By Jonathan Friday
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Extra resources for Art and Enlightenment: Scottish Aesthetics in the 18th Century
XIII. Under original beauty we may include harmony, or beauty of sound, if that expression can be allowed, because harmony is not usually conceived as an imitation of anything else. Harmony often raises pleasure in those who know not what is the occasion of it; and yet the foundation of this pleasure is known to be a sort of uniformity. When the several vibrations of one note regularly coincide with the vibrations of another they make an agreeable composition: and such notes are called concords.
Thus a statuary, painter, or poet may please with a Hercules, if his piece retains that grandeur, and those marks of strength and courage which we imagine in that hero. And farther, to obtain comparative beauty alone, it is not necessary that there be any beauty in the original. The imitation of absolute beauty may indeed in the whole make a more lovely piece, and yet an exact imitation shall still be beautiful, though the original were entirely void of it. Thus the deformities of old age in a picture, the rudest rocks or mountains in a landscape, if well represented, shall have abundant beauty, though perhaps not so great as if the original were absolutely beautiful, and as well represented.
We generally suppose the good of the greatest whole, or of all beings, to have been the intention of the Author of nature, and cannot avoid being pleased when we see any part of this design executed in the systems we are acquainted with. The observations already made on this subject are in everyone’s hand, in the treatise of our late improvers of mechanical philosophy. We shall only observe here that everyone has a certain pleasure in seeing any design well executed by curious mechanism, even when his own advantage is no way concerned, and also in discovering the design to which any complex machine is adapted, when he has perhaps had a general knowledge of the machine before, without seeing its correspondence or aptness to execute any design.
Art and Enlightenment: Scottish Aesthetics in the 18th Century by Jonathan Friday