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A Victorian Scrapbook

A Scrapbook of Newspaper Articles Compiled by George Burgess (1829-1905)

Victorian Culture and Life

Bad Temper

An out of Character incident as told by Johann Kaspar Lavater (1741-1801)

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Transcript from original newspaper article: -


LAVATER, the famous physiognomist,* though an enthusiast, was a kind man, and his wife one of the most amiable of women, One day his servant asked him after dinner, if she should sweep his room. Being in a rather irritable mood, he assented pettishly, telling her not to touch his books or papers. When the servant had been gone some time, he said to his wife –

Bad Temper“I am afraid she will cause some confusion upstairs.”

In a few moments, his wife, with the best intention, stole out of the room and told the servant to be careful. Lavater met his wife at the bottom of the stairs on her return, and exclaimed, at though secretly vexed about something –

“Is not my room swept yet?”

Without waiting an instant, he ran upstairs, and as he entered the room the girl overturned an inkstand which was standing on a shelf. She was much terrified. Lavater called out hastily –

“What a stupid beast you are! Have I not positively told you to be careful?”

What followed we will let Lavater himself tell.

“My wife slowly and timidly followed me upstairs. Instead of being ashamed, my anger broke out anew. I took no notice of her – running to the table lamenting and moaning, as if the most important writing had been spoiled, though in reality the ink had touched nothing but a blank sheet and some blotting-paper. The servant watched an opportunity to steal away. My wife approached me with timid gentleness. “My dear husband,” said she. I stared at her, with vexation in my looks. She embraced me. I wanted to get out of the way. Her face rested for a moment on my cheek. At length, with unspeakable tenderness, she said, ‘You will hurt your health, my dear.’ I now began to be ashamed. I was silent, and at last began to weep. ‘What a miserable slave to my temper I am! I dare not lift up my eyes. I cannot rid myself of that sinful passion.’ My wife replied, ‘Consider, my dear, how many days and weeks pass away without your being overcome by anger.’ I knelt down beside her, and thanked God sincerely for that hour….

Bad Temper

*Physiognomy - also see Phrenology by George Burgess