Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

gation of the husband, Prætexta took the shy Eustochia in hand, attired her in a splendid dress, and covered her fair neck with ringlets. Having enjoyed the sight of the modest maiden so attired, Prætexta went to bed. To that bedside immediately descended an angel with wrath upon his brow and billows of angry sounds issuing from his lips. “Thou hast," said the spirit, ** obeyed thy husband rather than the Lord, and hast dared to deck the hair of a virgin, and made her look like a daughter of earth. For this do I wither up thy hands, and bid thee recognize the enormity of thy crime in the amount of thy anguish and bodily suffering. Five months more shalt thou live, and then Hell shall be thy portion ; and, if thou art bold enough to touch the head of Eustochia again, thy husband and thy children shall die even before thee."

Saint Jerome pledges himself for the truth of this story, which is exceedingly perplexing and utterly unintelligible.

The ladies were more difficult of management than the clergy. The former were not to be terrified by the assurance that breaking an ordinance of man was a worse crime than breaking one of the commandments of God. The hair of the clergy was kept straight by decree of forfeiture of revenues or benefice against incumbents who approached the altars with curls, even of their natural hair. Pomades and scented waters were denounced as damnable inventions; but anathema was uttered against the priest guilty of wearing one single hair combed up above its fellows.

“All personal disguise,” says Tertullian, “is adultery before God. All perukes, paint, and powder are disguises and inventions of the devil.” This zealous individual appeals to personal as often as to religious feeling. “If you will not fling away your false hair,” says he, “ as hateful to Heaven, cannot I make it hateful to yourselves by reminding you that the false hair you wear may have come, not only from a criminal, but from a very dirty head,-perhaps from the head of one already damned ? "

This was a very hard hit, indeed; but it was not nearly so clever a stroke at wigs as that dealt by Clemens of Alexandria. The latter informed the astounded wig-wearers that, when they knelt at church to receive the blessing, they must be good enough to remember that the benediction remained on the wig, and did not pass through to the wearer! This was a stumbling-block to the people, many of whom, however, retained the peruke and took their chances as to the percolating through it of the benediction.

On similarly obstinate people Tertullian railed with a hasty charge of ill-prepared logic. “You were not born with wigs," said he ; “God did not give them to you. God not giving them, you must necessarily have received them from the devil.”

It was manifest that so rickety a syllogism was incapable of shaking the lightest toupet from a reasoning Christian's skull. Indeed, the logic of Tertullian, when levied against wigs, is exceedingly faulty. Men of the world he points out as being given to over-scrupulous cleanliness. Your saint is dirty from an impulse of duty; were he otherwise, he might be too seductive to the weaker sex. This reminds one of the Monk of Prague, who was blind, but he had so fine a nose that he was able to distinguish between a saint and a sinner by the smell.

Not only were the Scriptures ressed into service against those who wore false hair or dyed their own, but zealous Christian priests quoted even heathen writers to shame men out of the custom. It is a remarkable thing how well acquainted these well-meaning but somewhat over-straining personages were with the erotic poets of heathendom.

Before the period of the Conquest of England by William the Norman, ecclesiastics were hardly distinguishable from the laity except by the tonsure, and of this they seemed to have been partly ashamed, for they concealed it to the best of their ability by brushing the long hair around it so as to cover the distinctive mark.

It was only the great dignitaries who wore beards; had a poor priest ventured to carry one on his face, he would have had the one pulled and the other slapped by his ecclesiastical superiors. The inferior clergy cared nothing about the matter until beards were interdicted, so far as they were concerned ; and when the Council of Limoges, in 1031, decreed that the wearing of the beard was to be entirely optional, all concerned lost all interest in the question. Desire had only fastened itself upon what was forbidden. As for the more dignified clergy of the period, they were the most splendid dressers of the day; and the greatest “ dandies” those who officiated at the altar. No censure directed against their extravagance in this respect had any effect upon them. It was only when the reproof seemingly came from Heaven that they cared for it, as in the case of the young soldier in the army of Stephen, who was intensely vain of the locks which fell from his crown to his knees, and which he suddenly cut off close to the roots, in consequence of dreaming that the devil was strangling him with his own luxuriant ringlets. The dream did not cure other fops.

In the days of King John, our English ancestors actually curled their hair with crisping-irons, and bound their locks with fillets, like girls. They went bareheaded, lest the beauty of their curls be disturbed by a cap, and were not at all the sort of men that we should suspect of having wrung a Magna Charta from a King, that Magna Charta, the original copy of which fell into the hands of a tailor, who was cutting it up into measures for other men, when it was rescued, not without difficulty, and consigned to its present safe custody in the British Museum.

