The Nose-Harper's Magazine


A DESIDERATUM in science is the inductive analysis of what history records, physiognomists agree upon, and literature illustrates in regard to the human nose. Conjectures, anecdotes, and facts we have in abundance, but they are not adequately classified and digested. When Judith arrayed herself for conquest, she put a jewel in her nose. The most remarkable monarchs—the Emperor Charles and William of Orange, for instance—had eagle-like noses. The ancient writers describe the play of character as indicated by the size and inflection of the nostrils. Ovid was named Naso from an excrescence on his proboscis; a gilded nose with a brazen n.ime designates one of Oxford's most renowned colleges; Cowper's only recorded law case is "Nose vs. Eyes;" satire, and a sharp nose were equivalent in Iloratian philosophy, and the rhinocoratic was a classic appellative; the Greeks despised a flat nose, and Moses deemed it a permanent obstacle to sacerdotal dignity. "Ho is restored to society," complacently exclaimed a surgeon who had manufactured an admirable nose for one of his patients. Pointed nasal extremities are instinctively regarded as proofs of a fox-like, prying, and mischievous tendency. When Socrates was called a sot on account of his nose, he acknowledged its language was a true index to his natural character; one Dr. Geddes wrote a treatise on Noseology; Monmouth called the nose "the scat of reputation;'' and in Hudibras a "supplemental" one is recognized. Intemperance and lust write their degrading signs, scorn her vulgar sneer, anger her swelling wrath, sleep her unconscious respiration, pride her solemn curve, and blood its graduated refinements—on or through this plow, forerunner, facial herald, handle, arch, or elegant demonstrator of character and channel of life—the nose! Yet with these and a thousand other offices and meanings, common parlance treats the nose with contempt.

A cinder in the eye or a cut lip excites commiseration, but an accident to the nose provokes a laugh. '' Follow your nose!" is the watchword to impertinent ciceroni, and to be "led by the nose" a synonym for imbecility. "Nose out of joint" is the approved phrase for discomfiture. When a man is too plebeian for a challenge, and too insignificant to be flogged, the approved method of punishment is to tweak his nose. "I'll slit tho villain's nose!" is tho lowest of threats. To turn up the nose at a thing suggests contempt too small for indignation; to lay one finger on the nose, or gyrate all four with the thumb for a pivot, arc vulgar comic gestures: and thus this feature, by universal consent, is associated with tho ridiculous and the ignoble
phases and forms of life. Why is this? Partly, because occupying the center of the physiognomy, and being the most prominent point therein, its least singularity breaks up the harmony of the whole; partly, because it is the most passive yet ostentatious of the features; and, finally, because its character, being indicated by form— without mobility like the mouth, and changes of tint and size like the eye—has a certain fixed emphasis which provokes attention. Hence they are fortunate whose noses have an average type, and no special mould, whereby they escape scrutiny. Lord Brougham's vast mental activity does not save his peculiar nose from comment and caricature; and the greatest beauty of court or bower is reduced to a prosaic level by a snore, a snivel, or a sneeze.

Paley cites the nasal function in respiration as one of the most beautiful provisions for infant life, breathing being thus secured during the act of nutrition. .Napoleon said he chose men with large noses for responsible stations because they allowed free and full inhalation, and thereby kept the brain cool and clear. In vocalism and oratory the nose is an essential element of success; it was large in Cooke, and is often wide at the top and wings in great singers. Space between the eyes, which is filled by the upper extremity, according to phrenologists, indicates the organ of form, or power of correctly judging local distance and conditions: it was remarkably wide in Washington's head. Governor Morris, who was one of the most impressive elocutionists of our revolutionary era, had a prominent and expansive nose, which gave a sonorous emphasis to his voice. In these, and like instances, the feature assimilates with character, and harmonizes with the whole form and physiognomy. But there are cases, sometimes irresistibly comic, where the reverse is the case. Some people have noses which look as if they did not belong to their wearers, and seem always trying to be got rid of. Incomplete, one sided, eccentric individuals thus give an uneasy or ludicrous impression by tho shape or relation of their noses.

