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Very much has been said of late years of the value of well-regulated gymnastic exercise as a means of health, and it were difficult to say too much on that topic. But comparatively little has been done or said with reference to increasing the beauty of the form by such means. To be sure, there is the art called “ Calisthenics,” from two Greek words meaning beauty and strength, but its aim has been confined to the latter quality only. So it is with gymnastics in general. Yet it must be remembered that it is very unusual in man, and still more so in woman, to find the graceful form of perfect symmetry connected with uncommon muscular vigor, or even remarkable powers of endur
This is a familiar fact to surgeons who examine recruits for the army and the naval service.
The old Greeks, from whom we have learned so much concerning beauty, knew this very well, and divided, therefore, their gymnastic exercises into three classes. The first was for training the soldiers to severe, protracted labor, where endurance was the quality required; the second was for the athletes, the participants in the Olympic, Isthmian, and Pythian games, who sought to combine power with activity; while the third class had as its object the development of harmonious proportion, the correction of defects in the figure, and the cure of vices of conformation. It is this third class of gymnastic exercises which is peculiarly suitable to girls and women, all the movements being
LE GRAND MONARQUE.
moderate, and designed to call into play each of the muscles in proportion to its prominence in the perfect human form. Such culture causes a rapid and astonishing improvement in the figure, and we hope that it will soon be introduced into all our leading seminaries, as it already has been in some.
DEFECTS IN STATURE; TOO TALL OR TOO SHORT.
American women, as a rule, measure between five feet two inches and five feet four inches in height. Those who are much above or much under these figures will be unpleasantly aware of the fact. They should remedy it. But how? Is there anything more wholly out of all range of possibility than to grow shorter or taller at will? Is it pretended that nowadays by taking thought one can add a cubit to his stature?
Nol our pretensions do not extend that far. But we profess to have some hints which may be of service even here. Most persons have read more or less about Louis XIV. It is not easy to escape him in French literature. He was called by his courtiers Louis le Grand, and as it is difficult to break an old habit, the adjective clings to him still. Well, all the memoirs of his time speak of him as of commanding stature, and we might suppose from their descriptions he was at least six feet in his stockings. In fact he was about five feet seven inches, and the rest of his height was
made up by high heels, a judicious costume, and a perruque of magnitude. If we learn nothing else about him, it is worth while to know this, for it illustrates how readily a diminutive person can conceal this defect of nature.
It is not so easy, one might think, to veil unusual height. In sooth it is a more serious problem, though it is not wholly discouraging. Those who have visited the galleries of the Louvre in Paris will recall an ancient and celebrated statue known as the Venus of Milo. We know not whether others have had the same experience, but for ourselves we sate before that marble wonder for hours studying its perfect outlines, its matchless drapery, its depths of expression, and it never occurred to us that the height was extraordinary. Our astonishment was great on seeing in some guidebook that it measured six feet two inches. The faultless proportions prevent any impression of excessive size in this
“Daughter of the gods, divinely tall,
And most divinely fair.” The same is constantly observable in life. Persons whose forms correspond closely to the artistic model rarely appear either too tall or too short, and those who have from nature these defects in growth should devote unusual attention to the symmetrical development of the body by gymnastic exercise, and practise those modes of costume adapted to their size.
THE RIGHT AND LEFT SIDES.
They should likewise bear in mind that height depends chiefly on the length of the lower limbs and not on the body, so that when sitting tall and short persons present very little difference.
WANT OF SYMMETRY OF THE BODY.
It is a curious fact to consider that our body is formed of two entities united together. One side of us has nearly all the organs that the other has, and arranged in almost precisely the same manner. What is the use of two ears, two eyes, two nostrils, when one would, and at a pinch does answer the purpose quite as well? We do not know.
Still more curious is it to observe how the one side generally gets the better of the other, and becomes stronger, handsomer, and more adroit. Even the two halves of our body, twin brothers on ne peut pas plus, cannot live together without rivalry. Generally it is the right half that comes out winner. This is supposed to be because the great bloodvessels, as they leave the heart, are so arranged as to carry that side more nourishment. More rarely it is the left, and only occasionally do we see a person who can control the muscles of either side with equal power. In most persons the difference between the development of the two sides is quite visible in every member.
Now if we examine the finest statues in this respect we shall find no such inequality. Indeed, one of the
first objects which an able teacher of gymnastics proposes to himself is to equalize the strength and skill of the two arms and legs.
Frequently a want of symmetry is due to the bad habit of sleeping mostly on one side. We can recall quite a number of such instances. Such a habit should never be indulged. It is ruinous to grace in walking, and has, moreover, an injurious effect on the general health by displacing the internal organs, and subjecting them to unequal pressure. We always urge those whom we have the privilege of advising to sleep quite as often on the one side as on the other, and, if they can, occasionally on the back. Persons who are accustomed to sleep together should change sides from time to time. This is especially important in young girls.
Why some persons are left-handed is not clear. It is not merely a habit they learn in infancy. We have known every precaution taken with children to prevent it, tying a bag over their left hands, fastening it in the sleeve or to the side, and other devices, for months together, but without success. Nevertheless, all these means should be tried, and, when they fail, the child must be taught to use both hands alike—to be "ambidextrous," as it is called—which is rarely impossible. Left-handed people, however “dexterous'? they may be, are apt to create an unpleasant sensation