Page images

that (from a girl's point of view) 'to kiss a man without a moustache is like eating an egg without salt,' and I fancy that this dictum was in general circulation before the Victorian era. It may therefore be that the wearing of hair on the brow of the upper lip is an accepted symptom of the owner's prowess in osculation. It is the trade-mark of a business which we may admire or not, as we are disposed.

One regrets that the practice of branding criminals has been abandoned. A certain impression on the forehead with an iron informed those whom it might concern' that they were in the presence of a convicted sheep-stealer. The coiner was similarly distinguished for the public good; but these prudent warnings are things of the past. And only quite of late has it been decreed that the automobile shall be marked as an engine of death.

Similarly, the use of the moustache as a danger-signal for girls may be defended. But for this purpose surely the slightest wisp of hair would be sufficient.

There is no necessity for persons to grow Niagaras of hair, nor quaintly curled moustaches like crumpled horns.

A word about whiskers.

It may be urged that persons who possess faulty dental apparatus can conceal the same with a moustache, and that beards are worn in order to protect weak throats. In this case they come under the category of cholera belts' and 'porous plasters.' They are simply medical appliances, and people who require to wear them are clearly in so weak a state of health that they should not venture abroad.

But it cannot be contended that whiskers properties; they are simply microbe traps.

possess any medical (Parisian gourmets now fight shy of restaurants where the maître d'hôtel wears whisker-fittings.)

It has been urged that their use may be beneficial in the case of facial neuralgia; but medical evidence is all the other way. (I have met no doctor who admits that he has prescribed even whiskerettes for any disorder whatsoever.) So much for the utilitarian side of the question.

As to their scenic effect, no smart young man of to-day who values his appearance ever wears them. Women are the best judges of masculine beauty; and did they consider that we would cut handsomer figures by wearing 'mutton chops,' 'sideboards,' or 'cutlets,' we should all be cultivating monstrous crops.

[ocr errors]

Napoleon, a shrewd judge of men and faces, expressed himself in no doubtful terms: L'argot et le calembour sont les favoris sur le visage de la Littérature.' Which may roughly be rendered: 'Slang and puns are the whiskers on the face of Literature.'

Fairly scathing?

At a period when a large portion of humanity suffered from whisker trouble, six of Napoleon's most famous generals were clean-shaven.

It cannot be maintained that people wear whiskers in order to present a comic appearance, and thereby to amuse the public. Such great-hearted philanthropy is scarcely to be expected. And yet, on the stage whiskers have ousted red noses as the trademark of the comedian. The greatest theatrical authority on the subject, Mr. Holman Clarke, can suggest any degree of comicality by means of whiskers. Indeed, he has, so far as my memory goes, never appeared without them, except as Cassius, with the O.U.D.S.

Clap whiskers on Mr. Wilson Barrett, and would not even he present a slightly comic appearance? Can you imagine Alfred of Engle-land in that delightful little Arthurian play, "The Christian King,' other than clean-shaven? I doubt if you can—and still regard Mr. Wilson Barrett as the only real substitute for religion and politics.

It has been pointed out that whiskers are, as a rule, worn only by people who have amassed great wealth, and that therefore in them lies the secret of money-making, as in Samson's locks lay the source of his strength.

To those who, holding this view, instance W. H. Vanderbilt and John Jacob Astor as whisker-wearing plutocrats, it may be pointed out that only very rich men can afford these curious luxuries. Though Messrs. Vanderbilt and Astor wore whiskers, Croesus did not. And genius, which may, even in the twentieth century, be placed almost on a par with money-making, can develop without their aid.

Cæsar, Napoleon, Littré, Renan, Oliver Cromwell, the Duke of Marlborough, and Milton have made their marks, devoid of whiskers.

Peter the Great, when he taxed beards, included whiskers. So, even for economy's sake, little at that period could be said in their favour.

The only instance of their commercial value dates from many centuries ago.

When Juan de Castro sought to borrow 1,000 pistoles from the city of Goa he was in no position to offer security, but he offered in pledge one of his whiskers, making the extraordinary statement: All the gold in the world cannot equal these natural ornaments of my features.' In spite of the fact that he had grossly over-capitalised his face-fungus, the security seems to have been accepted.

