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Entries in James Cagney (1)


Free books. Reason I love the internet #222

L.A. Vaught

The internet is amazing - if for no other reason that it serves as a gigantic library for obscure and obsolete literature and written ephemera for people like me with way too much time on their hands. Recently boingboing pointed me to a fascinating little treasure -  a grossly outdated/outrageous pop-phrenology/psychology handbook about judging one's character primarily by one's physical characteristics. Vaught's Practical Character Reader (1902) by L.A. Vaught is an entertaining read. Read it here online or on your Kindle for free. Yup, FREE!

So, this book has amazing illustrations of what to look for in a person. Pointy head? Saggy ears? Bulbous nose? It all says something (probably sinister) about you. If your head is egg shaped, you're golden. If it's square... you might be a serial-killer. The image at the top of the post is basically the premise for this entire book. According to the author, people should be judged immediately based upon nothing but their looks. Their face shape completely controls their personality and underlying character. 

The above illustration shows that two Roman noses are surely too many in one family, especially in husband and wife.The buzzing of the presidential bee is nowhere else than in the faculty of Approbativeness. No further explanation is needed.

The commentary on the illustrations is pretty hysterical. "Approbativeness" is solely responsible for the ambition needed to be president, no further explanation necessary. Who says? While "Roman" nose love attractions obviously represent a sign of dreadful domestic discord - so I suppose the folks on the Jersey Shore obviously better start dating outside their reality show.

Here's a list of pointers Vaught recommends when sizing up friends, family and strangers alike:  

  • The broader the head the more selfishness.
  • The higher the crown the more pride.
  • The fuller the upper side temples the more taste.
  • The fuller the lower forehead the more practicality.
  • The rounder the head the more feeling.
  • The more square the head the more thought and exactness.
  • The narrower the head the less force.
  • The less backhead the colder the disposition. 
  • The more closed the eyes the more secrecy.
  • The higher the eyebrows from the pupils of the eyes the more credulity.
  • The more middle face the more energy.
  • The more lower face the more sensuality.
  • The finer the hair the finer the brain.
  • The tougher the hair the tougher the brain.
  • The thinner the lips the less afection.
  • The more the teeth are shown the more love of applause.
  • The more features that turn upward the more cheerfulness.
  • The more affectation in the voice the less substantial the character.

 Perusing this little guidebook, I was inspired to find some well-known folks and match them up to the hypotheses proposed by Mr. Vaught. Was he onto something? Let's start with the shape of the head. Thin = Terrific. Wide = Worst. Crap, he might be on to something... this is a basic premise of much of our modern society. Anyways, Jimmy Cagney vs. Jimmy Stewart is a pretty good comparison if you're relying on Hollywood casting for your "judgement" of these men's characters. 

Here is a very positive demonstration. All very broadheaded humans, animals, birds, reptiles and flies are vicious. Very narrow-headed men and snakes are harmless.

On a related note, doesn't the guy at the top left look a lot like Dick Cheney dressed as Benjamin Franklin? A wolf in sheep's clothing perhaps? Maybe this Vaught guy isn't totally bonkers after all. Here's another uncanny/unfair parallel with Mr. Burns and Adrien Brody. Who has the more deceitful nose? Team Burns ftw.

Deceitful Nose: Remember this nose when you deal with people.If you're not a believer, behold the ace up Vaught's sleeve - the predeliction of psychicness and interest in paranormal, occult and all things morally unsavory perfectly manifested in Twilight's Kristin Stewart. Her visage is the spittin' image of his depiction of the "center of psychichal phenomena". It's like she sat for the book in 1902. Maybe she did... she is the center of psychichal phenomena after all.