« AnteriorContinuar »
him in countenance. The uglier he is, the more need he has of this consolation; he forms a romantic attachment to the “ fascinating creature with the snub nose,” or the “ bewitching girl with the roguish leer,” (Anglicè-squint,) without once suspecting that he is paying his addresses to himself, and playing the innamorato before a looking-glass. Take self-love from love, and very little remains: it is taking the flame from Hymen's torch and leaving the smoke. The same feeling extends to his progeny: he would rather see them resemble himself, particularly in his defects, than be modelled after the chubbiest Cherubs or Cupids that ever emanated from the studio of Canova. One sometimes encounters a man of a most unqualified hideousness, who obviously considers himself an Adonis; and when such a one has to seek a congenial Venus, it is evident that her value will be in the inverse ratio of her charms. Upon this principle ugly women will be converted into belles, perfect frights will become irresistible, and none need despair of conquests, if they have but the happiness to be sufficiently plain.
The best part of beauty, says Bacon, is that which a statue or painting cannot express. As to symmetry of form and superficial grace, sculpture is exquisitely perfect, but the countenance is of too subtle and intangible a character to be arrested by any modification of marble. Busts, especially where the pupil of the eye is unmarked, have the appearance of mere masks, and are representations of little more than blindness and death. Painting supplies by colouring
and shade much that sculpture wants; but, on the other hand, it is deficient in what its rival possesses --fidelity of superficial form. Nothing can compensate for our inability to walk round a picture, and choose various points of view. Facility of production, meanness of material, and vulgarity of association, have induced us to look down with unmerited contempt upon those waxen busts in the perfumers' shops, which, as simple representations of female nature, have attained a perfection that positively amounts to the kissable. That delicacy of tint and material, which so admirably adapts itself to female beauty, forms, however, but a milk-maidish representation of virility, and the men have, consequently, as epicene and androgynous an aspect as if they had just been bathing in the Salmacian fountain.
Countenance, however, is not within the reach of any of these substances or combinations. It is a species of moral beauty, as superior to mere charm of surface as mind is to matter. It is, in fact, visible spirit, legible intellect, diffusing itself over the features, and enabling minds to commune with each other by some secret sympathy unconnected with the senses. T'he heart has a silent echo in the face, which frequently carries to us a conviction diametrically opposite to the audible expressions of the mouth; and we see, through the eyes, into the understanding of the man, long before it can communicate with us by utter
This emanation of character is the light of a soul destined to the skies, shining through its tegument of clay, and irradiating the countenance, as the
sun illuminates the face of nature before it rises above the earth to commence its heavenly career. Of this indetinable charm all women are alike susceptible: it is to them what gunpowder is to warriors; it levels all distinctions, and gives to the plain and the pretty, to the timid and the brave, an equal chance of making conquests. It is, in fine, one among a thousand proofs of that system of compensation, both physical and moral, by wbich a Superior Power is perpetually evincing his benignity; affording to every human being a commensurate chance of happiness, and inculcating upon all, that when they turn their faces towards heaven, they should reflect the light from above, and be animated by one uniform expression of love, resignation, and gratitude.
THE HOUNDSDITCH ALBUM.
Third Letter from Miss Hebe Hoggins.
THE CONVERSAZIONE. CADMUS had not greater difficulty in civilizing his Baotians, than I have found in introducing a comparative gentility to our domestic circle in Houndsditch, although I have finally succeeded as far as the nature of the obstacles will admit. An unconditional assent has been given to three articles in which I was personally interested : I am to put on a white gown
every day, not to go to afternoon church on a Sunday, and never to wear pattens. My father, after a severe struggle, has consented to exchange his bobwig for a fashionable crop; and my mother has conformed to all the external modifications I could wish, though she remains incurably afflicted with that infirmity of speech to which Mrs. Malaprop was subject. Upon questions of grammar we are perpetually at váriance, for I am so often in the accusative case that Mrs. Hoggins cannot keep out of the imperative mood, and not unfrequently interrupts me with exclamations of “ Psha! child, don't worret one so; I wonder you are not ashamed of yourself; I knew nothing of genders and conjunctions when I was your age, but I thinks girls talks of every thing now-a-days.” As to mending her cacophony (as my Lord Duberly says), it is a hopeless attempt ; silence is the only corrective, and to this alternative I was particularly anxious to reduce her last night, when I obtained her consent to my giving a literary conversazione, which I am happy to say passed off with the greatest possible success and éclat.
Exclusively of the members of our society, some of the most celebrated characters in the world of letters honoured our coterie. The gentleman who wrote the last pantomime for one of our minor theatres, distinguished himself by some excellent practical jokes, which he played off with infinite adroitness. Mr. Grope, index-maker to one of the first publishers in the Row, astonished us by the alphabetical accuracy of his genius; Mr. Grub, who inserted in the Gentleman's
Magazine a most interesting account of a Roman tooth-pick, dug up at the mouth of the Thames, was profound in antiquarian research ; Miss Sphinks, who writes all the charades and rebuses for the Lady's Pocket-book, captivated the company with some capital conundrums; while we were all highly delighted with the caustic satire and biting irony of Mr. Fungus, a young man of great future celebrity, who, not having completed his studies, has not yet attained the art of writing books, and therefore contents himself for the present with reviewing them.
It is well known that absence of mind has been an invariable accompaniment of genius, and it is therefore not without complacency that I record a ludicrous incident arising from one of those fits of literary abstraction to which I have been recently subject. While presiding at the tea-table I inadvertently substituted a canister of my father's snuff for the caddy, infusing eight large spoonfuls of the best Lundy Foot into the tea-pot; nor did I discover my mistake until the wry faces, watery eyes, and incessant sneezing of the company, were explained by Papa's angry exclamation-“ Why, drat it! the girl's betwitch'd - I'll be hang’d if she hasn't wasted half-a-pound of my best'Lundy Foot upon these confounded ” A violent fit of sneezing fortunately prevented the completion of the sentence, and as I made good haste to repair my error by tendering him a cup (which he will persist in calling a dish) of genuine souchong, by the time he had done wiping his eyes and blowing his nose, he suffered himself to be pacified. Despatching