Beauty, in its literal signification, is a term applied to objects of sight, but often figuratively, though improperly, used to express the. effect produced by the perception of other senses, such as beautiful music. etc.
Plato gives but an obscure definition of beauty, when he says, that there are four characteristics of the truly beautiful ; namely, universality, supremacy, sameness, and immutability: his supreme beauty, therefore, ought to possess truth, power, and goodness.
Hogarth, who was both an artist and a philosopher, lays down the following principles which constitute elegance and beauty :fitness, variety, uniformity (as corresponding to a certain end, or purpose), simplicity, intricacy, and quantity : - the explanation would be too tedious.
According to Burke, beauty is not the creature of reason, but a merely sensible quality, acting mechanically upon the human mind, by sensation. His beauties, consequently, must possess; i. Comparative Sma/lness; 2. Smoothness; 3. Variety in the conformation of parts; 4. These parts must not be angular, but melted, as it were, into each other; 5. A delicate frame, with an appearance of agility, rather than strength; 6. Colours clear and bright, but not very strong and glaring; or, 7. If the latter "be the predominant colours, they ought to de diversified with others.
Prof. Kant's definition is perhaps more satisfactory, though it can only be clearly understood by apposite comparative illustrations : he says, "Beauty is the regular .conformation of an object of Nature or Art, in which the mind, , intuitively, perceives this conformation, without reflecting upon its ultimate design or purpose.' - The beautiful as well as the sublime, pro-duces a pleasing" effect, but in a very different manner : thus, a view of mountains, with their summit covered with snow, or enveloped in clouds; a description of a violent storm, or Milton's picture of the infernal regions, affords a satisfaction mingled with terror: on the other hand, a prospect of flowery meadows, valleys intersected with serpentine rivulets, and enlivened by flocks ; the description of Elysium by Virgil, or of the enchant-ing Cestus by Homer, afford both satisfaction and pleasure. But, in order to feel the impression in its full extent, we must first be susceptible of the sublime, before we can enjoy the beautiful.— Lofty oaks, and the solitary shades of the grove, are sublime; flowers, young hedges, and trees in a flourishing state, are beautiful; the starry heavens and the obscurity of night, are sublime; the brightness or serenity of day, is beautiful.
Personal beauty may be reduced to four heads : colour, form, expression, and grace. Colours please by opposition, and it is in the fact that they are more diversified and exposed. The reason why they please, arises less from their natural liveliness, and their being properly blended, than from the idea they present to the mind, of the perfect health of the object. The beauty of form includes the symmetry of the whole body, even to the turn of the eye-brow, or graceful flow of the hair. Hence, an union and harmony of all parts of the body, is the general cause of beauty; and, while the peculiar beauty of the female form is delicacy and softness, that of the male is apparent strength, or agility.
Expression is the effect of the passions on the muscles of the human countenance, and the different gestures. The finest union of passions, is a just mixture of modesty and sensibility, indeed, all the benign affections, such as love, hope, joy, and pity, add to beauty, while the predominance of hatred, fear, or envy in the mind, deform the visage.
Grace is the noblest part of beauty. The mouth is the chief seat of grace, as the expressive beauty of the passions is principally in the eyes. There is no grace without motion, nor can impropriety be united with grace. Lord Bacon says: "In beauty, that of favour is more than that of colour ; and that of gracious and decent motion, more than that of favour."
Willi regard to the final cause of beauty, our taste for regularity, order, and simplicity, contributes to our happiness; and, as beauty is frequently connected with utility, it is highly conducive to improvements in agriculture, architecture, and manufactures
It also concurs in an eminent degree with mental qualifications, in promoting social intercourse, and forming connections among individuals in society.
Mural Beauty may be defined to consist in that uniform conduct, which, independently of personal interest or advantages, is influenced by no other consideration than that of conscious rectitude. Hence it cannot be applied to a man who acts virtuously, because he is rewarded, and finds no inducement to vice;—nor to persons who are deterred from the commission of crimes, by the apprehension of punishment, whether temporal or eternal.