n. The hair that is commonly cut off by those who justly execrate the absurd Chinese custom of shaving the head.


Jeffries, examining an old fellow with a long beard, told him, he supposed he had a conscience quite as long as that natural ornament of his visage. “Does your lordship measure consciences by beards?” said the man; “that is strange, seeing you are yourself shaven.”

Taxing the Beard


eards, in some instances, were taxed in bygone England, but not to the same extent as in Russia, which had numerous singular laws in force for nearly sixty years. In nearly all parts of Europe, by the commencement of the eighteenth century, the custom of wearing beards had been given up. Peter the Great was wishful that his subjects should conform to the prevailing fashion. In 1705 he imposed a tax upon all those who wore either a beard or a moustache, varying from thirty to one hundred roubles per annum. It was fixed according to the rank of the taxpayer. A peasant, for instance, was only required to pay two dengops, equal to one copeck, whenever he passed through the gate of a town. This tax gave rise to much discontent, and in enforcing it the utmost vigilance had to be exercised to prevent an outbreak in the country. Notwithstanding this, the law was, in 1714, put into operation in St Petersburg, which had previously been exempt. In 1722 it was ordered that all who retained their beards should wear a particular dress and pay fifty roubles annually. If a man would not shave, and was unable to pay, he was sentenced to hard labour. This law was extended to the provinces, but in 1723 peasants bringing produce into towns were wholly relieved from this tax. Peter passed away in 1725, and Catherine I. confirmed all the edicts relating to the beard in the ukase dated 4th August 1726.

A decree was issued by Peter II. in 1728 permitting peasants employed in agriculture to wear their beards. Fifty roubles had to be paid by all other persons, and the tax was rigidly enforced. The Empress Anne took a firm attitude against the beard. In 1731 she promulgated a ukase by which all persons not engaged in husbandry retaining their beards were entered in the class of Raskolnicks, in addition to paying the beard tax of fifty roubles, double the amount of all other taxes.

In 1743 the Empress Elizabeth confirmed the existing decrees in all their force. Peter III., on his accession to the throne in 1762, intended to strengthen the laws of his predecessors, and prepared some stringent measures; but his sudden death prevented them from being put into force. His widow, Catherine II. (1762), did not share his feelings in this matter, and immediately on obtaining sovereign power she removed every restriction relating to the beard. She invited the Raskolnicks, who had fled from the country to avoid the objectionable edicts, to return, and assigned land to them for their settlement.

Russian Beard Token, A.D. 1705.

Russian Beard Token, a.d. 1705.

During thirty-eight years in Russia, the beard-token or Borodoráia (the bearded), as it was called, was in use. As we write we have one of these tokens before us, and on one side are represented a nose, mouth, moustaches, and a large flowing beard, with the inscription "dinge vsatia," which means "money received"; the reverse bears the year in Russian characters (equivalent to "1705 year"), and the black eagle of the empire.

Our facts are mainly drawn from a paper by Mr Walter Hawkins in the "Numismatic Chronicle," volume vii., 1845. He says that beard-tokens are rare, and he thinks that the national aversion to their origin probably caused their destruction or dispersion after they had served their purpose for the year.

Bygone Beards


he history of the beard presents many items of interest connected with our own and other countries. Its importance belongs more to the past than to the present, but even to-day its lore is of a curious character. We find in Leviticus xiii. 29, the earliest mention of our theme, where Moses gives directions for the treatment of a plague in the beard, and a little later he forbids the Israelites to "mar the corners" of it. David, himself bearded, tells us that Aaron possessed one going down to the skirts of his garments. In David's reign ambassadors were sent to the King of Ammon, who, treating them as spies, cut off half of each of their beards. We are told that they were greatly ashamed, and David sent out to meet them, saying, "Tarry at Jericho until your beards be grown, and then return." To shave off the beard was considered by the Jews as a mark of the deepest grief.

Bayeux Tapestry.

Bayeux Tapestry.
The above picture, showing two soldiers of William the Conqueror's army, is taken from the celebrated Bayeux tapestry.

