The Moustache Movement


t the present time, when moustaches are general, it is difficult to realise the opposition raised against them in this country half a century ago. Few outside the military had the courage to follow a fashion which has become general. In the first year of the reign of Queen Victoria, we gather from the police court proceedings at Marlborough Street, London, how unpopular at that period was the moustache. The following Report is drawn from the Times  of September 21st, 1837: "Yesterday, a young man, 'bearded like the pard,' who said he was a carpenter employed on the London and Birmingham Railroad, applied to Mr Rawlinson, the sitting magistrate, for an assault warrant, under the following ludicrous circumstances.

"Mr Rawlinson: What do you want a warrant for?

"Applicant: I'll tell your worship, and you'll say it's the most haggrawating, and provoking thing as ever was heard on. Vell then, I goes to my vork, as usual, this 'ere morning, ven one of my shopmates said to me, 'Bill, you arn't shaved your hupper lip lately,' says I. 'Vy,' says he 'Cos,' I replied, 'I intends vearing mustachios to look like a gentleman,' 'Vell, then,' says he, 'as you intends to become a fashionable gentleman, p'raps you'll have no objection to forfeit half-a-gallon of ale, as it's the rule here that every workman vot sports mustachios, to have them vetted a bit.' Vell, has I refused to have my mustachios christened, they made game of them, and said they weren't half fledged; and, more nor all that, they hustled me about, and stole my dinner out of the pot, and treated me shameful, and so I want your advice respecting my mustachios.

"Mr Rawlinson: My advice is, go to the barber and have them shaved off without loss of time.

"Applicant: Can't part with a single hair.

"Mr Rawlinson: You want to look like a grenadier, I suppose?

"Applicant: My granny-dear (God bless her dear old soul!), she never had such a fashionable and warlike appendage in her life.

"Mr Rawlinson: What business has a carpenter with a quantity of long hair hanging from his lip?

"Applicant: The reason vy I rears it is 'cos it's fashionable, and makes me look like a man of some courage.

"Mr Rawlinson: Fashionable, indeed! I wish, with all my heart, that the fashion was discontinued. Why need an Englishman make a Jew of himself? It is disgusting to see persons strutting through the streets with mustachios, and sometimes a fringe of hair round the face and chin, which is dignified by the name of whiskers. As you won't take my advice, I can't assist you.

"Applicant: Vot! not for striking me on the hupper lip?

"Mr Rawlinson: Then your moustachios must have saved you.

"Applicant: No, they didn't.

"Mr Rawlinson: How's that?

"Applicant: 'Cos the hair ain't long and thick enough; they're only young 'uns as yet. There was no occasion to strike me.

"Mr Rawlinson: And there's no occasion for you to wear mustachios. You may have a warrant if you like, but I think you had better not."

"The man with the mustachios then withdrew."

About 1855 the beard movement took hold of Englishmen. The Crimean War had much to do with it, as our soldiers were permitted to forego the use of the razor as the hair on the face protected them from the cold and attacks of neuralgia. About this period only one civilian of position in England had the hardihood to wear the moustache. He was Mr George Frederick Muntz, a member of Parliament for Birmingham. He was a notable figure in the House of Commons, and is described as manly in appearance, with a handsome face, a huge black beard, and moustache. He died 30th July, 1857, and is regarded as the father of the modern moustache movement. Another early moustache member was Colonel Sibthorp, the representative for Lincoln, who bore Mr Muntz company for some time in the House of Commons. Daniel O'Connell wrote a biting epigram on Colonels Sibthorp, Percival, and Verner, the first of whom was remarkable for his length of beard, whilst the others had none:—

Three Colonels, in three distant counties born,

Lincoln, Armagh, and Sligo did adorn.

The first in matchless impudence surpass'd,

The next in bigotry, in both the last,

The force of nature could no further go,

To beard the first she shaved the other two.

It will be noticed that the foregoing is a parody on Dryden's celebrated tribute to Milton.