The physiognomists are more confident in their speculations on this than in regard to all the other features; and although many discrepancies occur, they agree on certain points — as, for instance, that a large nose usually marks superiority. Bavater calls the nose the " seat of derision." He says a beautiful one is never found in a countenance otherwise ugly; and it is with him " an abutment of the brain," and, like the arch in Gothic buildings, the essential feature. When the curve begins near the forehead, as in Wellington's, ability to command is indicated; the rectilinear belong to those who can both act and suffer well. "I have never," declares this writer, "seen a nose with a broad back that did not belong to an extraordinary man, such as Swift, Ceasar Borgia, Titian, etc. Small nostrils are an indubitable sign of unenterprising timidity; the open, breathing nostrils of sensibility. The Dutch arc seldom blessed with handsome noses;" and he adds, that " all ugly, turned-up ones do not denote folly:" of which latter truth Socrates and Boerhave are notable illustrations.

A later and more analytic writer* finds infinite shades of meaning in the shape and size of the nose. The first ridge, just above the top, according to his observation, is the sign of self defense, and is large in controversial men, and in the horse and rhinoceros. By the length of the nose, from the root downward at a right angle, he estimates the tendency to suspicion; and imitation, correspondence, and comparison are, in his theory, illustrated by the nose. Whether we acquiesce in such details of nasal language or not, there is no doubt that general force of character is associated with a certain strength in this feature; a broad arch, so common among the Jews, is a well-established sign of acquisitiveness; even in Franklin it illustrates the economical instinct so famously embodied in " Poor Richard." There is something irresistibly piquant in a pretty woman's nose when slightly retroussez. How much of the classic beauty of young Augustus is derived from the straight line and delicate proportions of the nose in the favorite classic bust so like Napoleon! In those minute portraits which modern historians and novelists love to draw, the description of this feature is made significant and more distinct, because less complex than that of any other.

We take up an instant and decided impression from this item in the catalogue raisonee of the face; identifying the Roman and aquiline nose with high birth or intellectual Tigor, the snub with plebeians, the Bardolph with grossness, the retroussez with fun, the flexible nostril with feeling, the broad with courage, and the indented with sensitiveness; a bottle nose is inevitably attached to a sot, a sharp-pointed one with a keen lawyer, and a Wellingtonian with aristocracy. Who ever thinks of Thackeray without in his mind's eye beholding what one of his admirers calls his "dear old nose?" The chivalric temper of Clay was evident in his nose, and so was that of Hamilton; Voltaire's looks as if turned up at all creation and snuffing a paradox; in the Aztec children one could trace the transition between the animal snout and the human nasal organ; Judge Hopkinson's quick and cool apprehension, so hound-like, was foreshadowed in his nose. A pug is the certain mark of low humor or a privileged butt. Tom Paine's grossness as well as mental vigor were symbolized in his nose, and so were the strong but unrefined proclivities of Gilbert Stuart. Washington's finest feature was his nose; in Wright's portrait especially, which is remarkable for its literal fidelity, a physiognomical artist will find the highest indication of character. There is infinitely more expression in the nose than common observers appreciate. It is marvelous how much its form and relation to the other features may hint. From the nostrils "spiritually thin," and the graceful long arch that makes the beautiful profile, to the thick, flat proboscis of the African, what extremes of natural language! I knew a buffo singer who could interchange ideas with his friends by certain movements of his nose—which were expressive of humor, likes, dislikes, force of purpose, indifference, ridicule, and gravity —to a degree which one could hardly believe possible.

There is no more startling effect of human expression than earnest eyes and a nose indicative of levity. Audubon's nose was shaped like a hawk's bill, as if to stamp his ornithological passion on his face; the Grecian and Italian straight nose is universally considered the assurance of refinement. An acute writer says, in woman a large nose is "an uncertain angury."' Perpendicular noses intimate rare capacity for endurance; and "when the basal line forms an acute angle with the lip," gaiety and cheerfulness are constitutional; when a morbidly sensitive person is annoyed, it is common for the inmost edge of the nostril to shrink.

These traits illustrate the emphasis which the nose gives to human expression. A French novelist felicitously recognizes this in describing a personage: '' Ses sourcils bien accuses et son ncz proeminent naccentuaient fortemente sa physionomie."

