Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

face, and if all the characteristics of a mind in great commotion are still more clearly registered, why should we believe that the principle is incapable of being carried to its logical conclusion, or deny that it obtains in the entire phenomena of human expression ? What is acknowledged by all is but the A B C of the subject, the primary axioms, and it would indeed be most extraordinary if this alphabet and those axioms were incapable of elaboration. What is very marked and often seen is easily recognised, and this is in fact the measure of the people's knowledge in such matters ; what they read is but the title-page and the big letters; but it would be idle to deny that the book contains any further information because the majority are unable to decipher it. If strong mental qualities avowedly stamp themselves upon the face, so that all can read them, it fairly follows that slight qualities necessarily stamp themselves on the face also, though all cannot read them; and that even extremely subtle qualities write themselves there too, though none can read them. This is the fair inference of acknowledged premises, and why should that be denied to physiognomy which is granted to every other science—the possession of untold secrets, of incredible wonders ? The reason is evident; nothing has ever been conceded to any science; all admissions which are secured have been wrung from the understanding by the sheer force of demonstration. The details of physiognomy have not been established, consequently the subject is not yet a science. The rudiments of the science, however, are established in the convictions of all reasonable men; and not only established, but acted on daily and hourly; and in those rudiments it is evident that the science has a potential existence, that its details are there, are true, and will one day be admitted as axiomatic. “The time, I hope, will come,” says Lavater, “nay, I might almost promise the time shall come, a better time, when every child shall laugh that I was obliged to demonstrate this—laugh perhaps at the age, or, which is more noble, weep to remember that there ever were men who required such demonstration.” The rudiments of astronomy were in the old astrology; the rudiments of chemistry were in the ancient alchemy; but before chemistry or astronomy had become a science, had people been told of half the wonders and marvels they would open up, or of half the truths they would bring to light, they would have rejected the propositions as preposterous. The fundamental laws of physiognomy, in like manner, are not only generally recognised, but almost universally acted on by men and women; and it should not at all surprise us if we were to discover that every quality of the mind has its corporeal expression, and may be deciphered in time by those who will pay attention to the subject. Every one has a different character, but every one has also a different countenance; every one has a different understanding, but every one has also a different voice; every one has a different manner, but every one has also a different gait; every one has a different conscience, but every one has also a different odour; every one has a different opinion, but every one has also a different handwriting, and so on. There is no difficulty in providing individuality characteristic and distinct—it is provided for us; the difficulty is to discover perfect resemblance, for that is not to be found either in the leaves of the forest, in the face, or in the mind of a man.

This essay is not written to establish a science of physiognomy, but in the department of beauty with which we are dealing it is necessary to show that some ground exists for supposing a connection between certain virtuous, qualities of character, and certain beautiful features of body; and how can this point be determined, or how can most reliable information be obtained, but by appealing to those who have laboured longest and most successfully in this department of inquiry, who have submitted their propositions to the severest tests, to patient observation and long-continued experiment, who have gone abroad collecting facts and collating experiences, who have examined the human face in the courts of princes and the cells of prisoners, in the philosophic study and by the country hearth ? If such men have found the fundamental rules of physiognomy abundantly confirmed and surprisingly extended, if they have, in fact, found that the morally good are the corporeally beautiful, that the most virtuous characters have the most beautiful countenances, that the morally degraded are also the corporeally deformed, and that the most vicious are the most hideous, may we not take it as a fact in nature, that not only the marked and emphatic, but also the slightest and most subtle characteristics of the mind are registered in the countenance, if only we had the key by which to translate them? In questions of this kind, then, let us go for information to the highest authorities, to those who have devoted their time, their attention, their talents to the subject, and who are also fitted by nature to improve on whatever they attempt. True there are dupes and impostors in physiognomy, but there are dupes and impostors in every science; in politics there are upstarts and demagogues ; in divinity there are mountebanks and pharisees; in medicine there are quack doctors, and in law pettifogging lawyers, side by side with the most distinguished. This, however, does not deter us, when we want to know a point of law, from going to a lawyer, or, when we want to know a matter in medicine, from going to a physician, or, when we want to know a problem in theology, from going to a theologian. True, we constantly deceive ourselves in our judgment of appearances, but this is not because nature is contradictory, but because we are ignorant.

