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Wilhelm von Humboldt pointed out to his friend that if form is the essence of art, there cannot be a kind of poetry, such as the sentimental or romantic is supposed to be, in which matter preponderates over form, for that would constitute a pseudo-art, not a separate kind of art.1 Schiller attached no historical meaning to his classification, in fact he declared explicitly that in using the words "ancient” and “modern " as equivalent to
ingenuous and sentimental ” he did not mean to deny that some "ancient " poets, in his sense of the word, could be found among contemporary writers; the two characters might even be united in the same poet or the same poetical work, as (to give Schiller's own example) in Werther. The first to assign a historical meaning to the division were Friedrich and Wilhelm von Schlegel; the former in an early work of 1795, the latter in his celebrated lectures on literary history given at Berlin in 1801-4. But the two senses, systematic and historical, were variously alternated and mixed by literary men and critics, and other distinctions were added ; classical ” was sometimes used to describe poetry of a frigid and imitative style, while "romantic ” poetry was the inspired ; in some countries the word “romantic " came to mean a political reactionary, in Italy it stood for “ liberal”; and so forth. In 1815, when Friedrich Schlegel spoke of ancient Persian romantic poems, or when in our times attention is called to the romanticism of the Greek, Latin or French classics, the historical signification is lost in the theoretical, the sense originally intended by Schiller.
But the historical sense was prevalent in German idealism, which inclined towards the construction of a universal history, including that of literature and art, upon a scheme of ideal evolution. Schelling made a sharp division between pagan and Christian art; the second being held an advance upon the former which was the lowest step.3 Hegel accepted this division and
i Quoted in Danzel, Ges. Aufs. pp. 21-22. : Ub. naive u. sentim. Dicht., ed. cit., p. 155, note.
3 See above, p. 291.
introduced a final regress by dividing the history of art into three periods : symbolic (Oriental) art, classical (Hellenic) and romantic (modern). Just as he conceived Roman art (with its introduction of satire and other kinds indicative of a failure to maintain harmony between form and content) as the dissolution of classical art, a thought suggested by Schiller, so he found in the subjective humour of Cervantes and Ariosto 1 the dissolution of romantic art; and he regarded this series as completing the possibilities of art, though some interpreters think that by a self-contradiction he admitted the possibility of a fourth period, an art of the modern or future world. Indeed amongst his disciples we find Weiss rejecting the Oriental period in order to save the triadic division, and placing as third the modern period, synthesis of the ancient and the mediæval : 2 Vischer too inclines to recognize a modern or progressive period.3
These arbitrary constructions reappear in the works of positivist metaphysicians in the shape of an evolutionary or progressive history of art. Spencer dreamed of writing some sort of treatise on the subject, and in the published programme of his system (1860) we read that the third volume of his Principles of Sociology was to contain amongst other things a chapter on æsthetic progress
with the gradual differentiation of fine arts from primitive institutions and from each other, with their increasing variety in development, their progress in reality of expression and superiority of end.” No grief need be felt that the chapter was left unwritten when we remember the samples of it preserved in the Principles of Psychology and already reviewed in these pages.
The strong historical sense of our own day is leading us further and further away from the evolutionary or abstractly progressive theories which falsify the free and original movement of art. Fiedler remarked not without justice that unity and progress cannot be introduced into
1 Vorles. üb. Asth., vols. ii. and iii.
* See above, pp. 388-390.
a history of art, and that the works of artists must be judged discretely as so many fragments of the life of the universe. In recent times a remarkable student of the history of figurative art, Venturi, has tried to bring evolutionism into fashion, and has illustrated it in a History of the Madonna, in which the presentment of the Virgin is conceived as an organism which is born, grows, attains perfection, grows old and dies ! Others have claimed for artistic history its true character, intolerant of outward curb and rule, drawing her ever-varied productions from the well-head of the infinite Spirit.?
These hurried notes may suffice to show in how narrow a circle has hitherto moved the scientific criticism of the errors we have called “particular.” Æsthetic needs to be surrounded and nourished by a watchful and vigorous critical literature drawing its life from her and forming in turn her safeguard and strength.
1 C. Fiedler, Ursprung d. künstl. Thätigkeit, p. 136 seqq.
2 Ad. Venturi, La Madonna, Milan, 1899. Cf. B. Labanca, in Rivista polit. e lett. (Rome), Oct. 1899, and in Rivista di filos. e pedag, (Bologna); 1900 ; and B. Croce, in Nap. nobiliss., Rivista di topografia e storia dell'arte, viii. Pp. 161-163, ix. PP. 13-14 (reprinted Probl. di estetica, pp. 265-272). On the theory of method in artistic and literary history cf. above, pp. 128-139.
