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Essays on Taste

64 pages
The Project Gutenberg EBook of Essays on Taste, by John Gilbert CooperThis eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it,give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online atwww.gutenberg.netTitle: Essays on TasteAuthor: John Gilbert Cooper, John Armstrong, Ralph CohenRelease Date: September 15, 2004 [EBook #13464]Language: English*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK ESSAYS ON TASTE ***Produced by S.R.Ellison, David Starner, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.The Augustan Reprint SocietyESSAYS ON TASTEfromJohn Gilbert CooperLetters Concerning TasteThird Edition (1757)&John ArmstrongMiscellanies(1770)With an Introduction byRalph CohenPublication Number 30Los AngelesWilliam Andrews Clark Memorial LibraryUniversity of California GENERAL EDITORS H. RICHARD ARCHER, Clark Memorial Library RICHARD C. BOYS., University of Michigan EDWARD NILES HOOKER, University of California, Los Angeles JOHN LOFTIS, University of California, Los Angeles ASSISTANT EDITOR W. EARL BRITTON, University of Michigan ADVISORY EDITORS EMMETT L. AVERY, State College of Washington BENJAMIN BOYCE, Duke University LOUIS I. BREDVOLD, University of Michigan CLEANTH BROOKS, Yale University JAMES L. CLIFFORD, Columbia University ARTHUR FRIEDMAN, University of Chicago LOUIS A. LANDA, Princeton University SAMUEL H. ...
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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Essays on Taste,by John Gilbert CooperThis eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere atno cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever.You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under theterms of the Project Gutenberg License includedwith this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.netTitle: Essays on TasteAuthor: John Gilbert Cooper, John Armstrong,Ralph CohenRelease Date: September 15, 2004 [EBook#13464]Language: English*E**B OSTOAK RET SOSFA YTSH IOS NP TRAOSJTEEC *T* *GUTENBERGPOrnolidnuec eDids tbriyb Sut.eRd. EPllirsooonfr, eDaadivnidg  STteaarnme.r, and the
The Augustan Reprint SocietyESSAYS ON TASTEmorfJohn Gilbert CooperLetters Concerning TasteThird Edition (1757)&John ArmstrongMiscellanies(1770)With an Introduction byRalph CohenPublication Number 30Los AngelesWilliam Andrews Clark Memorial Library
University of California  GENERAL EDITORS  H. RICHARD ARCHER, Clark Memorial Library    REIDCWHAARRDD  NCI. LBEOS YHSO., OUKnEivRe,r sUitnyi voefr sMitiyc hoifganCalifornia, Los Angeles  JOHN LOFTIS, University of California, LosAngeles  ASSISTANT EDITOR  W. EARL BRITTON, University of Michigan  ADVISORY EDITORS  EMMETT L. AVERY, State College of Washington    LBOENUIJSA IM. IBN RBEODYVCOEL, D,D uUknei vUernsiivteyr soift yMichigan  CLEANTH BROOKS, Yale University    JAARMTEHSU RL . FCRLIIEFDFMOARND,,  UCnoilvuemrsbitiya  oUf niCvheircsaitgyo  LOUIS A. LANDA, Princeton University  SAMUEL H. MONK, University of Minnesota    JEARMNEESS TS UMTOHSESRNLEARN, DU, niQvueerseitny  Mofa rTy eCxaolslege,London  H.T. SWEDENBERG, JR., University ofCalifornia, Los Angeles
INTRODUCTIONThe essays on taste taken from the work of JohnGilbert Cooper and John Armstrong and reprintedin this issue are of interest and value to the studentof the eighteenth century because they typify theshifting attitudes toward taste held by most mid-century poets and critics. Cooper, who accepts theShaftesbury-Hutchesonian thesis of the internalsense, emphasizes the personal, ecstatic effect oftaste. Armstrong, while accepting the rationalistnotions of clarity and simplicity, attacks methodizedrules and urges reliance on individuality.Following Shaftesbury and Hutcheson closely,Cooper treats taste as an immediate, prerationalresponse of an internal sense to the proportion andharmony in nature, a response from an internalharmony of the senses, imagination, andunderstanding to a similar harmony in externalnature. Cooper defines the effect of good taste asa "Glow of Pleasure which thrills thro' our wholeFrame." This "Glow" is characterized by highemotional sensibility, and it thus minimizes thepassivity which Hutcheson attributes to the internalsense.Armstrong's sources are more eclectic thanCooper's. Armstrong shows similarities to Pope inhis rationalism, to Dennis in his treatment of poetryas an expression of the passions, and toHutcheson in his emphasis on benevolence and
