Complexion, generally sig-nifies the temperament, habitude, and natural disposition of the body; but more frequently the colour of the face and skin. In the latter point of view, it has in no small degree exercised the attention of naturalists, who have attempted in vain to reconcile the specific variations among mankind, which are supposed to arise from the difference of colour, stature, or disposition. The arguments drawn from such variations have been proved to be inconclusive, and are now generally exploded. It remains, nevertheless, a difficult matter to account for the remarkable difference of colour existing among different nations.
Without entering into a minute discussion of this subject, we shall only observe, that colour and figure, like other peculiarities, are created by continual, progressive, and almost imperceptible degrees. Nations are susceptible of habits, both mental and corporeal, in the same manner as individuals; which are transmitted to posterity, and augmented by inheritance. National features, like national manners, though slowly, become fixed after a long succession of ages; and, if we can ascertain any effect, produced by a given state of weather, or of climate, it will require only repetition, during a sufficient length of time, to impress them with a permanent character.
The principal colours observable among mankind, are the following: 1. Black; as in the Africans under the equinoctial line, the inhabitants of New Guinea, and of New Holland. 2. Swarthy, as in the Moors of the north, and the Hottentots of the south of Africa. 3. Copper-coloured; as the East Indians. 4. Red-coloured; as the Americans. 5. Brown-coloured ; as the Tartars, Persians, Arabs, Chinese, and the Africans on the coast of the Mediterranean. 6. Brownish; as the inhabitants of the southern parts of Europe, namely, the Sicilians, Spaniards, and Turks, and also the Samoiedes and Laplanders, who border on the Northern Pole; and the Abys-sinians, who live in the middle and southern parts of Africa. 7. White as most of the more northern nations of Europe are, namely, the English, Swedes, Danes, Germans, and Poles; to whom may be added the Circassians and Georgians in the north-west of Asia, and also the inhabitants of the islands in the Pacific Ocean.
Those of our readers who may wish to see these observations farther pursued, we must refer to an ingenious Essay on the causes of the variety of Complexion and Figure, in the Human Species, published a few years since byDr.S.S.Smith, Professor of Moral Philosophy in the College of New Jersey. They will also find some excellent strictures on this subject in Mr. Clark-son's elaborate Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species, 8vo. 3s. 1788.
Having given this general view of the subject, we cannot suppress the observation, that many unthinking persons are more anxious to preserve and improve their complexion, particularly that of the countenance, than to inquire into their animal economy, and to regulate its different functions. The face, indeed, when not disguised by art, is often the index of health and disease; though it is absurd to consider it as the cause of those changes which take place in. the body; whereas it exhibits only the effect. Hence we may confidently assert, that all contrivances of crafty empirics, perfumers, travelling mountebanks, etc. which are pompously offered to the public in daily prints, or by means of bills and pamphlets, containing specious certificates, to induce the giddy, the idle, and unwary multitude (nay, sometimes the lady of rank and fashion),to purchase those "beautifying compositions" - are mournful instances of human folly, and moral depravity. Those superficial persons, however, who are determined to cure the surface, and neglect the inward state of their decaying frame, by paying little or no attention to their mode of living, we reluctantly consign to the head of Cosmetics : others, on the contrary, whose minds are not irretrievably biassed in favour of external applications (at which even the untutored negro would smile), we refer to the different articles connected with diet and regimen.