1902 Encyclopedia > Beard


BEARD. The tradition that Adam was created with a beard (which may be described as bushy rather than flowing), is recorded on ancient monuments, and especially on an antique sarcophagus, which is one of the ornaments of the Vatican. The Jews, with the Orientals generally, seem to have accepted the tradition for a law. The beard was a cherished and a sacred thing. Israel brought it safe out of the bondage of universally shaven Egypt, and the beard was the outward and visible sign of a true man. To rudely touch his beard was to cruelly assail his dignity. Children and other kinsfolk might gently touch it as a sign of love; a fugitive might reverentially raise his hand to it when praying for succour; and he who put his hand on his own beard and swore by it bound himself by the most solemn of oaths, to violate which would render him infamous among his fellow-men. To touch the beard in the allegiance of love established peace and trustfulness between the two parties. When Joab went in to Amasa he took the beard, of the latter to kiss him, saying the while, " Art thou in health, my brother %" Therefore it was that Amasa took no heed of the sword in Joab's hand, which Joab at once thrust beneath the other's fifth rib. The Scriptures abound with examples of how the beard and its treatment interpreted the feelings, the joy, the sorrow, the pride, or the despondency of the wearer.

Although the Jews carried their beards with them from their bondage in Egypt, the Egyptians were not at all insensible of the significance of that appendage. They did not despise the type of manhood. Accordingly, on days of high festival they wore false beards, as assertions of their dignity in the scheme of creation, and they repre-sented their male deities with beards " tip-tilted" at the erMs. The general reader having laudable curiosity on this matter may be safely referred to the pages of Herodotus,—a writer who has much to say pertinently to the subject, and who, after being maligned as the second father of lies, is now praised for his modesty, and relied on for his trustworthiness.

The modern Mahometans, especially those who have most come in contact with Europeans, have a good deal fallen away from old conservative ideas respecting the beard. Once, this glorious excrescence, as it was held to be, was made, by the followers of Islam, a help to salvation. The hairs which came from it in combing were preserved, broken in two, and then buried. The breaking was a sort of stipulation with some angel who was supposed to be on the watch, and who would look to the safe passage of the consigners of the treasure into the paradise of never-failing sherbet and ever-blooming houris. The first sultan who broke through the orthodox oppression of beardedness was Selim I. (1512-20). This act was a violent shock to the whole body of the faithful, and especially of the Mufti. The very highest priest alone could dare to remonstrate with so absolute a monarch. Selim put aside the remonstrance with a joke. " I have cut off my beard," he said, " in order that my vizier may have nothing to lead me by!" But a crafty minister can find on the face of the most beardless and cruel of despots wherewithal to lead him in the way the minister would have him go. Still, the fact that the Prophet never let razor reap a harvest on his chin, for possession of the hairy produce of which all Islam would have fought with affectionate fury, long made, and still makes, the beard a part of religion. The sultan and the shah, chiefs of the two parties in their church, have pretty fair apologies for beards; but this is far below the bearded glories of the days before the Prophet, when the kings of Persia tied up their bearded plaits with gold thread, and the princes of Nineveh went abroad with beards curled and oiled, like the Assyrian bulls themselves. It has been said that in Asia wars have been proclaimed on alleged grievances connected with shaving. Tartars and Persians, and Chinese and Tartars, are reported to have resorted to sanguinary arbi-tration on the question of clipping or shaving. Paobably they who declared the war were as clever in finding a pretext as the more civilized aggressors of much later days.

If we turn to Europe and begin with classical times, having—
the wealth of Ormus and of Ind, Or where the gorgeous East, with richest hand, Showers on her kings barbaric pearl and gold,—

