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ART. I. Essays on Physiognomy; designed to promote the Know
ledge and the Love of Mankind. By John Caspar Lavater, Citizen of Zurich, and Minister of the Gospel. Illustrated by more than Eight Hundred Engravings accurately copied, and some Duplicates added from Originals. Executed by, or under the Inspection of, - Thomas Holloway. Translated from the French by Henry Hunter, D.D. Minister of the Scots Church, London-Wall. Vol. I. Imperial 4to. 61. 6s. boards. Murray. Lon
don, 1789. ALL the arts dependent on design have, within these few years,
made a most astonishing progress in Britain. Any person who remembers what we were in this respect, has only to open his eyes, and almost every surrounding object will convince him of our progress. The paintings which adorn the apartments of the great and rich, the prints which ornament the houses of the middling ranks, the forms which present themselves in every piece of furniture, all speak the same language, announcing the triumph of the arts.
When we see the hand of the artist every day occupied in converting things employed in the most common uses of life into objects of tafte, it would have been surprising indeed had the adorning the vehicles of literature been neglected. The embellidhment of books therefore by the hand of the engraver is becoming every day more common; and our country has produced several publications of this kind which have great merit. Bat the present translation of Lavater's Essays on Physiognomy is the most truly fplendid work that has hitherto appeared from the British press; and the exertions of all concerned in it surely deferve that patronage which they have received, and we doubt not will continue to receive from a generous public.
A ENG. REY, VOL. XV. JAN. 1790.
To enter into an examination of the merits of the various engravings executed by Sharp, Hall, Holloway, Trotter, and other celebrated artists employed in this work, would require a volume instead of the small room that we can possibly afford. Nor indeed is it necessary; their names alone imply excellency, especially when we add that there appears to have been a generous rivalship among them, that no one has proftituted his name, but that each has really executed the work ascribed to him, and in his best manner.
In molt works where engravings are introduced, the plates can be considered as nothing more than mere embellishments. In the work now before us this is by no means the case. The plates here are essentially necessary: they are indeed the text which the author illustrates; without them he would, in many parts, be unintelligible to every reader, but with them his meaning is perfectly clear to the most inferior capacity. The plates being thus ejsentials
, the artists were to take care that they should exactly correspond with the ideas and illustrations of the author *. Their attention to this great object is highly to be commended ; and it is with pleasure we can pronounce, upon an attentive comparison of their engravings with many of those of the foreign editions (we pretend not to have examined every plate), that in this, as well as in every other respect, they have a decided superiority.
Dr. Hunter, the translator, has executed his department of the work with equal success. The translation is at the same time literal and elegant; it possesses all the ease of a paraphrase, while it adheres ftri&tly to the original. In many places it was difficult, yet abfolutely necessary to give the precise meaning of his author: in all such passages that we have examined we must highly commend the care and attention of the translator to preferve unfophisticated the genuine sentiments of Lavater.
That the reader may judge of the translation, we shall insert the eighth fragment. We insert it too as it contains a defence
* Had they failed in this, the whole would have been a chaos, and the reader would have risen from the perusal of the work with conceptions of phyfiognomy very different from those which Mr. La. vater intended to convey.
of the science of physiognomy, as it has no reference to the plates, and can therefore be understood without them, and as it exhibits a good specimen of the inanner of this eccentric author.
"FRA G M E N T VIII. • Of PHYSIOGNOMY considered as a Science. Physiognomy, admitting it to be something real, never can become a science.' This will be repeated a thousand and a thousand times by those who may read my book, and those who may not: this they will, perhaps with obstinacy, maintain, though there be nothing more easy than to make an unanswerable reply to this assertion.
• What then is this reply? • Here it is :
• Physiognomy may be improved into a science as well as every other thing that bears the name of science. “As well as physics-for it is a branch of natural philosophy; as well as medicine—for it conftitutes a part of that science. What would medicine be without the knowledge of symptoms ? and what were symptomatical knowledge without physiognomy? As well as theology--for it belongs to the province of theology. What is it, in effect, that conducts us to the Deity, if it be not the knowledge of man? and how do we attain the knowledge of man, but by his face and form. As well as mathematics—for it is connected with the science of calculation; since it measures and ascertains curves and magnitude, with its relations known and unknown. As well as the belles lettres—for it is comprehended under that department of literature; as it unfolds and determines the idea of the beautiful, the sublime, &c.
• Physiognomy, like every other science, may, to a certain point, be reduced to fixed rules, which it is possible to teach and learn, to communicate, receive, and transmit. But in it, as in every other science, much must be left to genius, to sentiment; and in some parts it is still deficient in signs and principles, determinate or capable of being determined.
One of two things must be granted. All other sciences must be stripped of that appellation, or physiognomy must be admitted to the same rank.
