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)
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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