George Frederick Muntz, M.P.

George Frederick Muntz, M.P.

The enlightened electors, however, did not take kindly to the bearded politician. It is related by Dr Hedderwick, the well-known Glasgow journalist, that at the time the moustache movement was making slow progress, the candidate for Linlithgowshire was an officer in the Lancers, a man of ability, family, and fashion, who wore a heavily hirsute upper lip. He received an intimation from a leader of his party that his moustache might prejudice him in the eyes of a rural population. The candidate replied that he had already considered the point, but it was the rule in his regiment that it would be cowardly to succumb, and that he was "determined to face it out."

We have it on good authority that a Cabinet Minister, about 1855, caused a gentleman to be told that the beard and moustache did not look well on a man holding a civic position under the Crown. This Minister did not then imagine that shortly men with beards and moustaches would sit by his side as members of the Cabinet. Even a Colonial Governor about half a century ago was not supposed to wear a moustache. Dr Hedderwick, in his "Backward Glances" (Edinburgh, 1891), tells us that on a certain Sunday he was rambling with his friend, Mr Charles Maclaren, the well-known editor of the Scotsman , to Loch Long, when he saw some carriages conveying a number of ladies and gentlemen to church. "Sitting obliquely on an Irish jaunting-car," says the doctor, "was a portly personage with a dark heavy fringe on his upper lip, and otherwise distinguished appearance. I suggested that it might be Sir Henry Pottinger, the celebrated diplomatist and Colonial Governor. We knew he had returned to England, and I had heard he was visiting in Scotland on the banks of Loch Long. 'No, no,' said Mr Maclaren, 'it's quite impossible it can be he. A civilian of great intelligence and sense would never wear a moustache.'" We may gather from the foregoing the prejudice of the period against facial adornments.

From about 1855 to some years afterwards we resided at the small town of Alfreton, Derbyshire, where, if by chance the boys saw a man with a moustache, with one accord they commenced calling after him, "Jew, Jew, Jew," or "Frenchy, Frenchy, Frenchy," and, if that did not make any impression, they commenced stoning the offender against the unwritten laws of the land. In later years our barber at Wakefield was somewhat of a dandy, and would, perhaps, have preferred being called a tonsorial artist. He was the first to cultivate a moustache in that West Riding town, and he told the writer with pride that in those distant days he was one of the sights of the place, but his vanity had many checks from the rough lads, and even men, of Wakefield. Before his death he saw many follow his lead.

A teacher of music was the first to wear a moustache in Nottingham. He attracted the attention of young and old, and was deemed a great curiosity. The younger generation made matters lively for the music master. Speaking on this theme to an old Nottinghamshire friend, with whom we often discuss olden days and ways, he stated to us how he won his wife because he had not a moustache. It appears another eligible young man was anxious to win the young lady, but his character was regarded as doubtful because he cultivated a moustache. After a short engagement our friend was married in the year 1855. At this period the moustache movement was making slow progress in Nottingham.

Mr W. P. Frith, R.A., published in 1887 an amusing "Autobiography," and devotes not the least attractive chapter of his work to "The Bearded Model." He relates how difficult it was to find a bearded model, and how at last he discovered one. He says that in crossing Soho Square one day his attention was drawn to a crowd of little boys, who seemed to be teasing an old man in the manner of the London street boy. "Why don't you get your 'air cut?" said one. "Yah! where's your bundle of old clothes? Yer ain't got 'em in that 'ere basket, 'ave you?" said another, "Let's 'ave a look. You're a Jew, you know; now, ain't you?" and so on. All this, observes the artist, because the old man wore a long grey beard, then such a rarity. The young gentlemen had mistaken their man. He soundly punished two elder boys, and Mr Frith found he was not a Jew. How he became a model does not come within the scope of our present studies.

