The plot of the Picture of Dorian Gray uses magic to overcome the supposed laws of physiognomy to make the protagonist appear kinder than he is, turning him into an undetectable monster.
From Stoker's novel to the history of vampires in film, the way a vampire looks deeply effects the way its victims see it. Who would you rather invite into your home, Max Schreck or Brad Pitt?
If we remember that Victorian Londoners feared other Victorian Londoners more than anything else, we can better understand their acceptance of a guide to reading the appearance of others in everyday urban settings, as a tool that would theoretically better enable them to navigate their landscapes more safely. The 18th- and 19th-century rise in the popularity of physiognomy can also be traced alongside the rise of the city, during industrialization, and read as a coping mechanism for people, terrified of their urban lives.
He has succeeded after all, then, in his design in getting to London, and it was he I saw. He has got younger, and how? Van Helsing is the man to unmask him and hunt him out ... Doctor, you don’t know what it is to doubt everything, even yourself. No, you don’t; you couldn’t with eyebrows like yours. - Jonathan Harker's Journal in Dracula (1897)That the Count in Dracula can make himself look younger makes him a hidden danger, which needs to be unmasked, by someone with trustworthy eyebrows, like Van Helsing.
Physiognomy and Expression (1890)
How to Read Character (1890)
A System of Practical and Scientific Physiognomy (1890)
Physiognomy Illustrated Or, Nature's Revelations of Character (1891)
Our Noses (1893)
New Physiognomy or Signs of Character (1894)
Wells' New Descriptive Chart for Giving a Delineation of Character (1895)
Physiognomical Register (1895)
Of course, physiognomy was also used to justify Victorian racism:
|San Francisco Call, Volume 81, Number 167, |
16 May 1897
If you are interested in pursuing this subject further, I recommend: Physiognomy in the European Novel: Faces and Fortunes (2014) by Graeme Tytler.
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