Red Hair.

The Living age 373, 12.7.1851

From Bentley's Miscellany.

In the general category of "red" the greater part of people one meets confound every description of hair which is neither black, nor brown, nor white, nor whitybrown. It may be the fiery Milesian shock — it may be the paly amber — it may be the burnished gold — it may be the
Brown in the shadow, and gold in the sun;
- c'est ègal — it is all "red" — they have no other word.

And yet, under this general term are confounded the two extremes of beauty and ugliness — the two shades which have been respectively made the attributes of she angel and of the demon — we find that while, no the one hand, red hair (or rather a certain shade of it) has been both popularly and poetically associated with all ugliness, all vice, and all malignity, a more pleasing variety of the same hue has been associated with all loveliness, all meekness, and all innocence.

Thus Smithey, in his vision of the "Maid of Orleans," after having taken the poor girl to a number of unpleasant places, introduces her to the following disagreeable personage: —
From thence they came
Where, in the next ward, a most wretched band
Groaned underneath the bitter tyranny
Of a fierce Demon. His Coarsee hair was red —
Pale gray his eyes, and blood-hot, and his face
Wrinkled with such a smile as malice wears
In ecstasy. Well pleased he went around,
Plunging his dagger in the hearts of some,
Or probing with a poisoned lance their breasts,
Or placing coals of fire within their wounds.

This demon is Cruelty, and to his charge are committed all those who have exercised cruelty in their lifetime. Among others, "bad husbands," the poet tells us, "undero" a long purgation;" and serve them right too, but I would rather have handed them over fur pickling to their mothers-in-law.

Thus we find that red hair, or rather a certain shade of it, (be it understood that I always qualify it thus,) as betokening a cruel and fiendlike disposition, is a part of the orthodox description of a professed exeentimier. Scott, in the "Talisman," gives Richard's headsman "a huge red beard, mingling with shaggy locks of the same color;" and in the very same scene introduces, as a most marked contrast, his beautiful Queen Berengaria, with her "cherub" countenance, and dishevelled "golden tresses."

It scans, likewise, to he considered the mark of a crafty and treacherous disposition. In Spain it is popularly known by the name of Judas hair, front a belief that the traitor disciple's hair was of that shade, and in all Spanish paintings he is distinguished from the rest of the disciples by the fiery color of his hair. (See Stirling's "Annals of the Artists of Spain.") To such an extent do the Spaniards carry their prejudices that the Castilians have a proverb, "De tul pelo, ni gato ni perro" (of such hair neither cat nor dog).

In our own country a similar belief seems to have prevailed, though unattended by the same unreasonable prejudice as in Spain. In Shakspeare's play of "As You Like It,' Rosalind says of her lover —
Res. — His very hair is of the dissembling color.
Celia. — Something browner than Judas'.
Ros. — I'faith — his hair is of a good color.

Having now seen a certain variety of red hair to be the attributes of the demon — the headsman and the traitor — we shall find another variety of the Same hue to be one of the attributes of perfect beauty and innocence. In that most unequal poem, "The Course of Time," Pollok, describing the dawn, says it was: —
As though the glorious, golden, bushy locks
Of thousand cherubim had been shorn off,
And in the temples hung of morn and e'en.

A hold step, by the way, beyond the sublime. Thus, Tennyson's —
Sweet girl-graduates, in their golden hair.

Thus, by an authority which it would be heresy to dispute, and to which even a French painter has deferred, she who was "fairest of her daughters," was adorned with lucks of flowing gold. And, indeed, it would seem a natural thing for a person to suppose, if unassisted by experience — on two beautiful women being placed before him — the one with shining locks of gold, and complexion radiant as the light, and the other with raven tresses and olive cheek, that the former was the native of a bright and sunny clime, and that the latter had grown up in the shadow of the gloomy northern land. Milton, as a scholar and a traveller, could not have written his description in ignorance, but it was painted, no doubt, from a model of his own, and he could not have drawn the fairest of women after any other pattern than that of her who possessed his imagination as the ideal of womanly beauty.

Now were I to picture the first of women, I would give her an altruist Indian dusk, and the Abyssinian large, sad, gentle eye, (for the mother of mankind should have a touch of melancholy,) and flowing tresses of raven black, and everybody would say it was nothing like her.

The talented authoress of "Jane Eyre," by the way, is very much dissatisfied with Milton's Eve, (not with the color of her hair, but with her culinary qualifications,) and, making a mouthpiece of her heroine, Shirley, exclaims indignantly, that she was not Adam's wife, but his "housekeeper." She accordingly tries her hand upon an Eve of her own, and produces a sort of misty angel instead of Milton's comfortable woman. Fie! Miss Bell! find fault with Eve for being a good housekeeper! What sort of prospect is that for your husbandI I have an idea, however, that Miss Bell is better than her word, and could almost wager that the authoress of "Jane Eyre" makes first-rate apple-jelly.