To turn to the annals of our own land, we find that the ancient Britons did not cultivate the beard. The Saxons wore the hair of the head long, and upon the upper lip, but the chin was clean shaven. Harold, in his progress towards the fateful field of Hastings, sent spies in advance to obtain an idea as to the strength of the enemy. On their return they stated among other things that "the host did almost seem to be priests, because they had all their face and both their lips shaven," a statement borne out by the representations of the Norman soldiers in the Bayeux tapestry. It is recorded that when the haughty victors had divided the broad lands of England among themselves, and when the Englishmen had been made to feel that they were a subdued and broken nation, the conquered people still kept up the old fashion of growing their hair long, so that they might resemble as little as possible their cropped and shaven masters.

Julius II., who ascended the Papal throne in 1503, was the first Pope to allow his beard to grow, "in order," as he said, "to inspire the greater respect among the faithful." A curious custom of the Middle Ages was that of imbedding three hairs from the king's beard in the wax of the seal, in order to give greater solemnity to the document. Another instance of the value placed on this adornment of nature by some nations comes to us in the story of the Eastern potentate to whom the King of England had sent a man without a beard as his ambassador. The Eastern monarch flew into a passion when the beardless visitor was presented. "Had my master measured wisdom by the beard," was the ready retort, "he would have sent a goat."

It is said that beards came into fashion in England in the thirteenth century, but by the nineteenth century they seem to have been given up by those holding leading positions in the land. Traces of beards do not appear on monumental brasses. A revival of the practice of wearing the beard occurred in the reign of Henry VIII., and in some quarters attempts were made to repress it. The authorities at Lincoln's Inn prohibited lawyers wearing beards from sitting at the great table, unless they paid double commons; but it is highly probable that this was before 1535, when the king ordered his courtiers to "poll their hair," and permit the crisp beard to grow. Taxing beards followed, and the amount was graduated according to the condition of the person wearing this hirsute adornment. An entry has often been reproduced from the Burghmote Book of Canterbury, made in the second year of the reign of Edward VI., to the effect that the Sheriff of Canterbury and another paid their dues for wearing beards, 3s. 4d. and 1s. 8d. During the next reign, Queen Mary does not appear to have meddled with the beard. She sent four agents to Moscow, and all were bearded; one of the number, George Killingworth, had an unusually long one, measureing 5ft. 2in. in length, the sight of which caused a smile to light up the face of Ivan the Terrible. It is described as a thick, broad, and yellow beard, and we are told that Ivan played with it after dinner as if it were a new toy. When Sir Thomas More laid his head on the block he carefully put his beard aside, saying, "It hath done no treason." John Knox (born 1505 and died 1572), the famous Scottish reformer, whose name figures so largely in the religious annals of his country, was remarkable for the length of his beard. The Rev. John More was a native of Yorkshire, and after being educated at Cambridge settled at Norwich. He was one of the worthiest clergymen in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and gained the name of "the Apostle of Norwich." His beard was the largest and longest of any Englishman of his time. He used to give as his reason for wearing his beard of unusual size "that no act of his life might be unworthy of the gravity of his appearance." He died at Norwich in 1592.

John Knox, born 1505, died 1572.

John Knox, born 1505, died 1572.

John Taylor, the Water Poet, born 1580, died 1654.

John Taylor, the
Water Poet, born
1580, died 1654.

In the first year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth an attempt was made to add to the revenue by taxing at the rate of 3s. 4d. every beard of above a fortnight's growth. It was an abortive measure, and was not taken seriously. It was never enforced, and people laughed at the Legislature for attempting to raise money by means of the beard. In Elizabeth's reign it was considered a mark of fashion to dye the beard and to cut it into a variety of shapes. In the reigns of the first James and the first Charles these forms attracted not a little attention from the poets of the period. The rugged lines of Taylor, "the Water Poet," are among the best known, and if not of great poetical merit, they show considerable descriptive skill, and enable us to realise the fashions of his day. In his "Superbiæ Flagellum," he describes a great variety of beards in his time, but omitted his own, which is that of a screw:—

