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APPENDIX TO CHAPTER IX.
CONCERNING THE WORKS OF NATURE, CHIEFLY WITH RESPECT TO UNIFORMITY AND VARIETY.
Beauty and design in the works of nature, equally conspicuous, both in the internal and external structure-External structure respects regularity in animalsBeauty of inanimate nature-Mechanical operations of man confined to the surfaces of bodies-The operations of nature diffused through the most intimate and minute parts of all substances-The mechanical power of nature not confined to the smaller bodies, but extends to the largest ones-The wonderfu. power of nature in connecting and propagating systems-The connection betwixt the internal frame and external nature, of all, the most wonderful— Uniformity and variety interwoven in the works of nature with surprising art; especially in man-Still there is here, a great diversity-Natural objects hence form themselves into groups, and are always agreeable.
IN things of Nature's workmanship, whether we regard their internal or external structure, beauty and design are equally conspicuous. We shall begin with the outside of nature, as what first presents itself.
The figure of an organic body is generally regular. The trunk of a tree, its branches, and their ramifications, are nearly round, and form a series regularly decreasing from the trunk to the smallest fibre: uniformity is no where more remarkable than in the leaves, which, in the same species, have all the same color, size, and shape: the seeds and fruits are all regular figures, approaching for the most part to the globular form. Hence a plant, especially of the larger kind, with its trunk, branches, foliage, and fruit, is a charming object.
In an animal, the trunk, which is much larger than the other parts, occupies a chief place: its shape, like that of the stem of plants, is nearly round; a figure which of all is the most agreeable: its two sides are precisely similar: several of the under parts go off in pairs; and the two individuals of each pair are accurately uniform: the single parts are placed in the middle: the limbs bearing a certain proportion to the trunk, serve to support it, and to give it a proper elevation upon one extremity are disposed the neck and head, in the direction of the trunk: the head being the chief part, possesses with great propriety the chief place. Hence, the beauty of the whole figure, is the result of many equal and proportional parts orderly disposed; and the smallest variation in number, equality, proportion, or order, never fails to produce a perception of deformity.
Nature in no particular seems more profuse of ornament, than in the beautiful coloring of her works. The flowers of plants, the furs of beasts, and the feathers of birds, vie with each other in the beauty of their colors, which in lustre as well as in harmony are beyond the power of imitation. Of all natural appearances, the coloring of the human face is the most exquisite: it is the strongest instance of the ineffable art of nature, in adapting and proportioning its colors to the magnitude, figure, and position, of the parts. In a word, color seems to live in nature only, and to languish under the finest touches of art.
When we examine the internal structure of a plant or animal, a wonderful subtlety of mechanism is displayed. Man, in his mechanical operations, is confined to the surface of bodies; but the operations of nature are exerted through the whole substance, so as to reach even the elementary parts. Thus the body of an animal, and of a plant, are composed of certain great vessels; these of smaller; and these again of still smaller, without end, as far as we can discover. This power of diffusing mechanism through the most intimate parts, is peculiar to nature, and distinguishes her operations, most remarkably, from every work of art. Such texture, continued from the grosser parts to the most minute, preserves all along the strictest regularity. The fibres of plants are a bundle of cylindric canals, lying in the same direction, and parallel or nearly parallel to each other: in some instances, a most accurate arrangement of parts is discovered, as in onions, formed of concentric coats, one within another, to the very centre. An animal body is still more admirable, in the disposition of its internal parts, and in their order and symmetry; there is not a bone, a muscle, a blood-vessel, a nerve, that has not one corresponding to it on the opposite side; and the same order is carried through the most minute parts: the lungs are composed of two parts, which are disposed upon the sides of the thorax; and the kidneys, in a lower situation, have a position no less orderly as to the parts that are single, the heart is advantageously situated near the middle; the liver, stomach, and spleen, are disposed in the upper region of the abdomen, about the same height; the bladder is placed in the middle of the body, as well as the intestinal canal, which fills the whole cavity with its convolutions.
