1798 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Joseph Addison

Thomas Green, 4 October 1798; Extracts from the Diary of a Lover of Literature (1810) 104-05.



Examined, with a view to these principles, Addison's Eleven Papers in the Spectator; beginning at No. 409., and, with the omission of the 410th., ending with the 421st. In the first and preparatory Paper, he defines Taste, "that faculty of the soul, which discerns the beauties of an author with pleasure, and his imperfections with dislike." He then proceeds to consider at large the Pleasures of Imagination; which he restricts to those originally derived from Sight; and derives from the three sources of Grandeur, Novelty, and Beauty. The proximate cause of the pleasures thus derived, he passes over as undiscoverable: but the final cause, of Grandeur, he assigns to the promotion of piety; of Novelty, to the acquisition of knowledge; and of Beauty, to the propagation of the species. — The primary pleasures of the imagination, he considers as those which arise immediately from the object itself; the secondary, from its representation. — Representations, such as statuary, painting, description, &c. delight, he observes, not merely as they suggest pleasing, realities, but, independently of this, simply as they are imitations — from a comparison of the copy with the original. The proximate cause of this pleasure, he holds it impossible to discover; but regards its final cause to be, the quickening and encouraging our searches after truth. — Representations, he afterwards remarks, delight, too, when they excite the passions of pity and terror, by suggesting the consideration of our own security and happiness; whereas the reality, in such a case, would affect us too strongly to admit of such a reflection. — The Pleasures of Imagination, thus reviewed, he places between those of the Sense and of the Understanding; — less gross than the former, and less refined than the latter. — Addison expressly calls his undertaking entirely new; and by appending a Table of Contents, he, no doubt, thought it important. It was unquestionably a very vigorous advance towards a philosophical consideration of this interesting and engaging topic.