Among the susceptibilities, the emotions of taste have always been
distinguished, and treated of as a peculiarly distinct class. Why is it
that certain objects of sight, and certain sounds or combinations of
sound, awaken emotions more than other sights and sounds? Why do the
perceptions of the eye and ear so much more powerfully affect the mind
than those of the other senses? These certainly are objects for
interesting inquiry. In attempting the discussion of this subject, the
following particulars need to be considered.

All pleasurable emotions are caused either by _perception_ or
_conception_, for we have no other ideas but of these two kinds. That
they are not occasioned by perception alone must be evident from the
fact that infants and children, who have the same perceptions as matured
persons, do not experience the emotions of taste in view of the most
perfect specimens of the fine arts. A combination of gaudy colors or a
string of glittering beads will delight a child more than the most
finished productions of a Raphael or a Phidias. That it is not
conception alone which awakens such emotions is manifest from the fact
that it is the _perception_ of objects which are either sublime or
beautiful that awakens the most vivid emotions of this kind. Of course,
it is inevitable that emotions of taste are caused by perception and
conception _through their connection with some past co-existing

Perceptions and conceptions can _recall the emotions_ which have been
connected with them, and emotions can also recall a conception of the
objects with which they have been united. For example, if some dark wood
had been the scene of terror and affright, either the perception or the
conception of this wood would recall the emotions of fear which had
coexisted with it. If, on some other occasion, a strong emotion of fear
should be awakened, this would probably recall a conception of the wood
with which it had formerly been united. It is no uncommon fact in our
experience to have circumstances about us that recall unusually sad and
mournful feelings, for which we are wholly unable to account. No doubt,
at such times, some particular objects, or some particular combination
of circumstances which were formerly united with painful emotions, again
recur, and recall the emotions with which they were once connected,
while the mind is wholly unable to remember the fact of their past
coexistence. In like manner, pleasurable emotions may be awakened by
certain objects of perception when the mind is equally unable to trace
the cause.

Objects of _perception_ recall the emotions connected with them much
more vividly than objects of conception can do. Thus, if we revisit the
scenes of our childhood, the places of the sorrows and the joys of early
days, how much more vividly are the emotions recalled which were
formerly connected with these scenes than any _conception_ of these
objects could awaken.

Certain perceptions will be found to produce emotions similar to those
awakened by the intellectual operations of mind. Thus the entrance of
light produces an emotion similar to the discovery of some truth, and
the emotion felt while in a state of doubt and uncertainty resembles
that experienced when shrouded in darkness. Great care and anxiety
produce a state of mind similar to what is felt when the body is pressed
down by a heavy weight. The upward spring of an elastic body awakens
feelings resembling those that attend the hearing of good news, and thus
with many other perceptions. From this fact originates much of the
figurative language in common use; such as when knowledge is called
light, and ignorance darkness, and care is called a load, and joy is
said to make the heart leap.

It has previously been shown that the discovery of certain operations
and emotions of mind affords much more pleasure than attends mere
perceptions of material objects. Those who have experienced the exciting
animation felt at developments of splendid genius, and the pure delight
resulting from the interchange of affection, can well realize that no
sensitive gratification could ever be exchanged for them. Whatever
objects, therefore, most vividly recall those emotions which are
awakened when such qualities are apprehended will be most interesting to
the mind.

Now it will appear that there are no modes by which one mind can learn
the character and feelings of another but by means of the eye and ear. A
person both deaf and blind could never, except to an exceedingly limited
extent, learn either the intellectual operations or the emotions of
another mind. Of course, it is by means of certain forms, colors,
motions, and sounds that we gain those ideas which are most interesting
and animating to the soul. It is by the blush of modesty, the paleness
of fear, the flush of indignation, that _color_ aids in giving an idea
of the emotions of the mind. The pallid hue of disease, the sallow
complexion of age, the pure and bright colors of childhood, and the
delicate blendings of the youthful complexion, have much influence in
conveying ideas of the qualities of mind in certain particulars. The
color and flashing expressions of the eye also have much to do with our
apprehensions of the workings of mind.