The mechanical power of nature, not confined to small bodies, reaches equally those of the greatest size; witness the bodies that compose the solar system, which, however large, are weighed, measured, and subjected to certain laws, with the utmost accuracy. Their places round the sun, with their distances, are determined by a precise rule, corresponding to their quantity of matter. The superior dignity of the central body, in respect of its bulk and lucid appearance, is suited to the place it occupies. The globular figure of these bodies, is not only in itself beautiful, but is above all others fitted for regular motion. Each planet revolves about its own axis in a given time; and each moves round the sun, in an orbit nearly circular, and in a time proportioned to its distance. Their velocities, directed by an established law, are perpetually changing by regular accelerations and retardations. In fine, the great variety of regular appearances, joined with the beauty of the system itself, cannot fail to produce the highest delight in every one who is sensible of design, power, or beauty.
Nature has a wonderful power of connecting systems with each other, and of propagating that connection through all her works. Thus the constituent parts of a plant, the roots, the stem, the branches, the leaves, the fruit, are really different systems, united by a mutual dependence on each other: in an animal, the lymphatic and lacteal ducts, the blood-vessels and nerves, the muscles and
glands, the bones and cartilages, the membranes and bowels with the other organs, form distinct systems, which are united into one whole. There are, at the same time, other connections less intimate: every plant is joined to the earth by its roots; it requires rain and dews to furnish it with juices; and it requires heat to preserve these juices in fluidity and motion: every animal, by its gravity, is connected with the earth, with the element in which it breathes, and with the sun, by deriving from it cherishing and enlivening heat: the earth furnishes aliment to plants, these to animals, and these again to other animals, in a long train of dependence. That the earth is part of a greater system, comprehending many bodies mutually attracting each other, and gravitating all toward one common centre, is now thoroughly explored. Such a regular and uniform series of connections, propagated through so great a number of beings, and through such wide spaces, is wonderful: and our wonder must increase, when we observe these connections propagated from the minutest atoms to bodies of the most enormous size, and so widely diffused as that we can neither perceive their beginning nor their end. That these connections are not confined within our own planetary system, is certain: they are diffused over spaces still more remote, where new bodies and systems rise without end. All space is filled with the works of God, which are conducted by one plan, to answer unerringly one great end.
But the most wonderful connection of all, though not the most conspicuous, is that of our internal frame with the works of nature: man is obviously fitted for contemplating these works, because in this contemplation he has great delight. The works of nature are remarkable in their uniformity no less than in their variety; and the mind of man is fitted to receive pleasure equally from both. Uniformity and variety are interwoven in the works of nature with surprising art: variety, however great, is never without some degree of uniformity; nor the greatest uniformity without some degree of variety there is great variety in the same plant, by the different appearances of its stem, branches, leaves, blossoms, fruit, size, and color; and yet, when we trace that variety through different plants, especially of the same kind, there is discovered a surprising uniformity: again, where nature seems to have intended the most exact uniformity, as among individuals of the same kind, there still appears a diversity, which serves readily to distinguish one individual from another. It is indeed admirable, that the human visage, in which uniformity is so prevalent, should yet be so marked, as to leave no room, among millions, for mistaking one person for another: these marks, though clearly perceived, are generally so delicate, that words cannot be found to describe them. A correspondence so perfect between the human mind and the works of nature, is extremely remarkable. The opposition between variety and uniformity is so great, that one would not readily imagine they could both be relished by the same palate; at least not in the same object, nor at the same time: it is however true, that the pleasures they afford, being happily adjusted to each other, and readily mixing in intimate
union, are frequently produced by the same individual object. Nay. farther, in the objects that touch us the most, uniformity and variety are constantly combined; witness natural objects, where this combination is always found in perfection. Hence it is, that natural objects readily form themselves into groups, and are agreeable in whatever manner combined: a wood with its trees, shrubs, and herbs, is agreeable: the music of birds, the lowing of cattle, and the murmuring of a brook, are in conjunction delightful; though they strike the ear without modulation or harmony. In short, nothing can be more happily accommodated to the inward constitution of man, than that mixture of uniformity with variety, which the eye discovers in natural objects; and, accordingly, the mind is never more highly gratified than in contemplating a natural landscape.
CONGRUITY AND PROPRIETY.
