25 MAY 1867, Page 16


WHAT next? We have had sciences of the mind, accurately describing the repeated failures of the mind to demonstrate itself scientifically ; we have had sciences of morals and of history ; we have geology, and all the 'ologies, tumbling over the old idols ; we have political economy, that century-old precocity ; in fact, we have for years been at the mercy of scientific novelties. We eat and drink, we read, we vote, we pray even, on what are termed scientific principles. One leafy nook, one corner of vantage, how- ever, has remained to us,—where Art dwelt, we foully thought, Science would scarcely care to venture. But we were deceived. "Criticism," says Mr. Dallas, "is the science, as art is the minister of pleasure ;" and in two large volumes he proceeds to explain his method of classification. Very cleverly, too, with an earnestness which at all times wins our respect, with an ability whichagain and again awakens our admiration, does he manipulate his materials. He has read and thought much, he has every- thing at his finger ends, particularly Pindar and the poets. He knows all the philosophers. He has penetrated the significa- tion of all the spheres. He can get science out of his heart-beats, as iron is got out of the rays of the sun. But it will not do. Around his forehead dazzlingly plays the light and colour of things ; where he sets his emphatic heel a flower grows and mocks him ; • The Gay Scitant By E. S. Dana. London: Chapman and Hall. and when he has passed away, and the roll of his prose has died into silence, the reader stands bewildered, with just the same satisfaction as if he had seen Professor Anderson coax six yellow canaries out of a thimble, or squeeze all the wines of Christendom out of an inexhaustible bottle. The pleasure is the same in both awes. In both there is wonderful conjuring, quite against the nature of things. Canaries do not emanate from thimbles, and pleasure won't be put in a crucible.

"It is admitted," says Mr. Dallas, "that the immediate end of Art is to give pleasure. Whatever we do has happiness for its last end, but with art it is the first as well as the last ; bat if this be granted, and it is all but universally granted, it entails the inevitable inference, that criticism is the science of the laws and conditions under which pleasure is produced. If poetry, if art, exists in and for pleasure, then upon this rock, and this alone, is it possible to build a science of criticism To say that the object of art is pleasure, in contrast to knowledge, is quite a different thing from saying that it is pleasure in contrast to truth. Science gives us truth, with or without reference to pleasure, but chiefly and immediately for the sake of knowledge ; poetry gives us truth without reference to knowledge, but mainly and im- mediately for the sake of pleasure All the schools of criticism, without exception, describe art as the minister of plea- sure; while the more advanced scholars go further, and describe it also as the offspring of pleasure. The Greek dwells on the

truth of it ; the Italian on its profit The inference is obvious, the inference is the truism, which is not yet even recognized as a truth, that criticism, if it is ever to be a science, must be the science of pleasure. What wonder that it shows no sign of science, when the object of science is not yet acknowledged ? The object of science, we say, is knowledge—a perfect grasp of all the facts which lie within the sphere of consciousness. The object of art is pleasure—a sensible possession or enjoyment of the world beyond consciousness." This, briefly stated in his own words, is the corner-stone of the writer's theory. He defines plea- sure as the aim of art, accepting Sir William Hamilton's definition of pleasure. He further holds that there should be one universal standard of criticism, by which the production of pleasure is to be regulated.

a does not want ranoh inquiry to perceive that Mr. Dallas is wrong at the very beginning of his argument. Art, doubtless, is pleasant to the taste ; so are strawberries. It may be said, in- deed, that art, even when it uses the most painful machinery, when it chronicles human agony and pictures tears and despair, does so in such a way as to cause a certain enjoyment. But the pleasure thus produced is not the aim, but an accompaniment of the aim, proportioned and regulated by qualities existing in mate- rials extracted from life itself. The aim of all life is accompanied by pleasure, includes pleasure, in the highest sense of that word. The specific aira of art, in its definite purity, is spiritualization ; and pleasure results from that aim, because the spiritualization of the materials of life renders them, for subtle reasons connected with the hidden soul, more beautifully and more deliciously acceptable to the inner consciousness. Even in very low art we find spirit- ualization of a kind. But pleasure, as mere pleasure, is produced on every side of us by the simplest and least intricate experiences

