Page images
PDF
EPUB

element of character, than the Spaniards and the Flemish. The one, prompt and impulsive, yet idle ; the other, cold and lymphatie, but in the highest degree economical and laborious. Under an appearance of inertia, amounting to stolidity, the Fleming hides an intelligence singularly alive to all the physical blessings of life, and of the importance and necessity of labour to secure them. The Spaniard, on the contrary, under the appearance of imperturbable gravity, hides an imagination and love of adventure almost proverbial. The pride of the Fleming is in 'securing abundance, and in surrounding himself with the realities of life. That of the Spaniard is in the indulgence of visionary dreams, and the romance of life. Far beyond labour, science, and riches--so dear to the Fleming-the Spaniard places beanty, valour, and poetic genius ; and, above all, the pride of birth.

Lastly.--The view of government taken by the spatular hand, always connects itself with strength rather than legality, and the conception of religion with resolution rather than resignation.

Where the square form prevails, there will be found a taste for the moral, political, social, and philosophical sciences ; didactic, analytic, and dramatic poetry ; grammar, geometry, metre, rhythm, symmetry, arrangement ; in a word, art defined. There will be also a genius for business ; practical truths will be readily received, and a sense of responsibility will be felt, with respect for authority, and a deference for the voice of antiquity.

This is a form which prevails also in this country, principally among the Anglo-Norman, and we know that the highest achievements in its jurisprudence is the discovery of precedent; and that the polities, the morals, and the religion of the country, are too often influenced by custom, precedent, and routine.

In China (says M. d'Arpentigny), the square phalanges are said to prevail among the higher ranks; and it is well known in how much greater estimation they hold good sense than genius, the ordinary than the extraordinary, the real than the ideal. They prefer social and practical philosophy to speculative history, and the moral and political sciences to metaphysics and the abstract sciences. The man who governs his family well, who has been a respectful and submissive son, who has for his elders the

prescribed deference, --such a man is considered not only worthy, but capable of governing

, a province, or a kingdom, or even an empire. Politeness, industry, and the exact observance of ceremony, are placed at the head of the social virtues. Indeed, ceremony and China are almost synonymous. The manner in which each person should conduct himself, according to age, rank, and profession, is literally prescribed—all arranged according to law ; how he shall enter a room, how retire, how sit, how listen, look, salute, clothe, and move.

Amongst us, the knotty, square-fingered man with a weak palm, may be often found (says M. d’Arpentigny) in small towns destitute of commerce, and few inhabitants; where the only echo is the sound of one's own foot, and through which the country squire may be seen consequentially to strut. He addresses you with an air of importance ; his linen is beautifully starched ; and his whole exterior is the very pink of order and propriety. He converses in a low tone of what is due to rank and authority. He possesses some knowledge of Latin and geometery, of natural history and botany, of geography and archæology. He has a little acquaintance with inedicine and jurisprudence. He can boast a smattering of all that can be acquired, but he offers you not a single original idea. At home he is continually arranging, brushing, and dusting. His linen he himself puts away, after having carefully verified his mark; and every bill which he has paid since he attained his majority, he has duly receipted, and safely placed under lock and key. This methodical, exact, and punctual gentleman, is shocked and disconcerted at any innovation on his ideas, which have been already set at rest in the contracted limits of his own mind. Perhaps the varying phases in the civilisation of

many countries may be accounted for by the influence exercised by the different form of hands in the ascendant àt a particular time. Thus, the 10th century in Europe, according to M. d’Arpentigny, represented the civilisation of the hard spatular hand. The powerful body of the prelacy was recruited from amongst warriors and men of mechanical science. Gerbert was raised to the papacy, under the name of Sylvestre II., from the rank of a simple friar, for having invented a clock balance. On the other hand, the 12th and 13th centuries were under the empire of psychological ideas. Priests and theologians held the reins in Europe. The condition of civilisation in the 16th century was represented by the artistic hands of Francis I. and Leo X. The 17th century saw the square-fingered hands in the ascendant. Painters were no longer selected for ambassadors or cardinals. With Colbert and Louvois came etiquette, numbers, and finesse ; and so on.

In many of the States of Germany may be seen a slavish deference to form and official glorification, which, with a love for high-sounding titles, exhibit a characteristic weakness of this type ;-from the “Ober geheimer Consistorial Raths Supernumerarius” (Supernumerary High Privy Councillor), to the “Ober hof Schornstein Feger” and “Ober hof Kammer Jager”. (principal chimney sweep to the court, and principal hunter of the chambers, commonly called the rat-catcher), each avocation having some highsounding title by which to mark its official distinction.

