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Quotations about Beards & Whiskers


It is time for the people to pause and realize what whiskers have meant to human civilization. ~Stephen Leacock, "Studies in the Progress of Human Knowledge — The Restoration of Whiskers A Neglected Factor in the Decline of Knowledge," The Garden of Folly, 1924

But, do you know it hadn't occurred to me that a man's beard was really part of him. It always seemed to me that men wore their beards, like they wear their neckties, for show. ~D. H. Lawrence, St. Mawr, 1925

A beard gives fierceness to the warrior, and renders the lover irresistible. ~Anonymous, "Editor's Table: Beards," The Ladies' Repository, 1862

For a healthy beard, be sure to brush it daily and take it for a walk every evening.

He hath a most remarkable Beard, the largest and blackest I ever saw. ~Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, 1749

The discovery of a grey hair when you are brushing out your whiskers of a morning — first fallen flake of the coming snows of age — is a disagreeable thing. ~Alexander Smith, "An Essay on an Old Subject," 1865

You can measure time in days, weeks, months, or beards. ~Author unknown

Strong shoulders, manly beard, scapula, hind-shoulders, and the ample side-round of the chest... ~Walt Whitman, "I Sing the Body Electric," Leaves of Grass

But what, then, is the use of beards?... The first is to stimulate the ingenuity of man, and give field and scope for the exercise of a rampant fancy. Observe what an opportunity a beard affords for studying effect in the infinite variety of cutting and chipping which it undergoes, and how much it is made to contribute to the personality and character of the individual... Women have almost an infinite range of fabrics and colors with which they set off the charms of their persons. Of ribbons, bows, fringes, and jewels, there is no end. Men have nothing but their beards. ~Anonymous, "Editor's Table: Beards," The Ladies' Repository, 1862

It is almost impossible to bear the torch of truth through a crowd without singeing someone's beard. ~Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–1799), translated from German by R. J. Hollingdale

I must to the barber's, monsieur; for
methinks I am marvellous hairy about the face; and I
am such a tender ass, if my hair do but tickle me,
I must scratch.
~William Shakespeare, Midsummer Night's Dream, c.1595  [IV, 1, Bottom]

[T]here is something... in having a proper costume for an occasion... It fortifies one. Indeed, I do not doubt that the soldier's uniform serves such a purpose, giving him courage. He probably would not fight half as well without it. And if there is no uniform available, the wearing of beards may do as much for him and his fellow soldiers. ~Cid Ricketts Sumner, Saddle Your Dreams, 1964

Make beard, not war. ~Internet meme

"Here, papa, take the young lady... She is fonder of gentlemen than ladies, I perceive. She wouldn't be a true female, though, if she wasn't." Miss Erminie, in a paroxysm of delight, immediately buried her fingers in papa's thick burnished locks, with variations of pulling his whiskers and mustache and then tenderly kissing the above hirsute appendages to make them well again. And papa, like all other young papas, looked, as if he thought her the most wonderful baby that ever lived, and danced her up and down until she forgot all sense of etiquette and propriety, and fairly screamed with delight. ~May Agnes Fleming, The Gypsy Queen's Vow, 1875

When not otherwise engaged, men are almost uniformly busy in stroking their beard, pulling their moustache, or coaxing their goatee. Without such a resource, what could they do? Women can manage to hold their hands gracefully in their laps, if they have nothing else to occupy them. Men find this impossible, and hence resort at once to their beards. ~Anonymous, "Editor's Table: Beards," The Ladies' Repository, 1862

Individual freedom has its limits. It is not true that a man's whiskers are his own. It is not true that he has the right to remove them. John Stuart Mill thought so. But Mill was wrong. Every individual is but a part of society; and if his station is such that a flowing white beard is demanded by it, his duty is obvious. No one would wish to carry too far the supremacy of the State. But a constitutional provision of a temperate character imposing compulsory white beards on college presidents, ministers, poets, ambassadors and grand opera singers would take rank at once as equal in common sense and general utility with some of the most notable amendments to the Constitution of this Country. ~Stephen Leacock, "Studies in the Progress of Human Knowledge — The Restoration of Whiskers A Neglected Factor in the Decline of Knowledge," The Garden of Folly, 1924

