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Human Nature. Part II.

Charles Darwin has written on this subject under his title of "Expression in Man and Animals." He sent a series of questions to a large number of explorers and missionaries, representing many portions of the earth's surface. These questions relate to human expressionism. The numerous answers received indicate that there is a science of expression. The most interesting portions of Darwin's work, however, are based upon his own observations. These relate to infants and lower animals. In the study of infants he ascertained when the child first smiles; when he sheds tears first; why he sheds tears; and why certain expressions accompany certain feelings. Owing to the fact that Mantegazza has sifted the observations of Darwin, revised some of his laws, we do not present specifically what Darwin sets forth. We think it wise to dwell more particularly upon what his worthy successor, Mantegazza, has written.

Says Mantegazza, "All the libraries in the world would not suffice to hold the thoughts and feelings which the human face has awakened in man, since this poor, intelligent biped has trodden the soil of our planet. Religion has made it a temple of prejudices and adoration; there justice has sought the trace of crimel thence, love has gathered its sweetest pleasures. Finally, science has found there the origin of races; the expression of desires and of passions; and, has there measured the energy of thought."

"Without words, our face expresses joy and grief, love and hatred, contempt and adoration, cruelty and compassion, delirium and poetry, hope and fear, voluptuousness and bashfulness, every desire and every fear, all the multiform life which issues each instant from the supreme organ - the brain."

These two quotations indicate briefly the general view of this celebrated writer. In the twenty-four chapters of his remarkable book, entitled, "Physiognomy and Expression," he treats of the human countenance and the expression of emotions. He shoes clearly how the teacher, the parent, and even the ordinary observer may learn definitely concerning the character of a child, or even a mature person. He does not dwell to any great extent upon the anatomy of the brain, skull and face. In other words, the empirical rules of the skull, width of the skull, length of the nose, size of the mouth, and shape of his mouth, all have some value, but it is not the aim of his work to especially show this value. His work is a study of these organs; in fact, of the whole human mechanism in its relation to expression. Phrenology is not so much as mentioned. Mantegazza has not exhausted the subject, but he has shown clearly that there are established principles of expression, that the average student can learn these principles, and can, therefore, better express himself, restrain himself, better understand others, better guide others.

Moses True Brown, of Boston, has studied Darwin and Mantegazza with reference to confirming his own discoveries; with reference to establishing principles of expression in relation to the arts of reading and oratory. Professor Brown has expounded his views in his book entitled, "Philosophy of Expression." Perhaps few books will aid the painstaking student more than Professor Brown's. Comparatively few study Professor Brown's book because he has not infrequently stated his principles in rather abstruse language, nevertheless, his book is worthy of careful attention.

Should the student own the three books already mentioned, should he master those books, he would still be without the material that is of greatest value. If the learner is to understand human nature, he must devote his undivided attention to the study of children. Very few can have the opportunity of studying the idiot and the insane. Little folks, however, are easy to access. The student who has the laws as presented by Mantegazza, at his command, will find their confirmation the very day that he chances to come in contact with little children.

Another reason for studying children rather than grown people is that they are less hypocritical. They are themselves, so to speak. Mature people feel obligated to disguise, to present only certain phases of themselves to their friends and the public. The investigator must, therefore, never forsake the study of children. Through this study we may, by and by, secure a scientific psychology. At present only beginnings of such a work exists.


Source: Newton, Roy, editor. Life and Works of Woodbridge N. Ferris. (Big Rapids, Michigan: n.p., 1960), 185-187.


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