Page images



leaves of flowers, or between the leaves and the piftils? How does the flender stalk of the rofe agree with the bulky head under which it bends? but the rofe is a beautiful flower; and can we undertake to fay that it does not owe a great deal of its beauty even to that difproportion; the rofe is a large flower, yet it grows upon a small shrub the flower of the apple is very small, and grows upon a large tree; yet the rofe and the apple bloffom are both beautiful, and the plants that bear them are most engagingly attired, notwithftanding this difproportion. What by general confent is allowed to be a more beautiful object than an orange tree, flourishing at once with its leaves, its bloffoms, and its fruit? but it is in vain that we search here for any proportion between the height, the breadth, or any thing else concerning the dimenfions of the whole, or concerning the relation of the particular parts to each other. I grant that we may obferve in many flowers, fomething of a regular figure, and of a methodical difpofition of the leaves. The rofe has fuch a figure and fuch a disposition of its petals; but in an oblique view, when this figure is in a good mea. fure loft, and the order of the leaves confounded, it yet retains its beauty; the rofe is even more beautiful before it is full blown; and the bud, be fore this exact figure is formed; and this is not the only inftance wherein method and exactness,




the foul of proportion, are found rather prejudi cial than ferviceable to the cause of beauty.




THAT proportion has but a small share in the formation of beauty, is full as evident among animals. Here the greateft variety of shapes and difpofitions of parts, are well fitted to excite this idea. The swan, confeffedly a beautiful bird, has a neck longer than the reft of his body, and but a very short tail: is this a beautiful proportion? we muft allow that it is. But then what fhall we fay to the peacock, who has comparatively but a short neck, with a tail longer than the neck and the reft of the body taken together? How many birds are there that vary infinitely from each of these ftandards, and from every other which you can fix ; with proportions different, and often directly oppofite to each other! and yet many of these birds are extremely beautiful; when upon confidering them we find nothing in any one part that might determine us, à priori, to fay what the others. ought to be, nor indeed to guefs any thing about them, but what experience might fhew to be full of disappointment and mistake. And with regard to the colours either of birds or flowers, for there



îs fomething fimilar in the colouring of both, whether they are confidered in their extenfion or gradation, there is nothing of proportion to be obferved. Some are of but one fingle colour; others have all the colours of the rainbow; fome are of the primary colours, others are of the mixt; in fhort, an attentive obferver may foon conclude, that there is as little of proportion in the colouring as in the fhapes of these objects. Turn next to beafts; examine the head of a beautiful horse; find what proportion that bears to his body, and to his limbs, and what relations these have to each other; and when you have fettled these propor tions as a standard of beauty, then take a dog or cat, or any other animal, and examine how far the fame proportions between their heads and their necks, between thofe and the body, and fo on, are found to hold; I think we may fafely fay, that they differ in every fpecies, yet that there are individuals found in a great many fpecies fo differing, that have a very striking beauty. Now, if it be allowed that very different, and even contrary, forms and difpofitions are confiftent with beauty, it amounts I believe to a conceffion, that no certain measures, operating from a natural principle, are neceffary to produce it, at leaft fo far as the brute ecies is concerned.

[ocr errors][merged small]




THERE are fome parts of the human body, that are obferved to hold certain proportions to each other; but before it can be proved, that the efficient caufe of beauty lies in these, it must be shewn, that wherever thefe are found exact, the perfon to whom they belong is beautiful: I mean in the effect produced on the view, either of any member diftinctly confidered, or of the whole body toge ther. It must be likewife fhewn, that thefe parts ftand in fuch a relation to each other, that the comparison between them may be easily made, and that the affection of the mind may naturally refult from it. For my part, I have at feveral times very carefully examined many of those proportions, and found them hold very nearly, or altogether alike in many fubjects, which were not only very different from one another, but where one has been very beautiful, and the other very remote from beauty. With regard to the parts which are found fo proportioned, they are often fo remote from each other, in fituation, nature, and office, that I cannot fee how they admit of any comparison, nor confequently how any effect owing to proportion can refult from them. The neck, fay they

in beautiful bodies, fhould measure with the calf of the leg; it fhould likewise be twice the circum. ference of the wrift, And an infinity of observations of this kind are to be found in the writings and conversations of many. But what relation has the calf of the leg to the neck; or either of these parts to the wrift? These proportions are certainly to be found in handfome bodies. They are as certainly in ugly ones; as any who will take the pains to try may find. Nay, I do not know but they may be leaft perfect in fome of the most beautiful. You may affign any proportions you please to every part of the human body; and I undertake that a painter fhall religioufly obferve them all, and notwithstanding produce, if he pleases, a very ugly figure. The fame painter fhall confiderably deviate from these proportions, and produce a very beau tiful one. And indeed it may be observed in the mafter-pieces of the ancient and modern ftatuary, that feveral of them differ very widely from the proportions of others, in parts very confpicuous and of great confideration; and that they differ no lefs from the proportions we find in living men, of forms extremely ftriking and agreeable. And after all, how are the partifans of proportional beauty agreed amongst themselves about the proportions of the human body? fome hold it to be feven heads; fome make it eight; whilft others extend it even to ten; a vaft difference in fuch a fmall

P 3

« PreviousContinue »