we may remember that the Greeks and Romans once styled as barbarians, or bearded, unshaven savages, all nations who were out of the pale of their own customs and religion. Nevertheless, the young Roman, anxious for beard and moustache, used to apply the household oil to his chin and cheeks, in order to bring thereon that incipient fringe which would entitle him to be called " barbatulus." The full-furnished man was " barbatus." It was not till the beard ceased to be universally worn, and Sicilian barbers set up in Rome (about 300 B.C.), that the Romans began to apply the word, translated "barbarous," to the rude men and manners of the early ages, and of the beard universal. But, after all, we may still see, in old counter-feit presentments, that the fashionable, clipped beard of young Roman " swells" in the last days of the Republic, and of some of the emperors from the /time of Hadrian, is not nearly so majestic as the flowing hair depending from the chin of Numa Pompilius. Nero offered some of the hair of his beard to Jupiter Capitolinus, who could ht^e furnished a dozen emperors from his own. Homer, VirgK, Pliny, Plutarch, Strabo, Diodorus, Juvenal, Persius, are among the writers who furnish material for a volume on beards. One Roman emperor, Julian, wrote a work on the subject, which is commonly supposed to be as fierce a denunciation against beards, as King James's Blast was against tobacco; but Julian in his Misopogon, or Enemy of the Beard, descants satirically " with pleasure and even with pride," says Gibbon, " on the length of his nails and the inky blackness of his hands, protests that although the greatest part of his body was covered with hair, the use of the razor was confined, to his head alone, and celebrated with visible complacency the shaggy and populous beard which he fondly cherished, after the example of the philosophers of Greece." Persius undoubtedly associated wisdom with the beard. He exhausted the whole vocabulary of praise when he designated Socrates by the term Magister Barbatus. In this, however, there is less wit than in the rejoinder of the young ambassa-dor to a king, who had expressed his wrath at having a beardless youth sent to him as an envoy. " If," said the latter, " my master had thought you would have laid so much account on a beard, he would have sent you a goat."

The most notable circumstance in the history of the beard among the Greeks is that of its abolition,—in the Macedonian army, at least, for strategic reasons. Alexander the Great abolished the beards of his soldiers, for the sufficient reason that they gave handles to their enemies whereby to lay hold of them. The Macedonian warriors probably obeyed with reluctance; but obedience was as much a matter of course as it was with the Ephori who, by Lacedaemonian law, had to undergo what seemed the ridiculous ceremony of being shaved, merely to show their ready obedience to legal enactment. As they were mortal men, it may bs supposed that acquisition of office was happy compensation for the loss of a beard.

Goth is equivalent for the older term of Barbarian. One is about as unjust in its application as the other. Gothic rudeness is often illustrated by the case of the " ugly rush" made by the northern warriors into the Capitol, where the conscript fathers sat in silence and fearlessness, waiting events. One of these unlettered soldiers lifted his hand to the beard of an old legislator, who, taking it for insult, smote the Goth to the ground. Let us do the Goth the justice of believing that, awed by the stern mute majesty of the senators, he raised his hand reverentially to the beard. At all events, the taking it with such prompt and painful action was dearly paid for in the swift retaliation which followed.

If the phrase be not too light for use, we would say that as beards existed before barbers, the Europeans, like all other people, were originally a bearded people. The beard is perhaps more general now in Germany than elsewhere in Europe; and Germany affords an example of the longest beard known, out of fairy story, in the person of the painter Johan Mayo, whose beard was so long that when he stood upright it still trailed on the ground; accordingly, he often doubled it up in his girdle. Germany knows him as John the Bearded, just as it does one of its emperors as Frederick Barbarossa; but many nations, ancient and modern, cau boast of men and monarchs who have been nicknamed from their beards.
When Peter the Great levied a tax on Russian beards, he was only following a precedent which once existed in. England. Noble chins were assessed at a rouble; your commoner chin at a copec. It caused commotion, and there was much compulsory shaving of those who did not pay. Beards are not now valued in Bussia. He who wears one seems to acknowledge that he has no very high place in the social scale. On the other hand, beards were highly treasured in Spain till the time of Philip V., who was unable to cultivate one. As was to be expected, this infirmity set the fashion of affecting the infirmity; but beardless dons were wont to exclaim with a sigh, " Since we have lost our beards, we have lost our souls I" Thus, they unconsciously adopted something akin to the superstition of the Roskolniki, a sect of schismatics who obstin-ately maintained that the divine image resided in the beard, Portugal was not behind Spain in appreciating the beard. When the Portuguese admiral, Juan de Castro, borrowed a thousand pistoles from the city of Goa, he lent in pledge one of his whiskers, ^saying, " All the gold in the world cannot equal this natural ornament of my valour." In these modern days one would not think much of the security of such a material guarantee, nor of the modesty of the admiral who might have the face to offer it.

