Edmund Burke (17291797). On the Sublime and Beautiful. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
Perfection not the Cause of Beauty
THERE is another notion current, pretty closely allied to the former; that Perfection is the constituent cause of beauty. This opinion has been made to extend much further than to sensible objects. But in these, so far is perfection, considered as such, from being the cause of beauty, that this quality, where it is highest, in the female sex, almost always carries with it an idea of weakness and imperfection. Women are very sensible of this; for which reason; they learn to lisp, to totter in their walk, to counterfeit weakness, and even sickness. In all they are guided by nature. Beauty in distress is much the most affecting beauty. Blushing has little less power; and modesty in general, which is a tacit allowance of imperfection, is itself considered as an amiable quality, and certainly heightens every other that is so. I know it is in everybodys mouth, that we ought to love perfection. This is to me a sufficient proof, that it is not the proper object of love. Who ever said we ought to love a fine woman, or even any of these beautiful animals which please us? Here to be affected, there is no need of the concurrence of our will.