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and epic poetry, and illustrating each with examples from the most celebrated poets, Greek, Latin and Italian, that he is too busy to question the sufficiency of the fertile idea he has propounded.” ". A close follower of contemporary European thought, Conti was familiar with Hutcheson, whose theories he vigorously repudiated, observing, “Why this multiplication of faculties 2 ” The soul is one, and for scholastic convenience only has been divided into three faculties: sense, imagination, intellect ; the first “concerns herself with objects present before her ; imagination with those afar into which memory gradually merges : but the object of sense and imagination is always particular; it is only the mind, the intellect, the spirit, that by comparing particulars apprehends the universal.” “Before introducing a new sense for the pleasure of beauty" Hutcheson should have “assigned limits to these three faculties of cognition and demonstrated that the pleasure occasioned by beauty does not arise from the three pleasures of these three faculties, or from intellectual pleasure alone, to which they all reduce, if the functions of the soul be carefully analysed.” Thus it would appear that the mistake of the Scotchman * arose from his habit of separating pleasure from the cognitive faculties, placing the former apart in a special empty “sense of beauty.” ” On the other hand, when rewriting the history of the opinions of various critics upon the Aristotelian doctrine of the universal in poetry, Conti gave much weight to the dialogue Naugerius seu De poética of Fracastoro ; * for an instant he seems on the point of grasping the essence of the poetic universal and identifying it with the characteristic, which makes us call even horrible things wholly beautiful. “In all his journeys Balzac never saw a beautiful old woman : in the poetic or picturesque sense an old woman is highly * Prose e poesie, vol. i., 1739, pref. * Francis Hutcheson (1694–1746) was an Irishman. Croce's mistake is probably due to the fact that he studied and taught at Glasgow, or that his family was ultimately of Scottish origin.—TR. * Prose e poesie, vol. ii. pp. clxxi.-clxxvii. * See above, pp. 184-185.
beautiful, if depicted as having suffered all the dilapidations of age " : immediately after, however, he identifies the characteristic with Wolff's concept of perfection : “It does not differ from being, nor does being differ from the truth which the schoolmen call transcendental and which is the object of all arts and all sciences; we call it the object of poetry when by means of imaginary presentations it ravishes the intellect and moves the will, transporting both these faculties into the ideal and archetypal world of which, following S. Augustine, Father Malebranche discourses at length in his Recherche de la vérité.” ". In the same way Fracastoro's universal gives place to the universal of science: “Owing to the infinity of their determinations all we can know of particulars is their common properties, which is merely another manner of saying that we have no science save of universals. Thus it is precisely the same if we say the object of poetry is science or the universal; which is the doctrine of Navagero, following Aristotle.”” The “imaginative universals of Signor Vico’’ (with whom he had interchanged some letters) opened no new views for him : he notes that Signor Vico “talks a great deal about them ’’ and “holds that the most uncivilized men, having framed them not from any wish to please or serve others, but from the necessity of expressing their feelings as nature taught them, spoke in poetical language the elements of a theology, a physics, and an ethics wholly poetical.” Conti excuses himself from immediate examination of “this critical question ” and only opines that “it can be shown in many ways that these imaginative universals are the material or object of poetry, in so far as they contain within them sciences or things considered in themselves” ”—a conclusion diametrically opposed to that which “Signor Vico’’ meant to express. Conti is next obliged to ask himself how it is possible that poetry's object should be not the true but the probable, when the universal of poetry is the same as that of science. He answers by coming down to the commonplace level of a Baumgarten : “When sciences receive a particular colouring, we pass from the true to the probable.” Imitation means giving the impression of truth ; that is done by selecting a few of its features only; and this is the procedure in which the probable just consists. If you wish to describe the rainbow poetically, a great part of the Newtonian optics must be thrown overboard ; thus “many circumstances of mathematical demonstration ” will be neglected in poetical descriptions, and the rest, which is utilized, will form the probable or that particular “which awakens the universal idea, slumbering in the minds of the learned.” The great art of poetry consists “in selection of the image containing the greatest number of points of universal doctrine which, by being inserted in the example, may so colour the precept that I may find it without seeking it, or recognize it through its connexion with events described.” Hence poetry cannot be content with imitation ; allegory too is needed : “in ancient poetry one thing is read and another is meant.” Here follows the inevitable instance of the Homeric poems, in which Conti certainly finds elements which cannot be reduced to instruction and allegory and therefore to some extent deserve the Platonic condemnation.” He recognizes a species of imagination differing from passive sensibility, “which Father Malebranche calls active imagination, and Plato the art of imagery; it comprises all that is meant by wit, sagacity, judgement and good taste, which teach a poet to use or not to use at a given time or place the rules and licences of art, and to control the extravagance of his imagery.” ” On the question of literary taste he follows the opinion of Trevisano and decides that it consists in “setting in mutual harmony, that is to say restraining within limits, the soul's cognitive faculties, memory, imagination and intellect, allowing none to overwhelm another.”” By assiduous travail of thought and perpetual search Quadrio and
* Prose e poesie, vol. ii. pp. 242-246. * Op. cit. ii. p. 249. * Op. cit. ii. pp. 252-253.
