Arts – Prosperity And Decline Of Each

It is, lastly, to be observed of each of the arts, that causes of the same, or of a corresponding nature, will be found in every case to influence and to regulate their prosperity, progress, and decline.

All causes which affect or influence civilization, affect or influence art, affect or influence every branch of it, and affect or influence every branch of it in a similar or a corresponding manner. As diseases of the body affect the whole body, all the members as well as the trunk, in whatever quarter they may originate; so national diseases which are connected with its taste or refinement, affect every department of civilization ; and diseases which originate in, or in any way affect any particular branch of art, injure and affect it correspondingly in every department.

As I have endeavoured to elucidate in a previous chapter, certain, and indeed the same or analogous causes, affect and influence the general career, character, and decline, not merely of painting and poetry, but of art in general. Hence, not only those arts which are the most nearly allied, but those which are the most remote are similarly, if not equally promoted by whatever conduces to the general civilization of the nation. The poverty of a country may retard as much the progress of landscape-gardening as it does that of painting; and the same want of taste that fails to call forth the cultivation of music, may be exhibited also in its unsightly and distasteful architectural structures. Even in the production of manufactures to which art is applied, it is, as I have already endeavoured to show, of great importance that the minds of the people should be generally and duly cultivated, and their taste raised by poetry and music, and by arts apparently the most remote from those to which their pursuits are immediately directed. The refinement which regulates the strains of eloquence, will also correct the principles of costume.

It may happen, indeed, as already remarked,* that a certain cause may be permanently prejudicial to art generally, but apparently favourable to some particular art. This benefit to one branch at the expense of the others cannot, however, be more than temporary, and must eventually become essentially in-jurions to all the arts, including that which, for the time, seemed to profit from this circumstance. As in the case of a man suffering from fever, while a glass of cold water, although obviously detrimental to his whole frame, may appear for the time to afford relief to his parched lips and tongue; yet the ultimate effect of it must be deleterious, not only to the entire system, but also to the members thus temporarily relieved. So as regards art, excessive luxury, although for a period it may occasion patronage to music or the drama; yet it must in the end, if not at once, debase the whole character of art of each kind; and involve in the common ruin even the very pursuit which alone appeared to be deriving advantage.