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THE interest in the power of reading character by external indications which an itinerant phrenologist has recently excited at Harvard induces me to make public some speculations of my own in regard to an entirely new manner of reaching the same end. The title at the head of this article will indicate the general nature of my system. The phrenologist founds his opinions upon the physical development of the head, the knemidologist upon the sartorial decoration of the leg. I consider my word justifiable, for the modern trouser is as nearly related to the antique greave as is the Greek diaphragm to the developed brain of the nineteenth century. Without further introduction, I will proceed to recount the result of the series of observations which has led me to believe that knemidology is capable of reduction to the form of as exact and logical a science as its loftier brother.
To begin with classic times, the hardy barbarian, who finally overcame the civilization of the antique world, is easily distinguished from his elegant enemies, in the bas-reliefs of imperial Rome, by the loose and baggy garment which hangs about and yet separates the lower limbs, and which is unquestionably the direct ancestor of the modern trousers. When the artist of the days of the Antonines desired to represent a wretched being, born and bred without the pale of a civilized existence, he accomplished his end, at once with ease and with certainty, by his treatment of the legs of his subject, - a clear proof that, although not regularly recognized, knemidology has just claims to a very respectable antiquity.
To trace out the slow growth of the trousers of the modern gentleman, and of the pants of the modern gent, would require a far greater space than can justly be claimed from the columns of an ordinary periodical, and I will reserve this discussion for a volume upon this subject, which I propose to publish at no remote period. I will pass over the armor of the knight and the tights of the mediaeval gallant, the trunks of the courtier of the great Elizabeth and the huge boots of the cavalier, the breeches of the last century, and even the incredible costume which succeeded the downfall of the French monarchy. I will proceed at once to the consideration of the advanced scope of American knemidology, in the year of grace 1875.
A person whose attention has never been called to the lower limbs of his male fellow-mortals will be amazed at the marked varieties of appearance which they present. These varieties are capable of easy classification. In proof of this assertion, I shall proceed to notice in a brief manner the four principal classes which are at present to be observed at Harvard, viz.: 1. The Swell; 2. The Respectable; 3. The Intellectual; and 4. The Scrubby. Of minor distinctions and of combinations I will treat in my forthcoming book.
I. THE SWELL.Phenomena. - Plaid pattern, more or less decided in shape and color in direct ratio with character of wearer. Made full, and as nearly as possible of same size from hip to ankle, - in extreme cases to within inappreciable fraction of inch. Faultlessly smooth, and, to all appearances, quite new. General flavor of Piccadilly.
Character. - Self-conscious, but self-possessed. Tendency to Epicurean philosophy. Devoted to athletic interests, either in body or in purse. Remarkable powers of observation, particularly of opposite sex. Conversation forcible and figurative. Religious and physiological topics frequently discussed with much off-hand ease. Good fellow, particularly if you dress well. Don't lend him money.
II. THE RESPECTABLE.Phenomena. - Pattern undecided, - at short distance undistinguishable. Color invariably quiet, frequently gray. Shape, like pattern, undecided; in extreme cases, no shape at all. Well worn; in fact, could not have worn better. General flavor of New England.
Character. - Amiable. Self-conscious to a considerable extent, with but little self-possession. Deeply religious, with tendency to Puritanism. Devoted to self-improvement, and in some cases to improvement of community. Remarkably acute perception of moral evil. Conversation full of references to personal experience. Ideas advanced with modesty and hesitancy. Dull company, particularly to Class I., but eminently estimable. Can be trusted to reasonable extent.
III. THE INTELLECTUAL.Phenomena. - Pattern ordinarily plain. Color usually black; if any mixture, few spots of white lost in general darkness. Rather tight fit. Invariably too short. Always kneed to extraordinary degree. General flavor of Boston.
Character. - Self-confident and self-asserting. Strong belief in freedom of thought, and in no one who disagrees with him. Deep interest in everything tending to develop mental power, and in nothing else. Remarkable aptitude to discovery of new and astonishing theories, usually founded upon a priori reasoning. Conversation varied, and covering all topics, but sure to assume witheringly sarcastic tone, if opposing theories or arguments not strictly original are advanced. Great admiration for "lights of the age," and desire to be considered as such. Amusing for short time, but apt to become a bore. Generally honest, but utterly destitute of practical ability. Have no pecuniary dealings with him.
IV. THE SCRUBBY.Phenomena. - Pattern generally plain. Color light, - in extreme cases, canary or lavender. Smaller at knee than at either hip or ankle. Occasionally flowing over large part of boot. Somewhat kneed. Always shabby. Badly worn, in every sense. General flavor of Oak Hall.
Character. - Decidedly aggressive. General who-yer-look'n'-at air. Strong sense of freedom and equality of all American citizens, - negroes and social inferiors excepted. Fondness for sporting, especially billiards and dog-fancying. Always ready to bet, - particularly if in possession of facts not known to general public. Astonishing stomachic capacity - especially for liquors. Unequalled powers of invective. Conversation replete with humorous anecdote, in some respects resembling that of Class I. Has frequently conceived aversion from cold water. Seldom congenial to persons of other classes. Not to be trusted.
Even from these brief sketches, I am sure that the value of knemidology will be apparent. It may be objected, however, that it cannot be applied to the female sex. This is at present true, but do not the modes of hair-dressing that have been in vogue since time immemorial equally prevent the phrenologist from satisfactorily studying his subject?
Knemidology may to-day be brought to bear upon female equestrians. If the bloomer costume be introduced, the new science will be as applicable to women as to men; and this is to me a strong argument in favor of the proposed innovations in female attire. But, even supposing the fashions to remain as they are, I hold that I can support my pretensions to reading character in general fully as well as the average phrenologist; and, as neither his science nor mine satisfactorily solve the problems which may arise concerning women, I should venture to suggest that they might be profitably made the object of podological investigation.
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