Barr's Buffon, "Of The Varieties In The Human Species," pp.190-209.
[ pp. 190-209 ] [ pp. 210-229 ] [ pp. 230-249 ] [ pp. 250-269 ] [ pp. 270-289 ] [ pp. 290-309 ] [ pp. 310-329 ] [ pp. 330-352]
"Of the Varieties in the Human Species," Barr's Buffon, transcribed by Dr. Meijer, pp. 190-209.

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Georges Buffon,

“Of the Varieties in the Human Species,”

Barr's Buffon. Buffon's Natural History Containing A Theory Of The Earth, A General History Of Man, Of The Brute Creation, And Of Vegetables, Minerals, Etc.
(London: T. Gillet, 1807),
vol. 4 [of 10], pp. 190-352.

     EVERY thing which we have hitherto advanced relates to man as an individual. The history of the species requires a separate detail, of which the principal facts can only be



derived from the varieties that are found in the inhabitants of different regions. Of the varieties, the first and the most remarkable is the colour, the second is the form and size, and the third is the disposition. Considered in its full extent, each of these objects might afford materials for a volume. Our remarks, however, shall be general, and confined to such points as have been established on undoubted testimony.
     In examining the surface of the earth, and beginning our inquiries from the north, we find in Lapland, and in the northern parts of Tartary, a race of small-sized men, whose figure is uncouth, and whose physiognomy is as wild as their manners are unpolished. Though they seem to be of a degenerate species they yet are numerous, and the countries they occupy are extensive.
     The Danish, Swedish, and Muscovite Laplanders, the inhabitants of Nova-Zembla, the Borandians, the Samoiedes, the Ostiacks of the old continent, the Greenlanders, and the savages to the north of the Esquimaux1 Indians, of the new continent, appear to be of one common race, which has been extended and multiplied along the coasts of the northern


1 Eskimos [Meijer]


seas; in deserts and climates, considered as uninhabitable by every other nation. These people have broad faces and flat noses; their eyes are of a yellowish brown, inclining to black, their eye-lids are drawn toward the temples, their cheek-bones are extremely prominent, their mouths are large, the lower part of their countenances is narrow, their lips thick and turned outward; their voices are shrill, with heads bulky, hair black and straight, and skin of a tawny colour. They are small in stature, and though meagre, they are yet of a squat form. In general their size is about four feet, and the tallest exceed not four feet and a half. Among these people, if there is any difference to be found, it depends on the greater or less degree of deformity. The Borandians, for example, are still less than the Laplanders. The white of their eye is of a darker yellow, and they are also more tawny; and their legs, instead of being slender, like those of the latter, are thick and bulky. The Samoiedes are more squat than the Laplanders; their heads are larger, their noses longer, their complexion more dark, their legs shorter, their hair longer, and their beards more scanty. The Greenlanders have the most tawny skin,



its colour being that of a deep olive, and it is even said that some of them are as black as those of Ethiopia. Throughout them all it is to be observed, the women are as unseemly as the men; and so nearly do they resemble each other, that at first it is not easy to distinguish them. The women of Greenland are very small, but well proportioned; their hair is more black, and their skin softer, than those of the Samoiede women: their breasts are of such length that children are able to receive the nipple which is of a jet black, over the mother's shoulder. Some travellers say they have no hair but upon the head, and that they are not subject to the periodical complaints common to the sex. Their visage is large, their eyes small, black, and lively, and their feet and hands are short. In every other respect the Samoeide and the Greenland women are similar. The savages north of the Esquimaux, and even in the northern parts of Newfoundland, bear a resemblance to the Greenlanders; their eyes, it is true, are larger, but, like them, they are of small stature, have flat noses, and large and broad faces.
     Nor is it alone in deformity, in diminutiveness, and in the colour of the hair and eyes,



that these nations resemble each other, but also in their inclinations and manners. Incivility, superstition, and ignorance, are alike conspicuous in them all.
     The Danish Laplanders have a large black cat, which they make a confidant in all their secrets, a counsellor in all their difficulties, and whom they consult on all occasions. Among the Swedish Laplanders, there is in every family a drum, for the purpose of consulting the devil; and though they are robust and nimble, they are yet so timid and dastardly, that no inducement can bring them into the field of battle. Gustavus Adolphus undertook, but undertook in vain, to form a regiment of Laplanders. Indeed there is reason to suppose that they cannot live but in their own country, and in their own manner. In travelling over the ice and snow, they use skates made of fur, which are in length about two ells, and half a foot broad, and which are raised and pointed before, and fastened to the foot by straps of leather. With these they make such dispatch on the snow, that they easily overtake the swiftest animals. They also use a pole, pointed with iron at one end, and rounded at the other. This pole serves