Congruity and propriety not applicable to one object-Man has a sense of congrunty and propriety-They are agreeable, because man is so formed-Congruity and propriety required, in proportion to the relation between thingsNo coincidence between congruity and beauty-Distinction between congruity and propriety-A great degree of congruity between a part and the whole Principal and accessory, mean appearance-Congruity relates to kind, as well as to quantity of ornament-A slight impropriety, makes a stronger impression than a slight incongruity-The improprieties which excite laughter and contempt, ridiculous-A mixed emotion consists of one too risible for anger, and too serious for derision-The effect of contempt for another upon ourselves— Congruity, as its final cause, contributes to our happiness-Impropriety furnishes entertainment-It makes us cautious-It prompts to moral conductPropriety regulates our actions-It induces justice to ourselves and othersIt enforces the performance of social duties.
MAN is superior to the brute, not more by his rational faculties, than by his senses. With respect to external senses, brutes probably yield not to men; and they may also have some obscure perception of beauty: but the more delicate senses of regularity, order, uniformity, and congruity, being connected with morality and religion, are reserved to dignify the chief of the terrestrial creation. Upon that account, no discipline is more suitable to man, nor more congruous to the dignity of his nature, than that which refines his taste, and leads him to distinguish, in every subject, what is regular. what is orderly, what is suitable, and what is fit and proper.*
Nec vero illa parva vis naturæ est rationisque, quod unum hoc animal sentit quid sit ordo, quid sit quod deceat in factis dictisque, qui modus. Itaque eorum ipsorum, quæ aspectu sentiuntur, nullum aliud animal, pulchritudinem, venustatem, Convenientiam partium sentit. Quam similitudinem natura ratioque ab oculis ad animum transferens, multo etiam magis pulchritudinem, constantiam, ordinem, in consiliis factisque conservandum putat, cavetque ne quid indecore effeminateve faciat; tum in omnibus et opinionibus et factis ne quid libidinose aut faciat aut cogitet. Quibus ex rebus conflatur et efficitur id, quod quærimus, honestum. Cicero de Officiis, 1. 1.
Nor is it a trifling power of nature and of reason that this animal alone understands order, decency in words and deeds, and propriety of manner. No other
It is clear from the very conception of the terms congruity and propriety, that they are not applicable to any single object: they imply a plurality, and obviously signify a particular relation between different objects. Thus we say currently, that a decent garb is suitable or proper for a judge, modest behavior for a young woman, and a lofty style for an epic poem: and, on the other hand, that it is unsuitable or incongruous to see a little woman sunk in an overgrown farthingale, a coat richly embroidered covering coarse and dirty linen, a mean subject in an elevated style, 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.
The perception we have of this relation, which seems peculiar to man, cannot proceed from any other cause, than from a sense of congruity or propriety; for, supposing us destitute of that sense, the terms would be to us unintelligible."
It is matter of experience, that congruity or propriety, wherever perceived, is agreeable; and that incongruity or impropriety, whereever perceived, is disagreeable. The only difficulty is, to ascertain what are the particular objects that in conjunction suggest these relations; for there are many objects that do not: the sea, for example, viewed in conjunction with a picture, or a man viewed in conjunction with a mountain, suggest not either congruity or incongruity. It seems natural to infer, what will be found true by induction, that we never perceive congruity nor incongruity but among things that are connected by some relation; such as a man and his actions, a principal and its accessories, a subject and its ornaments. We are, indeed, so framed by nature, as, among things so connected, to require a certain suitableness or correspondence, termed congruity or propriety; and to be displeased when we find the opposite relation of incongruity or impropriety.†
animal has an eye to perceive the beauty, agreeableness, and convenience of parts. Nature and reason, in transferring this similitude from the eyes to the mind, thinks that beauty, constancy, and order, are much more to be preserved in counsels and actions, and takes care that nothing be done indecorously or effeminately, and that, in opinions and actions, nothing libidinous should be thought or done. That, which we seek, honesty, is made up of this.
From many things that pass current in the world without being generally condemned, one at first view would imagine, that the sense of congruity or propriety has scarce any foundation in nature; and that it is rather an artificial refinement of those who affect to distinguish themselves from others. The fulsome panegyrics bestowed upon the great and opulent, in epistles dedicatory and other such compositions, would incline us to think so. 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 good writer deal in such compositions, or any man of sense receive them without disgust? Can it be supposed that Louis 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 singular case, for that sometimes is the fate even of the sense of justice.
✦ In the chapter of beauty, qualities are distinguished into primary and secondary: and to clear some obscurity that may appear in the text, it is proper to be observed, that the same distinction is applicable to relations. Resemblance,