Popular Science Monthly/Volume 47/September 1895/Trades and Faces
|TRADES AND FACES.|
By Dr. LOUIS ROBINSON.
IT is to be feared that any present attempt on the part of the physiognomist to analyze trade expressions must be somewhat unsatisfactory to the lovers of exact science. Our proved knowledge concerning the laws which govern facial expression is very slight: we are still stumbling among the elements of feature language, and it may seem presumptuous to attempt to criticise the text when the very alphabet is still doubtful.
But as the digger-out of a cryptogram finds it profitable to take a general survey of the script before attacking details, so it may perhaps be found that a somewhat speculative excursion, such as the present, will not be altogether without value in helping on more precise methods of research. At any rate, such a discussion can hardly fail to interest those among the readers of Maga who have observed the remarkable facial likeness often found among people who follow the same calling, without being able to see why a butcher should resemble his trade brethren more than he resembles the other sons of his father who have become bakers of bread or makers of candlesticks.
When we seek to analyze the forces which are continually at work on the human face, the complexity of the problem as to the interpretation of any prevalent trade expression at once becomes apparent. A few examples will bring this fact home to every reader, and will also help us in taking the first step toward classifying the numerous factors which contribute to the result in any single instance.
In a previous article on facial expression, attention was drawn to the distinctive cast of countenance exhibited by men who have much to do with horses. No great acuteness of observation is necessary to make it clear that, in the various branches of such professions, a corresponding diversity of type is visible.
Regarding Environment as a portrait painter (if we may venture to personify, in classic fashion, the abstractions of the newer philosophers), we find that she has, after boldly laying on a general groundwork of horseyness, touched the faces with different pigments which greatly affect the final result.
If, for example, we place side by side a gentleman's groom and a horse-dealer's groom, both of whom, when seen in a crowd of ordinary mortals, strike us as typically horsey, these supplementary touches are at once brought into prominence. The one face reveals something of the superfine genteelness of the flunkey, the other a shifty truculence acquired among the chafferers of Barnet or Ballinasloe. In like manner we may distinguish between the many sections of the great tribe of Jehu. In the expression of the 'bus-driver, still more in that of the driver of a tradesman's or carrier's cart, but most of all in that of the brewer's drayman, the extra coats are so numerous as to obscure the original grounding. In the two former, traffic with humankind, and other circumstances, such as constant exposure to the weather, have entered into competition with the feature-molding power of the horse; in the last, all equine traces have been dissolved clean away by malt liquor. Should a certain popular belief, to the effect that contact with horses has a malign effect upon the character, be borne out by more exact researches in moral pathology, the phenomena observable in the drayman's face might suggest a powerful antidote, and one which would readily be taken by the afflicted—although (as is often the case with new remedial measures) it would, without doubt, be denounced by a considerable section of the public as ten times worse than the disease.
One would have thought that the riders and ringmaster at a circus would exhibit a marked degree of facial horseyness; but, strangely enough, this is not so. The reason seems to be that in a circus the achievement of certain difficult feats to the satisfaction of the audience wholly occupies the minds of the performers, and the horses, large as they loom in the eyes of the public, are regarded by the circus folk as mere "properties."
Now it is plain that, in the cases given, numerous agencies of a widely diverse character are responsible for the total results. Association with horses can only change a man's facial aspect by first influencing his mind, and hence the general common groundwork alluded to is essentially psychic in origin.
On the other hand, certain of the supplementary touches in the cases brought forward seem at first sight to be purely accidental, and to have no mental significance whatever. Hence it might seem that those who study the human face as an index of the mind might safely ignore such physiognomical items as are due, let us say, to exposure, to heat, or cold, or to other purely direct causes. This, however, is only partly true, if it is true at all. Every student of the psychology of expression must be extremely cautious in neglecting any particular trait because it seems due to some accident of environment which has no apparent effect on the central nervous system.
