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The Works of Aristotle - Of the Judgment of Physiognomy.

Of the Judgment of Physiognomy.

HAIR that hangs down without curling, if it be of a fair complexion, thin, and soft withal, signifies a man to be naturally fainthearted, and of a weak body but of a quiet and harmless disposition. Hair that is big, and thick, and short withal, denotes a man to be of a strong constitution, secure, and deceitful, and for the most pert unquiet, and vain, lusting after beauty, and more foolish than wise, though fortune may favour him. He whose hair is partly curled and partly hanging down, is commonly a wise or a very great fool, or else as very a knave as he is a fool. He whose hair groweth thick on his temples and his brow, one may at the first sight certainly conclude that such a man is by nature simple, vain, luxurious, lustful, credulous, clownish in his speech and conversation, and dull in his apprehension. He whose hair not only curls very much, but busheth out, and stands on end; if the hair be white, or of yellowish colour, he is by nature proud and bold, dull of apprehension, soon angry, a lover of venery, and given to lying, malicious and ready to do any mischief. He whose hair rises in the corners of his temples, and is gross and rough withal, is a man highly conceited of himself, inclined to malice, but cunningly conceals it, is very courtly, and a lover of new fashions. He who hath much hair, that is to say whose hair is thick all over his head, is naturally vain and very luxurious, of a good digestion, easy of belief, and slow of performance, of a weak memory, and for the most part unfortunate. He whose hair is of reddish complexion, is for the most part, if not always, proud, deceitful, detracting, venerous, and full of envy. He whose hair is extraordinarily fair, is for the most part a man fit for all praiseworthy enterprizes, a lover of honours, and much more inclined to do good than evil; laborious and careful to perform whatsoever is committed to his care, secret in carrying on any business, and fortunate. Hair of a yellowish colour shows a man to be good conditioned, and willing to do any thing, fearful, shamefaced, and weak of body, but strong in the abilities of the mind, and more apt to remember than revenge an injury. He whose hair is of a brownish colour, and curleth not too much nor too little, is a well disposed man, inclined to that which is good, a lover of peace, cleanliness, and good manners. He whose hair turns grey or hoary in the time of his youth, is generally given to women, vain, false, unstable, and talkative. Not, that whatsoever signification the hair has in men it has the same in women also.


Thus does wise Nature make our very hair
Show all the passions that within us are;
If to the bottle we are most inclin'd,
Or if we fancy most the female kind:
If into virtue's path our minds we bend,
Or if to vicious ways our footsteps tend,
A skilful artist can unfold the same,
Awl from our hair a certain judgment frame:
But since our perriwigs are come in fashion,
No room is left for such an observation.

The forehead that riseth in a round, signifies a man liberally merry, of a good understanding, and generally inclined to virtue. He whose forehead is fleshy, and the bone of the brow jutting out, and without wrinkles, is a man much inclined to suits of law, contentious, vain, deceitful, and addicted to follow ill courses. He whose forehead is very low and little is of a good understanding, magnanimous, but extremely bold and confident, and a great pretender to love and honour. He whose forehead seems sharp, and pointing up in the corners of his temple, that the bone seem m put forth a little, is a man naturally weak and fickle, and weak in his intellectuals. He whose brow upon the temples is full of flesh is a man of a great spirit, proud, watchful, and of a gross understanding. He whose brow is full of wrinkles, and hath as it were a seam coming down the middle of his forehead, so that a man may think he hath two foreheads, is one that is of a great spirit, a great wit, void of deceit, and yet of a hard fortune. He who has a full large forehead, and a little round withal, destitute of hair, or at least that has little on it, is bold, malicious, high spirited, full of choler, and apt to transgress beyond bounds, and yet of a good wit, and very apprehensive. He whose forehead is long and high, and jutting forth, and whose face is figured, almost sharp and picked towards the chin, is one reasonably honest, but weak and simple, and of a hard fortune.


Who views men well may on their vices hit,
For some men's crimes are in their foreheads writ;
But the resolved man outbraves his fate,
And will be good although unfortunate.

