PHYSIOGNOMY, is the peculiar bination of features, which designates the feelings and dispositions of the mind. That every individual of the human race possesses a set of distinctive marks, in the form of the head and the outlines of the countenance, is visible to the most inattentive observer ; and it is well known, that those marks insensibly lead us to form conclusions as to the nature and in clinations of persons to whom we are in troduced for the first time, which may sometimes be correct, but are frequently erroneous.
Every man is unconsciously a physiog nomist, he feels a partiality or dislike, which partakes exceedingly of the sense of the lines in one of Richardson's novels.
" I do not like thee, Dr. Fell, The reason why I cannot tell ; But I do not like thee, Dr. Fell." Admitting this fact, as to mankind in general, it will be proper to observe, tha however the study of physiognomy may be commended and recommended, i should be exercised with great discretion and judgment, or very fatal, or, at least, very disagreeable consequences may be the result ; for it must be remembered, that numerous causes exist to derange and discompose the human frame during infancy, and even before the birth, which may impress a character or expression on the features, descriptive of evil passions that never existed in the mind of the un fortunate person so situated ; for instance, it would be inhuman to judge of the soul of one who has had the vertebra of his back doubled, from the expression of his face, which is uniformly that of peevish ness and confirmed ill.nature; nor would it be just, to think a man capable of eve ry kind of wickedness, whose head and face bear the marks of malice, through a deformity existing perhaps before his birth. Were the bones incompressible from the instant they are formed, and the muscles incapable of being moulded to their shape, in short, did mankind receive a decided and unalterable outline from the Creator, we should then make correct conclusions from the beauty or irregula rity of his face.
Having thus hinted at the impropriety of forming hasty conclusions, we shall give i sketch of what has been advanced on this subject by a person of great observa. tion, and extremely capable of drawing inferences, but who was rather tin.
that it tured by enthusiasm. Lavater asserts, that "each creature is indispensable in the vast compass of creation ; but each individual," he adds, " is not alike inform ed of the truth of this fact, as man only is conscious that his own place cannot be supplied by another," The idea thus con ceived, he thinks one of the best conse quences of physiognomy, and he exults, that the most deformed and wicked per sons are still superior to the most perfect and beautiful animal, because they always have it in their power to amend, and in some degree to restore themselves to the place assigned them in creation ; and however their features may be distorted by the indulgence of their passions, still the image of the Creator remains, from which sin only is to be expelled, to render the likeness nearer perfection.
The aid of Lavater is not necessary to inform us, that there exists a national physiognomy, by which a stranger in any given country may be known, by those who are possessed of previous observa tion, to be a Spaniard, a German, or a Frenchman, and which impels even the very vulgar to exclaim, " He is a foreign er," though they cannot appropriate him to his country ; but the mind of Lavater, being almost exclusively turned to this pursuit, we must profit and be informed by his relation of the distinguishing traits which point out the natives of different regions. This great physiognomist ob serves, that the placing of several persons together, selected from nations remotely situated from each other, gives at one glance their surprising varieties of visage ; and yet he acknowledges, that to point out those variations is a task of consider able difficulty, and his assertion, that this may be done with more facility frona an individual than the mass of population, seems extremely probable. The French, he thinks, do not possess equally com manding traits with the English, nor are they so minute as those of the Germans, and it is to the peculiarities of their teeth, and manner of laughing, that he attribut ed his power of deciding on their origin. The Italians he appropriated by the form of their noses, their diminutive eyes, and projecting chins. The eye-brows and foreheads are the criterion by which to judge of the natives of England. The Dutch possess a particular rotundity of the head, and have weak, thin hair : the Germans, numerous angles and wrinkles about the eyes and in the cheeks ; and the Russians are remarkable for black and tight colouredhair, and flat noses.