That there is a continual stream of influence passing from the brain to the muscles of expression, which tends to give a permanent cast to the features, has been shown; but it is not so generally recognized that there are also reverse currents from the organs of expression to the inner nerve centers, and that in many cases these are sufficient (even when induced by agencies which must be called external and fortuitous) to give a bias to the mind. When Mr. Du Maurier depicted a small child forcibly wagging the tail of a big St. Bernard in order to put it in a good humor, most people who laughed at the conceit probably thought that the child's plan was as illogical as that of moving the pointer of a barometer in order to bring about a change in the weather. But it will be seen, when we come to discuss these curious centripetal currents, that this is by no means the case. Indeed, in all probability, some of the mental peculiarities which mark the members of certain professions may be owing to changes which originated primarily in the features.
Leaving this subject for the present, let us pay attention to some of the face-making forces which act from within. In my previous article a good deal was said about the facial muscles, and the nervous mechanism which controls them. It was explained how a constant succession of stimuli to one set of muscles would, in the course of time, give them a predominant influence, and so bring about a general change of expression. Nowhere can such a result be seen better than in the horsey type above alluded to. Speaking generally, the expression of all men of action is attributable to like causes. In such people the chief motive force is the will, which is continually exerting authority over the man himself, or over other men or things. Hence we find that the expression mechanism which is under the control of the will (consisting chiefly of muscles of the striped variety) is mainly responsible for the result.
But a little reflection will show that the salient points of many of the typical faces which we constantly see are under but little obligation to these agents of the will. It is beyond the power of the facial muscles shown in works on anatomy to give a man a shiny nose or a double chin, or to affect the tint and general tone of the integument.
Such changes must be attributed to the influence of the sympathetic nervous system, which is practically independent of the will, and which profoundly influences growth and nutrition in all parts of the body. Any one who has looked into a treatise on physiology will have seen diagrams of the sympathetic nervous system, and will have learned that nearly all unconscious organic processes, such as the digestion and assimilation of food, the movements of the heart, the alteration in the caliber of the arteries, and the special functions of innumerable glands, are carried on under its management. He will also have learned that fibers from the sympathetic ganglia frequently join the nerve trunks derived from the brain and spinal cord; and that this is very markedly so in the case of those cranial nerves which supply the face with common sensation. Probably he will have observed that in the neighborhood of the heart, stomach, and liver, as well as in certain other parts, there are extraordinary aggregations of sympathetic fibers. Each of these dense networks of nerves and ganglia is called a plexus, arid primarily, no doubt, each plexus is busily engaged in superintending the purely organic duties of the viscera in its neighborhood. But this is not its only function. It is a very curious fact that when we try to localize any deeply felt emotion, it seems to appeal to the consciousness from one or other of these very regions. The least analytical mind is aware that we do not love, or hate, or fear, with our heads, but that, in each case, the feeling takes its rise somewhere in the body cavity. Hence the conventional phrases, "warm-hearted" "bowels of compassion," and many others of like nature, which are only approximately correct from an anatomical point of view, since it is demonstrable that the organs named are only affected secondarily, and do not indicate the exact spot where the emotion is felt.
It is not possible to discuss this subject fully on the present occasion; but enough has been said to show that, in their inception as well as in their expression, the feelings which accompany the passions are referable to parts of the sympathetic nervous system.
Now the question might very naturally be asked, What has all this to do with physiognomy? I hope to show, if my readers will follow me in an argument involving a few more technical details, that in these complex functions of the sympathetic nervous system we may find an explanation of certain curious points of facial resemblance among people whose pursuits and mental habits, at first sight, put them as far as the poles asunder.
We will take, as examples, the common facial traits seen in professional musicians, religious devotees, of the priestly class, and sensual "men about town."
To show how the fibers from the sympathetic ganglia affect growth and nutrition in certain localities, let me instance the different results which follow the division of the fifth cranial nerve in two different parts of its course from the brain to the face. If it is cut after it has received its accessory fibers from the sympathetic system, a destructive inflammation at once arises in the eye, owing to defective or perverted nutrition; but if the division takes place on the cranial side of the ganglion through which the nerve passes, so as to leave the sympathetic fibers intact, no such consequences follow, although the part supplied by the nerves is entirely cut off from the brain.