English ladies (despite the fact that English lords cherished wigs even in the days of Stephen,) do not appear to have adopted the fashion of wearing perukes until about the year 1550. Junius, in his Commentarium de Comâ, says that false hair caine into use with the ladies about that time, and that such use had never before been adopted by English matrons. Some three hundred years before this, the Benedictine monks at Canterbury, who were canons of the cathedral, very pathetically represented to Pope Innocent IV. that they were subject to very bad colds from serving in the wide and chilly cathedral bareheaded. The Pontiff gave them solemn permission to guard against cathedral bronchitis and phthisis by covering their heads with the hoods common to their Order, bidding them to have especial care, however, to fling back the hood at the reading of the Gospel and the elevation of the Host. Zealous churchmen have been very indignant at the attempts made to prove that the permission of Innocent IV. might be construed as a concession to priests, allowing them to wear wigs if they were so minded. The question was settled at the Great Council of England, held in London in 1 268. That Council refused to sanction the wearing by clerics of “ quas vulgo coifes' vocant," except when they were travelling. If a coif even were profane, a wig to this Council would have taken the guise of an unpardonable sin. It is. however, well known that, although Rome forbade a priest to offi ciate with covered head, permission to do so was purchasable. In fact, the rule of Rome was not founded, as it was asserted to be, on Scripture. Permission was readily granted to the Romish priests in China to officiate with covered heads, as being more agreeable to the native idea there of what was seemly.

Native sentiment nearer home was much less regarded. Thus, when the Bulgarians complained to Pope Nicholas that their priests would not permit them to wear, during church time, those headwrappers or turbans which it was their habit never to throw off, the Pontiff returned an answer which almost took the brief and popular form of “Serve you right," and the Bulgarians, on the other hand, took nothing by their motion.

Anselm of Canterbury was as little conceding to the young and long-haired nobles of his day as was Pope Nicholas to the Bulgarians.

Eadmer, a monk of Canterbury, relates that on one occasionit was Ash Wednesday,—the primate soundly rebuked the hirsute aristocracy, put them in penance, and refused them absolution until they had submitted to be close shorn. The prelate would allow none to enter his cathedral who wore either false or long hair. Against both, the objection remained for a lengthened period insuperable. When Henry I. of England was in France, Sirron, Bishop of Séez, told him that Heaven was disgusted at the aspect of Christians in long hair, or who wore on manly heads locks that, perhaps, originally came from female brows. They were, he said, sons of Belial for so offending. The King looked grave; the prelate insinuatingly invited the father of his people, who wore long, if not false, hair, to set a worthy example. “We'll think of it,” said the sovereign. “No time like the present,” replied the prelate, who produced a pair of shears from his episcopal sleeve, and advanced toward Henry, prepared to sweep off those honors which the monarch would fain have preserved. But what was the sceptre of the prince to the forceps of the priest? The former meekly sat down at the entrance of his tent, while the Bishop clipped him with the skilful alacrity of the immortal Figaro. Noble after noble submitted to the same operation, and, while these were being docked by the more dignified clergy, a host of inferior ecclesiastics passed through the ranks of the grinning soldiers, and cut off hair enough to have made the fortunes of all the periwig-builders who rolled in gilded chariots during the palmy days of the Grand Monarque.

Periwigs established themselves victoriously (dividing even the Church,) under Louis XIV. When a boy, that king had such long and beautiful hair, that a fashion ensued for all classes to wear at least an imitation thereof. When Louis began to lose his own, he also took to false adornment, and full-bottomed wigs bade defiance to the canons of the Church.

Charles II. did not bring the fashion with him 'to Whitehall. On the contrary, he withstood it. He forbade the members of the universities to wear wigs, smoke tobacco, or read their sermons. The members did all three, and Charles soon found himself doing the first two. “On the 2d of November, 1663,” says Pepys, “I heard the Duke (of York) say that he was going to wear a periwig ; and they say the King also will. I never till this day,” he adds,“ observed that the King was mighty grey.” This, perhaps, was the reason why Charles stooped to assume what he had before denounced. Pepys himself had adventured on the step in the previous May ; and what a business it was for the little man! Hear him! “Sth. At Mr. Jervas's, my old barber, I did try two or three borders and periwigs, meaning to wear one ; and yet I have no stomach for it, but that the pains of keeping my hair clean is so great. He trimmed me, and at last I parted; but my mind was almost altered from my first purpose from the trouble which I foresee will be in wearing them also.” He took some time to make up his mind; and only in October of the same year does he take poor Mrs. Pepys “to my periwig-maker's, and their showed my wife the periwig made for me, and she likes it very well.”

In April, 1665, the wig was in the hands of Jervas, under repair. In the meantime, our old friend took to his natural hair; but early in May we find him recording “that this day, after I had suffered my own hayre to grow long, in order to wearing it, I find that the convenience of periwigs is so great, that I have cut off all short again, and will keep to periwigs.” In the autumn, on Sunday, the 3d of September, the wicked little gallant moralizes thus on periwigs and their prospects: “Up, and put on my colored silk suit, very fine; and my new periwig, bought a good while since, but durst not wear, because the plague was in Westminster when I bought it; and it is a wonder what will be the fashion after the plague is done, as to periwigs, for nobody will dare to buy any hayre for fear of the infection, that it has been cut off the heads of people dead of the plague.” The plague and the fear thereof were clean forgotten before many months had passed; and in June, 1666, Pepys says: “Walking in the galleries at Whitehall, I find the

« VorigeDoorgaan »