Mozart once defied a rival composer to play a piece of his composition; and when the baffled musician found a note designated in the centre of the piano while every finger was in requisition at the ends, and declared the feat impossible, Mozart turned the laugh on him by striking it with his nose. Indifferent as people are in the general estimate of noses, they are sensitive enough when the subject becomes personal. How will your "snub," "pug," and "scoop" contest the term applied to their nasal organ in a passport, insisting upon a kindly adjective to designate the shape thereof, although it may cast a doubt of identity!

Perhaps it is because busts, coins, and engravings arc so much more widely distributed than oil-pictures that we have such a distinct idea of the noses of celebrities; while the expression of the eyes and the color of the hair are problematical. Thus every one recognizes Michael Angelo's head, on seal, medal, and plaster cast, by the indentation of his nose inflicted by Torrigiano; and the elongated nose of Dante gives the stem melancholy to his profile which even those unacquainted with his muse instinctively associate with the very name of the Tuscan bard. Human character became complex with the advance of civilization, and noses, in the same ratio, grew eclectic; instead of the arching Roman and the beautiful Greek—one symbolizing power and the other refinement— these traits blended, and were farther modified by the spirited nostril, the broad and the sharp end, and where courage and intellectuality, the sense of beauty and reflective energy, developed in the individual, their noses became more versatile in expression and less identified with the original type. You too can trace in reformers like Luther, in thinkers like Hobbs, in modern bards like Byron, elements of each kind of nose. Chatham and Andrew Jackson had tho nasal sign of authority not less than Casar; but it was essentially modified by the various qualities incident to modern life. It grows more and more difficult to nomenclate noses as it docs to classify character: tables of the length of noses in distinguished men hare been collated, and the average fixed at two and fire-eighths inches. It is easy, at a glance, to note the unimpressive nose of a Chinaman compared with an English scholar of high birth; and a good observer will indicate a Greek trait in Addison's nose and a beastly one in Swift's; show the zest of the hunter in the quivering nostril, and a high repose in the thin texture and graceful curve of the Anglo Saxon dowager. These and other obvious distinctions arc patent; but the refinements of the subject baffle ingenuity as much as when the bridge was made for Tristam Shandy's crushed nose, and Sterne humorously discoursed of Hafen Slawkenbergius de Nasis and the Promontory of Noses.

If we turn from tho beauty to the function, from form to use, we find somewhat of the same depreciatory estimate of the nose. To smell out a thing is a figure of speech which savors of indignity; it hath none of the noble perspicacity of vision or tho delicate significance of touch. Smell is a sense wherein the animals are often our superiors, which may, in a degree, account for this comparative disrespect. If a small nose, and especially a flat or snub, is the facial sign of sensualism or undeveloped intellectuality, as in children and negroes; if turned up and easily inflated nostrils betoken a kindred emptiness of mind; if naivete often coincides with it slight retroussez shape, and a high Roman arch with high perception and vigorous will—these characteristic traits of the nose are leveled by the sense, of which they are incidental accompaniments. This is a common attribute, yet the least vaunted as a distinction of humanity. Even Shylock appeals to eyes and hands, but is silent about noses, whereby his nationality and that of his brethren is so absolutely proclaimed, let as a mere faculty, scent, as in the hound and the savage, is wonderful; in hnman beings, as a warning and a luxury, its office is scarcely appreciated. Acute sensibility to odors is a curious law of some organizations. London beggars snuff up the vapor of kitchens as a nutritive Process; the fragrance of herbs and flowers, of pines and broom, hawthorn and mignionette, is one of the most exquisite phases of that enjoyment which Nature yields her lovers; it is capable of stimulating the brain and blood to delicious consciousness, so that poets and botanists are exhilarated as by rare alchemy, and inhale the aerial wine of life in forests, gardens, and by the sea.