In Spain also, at one period, the hourly actions of the kings and queens were so regulated, that Voltaire declared everything had been determined from Philip the 2nd to the day of judgment. Certain it is, that Philip the 3rd lost his life because the Duke d’Utzede was absent, who alone had authority to extinguish the fire in the royal apartments, and the excess of temperature killed the king. At one period in the history of the French Court also, this devotion to form had nearly proved of serious consequence to the wife of Louis XVI. Madame Campan relates that one day Marie Antoinette being at her toilette, and her chemise about to be presented to her by her assistant, a lady of the bedchamber entered, of a higher rank, and immediately claimed the privilege and the duty which etiquette enjoined of presenting the important garment to her sovereign ; but at the moment she was about to fulfil her duty, a lady of yet higher quality entered ; she was again interrupted by a fourth, who was no other than the king'e sister. Thus the chemise was passed from hand to hand, with various formal curtsies and compliments, before it could be permitted to reach its destination, while its mistress remained exposed, distressed, and shivering, in order that form and etiquette might be glorified.

The spatular form, I said, first looks for industry and skill, and then for the reason why ; whereas, the square first looks for the reason, and afterwards for skill and industry. With the spatular form there is found more simplicity and frankness ; with the square more politeness and elegance. The spatular fingers entertain respect for authority, as well as the square ; but they differ essentially in this, that the spatular attaches itself to the power of a despot, while the square attaches itself to the institution of despotism. The spatular requires that the authority to which it yields respect shall be strong ; the square that it shall be legitimate. Conical fingers stand strongly opposed to spatular and square, inasmuch as there is always a distaste for rigorous analytical deductions—a dislike for the control, order, and regularity of social life-a necessity for independence--a predisposition to enthusiasm --a love of the plastic arts, for printing, sculpture, monumental architecture, and poetry--a contemplative spirita disposition to the worship of the beautiful and the romantic. These fingers are found to prevail in southern latitudes. In the north, where spatular and square fingers prevail, the artist is supplanted by the artizan. In Italy, Spain, Ireland, and in many parts of France, the artizan is supplanted by the artist. Instrumental musicians, also, are oftener found amongst the square than amongst the pointed fingers. To the pointed is assigned the dominion of song. And it is the fact, that while England and Northern Germany produce admirable instrumental performers, they supply few vocalists of the first order: these are to be found only in Italy and Spain, where song seems to form a part of the existence of the people. The same would also most assuredly be said for Ireland, had the political circumstances of the country permitted its cultivation. Mysteries, poetry, and art, retain their hold upon this type, in Italy, France and Spain, and Ireland ; while in the north, as in Holland, Northern Germany, England, and the United States of America, where the spatular and square hands abound, with their restless action and rigorous logical deductions, Protestantism prevails. Everywhere the Protestants as a people, excel the Roman Catholics as a people, in the mechanical arts, and are excelled again by the Roman Catholics as a people, in the fine arts : not because they are Protestants, as some are disposed to think, but because of their peculiar organisation ; but I am more disposed to believe that it is rather to circumstances than to development we are to attribute the selection of religious

In

forms. The impulsiveness and enthusiasm represented by this hand, will reject any religion which is limited to a cold and formal expression. The mystical reasoning and awful denunciations of Calvin, are as fully accepted by the Gael of the Highlands of Scotland and the Methodist of Wales, as Roman Catholicism is by the people of Spain and Ireland. M. d'A rpentigny offers, however, a curious illustration of his views,-if it be not rather a coincidence. Germany, he says, where the Protestants and the Roman Catholics are both numerous, the poetic faculty finds its fullest development. All the Scripture poets-the poets who have clothed their ideas in language--that have attained to excellence, were Protestants, as Klopstock, Wieland, Koner, Uhland, Herder, Goethe, Schiller, and Jean Paul Richter; while all the musical poets were Roman Catholics, as Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Weber and Kreutzer. The exception may be Meyerbeer and Mendelssohn, who were Jews. In truth, while religious ideas are more developed among Protestants, religious sentiments are more felt by Catholics ; and though these sentiments cannot be defined, still they are believed. Let M. d’Arpentigny not be misunderstood. He does not assert that all smooth and pointed fingers are Roman Catholic, and all knotty and square are Protestants. Most individuals are indebted to their parents for their particular form of religion, totally irrespective of any natural predilection. Many whose faith is perfectly real and sincere, are so hampered with the tyranny of forms, that it rarely ever finds for itself a full effectual utterance. A traditional creed overpowers a living personal faith ; and submission to orthodoxy seems to be more important to them than the salvation of their souls.* With them conventional theology pervades every religious conception, and the varied, beautiful, universal applicability of the Gospel, is forced into one mould and compelled to represent one form. With regard to the pointed fingers, religion will be cherished by them as a sentiment, little influenced by either the science or the art of logic, or the authority of reason.

A few words upon the thumb, before we consider these hands in detail. The superiority of the animal is in the hand ; in man it is in the thumb. In the monkey you ob

* See Lectures on Modern History, by Goldwin Smith.

« PreviousContinue »