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In the writings of this period imagination was often identified with wit, wit with taste, taste with feeling, and feeling with first apprehensions or imagination ; * we have already noted that taste is sometimes critical and sometimes productive : this fusion, identification and subordination of terms apparently distinct shows how they gravitate round one single concept.
A German critic, one of the very few who have sought to penetrate the darkness surrounding the origins of modern AEsthetic, considers the concept of taste (which we owe, he thinks, to Gracian) “the most important aesthetic doctrine which remained for modern times to discover.”” But without going so far as to say that taste is the chief doctrine of the science, and the foundation of all the rest, instead of only a particular doctrine, and without recapitulating what we have already said of Gracian's relation to the theory of taste, it is well to repeat that taste, wit, imagination, feeling, and so on, instead of new concepts scientifically grasped, were simply new words corresponding to vague impressions: at most they were problems, not concepts: apprehensions of ground still to be conquered, not yet annexed and brought into subjection. It must not be forgotten that the very men who made use of these terms could scarcely grope after the ideas they suggested without falling back into the old traditions, the only ones on which they had an intellectual grasp. To them the new words were shades, not bodies: when they tried to embrace them their arms returned empty to their own breasts.
Certainly wit differs to a certain extent from intellect. Yet Pellegrini and Tesauro, with other writers of treatises, never fail to point out that intellectual truth lies at the
Tendency to unite these terms.
Difficulties and contradictions in their definition.
Wit and intellect.
root of wit. Trevisano defines it as “an internal virtue
of the soul which invents methods for expressing and executing its own concepts: it is recognizable now in the arrangement of things we invent, now in the clear expression of them : sometimes in cunning reconciliations of matters seemingly opposed, sometimes in tracing * Cf. Du Bos, op. cit. § 33. * Borinski, B. Gracian, p. 39.
analogies but faintly discernible.” To sum up, one must not “allow the actions of wit to go unaccompanied by those of intellect,” or even by those of practical morality.” More ingenuously Muratori says, “Wit is that virtue and active force with which the intellect is able to assemble, unite and discover the similarities, relations and reasons of things.” ” In this manner wit, after having been distinguished from intellect, eventually becomes a part or a manifestation of it. By a somewhat different path the same conclusion is reached by Alexander Pope when he counsels that wit be reined in like a mettlesome horse, and observes :
For wit and judgement often are at strife,
Similar vicissitudes befell the word “taste,” outcome of a metaphor (as was noted by Kant) whose effect was to stand in opposition to intellectualistic principles, as if to say that the judgement governing the choice of food destined solely for the delectation of the palate is of the same nature as that which decides opinions in matters of art." Nevertheless, the very definition of this antiintellectualistic concept contained a reference to intellect and reason; the implicit comparison with the palate was ultimately taken as signifying an anticipation of reflexion : as Voltaire wrote in the following century: “De méme que la sensation du palais anticipe la réflexion.” ” Intellect and reason glimmer through all the definitions of taste belonging to this period. Mme. Dacier wrote in 1684, “Une harmonie, un accord de l'esprit et de la raison.” “ “Une raison éclairée qui, d'intelligence avec le caeur, fait toujours un juste choix parmi des choses opposées ou semblables,” wrote the author of Entretiens galants.” According to
Taste and intellectual judgement.
* Trevisano, op. cit. pp. 82, 84.
* Perfetta poesia, bk. ii. ch. I (ed. cit. i. p. 299).
* A. Pope, An Essay on Criticism, 1709 (in Poetical Works, London, 1827), lines 81, 82.
* Kritik der Urtheilskraft (ed. Kirchmann), $ 33.
* Essai sur le goût (in appendix to A. Gerard, Essai sur le goût, Paris, 1766).
* Quoted in Sulzer, Allg. Th. d.s. K. ii. p. 377. 7 Ibid.
another writer quoted by Bonhours, “taste ’’ is “a
von der Natur des poetischen Geschmackes, Zürich, 1736; cf. for both Sulzer, ii. p. 38o.
