Page images

reciprocal sentiments in the breasts of others. To this purpose nothing would contribute more essentially than a sober and philosophical view of his case, considered merely as an abstract subject of investigation. Such a view, however, like all the children of misfortune, he is very little disposed to take. On the contrary, he wilfully shuts his eyes to the alleviating circumstances of his lot, and dwells on those which accord with the gloomy state of his feelings. He laments that the tenderest affection he conceives for others can only be returned with a fixed aversion or a cold pity ; that, by the sentence of nature written on his forehead, he is cut off from the common privilege of the human face divine, endearing smiles and sympathetic expression; and, amid the gayety of the festive circle, even while his heart overflows with kindness, is compelled to look on with the countenance of a demon repining at human happiness. Such exaggerated complaints are not unfrequently poured into the ear of friendship; but they imply an evident inattention to the power of custom, in familiarizing and rendering indifferent whatever is originally most shocking to imagination. There are few who have not remarked how completely the greatest deformity of countenance is overlooked and forgotten after some acquaintance, especially when there are agreeable qualities of mind to counterbalance its impression. Custom, in this respect, exerts an equalizing property, and diminishes the power both of beauty and deformity. On this principle, by which the female is prompted to half conceal her charms, the deformed person ought boldly to bring his defects into view, that those with whom he associates may the sooner arrive at the state of indifference. The less he seems to think of his misfortune, the more quickly will they forget it. By this magnanimous policy, he will at the same time avoid the many awkward tricks contracted by those who are con

[ocr errors]

stantly endeavouring to hide defects impossible to be concealed, which endeavours only serve to draw the attention of the spectator more particularly.

Besides custom, there is another principle, which has probably a considerable influence in reconciling us to deformity. In proportion as we become familiar with the countenance, we acquire a knowledge of its peculiar modes of expression; and hence are often enabled to discern benevolence, where we formerly thought we saw only malignity. It is the happiness of beauty that the external signs of kindness are natural to it, and, whenever they appear, are intelligible at first sight to all mankind. In deformity, on the contrary, these signs are perhaps various and accidental; or, at least, they are so strongly obscured by the unfavourable cast of the features, that they require to be studied in order to be understood. When this has been done, however, we learn to make such ample allowances, that a homely countenance will come in time to communicate its emotions not less distinctly than the most finished beauty. To this consideration may be added, the progressive effect of habitual good-nature in moulding the looks to a conformable expression, which is universally admitted to be considerable, and is perhaps still greater than is commonly apprehended. The sunshine of the mind will at last break through the cloudiest features. The elegant, but mystical genius of Lavater, has both illustrated and obscured this subject, which, stript of the dress of imagination, may be comprehended in this plain and rational position, that a homely face, though it can never produce the appropriate sensation of beauty, may yet serve as the index of so many agreeable moral qualities in the mind, as to be on the whole a pleasing object.

An important mistake, into which deformed people and old men are very apt to fall, is to suppose them

selves incapable of being beloved. The observations already made may have tended to remove this prejudice; but, in order more distinctly to perceive its fallacy, it will be of use to take a view of the manner in which the passion of love is generated in the mind. According to the system of Hartley, which affords by far the most satisfactory explication of the mental phenomena that has yet been given, the various pleasurable perceptions received from the beloved object, being associated together, coalesce into one idea, which, though in reality very complex, is apparently simple. Although, therefore, some disagreeable sensations, arising from moral or personal defects, should blend themselves with this idea, yet, being strongly counteracted by those of an opposite kind, they will be overpowered and rendered imperceptible, and the result will be a balance of pure pleasure, which is the efficient cause of attachment. The consequence is, that these defects no longer excite the disagreeable feelings which they would originally raise, but will be viewed with that complacency which constitutes the predominant impression in the mind.-Common observation confirms the truth of this theory. The lover is blind to the faults of his mistress ; or, if he at all perceives them, he loves them as a part of her; he thinks they become her better than the opposite virtues do others; and he would hardly wish to remove them, even though it were in his power. This system likewise shews clearly, what indeed must be known to every one, that beauty is only one of the causes which excite affection; that elegant accomplishments, good-humour, wit, the arts of pleasing conversation; whatsover, in short, serves to connect agreeable feelings with the presence or recollection of the india vidual, also tend to produce it. It were absurd to suppose, that the single disadvantage of person or of age must necessarily overcome a combination of these

causes; and, in fact, instances to the contrary so frequently occur in common life, as to draw upon the fair sex an imputation of whimsicalness from superficial observers. The affection of Desdemona for the Moor Othello is strictly according to nature, and is perhaps much less improbable than the villany of Iago.-At any rate, it is a sufficient consolation to the deformed, to know that they are capable of inspiring that calm and rational attachment, which is the true foundation of domestic happiness, and which, being fixed on moral qualities, is not liable to decay with years, or to pall by satiety.

It will probably, however, be thought by many, that consolation of this kind is very little wanted by the description of persons under consideration, and that observations like the foregoing will be rather detrimental than useful, by increasing that absurd personal vanity for which they are already so remarkable. This opinion, that deformed people are peculiarly subject to vanity, is very generally entertained, and seems to lie at the bottom of that persuasion of their mental inferiority which may be observed among the vulgar. It is, however, evidently a mistake, occasioned by not adverting to the fact, that states of mind in many respects similar often arise from contrary causes. Thus, the handsome and the deformed are both much occupied about their persons, but from motives precisely opposite; the one because he is conscious of being an agreeable object in the sight of mankind; the other because he feels that he is the reverse. Both are fond of dress, and equally ready to adopt every new ornament; but in the former, this arises from a desire to increase his attractions; in the latter, from a wish to palliate or conceal his defects. Their actions are therefore similar, and hence are ascribed to the same motive; though in the one, vanity or conceit is the moving principle ; in the other, perhaps too deep a sense of inferiority. It must be acknowledged, however, that this principle in the minds of the deformed, by keeping the attention constantly fixed on the personal appearance, produces many of the effects of vanity. In its excess, it is the great source of their unhappiness; as its usual effect is either a total want of firmness, in so much that, like bashful children, they are hardly able to look up to meet the eye of a stranger; or an irritable jealousy of temper, which is constantly watching the looks of others for symptoms of contempt or ridicule, and finds matter of resentment and complaint in the most indifferent circumstances. The only effectual remedy against it, is a just and manly confis dence in the superiority of the mind over the body, together with an assiduous cultivation of those intellectual and moral graces which form the best counterpoise to corporeal imperfections.



6 Why do you smile, Egeria ?" said the. Bachelor one day, as the nymph of his affections was looking over an old Magazine, from which she was in the practice of occasionally tearing a leaf to curl her hair with.

“ The smartest hit at the bachelors which I have ever met with. It professes to be the speech of Miss Polly Baker before a court of judicature in Connecticut, where she was prosecuted the fifth time for having a bastard child. It is said that this address

« PreviousContinue »