Redness or pallor of the skin is the direct result of the influence of the sympathetic nerves upon the muscular coats of the smaller blood-vessels, and such visible changes are often confined to a small area. When, owing to some wave of emotion, the cheeks flush or turn pale, the same stimulus which effects such an alteration in outward expression will also disturb the existing conditions of nutrition in the regions affected. And it appears exceedingly probable that just as the faint currents continually flowing along the motor nerves are to a great extent responsible for the prevailing "muscular" expression of the countenance, so also slight but continuous emotional stimulation of the sympathetic fibers which supply any part of the face may influence its growth in a marked degree in the long run, although at any given moment the vascular consequences may be imperceptible.
Now it is within the knowledge of every one who has turned a curious inward eye upon his feelings that certain emotions which deeply stir the inner man, and which may make us glow or shudder to the finger tips, do not cause any facial changes, except, perhaps, a slight difference in the hue of the brow or cheeks, and a glistening or darkening of the eye. This is often the case when we are under the control of the deeper feelings. We do not laugh when filled with the most exalted joy, or distort our faces when overwhelmed with grief. The fierce emotion which seizes on man and beast alike when the grosser appetites hold full sway often produces many profound changes of an organic nature without provoking any activity in the expression muscles.
Even when certain forms of emotion tend to distort the features if provoked in a natural and direct manner, they fail to react upon the facial muscles when produced artificially, as they may be by a play, a novel, or a strain of music. During the silent perusal of a pathetic story many people confess to a "lump in the throat," but it is very seldom that the corners of the mouth are twitched downward.
These deliberately induced or artificial emotions offer an interesting field to the psychologist. They evidently differ from their elementary prototypes as much as polarized light differs from direct light. They tint what would else be both hideous and prosaic with all the colors of the rainbow, so that we are able to take pleasure in tragedy,
"And with an eager and suspended soul
Woo terror, to delight us."
If we survey the faces of a crowd of people at a concert, we find that they offer scarcely a hint of the emotion evoked by the music. The features of the listeners remain as placid as if they were asleep, and as if the inward excitement which thrills them, and which makes their pulses throb and their flesh "creep," were but the sham excitement of dreamland. As a rule, the same may be said of the ecstatic feelings which accompany devotional exercises. I do not allude to public prayers from the pulpit—where an earthly audience has to be borne in mind—but to the silent communings of private worship, when the soul feels that it has entered the holy of holies, and stands naked before the Eternal Powers.
If it were possible to set apart certain individuals in whom all emotional impulses reacted upon the features via the sympathetic, to the exclusion of the motor nerves, we should expect to find among them many strong points of resemblance in facial expression. Although, happily, no such creatures exist among healthy human beings, it is by no means difficult to indicate whole classes of people whose pursuits, or mental habits, give the sympathetic system a preponderating influence.
Professional musicians, priests, and sensualists, all, as a rule, bear distinct certificates on their countenances that they belong to such a category.
But before we are in a position to discuss the special points of resemblance among these very distinct classes, it will be necessary to clear the ground of certain stumbling blocks.
Since the facial changes in question are brought about by means of the machinery of nutrition, it must be taken for granted that this machinery is in good working order in every case, and that it is reasonably well supplied with raw material in the shape of victuals and drink. If one of our subjects should chance to be an ascetic or a dyspeptic, it is plain that all trophic processes, whether direct or indirect, will be so profoundly affected that it would be unfair to compare him with people who live well and have sound stomachs. Again, the possession of an exceptionally alert intellect would vitiate results in any individual, since this tends, as is well known, to develop a distinct type of face. The candidate for sympathetic facial marks must also maintain an aloofness from the turmoil and traffic of the world about him; although it does not much matter whether the wall which shuts him off from his fellows consists of substantial bricks and mortar, or of professional enthusiasm, or of mere selfishness.
