S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
The beard, conformable to the notion of my friend Sir Roger, was for many ages looked upon as the type of wisdom. Lucian more than once rallies the philosophers of his time, who endeavoured to rival one another in beards; and represents a learned man who stood for a professorship in philosophy, as unqualified for it by the shortness of his beard.
Ælian, in his account of Zoilus, the pretended critic, who wrote against Homer and Plato, and thought himself wiser than all who had gone before him, tells us that this Zoilus had a very long beard that hung down upon his breast, but no hair upon his head, which he always kept close shaved, regarding, it seems, the hairs of his head as so many suckers, which, if they had been suffered to grow, might have drawn away the nourishment from his chin, and by that means have starved his beard.
We see by these instances what homage the world has formerly paid to beards; and that a barber was not then allowed to make those depredations on the faces of the learned which have been permitted him of late years.
If we look into the history of our own nation, we shall find that the beard flourished in the Saxon heptarchy, but was very much discouraged under the Norman line. It shot out, however, from time to time, in several reigns under different shapes. The last effort it made seems to have been in Queen Marys days, as the curious reader may find, if he pleases to peruse the figures of Cardinal Pole and Bishop Gardiner; though, at the same time, I think it may be questioned, if zeal against popery has not induced our Protestant painters to extend the beards of these two persecutors beyond their natural dimensions, in order to make them appear the more terrible.
During the civil wars there appeared one, which makes too great a figure in story to be passed over in silence; I mean that of the redoubted Hudibras, an account of which Butler has transmitted to posterity in the following lines:
There is great truth in Alphonse Karrs remark that modern men are ugly because they dont wear their beards. Take a fine man of forty with a handsome round Medicean beard (not a pointed Jews beard); look at him well, so as to retain his portrait in your minds eye; and then shave him close, leaving him, perhaps, out of charity, a couple of mutton-chop whiskers, one on each cheek, and you will see the humiliating difference. And if you select an old man of seventy for your experiment, and convert a snowy-bearded head that might sit for a portrait in a historical picture, into a close-scraped weazen-faced visage, like an avaricious French peasant on his way to haggle for swine at a monthly franc-marché, the descent from the sublime to the ridiculous is still more painfully apparent.
During hundreds of years it was the custom in England to wear beards. It became, in course of time, one of our Insularities to shave close. Whereas, in almost all the other countries of Europe, more or less of moustache and beard was habitually worn, it came to be established in this speck of an island, as an Insularity from which there was no appeal, that an Englishman, whether he liked it or not, must hew, hack, and rasp his chin and upper lip daily. The inconvenience of this infallible test of British respectability was so widely felt, that fortunes were made by razors, razor-strops, hones, pastes, shaving-soaps, emollients for the soothing of the tortured skin, all sorts of contrivances to lessen the misery of the shaving process and diminish the amount of time it occupied.