Those eye-brows that are much arched, whether in man or woman, and which by frequent motion elevate themselves, show the person to be proud, high-spirited, vain-glorious, bold and threatening; a lover of beauty, and indifferently inclined to either good or evil. He whose eye-lids bend downwards when he speaks to another man, or when he looks upon him, and who has a kind of skulking look, is by nature a penurious wretch, close in all his actions, of a very few words, but full of malice in his heart. He whose eye-brows are thick, and have but little hair upon them, is but weak in his intellectuals, and too credulous, very sincere, sociable, and desirous of good company. He whose eye-brows are folded, and the hair thick, and bending downwards, is one that is clownish and unlearned, heavy, suspicious, miserable, envious, and one that will cheat and cozen you if he can, and is only to be kept honest by good looking to. He whose eye-brow hath but short hair and of a whitish colour, is fearful, and very easy of belief, and apt to undertake any thing. Those on the other side whose eye-brows are black, and the hair of them but thin, will do nothing without great consideration, and are bold and confident of the performance of what they undertake; neither are they apt to believe anything without reason for so doing.


Thus by the eye-brows women's minds we know,
Whether they're white or black, or quick or slow;
And whether they be cured or he kind,
By looking in their eyebrows we may find.

If the space between the eye-brows be of more than ordinary distance, it shows the person to be hard-hearted, envious, close and cunning, apprehensive, greedy of novelties, of a vain fortune, addicted to cruelty more than love. But those men whose eyebrows are at a lesser distance from each other, are for the most part of a dull understanding; yet subtile enough in their dealings, and of an uncommon boldness, which is often attended with a great felicity; but that which is most commendable in them is, that they are most sure and constant in their friendship.

Great and full eyes in either man or woman, shew the person to be for the most part slothful, bold, envious, a bad concealer of secrets, miserable, vain, given to lying, and yet of a bad memory, slow in invention, weak in his intellectuals, and yet very much conceited of the little knack of wisdom he thinks himself master of. He wise eyes are hollow in his head, and therefore discerns excellently well at a great distance, is one that is suspicious, malicious, furious, perverse in his conversation, of an extraordinary memory, bold, cruel, and false, both in words and deeds, threatening, vicious, luxurious proud, envious, and treacherous: But he whose eyes are as it were starting out of his head, is a simple, foolish person, shameless, very senile, and easy to be persuaded either to vice or virtue. He who looks studiously and acutely with his eyes and eye-lids downwards, denotes thereby to be of a malicious nature, very treacherous, false, unfaithful, envious, miserable, impious toward God, and dishonest towards men. He whose eyes are small and conveniently round, is bashful and weak, very credulous, liberal to others and even in his conversation. He whose eyes look asquint, is thereby denoted to be a deceitful person, unjust, envious, furious, a great liar, and as the effect of all this, miserable. He who hath a wandering eye, and which is rolling up and dawn, is for the most part a vain, simple, deceitful man, lustful, treacherous, or high minded, an admirer of the fair sex, and one easy to be persuaded to virtue or vice. He or she whose eyes are twinkling, and which move forward or backward, show the person to be luxurious, unfaithful and treacherous, presumptuous, and hard to believe any thing that is spoken. If a person has any greenness mingled in the white of his eyes, such is commonly silly, and often very false, vain and deceitful, unkind to his friends, a great concealer of his own secrets, and very choleric. Those whose eyes are every way rolling up and down, or they who seldom move their eyes, and when they do, do as it were draw their eyes inwardly, and accurately fasten them upon some object, such are by their inclinations very malicious, vain glorious, slothful, unfaithful, envious, false and contentious. They whose eyes are addicted to blood-shot, are naturally choleric, proud, disdainful, cruel without shame, perfidious, and much inclined to superstition. They that have eyes like those of oxen, are persons of good nutriment, but a weak memory, are dull of understanding, and silly in their conversation. But they whose eyes are neither too little nor big, and inclined to a black, do signify a man mild, peaceable, honest, witty, and of a good understanding: and one that when need requires, will be serviceable to his friends.


Thus from the eyes we several things may see,
By nature's art of physiognomy;
That no man scarce can make a look astray,
But we thereby some secret symptoms may
Discern of his intention, and foresee
Unto which path his steps directed be;
And this may teach us goodness more to prize,
For where one's good there's twenty otherwise.