Mr Frith says that the head of a well-known firm of drapers in Regent Street refused to employ shopmen who wore moustaches, or men who parted their hair down the middle. In days before the moustache was popular, Mr Frith shows how even in art circles its adoption retarded progress. "I well remember," says Mr Frith, "a book illustrator named Stuart, who, according to his own notion, ought to have been on the throne of England instead of drawing on insensible wood blocks. He could trace his descent from James I. He could sing Jacobite songs, and very well, too, and he was certainly like Charles I. There was not the least doubt about his pedigree in his own mind; and he was such a nuisance when once launched into the long list of Royal blood, that we declared our unanimous conviction of the justice of his claims, and implored him to put them forward in the proper quarter, as we were powerless in the matter. The Stuart beard, exactly like the Vandyke portrait of Charles, was the treasured ornament of our friend's face, and though he was assured that the publishers felt such doubt of his abilities, and such a conviction of his utterly unreliable character andgeneral dishonesty in consequence of his beard—one man going so far as to tell him it cost him £200 a year—he refused to remove it." Mr Frith says when the Vandyke beard became white his poor friend would have died in extreme poverty had he not received well-deserved assistance from a fund established to meet cases like his.

The directors and managers of banks made a stand against the moustache movement. It is asserted that the authorities of the Bank of England issued an order "that the clerks were not to wear moustaches during business hours." It is not surprising to learn that the amusing order was soon cancelled. At the present time, at one of the great banks in the Strand, the clerks have to be clean shaven. To illustrate the rigid manner of enforcing the order, Mr Frith quotes the case of an old servant of the bank, who was severely attacked by erysipelas in the face and head. Even after convalescence the tenderness of the skin made shaving impossible, but the old clerk begged to be allowed to return to his desk. He was told by one of the principals, in a kind note in answer to his application, that the bank would endeavour to get on without him until his face was in a condition to bear the attention of his razor.

In the earlier years of the moustache movement, clerks might be dismissed for not being clean shaven. Contractors, as a rule, we should regard as being the least particular of any class of employers about the personal appearance of their servants. Yet we have it on reliable authority that a trusted superintendent of one of the great contractors served the firm in Russia, and there cultivated the beard and moustache. On his return to England he displayed no disposition to resume the use of the razor. The head contractor grew alarmed at the terrible example he was setting those engaged in the office, and insisted that the adornment should be cut off, which was done. The poor fellow caught cold, and in a few days died.

Charles Dickens, born 1812, died 1870.

Charles Dickens, born 1812, died 1870.

An important firm of timber merchants in Hull made it a condition that any clerks employed by them should be clean shaven. This rule was strictly enforced until the firm closed its career a few years ago.

Mr Serjeant Robinson, in his interesting and informing volume, "Bench and Bar Reminiscences" (London, 1889), deals with the legal aspect of our theme. He says for many years anterior to 1860 scarcely a beard, and certainly not even a downy symptom of a moustache, was to be seen on the face of a practising barrister. Towards the close of the first half of the nineteenth century a quiet, gentlemanly, well-informed barrister, named Brierley, used to attend the Central Criminal Court, wearing a long flowing beard and a thick moustache. These hirsute adornments gave offence to the leaders who regularly attended the sessions. No other exception could be taken to him. A meeting of the senior Bar was held, and he was summoned to attend. He was called upon to defend his action. Instead of denying the jurisdiction of the tribunal that was to judge him, he recognised the enormity of his crime, and excused himself on the ground of a serious affection of the throat, and stated that it was under urgent medical advice that he was induced to transgress the unwritten ordinances of the Bar. Despite the reasonableness of the plea, a small majority passed upon him a vote of censure for subjecting the Bar to general ridicule by his extravagant physiognomy. "This was," says Mr Serjeant Robinson, "the worst that could befall him, for of course he could not be prevented from coming within the sacred precincts of the court, nor from taking his seat at the Bar table. The only means of carrying out the resolution was by sending him to Coventry. But he did not give them the opportunity of executing it, for he seldom appeared afterwards. It is not known what became of this barrister after he had been driven from practising his profession in the courts."