"Now a few lines to paper I will put,

Of men's beards strange, and variable cut,

In which there's some that take as vain a pride

As almost in all other things beside;

Some are reap'd most substantial like a brush,

Which makes a nat'rel wit known by the bush;

And in my time of some men I have heard,

Whose wisdom have been only wealth and Beard;

Many of these the proverb well doth fit,

Which says, bush natural, more hair than wit:

Some seem, as they were starched stiff and fine,

Like to the bristles of some angry swine;

And some to set their love's desire on edge,

Are cut and prun'd like a quickset hedge;

Some like a spade, some like a fork, some square,

Some round, some mow'd like stubble, some stark bare;

Some sharp, stiletto fashion, dagger-like,

That may with whisp'ring, a man's eyes outpike;

Some with the hammer cut, or roman T,

Their Beards extravagant, reform'd must be;

Some with the quadrate, some triangle fashion,

Some circular, some oval in translation;

Some perpendicular in longitude;

Some like a thicket for their crassitude;

That heights, depths, breadths, triform, square, oval, round,

And rules geometrical in Beards are found."

Lord Mayor of York escorting Princess Margaret through
York in 1503. Shows the Beard of the Lord Mayor.

Lord Mayor of York escorting Princess Margaret through York in 1503. Shows the Beard of the Lord Mayor.

Some curious lines appear in "Satirical Songs and Poems on Costume," edited by Frederick W. Fairholt, F.S.A., printed for the Percy Society, 1849. The piece which is entitled "The Ballad of the Beard," is reprinted from a collection of poems, entitled "Le Prince d'Amour," 1660, but it is evidently a production of the time of Charles I., if not earlier. "The varied form of the beard," says Fairholt, "which characterised the profession of each wearer, is amusingly descanted on, and is a curious fact in the chronicle of male fashions, during the first half of the seventeenth century." Taylor, the Water Poet, has alluded to the custom at some length; and other writers of the day have so frequently mentioned the same thing, as to furnish materials for a curious (privately-printed) pamphlet, by J. A. Repton, F.S.A., on the various forms of the beard and mustachio. The beard, like "the Roman T," mentioned in the following ballad, is exhibited in our cut—Fig. 1—from a portrait of G. Raigersperg, 1649, in Mr Repton's book.

Beards in the Olden Time

Beards in the Olden Time

The stiletto-beard, as worn by Sir Edward Coke, is seen in Fig. 2. The needle-beard was narrower and more pointed. The soldier's, or spade-beard, Fig. 3, is from a Dutch portrait, also in Mr Repton's book. The stubble, or close-cropped beard of a judge, requires no pictorial illustration. The bishop's-beard, Fig. 4, is given in Randle Holme's "Heraldry." He calls it "the broad, or cathedral-beard, because bishops, and grave men of the church, anciently did wear such beards." "The beard of King Harry may be seen in any portrait of Henry VIII. and the amusing accuracy of the description tested. The clown's beard, busy and not subject to any fashionable trimming, is sufficiently described in the words of the song." We quote nearly the whole of this old ballad, in fact all that has a real bearing on the subject of the beard:—

"The beard, thick or thin, on the lip or chin,

Doth dwell so near the tongue,

That her silence on the beard's defence

May do her neighbour wrong.

Now a beard is a thing that commands in a king,

Be his sceptres ne'er so fair:

Where the beard bears the sway, the people obey,

And are subject to a hair.

'Tis a princely sight, and a grave delight,

That adorns both young and old;

A well thatcht face is a comely grace,

And a shelter from the cold.

When the piercing north comes thundering forth,

Let barren face beware;

For a trick it will find, with a razor of wind,

To shave the face that's bare.

But there's many a nice and strange device,

That doth the beard disgrace;

But he that is in such a foolish sin,

Is a traitor to his face.

Now the beards there be of such a company,

And fashions such a throng,

That it is very hard to handle a beard,

Tho' it never be so long.

