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A New Science. Study of Character from Gloves

by D. M. J.

The Yorkshire Family Magazine, vol. 1, issue 2 (1840)

Pages 135-140

A sample page from A New Science. Study of Character from Gloves by D. M. J.
From “A New Science. Study of Character from Gloves.” Used by permission, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.

NOTE: This entry is in draft form; it is currently undergoing the VSFP editorial process.

Introductory Note: “A New Science—Study of Characters From Gloves” is a short story published in the Yorkshire Family Magazine in 1840. It is the tale of an attempt on the part of a hostess to discern the personal attributes of her party guests by examining their gloves. This story is also a suspenseful detective story, in which the hostess reaches incriminating conclusions about her guests through shrewd observation and deductive reasoning. This story also offers a fascinating look at Victorian gender roles and relations, and at what sorts of behavior were seen as unacceptable.

On the morning following a splendid ball, given by the Marchioness of Londonderry, several of those who had figured on the occasion, met, as if by appointment, to pay their respects to the elegant and witty Lady S——, who had failed to grace the brilliant assembly of the preceding evening with her presence.1Londonderry is a county in Norther Ireland. After the visitors had been assured that her ladyship’s absence had been occasioned by a slight indisposition, from which she had now entirely recovered, the conversation began to flag. The company were, in fact, still suffering from the fatigue of the previous night, and not even Lady S——’s wit could dispel the langour which pervaded the drooping spirits of those whose wit and vivacity had, but a few hours before, excited universal admiration. After a somewhat forced “chit-chat” had been carried on for a short time, it gradually subsided into a total silence, which threatened to put an end to the morning visit altogether; when a commonplace remark, thrown out by one of the party, to relieve this oppressive monotony, led to the following conversation, which ended in a scene painfully distressing to the visitors.2Original text reads “mononoty” rather than “monotony.”

“The Baroness of P—— has just arrived from Sweden,” remarked a lady, “and she has brought me a pair of gloves, that combine elegance and comfort in the highest degree.”

“Apropos of gloves,” said another, “is it not astonishing that light-coloured gloves should be so much worn during this severe weather?”

“What, my dear Emily,” exclaimed the lady of the house, “can’t you discover the motive?”

“Ask our young friend, Lieutenant D——, he can tell you; it is because people wish to make the most of the gloves worn at evening parties; it is, in fact, economy.”

“Lady S—— is right,” cried the gentleman.

Her ladyship continued—“There are those who profess to describe the characters of individuals, by examining the lines in the hands or face, the walk, or even the tie of a cravat; but it has often struck me, that the examination of gloves worn at a ball or rout, would afford a more interesting study, and lead to more correct conclusions, as to an individual’s character and pursuits—at least, during that particular occasion.”3A “rout” is an evening party.

Lady S—— had no sooner concluded her remark, than she was urged, by the visitors, to carry her theory into practice, by inspecting their gloves, which, they assured her, were those worn on the previous evening.

“Well then,” replied her ladyship, “I do not promise you portraits as delicate, and shades as varied as those of Lavater, but” * * * * * * * * * * “They will be more indulgent.”4Johann Kaspar Lavater, Swiss physiognomist of the era.

“Don’t trust to that, colonel; I shall be severe, I promise you; and now let us begin with you—let us see your gloves!”

“Here they are,” said the gallant colonel, holding out his hands.5The original reads: “holding out his hands””.

“The colonel has saved his gloves,” remarked a young lady, “they are hardly soiled.”

“Is that a reproach for not having danced with you, my pretty cousin? You must recollect, that at my age—at forty—it would be ridiculous to ‘trip it on the light fantastic toe’”—

“Yes,” interrupted Lady S——, but not to play!

“What! do you think that I should prefer——”

“Don’t attempt to defend yourself, colonel, I am not your accuser; your rumpled gloves condemn you. See how you crushed them both together, when your adversary turned up the king or made the vole, you are a loser, colonel. See! a piece has been bitten out of the left glove.”

“But, madam, they were too tight.”

“The excuse would be admissible, if the right hand were not generally the larger.”

“I am beaten,” replied the colonel.

“As for me,” said the young Sir Charles M——, presenting his hands for inspection, “I have nothing to fear from Lady S——.”

The back of his gloves only bore the ordinary marks of having been worn under such circumstances; but the palms were stained in several places with perspiration, and some of the fingers presented a shade even darker than that.

“You indulged freely in the exhilarating pleasures of the dance,” said Lady S——. “That is very well, so far; but you danced too frequently with the same lady.”

