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Pogonologia A Philosophical and Historical Essay on Beards

A Philosophical and Historical Essay on Beards
Title: Pogonologia A Philosophical and Historical Essay on Beards
Release Date: 2019-03-04
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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Translated from the French.

L’usage nous dérobe le vrai visage des choses.

Printed by R. THORN.
T. CADELL, in the Strand,

To Mr. B***,
King’s Counsel, Deputy Attorney General
to the Parliament of D***.

My friend,

TO load the beginning of one’s work withpompous titles is an honour that interestsolicits and vanity easily grants; but toplace the name of one’s friend there, anddedicate the fruit of a few leisure hoursto him, is a homage so pure and disinterested,that modesty need not blush at it.Receive then this small testimony of myattachment and esteem, and allow me thepleasing satisfaction of publicly declaring,how much I am,

your friend,

J. A. D***.


“WHATEVER concerns themanners and customs of apeople, says Rollin, shews theirgenius and character; and this iswhat may be called the soul ofhistory.” I am led to think, thata picture of customs, by presentingmankind with objects of comparisonat a nearer view, naturally flattersthem more, than facts or dates, themultitude or improbability of whichfatigues the memory, or shocks theunderstanding. This is the reasonwhy we prefer the private life of ahero, to the history of his greatactions; the one gives us a secretsatisfaction in which self-love findsits account: the other produces onlyastonishment. The hero is too distantfrom us; we admire him toomuch to presume to compare withhim: ’tis the man we seek; hisheart; his very weaknesses. ’Tiswith still more eagerness we wish toexamine his person; this is the causeof our liking better to see the portraitsof great men, than to read theirhistory. We would fain touch thehero with our hand, as one may say,we would wish to enter into competitionwith him.

The knowledge of customs andancient fashions forms a branch ofliterature which is not without itsenthusiasts; this is the favourite studyof antiquaries. Among the historiesof these usages of our ancestors, thatof the beard holds a distinguishedrank; and though at present, fromits little importance, it is become anobject of ridicule, it has been held inhigh consideration in different agesand among different people. Neverwas there any thing like that causedso many troubles and so much illblood: the cowls of the disciples ofSt. Francis never occasioned so muchnoise.[1] The beard, which has beenworn and highly respected at someperiods, and despised at others, isbecome the sport of every witling.This mark of manhood, which washeld sacred among the Hebrews andprimitive Christians, highly condemnedby some popes, and particularlycountenanced by others, has been successivelyconsidered by the Romanchurch, as an odious heterodoxy, orthe symbol of wisdom and Christianhumility. Like objects of greatworth, the beard never excited pettyquarrels; both its enemies and partisanswere violent: these anecdotes,so strange in this age, will not onlyamuse the reader, but discover thecharacter of the people, the spirit ofthe times, and the narrowness of thehuman understanding.

1.  During the pontificates of Clement VII. andPaul III. there were long and warm disputes betweenthe Capuchins and Observantins aboutcowls, whether they should be square, round,sharp-pointed, oblong, &c. Boverius, the annalistof the Capuchins, wrote a geometricalwork, containing eleven demonstrations, in orderto fix the real form of the cowl of St. Francis.Wigs, among the clergy, have likewise causedterrible disputes. The Sulpicians alone havewithstood this fashion with a laudable resolution. Mr. de Thiers wrote a history of wigs, which, aswell as the history of cowls, evinces the narrownessof the human mind, and justly exposes it toridicule. O curas hominum!

It must appear a strange paradox,perfectly shocking for crazy old beaus,for priests whose beards are alwaysshaved close, in short, for all thosethat compose the effeminate part ofthe human species, to hear any onemaintain, that a long beard becomesa man’s dignity, and that it is beneficialto health and good morals; hisideas must be very different from thoseof the present age. This however iswhat I have presumed to do. Butwhether the design of this work beserious or ironical, it has at least theappearance of novelty; and that’s agreat deal in this age.

To write an apology for long beardsis to recall to men’s minds their ancientdignity, and that superiority oftheir sex which has been lost in Europeever since the fabulous days ofchivalry. This too is not the wayto gain the good opinion of the ladies,seeing that it’s an attempt to diminishtheir authority; but at the same timeit is restoring, in some respects, thesovereign power to the lawful master,and taking it from the usurper:Moliere says:

Du côté de la barbe est la toute puissance.
Power is on the side of the beard.

This is not very polite; but when aman is determined to speak the truth,it is often very difficult to be so.

To prove clearly that our priestsare obliged, not only by reason, butby human and divine laws, to wear along beard, is an idea that appears tome as singular as new; but to employmethodically the most authentic andmost sacred authorities, to display eruditionat every moment, and to preservealways an air of gravity, inorder to support this argument, mightdraw on me, from my readers, thereproach of having given too muchimportance to a subject that does notappear worthy of it. I will freelyconfess I have been led away by mysubject, and that I thought it necessaryto assume the tone of inquiry, becausemost of the proofs which I shall bringto my aid, are of a nature not easy tobe reconciled to the spirit of irony.But this inquiry is sometimes enlivenedby diverting anecdotes littleknown; and though my chapter Ofthe Beards of Priests is longer andmore loaded with citations than therest, I’m of opinion it will not bethought the least curious.

At the conclusion I have laid asidejesting, and this perhaps may bethought the greatest defect; in composingit I found it impossible not tobe serious: the gravity of the subjectno doubt had an influence on my ideas,and I will not attempt to say anything in my own defence.


I. Of Fashion 1
II. Of Bearded Chins 11
III. Of some shaved Chins 34
IV. Of Bearded Women 52
V. That long Beards are salutary 58
VI. Of False Beards 66
VII. Of Golden Beards 70
VIII. Of Whiskers 74
IX. Of the Beards of Priests 82
X. Of the People that wear Beards 131
XI. Conclusion 136

These changes have been applied to this text.


Page 1 line 5 For consider it, read consider them.
ibid — 10 For and, read or.
— 41 note {29} For longuam, read longam.
— 56 — After the Imitation of the French lines, read
(By a Friend.)
The reason why men should have beards on their face,
And that tattling women have none,
Is, the Devil can’t shave such a chattering race,
But he’d cut their glib cheeks to the bone.
— 58 — 13 For “the course of her wise operations are never,” read “the course of her wise operations is never.”
— 74 — 13 For St. Clemet, read St. Clement.
— 83 — 11 For weairng, read wearing.
— 87 — 22
— 88 note {55} ┃For Tertullion, read Tertullian.
— 89 line 15

Or a Philosophical and Historical

Of Fashion.

IF we were well persuaded that most newfashions are invented to hide some secretimperfections of the body, or to satisfythe avidity of shopkeepers, it is mostlikely we should consider it of less importance;for, if we seek the cause of thesechanges, we find in general it proceedsfrom the ingenious ardour of a milliner,the bad shape of some fine lady, the longvisage of a second, and the broad foot ofa beau parson.

The first woman that ever wore afardingale wanted to conceal the indiscreetfruit of her gallantry. This sortof hoop, of a cylindrical form, entirelyconcealed the waist. In a little timeall the ladies followed this example; andevery fashionable fair-one appeared asif her lover had brought her in thesame situation as she that introduced thefashion.

The great large ruffs, which lookedlike a glory about the people’s necks, inthe time of Henry IV.[2] were inventedin Spain to hide the hernia gutturis, a verycommon disorder among the Spaniards.Though the French had not this

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