A long and thin nose denotes a man bold, furious, angry, vain, easy to be persuaded either to good or evil, weak and credulous. A long nose and extended, the tip of it bending downwards shows the person to be wise, discreet, secret and officious, honest and faithful, and one who will not be over-reached in bargaining. A bottle nose is what denote a man to be impetuous in the obtaining of has desires; also vain, false, luxurious, weak, and an uncertain man, apt to believe, and easy to be persuaded. A nose broad in the middle, and less towards the end, denotes a vain talkative person, a liar, and one of hard fortune. He who hath a long and great nose is an admirer of the fair sex, and well accomplished for the wars of Venus, but ignorant of the knowledge of any thing that's good; extremely addicted to vice; assiduous in the obtaining what he desires, and very secret in the prosecution of it; and though very ignorant, would fain be thought very knowing.

A nose very sharp on the top of it, and neither too long nor too short, too thick nor too thin, denotes the person, if a man, to be of a fretful disposition, always pining and peevish; and if a woman, a scold, or contentious, wedded to her own humours; of a morose and dogged carriage, and if married, a plague to her husband. A nose very round at the end of it, and having but little nostrils, shows the person to be munificent and liberal, true to his trust, but withal very proud, credulous and vain. A nose very long and thin at the end of it and something round withal, signifies one bold in his discourse, honest in his dealings, patient in receiving, and slow in offering injuries, but yet privately malicious. He whose nose is naturally more red than any other part of his face, is thereby denoted to be covetous, impious, luxurious, and an enemy to goodness. A nose that turns up again, and is long and full on the tip of it, shows the person that has it to be bold, proud, covetous, envious, luxurious, a liar and deceiver, vainglorious, unfortunate and contentious. He whose nose riseth high in the middle is prudent and politic, and of great courage, honourable in his actions, and true to his word. A nose big at the end shows a person to be of peaceable disposition, industrious and faithful, and of a good understanding. A very wide nose, with wide nostrils, denotes a man dull of apprehension, and inclined more to simplicity than wisdom, and withal contentious, vain glorious, and a liar.


Thus from the nose our physiognomist
Can smell men's inclinations if he list;
And from its colour and its make
Of vice and virtue a survey can make.

When the nostrils are close and thin, they denote a man to have but little testicles, and to be very desirous of the enjoyment of women, but modest in his conversation. But he whose nostrils are great and wide, is usually well hung and lustful; but withal of an envious, bold and treacherous disposition; and though dull of understanding, yet confident enough.


Thus those who chiefly mind the brutal part
May learn to choose a husband by this art.

A great and wide mouth shows a man to be bold, warlike, shameless, and stout, a great liar, and as great a talker, and also a great eater; but as to his intellectuals he is very dull, being for the most part very simple. A little mouth shows the person to he of a quick and pacific temper, somewhat fearful, but faithful, secret, modest, bountiful, and but a little eater. He whose mouth smells of a bad breath is one of a corrupted liver or lungs, is oftentimes vain, wanton, deceitful, or indifferent intellects, covetous and a promise breaker. He that has a sweet breath is the contrary.


Thus from the mouth itself we likewise see
What signs of good and bad may gather'd be;
For let the wind blow east, west, north or south,
Both good and bad proceed out of the mouth.

The lips, when they are very big and blubbering, show a person to be credulous, foolish, dull, and stupid, and apt to be enticed to anything. Lips of a different size denote a person to be discreet, secret In all things, judicious and of a good wit, but somewhat hasty. To have lips well coloured and more thin than thick, shows a person to be good humoured in all things, and more easily to be persuaded to good than evil. To have one lip bigger than the other shows variety of fortunes, and denotes the party to be of a dull sluggish temper, and but of a very different understanding, as being much addicted to folly.


The lips they so much dote on for a kiss
Oft tell fond lovers when they do amiss.

When the teeth are small, and but weak in performing the office, and especially if they are short and few, though they show the person to be of a weak constitution, yet they denote him to be of a meek disposition, honest, faithful, and secret in whatsoever he is entrusted with. To have some teeth longer and shorter than others, denotes a person to be of a good apprehension but bold, disdainful, envious, and proud. To have teeth very long, and showing, and thin, denotes the person to be envious, gluttonous, bold, shameless unfaithful, and suspicious. When the teeth look very brown or yellowish, whether they be long or short, is shows the person to be of a suspicious temper, envious, deceitful, and turbulent. To have teeth strong, and close together, shows the person to be of a long life, a desirer of novelties, and things that are fair and beautiful, but of a high spirit, and one that will have his humour in all things; he loves to hear news, and afterwards to repeat it, and is apt to entertain any thing to his behalf. To have teeth thin and weak shows a weak, feeble man, and one of short life, and of a weak apprehension, but chaste, shamefaced, tractable, and honest,


Thus from the teeth the learned can pretend
Whether man's steps to vice or virtue bend.

A tongue too swift in speech shows a man to be downright foolish, or at best but a very vain wit. A stammering tongue, or one that stumbles in the mouth, signifies a man of a weak understanding, and of a wavering mind, quickly in rage, and soon pacified.

A very thick and rough tongue denotes a man to be apprehensive, subtile, and full of compliments, yet vain and deceitful, treacherous, and prone to impiety. A thin tongue shows a man of wisdom and sound judgment, very ingenious and of an affable disposition, yet sometimes timorous and too credulous.


No wonder 'tis that from men's speech we see
Whether they wise or whether foolish be:
But from a silent tongue our authors tell
The secret passions that within men dwell.


A great and full voice in either sex shows them to be of a great spirit, confident, proud and wilful. A faint and weak voice, attended with but little breath, shows a person to be of a good understanding, a nimble fancy, a little eater but weak of body, and of a timorous disposition. A loud and shrill voice which sounds clearly, denotes a person provident, sagacious, true, and ingenious, but withal capricious, vain-glorious and too credulous. A strong voice when a man sings, denotes him to be of a strong constitution, and a good understanding, neither too penurious, nor too prodigal, also ingenious, and an admirer of the fair sex. A weak and trembling voice shows the owner of it to be envious, suspicious, slow in business, feeble and fearful. A loud, shrill, and unpleasant voice signifies one bold and valiant, but quarrelsome and injurious, and altogether wedded to his own humours, and governed by, his own counsels. A rough and hoarse voice, whether in speaking or singing, declares one to be a dull and heavy persona of much guts and brains. A full and yet mild voice and pleasing to the hearer, shows the person to be of a quiet and peaceable disposition (which is a great virtue, and rare to be found in woman) and also very thrifty and secret, not prone to anger, but of a yielding temper. A voice beginning low, or in the bass, and ending in the treble, denotes a person to be violent, angry, bold, secure.


Thus by our voice 'tis to an artist known
Unto what virtue or what vice we're prone;
And his that will of a good wife make choice
May choose her by observing of her voice.

A thick and full chin abounding with too much flesh shows a man inclined to peace, honest and true to his trust, but slow in invention, and easy to be drawn either to good or evil. A peeked chin, and reasonably full of flesh, shows a person to be of a good understanding, a high spirit, and laudable conversation. A double chin shows a peaceable disposition, but dull of apprehension, vain, credulous, a great supplanter, and secret in all his actions. A crooked chin bending upwards and peeked for want of flesh, is by the rule of physiognomy according to nature a wry bad man, being proud, impudent, envious, threatening, deceitful, prone to anger and treachery, and a great thief.


Thus from the forehead to the chin we've shown
How mankind's inclinations may be known;
From which th' observing reader must find
We're more to evil than to good inclin'd.

The hair of young men usually begins to grow down upon their chin at 15 years of age, and sometimes sooner. These hairs proceed from the superfluity of heat; the fumes whereof ascend to their chins, like smoke to the funnel of a chimney; and because it can not find any open passage by which it may ascend higher, it vents itself forth in the hairs, which are called the beard. There are very few or almost no women at all that have hair on their cheeks: and the reason is, those humours which cause hair to grow on the cheeks of a man are by a woman evacuated in their monthly courses which they have, more or less, according to the heat or coldness of their constitutions, and the age and motion of the moon, of which we have spoken at large in the first part of this book. Yet some times women of a hot constitution have hair to be seen on their cheeks, but more commonly on their lips, or near unto their mouths where the heat most aboundeth. And where this happens such women are much addicted to the company of men, and of a strong and manly constitution. A woman who hath little hair on her cheeks, or about her mouth and lips, is of a good complexion, weak constitution, shamefaced, mild, and obedient; whereas a woman of a more hot complexion is quite otherwise. But in a man a beard well composed and thick of hair, signifies a man of a good nature, honest, loving, sociable, and full of humanity: on the contrary, he that hath but little beard, is for the most part proud, pining, peevish, and unsociable. They who have no beards have always shrill and strange kind of squeaking voices, and are of a weak constitution, which is apparent in the case of eunuchs, who, after they are deprived of their virility, are transformed from the nature of men into the condition of women.


