Capillary Freaks

The romance of hair

And to think that red hair should he a coveted distinction, now, and of the obloquy that used to be heaped upon the red-head a few short years ago I “Aunty,” says the enfant terrible of some caricature, addressing a lady of rufose temperament, “is it true that you dress your hair with tomato ketchup?” Few of us but have reminiscences of sonic hapless schoolfellow who led a does life on account of his red hair. Well I remember one such, whose young days were embittered by the odium thrown upon the volcanic summit with which nature had marked him for ridicule. Philology ran riot in the school for epithets wherewith to assail that unfortunate youth. We would tell him that he “must be the work of an incendiary.” “ Did his mother take out an additional policy of insurance upon the premises when he went home on vacations?” “Used they to put ginger in his pap when he was a baby, or brickbats, or red peppers, or what?” One day the leading humorist of the school came rushing across the play-ground with a pail of water, crying “Fire! fire!” with all his might; and, before the boys could collect themselves to ask “Where?” he extinguished the unlucky Rufulus by dashing the contents of the pail over his devoted head.

It seems that, even when red heads were least in favor the color was not considered so objectionable as applying to the beard. In modern times, generally, a man with a beard like a brick might go through life unchaffed.  Old Butler does not seem to be absolutely disparaging his hero when he describes him as a man. “With beard so like a tile/A sudden view it might beguile.” But it has not been so in all times and countries.
In Mr. Edwards’s “Reminiscence of a Bengal Civilian,” it is related bow Delhi came to be sacked by Nadir Shah. Some time previous to that event, it seems. an Affelian officer employed in the Deccan came to Delhi to pay his respects to the Emperor. He happened to have a long red beard, and the courtiers, on his entering the hail of audience, jeered him, saying, “What next? — here we have now a red-haired baboon come to court!” To this the officer retorted, “I will tell you what next, — that before a year is over I will fill Delhi itself, as well as the palaces, with red-bearded baboons like me.” Then he went away in a great rage, and sent off a messenger to Nadir Shah with a letter, saying, “You are wanted here, for all are old women now in Delhi.” Nadir answered the summons; and, on his arrival, plundered the city and put its inhabitants to the sword. But there was a time when, in France at least, red beards were much in vogue. This was toward the close of the sixteenth century, when dyes and various other preparations were used for procuring the desired tint, and the height of the mode then was to have the head black and the beard red. There must have been a furore about the thing, in fact, for Pierre le Guillard, a bard of the time. published a poem called Eloge des Barbes Rousses.

Few things, adopted with intention to deceive, are less deceptive than wigs. Many a man has worn a wig for years, quite satisfied in his own mind that the secret rests between himself and his “artist in hair”; but it is all a delusion. The blanched hair will crop out at the nape of the neck, or the unnatural luxuriance of the head-gear in juxtaposition with crows’ feet and pendulous cheeks will tell the tale. I can recall but two instances within my own observation in which there was an entire absence on the part of wigwearers of any attempt to deceive. One was the case of a young man of very dark complexion, who, having had his head shaved after an attack of illness, borrowed the flaxen wig of a friend who had left off wearing it, —and a very funny contrast it made with the raven whiskers of that honest young man. The other case which recurs to me was of a still more praiseworthy and honorable kind. Years ago when I was acquainted with a gentleman very much of the old school, — an elderly gentleman, who wore a thick cravat, and whose starched shirt-collars threatened continually to saw off his ears. In the morning this old gentleman would usually make his appearance in a glossy brown wig, having a stiff roll, or, tube, to it, extending across the nape of the neck from ear to ear. Observe him in his afternoon trim, and his wig would be a white one instead of a brown, a sort of sunny white peruke, that accorded much better with his years than the gay and juvenile one of his morning style. There was something typical in this, each day being, with that fine old gentleman, an epitome of the morning and evening of life. Among the ancient Romans, the yellow hair of the Germans was in much request for wigs; and the Egyptians of old wore wigs very generally, though more on the principle of cleanliness than from any foppish conceit.

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