“Madam,” answered Sir Charles, colouring and hesitating, “what leads you to that conclusion?”

“The lavender colour with which your right hand glove is stained.”

Sir Charles coloured still deeper, and his embarrassment extended to the pretty cousin of the colonel, who hastily hid her hands under the folds of her scarf.

At this moment, Lord S——, who had been at the Marchinoness of Londonderry’s ball, entered the room. Nature had been liberal to Lord S—— in the distribution of her gifts? for, to the most elegant and manly person, she added a more than ordinary share of talents, joined to the most fascinating manners, and he inherited rank and fortune from a long line of noble ancestors. All these advantages had their effect; his society was much courted by both sexes, and of course his vanity flattered, but it was chiefly on his influence with the fair sex that he prided himself; nor is this to be wondered at; for when women invert the natural order of things so far as to pay court to the opposite sex, they not only degrade themselves, but at the same time, raise the “Lords of the creation” to an undue importance in their own estimation; thus destroying those proportions which their respective merits ought to bear in each other’s opinions. Lord S—— considered woman as formed for man’s amusement—mere playthings; and, therefore, although he loved his wife as much, perhaps, as any man imbued with such erroneous sentiments could do, yet constancy was hardly to be expected from him.

That period, therefore, of unalloyed matrimonial felicity called the “honeymoon,” was scarcely over, when the warm-hearted and affectionate, and sensitive Lady S–—, began to feel the pangs of jealousy, in spite of her efforts to conceal it, even from herself. This was a dreadful blow to a mind constituted like hers; it fell on her heart like the chilling blast of the north, which overtakes the weary and benighted traveller, struggling through wreaths of snow to reach that dear home where the partner of his hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, anxiously awaits him. As the storm increases, he already, in imagination, sees himself overwhelmed by it, till his mind is at last roused, by the fearful picture it has drawn, and he tries to deceive himself into a belief that no danger exists. Such was the state of Lady S——’s mind, at the period alluded to; she at one time experienced the most perfect misery and hopelessness at the prospect before her; and, at another, rejected the suspicions that haunted her, as ungenerous and unjust.

His lordship having been informed of the subject of the conversation, advanced towards his wife, and, offering his hand, said in the most affectionate manner, “My most bewitching prophetess, can you tell my sins?”

Lady S—— took the proffered hand, examined it long and attentively, till, by degrees, the smile that played on her lips began to vanish; but, by a powerful effort, she conquered the momentary feeling of sadness which had clouded her brow, and, apparently resuming her former gaiety, thus addressed her lord:—6The original reads: “an attentively” rather than “and.”

“You have not played.”

“That is true.”

“Nor danced.”

“That is also true.”7The original reads: “trne.”

“You conversed, long and earnestly.”


“With a female.”

“But, my pretty sorceress, I am not at confession.”

“Oh, yes, but you have not confessed to this last accusation. Let me look at your righthand glove; see how it has been crushed under foot, while you squeezed some fair hand; and the left, how it is marked—let me examine that too.”

This his lordship seemed rather inclined, if possible, to prevent; but his lady, by a dexterous effort, pulled off his glove, and, at the same time, a small ring, set with diamonds, and containing a portion of hair. At another time, Lady S—— would probably have returned the ring without examination; but on this occasion her suspicions were roused. After her eyes had been rivetted on the fatal ring for a few seconds, they became fixed in a meaningless stare, and she fell senseless into the arms of her lord. All was confusion among the visitors; but some of them, however had the presence of mind to apply the usual restorative, which had, indeed, the effect of recalling life, but the intellect, the mind was gone for ever; it had been cruelly overstrained, and yielded to the pressure. It afterwards appeared, during a lucid interval, that Lady S–— had recognized the ring as having formerly belonged to a lady of fashion with whom rumor had frequently associated the name of Lord S—— before his marriage.

The unfortunate Lady S—— was, ere the lapse of many months, conveyed to the family vault in all the pomp of heraldry; and his lordship, forgetting that he had broken the affectionate heart of the woman who adored him, and whom he had vowed to “love and cherish,” fluttered as gaily as heretofore in the smiling sunshine of beauty and fashion.


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Connor Race Davis
Cosenza Hendrickson
Alexandra Malouf


18 January 2021

Last modified

11 September 2021


1 Londonderry is a county in Norther Ireland.
2 Original text reads “mononoty” rather than “monotony.”
3 A “rout” is an evening party.
4 Johann Kaspar Lavater, Swiss physiognomist of the era.
5 The original reads: “holding out his hands””.
6 The original reads: “an attentively” rather than “and.”
7 The original reads: “trne.”

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