The Roman T, in its bravery,

Doth first itself disclose,

But so high it turns, that oft it burns

With the flames of a too red nose.

The stiletto-beard, oh! it makes me afeared,

It is so sharp beneath,

For he that doth place a dagger in 's face,

What wears he in his sheath?

But, methinks, I do itch to go thro' stich

The needle-beard to amend,

Which, without any wrong, I may call too long,

For man can see no end.

The soldier's-beard doth march in shear'd

In figure like a spade,

With which he'll make his enemies quake,

And think their graves are made.

The grim stubble eke on the judge's chin,

Shall not my verse despise;

It is more fit for a nutmeg, but yet

It grates poor prisoners' eyes.

What doth invest a bishop's breast

But a milk-white spreading hair?

Which an emblem may be of integrity,

Which doth inhabit there.

But, oh! let us tarry for the beard of King Harry,

That grows about the chin,

With his bushy pride, and a grove on each side,

And a champion ground between.

Last, the clown doth rush, with his beard like a bush,

Which may be well endur'd."

Charles I. wore the Vandyke-beard, made familiar to us by the great artist. This fashion, set by the king, was followed by nearly the whole of his Cavaliers. It has been thought by some students of this subject that with the tragic death of the king the beard disappeared, but if we are to put our faith in an old song, dated 1660, we must conclude that with the Restoration it once more came into fashion. It says:—

"Now of beards there be such company,

Of fashions such a throng,

That it is very hard to treat of the beard,

Tho' it be never so long."

It did not remain popular for any length of time, the razor everywhere keeping down its growth.

The Gunpowder Conspirators, from a print published
immediately after the discovery. Shows the Beards in Fashion in 1605.

The Gunpowder Conspirators, from a print published immediately after the discovery. Shows the Beards in Fashion in 1605.

Sir Walter Scott's great grandsire was called "Beardie." He was an ardent Jacobite, and made a vow that he would never shave his beard until the Stuarts were restored. "It would have been well," said the novelist, "if his zeal for the vanished dynasty had stopped with letting his beard grow. But he took arms and intrigued in their cause, until he lost all he had in the world, and, as I have heard, ran a narrow risk of being hanged, had it not been for the interference of Anne, Duchess of Buccleuch and Monmouth." Sir Walter refers to him in the introduction to Canto VI. of "Marmion":—

"With amber beard and flaxen hair,

And reverend apostolic air.

Small thought was his, in after time

E'er to be pitched into a rhyme.

The simple sire could only boast

That he was loyal to his cost;

The banish'd race of kings revered,

And lost his land—but kept his beard."

He died in 1729 at Kelso. "Beardie's" second son, named Robert, was a farmer at Sandyknowe, and was Sir Walter Scott's grandfather.

A contributor to Notes and Queries , for October 1st, 1859, gives the following interesting particulars of a Shaving Statute relating to Ireland:—"In a parliament held at Trim by John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, then Lord-Lieutenant, anno 1447, 25 Henry VI., it was enacted 'That every Irishman must keep his upper lip shaved, or else be used as an Irish enemy.' The Irish at this time were much attached to the national foppery of wearing mustachios, the fashion then throughout Europe, and for more than two centuries after. The unfortunate Paddy who became an enemy for his beard, like an enemy was treated; for the treason could only be pardoned by the surrender of his land. Thus two benefits accrued to the king: his enemies were diminished, and his followers provided for; many of whose descendants enjoy the confiscated properties to this day, which may appropriately be designated Hair-breadth estates." The effects of this statute became so alarming that the people submitted to the English revolutionary razor, and found it more convenient to resign their beards than their lands. This agrarian law was repealed by Charles I., after existing two hundred years.