As Spaniards denuded their chins because their king could not grow a beard, so the French grew beards, long after they had gone out of fashion, because their king found it necessary to do so. Francis the First, having wounded his chin, concealed the ugly scar by covering it with a beard; and all loyal chins forthwith affected to have scars to conceal. But when fashion and loyalty were united the beard was carefully tended. It was not as iu the time of the idle, helpless, and long haired kings, who were less potential than their chief officers, when the wild, dirty, and neglected beard was a type of that majesty, made up of shreds and patches, which used to be paraded before the people on a springless cart. Three hairs from a French king's beard under the waxen seal stamped on royal letter or charter, were supposed to add greater security for the fulfilment of all promises made in the document itself. In course of time fashion complimented majesty; a certain sort of moustache was called a " royale," and the little tuft beneath the lower lip was known by the term " imperials." As a rule, the French chin assumed the appearance of that of the king for the time being. The royal portrait reflects a general fashion from which only the disloyal or the indifferent departed. On the subject of shaving, Talleyrand once drew a fine distinction. Rogers asked him if Napoleon shaved himself. "Yes," replied the statesman; "one born to be a king has some one to shave him; but they who acquire kingdoms shave themselves." Tradition has exaggerated accounts of bearded prisoners in the Bastille, but there was an official there whose duty consisted in keeping the captives without beards. Some years before the Revolution the celebrated lawyer and political writer Linguet was incarcerated there. On the morning after his being locked up, an individual entered his room who announced himself as the barber of the Bastille. " Very well," said the sharp-witted Linguet, "as you are the barber of the Bastille—rasez-la."

Among the men of whom it was said of old that they would be known by their love for one another, the beard has been a cause of much fierce uncharitableness. The Greek Church, advocating the beard, and the Roman Church, denouncing it, were not more forgetful of ever-blessed charity than the Belgian Reformers, the close-shaven of whom wished the bearded members to be expelled as non-Christians. The tradition concerning the Master whom both proposed to follow was logically pleaded by the wearers of beards. As a general rule, in the earlier time, the man who wore his hair short and his beard long, was accounted as at least bearing the guise of respectability,— looking like a priestly personage. There is a series of medals of the popes at Naples, from Clement VII. (1523-34) to Alexander VIII. (1689-91). All these are bearded. Clement's beard is long and dark ; Alexander wears beard and moustaches. Perhaps Clement Giulio de' Medici set the fashion. Certain it is that a few years before, his kinsman, Giovanni de' Medici, Leo X. (1513-22), was always ciose-shaven, and beards were not to be seen on the chin of Leo's clerics and courtiers.

In the 13th century beards are said to have first come into fashion in England. If we may judge from the 15th century brasses in England, few men of distinction enough to be so commemorated wore beards. Hotspur's fop had his " chin new reaped." In the reign of Henry VIII. the fashion had so revived among lawyers that the authorities of Lincoln's Inn prohibited wearers of beards from sitting at the great table, unless they paid double commons; but in all probability this was before that sovereign ordered (1535) his courtiers to "poll their hair," and he let that crisp beard grow which is familiar to us all. Thence came a fiscal arrangement; beards were taxed, and the levy was graduated according to the condition of the wearer. In the Burghmote Book of Canterbury (quoted in Notes and Queries) there is the following entry:—" 2nd Ed. vi. The Sheriff of Canterbury and another paid their dues for wearing beards, 3s. 4d. and Is. 8d." In the next reign, and in the year 1555, Queen Mary sent four agents to Moscow ; all were bearded, but one of them, a certain George Killingworth, was especially distinguished by a beard 5 feet 2 inches long, at sight of which a smile crossed the grim features of Ivan the Terrible himself. George's beard was thick, broad, and yellow; and, after dinner, Ivan played with it, as with a favourite toy. Most of the Protestant martyrs were burnt in their beards. Sir Thomas More, on the other hand, put his out of the way, as he laid his head on the block, with the innocent joke so well known. Elizabeth introduced a new impost with regard to beards. Every beard of above a fortnight's growth was subject to a yearly tax of 3s. 4<L The rate was as heavy aa the law authorizing it was absurd. It was made in the first year of her reign, but it proved abortive. Fashion stamped it out, and men laughed in their beards at the idea of paying for them. The law was not enforced, and the Legislature left the heads of the people alone till much later times, when necessity and the costs of war put that tax on hair-powder which even now contributes a few thousands a year to the British Exchequer. The Vandyke beard, pointed (as Charles the First and the illustrious artist, with most cavaliers, wore it), was the most universally Worn for a time. Beaumont and Fletcher, in the Queen of Oorinth, make allusion, doubtless, to a fashion of wearing moustache and beard, common to the reign of the first James as well as that of Charles.