to push them along, to direct their course, to keep them from falling, to stop the impetuosity of their career, and to kill what game they overtake. With their skates they descend the steepest precipices, and scale the most craggy mountains; nor are the women less skilful in such exercises than the men. They are all accustomed to the bow and arrow; and it is asserted, that the Muscovite Laplanders launch a javelin with so much dexterity, that at the distance of thirty paces they are sure to hit a mark no larger than a silver crown, and with such force, that it will transfix a human body. They hunt the ermine, the fox, the lynx, and the martin, whose skins they barter for brandy and tobacco. Their food consists principally of dried fish, and the flesh of the bear and reindeer. Of the bones of fishes, pounded and mixed with the tender bark of the pine or birch-tree, is their bread composed. Their drink is either train-oil or brandy: and when deprived of these, their favourite beverage is water, in which juniper-berries have been infused.
     Examined in a moral sense, the Laplanders have few virtues, and all the vices of ignorance. Immersed in superstition and idolatry, of a



Supreme Being they have no conception; nor is it easy to determine which is most conspicuous, the grossness of their understandings, or the barbarity of their manners, being equally destitute of courage and shame. Boys and girls, mothers and sons, brothers and sisters, bathe together naked, without being in the smallest degree ashamed. When they come out of their baths, which are warm, they immediately go into the rivers. It is the custom among all these people to offer their wives and daughters to strangers, and are much offended if the offer is not accepted.
     In winter, the Laplanders, clothe themselves with the skin of the rein-deer, and in summer with the skins of birds. To the uses of linen they are utter strangers. The women of Nova-Zembla have the nose and ears pierced, and ornament them with pendants of blue stone; and to add a lustre to their charms, they form blue streaks upon their forehead and chin. The men wear no hair on the head, and cut their beards round. The Greenland women dress themselves with the skin of the dog-fish: they also paint their faces with blue and yellow, and wear pendants in their ears. They all live underground, or in huts almost so, covered



with the bark of trees, or the bones of fishes. Some of them form subterraneous trenches, from one hut to another, by which, during the winter months, they can enjoy the society of their neighbours without going out. A continued series of darkness for several months obliged them to illuminate their dreary abodes with lamps, in which they burn the same train oil they use as drink. In summer they have scarcely more comfort than in winter, being obliged to live perpetually in a thick smoke, which is the only device they have contrived for the destruction of gnats, which are perhaps more numerous in these regions of frost, than in those of the most scorching heat. Under all these hardships they are subject to few diseases, and they live to a prodigious age. So vigorous indeed are the old men, that they are hardly to be distinguished from the young. The only infirmity they experience is that of blindness, which is very common among them. Perpetually dazzled by the strong reflection of the snow in winter, and enveloped in clouds of smoke in summer, few when advanced in years are found to retain the use of their eyes.
     As all the different tribes or nations, therefore, resemble each other in form, in



shape, colour, in manners, and even in oddity of customs, they are undoubtedly of the same race of men. The practice of offering their women to strangers, and of being pleased when they are thought worthy of caresses, may proceed from a consciousness of their own deformity as well as that of their women. In appearance, the woman, whom a stranger has accepted, they afterwards respect for her superior beauty. At any rate it is certain, although remote from each other, and separated by a great sea, the custom is general in all the above countries. We even meet with it among the Crim Tartars, the Calmucks, and among several other nations of Siberia and of Tartary, where personal deformity is almost as conspicuous as in those of the North. In all the neighbouring nations, on the other hand, as in China, and in Persia,* where the women are remarkable for beauty, the men are also remarkable for jealousy.


* La Boulai tells us, that in order to prevent all cause of jealousy, when the women of Schach die, the place of their interment is industriously kept secret, in like manner as the ancient Egyptians delayed the embalment of their wives for several days after their decease, that the surgeons might have no temptation.


     In examining the different nations adjacent to this extensive territory, which the Laplanders occupy, we find they have no affinity. Alone are they resembled by the Ostiacks and the Tongusians, whose situation is to the south and south-east of the Samoiedes. The Samoiedes and Borandians bear no resemblance to the Russians; nor to the Laplanders to the Fins, the Goths, the Danes, or the Norwegians. The Greenlanders are likewise entirely different from the savages of Canada, who are tall and well proportioned, and though the tribes differ from each other, they do more so from the Laplanders. The Ostiacks, however, seem to be a less ugly and taller branch of the Samoiedes. They live on raw fish or flesh, and for drink they prefer blood to water. Like the Laplanders and the Sameoides they are immersed in idolatry; nor are they known to have any fixed abode. In fine, they appear to form a shade between the race of Laplanders and the Tartarians;2 or rather, indeed, may it be said that the Laplanders, the Samoiedes, the Borandians, the Nova-Zemblians, and perhaps the Greenlanders, and the savages to the north of the Esquimaux Indians, are Tartars reduced to the lowest point of degeneracy;


