Moreover, it is extremely rare to find a woman who shows even themodest sightliness that her sex is theoretically capable of; it is onlythe rare beauty who is even tolerable. The average woman, until artcomes to her aid, is ungraceful, misshapen, badly calved andcrudely articulated, even for a woman. If she has a good torso, sheis almost sure to be bow-legged. If she has good legs, she is almostsure to have bad teeth. If she has good teeth, she is almost sure tohave scrawny hands, or muddy eyes, or hair like oakum, or no chin.A woman who meets fair tests all 'round is so uncommon that shebecomes a sort of marvel, and usually gains a livelihood byexhibiting herself as such, either on the stage, in the half-world, oras the private jewel of some wealthy connoisseur.
But this lack of genuine beauty in women lays on them no practicaldisadvantage in the primary business of their sex, for its effects aremore than overborne by the emotional suggestibility, the herculeancapacity for illusion, the almost total absence of critical sense ofmen. Men do not demand genuine beauty, even in the mostmodest doses; they are quite content with the mere appearance ofbeauty. That is to say, they show no talent whatever fordifferentiating between the artificial and the real. A film of facepowder, skilfully applied, is as satisfying to them as an epidermis ofdamask. The hair of a dead Chinaman, artfully dressed and dyed,gives them as much delight as the authentic tresses of Venus. Afalse hip intrigues them as effectively as the soundest one of livingfascia. A pretty frock fetches them quite as surely and securely aslovely legs, shoulders, hands or eyes. In brief, they estimatewomen, and hence acquire their wives, by reckoning up purelysuperficial aspects, which is just as intelligent as estimating an eggby purely superficial aspects. They never go behind the returns; itnever occurs to them to analyze the impressions they receive. Theresult is that many a man, deceived by such paltry sophistications,never really sees his wife—that if, as God is supposed to see, her,and as the embalmer will see her—until they have been married foryears. All the tricks may be infantile and obvious, but in the face ofso naive a spectator the temptation to continue practising themis irresistible. A trained nurse tells me that even when undergoingthe extreme discomforts of parturition the great majority of womencontinue to modify their complexions with pulverized talcs, and togive thought to the arrangement of their hair. Such transparentdevices, to be sure, reduce the psychologist to a sour sort of mirth,and yet it must be plain that they suffice to entrap and make fools of men, even the most discreet. I know of no man, indeed, who iswholly resistant to female beauty, and I know of no man, evenamong those engaged professionally by aesthetic problems, whohabitually and automatically distinguishes the genuine, from theimitation. He may doit now and then; he may even preen himselfupon is on unusual discrimination; but given the right woman andthe right stage setting, and he will be deceived almost as readily as ayokel fresh from the cabbage-field.
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