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1840.) . . . . . . . . . . . . . 279
BRITISH AND FOREIGN
1. Hegel's Vorlesungen über die Æsthetik. Herausgegeben
von Dr. H. G. Hotho. 3 Bände. (Hegel's Lectures on
Æsthetics. Edited by Dr. Hotho. 3 vols. Berlin, 1835.) 2. Solger's Vorlesungen über die Æsthetik. Herausgegeben
von K, W. L. Heyse. (Solger's Lectures on Æsthetics.
Edited by Heyse. Leipsig, 1829.) 3. Jean Paul. Vorschule der Æsthetik. (Jean Paul's In
troduction to Æsthetics. 3 vols. Leipsig, 1826.) 4. QUATREMÈRE DE QUINCEY. Essai sur l'Idéal dans ses
applications pratiques aux arts du Dessein. Paris, 1837. 5. De Quincey. Essay on the Nature, the End, and the
Means of Imitation in the Fine Arts. Translated by
J. C. Kent. London, 1827. IT is a mistake to assert, as is so often heedlessly done, that the English have no system of Æsthetics—no genuine philosophy of art—a serious mistake, implying reflections on our “commercial character” which amount to insult. We have a system; a definite, tangible, perfectly practical one; and it lies written in the weighty volumes of Smith's "Wealth of Nations, Macculloch's Commercial Dictionary, and De Morgan “On the Differential Calculus. Art may not with us be a “revelation of the Infinite," but it is a very positive branch of trade, and subject to all the fluctuations of market and fashion, in common with every other produce of refined civilization. Our age is a practical--our country a com
vol. XIII.—No. xxv.
mercial one. A book is not usually published to give utterance to some mighty and carefully elaborated truth, but “in consequence of the demand." Great authors are no longer looked upon as priests of the social life, speaking from the foot of their respective altars the winged words of a divine mission, but as “popular and admired writers,” whose names ensure a ready demand from circulating libraries and bookclubs. No poetic mania—no javía decvn (such as Aristophanes attributes to Æschylus, unable otherwise to account for his golden verses), is now, except in obscurest corners, supposed necessary for the production of immortal works—but a refined calculation and comprehensive survey of the state of the market.” The callida junctura (skilful arrangement) which Horace recommends has taken the place of the real art-calida junctura, or impassioned conjunction. How far this commercial theory may be true we know not; at the same time we are happy in the knowledge that such is not the universal belief, that other nations regard Art as something far transcending any commerce yet invented, and that many even here in Britain share the same opinion; to these then we address ourselves in the hope of calling their attention to the æsthetical systems of German philosophers, and so let an examination and comparison of them with their own take place, which may not be fruitless in disseminating truer notions amongst our artists.
To those who regard Art as something higher than works “ done to order," and as requiring for its production higher endowments than persevering industry and cunning imitation of rules and examples, and to those artists who study the works of their predecessors, not to steal materials with which to build up their own mosaic rickety productions, but to catch some reflection of the light which shone in them, and with it learn to read the deeper mysteries and meanings of nature, to sit under the sun of genius and watch with reverent eyes the direction of its beams, piercing with them into unexplored, undreamt of regions, and then returning to utter the glad tidings to the world-in a word, to the Artist, as opposed to the Artisan, the present state of criticism in England must needs be an unsatisfactory object of contemplation. The poet whose life has been distilled into his work, who in obeying
the ever-moving impulse from within, has laboriously chosen, arranged and fused his materials, so that a coherent whole arises from the smouldering ashes of his sufferings, finds in criticism no sympathizing, reverent and affectionate sister, who will assiduously fetch out the latent meaning, and irradiate, with her understanding, those more dim and intense feelings of his imagination which may have found expression in unusual forms. Of what avail are years of toil? why waste time upon your art when it will not be recognised, and when a few “ quotable passages” and showy descriptions will be sure to “tell” better? This is what the artist may be tempted in his despair to ask himself. There are some critics indeed who put forth deep and comprehensive views, evincing a perfect appreciation and knowledge of the aim and means of art, but they might easily be numbered ; for indeed what Göthe calls “ Sinn für ein ästhetisches Ganzes,” is given but to few.
But let us turn our eyes to France or Germany, and see what a different state of things presents itself. We cannot take up the merest three-halfpenny journal without being struck with the different spirit animating it: whatever may be the extent of the critic's vision, he looks out from a higher point of view, and speaks from ascertained principles. Such being the facts of the case, let us show how imperative it is in us to seek an outlet from our own “cabin'd, cribb’d, confined" sphere, into the great world of æsthetics. An unmistakeable tendency towards it is to be read in various quarters. Men are oppressed with a sense of the insufficiency of their own views, and in struggling to overleap the barriers but too often fall exhausted on the ground, with no other result. Yet this struggle, however impotent in their own persons, calls attention to the fact, and awakens the clear eye of penetration which may see the outlet. This also has in some measure been done. The immense influx of German literature has brought with it an importation of its æsthetics*-unfortunately only in fragments and imperfect
* To say nothing of the Quarterly and Monthly Journals, the essays in which, from time to time, betray their German origin-the Times has quoted Hegel. The Spectator has had articles on Æsthetical Economy--and in the Atlas for the 20th March, the question is asked, "Why is there no Professor of Æsthetics at Oxford?”