Immagini della pagina

to see a drunkard with all the most disgusting symptoms of intoxication on a road where there was also an unhewn rock, we should be pleased by the drunken man, since he had expression, and not by the rock, since it had none. Beside Jouffroy, whose theories, crude and immature though they be, reveal an inquiring mind, it is hardly worth while to cite Lamennais, who like Cousin regarded art as the manifestation of the infinite through the finite, of the absolute through the relative. French Romanticism in de Bonald, de Barante and Mme. de Staël had defined literature as “the expression of society,” had honoured, under German influence, the characteristic and the grotesque, and had proclaimed the independence of art by means of the formula “art for art's sake ” ; but these vague affirmations or aphorisms did not supersede, philosophically speaking, the old doctrine of the “ imitation of nature.'

In England associationistic psychology still flourished (and has continued to flourish uninterruptedly), unable to emancipate itself wholly from sensationalism or to understand imagination. Dugald Stewart : had recourse to the wretched expedient of establishing two forms of association : one of accidental associations, the other of associations innate in human nature and therefore common to all mankind. England did not escape German influence, as appears, for example, in Coleridge, to whom we owe a saner concept of poetry and the difference between it and science 4 (in collaboration with the poet Wordsworth), and in Carlyle, who placed intellect lower than imagination, organ of the Divine.” The most noteworthy English æsthetic essay of this period is the Defence of Poetry by Shelley (1821),5 containing profound, if not very systematic, views on the distinctions between reason and imagination, prose and poetry; on primitive


De l'art et du beau, 1843-1846.
2 Victor Hugo, Preface to Cromwell, 1827.
3 Dugald Stewart, Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind,


4 Gayley-Scott, An Introd. pp. 305-306.
5 P. B. Shelley, A Defence of Poetry (in Works, London, 1880, vol. vii.)

language and the faculty of poetic objectification which enshrines and preserves “the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds."

In Italy, where neither Parini nor Foscolo 1 had been Italian able to shake off the fetters of the old doctrines (although

Æsthetic. the latter, in his later writings, was in several ways an innovator in literary criticism), many treatises and essays on Æsthetic were published during the earlier decades of the century, the greater part showing the influence of Condillac's sensationalism, which had a great vogue in Italy. Such authors as Delfico, Malaspina, Cicognara, Talia, Pasquali, Visconti and Bonacci belong more exclusively to the special, or rather, the anecdotal, history of Italian philosophy. Now and then, however, one comes across remarks that are not wholly contemptible, as in Melchiorre Delfico (1818) who, after wandering aimlessly hither and thither, fixes on the principle of expression, observing, “ If it were possible to establish that expression is always an element in the beautiful, it would be a legitimate inference to regard it as the real characteristic of beauty, i.e. a condition without which the beautiful could not exist, and the pleasing modification which arouses the sentiment of beauty could not take place in us”; he tries to develop this principle by asserting that all other characters (order, harmony, proportion, symmetry, simplicity, unity and variety) have significance only by their subordination to the principle of expression. In opposition to Malaspina's definition of beauty as "pleasure born of a representation"; and in opposition to the then fashionable threefold division of beauty into sensible, moral and intellectual, a critic of Malaspina observed that if beauty be representation, it is inconceivable that there should be intellectual beauty, which would be intelligible but not presentable.3 Nor must Pasquale Balestrieri be forgotten; he was a student

1 Parini, Principi delle belle lettere applicati alle belle arti, from 1773 onward; Foscolo, Dell' origine e dell' uffizio della letteratura, 1809, and Saggi di critica, composed in England.

2 M. Delfico, Nuove ricerche sul bello, Naples, 1818, ch. 9. 3 Malaspina, Delle leggi del bello, Milan, 1828, pp. 26, 233.

of medicine who in 1847 tried to construct an Æsthetic of an exact or mathematical kind, with neither better nor worse result than many famous authors in other countries. He noticed, while turning his algebraical expressions into numerals, that such general formulæ “ fulfil their object with an infinite number of systems of different ciphers"; and that in art there is an element “ not arbitrary, but unknown."i Works by German authors were frequently translated at this time, some of them, for example the writings of the two Schlegels, being reprinted several times ; the Æsthetic of Bouterweck, deriving from Kant and Schiller, was read and discussed ; Colecchi gave an excellent statement of the æsthetic doctrines of Kant ;3 and in 1831 a certain Lichtenthal adapted the Æsthetic of Franz Ficker 4 to the use of Italian readers ; later the same book was fully translated by another hand; some of Schelling's writings were translated, e.g. his discourses on the relation between figurative art and nature.

