As colours sounds tastes c and where ideas of primary

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as colours, sounds, tastes, &c.’ And where ideas of primary qualities resem- ble the object, ideas of secondary qualities do not. Locke gives the example of fire. Its primary quality is motion and this motion produces the secondary qualities in us of warmth if we are at a comfortable distance from the fire and pain if we are too close to it. Clearly the motion belongs to the fire but what we feel, warmth or pain, does not. Locke’s philosophy of perception influenced literary criticism. Addison’s states that We cannot indeed have a single Image in the Fancy that did not make its first entrance through the Sight; but we have the Power of retaining, altering and compounding those Images, which we have once received, into all the Varieties 182 Literary Criticism
of Picture and Vision that are most agreeable to the Imagination. (Steele and Addison 1988 : 368 ) This is a summary of Locke’s view of simple and complex ideas. Locke’s distinction between primary and secondary qualities provides a framework for discussing taste. Again, Addison is our guide. He distinguishes between ‘the Primary Pleasures of the Imagination which entirely proceed from such Objects as are before our Eyes’ and the ‘Secondary Pleasures which flow from the Ideas of visible Objects’ (ibid.: 369 ). Putting this in literary terms, we can agree about the primary qualities of a book, the title, the author, the publisher, the number of pages and so on but we may very well differ about its secondary qualities, the sensations and feelings we get from reading it. These are a matter of taste. This is an important moment in the history of criticism because it signals a shift away from traditional concerns of truth, representa- tion and rhetorical effect to the actual experience of the artwork. There are two aspects to this experience which we have encountered before but not in this context. The first is that it focuses on pleasure and the second is that it is largely private. Traditionally, the pleasure of poetry was related to either persuasion or instruction. But, by the mid-eighteenth century, this relation can no longer be taken for granted. Dryden had earlier announced that ‘his chief endeavour [was] to delight the age in which I live’ ( 1954 : 64 ) and, then, in 1751 John Brown declared that the ‘essential end of Poetry is to please , of Eloquence to persuade , of Argument to instruct (Sigworth 1971 : 246 ). This new attitude to pleasure, at its most explicit in the court of Charles II, was a reaction to the strictures of Puritan rule but it is also an acknowledgement that the role of art is changing. It is now more of a resource for self-cultivation than a guide to moral reformation. Accordingly, critics began to take less interest in the ethics of literature than in its beauties. Addison’s definition of taste as ‘that faculty of the soul which discerns the beauties of an author and the imperfections with dislike’ (Steele and Addison 1988 : 365 ) is fairly typical. Blair, for example, describes taste as ‘the power of receiving pleasure from the beauties of nature and art’ ( 1911 : 2 ) while, in

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