Philosophers, modern as well as ancient, have always been ready, with one exception, to formulate definitions of beauty and the beautiful, yet they appear to have fought shy of deciding what are the essential properties of a beautiful daughter of Eve, and what actually constitutes beauty in a woman.
One day a love-sick pupil, who had been badly treated by a Grecian Juliet, in the hope of lowering the dignity of the sex, asked Aristotle to define beauty, and the reply was far from satisfactory.
"Beauty?" said the Greek philosophe; "that is a question which we may leave to the blind; " and thus apparently shelved the subject as unworthy of his peripatetic school. Nevertheless, he dealt with it at some length in a treatise, which, unfortunately, was lost.
Since then numerous definitions of beauty and the beautiful have been evolved, but not one of them can be regarded as quite satisfactory.
The very general difference of opinion as to which is beauty and the beautiful and which is not beauty and the beautiful would incline one to side with Hutcheson when he asserts that
' all beauty is relative to some mind perceiving it." On the other hand, judges of beauty and who are not? - will repudiate the suggestion made by Reid that " beauty exists apart from our perception of it."
Home says that " beauty is the pleasure connected with sight and hearing"; and Hegel decides that " the beautiful is the absolute ideal realising itself," which, if true, shatters the hope that the beautiful does exist in concrete form.
Hogarth elaborates the theory that beauty is " an ultimate sensitiveness of the mind to certain geometrical forms and colours," which most people regard as an outrage against the sex; and Hamilton is singularly vague in his definition that " the beautiful is that whose form occupies the imagination and the understanding in a free, full, and consequently an agreeable activity."
All, however, refer to beauty and the beautiful in the most general way, except Locke who says" beauty consists of a certain composition of colour and figure causing delight in the beholder." No woman can fairly be described as beautiful who fails to delight all beholders.
Yet there is something besides colour and figure which assists materially to produce beauty In a woman. The attribute is subtle and elusive; it lacks a name, yet exists as charmingly in a beautiful woman as her features, voice, colouring, form, and figure. No woman can be beautiful without it. '
It may be something in her manner, mode, style, or fashion; it may be spiritual or merely mental; it may be there to-day and gone to-morrow. In rare cases it is noticeable in babyhood ' in rarer cases it is retained even in old age. It is all-powerful and most essential; it confers upon the fortunately gifted mortal admission to that very exclusive sisterhood of whom Spenser sings: '
" Nought under heaven so strongly doth allure The sense of man."