Not for one moment, beautiful aged Walt Whitman,
have I failed to see your beard full of butterflies,
nor your shoulders of corduroy worn out by the moon,
nor your thighs of virginal Apollo,
nor your voice like a pillar of ashes;
ancient and beautiful as the mist...
~Federico García Lorca (1898–1936), translated from Spanish by Stephen Spender & J. L. Gili

There was an Old Man with a beard,
who said, "It is just as I feared!—
Two Owls and a Hen,
four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!"
~Edward Lear (1812–1888), A Book of Nonsense  [The Whitman butterflies and the Lear birds both make me think of @TheGayBeards! –tg]

FACE  A fertile, open expanse, lying midway between collar button and scalp, and full of cheek, chin and chatter. The crop of the male face is hair, harvested daily by a lather, or allowed to run to mutton-chops, spinach or full lace curtains. ~Charles Wayland Towne, The Foolish Dictionary, Executed by Gideon Wurdz, Master of Pholly, Doctor of Loquacious Lunacy, etc., 1904

England, above all other nations, should be slow to speak disrespectfully of beards. The greatest age of English history was an age of beards. In the spacious days of Elizabeth the beards were as spacious as the days. Shakespeare wore a beard, and, if he were alive to-day, undergraduates on holiday would be looking over his garden wall at Stratford and shouting "Beaver!"... Yet so degenerate had England become by the end of the eighteenth century that Lord Rokeby's growing a beard was regarded as evidence that he was mad... In the nineteenth century a revival of literature was followed by a revival of beards, and the reign of Queen Victoria was as prolific of bearded men of letters and bearded artists as the reign of Queen Elizabeth had been. It is strange that queens and beards should thus go together. Queen Anne alone seems to have ruled over men of genius who grew no beards. It would be worth some statistician's while to go through the great names of English literature and compare the amount of genius that has gone bearded with the amount of genius that has been clean-shaven... The great ages of prose are the ages in which men shave. The great ages of poetry are those in which they allow their beards to grow... ~Robert Lynd, "Beaver," 1922

Remove the whiskers and you remove the man. The whole stature and appearance of him shrink: his shoulders contract: his frame diminishes: his little bowler hat swallows and envelops his trivial skull. ~Stephen Leacock, "Studies in the Progress of Human Knowledge — The Restoration of Whiskers A Neglected Factor in the Decline of Knowledge," The Garden of Folly, 1924

What a beard hast thou
got! thou hast got more hair on thy chin than
Dobbin my fill-horse has on his tail.
~William Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice, c.1596  [II, 2, Old Gobbo]

Do not mistake a goat's beard for a fine stallion's tail. ~Irish proverb

If you had half as much brains as you have beard, you would have looked before you leaped. ~Æsop  [Context note: The beard here mentioned is on a goat. The fox is speaking to him in this fable. –tg]

Do you suppose that your beard creates brains and therefore you grow that fly-flapper? Take my advice and shave it off at once; for that beard is a creator of lice and not of brains. ~Ammianus (2nd century A.D.), in The Greek Anthology, Volume IV, "Book XI: The Convivial and Satirical Epigrams," epigram 156, translated by W. R. Paton, 1918

If you think that to grow a beard is to acquire wisdom, a goat with a fine beard is at once a complete Plato. ~Lucian of Samosata, in The Greek Anthology, Volume IV, "Book XI: The Convivial and Satirical Epigrams," epigram 430, translated by W. R. Paton, 1918

Ah Fate! cannot a man
Be wise without a beard?
From east to west, from Beersheba to Dan,
Pray was it never heard
That wisdom might in youth be gotten
Or wit be ripe before 'twas rotten?
~Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Fame," 1826

Beards:  they grow on you. ~Author unknown

One shaves his whole face, and looks as much like a great masculine woman as it is possible for him to look. Another leaves his moustache, and another a goatee. One cultivates a pair of delicate whiskers, while another makes them broad and strong as the back of Hercules. One curves them gracefully round this way, and another in that, while a third presents them square and hard, or pointed and piquant. Indeed, there is no end to the diversity which our five hundred millions of men manage to create with so simple a thing as a human beard. ~Anonymous, "Editor's Table: Beards," The Ladies' Repository, 1862

