페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

THE NOBLENESS OF BEAUTY.

11

fashion to decry it, to affect to hold it lightly, to pass it by as transitory and superficial. That it is fleeting is true, and more the pity, more the reason that we should guard it well, and appreciate it while it lasts. For it is this beauty, "skin-deep” if you will, that inspired the pencil of Raphael and the chisel of Michael Angelo. It is this which renders the works of the great masters of art immortal, which invests their productions with a sweet and mighty influence, which gives them a value beyond what dollars and cents can possibly express.

Plato, profoundest of heathen philosophers, exploring this universe in search of God, whom as yet no revelation had disclosed to the Gentile world, found Him nowhere so manifestly present as in Beauty, and with this as his last word the thinker returned to earth.

Trivial philosophizers of modern times have been unable to make anything out of this. With dry erudition they would show us that this matter of personal beauty is a mere caprice of the fancy; that in Abyssinia the ideal woman is a mass of fat, a Dulcinea of four hundred weight or so, while in China she must be as lank and lean as the brown sea-sand; that the Caffirs delight in a black skin, thick lips, a iat nose, and large flabby ears; that the Peruvians aim to acquire a distorted head and prominent cheek bones; and many similar diversities of taste. From all this

they draw the conclusion that there is, in fact, no absolute type of beauty, that it is solely a question of race and education.

What a lame conclusion it is!

We can show them in turn that the Fejee Islanders think it quite the proper thing to kill and eat their aged parents; that theft and murder are no crimes to the Kamschatkan, but that to scrape the snow from his shoe with a knife is a heinous sin which he will in nowise commit; that to lie and steal were not amiss in ancient Sparta, but to be found out was a punishable offence; that to destroy an infant which was not well formed was in the same state an approved custom, but to employ silver money was an infraction of the law. Does all this invalidate those eternal principles of truth, justice, goodness, and love, which lie at the base of the teachings of true religion, and the instructions of its ministers?

Not in the least.

Then, we answer, neither do those various and false notions of personal beauty in the least detract from the reality of an absolutely perfect form of personal human beauty.

But we do not stand in need of a theory to prove this. The verdict of art and the incontrovertible evidence of the most exact of sciences are at our command.

Where do the painter and the sculptor of to-day seek

FOREVER THE SAME.

13

their highest models? In those discolored and broken marbles chiselled nigh three thousand years ago in Greece. All that we have since learned does but teach us the more forcibly that these illustrate the eternal laws of beauty.

These laws are those of geometry.

6. You don't mean to make this a treatise on the higher mathematics ?”

Heaven forbid. There is no such matter in our thoughts. But we do want to say in reply to those stupid philosophizers who can see nothing absolute in the ideal of beauty, that the curves and outlines of perfect human figures can be geometrically constructed by the rule of harmonic ratio; that they can be derived from the laws of the vibration of a monochord; that they are, therefore, as much in a strait-jacket of mathematics as are the notes of a musical instrument; that all this and a great deal more to the purpose has been proven by the researches of an English writer whose name is D. R. Hay, and that

But enough, or we shall strike the very rock we are steering to avoid, and overwhelm ourselves in a sea of technicalities. Let it only be remembered that personal beauty is a harmony of form and color quite as severely regulated by mathematical formulæ, yet capable of quite as infinite variations as that other harmony we call music. “What is Beauty?" some one once asked Goethe.

“I do not know, but I can show it to you,” he replied.

We shall follow the advice of this great master, and, troubling ourselves no further as to the ultimate nature of Beauty, we shall rather inquire how it is to be got, and how it is to be kept.

These inquiries will appear to some the most important in the world, and to others the most trivial. We do not quite agree with the former; but we are still further in opinion from the latter. Yet these will be chiefly found in our own profession. Physicians look at the human body not as a “model,” but as a “subject.” They measure, and probe, and dissect it, not to learn what it is in its utmost perfection, but in order to detect the more readily its degradations and abasements. Then, again, they see so much of the miseries and accidents to which it is exposed, that they think people are well enough off when they are in health, and have no business to waste time in trying to become beautiful. The period has been when this was all very

well. It is right to provide the necessaries ere we cast about for the luxuries of life. Leather and wool should precede lace and diamonds.

But apart from the fact that in a sense health and good looks are synonyms, the hour is now come when the improvement, the maintenance, if possible the creation of personal beauty, deserve to be recognized as

[blocks in formation]

forming a legitimate and worthy department of medicine. “Cosmetics," it should be called, if one can rid that word of its current baser meaning as applied to the meretricious arts of the toilette.

If one reflects how much mental suffering even slight deformities give, and how often the loss of beauty is the forerunner of the loss of health, it will not seem idle or unworthy of the highest medical skill to take cognizance of such trifles. Indeed, each generation witnesses more and more attention paid to

“Reparer des années les irreparable outrages," as the gallant and oft-quoted line of Racine phrases it.

This department of “cosmetics," "chirurgica cosmetica,as the old surgeons styled it, of which we speak, is a border-land between science and idealism, between the physician and the artist, and must henceforward take its position as an important field of professional industry.

It is, we say, a border-land between the physician and the artist. It is wholly within the province of neither. Health is the source of beauty, but the stream does not stay forever by its fountain. All the precepts, all the hints, which the diligent study of the healing art gives, all the suggestions proffered by hygiene and physiology, we shall attentively consider and apply. But is this all ? By no means. Then come those aids to beauty provided by chemistry and pharmacy, those

« 이전계속 »