the psychological basis of perception. But to theseviews, he frequently adds personal eccentricities.For example, Taste: An Epistle to a Young Criticreveals its Popean descent in its tone and form;however, its gastronomic ending displaysArmstrong's interest, as a physician, in the relationof diet to literary taste. If Armstrong's boast that"I'm a shrewd observer, and will guess What booksyou doat on from your fav'rite mess," is a personaleccentricity, his attack on false criticism and hisexhortation to judge for oneself are typicalharbingers of late eighteenth-century individualismand confidence in the "natural" man.An honest farmer, or shepherd [writesArmstrong in "Of Taste"], who is acquaintedwith no language but what is spoken in hisown county, may have a much truer relish ofthe English writers than the most dogmaticalpedant that ever erected himself into acommentator, and from his Gothic chair, withan ill-bred arrogance, dictated false criticismto the gaping multitude.[1]([LFoonotdnoont,e  117: 7J0o),h InI , A1r3m7s.t]rong, MiscellaniesCooper and Armstrong both hold a historicallyintermediate position in their attitudes toward taste,accepting early eighteenth-century assumptionsand balancing them with late eighteenth-centuryemphases. Neither of them abandons the moralassumption of art which, as Armstrong explains it,is a belief in "a standard of right and wrong in the
nature of things, of beauty and deformity, both inthe natural and moral world."[2] Cooper, whodefines taste as a thrilling response to art, fallsback upon Hutcheson in minimizing the importanceof art and making it secondary to moral knowledge.Armstrong, while describing taste as the sensitivediscrimination of degrees of beauty and deformity,bases this discrimination not on artistic, but onmoral qualities.[Footnote 2: Ibid., II, 134.]The complete transition from classic to romanticpremises of taste is characterized by theseparation of art from morals. This step neitherCooper nor Armstrong takes. But they do exhibittendencies which explain how the shift was madepossible. Both writers insist on a felt response to awork of art. Cooper emphasizes that this responsemust be to the whole work. This assumptionimplies that a work of art is an entity complete initself; it makes possible the argument that artconveys artistic, not moral knowledge. Cooper, bystressing sensibility as an effect of taste, suggeststhe Wordsworthian notion that the poet is moresensitive than other people.Armstrong, in addition to his hostility to formalcriticism and his confidence in the natural man,reveals three other tendencies which latereighteenth-century critics elaborated. Like EdwardYoung in his Conjectures on Original Composition,1759, Armstrong opposes slavish imitation ofancient models and declares that the writer should
"catch their graces without affecting it [them]" sothat his "own original characteristical manner willstill distinguish itself."[3] Armstrong emphasizesexquisiteness of perception as the basis for taste:the more exquisite the mind, the more is it able todiscriminate among the various degrees of thebeautiful and the deformed. Although later criticsrepudiate Armstrong's moral discrimination, theytransform it into a refined discrimination ofaesthetic qualities. Finally, by suggesting that theman of genius differs from the man of taste by hisability to handle a medium, Armstrong implies thepossibility of a technical criticism in terms of thewriter's craft, apart from moral judgment.[Footnote 3: Ibid., II, 168.]Although the works of Cooper and Armstrongelicited contrasting popular reactions—Lettersconcerning Taste running into four editions from1755 to 1771 and Armstrong's writings, with theexception of The Art of Preserving Health, neverwinning much public favor—neither writer exerted astrong critical influence. Cooper did not reassess orchange significantly the assumptions ofShaftesbury and Hutcheson. His work wasprimarily a popularization of their ideas, and, in itsenthusiastic language, its emphasis on sensibility,and its epistolary form, it seems directed atflattering a female audience. Armstrong's remarkson taste, written in imitation of the simplicity andclarity of the rational tradition, are personalassertions and opinions rather than well-defined orclearly thought-out critical positions. They are
random thoughts rather than a coherent criticaltheory.The significance of Cooper and Armstrong rests,therefore, on certain representative attitudestoward taste which exhibit the change "from classicto romantic." On the one hand, they accept themoral postulates of art, and, on the other, theyemphasize the emotional basis of taste. Coopertreats art as a secondary form of knowledge, yetemphasizes the thrill that art gives. Armstrongaccepts the standards of clarity and simplicity,while emphasizing the individuality of response andthe need for discriminating particular, rather thangeneral, qualities. Though Cooper and Armstrongfail to revaluate the traditions they accept, theyexemplify trends which led others to perform thisrevaluation and to transform the moralassumptions into aesthetic criteria.Bibliographical NoteThe two reprints from the twenty letters of JohnGilbert Cooper's Letters concerning Taste. Towhich are added Essays on similar and otherSubjects are from the third edition, dated 1757; thefirst edition was published in 1755 as Lettersconcerning Taste. The selections by JohnArmstrong are taken from the two-volumeMiscellanies published in 1770. "The Taste of thePresent Age" received its first publication in thisedition, but the other prose had previously beenpublished in 1758 under the pseudonym of
Lora uEnscsealyost  Toen mVpalrei oiun st hSeu fbijrestc tvs.o lTuhmee  poof eSmk eTtacshtees::An Epistle to a Young Critic was first published in.3571Ralph Cohen
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