As it regards _motion_ as aiding in imparting such ideas, it is by the
curl of the lip that contempt is expressed, by the arching brow that
curiosity and surprise are exhibited, by the scowling front that anger
and discontent are displayed, and by various muscular movements of the
countenance that the passions and emotions of the mind are portrayed. It
is by the motions of the body and limbs also that strong emotions are
exhibited, as in the clasped hand of supplication, the extended arms of
affection, and the violent contortions of anger.

_Form_ and _outline_ also have their influence. The sunken eye of grief,
the hollow cheek of care and want, the bending form of sorrow, the erect
position of dignity, the curvature of haughtiness and pride, are various
modes of expressing the qualities and emotions of mind.

But it is by the varied _sounds_ of voice chiefly that intellect glances
abroad, and the soul is poured forth at the lips. The quick and animated
sounds of cheerfulness, joy, and hope; the softer tones of meekness,
gentleness, and love; the plaintive notes of sympathy, sorrow, and pain;
the firm tone of magnanimity, fortitude, patience, and self-denial, all
exhibit the pleasing and interesting emotions of the soul. Nor less
expressive, though more painful, are the harsh sounds of anger, malice,
envy, and discontent.

Not only are certain forms, colors, motions, and sounds the medium by
which we gain a knowledge of the intellectual operations and emotions of
other minds, but they are the means by which we discover and designate
those material objects which are causes of comfort, utility, and
enjoyment. Thus it is by the particular form and color that we
distinguish the fruits and the food which minister to our support. By
the same means we discriminate between noxious and useful plants and
animals, and distinguish all those conveniences and contrivances which
contribute to the comfort of man. Of course, certain forms and colors
are connected in the mind with certain emotions of pleasure that have
attended them as causes of comfort and enjoyment.

In what precedes, it appears that it is those emotions which are
awakened by the apprehension of certain intellectual operations and
emotions of intelligent minds which are most delightful; that all our
ideas of such operations and emotions are gained by means of certain
forms, colors, motions, and sounds; that we designate objects of
convenience and enjoyment to ourselves by the same mode; that
perceptions can recall the emotions which have been connected with them,
even after the mind has forgotten the connection, and that perceptions
recall associated emotions much more vividly than conceptions.

In consequence of these considerations, the inference seems justifiable
that the emotions of beauty and sublimity are not owing either simply to
the _perceptions_ produced, nor to the _conceptions_ recalled by the
principle of association. But they are accounted for in a great degree
by the fact that certain colors, forms, motions, and sounds have been so
often connected with emotions awakened by the apprehension of qualities
in other minds, or of emotions which arise in view of causes of
enjoyment to ourselves, that the _perception_ of these colors, sounds,
forms, and motions recall such agreeable emotions, even when the mind
can not trace the connection in past experience.

As an example of this, the emotion of pleasure has been so often
connected with the clear blue of the sky and with the bright verdure of
the foliage, that the sight of either of these colors recalls the
emotions, though we may not be able to refer to any particular time when
this previous connection existed. In like manner, the moaning sound of
the wind in a storm, or the harsh growl which sometimes attends it, has
so often been united with sorrowful or disagreeable emotions, that the
sounds recall the emotions.

But there is another important fact in regard to the causes of the
emotions of taste. It is found that the character of the _combination_
of sounds, forms, colors, and motions has as much to do with the
existence of such feelings as the nature of these objects of perception.
The very same colors and forms, in certain combination, are very
displeasing, when in others they are beautiful. Thus, also, certain
motions in certain circumstances are very beautiful or sublime, and in
others very displeasing. The very same sounds, also, may be made either
very disagreeable or very delightful, according to their combination.