The first attempt at a history of Æsthetic is the work of J. Koller (see above, p. 248) mentioned by Zimmermann (Gesch. d. Asth. pref., p. v) as being so exceedingly rare that he had never been able to see a copy of the book. We ourselves have had the good
ortune to find the ok the Royal Library of Munich in Bavaria, by the help of our friend Dr. Arturo Farinelli of Innsbruck University, and to obtain the loan of it. It bears the title Entwurf zur Geschichte und Literatur | der Aesthetik, von Baumgarten auf die neueste Zeit. Herausgegeben von J. Koller. Regensburg in der Montag und Weissischen Buchhandlung | 1799 (pp. viii-107, small 8vo); in the preface the author declares his intention of supplying young men attending Lectures on the Criticism of Taste and the Theory of the Fine Arts in the German Universities with a " lucid summary of the origin and later progress of these studies,” premising that he will treat of general theories only and that his judgements are frequently derived from reviews in literary periodicals. The introduction ($$ 1-7) treats of æsthetic theories from antiquity down to the beginning of the eighteenth century; Koller observes that “the names and form of a general Theory of Fine Art and Criticism of Taste were unknown to the ancients, whose imperfect ethical theory prevented their producing anything in this field.” He dedicates $ 5 to the Italians, who have produced little in theory”; indeed the only Italian books mentioned are the Entusiasmo of Bettinelli and the small work of Jagemann, Saggio di buon gusto nelle belle arti ove si spiegano gli elementi dell' estetica, di Fr. Gaud. Jagemann, Regente agostiniano, In Firenze, MDCCLXXI, Presso Luigi Bastianelli e compagni ; 60 pp. (concerning this, see B. Croce, Problemi di estetica, pp. 387-390). The section on the History and Literature of Æsthetic begins with the oft-quoted passage from Bülffinger (" Vellem existerent, etc.”) and passes at once to Baumgarten :
the theoretical epoch owes its existence undeniably to Baumgarten; to him belongs the inalienable merit of having first conceived an Æsthetic founded on principles of reason and wholly developed, and of having tried to put it into practice by the means offered him by his own philosophy.” Immediately after this, Meier is mentioned, followed by the titles, accompanied by brief
extracts and remarks—a sort of catalogue raisonné-of many German books on Æsthetic from those of K. W. Müller (1759) to one by Ramler (1799), mixed with various French and English writings under the dates of their German translations. Special emphasis is laid on Kant (pp. 64-74), with the remark that, prior to the appearance of the Critique of Judgment, æstheticians were divided into sceptics, dogmatics and empiricists: the most powerful intellects of the nation inclined towards empiricism, so much so that had Kant himself been asked by what literature he had been most strongly influenced in the development of his own thought, he would certainly have named the acute empirical writers of England, France and Germany"; but
by no preKantian method had it been possible to establish an agreement (eine Einhelligkeit) between men upon matters of taste.” The last pages call attention to the revival of interest in æsthetic studies, which nobody would now dare call a waste of time as in former days. “May Jacobi, Schiller and Mehmel soon enrich literature by publication of their theories !” (p. 104).
The rarity of Koller's book has led us to notice it at some length. Apart from this the first general history of Æsthetic worthy the name is that written by Robert Zimmermann, Geschichte der Asthetik als philosophischer Wissenschaft, Vienna, 1858. It is divided into four books : the first of these contains the history of philosophical concepts concerning the beautiful and art from the Greeks down to the constitution of Æsthetic as a philosophical science through the labours of Baumgarten"; the second runs from Baumgarten down to the reform of Æsthetic brought about by the Critique of Judgment; the third, from Kant to the Æsthetic of idealism ; the fourth, from the beginnings of idealistic Æsthetic down to the author's own day (1798-1858). The work is on Herbartian lines, and is remarkable for solid research and lucid exposition, although the erroneous point of view and neglect of all æsthetic movement other than GræcoRoman or German are grave defects ; besides, it is now sixty years out of date.
Less solid and more compilatory in nature, whilst retaining all the defects of the foregoing, is the history by Max Schasler, Kritische Geschichte der Asthetik, Berlin, 1872, divided into three books treating of ancient Æsthetic and that of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The author belongs to the Hegelian school and conceives his history as a propædeutic to theory, “in order, that is, to attain a supreme principle for the construction of a new system”; he schematizes the material of facts for each period into three grades of Æsthetic of sensation (Empfindungsurtheil), of intellect (Verstandsurtheil) and of reason (Vernunfturtheil).
English literature has Bernard Bosanquet's History of Æsthetics, London, 1892 ; a sober and well-arranged work, written from