1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Beard

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BEARD (A.S. beard, O. H. and Mod. Ger. Bart, Dan. baard, Icel. bar, rim, edge, beak of a ship, &c., O. Slav, barda, Russ. barodá. Cf. Welsh barf, Lat. barba, though, according to the New English Dictionary, the connexion is for phonetic reasons doubtful). Modern usage applies this word to the hair grown upon a man’s chin and cheek. When the chin is shaven, what remains upon the cheeks is called whiskers. “Moustache” or “moustaches” describes the hair upon the upper lip. But the words have in the past had less exact meaning. Beard has stood alone for all these things, and whisker has in its time signified what we now call moustache, as in the case of Robinson Crusoe’s great pair of “Turkish whiskers.”

The bearded races of mankind have ever held the beard in high honour. It is the sign of full manhood; the lad or the eunuch is beardless, and the bearded woman is reckoned a witch, a loathsome thing to all ages. Also the beard shrinks from the profane hand; a tug at the beard is sudden pain and dishonour. The Roman senator sat like a carven thing until the wondering Goth touched his long beard; but then he struck, although he died for the blow. The future King John gave deadly offence to the native chieftains, when visiting Ireland in 1185, by plucking at their flowing beards.

David’s ambassadors had their beards despitefully shaven by a bold heathen. Their own king mercifully covered their shame—“Tarry ye at Jericho until your beards be grown”—but war answered the insult. The oath on the beard is as old as history, and we have an echo of it in the first English political ballad when Sir Simon de Montfort swears “by his chin” revenge on Warenne.

Adam, our first father, was by tradition created with a beard: Zeus Allfather is bearded, and the old painters and carvers who hardily pictured the first person of the Trinity gave Him the long beard of his fatherhood. The race-fathers have it and the ancient heroes. Abraham and Agamemnon, Woden and King Arthur and Charlemagne, must all be bearded in our pictures. With the Mahommedan peoples the beard as worn by an unshaven prophet has ever been in high renown, the more so that amongst most of the conquering tribes who first acknowledged the unity of God and prophethood of Mahomet it grows freely. But before Mahomet’s day, kings of Persia had plaited their sacred beards with golden thread, and the lords of Nineveh had curiously curled and oiled beards such as their winged bull wears. Bohadin tells us that Saladin’s little son wept for terror when he saw the crusaders’ envoys “with their clean-shaven chins.” Selim I. (1512–1521) comes down as a Turkish sultan who broke into holy custom and cut off his beard, telling a remonstrating Mufti that his vizier should now have nothing to lead him by. But such tampering with tradition has its dangers, and the absolute rule of Peter the Great is made clear when we know that he taxed Russian beards and shaved his own, and yet died in his bed. Alexander the Great did as much and more with his well-drilled Macedonians, and was obeyed when he bade them shave off the handle by which an enemy could seize them.

With other traditions of their feudal age, the Japanese nation has broken with its ancient custom of the razor, and their emperor has beard and moustache; a short moustache is common amongst Japanese officers and statesmen, and generals and admirals of Nippon follow the imperial example. The Nearer East also is abandoning the full beard, even in Mahommedan lands. Earlier shahs of the Kajar house have glorious beards below their girdles, but Náṣiru’d-Dín and his successor have shaved their chins. In later years the sultan of Turkey has added a beard to his moustache; the khedive of Egypt, son of a bearded father, has a soldier’s moustache only. In Europe the great Russian people is faithful to the beard, Peter’s law being forgotten. The tsar Alexander III.’s beard might have satisfied Ivan the Terrible, whose hands played delightedly with the five-foot beard of Queen Elizabeth’s agent George Killingworth. Indeed the royal houses of Europe are for the most part bearded or whiskered. It may be that the race of Olivier le Dain, of the man who can be trusted with a sharp razor near a crowned king’s throat, is extinct. Leopold II., king of the Belgians, however, was in 1909 the only sovereign with the full beard unclipped. The Austrian emperor, Francis Joseph, retained the moustache and whiskers of the ’sixties, and the German emperor, William II., for a short period, commemorated by a few very rare photographs, had a beard, although it was never suffered to reach the length of that beard which gave his father an air of Charlemagne or Barbarossa. In France bearded presidents have followed each other, but it may be noted that the waxed moustache and “imperial” beard of the Second Empire is now all but abandoned to the Frenchman of English comedy. The modern English fashion of shaving clean is rare in France save among actors, and during 1907 many Parisian waiters struck against the rule which forbade them to grow the moustache.

