This edition has been proof an corrected from the original hardcover book.
an excerpt from the beginning of the first chapter:
BEAUTY AND THE IMAGINATION.
It is through a proper understanding of the historic life of man that we secure a knowledge of the capabilities of the; race, and of the relation of man to his fellows and to the earth on which he lives. Man is not a solitary, selfish being; he is bound to his fellows by ties infinite in their nature, and unless j he recognizes his obligations, he does not perform his part in ^ the universal struggle by which the race has lifted itself out J of barbarism up into the civilization of our modern world. The conquest of nature by man has been very slow. In the barbaric stage of human life nature seemed too strong for? man; indeed, even the partial control of nature is a very late acquisition. Man, struggling desperately for existence, has very little time for the cultivation of his higher nature.
History begins when man becomes conscious of himself as a being which has a continuous life, and feels a desire to leave a memory behind him. This history goes back scarcely more than seven thousand years, — hardly a day in the whole period of man's existence.
We are apt to foreshorten history. We cannot tell how long ago it was that the first historic savage built his hut and made his first fire. One of the most important acquisitions, as well as one of the most difficult of accomplishment, was the discovery of the use of fire. In its importance to civilization it is second to no other discovery. Suppose we take one hundred thousand years as the probable age of man. Of nine tenths of that period the record is wanting, except for a few prehistoric monuments. Of this blank, dumb period we know almost nothing. Constantly forgetting his own inventions, the slave of Nature, cruelly treated by her, and yet through her training disciplining himself, man slowly climbs up with constant falls and bruises, and after a hundred thousand years of unrecorded misery, becomes conscious of his position as standing, between two generations. He desires to transmit his experience; he invents language and erects monuments to perpetuate his memory.
The acquisitions made by man, whether in prehistoric or in historic times, are all embodied in the arts. In its broadest sense, art may perhaps be defined as any habitual labor requiring skill, discipline, and intelligence. We can speak as properly of the art of building a nest as of the art of sculpture or of painting. Art in this broad sense is the right way of working for a definite thing. We have to go back to the Greeks, as in all branches of intelligence, to get first-class notions with respect to the arts. Aristotle, who organized knowledge for the Greeks, thus defined art: " All things are done by art of which the idea exists in the mind." Mill, in his very admirable inaugural address delivered before the University of St. Andrew's, said : " If I were to define art, I should be inclined to call it the endeavor after perfection in execution." Indeed, generally speaking, every art seems to aim at something good.
The arts of expression are the chosen modes of transmitting and perpetuating the gains of civilization. This is what makes them important at all times, and gives to the study of them a peculiar interest. Those arts which have reference to the attainments of the mind are called " Fine Arts." The term "fine arts" then means any labor directed to the expression of thought, feeling, or emotion; and consequently that labor which is directed to the expression of beauty of form becomes a fine art. We have different branches of the fine arts, as poetry, oratory, dancing, painting, architecture, sculpture, and music, — whatever modes of expression man may invent to give to his fellows a knowledge of what is passing in his inmost soul. We may approach a somewhat satisfactory definition of the fine arts if we designate them as "the arts of expression, of which the object is to be a perfect form of the idea."
Language is the primal and universal art. The formation of language in every case has been prehistoric. Language at first was simply vocal, but with the advancement of civilization it became more pliant, until, by a most splendid process of the imagination, it was able to express, not merely the names of objects, but the ideas which man develops in life. Then came the change from a spoken to a written and visible language; this is man's greatest achievement, but it was a long time before literature, the most important of the fine arts, was developed. Literature at first was committed to the memory of man; the moment it became written, it was safe from the defects of memory. A great building, as the pyramid, may outlive the literature of many races; but a pyramid appeals to a very few in comparison with the wide influence of the written forms of expression. One copy of a poem may be the source of joy to a