It will be well, for the present, to confine our attention to subjects of the male sex who are past their first youth, since women and young people exhibit but few conspicuous traces of emotional influence upon facial nutrition as compared with men of mature age. Probably the reason of this difference is found in the fact that both women and youths are normally more under the sway of the feelings than are men, and therefore special emotional stimuli do not cause any deviation from the type of face which usually characterizes them. If we were to take two individuals, one a trained gymnast and the other a clerk with flabby muscles, and were to make them exercise one arm, so as to develop it to the fullest extent, there can be no doubt that, when this end was attained, the latter would deviate more noticeably from his usual state than the former.
From the fact that women are more governed by their emotions than men, one might be tempted to jump to the conclusion that constant emotional stimulation of the kind we are discussing would tend to produce an effeminate type of face. But, as a matter of fact, this is only true to a very limited extent. It must be remembered (and this is a point upon which I wish to lay special stress) that artificial emotion—such as is evoked by music—has to make use of nervous machinery belonging primarily to the body rather than to the soul, and which remains indissolubly connected with certain organic processes common to man and beast.
Now there can be no question that any deep stirring of the emotional side of our nature tends to throw us back upon the bestial substratum derived from our remote ancestors which we generally keep covered up. In a strong gust of passion the "vital spark," which crowns our material being like a nimbus, is extinguished, and the ancient and half-quenched embers of animality beneath are fanned into fierce life. A man, excited or enraged (in common with other mammals of the combative and covetous sex), becomes emphatically a savage male. Hence habitual stimulation of the emotional side of our nature will tend to enhance, rather than to diminish, certain sexual differences in expression.
It is extremely important that we should bear in mind that passion prints on the face are often quite useless in enabling us to form an opinion as to the moral character (as distinct from the moral tendencies) of any individual. For the inhibitory centers of the mental apparatus, upon which depend our powers of self-restraint, do not exercise their veto beyond the frontier line which separates the rational from the organic side of human nature. And, let us recollect, it is the latter region which is governed by the sympathetic system, with its complex emotional and trophic functions. Thus, although a man may feel illicit passion, or unrighteous rage, without deviating in act from the path of rectitude, yet his heart, his skin, and other parts under the sympathetic régime, will ignore both the moral code and any voluntary decision to obey it.
Not only may the organic part of a man show every sign of guilt when there is no guilt, but only temptation; but it may even go further in attaching a false and slanderous label to the countenance, owing to the interlocking mechanism of emotion, passion, and nutrition, above alluded to.
Doubtless some of my readers have chanced to contract a black eye in a perfectly innocent and unpugnacious manner. Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that it resulted from a sharp return across the tennis net. Until the last of the dismal tints fades away, such a one bears about with him one of the most generally accepted proofs of a hasty disposition and of a blackguardly encounter. Yet the victim himself—and each of his friends who will believe his statement—knows that not only is he innocent of a breach of the peace, but that, when he received the ugly mark, he was engaged in one of the most amiable of recreations.
Now in like manner, certain popularly received evidences of a bad moral record may be printed accidentally from within. For the molecular impulses welling forth from a disturbed emotional center may chance to flow along channels usually occupied by less innocent currents, and may produce an expression nearly identical with that which accompanies some form of vice. And yet, all the time, the said emotion may be as essentially distinct from the travelers which usually follow the track, as were Bunyan's Pilgrims when they walked the streets of Vanity. In such a case it will be seen that, in spite of outward appearance 5 not only is there no guilt, but there may be also a complete absence of evil inclination.
To return from what I fear may be regarded by some as a rather arid and metaphysical region, let us take stock of the typical characteristics of the musician, the priest, and the sensualist, who have so oddly foregathered in the interests of science. Physiognomy, it will be seen, like misfortune, makes strange bedfellows.
To get our typical musician, we must, to some extent, follow the example of the society caricaturist. That is, we must generalize, after the fashion of a composite photograph, and then slightly magnify the traits which are found to be common to most members of the class. Probably professional singers approach our ideal most nearly, because the mastery of the technique of voice music involves fewer disturbing influences (from our point of view) than does the mastery of any complex external instrument.