For the most part the clergy of the Roman obedience shave clean, as have done the popes for two centuries and more. But missionary bishops cultivate the long beard with some pride, and the orders have varying customs, the Dominican shaving and the Franciscan allowing the hair to grow. The Roman Catholic clergy of Dalmatia, secular and regular, are allowed to wear the moustache without beard or whiskers, as a concession to national prejudices.

Amongst English people, always ready to be swayed by fashion, the hair of the face has been, age by age, cherished or shaved away, curled or clipped into a hundred devices. Before the immigration from Sleswick the Briton knew the use of the razor, sometimes shaving his chin, but leaving the moustaches long. The old English also wore moustaches and forked beards, but, save for aged men, the beard had passed out of fashion before the Norman Conquest. Thus, in the Bayeux needlework, Edward the king is venerable with a long beard, but Harold and his younger fighting men have their chins reaped. “The English,” says William of Malmesbury, “leave the upper lip unshaven, suffering the hair continually to increase,” and to Harold’s spies the Conqueror’s knights, who had “the whole face with both lips shaven,” were strange and priest-like. Matthew Paris had a strange idea that the beard was distinctive of Englishmen; he asserts that those who remained in England were compelled to shave their beards, while the native nobles who went into exile kept their beards and flowing locks “like the Easterns and especially the Trojans.” He even believed that “William with the beard,” who headed a rising in London under Richard I., came of a stock which had scorned to shave, out of hatred for the Normans, a statement which Thierry developed.

The Chanson de Roland shows us “the pride of France” as “that good bearded folk,” with their beards hanging over coats of mail, and it makes the great emperor swear to Naimes by his beard. It was only about the year 1000, according to Rodolf Glaber, that men began in the north of France to wear short hair and shave “like actors”; and even in the Bayeux tapestry the old Norman shipwrights wear the beard. But so rare was hair on the face amongst the Norman invaders that William, the forefather of the Percys, was known in his lifetime and remembered after his death as William “Asgernuns” or “Oht les gernuns,” i.e. “William with the moustaches,” the epithet revived by one of his descendants making our modern name of Algernon. Count Eustace of Boulogne was similarly distinguished. Fashion swung about after the Conquest, and, in the day of Henry I., Serle the bishop could compare bearded men of the Norman-English court with “filthy goats and bristly Saracens.” The crusades, perhaps, were accountable for the beards which were oddly denounced as effeminate in the young courtiers of William Rufus. Not only the Greeks but the Latins in the East sometimes adopted the Saracen fashion, and the siege of Antioch (1098) was as unfavourable to the use of the razor as that of Sevastopol. When the Latins stormed the town by night, bearded knights owed their death to the assumption that every Christian would be a shaven man. But for more than four centuries diversity is allowed, beards, moustaches and shaven faces being found side by side, although now and again one fashion or another comes uppermost to be followed by those nice in such matters. Henry II. is a close-shaven king, and Richard II.’s effigy shows but a little tuft on each side of the chin, tufts which are two curled locks on the chin of Henry IV. But Henry III. is long-bearded, Edward II. curls his beard in three great ringlets, and the third Edward’s long forked beard flows down his breast in patriarchal style. The mid-13th century, as seen in the drawings attributed to Matthew Paris, is an age of many full and curled beards, although the region about the lips is sometimes clipped or shaved. The beard is common in the 14th century, the forked pattern being favoured and the long drooping moustache. Amongst those who ride with him to Canterbury, Chaucer, a bearded poet, notes the merchant’s “forked beard,” the white beard of the franklin and the red beard of the miller, but the reeve’s beard is “shave as ny as ever he can.” Henry of Monmouth and his son are shaven, and thereafter beards are rare save with a few old folk until they come slowly back with the 16th century. In Ireland the statute enacted by a parliament at Trim in 1447 recited that no manner of man who will be taken for an Englishman should have beard above his mouth—the upper lip must be shaven at least every fortnight or be of equal growth with the nether lip,—and this statute remained unrepealed for nigh upon two hundred years. Henry VIII., always a law to himself, brought back the beard to favour, Stowe’s annals giving 1535 as the year in which he caused his beard “to be knotted and no more shaven,” his hair being polled at the same time. Many portraits give his fashion of wearing a thin moustache, whose ends met a short and squarely trimmed beard parted at the chin, a fashion in which he was followed by his brother-in-law Charles Brandon. But it is remarkable that those about him rarely imitated their most dread sovereign. While Cromwell and Howard the Admiral go clean shaven, the Seymour brothers, Denny and Russell, have the beard long and flowing. Even the forty shilling a year man, says Hooper in 1548, will waste his morning time while he sets his beard in order. About this time the clergy began to break with the long tradition of smooth faces. A priest in 1531 is commanded to abstain from wearing a beard, and Cardinal Pole, coming from the court of a bearded pope, appears bearded like a Greek patriarch. The law too, the church’s kinswoman, begins to forbid, a sign of the change, and from 1542 the society of Lincoln’s Inn makes rules for fining and expelling those who appear bearded at their mess, rules which the example of exalted lawyers caused to be withdrawn in 1560.

