Distinctive Province Of Imagination And Invention

We have therefore next to inquire into the precise mode of operation of that faculty of the mind by which efforts of an imaginative kind are achieved, in the manner and to the extent alluded to.

The faculty of origination, which has already been described,* and through the exercise of which all new ideas are obtained, is exerted mainly in two different modes. 1. In invention, which consists in the construction of stories or narratives, or of designs and compositions in painting and the other arts. 2. In imagination, which consists in the original creation of objects or beings, or of the ideas of such objects or beings. In both cases, fresh combinations only are effected. But in the former case we construct only ; while in the latter we actually create.

There is, therefore, an essential difference between the exercises of imagination and invention which ought to be clearly defined, and ever to be borne in mind. While imagination creates original objects which never existed before, invention merely brings together those which had before existed, but which had never been before amalgamated. The one unites ideas, and combines them into one ; the other brings them together, but merely forms them into a collection of separate ideas. The descriptions of the one are original, of the other only new. All compositions which are not real representations, are efforts of invention; but those only which are absolutely original, are efforts of imagination.

Invention enables us aptly to narrate a story, or design a composition; imagination to create original objects and forms. By the one we arrange different subjects together in the most striking manner. By the other we so combine them as to form original being’s out of them. The one merely places together, the other actually unites different ideas. The final aim and result of invention is new arrangement; that of imagination new creation. Invention applies to the manner of treating a subject, and the disposal of its parts; imagination, to the formation by combination of new characters and subjects of which it is to be composed. Invention superintends the disposition of the materials ; imagination directs their combination. Reason mainly aids the former; taste the latter.

We speak of the invention, not of the imagination, of new styles of art, or orders of architecture, because here we do not create anything actually new ; we merely dispose in a different manner things already in existence. Invention, indeed, is exercised as much about matters of science as those of art. Imagination is applicable to matters of art only. Invention is often exerted about topics that are within the province rather of reason than of genius, although the originative faculty is always the primary and active agent. Imagination is the province of genius only. In many cases, however, invention may be regarded as the incipient stage, while imagination is the ultimate effort in the process of origination.