• Every truth, every species of knowledge, which has distinct signs, which is founded on.clear and certain principles, is scientific; and it is so, as far as it can be communicated by words, images, rules, determinations. The only question therefore is, to determine if the ftriking and incontestable difference of human physionomies and forms may be perceived not only in an obscure and confused manner, but whether it be not posible to fix the characters, the signs, the expressions of that difference; whether there be not some means of settling and indicating certain distinctive figns of strength and weakness, of health and sickness, of stupidity and intelligence, of an elevated and a grovelling spirit, of virtue and vice, &c. and whether there be not some means of distinguishing precisely the different
degrees and shades of these principal characters; in other words, whether it be poffible to class them fcientifically. This is the true state of the question, the only point to be investigated; and if there be any person who will not take the trouble of examining it thoroughly, I tell him plainly it is not for him I write, and that to all the fashionable wit he may choose to employ on the subject, I will make no reply. The sequel of this work will put the matter in dispute beyond a doubt.
• What opinion would be formed of the man who should think of banishing physics, medicine, theology, or the belles lettres, from the dominions of science-only because each of them ftill presents a vaft field hitherto uncultivated, offers so much obfcurity and uncertainty, so many objects which require to be determined ?
• Is it not certain that the naturalist may pursue his first observations to a particular point, that he may analise them, clothe them with words, communicate them, and say, " This is the method I observed in conducting my researches; these are the objects which I have considered, the observations I have collected ; there is the order in which I arranged, decompounded, compared them; such are the consequences I have drawn, such the path I have purslied; go and do likewise.' But will it be possible for him always to hold the same language? Will his spirit of observation never arrive at truths more refined, and of a nature not to be communicated ? Will he never attempt to soar beyond a height to which he can point with his finger?
Will he always confine himself to what he can, though with difficulty, accommodate to the comprehension of the perlon who creeps feebly after him ? Are physics less a science on that account? Of how many truths had Leibnitz a presentiment, truths inaccessible to others, before a Wolf had traced in the spheres, to which his daring.genius darted itself, those paths in which every frigid logician can now faunter at his eafe! Does it not hold equally true of all the sciences ? Was any one of them perfecily known from its commencement. The bold fights and the piercing eye of genius must always outstrip, by many ages, the progress that leads to per: fection. What a space of time must elapse before a Wolf arises to point out the aventies, and to clear the paths of each truth discovered, foreseen, or feen darkly and at a distance! In modern times, what philosopher more enlightened than Bonnet? In him are happily associated the genius of Leibnitz, with the coolness and penetration of Wolf. Who pofseffes more than he does the spirit of obfervåtión? Who distinguishes with more precision the true from what is only probable, and the observation from its consequences ?
• Is there a better guide, a guide more gentle, more amiable? Yet, is he able to communicate all he knows and feels? To whom shall he disclose that anticipated sentiment of truth, that result, that source of many observations, refined, profound, but indeterminable? Is he capable of exprelling such observations by signs, by founds, by images, and of deducing general rules from them? And is not all this applicable to medicine, to theology, to every frience and
• Is not painting at once the mother and daughter of physiognomy is not painting a science ? and yet, how narrow are its bounds! Here is harmony, there is disproportion ; this is full of truth, force, and life; this is nature itself; that is stiff, placed in a false light, badly coloured, low, deformed.'
• This you might say, and prove by arguments which every pupil is capable of comprehending, retaining, and repeating-But can the schcols of painting convey genius to the painter! No more than theories and courses of the belles lettres can inspire poetic genius. -To what an amazing height will the painter, the poet, who came such from the hands of the Creator, foar above the mere man of rules!—But though the energetic sentiment, the initina, the faculties, which are peculiar to genius be not of a nature that admits of being cait into an ordinary mould, and subjected to rules, is there nothing scientific in the art, nothing that is susceptible of determination? The fame holds as to physiognomy. It is possible, to a certain point, to determine physignomic truth, and to express it by signs and words. It is possible to say, This is the character of an exalted spirit, this feature is peculiar to gentleness, that other to anger; here is the look of contempt, and there that of candour; in this I discover judgment; that is the expression of talents—this trait is inseparable from geniuş.' But will it likewise be said, . It is thus you must ob. serve; this is the road you must pursue, and you will find what I have found, and you will arrive at certainty?' What, shall it not be acknowledged that in this science, as in every other, an experienced observer, one endowed with a happier organisation, diftinguishes himself by an eye more accurate, more penetrating, and capable of more extended and complicated observations ? that he takes a bolder flight? that he frequentiy makes observations which can neither be reduced to rule, nor expressed in words ? Does it follow that the science is less a science, in whatever can be expressed by figns, and communicated by certain rules? Has not phyfiognomy this in common with all other sciences ?-Once more, name me a science in which every thing is determined-in which nothing is left that is proper and peculiar to taste, to sentiment, to genius? Wo to that science, if such an one could exist!--The mathematical genius himself, has not he a presentiment of certain truths which are not sufceptible of demonstration ?
Albert Durer measured the human figure ; Raphael too measured it, but with the feeling penetration of genius. The former copied nature as an artist, and designed according to all the rules of the art; the other traced the ideal with the proportions of nature, and his designs are not less her expression on that account.
• The physiognomist who is merely scientific, measures like Durer; the physiognomical genius measures and feels like Raphael. Besides, in proportion as delicacy and acuteness are acquired by a sprit of observation, language will be more enriched, the greater progress will be made in the art of design, the more carefully man will study man, of all beings on the globe the most excellent and the most in teresting--the more likewise physiognomy Mall become scientic, that is to say, more reduced to rule, and the more easy will it be to study A 3