The age of Elizabeth saw lawyers, soldiers, courtiers and merchants all bearded. Her Cecils, Greshams, Raleighs, Drakes, Dudleys and Walsinghams have the beard. A shaven chin such as that seen in the portrait of Philip Howard, earl of Arundel, is rare, but the beards take a hundred fashions, and satirists and Puritan pamphleteers were busy with them and with the men who wasted hours in perfuming or starching them, in dusting them with orris powder, in curling them with irons and quills. Stubbs gives them a place amongst his abuses. “It is a world to consider how their mowchatowes must be preserved or laid out from one cheek to another and turned up like two horns towards the forehead.” Of the English variety of beards Harrison has a good word: “beards of which some are shaven from the chin like those of Turks, not a few cut short like to the beard of Marquess Otto, some made round like a rubbing brush, others with a pique de vant (O! fine fashion) or now and then suffered to grow long, the barbers being grown to be so cunning in this behalf as the tailors. And therefore if a man have a lean and straight face, a Marquess Otto’s cut will make it broad and large; if it be platter-like, a long slender beard will make it seem the narrower; if he be weasel-becked, then much hair left on the cheeks will make the owner look big like a bowdled hen, and as grim as a goose, if Cornelis of Chelmersford say true.” Nevertheless he adds that “many old men do wear no beards at all.” The Elizabethan fashions continued under King James, the beard trimmed to a point being common wear; but under King Charles there is a certain reaction, and the royal style of shaving the cheeks and leaving the moustache whose points sweep upward and the chin beard like a downward flame is followed by most of the gentry. With some the beard disappears altogether or remains a mere fleck below the lip. Archbishop Laud has a cavalier-like chin tuft and upturned moustache, but Abbot his predecessor wore the spade beard, the “cathedral beard” of Randle Holme, seen in all its dignity on the Chigwell brass of Samuel Harsnett, archbishop of York (died 1631), a grim figure with his angry moustache and a long and broad beard, cut square at the bottom.

