Mr Fuseli's Painting Room at Somerset House, ca. 1825, watercolor, 16.8 x 15.6 cm
He whose eye athwart the outward crust of the rock penetrates into the composition of its materials, and discovers a gold mine, is surely superior to him who afterwards adapts the metal for use. Colombo, when he from astronomic and physical inductions concluded to the existence of land in the opposite hemisphere, was surely superior to Amerigo Vespucci who took possession of its continent; and when Newton improving accident by meditation, discovered and established the laws of attraction, the projectile and centrifuge qualities of the system, he gave the clue to all who after him applied it to the various branches of philosophy, and was in fact the author of all the benefits accruing from their application to society. Homer, when he means to give the principal feature of man, calls him inventor (αλφηστης).
From what we have said it is clear that the term invention never ought to be so far misconstrued as to be confounded with that of creation, incompatible with our notions of limited being, an idea of pure astonishment, and admissible only when we mention Omnipotence: to invent is to find: to find something, presupposes its existence somewhere, implicitly or explicitly, scattered or in a mass: nor should I have presumed to say so much on a word of a meaning so plain, had it not been, and were it not daily confounded, and by fashionable authorities too, with the term creation.
Form, in its widest meaning, the visible universe that envelopes our senses, and its counterpart the invisible one that agitates our mind with visions bred on sense by fancy, are the element and the realm of invention; it discovers, selects, combines the possible, the probable, the known, in a mode that strikes with an air of truth and novelty, at once. Possible strictly means an effect derived from a cause, a body composed of materials, a coalition of forms, whose union or co-agency imply in themselves no absurdity, no contradiction: applied to our art, it takes a wider latitude; it means the representation of effects derived from causes, or forms compounded from materials, heterogeneous and incompatible among themselves, but rendered so plausible to our senses, that the transition of one part to another seems to be accounted for by an air of organization, and the eye glides imperceptibly or with satisfaction from one to the other and over the whole (...)
The life and writings of Henry Fuseli. Third lecture. Invention. Part I.