It must be admitted that in Italy Æsthetic received but inadequate treatment in the revival of philosophical speculation effected by the work of Galluppi, Rosmini and Gioberti. It is treated in a merely incidental and popular manner by the first named.5 Rosmini devotes a section of his philosophical system to the deontological sciences, which “ treat of the perfection of being, and the method of acquiring or producing such perfection or losing it”; among these sciences is that of “beauty in the universal ” under the name of Callology, of which a special part is Æsthetic, the science of “ beauty in the sensible," establishing the “archetypes of beings.” 6 In his longest literary work, considered by him as his Æsthetic,? his essay on The Idyl,1 Rosmini declares the aim of art to be neither imitation of nature nor direct intuition of the archetypes, but the reduction of natural things to their archetypes, which are arranged in a hierarchy of three ideals, natural, intellectual and moral. Gioberti 2 is clearly under the influence of German idealism, especially of Schelling's ; for him the beautiful is “the individual union of an intelligible type with an imaginative element called into being by fancy”; the phantasm gives material, while the intelligible type (concept) gives form, in the Aristotelian sense, and since the ideal element predominates over the sensible or fantastic, art is a propædeutic to the true and the good. Gioberti is of opinion that Hegel was wrong in detaching natural beauty from Æsthetic, for perfect beauty of nature is “the full correspondence of sensible reality with the Idea which informs and represents it,” and as such“ makes its appearance in the sensible universe during the second period of the primordial age described in detail by Moses in the six days of creation”; it is only through original sin that imperfection and ugliness arose in nature. Art is nothing but a supplement to natural beauty, whose decadence it presupposes, and thus art is at once record and prophecy, referring to the first and last ages of the world. The Last Judgement will reintroduce perfect beauty: “organic restitution, by empowering the faculties to contemplate the intelligible in the sensible, and by refining their capabilities, will greatly intensify and purify æsthetic enjoyment. The contemplation of perfect beauty will be the beatitude of imagination, of which Christ gave an ineffable foretaste by appearing to his disciples visibly transfigured and shining with celestial radiance." 5 Gioberti agrees with Schelling's division of art into pagan and Christian, a “heterodox beauty" (Oriental and Græco-Italian art), imperfect when compared with “orthodox beauty”; and between the two,

Rosmini and

1 P. Balestrieri, Fondamenti di estetica, Naples, 1847.

2 Friedrich Bouterweck, Asthetik, 1806, 1815 (3rd ed., Göttingen, 1824-1825).

3 0. Colecchi, Questioni filosofiche, vol. iii., Naples, 1843.

4 P. Lichtenthal, Estetica ossia dottrina del bello e delle arti belle, Milan, 1831.

5 Elementi di filosofia (5th ed., Naples, 1846), vol. ii. pp. 427-476.
8 Sistema filosofico, by A. Rosmini-Serbati, Turin, 1886, $ 210.
? Cf. Nuovo saggio sopra l' orig. delle idee, ş v. part iv. ch. 5.

1 Sull' idillio e sulla nuova letteratura italiana (opuscoli filosofici, vol. i.). 2 V. Gioberti, Del buono e del bello (Florence ed., 1857). 3 Del bello, ch. I.

Op. cit. ch. 7. 5 op. cit. ch. 7.

a“ semi-orthodox” beauty,1 transitional to Christian art; he also attempted a doctrine of modifications of the beautiful, wherein he held the sublime to be creator of the beautiful. Beauty is the relative intelligibility of created things apprehended by fancy: the sublime is the absolute intelligibility of time, space and infinite power as presented to itself by the faculty of imagination : “The ideal formula : the Being creates the Existing, translated into æsthetic language, gives the following formula : by means of the dynamical sublime Being creates the beautiful; and by means of the mathematical sublime contains it: this shows the ontological and psychological connexions of Æsthetic in First Science.” Ugliness enters into the beautiful either as relief and counterpoise, or to open a way to the comic, or to depict the struggle between good and evil. The Christian ideal of artistic beauty is the figure of the God-Man, absolute union of the two forms of beauty, the sublime and the beautiful, a transfigured and divinely illuminated expression of man. However carefully we sift the thoughts of Gioberti from their mythological Judaico-Christian husk, we find nothing of the least value to science.

On the other hand, if Italian literature of the day chose to revive and refurbish certain antiquated critical ideas, a much wider field was opened by social and political upheavals which tended to make use of literature as a practical instrument for spreading abroad the truths of history, science, religion and morality. In 1816 Giovanni Berchet wrote that poetry. .. is intended to improve the habits of man and satisfy the cravings of his imagination and heart, since the tendency towards poetry, like every other desire, awakens in us moral needs " ;3 and Ermes Visconti in his Conciliatore of 1818 says that æsthetic aims must be subordinated “to the improvement of mankind and public and private weal, the eminent aim of all studies.” Manzoni, who subsequently took to philosophizing on art on the principles

of Art.

1 Del bello, chs. 8-10. Op. cit. ch. 4.
3 G. Berchet, Opere, ed. Cusani, Milan, 1863, p. 227.

« IndietroContinua »