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Introduction

One day towards the end of the eighteenth century, Archibald Alison, an indolent, goodnatured cleric given to contemplating the works of man with as much attention as the works of God, dragged himself from his bed, where he habitually lay until two in the afternoon, and sat down in his home in Kenley, Shropshire, to write the opening lines of his first book, Essays on the Nature and Principles of Taste. Alison hoped that his remarks, eventually published in Edinburgh in 1790, would impress men and women of refinement and cultivation and especially his patron, Sir William Pulteney. In it he explained:

The fine arts are considered as the arts which are addressed to the imagination, and the pleasures they afford, are described, by way of distinction, as the Pleasures of the Imagination … the[ir] object is to produce the emotions of taste.