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Chambers, Robert, 1802-1871 / Chambers's book of days, a miscellany of popular antiquities in connection with the calendar, including anecdote, biography & history, curiosities of literature and oddities of human life and character
Vol. I (1879)

January,   pp. 15-201 PDF (117.8 MB)


Page 201

PERSEVERING PHYSIOGNOMIES.
by way of commemorating the lighting of the
beacons. The toll-keeper removed first to New-
town, and then to St Boswells, but the party
followed him, and the festival is still held in the
Buccleuch Arms' Inn, St Boswells, though none
of the members of the original party of 1804
remain to take part in it.'
PERSEVERING PHYSIOGNOMIES.
The remarkable case of resemblance of distant
relatives given under the title ' Charles Edward
Stuart' could be supported by many others.
Dr Fosbroke, in his valuable historical work
entitled The Berkeley Manuscripts, gives some
interesting anecdotes of Dr Jenner, and, amongst
others, makes the following statement: 'A      lady
whom Dr Jenner met at John Julius Angerstein's,
remarked how strongly Dr Jenner's physiognomy re-
sembled that of her own ancestor, Judge Jenner, of a
family of the name seated in Essex. It is presumed
that a branch of this line migrated from Essex into
Gloucestershire, where, in the parish of Standish, they
have been found for two centuries.'*
The thick under-lip of the imperial family of Austria
is often alluded to. It is alleged to have been derived
through a female from the princely Polish family of
Jagellon. However this may be, we have at least good
evidence that the remark is of old date; for Burton, in
his Anatomy of Mlielancholy, says, ' The Austrian lip,
and those Indians' flat noses, are propagated.'
In the Notes and Queries of March 13, 1852, a
writer signing VOKAROs presented the following state-
ment: 'To trace a family likeness for a century is
not at all uncommon. Any one who knows the face
of the present Duke of Manchester, will see a strong
family likeness to his great ancestor through six
generations, the Earl of Manchester of the Com-
monwealth, as engraved in Lodge's Portraits. The
following instance is more remarkable. Elizabeth
Harvey was Abbess of Elstow in 1501. From her
brother Thomas is descended, in a direct line, the pre-
sent Marquis of Bristol. If any one will lay the
portrait of Lord Bristol, in Mr Gage Rokewode's
Thingoe Hundred, by the side of the sepulchral brass
of the Abbess of Elstow, figured in Fisher's Bedford-
shire Antiquities, he cannot but be struck by the strong
likeness between the two faces. This is valuable evi-
dence on the disputed point whether portraits were
attempted in sepulchral brasses.' A writer in a sub-
sequent number, signing 'H. H.,' considered this 'a
strong demafid on credulity,' and alleged that the
Abbess's brass gives the same features as are generally
found on brasses of the period, implying that likeness
was not then attempted on sepulchral monuments.
Yet, on the specific alleged fact of the resemblance
between the abbess and the marquis, ' H. H.' gave no
contradiction; and the fact, if truly stated by Vo-
karos, is certainly not unworthy of attention.
The writer is tempted to add an anecdote which he
has related elsewhere. In the summer of 1826, as
he was walkine with a friend in the neighbourhood of
the town of Kirkcudbright, a carriage passed, con-
taining a middle-aged gentleman, in whose burly
figure and vigorous physiognomy he thought he
observed a resemblance to the ordinary portraits of
Sir William Wallace. The friend to whom he
instantly remarked the circumstance, said, 'It is
curious that you should have thought so, for that
gentleman is General Dunlop, whose mother [Burns's
correspondent] was a Wallace of Craigie, a family
claiming to be descended from a brother of the Scottish
hero!' As the circumstance makes a rather ' strong
demand upon credulity,' the writer, besides averring
* Berkeley Manuscripts, &c., 4to. 1821. P. 220.
that he states no more than truth, may remark that
possibly the ordinary portrait of Wallace has beet.
derived from some intermediate member of the
Craigie-Wallace family, though probably one not late
than the beginning of the seventeenth century. Of
the improbability of any portrait of Wallace having
ever been painted, and of the anachronisms of the
dress and armour, he is, of course, well aware.
In regard to the question of hereditary physiognomy,
it might be supposed that, unless where a family keeps
within its own bounds, as that of Jacob has done, we
are not to expect a perseverance of features through
more than a very few generations, seeing that the
ancestry of every human being increases enormously
in number at each step in the retrogression, so as to
leave a man but little chance of deriving any feature
from (say) any particular great-great-great-great
grandfather. On the other hand, it is to be considered
that there is a chance, however small, and it may be
only in those few instances that the transmission of
likeness is remarked. It is in favour of this view
that we so often find a family feature or trait of coun.
tenance re-emerging after one or two generations, or
coming out unexpectedly in some lateral offshoot.
The writer could point to an instance where the beauty
of a married woman has passed over her own children
to reappear with characteristic form and complexion
in her grandchildren. He knows very intimately a
young lady who, in countenance, in port, and in a
peculiar form of the feet, is precisely a revival of a
great grandmother, whom he also knew intimately.
He could also point to an instance where a woman of
deep olive complexion and elegant oriental figure, the
inheritress, perhaps, of the style of some remote an-
cestress, has giveni birth to children of the same brown,
sanguineous type as her own brothers and sisters; the
whole constitutional system being thus shewn as
liable to sinkings and re-emergences. In the case of
Queen Victoria and Prince Charles, it is probably re-
emergence of type that is chiefly concerned; and the
parity may accordingly be considered as in a great
degree accidental.
There are some curious circumstances regarding
family likenesses, not much, if at all, hitherto noticed,
but which have a value in connection with this ques-
tion. One is, that a family characteristic, or a resem-
blance to a brother, uncle, grandfather, or other rela-
tive, may not have appeared throughout life, but will
emerge into view after death.    The same result is
occasionally observed when a person is labouring
under the effects of a severe illness. We may presume
that the mask which has hitherto concealed or smo.
thered up the resemblance, is removed either by
emaciation or by the subsidence of some hitherto
predominant expression. Another fact equally or even
more remarkable, is, that an artist painting A.'s por.
trait will fail to give a true likeness, but produce a
face strikingly like B.'s,-a brother or cousin,-a
person whom he never saw. The writer was once
shewn a small half-length portrait, and asked if he
could say   who was the person represented. He
instantly mentioned Mr Gilbert Burns, the poet's
brother, whom he had slightly known a few years
before. He was then told that the picture had been
painted from the poet's own countenance by an artist
named Taylor, who never obtained any reputation.
This artist had certainly never seen Gilbert Burns.
Gilbert and Robert were, moreover, well known to
have been of different types, the one taking from the
mother, the other from the father. The curious con-
sideration arising from this class of facts is, that the
same variation or transition, which nature makes in
producing a second child of one set of parents,
appears to be made in the mysterious recesses of the
plastic mind of the artist.
201
PERSEVERING PHYSIOGNOMIES.
JANUARY 31.


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