Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Wonder of Victorian Beards

I posted this picture on Facebook last week, to much excitement...

Man with Beard (1864) Henry Tanworth Wells
Ladies swooned and I wondered exactly why.  As I'm sure you know, we are currently in the throws of 'Movember', the month when gentlemen grow their facial hair in order to raise money for gentlemen's cancers (details can be found here).  Mr Walker took part in this very worthwhile event last year and turned from my babyfaced, toyboy of a husband into Charles Darwin over the course of a month.  Really, it was both alluring and deeply disturbing, in equal measure.

Mr Walker looks cheery as he discovers Evolution...
There is something very Victorian about that amount of beardy goodness, and I thought I would give a overview of facial hair in the nineteenth century...


Armed with my copy of a fabulous and very informative book, Muffs and Morals by Pearl Binder (Who sniggered? Shame on you! I'm starting the muff references early this year...) I made an indepth study of Victorian beardiness in all its forms and what we can infer from the fur.  Ms Binder claims that there was a love affair with the beard in Victorian times, that gentlemen would look forward to their first beard with more fevered anticipation than their first visit to a brothel.  She quotes a particularly sickening letter from Charles Dickens, eulogising about his lovely beard with such flowery language that you'd think he was talking about a girl.  Sadly, he was talking about his beard.  No, really.

Young and Beardless
Hello Ladies....












Well, good Lord, what a difference!  Mr Dickens is modelling a cheek-free beard, which seems to be free-styling into some odd, forked thing at the end.  Rossetti was a chin-beard type too, preferring to keep his cheeks free of fuzz...

Young and Dreamy...
Mature and Hairy...
















It seemed almost compulsory in the nineteenth century if you were male that you had to grow a beard (I'll come to those that abstained in a moment, and why they shouldn't be trusted, the cads).  In a period where maturity was prized, the outward sign was anticipated with baited breath.  A beard meant you were a man, you were a prized specimen of masculinity in all its hairy wonderfulness.  For some men, the hairier, the better...


There are moments when William Holman Hunt seems more beard than anything else.  In fact, I find it odd seeing him without his beard.  It seems unnatural, like someone had sneaked up and stolen it when he wasn't looking.  I believe Hunt grew his full beard by the age of eight and used it as a shade when he was painting in the Holy Land.  True story.


Hunt hasn't got the most outrageous beard of the nineteenth century, oh no.  He is a mere girl by the standards of the Victorian era.  For the real manly men with proper beards you could lose a herd of deer in, you have to brace yourself and head for Google.  Ladies, you may want to uncork the smelling salts now, as some of the following images are ripe with manly attractiveness.  You have been warned...

Hello Handsome, nice chin-beard...
My word, what a long beard you have....

Well, I say, may I call you Daddy?
Blimey, I've had to sit down and fan myself in the face of so much unbridled gentlemanly hair.  Just think, I bet the sweetheart of bachelor number three never gets chilly during the winter, all she needs to do is wrap herself in her honey's fuzz.  Just imagine that...

But it wasn't just beard fanatics that could express themselves through their facial hair.  Some gentlemen with actual day jobs displayed fine beards that no doubt enhanced their reputation in the literary or scientific worlds, while making them a sure-fire hit with the ladies...

Tennyson, sporting some Guy Fawkes inspired whiskers
Charles Darwin, or my husband, it's hard to tell with that beard...
G F Watts could play the fiddle with his beard. True Story.
And if more proof were needed, Cyril Flower, the Most Handsome Man of the Nineteenth Century (apparently) had a fine beard.  Look!

I bet you have all just mentally run your fingers through his luxurious beard...
So, did all men over the age of eight have fine beards?  Well, no.  Some did not.  I know, I couldn't believe it either.  Some men just grew a moustache...

He's a looker, but you know he's just going to leave you pregnant and disgraced...
Hmmm, not sure about the 'tache, it doesn't feel proper, like he's trying to hide his inner cad under that small effort of facial furniture.  But we're not fooled, we know he'll knock us up and let us die in the snow, coughing and disgraced.

Cad, no doubt about it...
Such a Bounder!












Don't let fine military or literary careers fool you, they will cause you nothing but heart-break.  It's the amount of dishonesty in their veins that inhibits the beard, I promise.  Ah, while I'm on the subject, avoid the beardless man at all costs.  He will ruin you!

Wife-Stealing Virgin-Despoiler!
Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, you love rat!

I think history speaks for itself.

So, to recap, beards are good, no beard equals moral disaster.  I'm not sure how this can be applied to women though...


Oh, I don't know, I think the cleavage and van dyke beard is a rather winning combination...

16 comments:

  1. This is amazing, I haven't had such a good laugh at history's expense in years!

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  2. Great post funny and informative

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  3. I do my best to bring the most important subject to you in a deeply serious manner....Glad we all learnt something today :)

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  4. Well written, love your sense of humor.

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  5. My darling husband's face is gone under large bush of, oddly enough, reddish-blonde hair. He isn't growing his out for cancer research though, he just wanted one. I kind of like it though. He keeps it tidy and combed, so he looks rather dashing.

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  6. Mr Walker is blessed with a reddish-blonde beard, however he has redish-blonde hair, so I was less surprised. I keep encouraging more mad facial hair, but he is ever the sensible one. I guess one of us has to be.

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  7. I feel the need to know more about Mr Flower, and he's going on the list of visits for when I finish my time machine...

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  8. What a fun, but informative post! I love it.

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  9. I'm glad everyone enjoyed it! :) Ah, bearded men...

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  10. I think some of these are dwarves. Remember, ladies, dwarves are making beards sexy again this Winter.

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  11. It's one of the main reasons to see The Hobbit, just so you can shout 'Hot Dwarf!' - I'm sure the lovely Aidan Turner will make a far better dwarf than he did Rossetti. Sadly, he'll wear more clothes, if you'll forgive me for being so shallow...

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  12. Love this post! I laughed out loud at your comment about the dashing, mustachioed solider. Those regiment men are no good. Also, holy cow, how hot is Wilfrid Scawen Blunt?

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  13. He is as hot as York in August, but you know that boy is no good. Hot, but wretched, worthless and utterly...what was I saying? Mmmmm, Wilfred Scawen Blunt.... Damnit!

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  14. ...and I'm in enough trouble already, so I'm saying nothing more!

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