Perhaps those authors were wise who preferred to
remain vague and to identify taste with an indefinable Something, a je ne sais quoi ; a nescio quid : a new expression which expressed mothing new, but at least called attention to the problem. Bouhours (167I) discusses it at length : “Les Italiens, qui font mystère de tout, emploient en toutes rencontres leur non so che: on ne voit rien de plus commune dans leurs poétes,” and quotes Tasso and others in confirmation." A note upon it is found in Salvini: “This “good taste” has but recently come to the front ; it seems a vague term applicable to nothing particular, and is equivalent to the non so che, to a happy or successful turn of wit.” o Father Feijoó, who wrote on the Razón del gusto and on El no se qué (I733), says very wisely: “En muchas producciones no solo de la naturaleza, sino del arte, y aun mas del arte que de la naturaleza, encuentran los hombres, fuera di aquellas perfecciones sujetes á su comprehension racional, otro genero de primor misterioso que, lisonjeando el gusto, atormenta el entendemento. Los sentidos le palpan, pero no le puede dissipar la razon, y así, al querer explicarle, no se encuentran voces ni conceptos que cuadren á su idéa, y salimos del paso con decir que hay un non se qué, que agrada, que enamora, que hechiza, sin que pueda encontrarse revelacion mas clara da este natural misterio.” o And President Montesquieu : “Il y a quelquefois dans les personnes ou dans les choses un charme invisible, une gráce naturelle, qu'on n'a pu définir, et qu'on a été forcé d'appeler le je ne sais quoi. Il me semble que c'est un effet principalement fondé sur la surprise.” o Some writers rebelled against the subterfuge of the je ne sais quoi, saying, rightly enough, that it was a confession of ignorance : but they knew not how to escape that ignorance without falling into confusion between taste and intellectual judgement.
o Les Entretiens d'Ariste et d'Eugène, 1671 (Paris ed., 1734), conversation v. ; “ Le je ne scai quoi ”; cf. Gracian, Oraculo manual, No. 127, and El héroe, ch. 13.
o In the notes to Muratori's Perfetta poesia.
o Feijoó, Theatro critico, vol. vi. Nos. II-12.
* Essai sur le goút dans les choses de la nature et de l'art. Posthumous fragment (in appendix to A. Gerard, op. cit.).
If the attempt to define “wit” and “taste" usually resulted in intellectualism, it was easy to transform imagination and feeling into Sensationalistic doctrines. We have seen how earnestly Pallavicino insisted on the non-intellectuality of the fantasies and inventions of the imagination. “Nothing presents itself to the admirer of the beautiful (he writes) to enable him to verify his cognition and satisfy himself that the object recognized is or is not that for which he takes it; if either by vision or by strong apprehension he is led to think it actually present by an act of judgement, his taste for beauty as beauty does not arise from such act of judgement, but from the vision or lively apprehension which might remain in ourselves even when the deception of belief was corrected "; just as happens when we are drowsy and know ourselves to be but half awake, yet are unwilling to tear ourselves from sweet dreams. For Pallavicino imagination cannot err; he assimilates it wholly to the sensations, which are incapable of truth or falsity. And if imaginative knowledge pleases, it is not because it holds a special truth (imaginative truth), but because it creates objects which “though false are pleasing ”: the painter makes not likenesses but images which, all resemblance apart, are pleasing to the sight : the poet awakens apprehensions “sumptuous, novel, marvellous, splendid.” ". His opinion coincides, if we mistake not, with Marino's sensationalism : “The poet should aim only at the marvellous . . . he who cannot amaze his hearers is not worth a straw " : * he applauds the oft-repeated dictum of “Gabriel Chiabrera, that Pindar of Savona, that poetry should cause the eyebrows to arch themselves.” ” But in the Treatise upon Style written later (1646) he repents of his youthful achievement and appears willing to return to the pedagogic theory: “And forasmuch as I theorized concerning poetry in the basest manner, treating it solely as a minister of that delight which the mind enjoys in the less noble operation of imagination or apprehension * Del bene, cap. cit.
* Marino, in one of the sonnets in the Murtoleide (1608).