From the Restoration year the razor comes more into use. Young men shave clean. The restored king curls a few dark hairs of a moustache over each cheek, but his brother James is shaven. With the reign of Queen Anne the country enters the beardless age, and beards, moustaches and whiskers are no more seen. In the 18th century the moustache indicated a soldier from beyond sea. A Jew or a Turk was known by the beard, an appendage loathsome as comic. Matthew Robinson, the second Lord Rokeby, was indeed wearing a beard in 1798, but he was reckoned a madman therefor, and Phillips’s Public Character pictures him as “the only peer and perhaps the only gentleman of either Great Britain or Ireland who is thus distinguished.” That George III. in his madness should have been left unshaved was a circumstance of his misery that wrung the hearts of all loyal folk. But in the very year of 1798, when Lord Rokeby’s image was engraved for the curious, the Worcestershire militia officers quartered near Brighton were copying the Austrian moustache of the foreign troops, and we may note that the hair of the face, which disappeared when wigs came in, began to reappear as wigs went out. Early in the 19th century the bucks began to show a patch of whisker beside the ear, and the soldier’s moustache became a common sight. Before Waterloo, guardsmen were complaining that officers of humbler regiments imitated their fashion of the moustache, and by the Waterloo year most young cavalry officers were moustached. The Horse Artillery were the next moustached corps, the rest of the army, already whiskered, following their example in the ’fifties. But for a civilian to grow a moustache was long reckoned a piece of unseemly swagger. Clive Newcome, it will be remembered, wore one until the taunting question whether he was “going in the Guards” shamed him into shaving clean. When in 1840 Mr George Frederick Muntz appeared in parliament with a full beard there were those who felt that this tall Radical had taken his own strange method of insulting English parliamentary institutions. James Ward, R.A. (d. 1859), painter of animals, was another breaker of the unwritten law, defending his beard in a pamphlet of eighteen arguments as a thing pleasing at once to the artist and to his Creator. Freedom in these matters only came when the troops were home from the Crimea, when officers who had grown beards and acquired the taste for tobacco during the long months in the trenches showed their beards and their cigars in Piccadilly. Then came the Volunteer movement, and every man was a soldier, taking a soldier’s licence. The dominant fashion was the moustache, worn with long and drooping whiskers. But the “Piccadilly weepers” of the ’sixties were out of the mode for the younger men when the ’eighties began, and by the end of the century whiskers were seen in the army only upon a few veteran officers. The fashion of clean shaving had made some way, the popularity of the shaven actor having a part in this. In 1909 all modes of dealing with the hair of the face might be recognized, but the full beard had become somewhat rare in England and the full whiskers rarer still. The upper class showed an inclination to shave clean, although the army grudgingly recognized a rule which ordered the moustache to be worn. Naval men, by regulation, shaved or wore both beard and moustache, but their beards were always trimmed. Most barristers shaved the lips, although the last judge unable to hear an advocate whose voice a moustache interrupted had left the bench. Clergymen followed the lay fashions as they did under the first Stuart kings, although there was still some prejudice against the moustache as an ornament military and inappropriate. A newspaper of 1857, describing the appearance of Livingstone the missionary at a Mansion House meeting, records that he came wearing a moustache, “braving the prejudices of his countrymen and thus evincing a courage only inferior to that exhibited by him amongst the savages of Central Africa.” Even as late as 1884 the Pall Mall Gazette has some surprised comments on the beard of Bishop Ryle, newly consecrated to the see of Liverpool.

The footman, whose full-dress livery is the court dress of a hundred years ago, must show no more than the rudimentary whisker of the early eighteen-hundreds, and butler, coachman and groom come under the same rule. The jockey and the hunt whip are shaven likewise, but the courier has the whiskers and moustache that once marked him as a foreigner in the English milor’s service, and the chauffeur, a servant with no tradition behind him, is often moustached.

Lastly, we may speak of the practice of the royal house since England came out of the beardless century. The regent took the new fashion, and sat “in whiskered state,” but his brother and successor shaved clean and disliked even the hussar’s moustache. The prince consort wore the moustache as a young man, adding whiskers in later years. King Edward VII. wore moustache and trimmed beard, and his heir apparent also followed the fashion of many fellow admirals.  (O. Ba.)