But beyond, and in addition to the process of imitation already described, there is another operation, far more important and more exalted, being that of imagination or invention, which is performed by the capacity of origination, through theagency of which two or more ideas are united together and combined into one, so as to form a new and original composition out of them, and by means of which it is that those wondrous efforts of imaginative power are achieved, which certain of the most renowned painters and poets display in their works. It must be acknowledged, indeed, that important as it is to be endowed with a mind so gifted as to be fully capable of discerning and appreciating all the beauties of a work of art, and of imitating what nature or art presents before us ; yet it is more important still to be so capacitated as to be able to pro-duce a new and original work. Many possess in an eminent degree the former power, but are wholly destitute of the latter; and some even possess the latter, without having in any great degree the former. For the first, the faculties and endowments necessary for this purpose, which I have lately alluded to, capacitate the individual ; for the other, originality also is requisite. The one is the power of imitation, which has been de-scribed ; the other is the power of imagination or invention, which is performed by the faculty of origination, the nature, constitution, and operation of which have been discussed in a previous section of this chapter, and into the results of which I am about to inquire.
He alone who can originate in his mind a composition, instead of copying it from others, is entitled to rank as a man of genius in any art. In the former case only is the production his own; in the latter, it is stolen from others.
Origination is, however, serviceable alike in assisting the imaginative process in the production of works of art, which is at once its highest and most legitimate effort ; and in bringing resources to the mind in the framing or composition of these works. It is also employed in adapting objects in nature for imitation in works of art of a quality and material altogether different from the original type. Indeed, as regards art in general, one remarkable feature or characteristic of it is the immense creative power which it confers on the individual exercising it, by which he is able at his pleasure to originate scenes and representations both of transactions and beings of great variety. Surely, if the creative power of man is that such causes him most to resemble God, of all his pursuits that of art must be considered as the most divine.
Appendant to the power of origination, courage, although a mere animal endowment, appears as necessary to enterprise in art as in any other undertaking. More especially as regards imagination and invention, whether of new styles or new modes of thought, is courage essential both to stimulate and to sustain the spirits and energies of the adventurer.
It is not, however, necessary that in inventing or striking out new styles or ideas in art, we should renounce the principles which govern those already existing, or that we should resort to new materials for aiding our conceptions. On the contrary, the same principles of art regulate each branch alike ; and all the arts avail themselves of the same elements of nature as regards grandeur and beauty. The materials will be ever unchanged, although the combinations of them may be new, by which alone are original conceptions generated; and our only limit to originality is the variety of which these combinations are capable.
During the earlier ages of art, origination, whether through the exercise of invention or imagination, is most active; but it then runs wild. Its luxuriance is that of the untrained vine, which shoots out in all directions, but without assuming any particular form or regular shape ; or, like a river which has overflowed its banks, its waters spread far and wide, but have no settled channel in which to roll. As the faculty is brought into cultivation, the extent of its activity is much lessened, but the mode of its operation is greatly improved. Thus, in training a tree, our care should be to check its exuberance without diminishing its vigour. But it too often happens that this principle is neglected, and every step in the progress of cultivation causes us to decline in originality and force as regards conception. Nevertheless, each of the capacities of the mind which are exercised about art, and the operations of each, should be aided, and controlled, and corrected by the other. Thus taste should control and correct imagination, and imagination aid taste; and the more active and powerful is the imagination, the more essential is it that taste should direct and regulate its efforts.
The influence of the love of imitation, and the preference to follow this instead of adopting a new course, is observable in animals as well as man, who will often individually hesitate to do any act until it has been performed by some one of their body, when they will at once without reluctance immediately follow the example of their leader.