• of existence itself. The woe and the hopelessness of a creed like this of Mr. Dallas is that it thoroughly separates art from utility. Pleasure, merely as pleasure, is worthless to beings sent down on this earth to seek,that euphrasy which clears the vision of the soul, —beings to whom art was given, not as a mere musical accom- paniment to a dull drama, but as the toucher of the mysterious chords of inquiry which invest that drama with a grand and divine signification. Nor must we confound the purifying spirit of art with didactic sermonizing and direct moral teaching. The spirit who seizes the forms of life, and passes their spiritual equivalents into the minds of men on chords of exquisite sensation, wears no academic gown, writes no formal treatises in verse. The exquisite sensation, which Mr. Dallas would call her aim, is a means, and not an end. It is a consequence of the divine system on which she works; and she produces it as much for its own sake, as Nature creates a butterfly for the sake of the down on its wings.

The lower condition of the aim of Art, if we have stated that aim properly, places fresh obstacles in the way of the construction of an exact science of pleasure. What is one man's delight is another man's aversion. One lady enjoys the method of Miss Braddon, while her neighbour even gets beyond George Eliot. Scores of people absorb as much pleasure out of Longfellow as a solitary idealist extracts from Richter. But though pleasure emanates from all works properly called artistic, ranks are apportioned in the Temple of Worthies according to the amount of spiritualization, not according to the amount of pleasure involved. The higher the spirit- ualization, the less the need of direct teaching ; the smaller the artist, the more his tendency to sermonize. We admit Lear to be great art, because it absorbs in one perfect spirit- ual form, picturesque, emotional, musical, the amplest and most dramatic elements of human existence. We call the Cenci smaller art, because it spiritualizes elements in themselves horrible and narrow as representing humanity ; and we call the amusing Ingoldsby Lege»ds no art at all, because their direct aim is pleasure, and they spiritualize no form of life whatever.

And a science of spiritualization is just as hopeless as a science of pleasure. Draw out the rainbow for analysis, and you will find yourself examining—a puddle. Dissect the Cenci, and you will cut up a loathsome corpse. The conditions on which Art works are subtle conditions, effusing from the soul's essence,—and that essence is volatile gas. A system of pleasure, a system of feeling, of breathing, of dreaming ! Did ever Science run so wild ? She wishes to make it up with her opposite, to heal up the eternal feud, to set up a seminary for young gentlemen, with the para- doxical inscription, "A Scieuce of Art taught here."

It will not do ; but what might be the result if it would do ? Mr. Dallas very kindly tells us that. We should, in the first place, be able to get an Universal School of Criticism, with (say) the Times at his head ; and there might, in the second place, be a system of prizes such as was found to answer very well in Athens. How easily then would differences of taste adjust themselves ! A reference to the Universal School would decide everything, and we should soon put down any rascally original who endeavoured to please us on any but strictly scientific principles. The artist would no longer be a law to himself, but the School would be a law unto the artist. The saying of Goethe would be reversed, and run, "The artist must work from without inwards ;" and if the artist occasionally choked himself in the act, that would be a minor consideration, since Mr. Matthew Arnold would be happy, and the grumbling public could be proved so scientifically to be pleased.

We cannot go further or more seriously into the merits of the Gay Science. We have said that it displays much erudition and considerable power, and let us add that some chapters, such as that on "The Hidden Soul," contain really true and beautiful passages. The fault of Mr. Dallas's mind is that it is too circular, has been regulated too carefully—in a word, is a typical mind, rendered still more typical by moving in a hard and unsympathetic orbit. If Mr. Dallas gave his nature more play, and allowed it to receive more impressions from the emotional side, he would be less scientific, but perhaps more sincere. There are many false tones in the book, and these will repel high-minded readers even more effectually than the clumsiness of its theory and the absurdity of its object.