« ZurückWeiter »
small compass and very distinct limits, because I do not understand or believe in it: but I think those who put faith in physiognomy at all, or imagine that the mind is stamped upon the countenance, must believe that there is such a thing as an essential difference of character in different individuals. We do not change our features with our situations; neither do we change the capacities or inclinations which lurk beneath them. A flat face does not become an oval one, nor a pug nose a Roman one, with the acquisition of an office, or the addition of a title. So neither is the pert, hard, unfeeling outline of character turned from selfishness and cunning to openness and generosity, by any softening of circumstances. If the face puts on an habitual smile in the sunshine of fortune, or if it suddenly lowers in the storms of adversity, do not trust too implicitly to appearances ; the man is the same at bottom. The designing knave may sometimes wear a vizor, or, “ to be. guile the time, look like the time;" but watch him narrowly, and you will detect him behind his mask! We recognise, after a length of years, the same well-known face that we were formerly acquainted with, changed by time, but the same in itself; and can trace the features of the boy in the full-grown man. Can we doubt that the character and thoughts have remained as much the same all that time; have borne the same image and superscription ; have grown with the growth, and strengthened with the strength ? In this sense, and in Mr. Wordsworth's phrase, “ the child's the father of the man” surely enough. The same tendencies may not always be equally visible, but they are still in existence, and break out, whenever they dare and can, the more for being checked. Again, we often distinctly notice the same features, the same bodily peculiarities, the same look and gestures, in different persons of the same family, and find this resemblance extending to collateral branches and through several generations, shewing how strongly nature must have been warped and biassed in that particular direction at first. This pre-determination in the blood has its caprices too, and wayward as well as obstinate fits. The family-likeness sometimes skips over the next of kin or the nearest branch, and re-appears in allits singularity in a second or third cousin, or passes over the son to the grand-child. Where the pictures of the heirs and successors to a. title or estate have been preserved for any length of time in Gothic halls and old-fashioned mansions, the prevailing outline and character does not wear out, but may be traced through
its numerous inflections and descents, like the winding of a river through an expanse of country, for centuries.
The ancestor of many a noble house has sat for the portraits of his youthful descendants; and still the soul of “ Fairfax and the starry Vere," consecrated in Marvel's verse, may be seen mantling in the suffused features of some young court-beauty of the present day. The portrait of Judge Jeffries, which was exhibited lately in the Gallery in Pall Mall-young, handsome, spirited, good-humoured, and totally unlike, at first view, what you
from the character, was an exact likeness of two young men whom I knew some years ago, the living representatives of that family. It is curious that, consistently enough with the delineation in the portrait, old Evelyn should have recorded in his Memoirs, that “ he saw the Chief Justice Jeffries in a large company the night before, and that he thought he laughed, drank, and danced too much for a man who had that day condemned Algernon Sidney to the block.” It is not always possible to foresee the tyger's spring, till we are in his grasp; the fawning, cruel eye dooms its
prey, while it glitters ! Features alone do not run in the blood ; vices and virtues, genius and folly are transmitted through the
same sure, but unseen channel. There is an involuntary, unaccountable family character, as well as family face; and we see it manifesting itself in the same way, with unbroken continuity, or by fits and starts.
There shall be a regular breed of misers, of incorrigible old hunkses in a family, time out of mind; or the shame of the thing, and the hardships and restraint imposed upon him while young, shall urge some desperate spendthrift to wipe out the reproach upon his name by a course of extravagance and debauchery; and his immediate successors shall make his example an excuse for relapsing into the old jog-trot incurable infirmity, the grasping and pinching disease of the family again *. А person may be indebted for a nose or an eye, for a graceful carriage or a voluble discourse, to a great-aunt or uncle, whose existence he has scarcely heard of; and distant relations are surprised, on some casual introduction, to find each other an alter idem. Country cousins, who meet after they are grown up for the first time in London, often start at the likeness,-it is like looking at themselves in the glass—nay, they shall see, almost before they exchange a word, their own thoughts (as it were) staring them in the face, the same ideas, feelings, opinions, passions, prejudices, likings and antipathies ; the same turn of mind and sentiment, the same foibles, peculiarities, faults, follies, misfortunes, consolations, the same self, the same every thing! And farther, this coincidence shall take place and be most remarkable, where not only no intercourse has previously been kept up, not even by letter or by common friends, but where the different branches of a family have been estranged for long years, and where the younger part in each have been brought up in totally different situations, with different studies, pursuits, expectations and opportunities. To assure methat this is owing to circumstances, istoassure me of a gratuitous absurdity, which you cannot know, and which I shall not believe. It is owing, not to circumstances, but to the force of kind, to the stuff of which our blood and humours are compounded being the same. Why should I and an old hair-brained uncle of mine fasten upon the same picture in a Collection,
* “ I know at this time a person of vast estate, who is the immediate descendant of a fine gentleman, but the greatgrandson of a broker, in whom his ancestor is now revived. He is a very honest gentleman in his principles, but cannot for his blood talk fairly : he is heartily sorry for it; but he cheats by constitution, and over-reaches by instinct." See this subject delightfully treated in the 75th Number of the Tatler, in an account of Mr. Bickerstaff's pedigree, on occasion of his sister's marriage.