"His beard Which now he puts i' the posture of a T,— The Roman T. Your T beard is the fashion, And twofold doth express th' enamoured courtier As full as your fork-carving traveller."

John Taylor, the water-poet, notices the T beard, and mentions at least a score of the various ways of wearing beards in his time, not forgetting the contemporary proverb, " Beard natural, more hair than wit." Hudibras, in text and notes, affords numerous illustrations of this subject. The general idea that beards did not come back with the monarchy does not seem to be correct, if the old song (date 1660) is to be trusted—
" Now of beards there be such a company, Of fashions such a throng, That 'tis very hard to treat of the beard, Tho' it be never so long."

Soon after this time, however, the beard in England was everywhere kept down by the razor. At the close of last century the second Lord Rokeby (Mat. Robineau) endeavoured to restore the fashion. " His beard," says a contemporary, " forms one of the most conspicuous traits of his person." But too short a period had elapsed since Lord George Gordon, the hero of " the Riots," had turned Jew and let his beard grow, to allow of any favour being awarded to an appendage which seemed a type of infamy. To the literature of the beard a remarkable addition was made in the present century by James Ward, R.A., the celebrated animal painter. Mr Ward published a Defence of the Beard, on Scriptural grounds; he gave eighteen reasons why man was bound to grow a beard, unless he was indifferent as to offending the Creator and good taste; for the artist asserted Himself as much as the religious zealot, and the writer asked, " What would a Jupiter be without a beard 1 Who would countenance the idea of a shaved Christ!" Mr Ward had what the French call " the courage of his opinions," and wore a beard of the most Jupiter-like majesty. Mr Muntz, M.P. for Birmingham, followed the example, but it was not adopted by many others. A new champion, however, appeared in 1860, but on peculiar ground. " Theologos" expressed his views in the title-page of his work, namely,—Shaving: a breach of the Sabbath, and a hindrance to the spread of the Gospel. A carrying out of the views of the writer would lead to the full practice which prevailed among the Essenes, who never did on the Sabbath anything whatever that they wereintheregularhabit of doing on other days. "Theologos" points out that God gave the beard to man as a protection for his throat and chest; and, he adds, with the most amusing simplicity, " Were the beard in any other position its benefit and purpose might be doubted; but situated where it is, no physiologist will dare to deny its intention." Since this naive assertion was made, the beard, but not as a consequence, has grown into favour; and though not universal, it is at least general, and a familiar sight to us all.

There is a disagreeable branch of the subject, demanding only a passing word, namely, bearded women, hermaphroditic creatures, who have occasionally been found in all conditions of life, from princesses in " marble halls" to objects shown in exhibition-rooms or in vans at country fairs. —"You should be women,"
says Macbeth,

"And yet your beards forbid me to interpret That you are so."

Sir Hugh Evans expressed the suspicion which attached to a bearded woman, when he said of Falstaff, disguised as Mother Prat, " By yea and no, I think the 'oman is a witch

indeed; I like not when a 'oman has a great peard ; I spy a great peard under her muffler. " The detestation with which a bearded woman and a red-haired man were visited in France is almost savagely illustrated in the following old lines :—

" Homme roux et femme barbue, De trente pas loin le salue, Avecque trois pierres au poing, Pour t'en aider à ton besoing. " (j. DO.)

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