Page:Selected Orations Swedish Academy 1792.djvu/42

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
42
OBSERVATIONS ON TASTE, &c.

Far from experiencing the same degree of candour are the votaries of elegant learning; for who does not esteem himself sufficiently qualified to judge of what is beautiful, sublime, and pathetic? The Belles Lettres are destined to amuse: whoever, therefore, is in search of amusement, will condemn a work which deceives his expectations. It would be in vain to plead the utility of such a performance; a quality which even the most finished works of taste are hardly allowed to possess. With the utmost freedom every one praises and condemns: hence Boileau was prompted to say, and of the votaries of elegant learning he said truly, that every author is the slave of the purchaser of his work.

In opposition, however, to this true picture of the destiny of the Belles Lettres, another equally true may however be exhibited; a picture which appears to destroy the arguments already advanced.

Behold the fame of Homer, Virgil, and Horace—of Demosthenes and Cicero—of Thucydides, Livy, and Tacitus, resting on the foundation of ages, unshaken by any hostile attacks, victorious even over ridicule, that most formidable of all weapons which can be directed against genius.

Frequent those theatres where mankind meet to be delighted, where the emotion of one insensibly kindles sympathy in the breast of another, where praise frequently precedes judgment. Find an audience, if there exist such a one, which has nature for its guide, whose object is pleasure,

whose