for the best, Conti kept himself at the highest level of aesthetic speculation in contemporary Europe (Vico always excepted); at the same level as Baumgarten in Germany. We pass rapidly over other Italian writers such as Quadrio (1739), author of the first great encyclopaedia of universal literature, in which he defines poetry as “the science of things human and divine, presented in pictures to the populace, and written in words connected by measure ";" and Francesco Maria Zanotti (1768), who describes poetry as “the art of versification in order to give pleasure * : * the first is worthy of a mediaeval anthologist, the second of a no less mediaeval composer of handbooks on rhythm and methods of composition. The only serious student of aesthetic was Melchior Cesarotti. Cesarotti called attention to popular and primitive poetry: he translated Ossian and illustrated the text with dissertations; he unearthed antique Spanish poems and even the folk-songs of Mexico and Lapland; he studied Hebrew poetry; he dedicated the greater part of his life to the Homeric poems, examining all the theories of critics past and present, encountering Vico in this connexion and discussing his views. Besides this, he debated the origin of poetry, the pleasure given by tragedy, taste, the beautiful, eloquence, style, in short every problem belonging to aesthetics which had been raised up to his time.” One seems to catch an echo of Vico as one listens to his words on La Motte : “He had logic, but knew not that the logic of poetry differs somewhat from ordinary logic : he was a man of great talent, but he recognized talent only, and was incapable of feeling the immeasurable distance between judicious prose and poetry: the real Homer with his attractive faults will always be more beloved than his reformed Homer with his cold, affected virtue.”" Cesarotti purposed (1762) bringing out a great theoretico-historical book in whose first part “we shall suppose the non-existence of poetry and poetic art and try to trace by what path a man of illuminated reason can have reached the idea of the possibility of such an art and how he can have attained perfection by these means: every one will be able to see poetry growing up under his eyes, so to speak, and attest the truth of theory by the testimony of his own personal feelings.” ” Although celebrated throughout Italy in his day as one who “with the most pure torch of philosophy has thrown beams of light into the darkest recesses of poetry and eloquence,” “it does not appear that the distinguished scholar, the pleasing and desultory philosopher, offered any profound or original solutions. In 1797 he defined poetry as “the art of representing and perfecting nature by means of picturesque, animated, imaginative and harmonious discourse.” “ The fashion of the day in philosophy made men impatient of the ideas found in writers of treatises of former times. Arteaga praises Cesarotti for “that fine tact, that impartial criticism, that logical spirit derived not from the trickling streamlets of Sperone, Castelvetro, Casa and Bembo, but from the profound and inexhaustible springs of Montesquieu, Hume, Voltaire, d'Alembert, Sulzer, and writers of like temper.” ". Writing to Saverio Bettinelli, who was preparing a work on Enthusiasm, Paradisi hoped it would prove “a metaphysical history of enthusiasm which shall outweigh all those Poetics which are only fit to be burned,” and would “make waste paper of Castelvetro, the ‘Minturno,' and that stupid
* Fr. Sav. Quadrio, Della storia e della ragione d'ogni poesia, Bologna, 1739, vol. i. part i. dist. i. ch. I.
* Fr. M. Zanotti, Dell' arte poetica, ragionamenti cinque, Bologna, 1768.
* On Ossian, Opere, vols. ii.-v. ; on Homer, vols. vi.-x. ; Saggio sopra il diletto della tragedia, vol. xxix. pp. 117-167; Saggio sul bello, vol. xxx. pp. 13-7o ; on Filosofia del gusto, vol. i. ; on Eloquenza, lecture, vol. xxxi.
* Opere, vol. xl. p. 49.
* Ibid. p. 55.
* Letter from Corniani to Cesarotti, November 21, 1790, in Opere, vol. xxxvii. p. 146.
* Saggio sopra le istituzioni scolastiche, private e pubbliche, in Opere, vol. xxix. pp. 1-116.
* Letter of March 30, 1764, in Opere, vol. xxxv, p. 202.