The average musician's face shows but little trace of muscular activity, but evidences of trophic changes due to sympathetic disturbance are abundant. The skin, especially beneath the eyes and about the throat, tends to be full and baggy, and is often filled out with local accumulations of fat. As a rule, the eyes are prominent and dreamy, the cornea is bright and the conjunctiva glistening, but the natural blue-white of the sclerotic has given place to a duller tint. The nose is characterless (as far as acquired qualities are concerned), and differs essentially from the clear-cut nose of the man of active will or intellect. The mouth is the least constant feature, but it generally is characterized by a lax and flabby set of the lips. It is the sensuous mouth belonging to the artistic temperament, with certain specific characters superadded, which result from the same causes as are responsible for the fullness beneath the eye and chin.
Now, why does the mouth, which commonly accompanies the artistic temperament, suggest habits of self-indulgence? It is an essential, with every true artist, that he should follow certain spontaneous impulses. He is born, not made. He can not, like the student or the man of business, hope to excel by toiling against the tide of inclination. In his art he therefore achieves most through a species of self-indulgence; and it is too often characteristic of the artist that this drifting tendency widens and embraces other departments of life. Yet, although it may be confined to artistic matters alone, any habitual yielding to natural impulse will tend to tell its tale on the mouth.
Although the subcutaneous tissues of certain parts of the musician's face are plainly increased in bulk through sympathetic influence, one does not find that the skin itself is much altered in texture. It is, however, usually pallid, and does not exhibit the full-blooded coarseness observable in the other types which we are considering. I am inclined to 'think that the peculiarities which are generally so obvious in the hair among professional musicians are not altogether dependent upon fashion, but that here again we have evidence of trophic changes which result from mental habits. Almost every fashion of this kind, when carefully analyzed, is found to be based upon some natural physical peculiarity. All who have to do with the treatment of mental disease know how profoundly the growth and vitality of the hair is influenced by emotion; and it seems very probable that local trophic stimulation, similar to that which gives a fullness to the throat, etc., may effect typical changes of this kind also.
Passing on to the priestly class, we find many undoubted signs of special sympathetic influence upon the face. It should be understood, however, that the term "priestly" must be taken in a very broad sense. Any religious devotee with mystical tendencies, who makes much of the emotional and little of the intellectual side of religion, is liable to develop something of the characteristic priestly aspect. It is not unknown among those archenemies of priestcraft, the Quakers, although these good folk are generally too much in touch with the world to develop it to such an extent as do mystics who live in seclusion, or under the dwarfing shadow of ecclesiastical authority.
In this type of face we find not a few points similar to those already discussed. For some mysterious reason the subcutaneous tissue over the cheek bones and under the jaw gets an undue supply of nourishment. The skin, however, is less flabby and has more color than that of the musician, and in this respect the priest occupies an intermediate position between him and the last of our trio. Naturally, there is more evidence of mental activity in the priestly than in the musical face, and, especially where our reverend subject is conscious of a share in the apostolic legacy, his sense of authority gives a more muscular set to his lips. Habits of self-denial and self-command give him characteristics which make him, as a rule, compare favorably with his physiognomical associates; but when these, and marked intellectual traits, are absent, and no physical bars to nutritive processes intervene, he is capable of reaching an even lower level of ugliness than they.
Probably nowhere can one see the less prepossessing characteristics of the priestly type in so pronounced a form as among the humbler Catholic clergy in Ireland. Here we have most of the conditions (mentioned above) which are required for the full development of sympathetic facial traits. The Irish priest is generally drawn from a healthy and imaginative peasant class, readily given to emotion and superstition, and not overburdened with intelligence. His constitution is sound, his digestion is good, and he is not very rigidly abstemious either by rule or custom. I see no reason to doubt the testimony of impartial critics who declare that, taken as a whole, the Irish priests are the most chaste and devoted body of clerics upon earth. They are undoubtedly of good report, but they can not be classed among the "things that are lovely." Judged from the conventional rather than from the scientific standpoint, the expressions of these good men are indicative of anything but of spiritual purity or of intellectual refinement. In their jaws, lips, and eyes, those traits which are generally considered to be the marks of the grosser animal qualities are so apparent as to force themselves upon the attention of the spectator.