There are others still, who believe that beards are given men chiefly or wholly as an ornament, as peacocks are decked with enormous tails... Something must be done, say the philosophers, to distinguish men from women, and what could be more obvious or striking than a good beard? ~Anonymous, "Editor's Table: Beards," The Ladies' Repository, 1862

Life will become intolerable for a bearded man when children rise up out of the pavement at every step, and surround him with the loud shouts of "Beaver!" ~Robert Lynd, "Beaver," 1922

Many of our modern men are ugly because they do not wear their beards. ~Alphonse Karr, quoted in Edward Parsons Day, Day's Collacon, 1884

Some conceited and ugly men, aware of their inability to conceal their ugliness, end by being proud of it. A countenance debarred from any chance of being lovable might as well aspire to formidable. They value the bristling mustachio, the Lincoln goatee, and other varieties of hirsute, satyr-like hairy appendages, as if afraid of their smooth faces not being sufficiently hideous. ~A. Gallenga, "The Sorrows of Ugly Men," in London Society, 1887  [modified –tg]

Rome, however, was so vehemently opposed to the wearing of beards that in 1119 clergy who let their hair and beards grow were threatened with excommunication, while the mystical-minded Durandus explained, according to The Catholic Encyclopædia, that "length of hair is symbolical of the multitude of sins. Hence clerics are directed to shave their beards; for the cutting of the hair of the beard, which is said to be nourished by the superfluous humours of the stomach, denotes that we ought to cut away the vices of sins which are a superfluous growth in us. Hence we shave our beards that we may seem purified by innocence and humility, and that we may be like the angels who remain always in the bloom of youth." At the same time, the instinct for growing beards remained so strong that several of the Popes themselves succumbed to it, and even as recently as 1865 the Pope was forced to reprimand certain of the clergy of Bavaria for attempting to re-introduce the fashion of wearing beards. He is said to have rebuked them in the words, "Non Beaveria sed Bavaria," but this may not be true. ~Robert Lynd, "Beaver," Solomon in All His Glory, 1923  [This essay first appeared in 1922 in the New Statesman with a slightly different wording. —tg]

Bad Match Twist. — Red (or carroty) hair and black whiskers. ~Slang and its Analogues: A Dictionary of Heterodox Speech, John S. Farmer and W. E. Henley, 1890s

      But most deplorable of all is the damage that is being done to imaginative literature. Here, for example, are a few quotations selected, quite at random, from the great literature of the past to show the close interdependence of personality and whiskers:— "The Duke remained seated in deep thought, passing his luxuriant beard slowly through his fingers." (Ouida.)
      Imagine what an impressive thing that must have been. The Duke could take his beard and let it trickle slowly through his fingers like rippling silk. No wonder that the Duke could think, when he could do that! But all that can remain of that sort of passage in the books of today would run, "The Duke remained seated in deep thought, passing his fingers aimlessly through the air a foot from his face, as if seeking, groping for something that he could not find."
      Here is a selection from the poet Gray's magnificent description of a Welsh bard:
            "All loose his hoary hair, his beard
            Streamed like a meteor to the troubled wind."
      The splendid picture, — the bard standing in the wind with the sparks flying from his whiskers in all directions, — is gone. ~Stephen Leacock, "Studies in the Progress of Human Knowledge — The Restoration of Whiskers A Neglected Factor in the Decline of Knowledge," The Garden of Folly, 1924

It is hoped that some expert will leave for future generations a record of the rules of the game of Beaver. It is played, I understand, by two persons, and the points are scored as in tennis. Whichever of the two first cries "Beaver!" as a beard heaves into sight, scores. At the sight of a white beard, one cries, "Polar beaver!" which counts a game. At the sight of a royal beard, the correct call is "Royal beaver!" which counts not only as game, but as sett and match. There is a story of a Cambridge function at which, on the entrance of King George V., the audience of undergraduates rose to their feet with a universal shout of "Royal beaver! Game, sett, match!" It is possibly untrue. There are, I believe, still other variations of the game, and, no doubt, in time it will become as elaborate in its niceties as poker. ~Robert Lynd, "Beaver," Solomon in All His Glory, 1923  [This essay first appeared in 1922 in the New Statesman with a slightly different wording. —tg]

