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The Typical Yankee

The Illustrated London News, vol. 43, no. 1223, p. 319.

September 26, 1863

The Typical Yankee.--There is certainly something striking about the prevailing American type. That long, lank, fleshless form, that straight hair, that stoop in the shoulders, that colourless face, those by no means bad yet somewhat harsh features, that high but flat brow, those pale, thin, compressed lips, that sad yet shrewd and coldly humorous expression, remind you at every step of that complex yet distinct original which the great Nova-Scotian stereotyped in "Sam Slick." To give the genuine Yankee a family air throughout the Union the costume at present in vogue contributes in no small degree. The fashion has lately sprung up, and it struck me on my arrival as an innovation at variance with all my reminiscences of American look. The true Yankee shaves his upper lip, and sometimes the edge of the nether one, allowing the beard to grow stiff and straight on the chin. It is the cut of beard that anyone may observe in the portraits of President Lincoln, and I should not wonder if it is the First Magistrate who sets the fashions in this Republican land, as King Charles I.or Henry IV. did in their respective kingdoms, exercising the same spell as the Empress Eugénie had on the skirts of ladies' gowns and on the frizzled fronts of ladies' coiffures in France. Nay, I shrewdly surmise that the peaked beard, à la Lincoln, is something like a political badge and cognisance in this country. Your true Republican, your out-and-out Abolitionist, is as sure to strike you by his pantaloon tuft on his chin as the old Puritan made himself known by his closely-cropped head and thick, bushy moustaches. Without any pretension to enter into a dispute about matters of taste, I may be permitted to say that the present fashion is, to say the least, an odd one and the least becoming the American face that could ever have been invented. The dense mass of hair that incumbers the lower face, generally black or very dark, enhances, with no pleasing effect, the length of the bare upper lip--a feature by no means the most pleasing in the American countenance, as it is apt to be heavy and flat, with the corners of the mouth drawn deeply down towards the chin; seen at a distance, that Capuchin-like beard, contrasting with the blue and white shaven skin, looks like an unreal appendage, a masquerading disguise, and it wears rather absurdly with the high shirt-collar, the long, close-buttoned surtout, and the broad-brimmed hat, which very generally make up with it the strictly Republican garb.--The Times' Special Correspondent.

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