Now why does a clerical congress in the Isle of Saints appear—as far as outward facial aspect is concerned—like a parliament representing the interests of the world, the flesh, and the devil?
People of "the opposite religion," to use a convenient phrase which we owe to Lord Salisbury, have not been backward in suggesting explanations of the phenomena which are not very favorable to the doctrines and practices of the spiritual followers of St. Peter. And in like manner some of those "painefull and pious" Christians who regard all theatrical and similar amusements as sinful, find support for their views in the stodgy visages of musicians and public singers. In both cases science is on the side of the charity which thinketh no evil. For if the inferences here drawn from what we know as to the physiology of emotion are correct, the facts prove no more than that the ugly priest, or public entertainer, has good assimilative organs, deep feelings, a sluggish mind, and narrow interests. If in feature he tends to resemble certain moral offenders, the fact is owing to a mere unhappy accident, like the black eye of the tennis player aforesaid. Any such resemblances depend upon the fact that man's emotional machinery has not kept pace with civilization, but is still practically in the same state as when it was adapted for the very limited wants of our pristine ancestor, who had no inward feelings unassociated with animal appetite. Our complex modern life has revealed its deficiencies, just as the advent of a missionary among certain primitive races reveals the ludicrous poverty of languages, which can only express the idea of "heavenly bliss" by words meaning "a very full belly."
Into the distinguishing facial traits of the sensualist it is not necessary to enter. In his case the evil expression is honestly come by, and is due to no physiological accident. To any competent reader of facial records it tells its story with a frankness which out-Zolas Zola. What is chiefly of interest about it is the mechanical process by which the inner man is revealed upon the surface. Here, again, we find that the sympathetic nervous system is the agent chiefly responsible; for the changes which have occurred since the face lost its youthful innocence are owing to trophic rather than to muscular causes.
It is worth while noting that here, as in the other tpyes instanced, the exercise of the will and the intellect, or any interference with organic nutritive processes, will mask the facial results of yielding to emotion. Any man of the world will support me when I say that there are not a few grossly sensual men whose expressions do not readily betray them. An ascetic debauchee is an impossible being, but there are not a few instances of men who give free rein to their desires, who nevertheless, from some defect in the assimilative organs, or from the fact that they exercise their wills and minds in other directions, do not develop the bloated countenance and prominent lustful eye which typify the class generally.
In concluding my remarks on the three types we have been discussing, let me say that no abnormally acute powers of observation are required to enable one to distinguish the actual marks of vice from the marks of sensuous emotion which is innocent in character. But it is evident that the resemblance is quite suggestive enough to confuse the crowd, and to provide mud for the ever-ready hand of the religious controversialist. Let it be remembered, also, that we are not dealing here with any of the deeper results of the complications which arise owing to the diverse functions of the machinery of emotion. Dean Swift, in his ruffianly onslaught on the revivalists of his day, had enough truth on his side to give point to his parable. In our religious devotee the physical results of excitement do not break through the barrier set up by the inhibitory centers, and come into the region of conduct.
Having had occasion to make free use of the word "artist," it may be worth while to devote a few words to the class most generally known by that name. In the case of most painters, and all sculptors, another and most important expression factor comes into play. I allude to the effect of unconscious imitation.
This subject was touched upon in my previous article, when an explanation was attempted of the remarkable resemblance which often becomes apparent between persons who live together.
There appears good reason for believing that even an unsubstantial ideal face which is always before the mind's eye will influence the expression muscles in a like manner. Among the majority of artists who paint or model the human figure certain standards of perfection, generally founded upon the old Greek masterpieces, are ever present to the mind more so, probably, than the face of any human companion. Now when we strive to realize a mental picture of another face, whether it be that of a god or a costermonger, we unconsciously imitate it. Careful observation of a considerable number of artists' faces has convinced me that such involuntary mimicry is a considerable factor in determining that classic cast of visage which is certainly more common among men of this profession than among those of any other. On the other hand, we find that caricaturists and all low comedians of the pencil tend to develop an eccentric expression. Those who have lived long enough to watch the development of certain well-known faces in the artistic world will, I think, agree with me that in most cases the acquired expressions are broadly reflections of those chosen ideals which have been occupying the thoughts and employing the hands of the artists.
