Imatges de pàgina
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Barber's profession (for by a statute of Henry the Eighth it is termed a science and a mystery) holds affinity with every thing that is gentle, touching, and endearing. Perhaps it would not be too much to affirm that the civilization of a state cannot be measured by any surer criterion than the estimation in which these professors are held; and, that we may not be deemed overweening in our veneration for their craft, we will endeavour to support our assertion by such historical evidence as more immediately occurs to our recollection.

Beginning with the Jews, as the most ancient people, and one to whom the Barber's soothing influence was utterly unknown, we may remark that their whole annals are a tissue of violence, horror, and abomination, which finally condemned them to become a rejected race- a doom from which a portion of them have escaped, in modern days, by subjecting themselves to those great civilizers, the wielders of the razor ; while the lower orders, who still wear the badge of reprobation upon their chins, continue in a state of comparative barbarism. And yet the dangers of this adherence to their hair were manifested to them at a very early age. When David sent embassadors to the kiog of the Ammonites, he cut off one half of their beards from the side of the face, as the greatest insult he could offer, and in this plight escorted them back to their master-an indig. nity, which could not have been inflicted, had their chins been in a more advanced state of civilization. Joab, the chief captain of David, seeing Absalom hanging upon an oak tree by the hair of the head, pierced him to death; and the same Joab, while he took Amasa by the beard to kiss it, treacherously plunged a poniard into his body-two acts of barbarity which could not have been perpetrated had the victims been submitted to the benign practitioners of the scissors and the razor.

The men most remarkable for their hair seem to have been always the most hardened in iniquity, and to have been generally singled out for some calamitous fate. To that of Absalom we have already adverted ; Samson, whose strength was in his hair, after having been blinded, was crushed for his wickedness; and Esau, another hairy man, is expressly stated by St. Paul to have been a profane person, and one hated of God.

During the most barbarous period of their history, that is to say, up to the time of Alexander the Great, the Greeks wore their beards ; but that prince ordered the Macedonians to be shaved, lest this appendage should afford a handle to their enemiesma most sufficing reason, for one can hardly conceive a less enviable situation than to find a vigorous adversary grasping your beard with his left hand, and flourishing a sword over your head with his right. The conqueror himself, as might have been expected from so polished and magnanimous a character, kept a special barber in his house ; and the same is recorded of Julius Cæsar—an evidence of refinement and good taste for which the latter was abundantly rewarded, for at a grand entertainment which he gave to Cleopatra, this identical barber being, as Plutarch says, “ led by his natural caution to inquire into every thing, and to listen every where about the palace," overheard Achillas the general and Photinus the eunuch plotting against his master, whose life he saved by giving immediate information of the conspiracy. His successors to this hour, it may be remarked, are equally inquisitive, and not less faithful to their employers.

That the Barber's shop was the common resort of newsmongers in the most polished days of Athens, is attested by the way in which they first learnt the great defeat of their general Nicias at Syracuse. A stranger who landed in the Piræus mentioned this event as he sat to be shaved, and the Barber, before he could communicate it to any one else, running

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into the city to inform the magistrates, was interrogated from whom he received the intelligence: not being able to give any satisfactory answer, he was seized as a forger of false news, fastened to the wheel, and put to the torture, which he endured with tonsorial fortitude till several credible persons arrived who fully confirmed his statement. Another testimony to the zeal, constancy, and veracity, by which the class has ever been distinguished.

Pliny observes, that up to the 454th year of Rome, precisely the most uncivilized period of their empire, the Romans had no barbers; but that, at that epoch, P. Ticinius imported a supply of these artists from Sicily. He adds, that Scipio Africanus was the first who introduced the fashion of shaving every day- an improvement which confers additional credit on that illustrious personage. The fourteen first Emperors continued this laudable practice, until the reign of Adrian, who, for the purpose of concealing some ugly scars upon his face, resumed the long beard. Julian the Apostate, it is said, drove all the barbers from his Court, and took every opportunity of evincing that his love of beards was at least commensurate with his hatred of the Christians; both equally derogatory to his memory. Of his uncivilized habits and inattention to cleanli. ness, we may sufficiently judge by his condescending to joke about the populousness of his beard; and though there may be some merit in his only noticing the lampoons of the people of Antioch by writing against them his celebrated Misopogon, or Beard-hater, it would have been much better never to have deserved their satire. He wanted but a barber and a confessor, to have made him a great character.

The Lombards, or Longobardi, so called from the length of their beards, were of course enemies to the Barbers, and it is unnecessary to add that they were a cruel, ferocious, and savage race. Peter the Great, of Russia, was so impressed with the importance of Barbers in polishing a nation, that, when he set about civilizing his subjects, one of his first edicts was to command them to cut off their beards, and government operators were appointed, with instructions to shave the refractory by force. Without going into any more minute detail, it may be sufficient to observe, that at the present moment all the enlightened and civilized portions of the earth are under tonsorial subjection, which is rejected by none but savages

and barbarians. How can we expect the Turks to do otherwise than massacre their Greek prisoners when they swear by one another's beards, and their most common form of benediction is to exclaim" Allah for ever preserve your blessed beard ?”

Perhaps the golden age of the knights of the razor and the comb is to be sought in that glorious period of our history when they were yclept Barberchirurgeons, from their uniting both sciences, and a lute or viol was provided in every shop for the entertainment of waiting customers, who in these our degenerate days are fain to solace themselves with a playbill, or a yesterday's newspaper. Then was it that their party-coloured ensign, the pole, like the ivy-bound Thyrsus of the Bacchanalian Menades, was upreared at each shop to typify the staff put into the hand of every patient undergoing the operation of phlebotomy; while the fillet was represented by the white band with which the pole was encircled. But, alas ! what are sublunary glories and distinctions? By a statute of the 32d Henry the Eighth, it was decreed that “No person using any shaving or barbery in London, shall occupy any surgery, letting of blood or other matter; drawing of teeth only excepted. And no person using the mystery or craft of surgery shall occupy or exercise the feat or craft of barbery or shaving, neither by himself, nor any other for his use."

Thus were

two noble professions for ever dissevered ; nor was it any sufficing compensation that the whole head was abandoned to the barbers, for in process of time the dentists, a hungry generation, living as it were from hand to mouth, usurped jurisdiction over the interior, and left to the defrauded barbers nothing but the miserable exterior of the skull for their entire patrimony.

Even with these limited means, however, they contrived, at no distant date, to render themselves opulent and illustrious. He that is old enough to remember the reign of Pulvilio and Pomatum, now utterly passed away, will do full justice to the former dignity and importance of these practitioners. When a cushion reposed amid the umbrageous labyrinth of every female head, into which pins inches long were thrust to support the intricate expansion of her outfrizzed hair, while the artist busily plied his puff, surcharged with Maréchale, or brown powder, redolent of spice ; when every gentleman's sconce was wavy with voluminous and involuted curls, and he sat daily in his powdering room, then an indispensable apartment, gazing through the horny eyes of his mask upon his puffing decorator, dim amid the cloud of dust as the Juno of Ixion; when all this complicated titivation was to be incurred with aggravated detail before every din

. ner party or ball-then was the time that the Barbers, like the celestial bodies, which have great glory and little rest, were harassed and honoured, tipped and tormented, coaxed and cursed. Then was the time that a Courtois could amass a princely fortune, which an audacious Mrs. Phipoe, not having topsorial fear before her eyes, vainly endeavoured to appropriate. And I appeal to the experienced reader, whether the profession did not at this busy period, when there was an absolute contention for their favours, conduct themselves in their high calling with an indefatigable alertness and suavity,

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