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majesty's hand. It is not those who kiss the royal hand who could write best on the custom.
This custom is not only very ancient, and nearly universal, but has been alike participated by religion and society.
To begin with religion. From the remotest times men saluted the sun, moon, and stars, by kissing the hand. Job assures us that he was never given to this superstition, xxxi. 26. The same honour was rendered to Baal, Kings i. 18. Other instances might be adduced.
We now pass to Greece. There all foreign superstitions were received. Lucian, after having mentioned various sorts of sacrifices which the rich offered the gods, adds, that the poor adored them by the simpler compliment of kissing their hands. That author gives an anecdote of Demosthenes, which shows this custom. When a prisoner to the soldiers of Antipater, he asked to enter a temple.-When he entered, he touched his mouth with his hands, which the guards took for an act of religion. He did it, however, more securely to swallow the poison he had prepared for such an occasion. He mentions other instances.
From the Greeks it passed to the Romans. Pliny places it amongst those ancient customs of which they were ignorant of the origin or the
Persons were treated as atheists, who
would not kiss their hands when they entered a temple. When Apuleius mentions Psyche, he says, she was so beautiful that they adored her as Venus, in kissing the right hand.
This ceremonial action rendered respectable the earliest institutions of Christianity. It was a custom with the primæval bishops to give their hands to be kissed by the ministers who served at the altar.
This custom, however, as a religious rite, declined with Paganism.
In society our ingenious academician considers the custom of kissing hands as essential to its welfare. It is a mute form, which expresses reconciliation, which intreats favours, or which thanks for those received. It is an universal language, intelligible without an interpreter; which doubtless preceded writing, and perhaps speech itself.
Solomon says of the flatterers and suppliants of his time, that they ceased not to kiss the hands of their patrons, till they had obtained the favours which they solicited. In Homer we see Priam kissing the hands and embracing the knees of Achilles, while he supplicates for the body of Hector.
This custom prevailed in ancient Rome, but it varied. In the first ages of the republic, it seems to have been only practised by inferiors to their superiors :-equals gave their hands and embraced. In the progress of time even the soldiers refused to show this mark of respect to their generals; and their kissing the hand of Cato when he was obliged to quit them was regarded as an extraordinary circumstance, at a period of such refinement. The great respect paid to the tribunes, consuls, and dictators, obliged individuals to live with them in a more distant and respectful manner; and instead of embracing them as they did formerly, they considered themselves as fortunate if allowed to kiss their hands. Under the emperors, kissing hands became an essential duty, even for the great themselves; inferior courtiers were obliged to be content to adore the purple, by kneeling, touching the robe of the emperor by the right hand, and carrying it to the mouth. Even this was thought too free; and at length they saluted the emperor at a distance, by kissing their hands, in the same manner as when they adored their gods.
It is superfluous to trace this custom in every country where it exists. It is practised in every known country, in respect to sovereigns and superiors, even amongst the negroes, and the inhabitants of the New World. Cortez found it established at Mexico, where more than a thousand lords saluted him, in touching the earth with their
hands, which they afterwards carried to their mouths.
Thus whether the custom of salutation is practised by kissing the hands of others from respect, or in bringing one's own to the mouth, it is of all other customs the most universal. Mr. Morin concludes, that this practice is now become too gross a familiarity, and it is considered as a meanness to kiss the hand of those with whom we are in habits of intercourse: and he prettily observes that this custom would be entirely lost, if lovers were not solicitous to preserve it in all its
Valois observes that the Popes scrupulously followed, in the early ages of the church, the custom of placing their names after that of the person whom they addressed in their letters. This mark of their humility he proves by letters written by various Popes. Thus when the great projects of politics were yet unknown to them, did they adhere to Christian meekness. There came at length the day when one of the Popes, whose name does not occur to me, said that“ it was safer to quarrel with a prince than with a friar.” Henry
VI. being at the feet of Pope Celestine, his holiness thought proper to kick the crown off his head; which ludicrous and disgraceful action, Baronius has highly praised. Jortin observes on this great cardinal, and advocate of the Roman see, that he breathes nothing but fire and brimstone; and accounts kings and emperors to be mere catch-poles and constables, bound to execute with implicit faith all the commands of insolent ecclesiastics. Bellarmin was made a cardinal for his efforts and devotion to the papal cause, and maintaining this monstrous paradox,—that if the pope forbid the exercise of virtue, and command that of vice, the Roman church, under pain of a sin, was obliged to abandon virtue for vice, if it would not sin against conscience !
It was Nicholas I., a bold and enterprising Pope, who, in 858, forgetting the pious modesty of his predecessors, took advantage of the divisions in the royal families of France, and did not hesitate to place his name before that of the kings and emperors of the house of France, to whom he wrote. Since that time he has been imitated by all his successors, and this encroachment on the honours of monarchy has passed into a custom from having been tolerated in its commencement.
Concerning the acknowledged infallibility of the Popes, it appears that Gregory VII., in council,