The more the mind predominates over matter, and separates itself from it, the more elevated will be the expression of the physiognomy. Faith and prayer transport man into an order of ideas purely intellectual, and give to the features a character in which sense has no part. Resignation attaches itself to the terrestrial affections, and mingles with them an element of pain which, whether moral or physical, is always expressed by the marks of suffering. The recital of a dishonourable action adds a shade of disgust to indignation, and the moral impression seems to affect our organs as they are affected by material impressions.
This indirect and, as it were, figurative action of the senses on the physiognomy, mingles incessantly with movements of another order, and often expresses itself with as much energy as the real sensations. When these latter are acute they govern the expression almost as completely as the most violent passions, and may, like them, impress upon the features the sign of an infirmity, a fault, or a vice.
Our senses, as has been already stated, are united by the constant relations of complementary or sympathetic functions, as the sight and the touch, the sight and the hearing, the taste and the smell frequently control or complete each other by their simultaneous action, and often all the senses are in action at once. This coincidence of the sensations reflected by the physiognomy is a source of varied and complex expressions, as much so as the nervous impressions transmitted to the brain can be, and to describe the physiognomy of any one sense it is necessary almost to draw all the features of each of the other senses.
The eye gives an expression of intelligence to the physiognomy, and reflects the thought more than any other organ of the senses. It is especially through the eye that the passions reveal themselves—that joy or sorrow, courage or fear, envy, love, or hate, frankness or duplicity, are expressed on the features; therefore, says one, if you would know a man's sentiments, read them in his eyes.
The movements of the globe of the eye, its fixity, and the contraction or dilatation of the pupil, infinitely vary the expression of the face, and give to the whole of the features a decided meaning; but to the mimic language of the globe the eyelids bring an important and often decisive addition.
When sight is good, attention is expressed without effort: the face is calm; the eyelids, moderately open, show the globe of the eye, which fixes itself on the object, follows it in space, and acts, in short, as do all the organs in a normal condition, without any consciousness; but if, on the contrary, it is necessary to distinguish an object which is perceived with difficulty, the eyelids approach each other, the eyes twinkle, and the immobility of the body, the suspended respiration, denote more marked attention; the brow contracts, and the features wear an expression of pain, which sometimes gives short-sighted persons a forbidding character.
The face of a blind man is rarely sad, but the immobility of the features, which are so animated by vision, produces a painful contrast.
In hearing the attention is also more or less characteristic If we wish to distinguish a distant noise, or perceive a sound, the head inclines and turns in such a manner as to present the external ear in the direction of the sound, at the same time the eyes are fixed and partially closed. The movement of the lips of his interlocutor is the usual means by which the deaf man supplies the want of hearing; the eyes and the entire head, from its position, have a peculiar and painful expression of attention. In looking at the portrait of La Condamine it was easily recognized as that of a deaf person. Even when hearing is perfect the eyes act sometimes as auxiliaries to it; in order to understand an orator perfectly, it seems necessary to see him—the gestures and the expression of the face seem to add to the clearness of the words. The lesson of a teacher cannot be well understood if any obstacle is interposed between him and the eyes of the listening pupil.
That species of intoxication which we term ecstasy is expressed on the features of a musical amateur on hearing a master-piece; all the powers of attention are concentrated on one organ; the features are slightly contracted by the smile or other expression in accordance with the character of the music; the eyes are half shut or closed, though sometimes they are fixed agonizingly on the singer in some difficult passage, or enthusiastically on some leader, like Habeneck, leading his orchestra with a passionate gesture.
If a piercing, harsh, or discordant sound strikes the ear, the eyes close, and at the same time the lips, the nose, and the whole face contract as if the other senses were combining to protect the hearing from the pain it endures, and against which its immovable organ cannot defend it. It is impatient suffering, and no longer the charm of a delicious sensation.
Under the influence of the smell and the taste the expression of the physiognomy is extremely varied, and reflects perfectly the delicacy or the force of the sensation, the degree of pleasure which accompanies it, or the horror and repugnance which it excites in us. Here, as in hearing, sympathetic movements are combined with the direct movements produced in the affected organs. When taste is concerned, it is very rare that they are not confounded, for almost always the aroma is combined with the taste, and either perfects its excellence or renders it still more insupportable. But whether it expresses satisfaction or antipathy, the play of the physiognomy in sensations of this nature has nothing elevated in it, rather it unveils a certain abasement of the individual; hearing and sight are in immediate connection with the most precious faculties of the mind, while taste and smell appeal specially and directly to our material appetites. But we must not therefore judge too severely the elation of a gourmand seated at a well-spread table. The best compliment he can offer to his host is to show a worthy appreciation of an exquisite repast. We shall see the spirit of our guest, vivified by the sweet influence, shine from his eyes with a light which will easily enable us to pardon what little of sensuality there is in his mouth.
It is by the sense of touch that we acquire clear ideas of the form of bodies, of the distance, resistance, weight, temperature, etc. It confirms the testimony of our eyes, and joins its impressions to those of sight often in an effective manner, and always through the mind.
The touch produces expressive movements in us then, in connection with our tactile or visual sensations; and these movements are sometimes direct, as in effort, and sometimes sympathetic and an indication of the impressions produced on the skin. Lastly, touch is the origin of symbolical movements by which we express the thought of bringing an object near, or putting it away from us. To this sense are related the gestures which accompany our words. We affirm a fact by so placing the hand as if we would rest it firmly on a body; we deny by a gesture putting the false or erroneous proposition away from us; we express doubt by holding the hand suspended, as if hesitating whether to take or reject. When we part from dear friends, or greet them again after long absence, the hand extends towards them as if to retain, or to bring them sooner to us. If a recital or a proposition is revolting, we reject it energetically in gesture as in thought.
In a friendly adieu we wave our good wishes through space to him who is the object of them; but when it expresses enmity, by a brusque movement we sever every tie. The open hand is carried backward to express fear or horror, as well as to avoid contact; it goes forward to meet the hand of friendship; it is raised suppliantly in prayer toward Him from whom we hope for help; it caresses lovingly the downy cheek of the infant, and rests on its head invoking the blessing of Heaven; in a word, the touch, real or imaginary, is constandy adding a feature to the physiognomy.