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Such refined conceptions, being connected with morality and religion, are reserved to dignify the chief of the terrestrial creation. Upon this account, no discipline is more suitable to man, or more congruous to the dignity of his nature, than that by which his taste is refined, to distinguish in every fubject, what is regular, what is orderly, what is suitable, and what is fit and pro
No discerning person" can be at a loss about the meaning of the terms congruity and propriety, when applied to dress, behaviour, or language; that a decent garb, for example, is proper for a judge, modest behaviour for a young woman, and a lofty
* Nec vero illa parva vis naturæ est rationisque, quod unum hoc animal fentit quid fit ordo, quid fit quod deceat in fa&tis dictisque, qui modus. Itaque eorum ipforuni, quæ afpeetu sentiuntur, nullum aliud animal, pulchritudinem, venustatem, convenientiam partium, sentit. Quam similitudinem nafura ratioque“ ab oculis ad animum transferens, multo etiam magis pulchritudinem, constantiam, ordinem, in confiliis fac Aisque conservandum putat, cavetque ne quid indecorè efferni. natève faciat;, tum in omnibus et opinionibus et factis ne quid libidinosè aut faciat aut cogitet. Quibus ex rebus conflatur et efficitur id, quod quærimus, honestum. Cicero de officiis, d. 1.
style for an epic poem. In the following examples every one is sensible of an unfuitablenefs or incongruity: a little woman funk in an overgrown farthingale, a coat richly embroidered covering coarse and dirty linen, a mean subject in an elevated style, or an elevated subject in a mean style, a first minister darning his wife's stocking, or a reverend prelate in lawn sleeves dancing a hornpipe.
But it is not fufficient that these terms be understood in practice; the critical art requires, that their meaning be traced to its foundation in human nature. The relations that connect objects together, have been examined in more than one view.
Their influence in directing the train of our perceptions, is handled in the first chapter ; and in the second, their influence in generating passion. Here they must be handled in a new view ; for they are clearly the occasion of congruity and propriety. We are so framed by nature, as to require a certain suitableness or correspondence among things connected by any relation. This suitableness or correspondence is termed congruity or propriety; and the want of it, incongruity or impropriety. Among the many principles that compofe the nature of man, a sense of congruity or propriety is one. Destitute of this fense, we could have no notion of congruity or propriety: the terms to us would be unintelligible *. · As this sense is displayed upon relations, it is reasonable beforehand to expect that
* From many things that pass current in the world without being generally condemned, one at first view would ima. gine, that the sense of congruity or propriety hath scarce any foundation in nature; and that it is rather an artificial refine ment of those who affect to distinguish themselves by a certain delicacy of taste and behaviour. The fulsome panegyrics beftowed upon the great and opulent, in epistles dedicatory and other such compositions, lead naturally to that thought. Did there prevail in the world, it will be said, or did nature suggest, a taste of what is suitable, decent, or proper, would any gond writer deal in such compositions, or any man of sense receive them without disgust? Can it be supposed, that Lewis XIV. of France was endued by nature with any sense of propriety, when, in a dramatic performance purposely composed for his entertainment, he suffered himself, publicly and in his presence, to be styled the greatest king ever the earth produced ? These it is true are strong facts; but luckily they do not prove the sense of propriety to be artificial. They only prove, that the sense of propriety is at times overpowered by pride and vanity; which is no fingular case, for this fometimes is the fate even of the sense of justice.
we should be so formed, as to require among connected objects a degree of congruity proportioned to the degree of the relation. And upon examination we find this to hold in fact. Where the relation is strong and intimate as betwixt a cause and its effect, a body and its members, we require that the things be suited to each other in the strictest manner. On the other hand, where the relation is flight, or accidental, as among things jumbled together in the same place, we demand little or no congruity. The strictest propriety is required in behaviour and manner of living ; because a man is connected with these by the relation of cause and effect. The fituation of a great house ought to be lofty; for the relation betwixt an edifice and the ground it stands upon, is of the most intimate kind. Its relation to neighbouring hills, rivers, plains; being that of propinquity only, demands but a small share of congruity. Among members of the same club, the congruity ought to be considerable, as well as among things placed for show in the same niche. Among passengers in a stage-coach, we require ve
ry little congruity; and less still at a public spectacle.
Congruity is so nearly allied to beauty, as commonly to be held a species of it. And yet they differ fo essentially, as never to coincide. Beauty, like colour, is placed upon a single subject; congruity upon a plurality. Further, a thing beautiful in itself, may, with relation to other things, produce the strongest sense of incongruity.
Congruity and propriety are commonly i reckoned synonymous terms; and hitherto in opening the subject they are used indifferently. But they are distinguishable; and the precise meaning of each must be ascertained. Congruity is the genus, of which propriety is a species. For we call nothing propriety, but that congruity or suitableness which ought to fubfist betwixt fenfible beings and their thoughts, words, and actions.
In order to give a full view of this fubject, I shall trace it through some of the most considerable relations. The relation of a part to the whole, being extremely intiinate, demands the utmost degree of congruity. For that reason, the slightest devia