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mathematicorum cælum curare soleo, beashamed to adopt, and treated acsed ex vultibus tamen hominum mores cordingly in conjunction with them. colligo, et quum spatiantem vidi, quid This remark appears to me so cogites scio. Quo enim incessus arte intimately connected with the litecompositus, et ne vestigia quidem pe- rary history of the science in questidum extra mensuram aberrantia, nisi on, as to demand some farther discusquod formam prostituis ut vendas. sion.
Suetonius, in the Life of Titus, The history of human learning has says, that Narcissus sent a plıysiog periods which are marked by the nomist to examine the features of general prevalence of particular Britannicus, who returned and pre- studies among the literati of the dicted that Britannicus would not time. The philosophers of the succeed, but the empire would de- early period of Grecian literature volve on Titus. Other instances of attended chiefly to mythological physiognomy being exercised as a morality. Among the authors of profession might be adduced, but the the most flourishing period of preceding passages, however they Grecian and Roman literature, unmay contain a mixture of fable with til the first emperors, poetry, history, truth, render the general fact suf- and oratory, were the prevailing ficiently probable.
subjects of attention: under the latWhen the Roman empire was ter emperors, and for some time overthrown by the irruptions of the after, the works of the learned exnorthern nations, this scienceshared hibit, for the most part, the history the same fate with the others, and of theological controversies: to them appears to have been unnoticed succeeded metaphysics and metaphy(except perhaps by the Arabian sical theology. When these began commentators on Aristotle, with to decline, theattention of the learnwhom I am unacquainted) till about ed was awakened to alchemy, magic, the beginning of the sixteenth cen- judicial astrology, the doctrine of tury, from which time to the latter signatures and sympathies, the Mysend of the seventeenth it was greatly tic Theosophic, and Rosicrusian, in vogue, and almost all the ap- theology and physiognomy—then proved modern authors, who bave succeeded classic philology-this treated practically on the subject gave way to modern poetry and na. published within that space. I can- tural philosophy - to which, of not help regarding it, however, as late, have been joined the studies rather unfortunate for the science of of rational theology, chymistry, the physiognomy, that many opinions philosophy of history, the history now justly exploded were holden in of man, and the science of politics. high estimation, not only among the This very briefand imperfect outJiterati in general of the same pe- lineof the progress of human learn. riod, but by the very persons who ing, will, nevertheless, sufficiently were authors on the subject of physi- illustrate my meaning respecting the ognomy, and patrons of the study. injury which physiognomy has sufNay, by some of these writers, phy- fered from a fortuitous connection siognomy was regarded as essentially with exploded literature. Nothing connected with doctrines which the is more common among mankind literature of the present day would than the lasty rejection of valuable
opinions, from their artificial or ac- determinate, and concise, to be of cidental connection with other opi- considerable use; and appear rather nions untenable and absurd. The as the conclusions of theoretic lucuhistory of theology, in particular, and bration, than the well-founded rethe present complexion of theologi- marks of men conversant with the cal opinions in Europe, furnish a world. A sufficient specimen of the pregnantinstance of the truth of this physiognomic writings of the time remark. It will, therefore, be suffici- may be seen in the quotations which entfor me, to observe at present, that Lavater has selected. during the space of about one hun. About the commencement of the dred and fifty years from the com- eighteenth century, and thenceformencement of the sixteenth century, ward, the occult sciences, as they the authors on the subject of physi, are called, had declined consideraognomy were very numerous; and bly in estimation; and the authors that very many, if not the greatest who noticed the science of physiogpart of them, treated expressly as nomy forbore to disgrace it by a subjects of importance, either magic, connection with those branches of alchemy, the doctrine of signatures, supposed knowledge which had forastrology, or the theosophic philo- merly been its companions. Among sophy. Nor is it any wonder that os, Dr. Gwither noticed it with apphysiognomy should fall into con- probation in the eighteenth volume tempt, when the prevalence of more of the Philosophical Transactions. rational literature rejected its con- Dr. Parsons also chose the same lemporary sciences. Some few facts subject for the Croonean Lectures, and observations respecting this published at first in the second sup. part of the literary history of physi- plement to the forty-fourth volume ognomy, illustrative of its tempora- of the same transactions, and afterry connection with the doctrines wards (1747) republished in Engabove-mentioned, I shall, with the Jish: but these as well as the curpermission of the society, throw into sory observations in Lancisius, Halthe form of an illustration or appen- ler, and Buffon, relate rather to the dix to this essay, because they are, transient physiognomy of the passi. in my opinion, not altogether unwor- ons, than the permanent features of thy of notice, but would form a di- the face and body; the well-known gression too long for the paper itself. characters of Le Brun are also il.
