It would be a serious undertaking to glean from the pages of history and mythology all the narrations that are associated with that beautiful, but perishable material, human hair. Tresses were to blame when the young man Absalom was hoisted aloft by the skeleton hand of the tree, and the welkin rang to the vox populi when Delilah took down the strong man of his time by shearing off the locks in which it was supposed that his strength lay. Delirium tremens must have been epidemic in the days when the Gorgonian female, whose curls were the curling of snakes, made stone sculptures of men by revealing herself to their gaze. From all time death and fury, as well as love and glory, have leaped out with the sparks that flash from a lock of woman’s hair. It is well to say that the story of Jason, and how he sailed the good ship “Argos,” with a princely crew, in search of a golden fleece, is nothing but a romance and a myth. Some girl with golden hair was at the bottom of that fiction, you may depend. It might have been Medea, and it might not; but as I conjure up a vision of a tree with a golden fleece hardening upon it, and a dragon at the foot of it keeping guard over the treasure, the scene changes like a dissolving view, and I see nothing but a lovely woman tressed in golden glory, watched by an elderly person who might pass for a very good dragon indeed. Look at home, now, and see the legions of Browns and Smiths who have pricked each other with rapiers, or riddled each other with lead, on account of a ringlet accorded to one or the other of them by some damsel false as fair. But the romance of hair is too prolific a subject to be lightly handled, and I pass on to its history.
The caprices of fashion with regard to woman’s hair furnish a good deal of material for satire at the present day; but the most extravagant of them now are tame compared with the capillary freaks of women in the olden times. Among the Roman women, at one period, there was a morbid ambition to grow beards, and they used to shave their faces and smear them with unguents to produce those inappropriate appendages. Cicero tells us that there was a law passed against this practice, which is a proof that it must have been carried to a great extent. Among the Greeks, too, a similar fancy appears at one time to have existed; for they represented their Cyprian Venus with a beard, and Suidas asserts that false beards were more than once in vogue with the Athenian women. The Loinbard lasses, also, bad the same notion, but with more purpose in it; for we learn from old writers~ that the amazons of that nation, when levying war upon their neighbors, used to improvise beards by arranging their hair upon their cheeks, so that they might look, at a little distance like warriors of the rougher sex, and so strike the more terror to their male foes
It appears from various records, that the present passion for the different shades of red hair—golden, auburn, and bronze-red—has raged very fiercely in different periods and from very early times. The great Italian painters, Titian, Paul Veronese, Giorgione, and others, had gold-red hair “on the brain.” Their beauties were nearly all crowned with a glory of the fascinating tint. In “beautiful Venice,” about the days of Titian, a glorious sight to see must have been the house-tops, from a bird’s-eye view, when the belles of noble rank sat out upon them, catching the golden flashes of the sun with their damp tresses. Vecelli states that they used to procure the desired tint by the following process. They would soak their hair thoroughly with a wash made up of black sulphur, alum, and honey. Then they would repair to the flat house-tops, and, hanging the wet masses of their hair over the wide brims of crownless straw hats, would sit there for hours, until even the darkest-eyed brunette of them all would have her raven tresses alchemized into burning gold. That must have been a wondrous and beautiful sight, out there on the flat roofs of Venice, the morning before some great Carnival ball. Will observers who dwell much in attics inform us whether our American belles recline out upon the housetops, and lay traps with their tresses to catch the audacious radiance of the sun? I look out from my window now, — a back window commanding an extensive view of house-tops, — fiat, some of them, and others of sufficiently gentle slope. I strain my eyes to behold some such beatific vision as might hive dazzled Titian when he emerged from the roof-scuttle of his house, and singled out for a Madonna some fair and fulvous one of the bleachers that were spreading their tresses on the leads below. But, alas! I see no such gorgeous sight. I see nothing more lovely, in fact, than tom-cats and chimney-pots, the sooty tops of the latter of which certainly do not absorb any glory from gilding rays of the warm October sun.
But the rage for golden hair was nothing of a new one in the days of olden Venice. The Greek women had a touch of it, — though it was considered meretricious, if we are to believe Menander, who in one of his comedies makes a man bundle his wife out of doors because she came home one day with her hair stained yellow. And the fashion prevailed among the Roman ladies too; by whom it was adopted soon after the conquests of Gaul and Germany, when the tawny hair of the natives of those countries became quite the thing in the capital of the Empire. To imitate this the dark-haired belles of Rome had recourse to a pomade, the spuma caustica, with which, as Martial tells us, they used to render their locks Teutonic. It seems, too, that yellow hair-whether natural or otherwisewas notable in the time of Horace, since he inquires, tauntingly, of the fascinating Pyrrha,"Cul flavam religas comani Simplex munditis?"
