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When combination and contrast unite in the same flower, which is far from rare, the order of excellence is such as to admit of the highest effect colours are capable of giving.
The boundaries of science being now established, the province of taste may be inferred, as including all not restricted by the former. When the rules of science have defined what is invariable and necessary, a large field will still remain open for individual taste to luxuriate in without reproach; limited, indeed, on all sides from transgressing its proper bounds, but within its ample space unfettered. This is the region of taste, to which belongs whatever is not claimed by the more rigid exactness of scientific rule. It is the residuary legatee, when all specified claimants are satisfied.
But beyond its legitimate sphere it can have no jurisdiction. Whatever Nature (which is the law of our Maker) requires, taste cannot dispense with as out of fashion; whatever it rejects, taste cannot patronise into a beauty. It may prefer colour to colour at its pleasure, and dispute over the rival claims of its several favourites, which have naturally an equal claim to admiration; but it is out of place when it demands precedence for an angular over a flowing outline, or for a disproportionate or an unmeaning shape over one of which every part has reference to the whole; nor ought it to be allowed to stamp a conventional value upon an incongruous assemblage of colours.
A cultivated taste does not often err thus. And by a cultivated taste, I mean simply, one that is conversant with a flower in its varieties, and takes an interest in their observation. It is curious to observe the tact a person rapidly acquires in discerning any thing that is really a natural defect, or the parent of a natural advantage, merely by frequent unconscious comparison. And this is the origin of the agreement there is between florists in the "points" of flowers. And the reason it is not more perfect is, because the faculty is not equally cultivated in all, nor is it perfect in any. Mere observation has not the means of training the eye to completeness; for perfection has never hitherto been reached in the objects of its study. It is also partly owing to an erroneous as well as a defective standard. For in forming a standard of excellence of any particular florist's flower, the legitimate preferences of varying taste have generally been allowed a voice, which is a mistake.
* The readers of The Florist will have met with this idea before (as also that contained in the preceding sentence). And I have a pleasure in acknowledging that it was from seeing it in a former Number in a remark of the Superintendent, that I adopted and have analysed it here.
Reasoning, however, will help to supply the deficiency. Discussions on the subject, such as are constantly appearing in the pages of periodicals like The Florist, will always tend to promote such agreement, because there is a solid foundation at bottom, and therefore a true appeal to nature. There are in nature certain fixed laws applicable (and in practice already to a great extent applied) to the estimate of any flower. And the readers of such discussions, whether they agree to or dissent from what they read, so they but exercise thought upon it, are gradually acquiring for themselves the faculty of correctly judging whether those laws are infringed or not. Nor can any one have perused the papers I here conclude, without making an advance in a knowledge, of which, perhaps, at first he was inclined to dispute the existence.
I have now brought this essay to a close; and beg to return my sincere thanks to you, sir, and to your readers, for the courtesy with which you have borne with its extension to a much greater length than I anticipated. The earlier papers, not from having had more care bestowed upon them, but from the nature of their subjects, are more complete than the later ones, nor have I omitted in them any thing I intended to say. The same cannot be affirmed of the portions on auxiliary forms, and on the province of taste, because the principle being fully given, it was unnecessary to lengthen these letters still further by applying it to every case to which it is applicable. The observations on colour require a more ample apology; for having (with the exception mentioned in the note) been drawn exclusively from the inspection of nature, and that with very confined opportunities, they cannot claim to exhibit the completeness of a system. As far as they go, however, I have but little misgiving about their correctness.
That I have made no mistakes in the philosophical elements of beauty in a flower, is rather to be wished than expected; but I have taken the best means that lay in my power to make none. Neither can I be a competent judge of the extent to which I have succeeded in my original purpose; but this I hope may be considered as proved, that the pursuit of the florist is as little to be branded as childish, and is not less rational as a recreation than any other part of horticulture. I do not scruple boldly to avow before the most fastidious, that it is a pursuit not unworthy of a wise man, nor unbefitting a good one; it is elegant, instructive, scientific, and full of results. And the reader of his Bible may see, and grow wiser by seeing, in it another instance of the tenure on which he holds his portion on earth; that the ground and the things that grow out of it do not yield to him their advantages without the labour of his hands and the exercise of his intelligence.
I have no wish to place the occupation of the florist above its natural mark; but I am sure that, in itself, in all its branches, it is undeserving of any reproach, unless it be one to feel the beauties God has created for our pleasure, and to draw them forth from the obscurity in which He has hidden them by the means He lias appointed for the purpose. The same objection which is made to cultivated varieties of a natural flower would equally condemn the diamond to remain in obscurity in the mine where God has placed it, and would stigmatise the adventitious splendour it derives from cutting and polishing at man's will as an interference with nature. It may be - we know not; but it is neither impossible nor violently improbable - that before sin entered into the world, when the earth gave forth her increase without labour, the flowers may have spontaneously exhibited that standard of perfection, an approach to which the florist now laboriously aims at drawing forth from them. It may have been the same too with the harvest of the field and the fruits of the orchard; and that varieties of both, as incomparably superior in kind as superabounding in quantity to any thing we now see, may have been on their progress to maturity, to call forth the thanksgiving of pure hearts, had those hearts continued pure.
And such may also be in store for a future period. But, in the mean time, we know that labour is enjoined, and that not of the hands alone, but of the brow; an expression which seems to betoken what is certainly true in fact, that, to obtain the riches of the soil, a trial of mental skill is required on the part of man, a putting forth of the resources of his intelligence, to overcome the reluctance of nature to rise up to its capabilities. And whether his ingenuity be exercised on the corn, on the fruit, or on the flower, it is rightly exercised; and the results are additions to the sum of human pleasures which the Creator himself has not thought beneath His care.
BEAUTY in a flower is produced by
I. Form, consisting of outlines, general and subordinate.
1. Absolute, requiring
(1.) Unity: infringed in idea, by a plurality of equivalent parts. In outline, by intervals - by abrupt changes.
(2.) Variety [effects of straight lines and curves]: Of form - of number - of colour.
Best dependent on characteristics of the flower and mode of colouring. Actually, hemispherical the most perfect. Other examples.
1. In General, or separately,
Must be, bright - distinct.
2. In Union; must be in juxtaposition, and mutually adapted; producing,
(1.) Combination, if in natural agreement. And this is, distinct, clouded, or compound.
(2.) Contrast, if in natural contrariety.
Comparison of the two modes.
Province of Taste includes all not restricted by necessary laws of Nature.