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Thomas Moore has a poetical fling at physiognomy.
"In vain we fondly strive to trace
In vain we dwell on lines and crosses
And many a sage and learned skull
Has peeped through windows dark and dull.”
This may be wit, but it is not philosophy. I have answered its logic by anticipation, in noticing the ordinary objections. He has even Holy Writ against him. Wisdom maketh the countenance bright*." Spenser was not only a greater poet, but a ter philosopher than Moore, and saw the strict analogy between the mind and body.
"For of the soul the body form doth take."
Has nature bestowed upon man such an admirable mechanism of features for no useful end? The purport of outward expression is to show what passes in the mind, and as we have already said, it is far more true than words. Speech, it has been wittily observed, was given to man to conceal his thoughts. But looks cannot often deceive the most inexperienced of mankind. All children have skill in physiognomy. It is our mother tongue. We understand it in our cradles. It is universal. Even animals can read it in the faces of their kind, and sometimes in that of men. It is wonderful with what precision we peruse the countenances of those on whom our hopes and happiness depend. Thus boys at school exhibit a remarkable quickness in discovering the mood of their master in the condition of his features
"Well do the boding tremblers learn to trace
* Lavater also ves Scriptural authority for the truth of physiognomy, and makes the following quotation.-" A man may be known by his look, and one that has understanding by his countenance, when thou meetest him."
"There is surely," says Sir Thomas Browne, "a physiognomy which master mendicants observe; whereby they instantly discover a merciful aspect, and will single out a face wherein they spy the signatures and marks of mercy; for there are mystically in our faces certain characters, which carry in them the motto of our souls, wherein he that can read A, B, C, may read our natures." Lavater describes a particular kind of nose which in his opinion is of more worth than a kingdom. This is somewhat too extravagant, but the value of an honest and noble face can hardly be over-rated. Montaigne says, that on the mere credit of his open aspect, persons who had no other knowledge of his character had the most implicit confidence in his honor. He gives some curious illustrations of this fact. Even Moore, whose versified attack on physiognomy we have just quoted, has shown his just appreciation of beauty of person as associated with beauty of mind, and has on all occasions connected certain internal qualities with certain exterior marks in the persons of his heroes and his heroines. The veiled Prophet of Khorassan has a visage in keeping with his hideous soul, and the light of the haram, the young Nourmahal, is blessed with a set of features and a figure that are worthy of an angel.
"While her laugh, full of life, without any controul,
But the sweet one of gracefulness, rung from her soul;
For this exquisite description the poet may be forgiven the obnoxious passage about physiognomy. It would redeem a darker sin. If any man were to find a face like that of Nourmahal's concealing a cold and diabolical character, he might have some shadow of a reason to deny that there is a correspondence between the features and the soul, though even in such a case the shock that the discovery would occasion would be a sufficient
proof that anomalies of this nature are extremely rare and strikingly at variance with our general experience. Lavater lays great stress on the very unequivocal and decisive character of a laugh. If it be free and hearty, and occasion a general and light movement in all the features, and dimple the cheek and chin, it is an almost infallible evidence of the absence of any great natural wickedness of disposition. In judging of the character from the countenance, it is of great importance to observe which emotions are most happily expressed. The frequency of a smile is not so true a sign of gentleness and good humour as its facility.
In considering the truth or falsehood of the general proposition that the body corresponds with the soul, we may fairly illustrate it by extreme cases. No man for instance connects in his own mind corporeal deformity with a perfect beauty of soul. As we cannot conceive pure unembodied spirit, we give it a fleshly but most glorious external. An angel with a low monkey forehead and a flat or a pug nose, is a contradiction which neither reason nor fancy can wholly reconcile. We derive this impression of the fitness of things from Nature herself, who reveals the harmony of the mysterious system which connects the flesh and the spirit of all mortal beings. Occasional and slight deviations from the general rule do not shake the faith of philosophic minds. Even admitting (but only, however, for the sake of the argument) that some of the most amiable and intellectual men have had the faces of villains and of idiots; what does it prove? Such exceptions are not more remarkable than the occasional monstrous births of men and brutes. Because some individuals have been born with two heads or a hairy hide, it is not the less a law of nature that mankind have only one head a piece, and smooth uncovered skins.
The majestic external conformation of the greatest poets and philosophers, both of ancient and modern times, is a strong evidence in favour of physiognomy. The heads of these men are
all more or less indicative of their mental character. Montaigne indeed laments the ugliness of Socrates, and repeats the well known anecdote of the physiognomical judgment passed on him by Zopyrus, that he was "stupid, brutal, sensual and addicted to. drunkenness." With respect to the original moral qualities of the philosopher, the decision was not erroneous, for Socrates himself admitted that his virtues were a hard-gained triumph over his natural disposition. But the philosopher's forehead was a fitting tabernacle for a lofty mind. No craniologist would have doubted his intellectual power. The skill of Zopyrus was confined to the perusal of the lower features.
It is a mys
How delightful is the study of the human head! tery and a glory! It at once perplexes the reason and kindles the imagination! What a wondrous treasury of knowledgewhat a vast world of thought is contained within its ivory walls! In that small citadel of the soul what a host of mighty and immortal images are ranged uncrowded! What floods of external light and what an endless variety of sounds are admitted to the busy world within, through those small but beautiful apertures, the eye and the ear! Those delicately penciled arches that hang their lines of loveliness above the mental heaven, are more full of grace and glory than the rainbow! Those blue windows of the mind expose a sight more lovely and profound than the azure depths of the sea or sky! Those rosy portals that give entrance to the invisible Spirit of Life, and whence issue those "winged words" that steal into the lover's heart or the sage's mind, or fly to the uttermost corners of the earth and live for ever, surpass in beauty the orient cloud-gates of the dawn! To trace in such exquisite outworks the state of the interior is an occupation almost worthy of a God!
Though pale and tremulous lips may swear That life is sweet and fame is air,
The taunt ne'er stirs the brave;
For oh! how pitiful and brief
Can charm not from the grave.
The purest spirits of the sky
With tender transport glow.