Abbildungen der Seite

culties, and I only demand a requisite degree of patience in the examination of mine. Your chief objection to my plan is sensible, and, I must confess, is founded on the principles of nature and of reason. If I understand your argument aright, you mean to say, that the same expression or modification of a passion is delineated by various ways in various persons, without a necessity of any one of those modes being superior to the other; and that we must likewise consider the personages in their characters, national and private, the age and sex, and the thousand complex &cs. belonging to them, before we can safely say what is the best expression or modification of a peculiar passion.

Your objection, thus interpreted and explained, I own, carries a great weight with it, and merits a very serious consideration on my part.

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]
[graphic][ocr errors]


On the Variety of Manners in different Parts of the World

The EuropeanThe Inhabitants of Oriental Countries—
The Origin of the Cap of Liberty-Different Degrees of
Expressions of Amity and Affection.The Courtier and
the Cottager.The Study of History recommended.

You ask me wherefore I lay so much stress upon the one particular objection of yours with which I concluded my last letter? You also demand why I single it from the numberless others, as meriting a serious disquisition? It is because that peculiar objection seems to indicate the true mode by which the theory of theatrical action is to be more fully developed.

It is very true that the inhabitants of various countries have different modes of expressing the same passions, and that this difference is often strikingly obvious.

The European, when he would give a mark Ewa is of respect, takes off his hat; the inhabitant of the East keeps his head covered, under the same circumstances. The former expresses the very highest degree of veneration and humility towards an acknowledged superior, by a bend of



he contrar he sound

the head, and a trivial inclination of the back-
he rarely bows the knee. The other, in the same
predicament, muffles up his visage, and falls
trate on the earth. The uncovering of the head
amongst the Europeans is by no means a natu-
ral expression, but simply a mere allusion to some
ancient and arbitrary custom. Probably it al-
ludes to that of the Romans, who never allowed
their slaves to carry any covering for the head
till they had been legally affranchised; and, for
this reason, the bonnet or cap is unto this day
the symbol of liberty.

To veil and cover up the face is a natural expression, and carries the idea of respect and veneration to its very climax. It is equally the sign of shame and modesty. In short, it is the most humble mode of avowing the sense of our own unworthiness, when weighed against the superior and more lofty qualifications of another. Shame and modesty have the same affinity to each other which subsists between fear and veneration : for this reason, the European, naturally cold, expresses this latter sentiment either by modestly inclining his eyes towards the ground, or by seldom raising them without an appearance of timidity. Let the inind, however, abstract itself from these characteristical shades; let it endea

[ocr errors]

akindol mithuanival


[ocr errors]

vour to do away the allusion to an ancient custom in the European, and the more exalted enthusiasm of the inhabitant of the Oriental countries, and the truly natural and essential part of the sentiment will yet remain; to wit, the motion of the body. This expression is carried to its highest pitch, when a man extends himself on the ground, with his face in contact with the earth. The most slight mark of the same expression is when he confines himself to a simple motion of the head. I conclude, therefore, that this sign is natural and essential, because it is general, and holds place with all people, with all nations, without distinction of their ranks, their estates, or their conditions ; though I grant that it admits of a wide and infinite variety of shades and circumflexions. I do not know any one country on the face of the earth, any one class of men who would strive to express esteem, respect, or veneration, by lifting up their heads, or seeming to give ån additional height to their stature; as, on the contrary, I am inclined to believe that there is no nation or body of men who do not express pride and contempt by a deportment exactly the reverse; that is to say, by an exaltation of the head, by a straightening of the back, and sometimes erecting themselves on their toes, to

give an air more commanding and imposing to the general contour of the figure.

If the general character of countries causes a variety in the expression of the passions, this expression is equally modified by the character proper for each sex, and for each age, as well as by the individual qualities of each man in particular. The characteristical determinations of the

moral nature and the organization of the body v may vary the manners, sentiments, and expres

sions in a thousand ways, without occasioning any alteration in the grand essence. One iş impetuous, another is indolent; while the first expresses his irritability, the other remains immovable, Impatience makes the former throw his body into a thousand contortions, while the same sentiment in the latter only displays itself in his physiognomy. That which makes the one man laugh aloud till his sides ache with the exertion, only raises a smile, hardly visible, on the lip of his opposite.

The same observation holds good with regard to the variety of states. .

of the hand, the kiss, and the embrace, are three different modes of expressing amity and affection.The first is the weakest, because it simply joins two extremities of the human body to each other.

« ZurückWeiter »