Excepting that physiognomy was lustrative of the transient physiogfashionable among the authors who nomy. treated on the abstruse sciences Earlier, however, than these above-mentioned, I do not recollect writers, our Evelyn had inserted a any thing peculiar respecting this copious digression on the subject in stage of its progress. "There were his Numismata,a Discourse on Medsome authors, indeed, even during als; in which there is a panegyric that period, who treated it free from on the science, withseveral practical the absurd conjunction of the pre- remarks and miscellaneous observavailing subjects of the day, such tions. Among the rest is an analysis as Père Honorat Nicquet and Clan of the countenances of many great ramont. But the observations even men whose characters were known. of these writers are too general, in- It does not appear, however, to contain, upon the whole, any thing will ascertain what degree of influworthy of peculiar notice.
ence any particular kind of knowThe subject seems to have been ledge will have upon the manners attended to now and then during and characters of mankind. In the this century, but I do not find any mean time it is reasonable to conthing remarkable concerning it, till elude, from the analogy of every the discussion already mentioned, in fact respecting human science, that the Berlin Transactions, between the result upon the whole, of attaining M. Pernetty and M. Le Catt.
any portion of knowledge heretoThis controversy commenced with fore unknown, will not be othera Dissertation on the Advantages wise than beneficial. Nor is it and Disadvantages of Physiognomy, likely, that mankind will be permitted by M. Le Catt. In the succeeding to attain any branch of knowledge, volume (the twenty-fifth) is an an- not ultimately conducive to the hapswer by M. Pernetty ; to which fol- piness of the species. Indeed the lows a reply by M. Le Catt, and a same questions might have been agisupplementary reply, by the same, tated as preliminaries to every sciin the twenty-sixth volume. This ence already known; and if the af. contains also three more disserta. firmative in similar cases must be tions, by way of rejoinder on the clearly established, before we propart of M. Pernetry. I have al- ceed to the investigation of the sciready noticed this discussion so far ence itself, the course of human imas it relates to the definition of phy- provement might be stopt for ever. siognomy. The rest of it turned During this controversy, M. Perupon these two questions.
netty laid it down as a principle, First, Whether it would be ad. that no man can be a physiognomist vantageous or otherwise to society, unless he receives a knowledge of if each individual carried in his ap- the science originally as a gift from pearance such marks of his charac- the Deity; and that the faculty of ter, disposition, and talents, as would physiognomizing is not acquired, enable others to collect with ceri but innate. It is obvious to retainty these latter from the former. mark, that if M. Pernetty's opinion
Secondly, Whether, on the sup- be well founded, it was mere waste position that the science of physiog- of time to discuss either the questinomy would enable us to discern a ons before-mentioned or any others part only of the internal character, relating to the subject; for, whichand mankind in general being but ever way they might be determined, imperfect physiognomists, it would the existence or non-existence be advantageous to society to culti- of physiognomy, as a species of vate the study of physiognomy. knowledge, not being optional to
These questions were agitated the persons addressed, would not with more prolixity than their im- be affected by the determination. portance to the subject of physiog- Suchgratuitousand unpbilosophical nomy in my opinion deserved. No assertions from the supporters of reasoning a priori canpossibly deter- physiognomy, cast a ridicule upon mine them with any degree of cer- the science itself; and induce mantainty. Time and experience alone kind to associate the idea of fallacy,
even with the well-founded argu- marks by anatomical or physiologia ments of those who advance them. cal reasonings ;which, indeed, howThis remark, however, is not appli- ever important they may prove cable to M. Pernetty alone. hereafter, seem even in this present
Soon after this controversy, ap- advanced state of our knowledge peared the great work of M. La- respecting them, an insufficient vater, dean of Zurich, which has foundation to support particular obexcited no inconsiderable degree of servations. He has pursued themeattention in the literary world. thodfirstadopted, Ibelieve,byJ.BapThe magnificence of the work it- tista Porta, of illustrating hisremarks self, and the supposed visionary na- by engravings,extremelynumerous, ture of the subject treated, has con- oftentimes expressive, and, upon tributed not a little to make it ge- the whole, tolerably executed, even nerally known. Indeed, so far as I for the taste of modern times. am able to judge, it is (with all its Nor are these variations from the faults) the most important book on generality of the authors who have the subject since the days of gone before him in the same track, , Aristotle. Sensible that the science the only particulars which justly is yet in its infancy, M. Lavater entitle Mr. Lavater's work to a preprofesses to give, not a complete eminence among the books on this synthetical treatise on physiognomy subject. His opinions are more but fragments only, illustrative of evidently the result of actual obserthe different parts of this branch of vation than those of preceding phyknowledge ; and it must be con- siognomists. He appears also to have fessed that his performance, however made the science more peculiarly his desultory and unconnected, is in study than any other person ; and many particulars much superior to (excepting, indeed, his profession as those that have preceded.
