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[Text: Edgar Allan Poe (?), "New views on the Theory of Color" (A), from The Evening Mirror (New York), February 8, 1845, p. 2, col. 3.]


New views on the Theory of Color

Mr. Paige, the artist, has in the Broadway Journal of this week (which in all respects is an excellent number), a very admirable and valuable essay, the first of a series on the subject of the art of coloring -- and art in which, practically, he has shown himself a thorough proficient; excelling, indeed, all painters in America or Europe.

In letters Mr. Paige is no more an imitator than in his own peculiar province. He is richly original, both in expression and thought. He thinks for himself, boldly and comprehensively; yet coolly, clearly, and with a Baconian instinct of the true. The essays to which we have reference will revolutionize, if we are not greatly in error, the entire medley of existing opinion on the important topic which they discuss.

The arguments of the essayist can by no means be given in detail, but one of the passages which touch the general principle of his argument, is of so vivid a force, and so entirely corresponds with opinions for which we have been contending for years, that we cannot resist the temptation of quoting it in full:

Indeed, to show that this method, so far as it can be used, is the only way in which these or other like effects in nature can be truly represented, is the object for which I now undertake to write, and I trust I shall be able to demonstrate it clearly enough; at least to make more obvious to the mind of some wavering searcher after truth, the necessity of a devoted adherence to that reason by which alone anything can be done worthy the name of art.

Not that I would discard that higher quality which sometimes soars beyond the reach of reason, called by so many names and so little known -- inspiration or genius; but that so far as I have yet learned, the higher geniuses have been found the truest advocates of, and the most indebted to this faculty, of any other class of men -- and that they have never used any other means than simple reason for the attainment of that which simple reason can teach.

When we have scaled the summit of this pyramid, we shall do right, perhaps, to unfold our wings and make an essay at the moon; -- but, until we have used all the stepping stones that she presents, we had best keep our wings to ourselves, and out of sight, lest by a too violent fluttering of their half fledged pinions in the vain effort to fly whilst so near the surface of the earth, and before we well know how to crawl, we measure our own short length in the dust, or at least throw it into other's eyes, a thing which has been too often done of late to need a repetition.

For the sake of literature -- for the sake of Art in general -- and for the sake of the very commonest common sense, we do hope that these essays of Mr. Paige will have that influence on the American public which their pre-eminent merits so unequivocally deserve.


[This item was attributed to Poe by Mabbott. Mabbott's notes at the University of Iowa refer to the Broadway Journal (vol. I, no. 6, pp. 86-88, February 8, 1845), with the note "quotes p. 87!" In reprinting this article in the Weekly Mirror, the final paragraph was omitted.]

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[S:0 - EM, 1845]