26 SEPTEMBER 1863, Page 10


WE doubt whether we, " the heirs of all the ages," have in- vented any new pleasure by which we shall swell the per- manent inheritance of our children much more substantial than that art which enables us, for a few pence, to individualize at a single glance our notions of the exterior form and features of half a hundred distinguished men, whose names are daily before our eyes and achievements upon our lips. There is a set-off to the advan- tage of railways and telegraphs. They, no doubt, enlarge the opportunities, but for that very reason they sadly increase the fuss and turmoil, of life. But to buy for sixpence a card which gives distinctness to our notions of upwards of fifty distinguished men, who are scattered over a whole continent, living in tents in the tropics, making their head-quarters behind fiercely assaulted bat- teries, leading cavaliT raids into hostile countries, bending their careworn heads over politicians' desks, firing off their random oratory from pulpits, or concocting their sensation telegrams in newspaper offices, is certainly a limited, but also a real enjoy- ment, which carries no corresponding labour with it. Whether it is a privilege in any other sense than a literary pleasure is, perhaps, doubtful. What we gain beyond an agreeable satisfaction of the imagination by seeing, for instance, that the man who gained the battle of Murfreesborough, and who has just crossed the Tennessee and occupied Chattanooga, is a handsome soldier, with a long straight nose that descends directly in the line of the forehead, and a mouth about which there is a plea- sant play of military gallantry, it is not easy to say. But that it is gratifying to substitute this individual face in our minds for the unknown quantity which we had hitherto been obliged to connect with the nine letters of Rosecranz's name, when we hear of that General's exploits, is unquestionable. Who does not feel that " Rosecranz has taken Chattanooga" gives us a livelier interest, after the first word has been translated into a certain limited amount of visual significance, than while both the subject and the predicate of the sentence remained in blank for us, or, at least, only connected themselves in our minds with a number of other propositions concerning each, as equally without impression for the retina? It may be laid down as a certainty that a piece of personal news is interesting in proportion to the number and freshness of our mental associations with the subject of it,—much more interesting, even if we have once brushed against him in the street or seen his back as he turned a corner, or only so much as succeeded him in a morning call, so as to say to ourselves, " He was in the house a few minutes before I entered it,"—than if the track of our life has never in any way approached his own. And though it would be hard to say that it is instructive to have once seen the hat and umbrella of the Duke of Wellington vanishing in the distance, the time will, no doubt, come when men who have done so, will read and speak of him with far deeper interest than if they had only read his praises.

Still more, of course, do photographs of eminent men add to the pleasure of reading of their achievements. Do they add much to the real meaning of history? We have before us, in a single portrait-carte, fifty-two photographic heads of modern American generals and civilians, some Northern some Southern, with Washington's calm old-fashioned face, looking gravely out of the eighteenth century at us, in the centre. Here, within the space of an ordinary carte, are congregated the heads that have brewed this storm, so that, sitting quietly at home, we can pierce at fifty-two distindt points the white mist of words and names which hangs over that American chaos. It is not easy at first to define our gain,—and yet every one knows how eagerly a like set of authentic portraits of the Peloponnesian generals and statesmen, a good photographic group of David and his associates in the cave at Zikiag, or even one commanding head belonging to one and the same race in each generation since the Christian era, so as to show the gradual fashioning of time, would be coveted. There are, indeed, spots in the universe where such photographs might still by bare possibility be taken. Some one pointed out, not long ago, that rays of light which left the earth when Abraham was buying the cave of Macbpelah must at the present moment be arriving in some fixed star a few trillion miles away, and might, therefore, with sufficiently sensitive materials, be made to yield a photographic group of that transaction. And, if that were any- how attainable here, instead of only in remote constellations, it can- not be doubted one would read history with a new relish. But what do we learn by connecting a specific face with a catalogue of actions, more than we should know in any case ? Even if the photograph be a true likeness of the face, will the face neces- sarily add to our knowledge of the man ? Most men, judging by their own intimacies, would answer in the affirmative ; but very often what we call the expression of familiar faces is mere association that we have learned to attach to facial move- ments, only as we learn to attach ideas of electricity to the sound of thunder. We know that one friend frowns when he is thinking hard, and with him we associate a frown with embarrassed thought; another frowns when he is nervous, and in him the frown denotes shy or sensitive fePling—and then we call those lines in their forehead expressive. Yet they are not really expressive originally at all, but only become so by long habit. The first sight of this frown in either face would probably mislead instead of instructing us ; we should think it a sign of anger. And thus it is often exceedingly questionable whether the mere vision of a public man's face, not previously or otherwise known to us, is likely to add to our positive knowledge of him, or rather to give us a false impression about him. Here, for example, is a photograph of a three-quarter face, contemplative, serene, Shakespearian, with the collars turned back, with moustache but no beard, exceedingly like the better likenesses of Shakespeare in its upper portion, showing a placid brow and heavy brooding eyelids, only a thinner and, perhaps, ungenial mouth. To which of the American Generals do our readers suppose that it belongs ? To General Lee or General M'Clellan ? No ; but to General Butler. And, supposing the photo- graph true, will it add anything to our instruction to remember that the tyrant of New Orleans, whose military seventies were even less discreditable than his private gains, has a musing, refined, antique, literary face, with, perhaps, a flavour of hard and for- bidding lines lurking under the shadow of the moustache? Again, here is a civilian face—solemn, didactic, important, still young, but going in for " judiciousness," the kind of face which one is accustomed to see in men who deprecate indiscreet theories, and school those still younger, telling them that they will learn by sad experience to take wiser views in time. Do our readers suppose it must be Mr. Chase or Mr. Memminger, big with financial caution ? No ; but Mr. James Gordon Bennett, the editor of the most discreditable paper in the world, and who is commonly said to have compensated himself once for a severe chastisement, by telegraphing to his own journal a frank "sensa- tion heading" as to the stripes he had received, which sold the edition. Then there is an amiable, weak, confused, woolly- headed-looking military bust, with fat cheeks and head narrow- ing towards the top, eminently a " worthy" young officer not likely to distinguish himself. It is "Stonewall" Jackson. Here, again, is a grave, square, open countenance, speaking a frank heart, an earnest devotion to freedom, and the compressed resolve to maintain it at the sacrifice of life. This, !surely, must belong to a Northerner of the squarest Republican type. It is the face of John C. Breckinridge, the last Southern candidate for the Presidency. Certainly, in none of these cases does the picture of the countenance and bearing suggest any addition of value to one's knowledge, though it may, perhaps, break the chain of former associations.