a divine) it seems to have been the In conformity with his design, he grand pursuit of his life. His athas rejected the scholastic sysle- tention moreover to osseal physiogmatic method so common among the nomy, and the effects of profiles physiognomists of the last and pre- and contours, evince a comprehenceding centuries, and with it be re- sion of the subject, much superior jected also their manner of writing, to what appears in those who have dry, concise, indeterminate, and ge- treated it heretofore. And in adneral : the remarks of M. Lavater, dition to these, his style, though on the contrary, are, for the most somewhat declamatory and digrespart, precise and particular, and fre- sive, yet forcible and lively; his exquently founded on distinctions ex- pressions frequently precise and tremely acute. He has omitted en- characteristic, and the spirit of piety tirely (as indeed might reasonably and benevolence which pervades be expected from a writer of the the whole of his performance, corpresent day) the astrological and tribute not a little to render it highly similar reveries, so disgraceful to the interesting. writings of the generality of his With all these good qualities, howpredecessors.—He'has (with great ever, M. Lavater's work has faults good sense) very rarely deduced or that take away considerably from confirmed his physiognomical re- the deference which his physiog.
nomical opinions would otherwise gle features as the foundation for have claimed. And his imagination deciding on a character. has in many instances so evidently 6. His premature opinions on the gotten the better of his judgment, physiognomy of the ears, hands, that a reader who should take up nails, and feet, of the human species ; his volumes for the mere purpose on hand-writing ; on the physiognoof amusement, would be strongly my of birds, insects, reptiles, and tempted to reject the whole system, fishes. On none of these can a as the fanciful conceit of an ingeni. sufficient number of accurate obous but extravagant theorist. servations have been made to war
Among the objectionable parts of rant the slightest conclusion. his book are the following:
7. His introduction of objects, such 1. The mysterious air of import- as the preceding, is the more singuance with which (like many of his lar, from the slight and inadequate predecessors) he has clothed his fa- attention he appearshithertoto have vourite science, and described the bestowed on gesture, voice, manner, whole of the material world as ob- and the important topic of national jects of her dominion.
physiognomy: all of which he has 2. The fanciful necessity which he indeed in some degree touched upon, imposes, that a physiognomist should but far less than facts might have be a well-shaped handsome nian. warranted, or their importance de
3. His language very frequently manded. too peremptory and decisive; not 8. The repeated introduction of warranted by the substance of his his own face throughout the course remarks, and disproportioned to the of the work, and the singular reoccasion.*
marks he makes on it, although his 4. His remarks themselves, in character may fully justify the truth numerousinstances, unsupported by ofthem, do not serve to prejudice the the illustrations, and sometimes ap- reader in favour of his judgment. parently opposite to common obser 9. The same observation may be vation.*
made on his singularly fanciful 5. His too great reliance on sin- Theory of Apparitions, which goes
• Instances of these, I think, will occur frequently, especially on perusing his Physiognomical Remarks on the illustrative engravings ; but of these each reader will be the best enabled to judge for himself, until the science shall put on a more systematic form than the present collection of observations will permit.
+ That there is such a thing as homogeneity and harmony of feature, there is no doubt ; but the instances of exception are so numerous, and the illustrative cases so scattered and unarranged, that it appears to me injudicious presumption in most instances to decide positively on the observation of a single feature.
| The old Physiognomists, who (in the spirit of the times) would in no wise have omitted to treat the subject systematically, were on that account induced to take into consideration every part of the body in its turn.
But the manner of M. Lavater, professedly desultory, did not lead him to this ; and he has even exceeded the faults of his predecessors, by the introduction of physiognomical observations on the hand-writing. on insects, &c. which the present state of physiognomy is very short indeed of being 60 far advanced as to include.