When I was last with my Friend Sir ROGER in Westminster-Abby, I observed that he stood longer than ordinary before the Bust of a venerable old Man. I was at a loss to guess the Reason of it, when after some time he pointed to the Figure, and asked me if I did not think that our Fore-fathers looked much wiser in their Beards than we do without them? For my part, says he, when I am walking in my Gallery in the Country, and see my Ancestors, who many of them died before they were of my Age, I cannot forbear regarding them as so many old Patriarchs, and at the same time looking upon myself as an idle Smock-fac'd young Fellow. I love to see your Abrahams, your Isaacs, and your Jacob's, as we have them in old Pieces of Tapestry, with Beards below their Girdles, that cover half the Hangings. The Knight added, if I would recommend Beards in one of my Papers, and endeavour to restore human Faces to their Ancient Dignity, that upon a Months warning he would undertake to lead up the Fashion himself in a pair of Whiskers.
I smiled at my Friends Fancy; but after we parted, could not forbear reflecting on the Metamorphoses our Faces have undergone in this Particular.
The Beard, conformable to the Notion of my Friend Sir ROGER, was for many Ages look'd upon as the Type of Wisdom. Lucian more than once rallies the Philosophers of his Time, who endeavour'd to rival one another in Beard; and represents a learned Man who stood for a Professorship in Philosophy, as unqualify'd for it by the Shortness of his Beard.
Ælian, in his Account of Zoilus, the pretended Critick, 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 suffer'd to grow, might have drawn away the Nourishment from his Chin, and by that means have starved his Beard.
I have read somewhere that one of the Popes refus'd to accept an Edition of a Saints Works, which were presented to him, because the Saint in his Effigies before the Book, was drawn without a Beard.
We see by these Instances what Homage the World has formerly paid to Beards; and that a Barber was not then allow'd to make those Depredations on the Faces of the Learned, which have been permitted him of later Years.
Accordingly several wise Nations have been so extremely Jealous of the least Ruffle offer'd to their Beard, that they seem to have fixed the Point of Honour principally in that Part. The Spaniards were wonderfully tender in this Particular.
Don Quevedo, in his third Vision on the Last Judgment, has carry'd the Humour very far, when he tells us that one of his vain-glorious Countrymen, after having receiv'd Sentence, was taken into custody by a couple of evil Spirits; but that his Guides happening to disorder his Mustachoes, they were forced to recompose them with a Pair of Curling-irons before they could get him to file off.
If we look into the History of our own Nation, we shall find that the Beard flourish'd in the Saxon Heptarchy, but was very much discourag'd 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 Poole, and Bishop Gardiner; tho at the same time, I think it may be question'd, 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.
I find but few Beards worth taking notice of in the Reign of King James the First.
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:
His tawny Beard was th' equal Grace Both of his Wisdom, and his Face; In Cut and Dye so like a Tyle, A sudden View it would beguile: The upper Part thereof was Whey, The nether Orange mixt with Grey.
The Whisker continu'd for some time among us after the Expiration of Beards; but this is a Subject which I shall not here enter upon, having discussed it at large in a distinct Treatise, which I keep by me in Manuscript, upon the Mustachoe.
If my Friend Sir ROGERS Project, of introducing Beards, should take effect, I fear the Luxury of the present Age would make it a very expensive Fashion. There is no question but the Beaux would soon provide themselves with false ones of the lightest Colours, and the most immoderate Lengths. A fair Beard, of the Tapestry-Size Sir ROGER seems to approve, could not come under twenty Guineas. The famous Golden Beard of Æsculapius would hardly be more valuable than one made in the Extravagance of the Fashion.
Besides, we are not certain that the Ladies would not come into the Mode, when they take the Air on Horse-back. They already appear in Hats and Feathers, Coats and Perriwigs; and I see no reason why we should not suppose that they would have their Riding-Beards on the same Occasion.
I may give the Moral of this Discourse, in another Paper,
X.Translation of motto: