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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/843

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PHYSIOGNOMIC CURIOSITIES.

good table. But the difference in national standards of beauty is still more astounding. We know that Dr. Fowler's lectures made high foreheads so fashionable that New England exquisites spared no pains to promote their rapid development—not even those involved in the removal of a handful of hair; but the perfumed dandies of ancient Rome and Syracuse were just as anxious to cultivate a frons parva et angusta, which Ovid enumerates among the emblems of perfect beauty. Propertius, too, speaks of the frons brevis, the short forehead of a comely individual, and we are informed by Aristophanes that the ladies of Athens encircled their heads with a black ribbon, so as to make the forehead appear more narrow. "Monstrum in fronte, monstrum in animo" was a Latin proverb which certain political adversaries applied to the enormous forehead of the Dean of St. Patrick.

Galen informs us that "a great belly betrays a vulgar mind," while among the Turks beauty is chiefly a question of avoirdupois; and the Esquimaux, according to the Rev. Hansen, value abdominal prominence as the acme of manly dignity. Torngac, the old man of the sea, the hyperborean Jupiter, they think, will be distinguished among all the heroes and minor deities of his suite by his conspicuous belly and his prominent cheeks. Yankee Doodle seems rather to incline to Galen's opinion, though we have fat men's associations, and German communities where a jolly paunch is a potent element of popularity. The Gaelic mountaineers of the last century thought corpulence disgraceful; and Byron, according to his best biographer, was ultra-Scotch in this respect. "He resolved to keep down to eleven stone or shoot himself," says Captain Trelawney. "I remember one of his old acquaintances saying, 'Byron, how well you are looking!' If he had stopped there it had been well, but, when he added, 'You are getting fat,' Byron's brow reddened and his eyes flashed. 'Do you call getting fat looking well, as if I were a hog?' and turning to me, he muttered: 'The beast! I can hardly keep my hands off him!'"

The Esquimaux, as well as the Chinese and Calmucks, are shocked at the appearance of our noses; the latter speak of a proboscis or pelican's bill, if they wish to refer to the nasal organ of an Englishman, and admire the delicacy of their own stumps. But in mediæval France more than one gifted plebeian found a nez retroussé an obstacle to official advancement, and the preux chevalier valued a vigorous hook as one of his primary insignia nobilitatis. Montaigne, however, ridicules this taste, and suggests that a receipt for elongating noses by artificial means would make the fortune of the inventor: "Quel bonheur de naitre avec un pied de nez!"

We may realize the feelings of a Calmuck mother, who, shocked at the abnormal prominence of her offspring's nose, endeavors to improve his looks by flattening the offensive feature; but it is rather difficult to understand the taste of a lady who commences her toilet by