Landscape and genre painters are of course free from this kind of influence. There is nothing in their work or in their ideals that can be reproduced by the mechanism of the body, and any reaction of the nervous system must be akin to that of ordinary sensuous impressions. These, as we have seen in the case of the musician, do not conduce to personal beauty. It seems probable that Turner might have been a much more presentable man, though possibly less famous, had he devoted himself to figure painting.
Actors' and actresses' faces are of great interest to the physiognomist. An actor's art must of necessity involve the stimulation of both the muscular and trophic factors of expression. Not only has he to emphasize the facial movements which are appropriate to his part, in order that his expression may be plainly seen by the pit and gallery, but he is as a rule obliged to change his role frequently, and to assume a succession of characters requiring very different facial renderings. As a result, all his expression muscles are exercised as thoroughly as are the body muscles of an athlete who is undergoing a systematic course in a gymnasium. Hence in a typical actor's face, when seen at rest, no one group of expression muscles outpulls the others, and as a consequence of this state of muscular balance there is about it a peculiar aspect suggestive of a mask. Moreover, this impassive and almost wooden look is enhanced in many cases by an even layer of subcutaneous fat—the result, probably, of emotional stimulation of a constantly varying character.
I am aware that many actors state that they do not consciously experience the emotions which they simulate; but from the very fact that they are able, without taking thought, to adapt their voices, gestures, and expressions to the sentiments they utter, it is clear that the organic (sympathetic) nerves are moved if the conscious ego is not, and, as we have seen, this is all that is required to influence trophic function whether in the face or elsewhere. Miss Ada Rehan, who was kind enough to assist me in clearing up this point, stated that, in rendering any particular expression, she is quite unconscious of any deliberate effort of the will.
One consequence of the full exercise of all the facial muscles, and of the trophic results of varying emotions, is a remarkable interference with the time records which are usually so visible on the human face. In fact, most actors maintain a somewhat boyish aspect until late in life, although the suggestion of callow immaturity is at times rather startlingly contradicted by the expression of the eye. In ladies who adopt the stage as a profession, a true youthful appearance is, as a rule, much better maintained. Until the physiological principles which account for the phenomenon are understood, it must remain a very puzzling fact that an actress's life should be more favorable to the preservation of good looks, and even of girlish freshness, than the life led by women who occupy their natural sphere, and who cultivate (as they think) all physical and moral virtues. A successful actress must work extremely hard, generally by artificial light, and in a gas-befouled atmosphere. Her hours for work, meals, and sleep are all utterly bad from the hygienic point of view; and not infrequently she makes bad worse by falling into those bohemian habits which are an immemorial tradition of her class. Her secret, apart from the laws regulating the expression and nutrition of the face above stated, consists chiefly of avoidance of monotony and petty worries—those archenemies of feminine good looks and good temper. Her work, if arduous, is generally performed both with earnestness and lightness of heart; and, above all, she gets a sufficiency of bodily exercise of the kind (although not under the conditions) most conducive to health—viz., exercise involving quick and general movements of the muscles, combined with a certain amount of mental excitement.
Any one who considers the preservation of female beauty worthy of serious attention can draw from the facts here stated some general principles, resting on a sound and scientific basis, upon which to found rules for the guidance of the sex. I see no reason why the average British matron should not be physically qualified to play Juliet at fifty if she will observe all the conditions favorable to the preservation of youthful good looks. Indeed, when we bear in mind the many adverse circumstances in a stage career, a lady who goes to bed at half past ten and rises at seven or eight, should be able to give an actress ten years, and beat her easily.