In seeking for the connection between beauty of body and beauty of mind, to whom shall we go but to the most distinguished apostles of physiognomy - to those who have visited every state and variety of life, the dungeon, the market-place, the town-hall, the judicial tribunal, the legislative assembly, the poet's parlour, the chemist's laboratory, the slums and alleys of the city, the dens of vice and misery, and the haunts of devotion, piety, and love — who have taken note of all, watched and weighed, compared and calculated, pondered and reasoned ? Lavater's work on physiognomy is by no means a household book in England, partly because the science is difficult, and partly because the work is expensive when complete, and nearly worthless when incomplete. No one, however, who examines that work impartially can, I think, come to any other conclusion than that virtue and beauty have some affinity for each other, and that vice and deformity are boon companions. Let us hear that author's opinion after a long experience in the matter. Speaking of some engravings representing the faces of fools, he says, “no person will expect from this open mouth, this chin, these wrinkled cheeks, the effects of reflection, comparison, and sound decision. From the small eyes in both, the wrinkles in the under [portrait], their open mouths, no man whatever will expect penetration, reasoning, or wisdom. That physiognomical sensation,” which, like sight and hearing, is born with all, will not permit us to expect much from the upper profile, although to the inexperienced in physiognomy the proper marks of folly are not very apparent. It would excite universal surprise should any one possessing such a countenance pronounce accurate decisions or produce a work of genius. Figure (5) is still less to be mistaken; and I would ask the most obstinate opponent of physiognomical sensation whether he would personally declare or give it under his hand that the man who expects wisdom from this countenance is himself wise ?”

The mistake which is commonly made is that of classing all general peculiarities under the same heading, and then objecting to the science that the realised results do not agree with the postulated rules. For example, a partially

1 Lavater, “Essays on Physiognomy,” translated by Thomas Holcroft. 2 He means the natural power of appreciating physiognomical truths.

open mouth may be the sign of folly, of villainy, or of erratic talent, and the people, not troubling themselves about such trivial distinctions as the precise shape of the mouth, the attitude of the lips, their looseness or compression, the figure or size of the aperture, the expression of the eyes, or any of the other details of the countenance, deny altogether the trustworthiness of physiognomical calculations, because they find an open mouth accompanying folly in one person, vice in another, and talent in a third, which they think a palpable contradiction, choosing rather to accuse Nature of caprice than themselves of ignorance.

Speaking of one very ill-looking face, Lavater says“Nature forms no such countenance, at least no such mouth (which, be it remarked, is open in the portrait]; vice only can thus disfigure—rooted, unbounded avarice. Thus does brutal insensibility deform God's own image. Enormous depravity has destroyed all the beauty, all the resemblance.” Of another wretch he remarks that it is “a degree still more debased, a countenance by vice rendered fiend-like, abhorrent to nature, in which fallaciousness is sunken almost below brutality. Every spark of sensibility, humanity, nature is extinguished. Distortion, deformity in excess; and though sensuality should not appear with this particular kind of ugliness, yet may it not incur ugliness still more dreadful? Whoever has frequently viewed the human countenance in houses of correction and jails will often scarcely believe his eyes, will shudder at the stigmas with which vice brands her slaves.” Another pair—a woman and a man both of the most revolting appearance—he characterises as “the last stage of brutal corruption, apparent most in the under part of the male profile, and in the forehead and nose of the female. Can any supposition be more absurd than that such a countenance should be the abode of a wise, a virtuous, or an exalted mind ?” In another portrait-a greedy-looking monster-he finds “unbounded avarice,

« ПредишнаНапред »