How long were you occupied, sir, this very Sabbath morning, with these whiskers? Ay, whiskers! What do you mean to insinuate by them, sir? Why are they not shaved? Are they wholly senseless, or have you an aim, object, and end in cherishing that loathsome lair? ~John Wilson, The Young Lady's Book; or, Manual of Elegant Recreations, Exercises, and Pursuits, 1829

Came there a certain lord, neat, and trimly dress'd,
Fresh as a bridegroom; and his chin new reap'd
Show'd like a stubble-land at harvest-home...
~William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part I, c. 1597  [I, 3, Hotspur]

Beards. Never mind the referendum, religion or fracking — it's facial furniture that divides our great nation. And, as Movember slips seamlessly into Decembeard, the country is looking even more hirsute than usual. It seems men are reclaiming their follicles as a symbol of power and fertility, freeing themselves from the tyranny of the razor, shaking off decades — nay, centuries — of oppression declaring that behind every successful man is a smooth chin. Well, no more. ~“Careless whiskers: Why beards are back in fashion,” The Scotsman,, 2013

Gone are the days when clean shaven was the only way to look well groomed. Some of the most stylish and sophisticated men on the planet are adopting a more rugged approach to facial hair, and from bar to boardroom stubble is no longer seen as scruffy. If uncared for, stubble can make you look rough or haggard — but equally it has the ability to transform a smooth baby face into something far more masculine and handsome. ~Duncan Copeland, "Men's Grooming: Maintaining Stubble,", 2013

Designer stubble — not quite a beard, but a rugged way of adding style to your face, while maintaining a well-groomed masculine look. Made popular during the 1980s by actor Don Johnson and singer George Michael; designer stubble is still a trend today and has become even more fashionable over the past few years... add a bit of maturity and sex appeal to your look, without the need to sport a full beard. ~“How to Perfect the Designer Stubble Look,”, 2015

This is what the beard represents. The beard is hair that grows down from the head to the rest of the body. It is the bridge between mind and heart, thoughts and actions, theory and practice, good intentions and good deeds. So we don't cut the beard, but rather let it flow freely, to open a direct flow from the ideals and philosophies of our minds into our everyday lifestyle. ~Aron Moss, "The Beard,", 2007

I took up the weekly paper, Ha! what's this? "Cupid taking Lodgings among the Whiskers!... A coterie of fine ladies received and encouraged the addresses of a company of fine smooth-faced Englishmen. Presently, a party of strangers, with whiskers, cut in, and cut out the Englishmen. Before long, a party of Frenchmen appeared, and very soon supplanted the strangers. Messieurs wore mustaches! After a time, a party of Prussians appeared; they added the imperial to the whiskers and mustaches, and it is unnecessary to say, that the Frenchmen had to stand aside. By and by came a company of Russians, so enveloped in whiskers, mustaches, &c. that no one could tell on which side of their heads the face was. This was decisive! The Russians married the ladies!" ~Cassio, "Memoir of a Pair of Whiskers," in The Parterre of Fiction, Poetry, History, Literature, and the Fine Arts, Vol. I, 1834

O, Sir, your chinne is but a quyller yet, you will be most majesticall when it is full fledge. ~John Lyly, Endimion, The Man in the Moone, 1591  [A quiller is a bird that doesn't yet have all its feathers. –tg]

Ere on thy chin the springing beard began
To spread a doubtful down and promise man?
~Matthew Prior (1664–1721), "Ode to the Memory of Colonel George Villiers"

Wast thou not yesterday a boy, and we had never even dreamt of this beard coming? How did this accursed thing spring up, covering with hair all that was so pretty before? Heavens! what a marvel! ~Strato of Sardis, in The Greek Anthology, Volume IV, "Book XII: Strato's Musa Puerilis," epigram 191, translated by W. R. Paton, 1918

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published 2013 Oct 2
revised 2018 Oct 16
last saved 2022 Nov 23