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As an ardent admirer of that creative art which gives the most expansive scope to the refined perceptions of Taste, and the divine associations of Genius-that art in which
you have so eminently excelled, and through which you have not only revived, but redeemed, the native spirit and chaste simplicity, the classic elegance and impassioned enthusiasm, of a more poetic and a happier age,--permit me to acknowledge the honour which I feel conferred upon me, in being permitted to prefix your name to the following work.
WHETHER Taste be an original faculty, or an acquired power of discriminating such qualities in sensible and intellectual being, as produce certain pleasing emotions in the mind, all writers are not agreed; but whether it be original or acquired, we all agree in acknowledging the dignity of its nature, and the extent of its influence. It is conversant with all the objects of animate and inanimate creation, nor are even the unembodied forms of intellectual being placed beyond the expansive range of its dominion-a dominion, however, the precise limits of which seem not as yet distinctly marked out by the critics, though it has been frequently made the subject of critical and philosophical investigation. It is acknowledged, however, to belong only to him who possesses that exquisite discrimination which distinguishes, in all the works of nature, whatever qualities are most pleasing and agreeable to man, and which discerns whether these qualities are happily combined and contrasted with each other, when transferred from the subjects in which they are originally found to the imitative productions of art. It deduces its principles from the observations which it makes upon, and the maxims which it deduces from, the nature and diversity of the emotions produced by the primary and associated qualities of sensible and intellectual being. Poetry, painting, gardening, and the improvement of real landscape, sculpture, architecture, music, the drama, eloquence, and composition in general, are therefore indebted to it, if not for their origin, at least for their progressive improvement and ultimate perfection. It is therefore unnecessary to enlarge on the importance of the subject; but, as it has already exercised the talent and the intellect of the most refined and critical writers, it may be necessary to say a word relative to the motives that led to the present work.
Beauty and Sublimity have been generally considered the proper objects of taste; but beauty and sublimity are, in themselves, qualities so occult in their nature, that they have hitherto eluded the exploring and detecting acumen of human genius. From all that has been as yet written on the subject, who can pretend to determine in what beauty consists? Of this truth Mr. Dugald Stuart has been so well convinced, that he concludes from it the impossibility