The Macedonian soldiers were ordered by Alexander to shave, lest their beards should be handles for the enemy to capture them by. The smooth chin was adopted in the Greek army. To pull a person's beard has from remote times been regarded as an act of most degrading insult. Dr Doran tells a tragic story bearing on this usage. "When the Jew," says the doctor, "who hated and feared the living Cid Rui Dios, heard that the great Spaniard was dead, he contrived to get into the room where the body lay, and he indulged his revengeful spirit by contemptuously plucking at the beard. But the 'son of somebody' (the hidalgo) was plucked temporarily into life and indignation by the outrage; and starting up, endeavoured to get his sword, an attempt which killed the Jew by mere fright which it caused." In Afghanistan "the system of administering justice was such," says the "Life of Abdur Rahman" (London, 1890) "that the humble were able to bring their claims before the sovereign by the simple process of getting hold of the sovereign's beard and turban, which meant to throw one's complaints on the shame of his beard, to which he was bound to listen. One day I was going to the Hum-hum (Turkish bath) when a man and his wife, running fast, rushed into the bathroom after me, and the husband, having got hold of my beard from the front, the wife was pulling me at the same time from behind. It was very painful, as he was pulling my beard rather hard. As there was no guard or sentry near to deliver me from their hands, I begged them to leave my beard alone, saying that I could listen without my beard being pulled, but all in vain. I was rather sorry that I had not adopted the fashion of the Europeans, whose faces are clean shaven. I ordered that in future a strong guard should be placed at the door of the Hum-hum."

Some of the ancient faiths regarded the beard as an appendage not to be touched with the razor, and a modern instance bearing on the old belief will be read with interest. Mr Edward Vizetelly, in his entertaining volume "From Cyprus to Zanzibar" (London, 1901), tells some good stories about the priests in Cyprus. Mr Vizetelly went to the island as soon as it passed into the hands of the British Government, and remained there a few years. "On one occasion," he says, "when I happened to be in the bazaar at Larnaca in the early afternoon, I was amazed to witness all the shopkeepers, apart from the Maltese, suddenly putting up their shutters, as if panic-stricken, but without any apparent cause. Inquiring the reason, it was only vouchsafed to me that someone had shaved off a priest's beard." The priest had been imprisoned for felling a tree in his own garden, which was against the laws of the land then in force. When in gaol the recalcitrant priest had his unclean hair and beard shorn off, in accordance with the prison regulations. The authorities were not aware that the hirsute adornments of the Orthodox Catholic faith were sacred. The act roused the Cyprist ire, and the High Commissioner had to issue orders that if any priest was locked up in future his hair and beard were to be left alone.

Respecting the beard are some popular sayings, and we deal with a few as follows.

A familiar example is "To pull the devil by the beard." When Archbishop Laud was advised to escape from this country he said, "If I should get into Holland, I should expose myself to the insults of those sectaries there, to whom my character is odious, and have every Anabaptist come to pull me by the beard." This insulting saying is by no means confined to England. To demand a person's beard was regarded as a still greater insult. King Ryons, when he sent a messenger to King Arthur to demand his beard, received the following answer:—

"Wel, sayd Arthur, thou hast said thy message, y e  whiche is y e  most vylaynous and lewdest message that ever man herd sent unto a kynge. Also thou mayst see, my berd is ful yong yet to make a purfyl of hit. But telle thou thy kynge this, I owe hym none homage, ne none of myn elders, but, or it be longe to, he shall do me homage on bothe his kneys, or else he shall lese his hede by y e  feith of my body, for this is y e  most shamefullest message that ever I herd speke of. I have aspyed, thy kyng met never yet with worshipful men; but tell hym, I wyll have his hede without he doo me homage. Thenne y e  messager departed." ("The Byrth, Lyf and Actes of Kyng Arthur," edit, by Caxton, 1485, reprinted 1817.)

"To make any one's beard" is an old saying, which means "to cheat him," or "to deceive him." We read in Chaucer's Prologue to the Wife of Bath  thus:—

"In faith he shal not kepe me, but me lest:

Yet coude I make his berd, so mete I the."

Geoffrey Chaucer, born about 1340, died 1400.

Geoffrey Chaucer, born about 1340, died 1400.

And again, in the "Reve's Tale," the Miller said:—

"I trow, the clerkes were aferde

Yet can a miller make a clerkes bearde,

For all his art."

