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The extravagant laugh is marked by the absence of the smile and it always indicates a lack of depth and refinement.
In a sense, therefore, the smile is the deeper part of nature, and in another sense, it is the sublimest character of art. In fact we find the smile the perfect gauge of culture.
One of the great requisitions of expression is self-control. No emotion can become intense unless it is reserved. It is like an engine,-if the steam is allowed to have free vent it will never give the power necessary to move the train of cars. The same is true of all joy, love, emotion. Lack of reserve means lack of control. The true smile shows the power of the mind in the face. Explosion of laughter, with no preceding smile, is indicative of weakness rather than of joy and turns any man into a noisy savage. Everyone should struggle to keep down this savage, which still survives in every plane of life, and in all literature. It takes a great deal of discipline and thoughtful culture and contact with the best society to eliminate the gush and the squeak and the blow from our laughter. In proportion to the precedence of the smile, its dignity, depth and diffusion over the whole face, may we determine the culture of the
As I have pointed out before in a certain sense a smile is the expression of the whole nature. One of the first things that impressed me in my early childhood was Uncle Jim's" tremendous laugh. His “Yahw, yahw” could be heard a mile, but there was very little smile. In contrast to this the smile, that most impressed me, was that of Professor Charles Eliot Norton, which went all over his face and forehead. What a difference,--a differ
ence in culture, in refinement, and in harmonious development of the higher faculties !
To my mind, therefore, the improvement of the smile would consist in bringing it more around the eyes, in giving flexibility to all parts of the face, in cultivating reserve and avoiding that sudden impulsive explosion which is characteristic of the giggles.'
Dr. Stanley Hall, in observing smiles, said that the smile of some men begins around the corners of the eyes and that the smile of others began at the corners of the mouth. The smiles beginning at the mouth are, to those beginning at the corners of the eyes, as seven to five. This overlooks the question as to which is the more cultivated. The smile of the more cultivated people begins around the eyes. Dr. Hall has also overlooked those people who co-ordinate perfectly the corners of the eye with the mouth. The corner of the eye is not sufficiently responsive in many people, and this is the reason for the smile's beginning with the mouth.
Do we not find here an explanation why many have condemned the laugh as vulgar?
This explains why Lord Chesterfield rejoiced that no one had ever heard him laugh.
Emerson also condemned laughter, and seemed to go further, sometimes, in almost condemning the smile. He has written:
Said a wise mother, ‘Beware, girls, lest you smile, for then you show all your faults.'"
Ah, Mr. Emerson, are you sure that any wise mother ever said that? Does not a smile rather conceal than record the faults; does it not rather show the virtues?
Once we can smile at our own follies, or at the follies of others, we are in a way to deliver ourselves from them. In fact, it is one of the first means we have of ridding ourselves of our faults,to be able to laugh at them. In a certain sense, laughter objectifies to us something that is wrong, and when we can laugh at it, we put it out of countenance.
Laughter is the result of discovering that wrong is a delusion and a sham. The sense of humor is a discovery of the hollowness of evil.
Of course, there can be faults in the smile, even in laughter, but many have gone too far in condemning laughter. Pascal regarded it as wicked. But, on the contrary, the hearty ringing laugh is a joy to all who hear it. Once we laugh at our own faults we are in the way to correct ourselves of them. When we laugh at the faults of others it is the first step toward separating them from ourselves and avoiding temptation.
Laughter has been recommended as the best physical exercise for the health. It certainly is a good exercise for the voice. It centres the breathing, opens the throat and diffuses joy through the body.
Savages seldom smile, and their laughter is jerky and explosive. Gloomy people who never laugh are generally poor in health.
Hearty laughter should be the climax of the smile. Joy and laughter supported by the smile are beautiful and lovely.
The true smile eliminates superficiality and artificiality. The many people who condemn laughter do not understand its relation to the smile.
MODES OF IMPROVING THE SMILE
In all our endeavors to develop the smile, we find the same numerous false and the few true methods which we find in the development of all true modes of expression. Some of these false modes of teaching expression may be seen more clearly to be false in the light of the smile. The first of these false methods is imitation. The little child certainly does not laugh from imitation. I have watched little tots only a few weeks old laugh to themselves over some object, such as a red ball hung at a distance.
Unconscious imitation later may do a great deal to pervert laughter. Imitation, as a rule, has more ability to degrade than to develop. The smile of the little child certainly does not improve by imitation. It is a pure manifestation of a sense of pleasure and happiness.
Observe what a poor, hollow mockery is the imitation of someone's laughter.
If the laugh is a “horse laugh,” or is in any way affected or abnormal, its imitation is easy, but even in such a case it is only a perversion of the original.
How hard, how impossible, is the imitation of a good, hearty, genuine laugh, or even of the simple smile.
The laugh of each individual is peculiar to himself; it is an original possession, a part of everyone's personal identity.
Why has imitation, from time immemorial, been the chief method in teaching expression? We can trace protests against it through all the great teachers of speaking, -and yet it is still practised by many in this enlightened day. Sad to say, it is popular. People like it; it seems so easy, so natural. Whoever stops to think that only the externals and accidentals, the oddities and peculiarities of a man can be imitated? Though imitation tends to degrade all true expression, as well as character itself, modern culture still encourages it. It has great weaknesses, but many seem to think that it is the only way possible in art.
There is nothing that has a more superficializing effect upon human feeling and human intuition, true vigor and originality of thinking, than imitation.
Whenever a man succeeds as an actor or public reader, he feels that his method and what brought success to him is of fundamental importance, is an original discovery and that it belongs to all the
While the great artist has learned to know better and realizes that his greatest discovery is his own personal element in his work, the secondrate actor feels that he can do humanity a great service by teaching it to do just as he does. Granting that he does everything well, which is not the case; the fact generally being that he does some one thing well, he forgets that everyone else has a different temperament, a different personality, a different point of view, and that art necessarily implies a decided and original point of view. He forgets that other people have voices of totally different quality, pitched in a different key and of a different range, and that the actions of their