Again, so lately as the time of the first Empire, golden or flaxen hair was a folly of the day, and prevailed much in France. A late writer mentions a very old lady of his acquaintance who told him that, when in Paris many years ago, she was acquainted with a lady of great age who used laughingly to say, "Only imagine that I used to be silly enough, when I was a girl, to wear a light flaxen wig!" The lady who told this about herself was a brunette of the darkest shade; and she further stated, that in her young days it was a common fashion for blondes to hide their fair locks under darkcolored wigs. Envy was clearly at work then, and nature at a discount. Red hair, rather than flaxen, seems to have touched the fancy at many periods, both long ago and of later years. In Ireland locks of the most fiery hue have long been regarded by the peasantry as a lovely attribute of beauty. "She 's an elegant lady, good luck to her," some ragged loiterer near a carriagewindow will say. " She 's a mighty fine woman entirely; only it 's a pity but she had red hair." And then there is an old ditty that I remember often to have heard trolled by grooms and ploughmen of the Celtic race, a stave of which runs thus: "Heigh for the apple, and ho for the pear; But give me the pretty girl with the red hair."
Truly the hair of woman is a mysterious and wonderful thing, and one about which hardly anything has been left unwritten, unsaid, or unsung. It seems impossible that any fashion of wearing it can be new. In pictures painted centuries ago we see women with their hair made up in nets, precisely ma fashion that is very general at the present day. From the peatbogs of Ireland coils of female hair have been dug, rolled upon great wooden pins, not unlike the gilt dumbbells passed sometimes through the chignons worn by women of our period. Hair has been padded, in many ages of the world, just as it is padded now. The Roman women had “rats”; and the “Grecian curls “ now so often worn by the loveliest of their age and sex were sported in ancient Greece, not only by the women, but by the men. And in this fashion, too, did other nations of olden times dress their hair. Old French writers record that Theodoric le Jeune, king of the Goths, wore his in long, heavy tresses, — toupets a la Grecque. It was crimped in front, and combed back, and it is easy to guess that the coiffeur royal had no easy time of it while he was making a guy of that young Goth. The Lombards also wore tresses falling over their ears and down upon their shoulders behind; and, apropos of this, here is a legend recorded by some German writer.
Once there was a king of the Lombards, whose name I have forgotten; but as I remember the story, he was a man of noble stature, and took much pride in the heavy side-locks of his luxuriant hair. His immediate body-guard consisted of fifty noblemen, each of them selected for his resemblance to the king in stature and general appearance, and they too wore their hair in tresses like those of their royal master. The queen’s apartments were at a little distance from the palace, and when, after the fatigues of the chase, the king would resort there at even, he usually wore a white mantle wrapped so as partially to conceal his features, and gave a particular countersign to the sentry at the queen’s gate. Now one of the tall body-guard was an enterprising young noble, and he bethought himself of a stratagem by which he might obtain an interview with the queen, who lived in great seclusion, but was reputed as being very beautiful in person, though in intellect rather the reverse of bright. Ascertaining that the king would return at least an hour later than usual from the chase, on a particular day, the young guardsman, who bore a remarkable personal resemblance to his master, wrapped himself at evening in a white mantle, and, having possessed himself in some way of the countersign, passed the sentry at the queen’s gate, and entered the royal apartments. A favoring twilight prevailed there. The air was languid with the odor of essences and mellow fruits, and the audacious guardsman could see that the queen was very beautiful indeed, as she reclined among velvet cushions and sipped the beverage most in fashion among the Lombard ladies of the day, whatever that might have been. On a table before her there was a toothsome spread, — supper for two, — and of this the ambitious young warrior partook. Then he made himself quite at home for an hour or so, till he thought that it might not be safe for him to remain there any longer; so he kissed her most gracious Majesty the queen, — only think of that! — and, quietly withdrawing from the premises, returned to his own quarters.
He had not been gone five minutes when the king, wrapped in his white mantle, strode past the astonished sentry and entered the queen’s apartments.