To account for this, it is necessary to understand that objects which
tend to awaken emotions of a directly opposite nature can not both
operate on the mind without causing disagreeable feelings. If we are
surrounded by objects of awe and solemnity, it is painful to notice
objects that are mean or ludicrous. If we are under the influence of
sprightly and humorous feelings, it is painful to encounter solemn and
pensive scenes, with which, perhaps, at other times, we should be
pleased. In order, therefore, to awaken emotions of beauty and
sublimity, there must exist a _congruity_ in the arrangement and
composition of parts which will prevent the operation of causes that
would awaken incongruous emotions.

But there is another principle which has a still more powerful operation
in regard to the effect of combination and composition. We are always
accustomed to view objects with some reference to their _nature_ and
_use_. We always feel that every effect must have a cause, and that
every contrivance has some _design_ which it was made to accomplish.

There is no intellectual attribute of mind which is regarded with more
admiration than _wisdom_, which is always shown in selecting the best
means for accomplishing a given end; and the more interesting or
important is the object to be secured, the more is the mind pleased with
discovering the wisdom exhibited in adapting means to secure this end.
Almost every construction of nature or of art is regarded by the mind as
having some use and design. No mind, except one bereft of its powers,
would ever employ itself in designing any thing which has no possible
use, either in benefiting or pleasing the designer or others; and should
any such object be found, it would cause only disgust, as exhibiting the
fatuity of a mind which spent its powers in contriving so useless a

There are many objects which meet the eye of man for which he in vain
seeks the use and design; but such objects are never attended with the
conviction that there is no possible use to which they can be applied;
on the contrary, they more frequently provoke curiosity, and awaken
desire to discover their nature and their use. There is a never-failing
conviction attending all our discoveries of new objects in nature that
there is some design or contrivance of which they form a link in the

Whenever the object of any design is ascertained, immediately there
commences an examination of the modes by which this object is to be
effected. If every thing is found to harmonize–if a relation of fitness
and propriety is discovered in every part, the mind is satisfied with
the exhibition of wisdom which is thus discovered. But if some parts are
found tending to counteract the general design of the contrivance, the
object is displeasing. Every work of art, then, depends, for the
pleasure it affords, not alone on the various forms, colors, sounds, and
motions which are combined to affect the senses, but on the nature of
the design intended, and on the skill which is shown in so composing and
arranging the several parts that each shall duly aid in effecting this
design. This is the particular in which the genius of the painter, the
sculptor, the architect, the musician, and the poet is especially

Another particular to be noticed in reference to this subject is the
implanted principle of curiosity, or the desire which the mind feels to
discover what is _new_. After we have discovered the object for which a
thing is contrived, and the fit adjustment of every part to this object,
one cause of interest in it ceases. And objects which have been the
subjects of repeated observation and inspection never yield so much
interest as those which afford to the mind some fresh opportunity to
discover _new_ indications of design, and of fitness in the means for
accomplishing the design. The love of novelty, then, is a powerful
principle in securing gratification to the mind. Of course, the genius
of the artist is to be displayed, not only in arranging the several
parts so as to accomplish a given design, but in the very effort to
secure a design which is new, so that the mind will have a fresh object
for exercising its powers in detecting the fitness of means for
accomplishing a given end.

From the preceding, we recapitulate the following causes for the
pleasurable emotions which are felt in view of certain objects of sight,
and in certain combinations of sound: They recall emotions which, in
past experience, have been connected with the conception of operations
and emotions of other minds, or with material objects that were regarded
as the causes of pleasurable emotions to ourselves; they recall emotions
that are congruous in their nature; they cause emotions of pleasure from
the discovery of fitness in design and composition; and, finally, they
awaken emotions of novelty.

Emotions of taste that are painful are caused by the presence of objects
that recall painful emotions with which they have formerly been
connected; by objects that recall incongruous emotions; by objects that
exhibit a want of fitness and design; and by objects that are common,
when the mind has been led to expect novelty.


