Lowell

The Language of the Beard, circulated by The Torchbearer Society of London in 1913, was a sort of precursor of bear appreciation. So was its author's Poets Ranked by Beard Weight. Gilbert Alter-Gilbert writes:

Typifying a once-popular, but nowadays seldom-encountered species of turn-of-the-century ephemera, Poets Ranked by Beard Weight has become a rarity much prized by bibliophiles, and one that still stands out as a particular curiosity among the many colorful curiosities of the period. Its author, one Upton Uxbridge Underwood (1881 – 1937), was a deipnosophist, clubman, and literary miscellanist with a special interest in tonsorial subjects. His masterpiece, The Language of the Beard, an epicurean treat confected for the delectation of fellow bon vivants, vaunts the premise that the texture, contours, and growth patterns of a man's beard indicate personality traits, aptitudes, and strengths and weaknesses of character...

[Author Upton Uxbridge Underwood] applies a grading system structured as a sliding scale he has unassumingly named the Underwood Pogonometric Index. This admirable instrument of scientific classification gauges the presence and projection of a "galvanic imponderable" Underwood calls poetic gravity -- an intangible property which results from the aesthetic "charge" of the beard itself rather than from any intrinsic ability or merit attaching to the wearer in question or to his literary productions.

See how three of The Atlantic Monthly's founders -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, and James Russell Lowell -- size up.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.