“Your Majesty does me great honor this evening-” said the partner of his royal bosom. “It is not often that you return so quickly after having kissed me good-night.”
“Ha! ha!” exclaimed the quick-witted monarch, carrying his hand to his dagger; “have we rats here? I think I smell one, and so here goes to ferret him out of his retreat!”
Hastening to the dormitory in which his fifty guardsmen slept, the king entered softly, armed with his dagger and a dark lantern. There, on fifty camp-beds, all in a row lay his fifty doubles, wrapped, apparently, in deep slumber, and looking as like each other as a row of peas upon the half-shell. The king threw the light of his lantern upon the first bed, and, approaching it, laid his hand lightly over the sleeper’s heart.
He sleeps well,” thought he; “the culprit’s heart will scarce beat so lightly as that.” And on he went, along the row of beds, trying each sleeper’s heart as he went, but finding no flutter until he came to the last. The sleep of that stalwart young nobleman was so calm and deep, apparently, that it might have been taken for death, had it not been accompanied by a sonorous and healthy snore; but when the king came to lay his hand over the snorer’s heart, he found it beating like a drum.
“This is my man,” muttered he, between his teeth. “His life’s blood is up in evidence against him, and I will have it.” Then, raising his dagger, he was about to plunge it into the noble young snorer’s heart, when another idea arrested him. “I will not kill him now,” thought he. “Justice before all; and he shall have a fair trial on the morrow. But meantime, here goes to mark him; for I can hardly tell one of these fellows of mine from the other, nor from myself, for the matter of that.” And with these words he gathered together the flowing tresses on the left side of the warrior’s head, and, having cut them off with the sharp edge of his dagger, walked out from the dormitory as softly as he had come.
Morning had hardly dawned when the king, fuming with rage, and bent on vengeance, ordered his fifty pet guardsmen to be paraded before him, while he chuckled inwardly at his own sagacity in detecting and putting a mark on the delinquent the night before. But lo and behold! when the parade was formed, not a man of the whole fifty had locks on the left side of his head; for the gay young guardsman, who was wide awake when the king came to his bedside, had arisen quietly in the night and docked them of their tresses all round. And so the king of the Lombards was balked of his vengeance; for his fifty noble warriors all looked so like each other, and so innocent, there in the gray light of morning, that he could neither point out the man who had the palpitant heart, nor find it in his own to order his body-guard for execution in the bulk.
In the sixteenth century a curious circumstance threw tresses out of fashion in France, — amongst men, at least. Francis I., who wore his hair in that style, met with an accident while engaged in a sham fight with snowballs. He was attacking a position which the Count de St. Pol was defending, each accompanied by his band of followers, when a firebrand, thrown by mistake, (a rather queer mistake that, by the by, not to know a firebrand from a snowball!) caught the king upon the head and burnt off his hair; and so the barbers had plenty to do in clipping away the tresses of the courtiers and young men about town, who of course could not think of wearing their hair differently from the king.
A few artists affect the Greek tresses in our time; but for men the style is considered decidedly eccentric, and it must be rather inconvenient to the wearer, under many circumstances to which men are liable in active life. Cork-screw curls have always wriggled themselves into fashion with men, as well as with women, from time to time. At present they are wholly provincial, and, even in the rural districts, are looked upon as a sign hung out by desperate maiden ladies of uncertain years, alone; but we shall see them in the market again, by and by, when the “waterfall” shall have dried up, and the “rats “ deserted the tottering castle that now beetles upon the summit of my lady’s brow. Only a few years ago it was a common fashion for ladies to train a small curl on each temple, to which it was affixed with bandoline or gum. These appendages were called accroche-coeurs by the French; and heart-hooks indeed they were, suggesting the idea of the barbed steel belonging to the salmon-fly of the angler; while the rest of the lady might have been compared, not unaptly, to the gay combination of silk and feathers with which that deceptive and artificial insect is usually made up.
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.
By far the greatest absurdity, however, that has ever been perpetrated in the way of a wig, is the pert little grizzly horsehair one worn by the British barrister while in court. It sits upon the top of the head like a cat upon a townpump, and the contrast frequently made by it with whiskers that are very red or very black is often ludicrous in the extreme. In the last century, and until toward the close of it, I believe, a curious fashion prevailed among the Irish peasantry of wearing a small red scratch wig over the natural hair. These were called "bay wigs," a term which was fastened as a nickname on the wearers; and it was a common thing then for an Irish peasant to whip off his wig when a distinguished visitor entered his cabin, and, having dusted a chair with it for the arrival, to replace it upon his head. I remember, when a boy, how we had a tradition among us of a certain parrot then long passed away, who had been taught to pronounce the word "baywig" in a very loud and distinct voice, and whose delight it was to vociferate it from his cage near some high window, to the great discomfiture and scandal of the honest farmers as they passed to and fro on their business in the old markettown.
