A Philosophical Enquiry Into the Sublime and Beautiful (Routledge Classics)
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Edited with an introduction and notes by James T. Boulton.
'One of the greatest essays ever written on art.'– The Guardian
Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful is one of the most important works of aesthetics ever published. Whilst many writers have taken up their pen to write of "the beautiful", Burke’s subject here was the quality he uniquely distinguished as "the sublime"―an all-consuming force beyond beauty that compelled terror as much as rapture in all who beheld it. It was an analysis that would go on to inspire some of the leading thinkers of the age, including Immanuel Kant and Denis Diderot. The Routledge Classics edition presents the authoritative text of the first critical edition of Burke’s essay ever published, including a substantial critical and historical commentary.
Edmund Burke (1729–1797). A politician, philosopher and orator, Burke lived during a turbulent time in world history, which saw revolutions in America and France that inspired his most famous work, Reflections on the Revolution in France.
distinguish Burke’s views on taste from those of his contemporaries, it must briefly be noted that there were many similarities between them, despite different philosophical assumptions. There was, indeed, a large group of commonplaces on the subject of taste on which all writers of the time drew. Almost without exception they insist on “sensibility” as a prerequisite to good taste: Burke points to the obvious when he remarks that good taste largely depends upon sensibility; because if the mind
Ideas. See Images Idler, The lxxxiii Iliad, The, Burke cites 34, 64, 141, 155, 169; Pope’s translation of 34, 170 Images, Coleridge lvii, lxxvii; effect of poetry not dependent on raising images (or “ideas”) lxxvi, lxxvii, 162–3, 170–2; emotion not raised by clear 60; general effect of words not to raise 166–70, 174; idea of God formed through sensible 68; in Milton 61–2, 80, 121, 172–3; obscure in poetry lxxvi–lxxvii, 61–2, 78–9, 171–4; pleasure in creation of 17; sublimity caused
when Burke protests against Hogarth’s tendency to systematize his theory too rigidly: “there is no particular line which is always found in the most completely beautiful; and which is therefore beautiful in preference to all other lines.”62 There are, however, a few other minor points of contact between them. Both writers agree that difficulty is mentally stimulating and pleasurable;63 Hogarth considers “smoothness” important in human beauty, where Burke claims that it is an essential quality in
own appreciative criticism of the Enquiry in March 1758. 21Ibid., p. 227. 22For this and subsequent references to Club minutes see ibid., p. 238 ff. 23Cf. Enquiry, pp. 45–6, 111. 24Cf. ibid., pp. 61–4. 25Op. cit., p. 57. 26Ibid., p. 173. 27Ibid., p. 25. 28Samuels, op. cit., pp. 113–4. 29Seeibid., Appendix II. 30R. Straus, Robert Dodsley (1910), p. 255. The authorship of the Enquiry seems soon to have become generally known. Both Hume and Shenstone knew of it in 1759 (see pp. xxvi n.,
agreeable than winter, when every thing makes a different appearance. I never remember that any thing beautiful, whether a man, a beast, a bird, or a plant, was ever shewn, though it were to an hundred people, that they did not all immediately agree that it was beautiful, though some might have thought that it fell short of their expectation, or that other things were still finer. I believe no man thinks a goose to be more beautiful than a swan, or imagines that what they call a Friezland hen