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William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. X. 1797
William Nicholson to William Godwin, 18 September 1797

Contents Vol. I
Ch. I. 1756-1785
Ch. II. 1785-1788
Ch. III. 1788-1792
Ch. IV. 1793
Ch. V. 1783-1794
Ch. VI. 1794-1796
Ch. VII. 1759-1791
Ch. VII. 1791-1796
Ch. IX. 1797
Ch. X. 1797
Ch. XI. 1798
Ch. XII. 1799
Ch. XIII. 1800
Contents Vol. II
Ch. I. 1800
Ch. II. 1800
Ch. III. 1800
Ch. IV. 1801-1803
Ch. V. 1802-1803
Ch. VI. 1804-1806
Ch. VII. 1806-1811
Ch. VIII. 1811-1814
Ch. IX. 1812-1819
Ch. X. 1819-1824
Ch. XI. 1824-1832
Ch. XII. 1832-1836
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Produced by CATH
Newman Street, Sept. 18, 1797.

Dear Sir,—When I had the pleasure of seeing your little daughter this morning, and you asked my opinion concerning her physiognomy, I experienced some difficulty, partly from an ill-grounded sense of ridicule in seeming to assume the character of fortune-teller, partly from a consciousness of imperfect knowledge, but chiefly from the little probability that the opportunity would afford time for a calm consideration of the individual, and of my own associated notions, which require meditation and development before I can satisfy myself. My view was, in fact, slight and momentary. I had no time to consider, compare, and combine. Yet I am disposed to think the following imperfect observation may lead you to more than a suspicion that our organization at the birth may greatly influence those motives which govern the series of our future acts of intelligence, and that we may even possess moral habits, acquired during the fœtal state.

“1. The outline of the head viewed from above, its profile, the outline of the forehead, seen from behind and in its horizontal positions, are such as I have invariably and exclusively seen in subjects who possessed considerable memory and intelligence.

“2. The base of the forehead, the eyes and eyebrows, are
familiar to me in subjects of quick sensibility, irritable, scarcely irascible, and surely not given to rage. That part of the outline of the forehead, which is very distinct in patient investigators, is less so in her. I think her powers, of themselves, would lead to speedy combination, rather than continued research.

“3. The lines between the eyes have much expression, but I had not time to develope them. They simply confirmed to me the inductions in the late paragraph.

“4. The form of the nose, the nostrils, its insertion between the eyes, and its changes by muscular action, together with the side of the face in which the characteristic marks of affection are most prominent, were scarcely examined. Here also is much room for meditation and remark.

“6. The mouth was too much employed to be well observed. It has the outlines of intelligence. She was displeased, and it denoted much more of resigned vexation than either scorn or rage.

“On this imperfect sight it would be silly to risk a character; for which reason I will only add that I conjecture that her manner may be petulant in resistance, but cannot be sullen. I have chosen to send you these memoranda, rather than seem to shrink from the support of truth by declining to practise what I have asserted could be done without difficulty in the case of my own children.

“That she may be everything your parental affection can desire is the sincere wish of—Yours, with much regard,

Wm. Nicholson.”