Descending from the realm of Venus to that of Vulcan, let us consider, while we stand among the smoke and sparks of the forge, the problem already alluded to as to the reaction of the expression on the mind. As the smith wields his hammer with an energy which has something fierce and vengeful about it, he automatically contracts his brow into a frown. He does this partly, no doubt, to protect his eyes from the flying flakes of metal; but if you watch the face of the man who holds the iron on the anvil, you will find that although he lowers his eyebrows somewhat as the sledges descend, he does not scowl as do the strikers. In most blacksmiths the constant exercise of the corrugator supercilii muscles causes a permanent frown, and gives the face a somewhat hard expression; but whether there is any inward and spiritual state corresponding with this outward and visible sign I am not quite sure. Certainly there is a popular belief that, as a rule, the blacksmith is a serious and downright person, who "looks the whole world in the face," and who does not take chaff kindly; but the popular mind is peculiarly liable to be biased by such obvious arguments as are presented by the smith's lowered brow and huge biceps, and does not stop to weigh their pertinence in deciding questions of character. I remember being a good deal impressed, when residing in a shipbuilding town, by the intent gaze and bent brows of the riveters and boilersmiths with whom I was brought in contact. One instinctively wondered at first what there was about a harmless hospital surgeon who ministered to them in times of dire trouble, to excite such an air of watchful hostility. I soon found, however, that no hostile sentiments were entertained, but that the frowning, falconlike expression was explained, partly by the "smith's scowl" above mentioned, and partly by the fact that all these men were rendered somewhat deaf by their noisy work, and in consequence had a habit of closely watching the face of any one who conversed with them. Whether their characters in any way corresponded with their acquired expressions I did not discover; there was a grave courtesy in their demeanor while in hospital which was singularly dignified and pleasing, although always slightly suggestive of the politeness of foes during an armistice.
It is easy for any one to satisfy himself by making a few experiments that the act of striking a forceful blow, even at the empty air, tends not only to bring a flush and a frown to the face, but also to awaken an inward glow of emotion which is the raw material of wrath. We all know how certain individuals, when they think it expedient to be angry, "work themselves up" by deliberately assuming a loud, harsh voice, violent gestures, and other choleric symptoms. Here there can be no doubt about centripetal currents which pass inward from the expression organs, and which influence the mind. Nor is it necessary that the will should be called into requisition in order to set such currents in motion, for persons much given to involuntary blushing, and who experience the distressing mental abasement and confusion which accompanies a general dilatation of the arterioles of the face and brain, find that any outward circumstance, such as the heat of a room, which tends to redden the face, also renders them liable to the psychic accompaniments of a blush. Moreover, it is well known that the assumption of an expression of dejection contributes to lowness of spirits, and that we find it easier to be brave with our chins up and our shoulders squared than when we cringe and look at our boots.
In religious services involving an elaborate ritual, posturing is made use of in all parts of the world as a remedy for mental inertia. Doubtless the general prevalence of the practice is a strong testimony in its usefulness, although such strategy, based upon the innate tendency of the mind to conform to the body, appears, from one point of view, a trifle undignified, in warfare where the spirit is endeavoring to assert its eternal supremacy over the flesh.
Moreover, occasionally, the laws upon which these and like ceremonials are founded seem to be reversed. Professional merrymen are proverbially grave and melancholy in private life, while undertakers, according to Oliver Wendell Holmes, are cheery beyond their fellows. The assumption, therefore, of devotional attitudes, and of a pious countenance, in the hope that the soul may follow suit, may not be so safe as has been generally supposed.
Even if space permitted, it would be impossible on the present occasion to analyze each of the many distinct trade expressions which must be familiar to all dwellers in towns. In the first place, our knowledge of the inner lives of most persons outside our own class or social circle is quite insufficient to justify us in theorizing concerning the forces which may have been instrumental in making them, facially, what they are. Until some enthusiastic naturalist will apply the methods of Lubbock and Huber to his fellow-men, we must be content to remain in comparative ignorance. But if the general principles which I have ventured to put forward in this paper are to be trusted, any new fact concerning the habits of any section of the great human swarm may at once be made available by those who are endeavoring to place physiognomy on a sound basis.—Blackwood's Magazine.
- See Popular Science Monthly, vol. xlv, p. 380.