Throughout the past centuries, France appears to have set the fashion in beards for the neighboring nations, generally. Frequent changes took place in the form of the beard, sometimes mustaches only being worn, and sometimes clean shaving being the order of the day; while, anon, conceits the most fantastic were devised with all the hair that could be grown upon the cheeks and chin. Perhaps it will be interesting to the ladies to know that, eight centuries ago, the "waterfall" was absolutely a masculine appendage, and quite the thing among men of fashion in France. The mode was known as le visage en cascade, and the hair, mustache, and beard were combined to produce the effect. To represent the upper fall, the hair was cut evenly all round the head. The mustaches, worn very heavy and drooping, formed the second fall, and the third was ably simulated by the long, pointed beard. It was in this wonderful guise that Hugues, Count of Chalons, appeared when conquered by Richard of Normandy, before whom be went on allfours with a saddle on his back, in token of submission. Even the grave old chronicler who relates this appears to have been touched by the ludicrous points of the scene, for he dryly remarks that Hugues, in spite of the saddle, might better have passed for a goat than for a horse, bearded en cascade as he was. About this time, too, the beard was so highly honored that epithets were taken from it. There was Geoffroi be Barbu, for instance, and Baudoin a la belle Barbe. Likewise the atrocious Gilles de Laval, Marchal de Retz, who was called BarbeBleu, and was undoubtedly the original Bluebeard of the old nursery tale. The history of this diabolical wretch and his crimes has been written in compendious form by Paul Lacroix (Bibliophile Jacob). His beard is described as having been of a light color, shot with tinges of blue when seen in certain lights. Whether this be true or otherwise, there is no doubt attaching to the records of his horrible crimes, which he expiated by being hanged on a gallows, after which his body was burnt to ashes, and the ashes scattered to the four winds.
Toward the close of the fourteenth century, a very remarkable beard made its appearance in France. It was worn by an impostor calling himself the Patriarch of Constantinople, who came to Paris in 1392. There was much excitement about it at the time, and some of the chroniclers hint that it might have been an artificial beard; for these appendages had then been lately invented by a Spaniard, whose name has not survived him, and it is said that they came into very general fashion in Spain, — so much so, indeed, that nearly every person who had any beard used to shave it off and replace it with a false one. These sham beards were as various in form and color as are the chignons and “coils” now worn by women; and it was customary to change the beard two or three times a day, just as the old gentleman already introduced to the reader used to change his wig. So absurd was the excess to which this whim was pushed, that Don Pedro, king of Aragon, issued an edict in the year 1351 against wearing false beards.
It seems to have been easy, in the old times, to get up a fashion for beards in France. We read that, in 1599, as the Marchal de Beaumanoir was hunting in the forests of Maine, some of his chasseurs brought to him a man whom they had found sleeping in a thicket. This singular being had two horns like those of a ram growing upon his forehead. His head was quite destitute of hair, but he had a large red beard, which grew in tufts or flakes, like that of a satyr; and the Parisians, who were much excited by the accounts that came in about him, immediately took to dressing their beards en flocons, a mode which prevailed for some time.
At various periods beards were regulated by law. In 1533, Francis I. issued an edict ordaining that Bohemians, Egyptians, and other persons of that sort should be arrested, shaved, and committed to the galleys. It is said that the Parliament of Toulouse forbade the wearing of beards, and that, when a certain gentleman, furnished with a very long one, brought some claims before that body, he was told that they could not be entertained until he had shaven his face clean. Indeed, so much controversy took place at this time regarding the beard, that the learned doctor Gentien Hervet wrote a discourse upon the subject, which was printed at Orleans in 1536. He divided his discourse into three sections. The first maintained that all men ought to allow their beards to grow; the second, that all men ought to shave their beards off; and the third, that every man should do just as he pleases about his beard. Twenty years later, beards were again much in vogue. They were worn in the swallow-tail cut now, and there were fan-tail beards to be seen also, as well as many other strange and grotesque devices in the arrangement of the facial hair. A great variety of unguents for the beard were also brought into use at this time, all of different colors and perfumes. The beard, at this period, was generally made up at night, and placed in a bag to prevent it from getting out of form. It became the proper thing now, in France, to carry a small brush for the purpose of arranging the mustache, an office which ladies would sometimes perform for their beaux, and great value was attached to a mustache that had been put in form for the wearer by some fair hand.