Far nearer to the mind are the latent affinities of this sense than the vulgar know. "The use of incense and perfume in churches," says Montaigne, "so universally received in all nations and religions, was intended to cheer us and to rouse and purify the senses, the better to fit us for contemplation." He also notes as an idiosyncrasy, "Tis not to be believed how all sorts of odors cleave to me." Yet the comparative disregard of this sense is evinced by the subordinate metaphorical rank assigned it. Sydney Smith, in his Moral Philosophy, speaking of the word taste as applied to the feeling of beauty, remarks, "There is no reason that I know of, why it should be compared to sensation excited by taste rather than by smell or touch; one metaphor has established itself, the others have not. We have begun though, of late years, to use the word tact; we say of such a man that he has a good tact in manner, that he has a fine tact, exactly as we would say he has a good taste. We might, in familiar style, extend the metaphor to the sense of smelling, and say of a man that he has a good nose for the ridiculous."

Next to exquisite or profound associations of an individual kind, the greatest ravishment derivable from this sense is when land odors greet the sea-worn voyager. Even the smell of loam wafted over the brine is ecstatic to one famished for a breath of terra firma; but when the drear monotony of a long voyage is broken by its fragrance—such as comes from the spice-groves of Ceylon—sense and soul are transported with a delight only to be realized through long deprivation.

The blind alone appreciate the significance of scent; by it they can distinguish places, persons, and seasons with marvelous accuracy. A patient of Sir Hans Sloane knew persons, fabrics, and almost the succession of time, by smell alone. Even those blessed with perfect vision, if of sensitive temperament, have in this sense a prompter to memory more instant than sight or touch. What dreams of vernal pleasure, youth, love, and sorrow come with the odor of a violet! what dreary, blank reminiscence of tempestuous voyages with the smell of bilge-water! How diverse the sensation awakened by tho air of a boudoir and a hospital! Sandal-wood takes us to the Orient, lavender to the rural households of Old England, frankincense to the temple of prayer, musk to the oppressive salon of fashion, and pine-balsam to the green and grateful forest. A pharmacy and a book-store, glove-shops and upholstery, tan-yards and curriers, pastry-cooks and India rubber, the market and the cobbler's stall—every scene and vocation of human life is as certainly identified by the blind beggar as if he saw their insignia. To the mariner, briny air is magnetic; to the farmer, the scent of kine and hay congenial; in the dandy, artificial perfume, the avant-covrrier of effeminate manners and dainty raiment. The Romans have an inveterate dislike of flowers within doors, as detrimental to health; and the most salubrious of odors are those exhaled in the open air, where the benign chemistry of nature and the purifying ministry of the winds winnow, diffuse, and modify the aerial particles. A French traveler declared that the diverse odors of the London docks enabled him most perfectly to realize the greatness of British commerce, successively inhaling the drugs and perfumes of the East, the saccharine odors of the tropics, the scent of tea, coffee, leather, logwood, rum, corn, indigo, hemp, sulphur, cedar, rhubarb, camphor, coal, rice, cotton, tobacco, etc.—he seemed transported from clime to clime, from argosy to argosy, while wandering over a segment of the banks of the Thames.

With the advent of tobacco the nose attained new consideration; around it curled the fragrant incense of the precious weed, and " pungent grains of titillating dust"' were constantly offered as tribute, and enjoyed as a resource in perplexity, a stimulus when dull, and a medium the most available to start an acquaintance or interchange by-way civilities. Sterne's adventure with the monk at Calais derives its zest from a snuff-box; and old-fashioned politeness found one the means of no little demonstration in salon, diligence, and park. "A nez camard," says Balzac, "grosse tubatierc, est tine hi presqui sans exception." The image of Sir Joshua is not more associated with his portraits of contemporaries than that of himself in Goldsmith's line, as

"he shifted his trumpet and only took snuff" It is difficult to imagine what gift royalty could substitute for jeweled snuff-boxes.
"Who would have thought it.
Noses could have bought it?"
was the tobacconist's motto on his carriage panel. What touches of characterization were derived by Cooke from his Jewish nose in Shylock, and his snuff-taking in Sir Pertinax! As a bridge for spectacles this contemned feature also gained importance; but Art and Character are the normal bases whereby, from the Elgin marbles to Lavater, and from Cromwell to Punch, it gradually rose to legitimate significance.

That fine description of the horse in the Book of Job declares, "the glory of his nostrils is terrible;" and it is no accidental coincidence that the most sagacious of quadrupeds is furnished with the most adaptive and remarkable proboscis. The Lord Hamlet spoke of nosing old Polonius after having spitted him behind the arras; Jacques describes the tears running down "the innocent nose" of the stag. "Your nose says no" retorts another Shakspearian character. "Bloody noses" and "cracked crowns" were the insignia of a row, and "spectacles on nose" a badge of senile justice. Seldom in the early drama does the nose figure with dignity; poetic terms expend themselves on eyes, lips, and hair, on form and complexion; and commonplace, or comic ideas are usually blended with every reference to the nose. It is curious that the only two famous Swedish women who have visited our shores—Jenny Lind and Miss Bremer—have peculiarly ugly noses. In regard to the former, however, physiologists declare that the broad nostril and flat ridge are favorable to the high notes of a soprano voice.

An English banker had a favorite terrier who daily accompanied him to the office and remained coiled up on a mat near the desk until the dinner hour, when he jogged home at his master's heels. At a certain hour, one morning, the banker observed that his dog had disappeared, and, after a while, returned to his post; and this happened regularly for weeks. Prompted by a wish to ascertain the occasion of this sudden and periodical change in the dog's habits, he one day followed him cautiously at a distance. No man of business threaded the bustling streets with a more determined aim than the terrier; he looked neither to the right nor to the left, but made his way by the most direct route to Hyde Park; and there, under a certain tree, met a dozen other dogs, of all sizes and species, who appeared to roach the rendezvous nearly simultaneously. After smelling at and round each other for twenty minutes, they, as if by mutual consent, dispersed, each apparently as intent on reaching his domicile as the terrier. The banker used to tell this anecdote as a satire on clubs, declaring these canine meetings were as punctually held, and to as little obvious purpose, as the conclaves of modern philosophers.

Civilization might be not inaptly mapped by odors; from the exquisite perfumeries of the French capital, and the aroma of Eastern bazaars, to the nauseous exhalations of an Irish cabin, there is, the same difference of olfactory impressions as the scenes produce on the visual nerves. "What favorable impression," asks Dr. Kane, in describing the Esquimaux, '' that the mind gets through other channels can contend against the information of the nose ?—organ of the aristocracy; critic and magistcr morum of all civilization; censor that needs neither argument nor remonstrance — the nose, alas! bids me record that, to all their possible godliness, cleanliness is not added." Local associations are, indeed, linked most intimately with sound and vision. A familiar aria, or an engraved copy of a famous picture, and especially photographic views of buildings and landscapes, revive our memories of travel with extraordinary minuteness. Still the associations connected with odors are more personal and vivid. There is a peculiar incense which lingers in Roman churches; a certain piny fragrance exhaled from the room-doors in Florence; a musky perfume that floats from shops in the Palais Royal; a smell of garlic about peasants, of snuff about priests, of flowers on a spring day in the Campagna, of apple-blossoms and burning brush, magnolias or new-mown hay in New England rural places; and other identical odors peculiar to the spots where we have dwelt that cling to memory, and blend with subtle power in our reminiscence—which a recurrence of the scent instantly awakens.

So aware were the Paris beauties of this law of association, that they sought and used a peculiar perfume the better to separate themselves, and make distinct their personal charms to the memory of their lovers. Well says a native hard—
"Strong in some natures In the nasal sense;
To them each odor hath its eloquence;
With some Remembrance holds her secret reign
In the proboscis rather than the brain;
While in more stolid ones, of ruder make,
Scarcely could onions an emotion wake."

Whoever has descended into the clean hold of a clipper ship fresh from China inhales such an aroma of tea and sandal-wood that a vision of the whole Celestial Empire — its pagodas, silks, lanterns, flowers, boats, and mandarins— is stamped on the brain. Attar of rose breathes of the Arabian Nights; and scented amulets of the gardens of Damascus; and Cologne abroad is a synonym for refreshing perfume, and at home of the exhalations of filthy streets; the odor of the pine, the violet, geraniums, immortels, orange-blossoms, and sea-weed are so many talismans of nationality, pilgrimage, and love to earth's sensitive vagabonds.