Of men and women's beards I might say more,
But prudence bide me this discourse give o'er,

Great and thick ears are certain signs of a foolish person, or a bad memory and worse understanding. But small and thin ears show a person to be of good wit, grave, secret, thrifty, modest, resolute, of a good memory, and one willing to serve his friend. He whose ears are longer than ordinary, is thereby signified to be a bold man, uncivil vain, foolish, serviceable to another more than himself, and a man of small industry, but of a great stomach.


Who his just praise unwillingly does bear,
Shows a good life as well as a good ear.

A face apt to sweat on every motion, shows the person to be of a hot constitution, vain and luxurious, of a good stomach, but of a bad understanding, and a worse conversation. A very fleshy face shows the person to be of a fearful disposition, but a merry heart, and withal bountiful and discreet, easy to be entreated, and apt to believe every thing. A lean face, by the rules of physiognomy, denotes the person to be of a good understanding, but somewhat capricious and disdainful in his conversation. A little and round face full of carbuncles shows a man to be a great drinker of wine, vain, daring, and soon intoxicated. A face red or high coloured, shows a man to be much inclined to choler, and one that will be soon angry, and not easily pacified. A long and lean face shows a man to be both bold in speech and action, but withal foolish, quarrelsome, proud, injurious, and deceitful. A face every way of a due proportion denotes an ingenious person, one fit for any thing, and very much inclined to what is good. One of a broad full fat face is, by the rules of physiognomy, of a dull lumpish heavy constitution, and that for one virtue hath three vices. A plain flat face without any rising shows a person to be very wise, loving, and courtly in his carriage, faithful to his friend, and patient in adversity. A face sinking down a little, with crosses in it, inclining to leanness, denotes a person to be very laborious, but envious, deceitful, false, quarrelsome, vain, and silly, of a dull and clownish behaviour. A face of a handsome proportion, and more inclining to fat than lean, shows a person just in his actions, true to his word, civil and respectful in his behaviour, of an indifferent understanding, and of extraordinary memory. A crooked face, long and lean, denotes a man endued with as bad qualities as the face is with ill features. A face broad about the brows, and sharper and less as it grows towards the chin, shows a man simple and foolish in managing his affairs, vain in his discourse, envious in his nature, deceitful, quarrelsome, and rude in his conversation. A face well coloured, full of good features, and of an exact symmetry, and a just proportion in all its parts, and which is delightful to look upon, is commonly the index of a fairer mind, and shows a person to be well disposed: but withal declares that virtue is not so impregnably seated there, but that by strong temptations (especially of the fair sex) it may be supplanted and overcome by vice. A pale complexion shows the person not only to be fickle, but very malicious, treacherous, false, proud, presumptuous, and extremely unfaithful. A face well coloured shows the person to be of a praiseworthy disposition, and a sound complexion, easy of belief, and respectful to his friend, ready to do a courtesy, and very easy to be drawn to any thing.


Thus physiognomy readeth in each face
What vice or virtue we're most prone t'embrace
For in man's face there hardly is a line
But of some inward passion 'tis a sign;
And he that reads this section o'er may find
The fairest face has still the clearest mind.

A great head and round withal denote the person to be secret, and of great application in carrying on business, and also ingenious, and of a large imaginative faculty and invention; and likewise laborious, constant, and honest. The head whose gullet stands forth, and inclines towards the earth signifies a person thrifty, wise, peaceable, secret, of a retired temper, and constant in the management of his affairs. A long head and face, and great withal, denotes a vain foolish and idle person, a weak person, credulous, and very envious. To have one's head always shaking, and moving from side to side, denote a shallow, weak person, unstable in all his actions, given to lying, a great deceiver, a great talker, prodigal in all his fortunes. A big head and broad face show a man to be very courageous, a great hunter after women very suspicious, bold and shameless. He who hath a very big head, but not so proportionate as it ought to the body, if he hath a short neck and crooked gullet, is generally a man of apprehension, wise, secret, ingenious, of sound judgment, faithful, true, and courteous to all. He who hath a little head, and long slender throat, is for the most part a man very weak, yet apt to learn, but unfortunate in his actions. And so much shall suffice in respect to judgment from the head and face.


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