However, in our time no pawnbroker would advance fourpence on a complete set.

Another form of face-fittings that has come into vogue is the use of nose-glasses. A superstition exists that they shorten a long nose and lend brilliance to the eyes.

If this is so, they should be classified under the same head as rouge and hair-dye. They are make-up.' But rouge and hairdye are employed by the most beautiful women of our day. No beautiful woman wears spectacles.

The effect of a single eye (or, more correctly, nose) glass is to give to a shrewd face an air of acumen and perspicacity which causes the stranger to feel as though he were under cross-examination; whereas on a foolish face the eyeglass adds a certain suggestion of imbecility. Indeed, to wear a single eyeglass is as grotesque as it would be to wear a single whisker. (But the use of any sort of nose-glass, whether in the form of a clip arrangement on the nasal organ, or metal trimmings connected with the ears by shafts, creates the impression that the face has been put in harness.) In the ordinary transactions of life the honest man looks his companions in the face; and one feels distinctly at a disadvantage when dealing with a person who is provided with extra optical appliances. It is like meeting in a boxing match a man armed with a Gatling gun. Hogarth very properly commented on the odd behaviour of a man who dined in spectacles.

Certain persons go to an incredible extreme in this matter. The leading case is a man who, endowed with marvellously bulbous eyes like plovers' eggs, retains them in glass globes with fine gold fittings, and not content with this reads the newspaper by means of a sort of dice-box with a transparent bottom-the class of thing that Nelson only employed in the stress of battle.

The conclusion of the whole matter is, that neither on the grounds of hygiene nor of æsthetics should the face be worn other

wise than nude. (Eyebrows must be retained because they are vital indices of character.) In favour of the practice of wearing hair on the head, even less can be said than for wearing it on the face.

In the science of physiognomy we are all amateur experts; but the science of phrenology is in its infancy; it is discredited, it is scoffed at, and the science is now mainly practised by charlatans.

And for this reason.

'Professors' have only slight data on which to reach perfection because the head of man is covered by a hirsute thatch. But when civilisation shall have progressed to such a degree that man's vanity shall yield to the demands of truth and the expediency of hygiene, he will go bald as an egg. Science will verify, to the minutest fraction of an inch, those bumps that denote virtue and those that denote vice; man's head will no longer provide a massmeeting place for microbes.

The wine-bibbing butler will never enter our gates. The boy whose head shows symptoms of poetic genius will be sent to sea. Prisoners will be acquitted or convicted on their bumps, and without the calling of any other evidence.

But it is improbable that this state of things will be reached

next year.

And women-women, who saw nothing ridiculous in the use of bustle and of crinoline-will be wearers of hair until the end of all things.


[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

IF by fencing-the art of 'fence,' i.e. defence or offence-we mean, generally, the dexterous use of the sword, the subject is wide indeed; as wide in fact as the history of the sword itself. This is too vast a ground to be covered by anything less than a book. The scope of this disquisition is, therefore, confined to one kind of swordsmanship only to that which depends on the regulated, artificial conditions of single combat.' It is indeed this play, hemmed in by many restrictions, which we have come to mean more specially by 'fencing.' It differs, of course, in many respects from what may be called the art of fighting in the light of nature. But, as its restrictions are among the very elements which work to the perfection of the play, it is undoubtedly in the history of swordsmanship as applied to duelling that we shall trace the higher development of the art.

It may be said that the investigation of the rules of sword-fight would be almost tantamount to a history of the origin of private duelling; but this latter is an ethical subject, and one which would carry us too far. We will, therefore, take it up no further back than the middle of the sixteenth century, when, on the disuse of the medieval wager of battle, the practice of private duelling began to take an assured footing in a warlike society.

It is curious to mark that the first cultivation of refined cunning in fence dates from that period which corresponds chronologically with the general disuse of armour, both in battle and in more personal fights. It is still more curious to note that, in order to fit himself to meet what was an illegal but aristocratic obligation, the gallant of that period had to appeal to a class of men hitherto little considered; to those plebeian adepts, in fact, who for generations had cultivated skill in the use of hand weapons, on foot and without armour, for their own protection. When you come to think of it,

« PreviousContinue »