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Human Nature. Part III. (Lecture. October 1894.)

In our second article on human nature we called attention to the three most valuable books relating to physiognomy and expression, and special emphasis was placed upon the value of Mantegazza's work. This writer has brought order out of chaos. He suggests that the human gave be studied from five standpoints- Physiological, ethnological, esthetic, moral and intellectual. The ethnological and esthetic depend upon expression. Every human being is compelled to give different expressions to the human face. In proportion as he acts intelligently, wisely and happily in his relations with other human beings, he employs, consciously or unconsciously a knowledge of expression.

Comparatively few observers venture to express an opinion concerning human character on the basis of the anatomy of the human face and skull. The scientific student of anthropology may safely venture an opinion as to race, and degree of development. For example, the lower races, such as the Australians, have what is called the prognathous skull. The jaws protrude, the lips are thick, the forehead is low, narrow and receding, and the superciliary arches are prominent.

It would be hardly safe, however, to make an attempt to classify one's friends solely on the basis of one of these characteristics. Without doubt, however, any one of these characteristics carries with it a meaning, and when all these characteristics are represented in one individual inferiority is established. The higher form of the face is called the orthognathus. The third type of face is the eurygnathus, having prominent cheekbones. It is best represented in the Chinese and the Japanese. For ages the lofty brow has been considered intellectual and beautiful; the low and receding brow ugly and unattractive, indicating a lack of intelligence. The form of the infant's skull would seem to verify these judgments.

The eye has always commanded the attention and admiration of poets and physiognomists. It is the opinion of many students of human nature that the position, size, shape and color of the eyes reveal much of the character of the possessor. A very large number of conclusions relating to the eye are purely imaginary. Our sense of harmony and beauty tend to arouse in us an admiration for the large rather than the small eye. The one thing of superb value that may be learned from observing the human eye lies in expression. When the mind is active, when the person is enthusiastic to see, the action of the heart is vigorous, the blood circulates freely through the capillaries of the eye and a special brightness is given. Want of luster is shown in the eyes of a person who is approaching death. The dullness is largely due to the fact that the heart is no longer doing its work properly, the secretion of the lachrymal glands is retarded, the upper eyelids drop, and all that is indicative of life is on the wane. In the expression of the eye that the teacher has a key to the degree of activity the student is manifesting. The eyes of the stupid, the weak or the sick man have little brilliancy.

A nose of good size is essential to a well formed face. The normal development of this feature is, together with the proper development of other features, indicative of power. An infant's nose of the lower races is not found on the face of the intelligent Caucasian. All of the higher races have prominent noses. The nose has few muscles that produce motion, hence the general lack of what might be termed expression.

Next to the eye the mouth is the most expressive feature of the face. Mantegazza says, "The eye is the center of the expression of thought, the mouth is the central sun of feeling and sensuality." All of the higher races have mouths of moderate size. The lips are rather thin, and slightly curved. Lips that are extremely thick are characteristic of the lower races, and indicate a great degree of sensuality. The muscles of the mouth are mobile, and consequently the lips can be compressed or relaxed. The person who has overcome difficulties, who has been obliged to manifest a great degree of courage shows his courage and composure by closing his lips. The person who has been annoyed day in and day out by petty influences frequently has thin and firmly compressed lips, indicative of a slavish condition. This is not the expression that the conqueror wears.

The lips that are open, ajar, so to speak, or in other words, a mouth that is rarely closed, though there be no physical deformity, indicates weakness. No courageous or strongwilled man ever fails to keep his mouth shut when he has no special reasons for opening it. The slight elevation of the upper lip over the canine tooth, with a slight throwing of the head back and to one side is indicative of scorn. The protruding of the lips as if to eject some disagreeable object from the mouth is indicative of disgust. Just how thoughts that are disagreeable should excite the same expression that things that taste disagreeable do, is not easy to explain. The correctness of this observation, however, remains.

So far as the student of human nature can determine, the shape and size of the ears indicate little as regards the character of their owner. Scientific writers find in the shape of the ears evidences of man's ascent from a lower order of animals. The criminologist finds in the lack of symmetry an evidence of an unbalanced brain.

Much has been written concerning the hair and beard, in relation to what they signify, but little of value can be stated in relation to their significance. No doubt a luxuriant growth of hair indicates a vigorous constitution; that coarse hair and beard indicate a course organization; fine hair a fine organization. The observations of Lavator and other physiognomists in relation to the hair have little value.

At different periods in life wrinkles are found about the eyes, mouth and cheeks. These wrinkles are produced in various ways. They never fail to appear as one grows old. In certain professions where powerful emotions, and powerful intellectual efforts are expressed, the traces are written upon the human face in the form of wrinkles. We would hardly expect to find a well formed wrinkle extending from the upper wing of the nose to the upper part of the mouth in a young man or a young woman. This wrinkle appears in the majority of persons who have participated in the sterner struggles of life.

Wrinkles about the eyes in young men frequently indicate debility of dissipation. In disease, wrinkles usually appear early. These few inferences may be safely made by the careful observer.

Source:Newton, Roy, editor. Life and Works of Woodbridge N. Ferris. (Big Rapids, Michigan: n.p., 1960), 188-192.