« PreviousContinue »
accidentally met with the unfinished MS. Believing the main principles of the system there sketched out to be true, and that they might be useful in application to the productions of art, he requested her to rewrite the whole, and recommended her to be content with illustrations which, though falling short of her wishes, might be sufficient to render her theory clearly intelligible.
The foregoing details appeared in an introduction to the work alluded to, which was published in the year 1815, under the title of "A Theory of Beauty and Deformity," but as it then stood, it soon ceased to be an adequate representation of the Author's views. Her mind rapidly opened to the overwhelming importance of truths which bear immediately upon the moral and spiritual relations of man; and the intellectual results of her early search after the true principles of beauty became important in her estimation chiefly, if not entirely, from the collateral light they seemed to throw on interests affecting man as a moral and spiritual being. It
was her wish, accordingly, as the symbolical meaning of beauty, in all the varieties of its manifestation, burst upon her mind, to withdraw from the Public that work which contained only an intellectual system, and to substitute for it one which, while setting forth the same principles, should trace them through their manifold forms fraught with blessing and instruction, up to that eternal source in the Divine mind, from which she saw them to be the direct emanation.
The materials for such a work were carefully prepared by her during the last years of her life; but, through the weakness of advancing age, she was unable fully to execute her design. She left it, however, in solemn charge to two of her friends, to see that at no distant period after her death, these materials should be arranged and given to the world. Nothing has been added to the Author's own MS., but some of the results of her earlier investigations on the same subject are placed before the reader in an introduction to the present work.
We shall conclude this Preface with the Author's own words on her death-bed, concerning the responsibility under which she felt herself to lie with regard to this undertaking. "I wish," she said, "to discharge my trust as an author, in its full extent, to Him who gave it. And I believe that trust to have been to aid in the interpretation of the symbolic teaching of God in His visible creation, and to show to others what He has taught me of the manner in which we may make everything around us instinct, as it were, with the anointing of that Spirit which has been bestowed upon ourselves; how we may imprint on our own domain of taste and domestic scenery, those very same characters of beautiful moral expression which God has written on the face of nature."
Clifton, May, 1859.