Several old laws regulated wearing the beard in the bygone times. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth a decree went forth that no barrister should appear in court with a beard of more than a fortnight's growth.

Barristers with beards and moustaches are not much less common at the present time than those without them. This is no doubt the result of the martial order which passed over the country at the introduction of the Volunteer movement. The moustache was regarded as indispensable to the military appearance of the citizen soldier.

Old illustrated books relating to the worthies of the Church often contain portraits of divines with flowing beards and moustaches. In modern times the cultivation of these adornments of the face has given rise to not a little discussion in Church circles. Early in 1861 the newspapers criticised the charge of the Bishop of Rochester, which included a denunciation of the development of beards and moustaches among the clergymen of his diocese. The writing in the press for and against the facial adornment had little point, but it gave rise to more than one book dealing with the subject. An author issued "An Apology for the Beard; addressed to men in general, and to the clergy in particular" (London, 1862). The Bible and other books are quoted against shaving. James Ward, R.A., the celebrated animal painter, produced in book form a "Defence of the Beard." He dealt with his subject on scriptural grounds, and gave eighteen reasons why man was bound to grow a beard unless he was indifferent as to offending his Creator and good taste. Mr. Ward asked, "What would a Jupiter be without a beard? Who would countenance the idea of a shaved Christ?" The artist set an example to others by adopting the beard when it was not popular. On the title-page of another work was declared: "A Breach of the Sabbath, and a Hindrance to the Spread of the Gospel." The writer designated himself "Theologos." If his views were carried out, it would lead to the practice which prevailed among the Essenes, who never did on the Sabbath anything that was customary for them to do on other days. The High Church clergymen use the razor, and as a rule the moustache is discarded. For some time not a few of the clergy in the lower ranks joined the moustache movement, but it was not until 1889 that a bishop was included. The late Bishop Ryle, of Liverpool, was the first to give up in modern times the use of the razor. Quite a sensation was caused towards the close of 1892 when it became known that the Archbishop of York did not approve of the moustache among his clergy. In several quarters the barber was visited, and the cherished moustache and beard swept away, it is said, to please the head of the Church in the Northern Province. Not so with a moustached candidate for Orders from Hull. He had been spending two or three days at Bishopthorpe before ordination, but gentle hints failed to induce him to make a clean shave. As a final effort the chaplain of the Archbishop asked him if he thought it was not time he cut off his moustache. He replied that he did not think of doing so, and asked why he should. "Well," said the chaplain, "you see the saints in the stained glass windows have not any moustaches." "That may be so," said the candidate, "but as I am not intended to be a saint and stuck in a window, I mean my moustache to remain."

Speaking at a reunion of the Leeds Clergy School held on June 6th, 1899, Dr Eden, the Bishop of Wakefield, said he recently noticed a paragraph in the newspapers which said that the Bishop of Wakefield had given it out that he was very much against the clergy wearing moustaches. "After a little while this legend increased in definiteness, and the next paragraph I saw was that the Bishop of Wakefield had 'commanded' the curates of his diocese to shave clean. A little while after that I took up a London paper, and I saw it stated: 'The Bishop of Wakefield has joined the anti-moustache brigade, and we believe he has the sympathy of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.' I waited a little longer, for I felt sure something more would come, and then I took up another paper and found that an exceedingly respected Prebendary of St Paul's in London had been uttering remarks, either in public or to the reporters—I don't know which—in which he held up the Bishop of Wakefield as being one of those foolish people who had largely exceeded their episcopal powers. I was given a very round lecture upon the contrast of my conduct with that of my predecessor, who would never have thought of issuing such a foolish order to the curates to shave their moustaches. The curates were recommended to do nothing of the kind, but a fear was expressed that a large number of them would probably comply with the demand. Still that was not quite the end of the legend; I had of course a great deal of private correspondence arising out of this newspaper paragraph, but only the other day I heard—I have not seen it—that a cartoon has appeared in a London paper in which the Bishop of Wakefield is represented with a drawn razor in his hand in full cry after a Wakefield curate with a moustache. That is a very good example of finding the truth about yourselves in the newspapers, for I have the most astounding fact of all to tell you, and that is that I have never said a single word about moustaches from first to last. I knew you would forgive me making this little personal reference because it is not personal to myself and to many of those in this tent."