The _causes_ which produce emotions of taste have now been pointed out.
An inquiry as to _which_ are the objects, motions, and sounds, and their
various combinations, that, in our experience, have awakened such
emotions, may lead to facts that will establish the position assumed.

Emotions of taste generally are divided into two classes, called
emotions of _sublimity_ and emotions of _beauty_. Emotions of sublimity
resemble those which exist in the mind at the display of great
intellectual power, and at exhibitions of strong passion and emotions in
another mind. Emotions of beauty resemble those which are experienced at
the exhibition of the more gentle emotions of mind, such as pity,
humility, meekness, and affection.

_Of Sounds._

All sounds are sublime which in past experience have been associated
with the strong emotions of fear and terror. Such sounds are heard in
the roar of artillery, the howling of a storm, the roll of thunder, and
the rumbling of an earthquake. Sounds are sublime, also, which convey an
idea of great power and might. This is illustrated in the emotions felt
at the uprooting of trees and the prostration of nature before a
whirlwind; in the force of the rolling waves, as they dash against the
cliffs; and in art, by the working of some ponderous and mighty engine,
that astonishes with the immense resistance it can overcome.

Other sounds, also, are sublime which have often been associated with
emotions of awe, solemnity, or deep melancholy. Such are the tolling of
a heavy bell and the solemn notes of the organ.

There may be certain circumstances that render a sound, that otherwise
would be very gentle and beautiful, more strongly sublime than even
those sounds that are generally most terrific. Gray describes such a
combination of circumstances in a letter to a friend. “Did you never
observe,” said he, “while rocking winds are piping loud, that _pause_,
as the gust is recollecting itself, and rising upon the ear in a shrill
and plaintive note, like the swell of the ├ćolian harp? I do assure you
there is nothing in the world so like the _voice of a spirit_.”

We have another example in Scripture: “And behold, the Lord passed by,
and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the
rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the
wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after
the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the
fire a _still small voice_. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, he
wrapped his face in a mantle.” In both these cases, the sudden silence
and the still small voice, so contrasted with the tumult around, would
awaken the most thrilling emotions of the sublime. In some cases it is
the sense which these sounds awaken of the presence of some awful and
powerful Being that causes such emotions.

There are a great variety of sounds that are called beautiful. Such are
the sound of a distant waterfall, the murmur of a rivulet, the sighing
of the wind, the tinkling of the sheepfold, the lowing of distant kine,
and the note of the shepherd’s pipe. But it must be remarked that it is
always a combination of circumstances that make sounds either sublime or
beautiful. If we know, by the source from which they originate, that
they are caused by no display of power or danger, or if necessarily they
have low and mean associations connected with them, the emotions of the
sublime or beautiful, which would otherwise recur, are prevented. Thus
the rumbling of a cart is sublime when it is believed to be thunder, and
loses this character when its true cause is discovered. The sound of the
lowing of kine in certain circumstances is very beautiful, and in others
very vulgar and displeasing.

Music seems to owe its chief power over the mind to the fact that it can
combine all kinds of sounds that have ever been associated with any
emotions, either of dignity, awe, and terror; or of joy, sprightliness,
and mirth; or of tenderness, melancholy, and grief. Its power depends on
the nature of the particular sounds, and also on the nature of their
combination and succession in relation to time, and in relation to a
certain sound which is called the fundamental or key note.

The art of a musical composer consists in the ability with which he
succeeds in producing a certain class of emotions which he aims to
awaken. The more finished productions of this art are never relished
till long observation and experience enable the listener to judge of the
nature of the design, and with how much success the composer has
succeeded in effecting it. Music, when adapted to certain words, has its
nature and design more clearly portrayed, and in such productions it is
easier to judge of the success of the composer.

