Saturday, December 15, 2012


Taxonomy of Handshakes

A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith. By his Daughter, Lady Holland, Vol. I (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1855), pp. 350-351:
On meeting a young lady who had just entered the garden, and shaking hands with her: "I must," he said, "give you a lesson in shaking hands, I see. There is nothing more characteristic than shakes of the hand. I have classified them. Lister, when he was here, illustrated some of them. Ask Mrs. Sydney to show you his sketches of them when you go in. There is the high official,—the body erect, and a rapid, short shake, near the chin. There is the mortmain,—the flat hand introduced into your palm, and hardly conscious of its contiguity. The digital,—one finger held out, much used by the high clergy. There is the shakus rusticus, where your hand is seized in an iron grasp, betokening rude health, warm heart, and distance from the Metropolis; but producing a strong sense of relief on your part when you find your hand released and your fingers unbroken. The next to this is the retentive shake,—one which, beginning with vigour, pauses as it were to take breath, but without relinquishing its prey, and before you are aware begins again, till you feel anxious as to the result, and have no shake left in you. There are other varieties, but this is enough for one lesson."

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