A more familiar saying is "To beard a person," meaning to affront him, or to set him at defiance. Todd explains the allusion in a note in his edition of Spenser's Faerie Queene —"did beard affront him to his face"; so Shakespeare's King Henry IV., Part I. Act i.: "I beard thee to thy face"—Fr. "Faire la Barbe a quelqu'un." Ital. "Fa la barbe ad uno" (Upton.)

See Steevens's note on the use of the word Beard in King Henry IV., which is adopted, he says, "from romances, and originally signified to 'cut off the beard.'" Mr John Ady Repton, F.S.A., to whom we are mainly indebted for our illustrations of these popular sayings, directs attention to a specimen of defiance expressed in Agamemnon's speech to Achilles, as translated by Chapman:—

—"and so tell thy strength how eminent

My power is, being compared with thine;

all other making feare

To vaunt equality with me, or in this

proud kind beare

Their beards against me."

In Shirley's play, A Contention for Honour and Riches , 1633:—

"You have worn a sword thus long to show y e  hilt,

Now let the blade appear.

Courtier.—Good Captain Voice,

It shall, and teach you manners; I have yet

No ague, I can look upon your buff,

And punto beard, and call for no strong waters."

"It is difficult to ascertain," says Repton, "when the custom of pulling the nose superseded that of pulling the beard, but most probably when the chin became naked and close shaven, affording no longer a handle for insult." In the reign of James II., William Cavendish, Earl of Devonshire, paid £30,000 for offering this insult to a person at Court. An earlier instance of pulling the nose may be found in Ben Jonson's Epicæne, or the Silent Woman , Act iv. sc. 5.

In "Aubrey's Letters" is an allusion to wiping the beard. "Ralph Kettle, D.D.," we read, "preached in St Mary's Church at Oxford, and, in conclusion of a sermon, said, 'But now I see it is time for me to shutt up my booke, for I see the doctors' men come in wiping their beards from the ale-house' (he could from the pulpit plainly see them, and 't was their custome to go there, and, about the end of the Sermon, to return to wayte on their masters)." An old play by Lyly, entitled Mother Bombie  (1597-98), Act i. sc. 3, contains the following passage:—

"Tush, spit not you, and I'll warrant I, my beard is as good as a handkerchief."

Our quotations from old plays are mainly drawn from Repton's little book, "Some account of the Beard and Moustachio," of which one hundred copies were printed for private circulation in 1839.

The extracts which we have reproduced are not such as to cause the beard to find favour with the ladies. In Marston's Antonio and Melida , (1602), Act v., we read as follows:—

"Piero.—Faith, mad niece, I wonder when thou wilt marry?

"Rossaline.—Faith, kind Uncle, when men abandon jealousy, forsake taking tobacco, and cease to wear their beards so rudely long. Oh! to have a husband with a mouth continually smoking, with a bush of furze on the ridge of his chin, ready still to flop into his foaming chaps; ah! 't is more than most intolerable."

In another part of the same play are other objections to the mustachios. We find in other old plays allusions to women combing and stroking beards. "There is no accounting," says Repton, "for the taste of ladies. Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, with his large massive beard, won the heart of the fair sister of Henry VIII. Although the 'Cloth of friez may not be too bold,' the courtship was most probably begun by the lady (i.e. the Cloth of Gold). Although ladies do not speak out, they have a way of expressing their wishes by the 'eloquence of eyes.' That the fair princess ever amused herself in combing or brushing her husband's beard is not recorded in the history of England." Many references find a place in bygone plays relating to combs and brushes for the beard.

Starching the beard was an operation which occupied some time if carefully performed. It is stated in the "Life of Mrs Elizabeth Thomas," published in 1731, of Mr Richard Shute, her grandfather, a Turkey merchant, that he was very nice in the mode of that age, his valet being some hours every morning in starching his beard, and curling his whiskers, during which time a gentleman, whom he maintained as a companion, always read to him upon some useful subject. In closing, we have to state that cardboard boxes were worn at night in bed to protect the beard from being disarranged.