2 Tartars [Meijer]


that the Ostiacks are less degenerated than the Tongusians, who though to the full as ugly, are yet more sizeable and shapely. The Samoiedes and Laplanders live in the latitude of 68 or 69, the Ostiacks and the Tongusians in that of 60. The Tartars, who are situated along the Wolga, in the latitude of 55, are gross, stupid, and beastly; like the Tongusians, they have hardly any idea of religion, nor will they receive for their wives any women until they have had an intercourse with other men.
     The Tartars occupy the greatest part of Asia, and in fact extend from Russia to Kamtschatka, a space in length from 11 to 1200 leagues and from 700 to 750 in breadth; a circumference twenty times larger than the whole kingdom of France. The Tartars terminate China, the kingdoms of Boutan and Alva, and the empires of Mogul and Persia, even to the Caspian Sea, on the north and west. They spread along the Wolga, and over the west coast of the Caspian Sea, even to Daghestan. They have penetrated to the north coast of the Black Sea, and formed settlements in the Crimea, and in the neighbourhood of Moldavia and the Ukraine. All these people have the upper part of their face very large and



wrinkled even while yet in their youth. Their noses are short and flat, their eyes little, and sunk in their head; their cheek-bones are high; the lower part of their face is narrow; their chin is long and prominent; their teeth are long and straggling; their eye-brows are so large as to cover the eyes; their eye-lids are thick; the face broad and flat; their complexion tawny, their hair black; they have but little beard, which is disposed like the Chinese; they have thick thighs and short legs, and though but of middling stature, they are remarkably strong and robust. The ugliest of them are the Calmucks, in whose appearance there seems to be something frightful. They are all wanderers and vagabonds; and their only shelter is that of tents, made of hair or skins. Their food is horse-flesh, and flesh of other animals, either raw or a little softened by being between the horse and the saddle. They eat also fish dried in the sun. Their most common drink is mare’s milk, fermented, with millet ground into meal. They all have the head shaved, except a tuft of hair on the top, which they let grow sufficiently long to form into tresses on each side of the face. The women, who are as ugly as the men, wear their



hair, which they bind up with bits of copper and other ornaments of the same nature.
     The majority of these tribes are alike strangers to religion, morality, and decency. They are robbers by profession; and those of Daghestan, who live in the neighbourhood of civilized countries, sustain a great traffic of slaves, whom they carry off by force, and afterwards sell to the Turks and the Persians. Their wealth consists chiefly of horses, which are more numerous, perhaps, in Tartary than in any other part of the world. They live in the same place with their horses, and are continually employed in training, dressing, and exercising them, whom they reduce to such implicit obedience, that they actually appear to understand, as it were, the intention of their riders.
     To attain a knowledge of the particular differences which subsist in the race of Tartars, we have only to compare the descriptions that travellers have given of their different tribes. The Calmucks, who are situated in the neighbourhood of the Caspian Sea, between the Muscovites and the great Tartars, are, according to Tavernier, robust, but the most ugly and the most deformed of all human



beings. Their faces are so flat and so broad that their eyes, which are uncommonly small, are from five to six inches asunder; and their noses so flat that two holes are barely perceivable instead of nostrils. Next to the Calmucks, the natives of Daghestan rank in the class of deformity. The little Tartars, or the Tartars of Nogai, who dwell near the Black Sea, are less ugly than the Calmucks, though their faces are broad, their eyes small, and in their figures there is a great resemblance. From their intermixture with the Circassians, the Moldavians, and other neighbouring nations, it is probable that this race have lost much of their original ugliness. The Tartars of Siberia have, like the Calmucks, broad faces, short flat noses, and small eyes; and though their language is different, yet they bear so strong a resemblance to each other, that they can only be considered as the same people. The further we advance eastward we find the features of the Tartars are gradually softened, but the characters essential to the race still remain. The Mongou Tartars, according to Palafox, who conquered China, and who were the most polished, though they are the least deformed, yet, like all the other tribes, their



eyes are small, faces broad and flat, scanty beards, either black or red; their noses compressed and short, and their complexions tawny. The people of Thibet, and the other southern provinces of Tartary, are also of a more agreeable aspect. Mr. Sanchez, formerly first physician to the Russian army, a gentleman distinguished by his abilities, has obligingly communicated to me in writing the remarks he had made in the course of his travels through Tartary.
     In the years 1735, 1736, and 1737, he visited the Ukraine, the banks of the Don to the sea of Zabach, and the confines of Cuban to Asoph. He traversed the deserts between the countries of the Crimea and Backmut; he went among the Calmucks, who wander about without any fixed habitation, from the kingdom of Casan to the banks of the Don; as also the Crimea and Nogai-Tartars, who wander between the Crimea and the Ukraine, and likewise the Kergissi and Tcheremissi-Tartars, who are situated to the north of Astracan, between the latitude of 50 and 60. These according to him are more diminutive and squat, less active and more corpulent; their eyes are black, complexions tawny, and their faces



larger and broader than those we have mentioned. He adds, that among these Tartars, he saw numbers of men and women who had no resemblance to them, but were as white as the people of Poland. They have many slaves among them, brought from among the Russians and Poles; and as their religion admits a number of wives and concubines; and as their Sultans, and Murzas or nobles, prefer the women of Georgia and Circassia for their wives, the children produced from such alliances are less ugly, and more fair than from connections among themselves. There is even a whole tribe of Tartars, called Kabardinski-Tartars, who are remarkable for their beauty. Of these Mr. Sanchez saw three hundred on horseback, who were going to enter into the service of Russia; and he declares that he never saw men of a more noble and manly figure; their complexions were fair, fresh and ruddy; their eyes were large and black; and they were tall and well proportioned. He was assured by the Lieutenant-general of Serapikin, who had made a long residence at Kabarda, that the women were equally handsome; but this tribe, so different from all the Tartars around them,



came originally from the Ukraine, and removed to Kabarda about the beginning of the last century.
     Though the Tartar blood is intermixed, on one side with that of the Chinese, and on the other with that of the Oriental Russians, yet there is sufficient characteristics of the race remaining to suppose them of one common stock. Among the Muscovites are numbers, whose form of visage and body bear a strong resemblance to those of the Tartars. The Chinese are totally different in their dispositions, manners, and customs. The Tartars are naturally fierce, warlike, and addicted to the chace, inured to fatigue, fond of independence, and to a degree of brutality, uncivilized. Altogether opposite are the manners of the Chinese; they are effeminate, pacific, indolent, superstitious, slavish, and full of ceremony and compliment. In their features, and form, however, there is so striking a resemblance, as to leave a doubt whether they did not spring from the same race.
     Some travellers tell us, that the Chinese are large and fat, their limbs well formed, their faces broad and round, their eyes small, eye-



brows large, their eye-lids turned upwards, and their noses short and flat; that upon the chin they have very little beard, and upon each lip not more than seven or eight tufts of hair. Those who inhabit the southern provinces are more brown and tawny than those in the northern; that in colour they resemble the natives of Mauritania, or the more swarthy Spaniards; but those in the middle provinces are as fair as the Germans.
     According to Dampier and others, the Chinese are not all fat and bulky, but they consider being so as an ornament to the human figure. In speaking of the island of St. John, on the coast of China, the former says, that the inhabitants are tall, erect, and little encumbered with fat; that their countenances are long, and their foreheads high; their eyes little, their nose tolerably large, and raised in the middle; their mouths of a moderate size, their lips rather thin, their complexion ash-colour, and their hair black; that they have naturally little beard, and even that they pluck out, leaving only a few hairs upon the chin and upper lip.
     According to Le Gentil, the Chinese have nothing disagreeable in their countenance, especially in the northern provinces. In the



southern ones, when necessarily much exposed to the sun, they are swarthy. That in general their eyes are small and of an oval form, their nose short, their bodies thick, and their stature of a middling height; he assures us that the women do every thing in their power to make their eyes appear little and oblong, that for this purpose it is a constant practice with young girls, instructed by their mothers, forcibly to extend their eye-lids. This, with the addition of a flat nose, ears long, large, open, and pendent, is accounted complete beauty. He adds, their complexion is delicate, their lips of a fine vermilion, their mouths well proportioned, their hair very black, but that chewing beetle blackens their teeth, and by the use of paint they so greatly injure their skin, that before the age of thirty they have all the appearance of old age.
     Palafox assures us that the Chinese are more fair than the oriental Tartars; that they have also less beards, but that in every other respect their visages are nearly the same. It is very uncommon, he says, to see blue eyes either in China or in the Philippine islands; and when seen; it is in Europeans, or in those of European parents.



     Inigo de Biervillas asserts, that the women of China are better made than the men. Of the latter, he says, their visages are large and complexions rather yellow; their noses broad; and generally compressed, and their bodies are of a thickness greatly resembling that of a Hollander. The women, on the contrary, though they are generally rather fat than otherwise, are however of a free and easy shape; their complexion and skin are admirable; and their eyes are incomparably fine; but from the great pains taken to compress it in their infancy, there are few to be seen of whose nose the shape is even tolerable.
     All the Dutch travellers allow that the Chinese have in general broad faces, small eyes, flat noses, and hardly any beard; that the natives of Canton, and the whole of the southern coast, are as tawny as the inhabitants of Fez, in Africa, but that those of the interior provinces are mostly fair. Now if we compare the descriptions we have already given, from the above authors, of the Chinese and Tartars, hardly will a doubt remain that, although they differ a little in stature and countenance, they originate from one stock, and that the points in which they differ proceed entirely


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