. He is, at least, the former and
sliape of his own character. He is to determine for hiipself the
external conditions under which he is to shape his moral growth.
His development and growth, in fact, are determined and fashioned
by the models which he proposes to himself. His ideal of charac-
ter will be his law of growth. Hence the necessity of his propos-
ing to himself, as ever present, determining models of his forming
ctaracter, which is (perfect in form.

He is a creature of training. Weak, dependent, ignorant blind
at first, be is trained to What he subsequently becomes. He ac-
quirestf by slow learning, bis principles aiid his moulding ideas of
charact;er. He can be trained to give his necessary or sponta-
neous motions, such as have in themselves and necessarily, no
moral character, forms of grace. His habits of observation may

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1847.] Necessity of JSHAetic Qdture. iSAB

be so formed, as that the shapes of beauty and loveliness shall be
everywhere the first to reveal themselves. His feelings n^ay be
ao educated as that this discovered beauty shall make a ready and
deep impression on them. He may, in short, be so trained ^
that thQ proper SBSihetic influence shall be the controlling, the
ever-present influence of his life. This m^y be, indeed, with no-
thing of the vitality of real virtue. He mpy have the form of god-
liness and know nothing of the power. But wuile this is suppos-
able, it is yet hardly probable. The form invites the substance,
as the substance seelos the form. The thirst for the beauti£ul and
graceful, which has been awakened and strengtbened into a per-
manent passion and habit, by the study of it^ forms in nature and
in art, will urge, with an eagerness, wnich the will must be stub-
born indeed to jresist, to see it in the higher, purer, loVelier sphere
of manners and morals. The divine image it has loved to contem-
plate, as reflected in the outer, world, it will )ong to see dir^j
realized and revealed in its own inner beings Not only will a
proper esthetic culture thus bring before the forming and developr
ing soul, the reality of true and perfect virtue, as an ^similating
and uMKielling power ; not only will it exclude and forestall the
occupation of the soul with gross sense ; but it will furnish the ex-
ternal habits congenial to virtue, and fiuitabie Xo become its em-
bodiment, inviting the exertion of virtuous principle, a^id tiiging
to it by all the power of an excited and confirmed love of true •
beauty aed excellence.

; In the present world, where the grosser sense so much pre-
dominates, and whenr pure virtue meets with hindrances and ob-
stacles in every endeavor to express and expand, itself, the dis-
tinct culture of the outwBrd and formal seems indispensable to the
highest moral perfection. It is a radical mistake to suppose that
principle will^ of itself, unaided, always .aec>»re ;an ,ap.p^opriJ^^e ex-
pression. It is not so with regard to any mere mechanical prin-
ciple in any of the manual arts. The study of the maimer is as
essential to rapid prioress, as the knowledgje of the end, and the *
purpose atid physical strength to accomplish it. A poetic thought,
and a poetic impulse, will not secure a poetic product. There is
needed a power to secui'e the form requi8ite - 4he poetic body ;
and the mere poetic conception and impulse will not bring this
power. The body is of $^nse ; dnd until power is attained in the
domain of sense, the very matter in which the form is wrought,
and the poetic conception embodied, is beyond the control of (he
fashioning artist. Homer, assisted by all bis gods, could never
have embodied his divine Iliad in the language of a Hottentot.
The body may be worthless without the iMwellii^ s^ul. A
specious art may sacrifice the substance to the form. Still the life
must have its body, its appropriate body, or it has no realty in
this present world. Both are needful ; a»deaeh is indig | )en8aMe


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546 Taste and Morals. ' [July,

to the perfection of the otb^n Virtue has a Herculean work,
indeed, before it, to reduce the grossness of a besotted sensualist ;
to restore brightness to his dull eye, and elasticity and spring to
his rigid limbs ; to express itself in its appropriate form, tfow
far more readily does principle ^nter the channels through which
external purity, gentleness^ kindness, and integrity, have habitu-
ally expressed themselves ? Not that the forms ik virtue should
be taught or acquired before or without the substance, or the sub-
stance without the form, where there is freedom tto inculcate both.
But, vnhappilV) depraved man is totally averse to the substance
of virtue ; and^ enchained in s^nse, must needs be reached by the
form, and be captivated to virtue through the very sense that binds
him. Herein appears the wisdom of the gospel system which re-
deems men, not by the absttact inculcation of the reality of, and
abstract nature of, holiness, nor by a revelation of the divine t» his
mere speculative reason, but by " God manifest in the flesh.''

A true aesthetic culture being thus beneficial, not to say indispen-
sable, to the propagation and perfection of all virtue, h will be seen
to be peculiarly necessary as a corrective and antidote to the evils
which have been enumerated, as characterizing modern society.

The refined sensualism of the present day can be eflfectu^ly met
and overcome only by the revelation of true moral beauty to the
excited sense. If the view we have taken be correct, then it would
seem that the proper cure of this sensualism is by a decided, vigor-
ous effort put forth into all the departments of Art, and extended to
the early training, to fix the eye on real beauty ; to elevate and
enlighten the aesthetic sense, and turn it upon the only proper ob-
ject in all aesthetics, true moral beauty. Thus the sensual tenden-
cies of the times may, by being overruled and directed aright, be
made subservient to a spiritual development and progress.

Thus, too, the conamercial spirit of the age may be sanctified to
a holy end ; and its mission be made serviceable to true virtue.
Let the wealth which it generates be applied to one of its proper
objects or ends — the supply of aesthetic materials, of objects of
taste; and let the same be at the same time aesthetically trained,
so as to be jcapable; of discerning in every form erf beauty and grace
the representation of moral excellence; let aesthetic principles and
habits so predominate and rule in society, that the intercourse of

Online LibraryYale University. Class of 1842The Biblical repository and classical review, Volume 3 → online text (page 67 of 94)