_Of Color._

There are no colors which ordinarily excite so strong an emotion as to
be called sublime. The deep black of mourning and the rich purple of
royalty approach the nearest to this character. That colors acquire
their power in awakening agreeable or disagreeable emotions simply from
the emotions which have ordinarily existed in connection with them,
appears from the fact that the associations of mankind are so
exceedingly diverse on this subject. What is considered a dignified and
solemn color in one nation is tawdry and vulgar in another. Thus, with
us, _yellow_ is common and tawdry, but among the Chinese it is a
favorite color. Black, with us, has solemn and mournful associations,
but in Spain and Venice it is an agreeable color. White, in this
country, is beautiful, as the emblem of purity and innocence, but in
China it is the sorrowful garb of mourning.

_Of Forms._

Forms that awaken emotions of sublimity are such as have been associated
with emotions of danger, terror, awe, or solemnity. Such are military
ensigns, cannon, the hearse, the monument of death, and various objects
of this kind. Those forms which distinguish bodies that have great
strength, or which are enduring in their nature, awaken the same class
of emotions. Thus the Gothic castle, the outline of rocks and mountains,
and the form of the oak, are examples. Bodies often appear sublime from
the mere circumstance of size, when compared with objects of the same
kind. Thus the pyramids of Egypt are an example where relative size,
together with their imperishable materials, awakens emotions of
sublimity. The ideas of beauty of form depend almost entirely on their
fitness to the object for which they are designed, and on many casual
associations with which they are connected.

_Of Motion._

All motion that awakens sublime ideas is such as conveys the notion of
great force and power. Motions of this kind are generally in straight or
angular lines. Such motions are seen in the working of machinery, and in
the efforts of animal nature. Quick motion is more sublime than slow.
Motions that awaken ideas of beauty are generally slow and curving. Such
are the windings of the quiet rivulet, the gliding motion of birds
through the air, the waving of trees, and the curling of vapor.

In regard to the beauty and sublimity of forms and color, it is equally
true, as in reference to sound, that the alteration of circumstances
will very materially alter the nature of the emotions connected with
them. If they are so combined as to cause incongruous emotions, or if
they do not harmonize with the general design of any composition,
emotions of the sublime or beautiful are not awakened. For example, if
the vivid green, which is agreeable in itself from the pleasing emotions
which have been connected with it, is combined with a scene of
melancholy and desolation, where the design of the artist is to awaken
other than lively emotions, it appears incongruous and displeasing.

The art of the poet consists in the use of such language as awakens
emotions of beauty and sublimity, either by recalling conceptions of
various forms, colors, and motions in nature, which are beautiful and
sublime, or the strong and powerful, or the soft and gentle emotions of

Emotions of moral sublimity are such as are felt in witnessing
exhibitions of the force of intellect or of strong feelings.

Emotions of moral beauty are those that are felt in witnessing the
exhibition of the gentler and tender emotions of mind. These emotions
are much more powerful and delightful than when they are more faintly
recalled by those objects of perception which are called sublime and

The taste is improved by cultivating a love for intellectual endowments
and moral qualities. It is also cultivated by gaining an extensive
knowledge of objects and scenes which, either in history, or in poetry,
or in any compositions of the fine arts, have been associated with
emotions. It is also cultivated by learning the rules of fitness and
propriety, by studying works of taste, by general reading, by
intercourse with persons of refinement and taste, and by a nice
observation of the adaptation and fitness of things in the daily
intercourse and pursuits of life.

The highest efforts of taste are exhibited in the works of artists who
make such pursuits the express object of their profession.

But in ordinary life the cultivation of taste is chiefly exhibited in
the style, furniture, and decoration of private dwellings, and in the
dress and ornaments of the person. In reference to these, there is the
same opportunity for gratifying the eye as there is in the compositions
of the fine arts. On these subjects there are rules in regard to color,
outline, and combination, and also rules of fitness and propriety, of
which every person of taste sensibly feels the violation. In the
construction of dwelling-houses, in the proportion of rooms, in the
suitableness of colors, in the fitness of all circumstances to the spot
of location, to the habits and circumstances of the proprietor, to ideas
of convenience, and to various particulars which may be objects of
regard, in all these respects the eye of taste ever is prepared to
distinguish beauties or defects.