In those periods in which the mustache alone was worn, it varied in form at least as much as it does at the present day. Charlemagne, who was opposed to full beards, restored mustaches to favor; and the style then was to wear them very long, twisted to a point at either end, and drooping down to the chest. Charles le Chauve is represented with mustaches of this cut, and his reign has sometimes been called the reign of Moustaches a la Chinoise. Later still, the inconvenience of the long mustache gave rise to the fashion of cutting it short and trimming it to a square form; and in the reign of Louis le Jeune, about the year 149, it began to be worn short and bristly, somewhat like a brush. Thus it was that the Normans, at the beginning of the tenth century, used to dress their upper lips, the stubbly, brush-like mustache being considered by them a symbol of courage, as it also seems to be by the “roughs” of modern times.
At last, as the centuries rolled on, beards went out of fashion altogether in France. The extreme youth of Louis XI II., when he came to the throne, was a staggering blow to them; and even when his beard did begin to grow, he always had it shaved clean off. When Sully, who wore a flowing beard, came to the court of Louis, he was an object for the sneers and derision of the young courtiers, nettled at which, the old man said to the king, “When your father did me the honor to consult me upon important affairs of state, he always used to dismiss the merry-andrews and jack-puddings from the chamber.” But, to make amends for the loss of beards in this reign, fashion ordained that wonderful structures should be erected upon the human head. Hair-powder came into use now, and numerous topdressings arose in the way of periwigs and perukes of extravagant size. Thackeray, in his “Paris Sketch-Book,” I think, had a caricature showing the make-up of little Louis in one of these awful hair towers, which he wore to give him height. By and by, when Louis XIV. mounted the throne, beards fell into disrepute, the introduction of snuff tending to hasten their decline; and so, when the eighteenth century dawned, very few persons were to be seen with beards, — the last to wear them being the Capuchin friars.
Then a new era beamed out for the fashions in human hair. All through this century, and well on into the present one, hair-powder continued to be used by both sexes, its origin being traceable, probably, to the desire for concealing gray hair. Queues became the fashion among men. Sometimes these were made up in the form called “clubs,” which bore some resemblance to the chignons of to-day. There was a vast deal of time and trouble wasted upon these absurd appendages. Soldiers, in particular, had a hard time of it with their queues, which they were obliged to arrange with the greatest accuracy for every parade; and there still exists a reminiscence of the barbarism in one of the English fusileer regiments, the officers of which, when in full uniform, wear between their shoulders the broad black ribbon on which the queue of bygone days was wont to rest. Early in the present century all these fashions went gradually out of vogue. Women began to wear their hair in a simple coil behind, confining it with a high tortoise-shell comb, such as the “Yankee female” of the stage wears at the present day. Corkscrew ringlets were also in favor now. Men took to wearing their hair closely cropped, except on the top of the forehead, from which it was brushed up into a high peak called a “topping,”— a style which would be rather inconvenient with the low hats now so generally worn. The beard was tolerated on the cheeks only. In England, especially, the whiskers were trimmed to a form not unaptly likened to that of a mutton-chop; and there was a military regulation in force within a few years past, that the soldier, in shaving, was to draw his razor on an imaginary line running from the corner of the mouth to the but of the ear, and so downwards over the maxillary tracts to the chin and throat. In some of the armies of Continental Europe, at this period, cavalry soldiers wore heavy mustaches; but it was not until after the close of the Peninsular war that the style was adopted by English hussars.
Among the peasantry, mustaches were then looked upon with an awe that almost verged on superstition. It is related of the eldest son of Sir Walter Scott, then a gallant dragoon officer quartered with his regiment in Ireland, that the mail- coach, on the top of which he once happened to be traveling, was beset, in some small town, by a ragged host of beggars. One old harridan was so importunate for alms that Major Scott at last threw her a half-crown, a donation so unusually liberal for those parts that the beggarwoman exclaimed with effusion, “Ya, th’n, may Heaven bless yer honer, for it ‘s betther to us ye are nor the Christians!” The Major wore a tremendous mustache, twisted up at the ends nearly to the cheek-bones, and the woman probably took him for a Turk, or some other heretical monster from foreign parts.
