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Re: Beauty is only skin deep

Posted by ESC on July 06, 2003

In Reply to: Beauty is only skin deep posted by Kathy on July 06, 2003

: Hi. I am writing am essay and need help with the phrase "beauty is only skin deep." can anyone help me? Thanx

BEAUTY IS ONLY SKIN DEEP - "What you don't see is hidden under the skin and it may be more important than physical beauty. The proverb has been traced back to 'A Wife' (c.1613) by Thomas Overbury (1581-1613)." From the "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).

Overbury wrote: "All the carnall beauty of my wife/ Is but skin-deep, but to two senses known." ".the English writing master John Davies of Hereford recorded essentially the proverb's modern form in 'A Select Second Husband' : 'Beauty is but skin-deepe.' The following century, Samuel Richardson echoed this sentiment in his novel 'Pamela' with 'Beauty is but.a mere skin-deep perfection.' True enough, but beauty is a perfection of an attractive kind, and not a few writers have disagreeded with the notion, 'Beauty is only skin deep.' In 'Advice to Young Men' , the Englishman William Cobbett - perhaps keeping in mind the sensibilities of his male audience - wrote: 'The less favored part of the sex say, that beauty is but skin deep';..but it is very agreeable, though, for all that.' A more rancorous response to critics of physical beauty gave rise to the nineteeth-century English saying, 'Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes to the bone.' And that same century, the philosopher Herbert Spencer literally turned the current proverb on itself to make it a clever rebuke in 'Personal Beauty' : 'The saying that beauty is but skin deep is a skin deep saying.'" From "Wise Words and Wives' Tales: The Origins, Meanings and Time-Honored Wisdom of Proverbs and Folk Sayings Olde and New" by Stuart Flexner and Doris Flexner (Avon Books, New York, 1993).

A companion saying is:

BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER - "The first stirrings toward this proverb appear to have come from the English dramatist John Lyly, who wrote in 'Euphues in England' . 'As neere is Fancie to Beautie, as the pricke to the Rose,' and from William Shakespeare, who in 'Love's Labour's Lost' (c.1594) penned the line 'Beauty is bought by judgement of the eye.' Almost a century and a half later, Benjamin Franklin in his 'Poor Richard's Almanack' of 1741 included the lines, 'Beauty, like supreme dominion/ Is but supported by opinion,' and Scottish philosopher David Hume's 'Essays, Moral and Political' contained the perhaps too analytical 'Beauty in things exists merely in the mind which contemplates them.' It was not until 1878, however, that the modern wording of the proverb first appeared in 'Molly Brown,' by the Irish novelist Mr. Margaret Hungerford. The saying has been repeated frequently in the twentieth century." From "Wise Words and Wives' Tales: The Origins, Meanings and Time-Honored Wisdom of Proverbs and Folk Sayings Olde and New" by Stuart Flexner and Doris Flexner (Avon Books, New York, 1993).