Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/81

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PHYSIOGNOMIC CURIOSITIES.

of the Sultan, describes Lira as the physical ideal of a perfect man. A potentate of leonine bearing, with a beard that surrounded his face like a mane, and a pair of wonderful Oriental eyes, combined with features of classic regularity, he appeared "every inch a king," and the embassadors who visited his court from all parts of the world agreed that he was the manliest-looking man they had ever seen. Yet this same paragon was an infidel alike to his faith and his friends, inhumanly cruel, and mean to the rare degree of being at once avaricious and overbearing. But, though his subjects groaned under his yoke, no murmur ever reached his ears, and his presence inspired the genuine reverence due to a superior being. He was uxorious and a tool in the hands of his favorites, but his superintendence always insured the success of a campaign; he had that gift of commanding that can dispense with personal courage by inspiring it in others. Absalom, Cambyses, the younger Dionysius, Caligula, Louis le Debonnaire, Churchill, King Christian of Denmark, Ali Pasha, and Benedict Arnold, are well-known confirmations of a truth which, as Goethe observes, the experience of every man, but nobody's instinct, teaches him—that beauty and goodness are not identical. Children and childlike men, and most men a priori, are prepossessed by a handsome face and repulsed by an ugly one, and one can understand Madame de Staël when she speaks of unpardonable faces. Ugliness is something abnormal, and originally, no doubt, the consequence of sin—though, perhaps, quite unconscious sin—against the physical laws of God.

But, even about moral aberrations, the language of the face is not altogether silent, though it announces them in a different way. Besides those of the studied, calm expression, there are indications in what Sir Charles Bell calls the habits of the face, the manner of laughing, of speaking under the influence of passion, or of meeting a sudden glance. In these habits even moral peculiarities may betray themselves to a shrewd observer, and often quite unbeknown to the object of observation. Experience, in fact, can teach us to distinguish acquired from hereditary beauty or ugliness. They may be combined in the same face, but are altogether independent of each other, and differ as forms from manners, or talents from culture. The tongue, though, can be taught to refute this language of the features—hence the significance of first impressions.

Physiognomy and craniology are yet far from having been reduced to the rules of a logical system—"the one through want of cultivation, the other in spite of it," as the physiologist Camper said of his and Pastor Goetze's science. In the mean time we all practice physiognomy instinctively, though by methods which it would not be quite easy to define. What subtile differences in the form of the features enable us to indicate the age of a man, his habits, his temper, the average amount of his education, and even the country of his birth!