Thirty or forty years ago, beards again began to be revived in France. For some time they were of revolutionary import, and, when associated with closely cropped heads, were apt to subject the wearer to the delicate attentions of the police. In England, at this time, civilians but seldom ventured on the mustache. It is wonderful how strong was the prejudice maintained against this accessory among the staid elderly gentlemen of the period. A man wearing a mustache was regarded by them as an adventurer at best, and possibly a swindler. Representative gentlemen of the Regency school, with high black stocks—over which their cheeks hung in jowls — and no shirt-collars, would tap their foreheads significantly when some young innovator with mustaches hove in sight, and say, with a wink, “Lodgings to let yonder,” —meaning that hair on the upper lip is a sign of unfurnished apartments in the head. To the young ladies, however, there has ever been something sweetly wicked in the twirl of a mustache, and that it was thus even in Tom Moore’s time is shown by that letter in the “Twopenny Post-Bag” wherein a young lady tells her bosom friend about a certain fascinating gentleman in Paris, — “With mustachios that give what we read of so oft,/ The dear corsair expression half savage, half soft.”
During many years of the past, and for some fifty of the present century, it seems to have been customary for Americans to shave off all the beard. Even the men of the mountains and plains — bunters, trappers, and guides —wore no beards, as a general thing, until within a few years past. A departure from this fashion began to appear soon after the discovery of gold in California, and there is little doubt that the picturesque appearance presented by miners returning from the “diggings” had much to do with the general introduction of mustaches and beards. In England these did not become general until after the Crimean war, during which struggle the razor was abandoned by the army, — infantry as well as cavalry adopting the full beard, which, with certain modifications, is still worn by them. Then civilians — slowly, however, and with sheepish reserve—began to let their mustaches grow. Innovation is a hard card to play in England. Bankers, in many instances, actually threatened their clerks with dismissal if they showed the slightest appearance of an incipient mustache, — and this was hardly ten years ago! Much was written upon the subject at this time, and at last the medical faculty entered the lists, in defence of beards. Instances were adduced by them, showing the value of the appendage in a sanitary point of view. The stone-masons of Edinburgh and Glasgow had long been subject to pulmonary diseases induced by the fine dust inhaled by them during their work; but the doctors advised them to let their beards grow, and there were fewer complaints thereafter about their lungs. At last the fogies who objected to the beard began to think that there “must be something in it,” and some among them would pluck up sufficient moral courage to drop the razor for a day or two. These daring spirits kept well in the dark, however. They would retire to remote corners of the country for a week or a month, to conceal the mauvais honte experienced by them under the stigma of growing a mustache. If they chanced to be stumbled on by an acquaintance, then they would pretend to blow their noses, so that the pocket-handkerchief might screen their folly from his inquiring gaze. It was very slow work, to be sure, getting people to separate the idea of folly, or of criminality, from the fact of wearing hair upon the lip. Says one fogy to another, in my hearing, once, "Only think of an attorney with a mustache" to which says the other, “You did n't employ him, I hope!” But they all came to it, at last. I remember, not many years ago, a lawyer, of the priggish stamp, pointing to his mouth, and saying to an acquaintance whom he had not seen for some time previously, and who had grown a mustache in the interval, " 0, I see you have been weak enough!" About two years afterwards the lawyer, then wearing a very full mustache, and a very red one too, met the same acquaintance, who gave him the retort justifiable with, "0, I see you have been weak enough!" and a significant jerk of his thumb.
Nowadays no man is martyred for his heresy on the subject of the razor. The fruit of old Gentien Hervet's discourse is fully ripe today, and every man does exactly as he pleases with regard to his beard. We have it of all sorts and sizes, now. Here we see a "swell" barbed after the drooping fashion known here as " English whiskers," but cherished by the London cockneys as " Piccadilly weepers." There goes a business person with beard as forked as the lightning, and almost as fiery; and by him there shoulders a professional bully, with short, blueblack mustaches nestling closely under his puggy nose. And lo! to crown all, here comes somebody's grandfather, looking like an arctic owl in the whiteness of his thick, puffy beard, a worthy old gentleman, who, twentyfive years ago, would have disinherited a son for letting twelve hairs have their wicked way upon his upper lip!
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