Page:Australia an appeal.djvu/60

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the bush. Whether the mind be endowed with a faculty of taste, and whether that faculty exclusively governs us in the articles of food, clothing, furniture, architecture, painting, and other things, are questions that have never yet been satisfactorily determined. Taste seems to nanifest itself in a preference or selection of what is agreeable to the ear, the eye, the touch, the smell, and the palate, and consequently does not exercise any influence over us in the common wants of life. In these, necessity prompts and then avails itself of the first suitable thing that comes to hand. So far discrimination is all that is necessary. It is only when there is a variety, and therefore room for selection, that the province of taste begins. Since all minds, however, are not finely attuned or properly constituted, what appears the most agreeable is not always the most excellent. Hence reason, and reason only can ultimately decide; and, in order to a just determination, nature the never-failing and only safe guide in all cases must be consulted. No decision that clashes with her laws can be correct. Taste then appears to be the power of selecting what is agreeable, subject to reason under the guidance of nature. But taste is seldom consulted in any of the affairs of life. Her place is generally usurped by custom, which rules according to the tyrannical dictates of usage. The repetition of melted butter with almost every dish at an English table, is as offensive to a Frenchman as the never ending use of oil at a French table is to an Englishman. In each country the stomach is generally loaded with what is customarily eaten, heedless of the constitution and without any reference whatever to propriety or to health. Sailors inform us, that no pancakes can equal those done on the surface of a potful of boiling train oil from whale blubber. The savage, whose only concern is, not to pamper his appetite, but to supply the wants of nature, will not scruple to eat a piece of a whale, if it chance to come in his way when he is hungry; and were he to see an Englishman eating fat pork, he would probably attribute his predilection for the one and his dislike to the other as much to habit as to taste. That which nourishes without injuring the digestive powers, may be pronounced the most wholesome food; and, therefore, whether fine or coarse in its appearance, will be invariably selected by good taste. If the simple and limited supply of his food, leaves the savage without any room for the exercise of this faculty, subject to reason, he has the consolation of knowing that he acts under the guidance of nature, the parent of taste, and that she will not permit him to eat any thing pernicious—an exemption which those that imagine they fare better amidst an endless variety and profusion, cannot boast.