A former Bishop of Wakefield, Dr Walsham How, related a good story. "The vicar of an East London parish," said the bishop, "was one of the first London clergymen to grow his beard. The then Bishop of London wished to stop the practice, and, as he was going to confirm in that church, sent his chaplain to the vicar to ask him to shave it off, saying he should otherwise select another church for the Confirmation. The vicar replied that he was quite willing to take his candidates to another church, and would give out next Sunday the reason for the change. Of course the bishop retracted."

We are told in the "Life of R. W. Dale" (London, 1898) that this famous Birmingham preacher, about 1860, was clean shaven, but with "long black hair that hung over his cheeks and ears like a mane." In a year or two it was cut short. He then let his beard grow, and, after some hesitation, his moustache. Many of the older people, we are told, were scandalised, but remained silent; some wrote to the newspapers in protest. The moustache was declared to invest ministers "with an air of levity and worldliness." A letter of approval purported to come from the shade of a Wesleyan minister, the Rev. H. D. Lowe, who, in 1828, had his beard cut off by order of the Wesleyan Conference. It ran as follows:—

"Reverend and Bearded Sir ,—It rejoiced my shade to see you not only addressing Methodists, but sitting among many of the identical men who required that cruel sacrifice of me, and that unrebuked when you even spoke of dreaming of belonging to the 'Legal Hundred,' bearded though you are."

Professor Hodgson used to tell a good story of a shaky village knight of the razor who gashed the minister's cheek. "John, John!" cried the reverend sufferer, "it's a dreadful thing that drink!" "'Deed it is, sir," mildly assented John, "it makes the skin unco tender."

The electors of Hull, who returned to Parliament Sir Henry Vane the younger, Andrew Marvell, the patriot, and in later times, William Wilberforce, the emancipator of the slave, have never, as might be readily believed, been backward in adopting reasonable measures of reform. On December 1st, 1859, at the Hull Watch Sub-Committee, it was moved by Mr Moss, seconded by Mr Clarke, and carried unanimously: "That it be a recommendation to the Watch Committee to permit the police to wear a beard and moustache if they think fit." A week later, namely, on December 7th, at the Watch Committee, it was moved by Mr Mayfield, and seconded by Mr Fountain: "That a resolution of the Sub-Committee of December 1st, granting permission to police to wear the beard and moustache, if they think fit, be confirmed by this Committee." It was pointed out by one of the members of the Council, who was advocating the passing of the resolution, that it would give a "fierce appearance to the police."

In course of time the leading gentlemen of the land adopted the moustache, and those in the lower walks of life were not slow to follow their example, the result being that it is worn now by all sorts and conditions of men.

The moustache figures in recent wills. In 1862, one made by Henry Budd came into force, and declared as follows against the wearing of moustaches by his sons in the following terms: "In case my son Edward shall wear moustaches, the devise herein before contained in favour of him, his appointees, heirs, and assigns of my said estate, called Pepper Park, shall be void; and I devise the same estate to my son William, his appointees, heirs, and assigns. And in case my said son William shall wear moustaches, then the devise hereinbefore contained in favour of him, his appointees, heirs, and assigns of my said estate, called Twickenham Park, shall be void; and I devise the said estate to my said son Edward, his appointees, heirs, and assigns."

Mr Fleming, an upholsterer, of Pimlico, by his will, proved in 1869, left £10 each to the men in his employ who did not wear moustaches, and to those who persisted in wearing them, £5 only.

In the daily newspapers of July 11th, 1901, it was stated: "French motor-car owners having shown a disposition to make their chauffeurs shave, the latter combined in defence of their moustaches, which they declare to be a sanitary protection."