As it regards dress, every individual will necessarily exhibit, to a
greater or less extent, the degree in which taste has been cultivated. A
person of real refinement of taste will always have the dress consistent
with the circumstances of fortune, the relative rank in life, the
station and character, the hour of the day, the particular pursuit or
profession, and the period of life.

If a person is dressed with a richness and elegance which fortune does
not warrant, if the dress is either inferior or superior to that of
others of the same rank and station, if it is unfitted to the hour or
the pursuit, if youth puts on the grave dress of age, or age assumes the
bright colors and ornaments of youth, in all these cases the eye of
taste is offended.

In the adaptation of colors to complexions, and the style of dress to
the particular form of the person; in avoiding the extremes of fashion,
the excesses of ornament, and all approaches to immodesty–in all these
respects a good taste can be displayed in dress, and thus charm us in
every-day life. A person of cultivated taste, in all that relates to the
little arrangements of domestic life, the ornaments of the exterior and
interior of a dwelling, the pursuits of hours of relaxation and
amusement, the modes of social intercourse, the nice perception of
proprieties in habits, manners, modes of address, and the thousand
little every-day incidents of life, will throw an undefined and nameless
charm around, like the soft light of heaven, that, without dazzling,
perpetually cheers.

_Emotions of the Ludicrous._

There is a certain class of feelings called _emotions of the ludicrous_,
which are the causes of laughter. These are generally pleasurable in
their nature, though there are times when the emotions which produce
laughter are painful. Emotions of this kind are usually caused by the
sudden union of certain ideas in our conceptions when the laws of
association appear to be violated. Such ideas are called incongruous,
because, according to the ordinary experience of our minds, they would
not naturally have appeared together.

In order to awaken this emotion, it is not only necessary that the mind
should discover ideas united which have not ordinarily been so in past
experience, but those which are united in direct _opposition_ to the
laws of association. Thus, if there has been a union of certain
qualities in an object which have uniformly tended to produce emotions
of a dignified and solemn kind, and some particular is pointed out which
is mean, little, or low, the unexpected incongruity occasions mirth.

In like manner, when an object in past experience has uniformly united
ideas which awakened emotions of contempt, if some particular is pointed
out in association with these which is grand or sublime, this
incongruity occasions an emotion of the ludicrous. This is the
foundation of the amusement produced by bombastic writings, where
objects that are grand and sublime have low and mean conceptions
connected with them, or where qualities that are insignificant or mean
are connected with those which are grand and sublime.

The following example of the union of such incongruous ideas will

“And now had Phoebus in the lap
Of Thetis taken out his nap,
And, like a lobster boiled, the morn
From black to red began to turn.”

The sublime ideas connected with the sun, and the classical associations
united with the name of Thetis, would not naturally have recalled the
idea of so insignificant an animal, nor the changes produced in cooking
it, and these connections violate the ordinary laws of association.

Emotions of the ludicrous are also produced by the sudden conception of
some association in ideas which has never before been discovered. Thus,
if ideas have been united in the mind on some other principle of
association than that of resemblance, the sudden discovery of some
unexpected resemblance will produce mirth. This is the foundation of the
merriment produced by _puns_, where the _ideas_ which the words
represent would never have been united by the principles of association,
but the union of these ideas is effected on the principle of resemblance
between the _sounds_ of the words which recall these ideas. When the
mind suddenly perceives this unexpected foundation for the union of
ideas that in all other respects are incongruous, an emotion of the
ludicrous is produced. This is also the foundation of the pleasure which
is felt in the use of alliteration in poetry, where a resemblance is
discovered in the initial sound of words that recall ideas which in all
other respects are incongruous.

All minds enjoy the excitement of this class of emotions, but some much
more than others. _Laughter_, which is the effect of this class of
emotions, is enjoyed more or less by all mankind, and is regarded as not
only an agreeable, but as a healthful exercise.