On the other hand, there are some heads, generally either the most powerful or the reverse, which it is a permanent satisfaction to have identified in one's mind with the career which has expressed it. Here is the head of Mr. Jefferson Davis, with an imperial eye that seems to see the future and control it, and a mouth strong, thin, com- pressed, half-ascetic, like Father Newman's, speaking of vast power of self-denial for distant ends, but with a shadow of cynicism and intrigue just hanging about it, that tells a nature not incapable of breaking faith. Here it Mr. Lincoln, honest above all things, not keen, but shrewd; logical as a Scot, anxious as a Yankee, with a sad humour, and a strong touch of coarseness,—not a fine face, not a face at its ease, but trustworthy in the highest degree, and, for the rest, something between a farmer's and an artizan's (too shrewd for the one, too safe for the other) after he has cleaned himself on Sunday morning. Again, there is a satisfaction in con- necting this clear-eyed, courtly Vandyck-face with General Lee ; this very industrious, painstaking face, which suddenly falls away to nothing, with the Confederate General Johnstone, who has always been going to relieve every place of importance, and has never relieved any; in learning that this sweet and poetical profile belongs to the Federal Lieutenant Mulligan, whose noble defence of Le.z-

ington, in Missouri, against overwhelming Southern forces, was one of the greatest exploits of the war; in knowing that refined and manly head to be Governor Sprague's, of Rhode Island, who fitted out a regiment at the commencement of the war at his own sole expense. Mr. Slidell and Mr. Mason, too, look quite as disagreeable as one could wish. Mr. Slidell is the ideal of a man who would think it a privilege to get into a scrape himself if he could only involve his host and patron too ; Mr. Mason, more of the bull-dog, ready to fasten on friends and foes alike. The most peculiar intellectual satisfaction, however, arises from knowing that this would-be strong, essentially weak, conceited, face run to seed, with hair a little bristled and the whole attitude breathing " Our War Correspondent, Mr. Jefferson Brick " as an adult, belongs to Mr. Secretary Seward. And, finally, there is a great inward peace of mind in making acquaintance with that officer whose bulging forehead is exactly equal in height to the rest of his countenance, the eyebrows bisecting the head. It is the kind of forehead one con- ceives a morbid desire to break in, in consequence of a moral certainty, seeking howeverphysical verification, that the forehead is cavernous, and not solid. If really solid, it is clear that the figure belonging to it would be in stable equilibrium only on the head, and in unstable on the feet, like the spherical-footed dolls children play with, if the sphere constituted the head itself instead of a globe round the feet of the tumbler. Otherwise, it is a good, confused, magnanimous face, that expresses the fullest confidence in its own fuzziness, and belongs to the only officer who always maintained, with much justice, that he was not fit for his post.

On the whole, we gather from looking at the likenesses of public men that there are two classes of human faces and frames—those which properly express their inhabitants, and those which only by time and association get certain moral associations with them which friends, by experience, learn to interpret, but which are by no means a result of " pre-established harmony." Many men's countenances are strictly opaque fortifications, from behind the veil of which their characters stolidly survey the world, and are never distinctly seen ; and even by their friends are known, in spite of their features, the interpretation of which is as much a gradually acquired skill as any part of the social tact of life. Others, again, have the art or the misfortune to mould their bodies into real organs of their -character, so that the merest stranger can identify them at once. The highest class of power of any sort generally impresses itself somehow upon the face, andthe lowest sort of imbecility or iniquity inevitably does so ; but between the two there is a large field of an apparently accidental kind,—only some of the occupants of which manage to write their qualities in their face. Some there are, of little note, who inscribe their good humour in jovial eyes, their clumsiness on unmanageable masses of flesh, their sincerity in an -open gaze and firm candid month. On the other hand, there are quite as many-of the second and lower orders of ability and goodness whose faces are not blanks, but yet nothing particular, nothing capable -of any interpretation—faces, in short, of which the expressiveness does not lie in feature and marked lines, but in characteristic habits of management, with which you must be familiar before you can pretend to understand them. But so much does the imagination love distinctness in petty detail, that even in this case it enjoys possessing the evidence that a hero's face is not characteristic, and might have belonged to unheroic common sense.