Belles Lettres, or polite literature, a very comprehensive expression, though not easily defined. Our industrious predecessors, the editors of the "Encyclopcedia, Britannica, " justly complain that they cannot find either a clear definition, or a succinct explanation, cf the words Belles Lett res, nor any summary of those sciences which are comprehended under this neral and collective denomination. With diffidence we venture to assert, that, to us, it does not appear a vague term ; and though neither the voluminous French nor English Dictionaries contain an analysis of this expression, our difficulties, in this respect, are by no means insurmountable.
When we consider the influence or effect of polite literature on the moral and intellectual character of man, it may be defined to be that extensive ramification of the subjective sciences, which are peculiarly calculated to improve the heart, and enlarge the mind, in contradistinction to those objective, or physical sciences, which principally tend to increase the knowledge of the senses, while they explain the nature of external objects, and are therefore denominated Natural and Experimental Philosophy, including Natural History in all its branches. Of the latter, we shall treat in their proper places; and confine our analysis, at present, to the Belles Lettres. These useful and elegant acquirements distinguish the accomplished scholar from the illiterate mechanic, who studies and applies the effects of motion, form, variety, and action, while the former endeavours to account for their causes. It would be inconsistent with our plan, to accompany every department of polite literature with a separate definition ; which would extend this article beyond its proper limits. Hence we shall content ourselves with exhibiting merely an outline of the branches of this extensive, tree of learning.
2. Ornamental Gardening.
3. Elegant Archite6ture.
4. Music, vocal and instrumental.
7. The Art of Printing, the most simple, but the most extensively useful.
We cannot, on this occasion, differ in opinion from the Monthly Reviewer, who, in the 79th volume of that work, when analyzing the Transactions ot the Royal Society of Edinburgh, makes the following judicious remarks: The French, beside many other similar institutions, have long had their Academy of Sciences, and also that of Belles Lettres: The gentlemen addicted to philosophical inquiries, knew the value of the former, and the Memoirs of the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles Lettres form a body of criticism and curious investigation, not equalled by any other polite nation in Europe. We have, indeed, in this country, the Royal Society, and the history of their Philosophical Transactions. Why polite literature has not been thought worthy of some public institution, no good reason can be assigned. The true cause, perhaps, is, that political ferments, party disputes, the violence of faction, and the interesting objects of trade, which naturally engross the thoughts of a great commercial country, may have contributed to make the poets, the historians, and the orators of antiquity, appear too frivolous, and unworthy of a tendon. Letters, it is true, have been cultivated in England, notwithstanding all discouragements ; but it must be allowed, that they would have been cultivated to more advantage by a body of men assembled under the royal patronage. The want of such an institution has been always considered as a reproach to this country. Even in the present age, which, to its honour, has given encouragement to the Arts, and, indeed, has raised them to a degree of unrivalled perfection, the idea of such an academy has never been started, or, at least, never pursued with effect. It is reserved, it seems, for our fellow-subjects of the north, to take the lead in this important business.