Chiromancy. Chiromancy, or Palmistry, the art of foretelling future events, or deciphering a person's disposition by the lines naturally impressed on the human hand, has, in all ages, received the implicit faith of numbers of mankind. Aristotle taught that the deration of life depended on the length of the lines on the hand; the Pythagoreans were of the same opinion; and in ancient Rome it was the most important branch of the Aagur's mysterious profession. In the credulous middle ages it was elevated to the dignity of a science; and such men as Cardan and Melanchthon were not ashamed to practise it.
We will now submit a conversation between a sceptic and a believer in the science of chiromancy, and leave our readers to form their own opinions as to the amount of truth involved m it . "Your last proposition," I observed, " approaches very closely to the chiromancy of the ancients; if, indeed, it be not chiromancy itself."
" It matters little by what term you designate a knowledge of the relations which exist between the hand of an individual, and his intelligence, temperament, passions, and diseases. It is sufficient for me to know that there are such relations, and that to learn them only requires patience and penetration. From the earliest antiquity, man has ever given his open hand to a friend, but presented it closed towards an enemy. The open hand has ever been the emblem of friendship; the closed hand, the symbol of hostility. I tell you that all Physiology, all psychology, and even pathology is written in legible characters upon the human hand. Here," he continued, taking some plaster casts out of a glass case, "is the cast of the hand of an intelligent man, of a philosopher (fig. 1).
Observe the regularity of its form and the harmony of its lines. The disengagement of the thumb permits it to be opposed to all the fingers; and it rises in height to nearly the second joint of the fore-finger. The fingers are all of different lengths; but close your fingers upon your palm, or grasp a cricket ball, and you will find that they all appear equal. Thus it is that the hand of an intelligent man can use the sword, pen, pencil, hammer, needle, graver,
Fig. 2. and other tools which the intelligent mind has invented. Observe, also, how few lines | and creases there are in the palm - like the elevated intelligence it appertains to, it is neither empty nor broken. Compare this hand of an idiot (fig. 2) with the former. Observe its general thickness and clumsiness of form, and the great depth of its lines. The muscles of the thumb being rendered useless by callosities, it cannot be opposed to the fingers. Thus deprived of its principal function, that of prehension, this hand, incapable of grasping material objects, well represents the brain of an idiot incapable of sustaining an idea.
"If lunacy really be, as it is generally supposed, an undue elevation of the intellectual faculties, even to their perversion and overthrow, this hand of a lunatic (fig. 3) admirably exemplifies such a state of the mind. What confused and irregular lines cross each other in all directions ! Do they not seem like the confused imaginations of a madman ? Observe particularly the clumsy thickness of the hand, like that of the idiot, a sure token of the loss of the reasoning faculties.
" Here, again, is the hand of a monomaniac (fig. 4), whose intelligence is not totally obscured, but whose every faculty is concentrated upon one single object. Observe how it is traversed by only one line, deeply marked, like the one predominating idea of the maniac. All the fingers are involuntarily inflected to that one line, as all the faculties of the maniac are towards the one object of his mania. But nature shows that this unhappy mind still retains a certain degree or sanity. We see none of the clumsy thickness which the hands of the idiot and lunatic exhibit; yet, at the same time, the shortness of the thumb and little finger proves that, like the mind of the maniac, his hand is abnormal and incomplete.
"As nature has marked the intellectual gradations from the intelligent man to the idiot, so she has established in the conformation of the hands of all men infinite shades of distinction, which faithfully represent the innumerable shades of mental energy that distinguish the characters of mankind one from another. It would be impossible for me to go farther into this subject at present, as it would occupy several hours to explain even a few of those nice shades of distinction. I shall therefore proceed to show you two more links in the chain of degradation. This brings me back to zoology," - he continued, as he spread on the table a number of specimens, - "Between the first and second links of the animal chain - that is to say, between the intelligent man and the monkey tribe, nature has placed an intermediate race, whose forms resemble man, but whose savage instincts approach the inferior animals. This double similitude is portrayed in their hands. Here is a cast (fig. 5) from the hand of a Bosjesman. Compare it with this preserved hand of a Chimpanzee (tig. 6) and this other cast (fig. 1), the first I showed you of a civilized European. In the hands of the Bosjesman and Chimpanzee the thumbs are shorter than in the hand of an intelli-gent man. Observe, they barely reach to the first joint of the fore-finger, an invariable sign of want of intelligence. The narrowness of these two hands also indicates an instinct of theft and rapine. Yet the Bosjesman, being more nearly allied to the intelligent man than to the Chimpanzee, the hand of the former does not present the rude energy of the latter, constructed to climb the loftiest trees of a tropical forest.