To return to our subject; I have in the next place to draw the reader's attention to some of the more marked prejudices or predilections of different nations on the subject. Among all nations the ancient Egyptians stand preeminent for the violence of their aversion to red hair. Theirs was literally a burning hatred, for, on the authority of lliodorus and others, that highly civilized people annually performed the ceremony of burning alive an unfor tunate individual whose only crime was the color of his hair. Fancy the state of mind into which every possessor of the obnoxious shade must have been thrown on the approach of the dreaded ceremony, each not knowing whether himself might not be selected as the victim. Let us try to realize a case. Suppose an individual, perhaps a most respectable citizen, of unblemished character, and with hair not so very red, only the supply has been unequal to the demand, and the more flagrant culprits have been used up — fancy the poor man rushing distractedly about, piteously asking his friends whether they think his hair is really so very red — fancy him, more eagerly than Titmouse, grasping at every receipt warranted to preduce a deep and permanent black — fancy him sneaking nervously through the streets, imagining that every one who looks at him is saying to himself, "That's the man for the bonfire." What can the poor man do? If he were to flee to another city they would burn him all the more readily as being a stranger, in preference to one of their own townsmen. If he were to have an artful wig made, the perruquier might be a conscientious man, and feel it his duty to denounce him. The time draws nearer and nearer, and as the dread truth that his hair is unquestionably the reddest in the place begins to ooze out by degrees, his agony is redoubled. It is the last night: unable in the extremity of his anguish to form any plan, or take any measure, he passes the time walking distractedly about his house, exclaimin, "O this dreadful red hair!" The morning draws; for the ten-thousandth time he rushes to his glass. Ha! what is this? His hair is no longer red, fear and anguish have turned it white. He leaps high into the air. "Ha-ha—cured in an instant!" But he dares not trust the evidence of his own bewildered mind. He calls all his household around him, and puts the question to each of his servants in turn, "WhAt color is my hair?" They all tell him it is white, and their looks of astonishment assure him that they speak the truth. A loud knocking is heard at the door. His heart leaps within him, yet he feels that he is safe. Then a horrible qualm comes over him, fear and anguish had turned his hair white — perhaps joy may have turned it red again. Once more he rushes to his glass. No, it is all right. But he cannot bear the suspense, and rushes to the door himself. He sees the priests come for him — themagistrates, and all the little boys. Some of them may be his friends, but it is a religious ceremony, and all private feeling must give way. However, they think it proper to look grave as they inquire, "Is Mr. — within?" — "I am, Mr. — ," he cries with trembling eagerness. His fellow-townsmess are taken aback. They had known his well — its any of them often dined at his house, and therefere it would have been interesting to see how he behaved when burnt (our amateurs will tell you that there is a great deal more pleasure in seeing a man hanged whom you know.) However, there is no help for it — it would be monstrous to burn a man whose hair was not red. So they hypocritically congratulate him, and he goes off with a lightsome heart to see his neighbor burnt.

It is right, however, to remark, that Sir Gardner Wilkinson throws doubt on the whole story, upon the general ground that the Egyptians were too civilized a people to permit such a barbarous custom. Seeing, however, that it is not a couple of centuries since old women were served in the same way in England, I think his reason scarcely sufficient. As to the fact that this people had a violent antipathy to red hair, there is no dispute, and the reason may probably be found in the circumstance of their being, as we learn from the sculptures, continually at war with a red-haired people called the Rebo, and it is probable, that if the above savage rite was ever actually performed, the victims were the prisoners taken in war. Among their own nation red hair was very uncommon, for though it is found upon a great number of mummies, it is merely the effect of imperfect embalming, which has changed the natural color of the hair.

It would appear, from the terms "red-haired barbarians," and "red-haired-devils," which the Chinese have been wont to employ towards us English, that in that country a similar antipathy prevails.

Now I want to know what rielit the Chinese have to call us "red-haired!" They may call us "barbarians" or "devils," if they like, for that is a matter of opinion, but as to the color of our hair that is a matter of fact, and I submit that they have no right to take the exception for the rule.

And here I would call attention to a curious coincidence of idea between these two people. It was in honor of Typho, or the devil, that also Egyptians annually burned a person with red hair, and "red-haired devils" is the term which the Chinese employ towards us, both nations apeearing to associate the idea of devils with red hair.

Another idea suggests itself in connection with the above, namely, the deceptiveness of a great part of historical evidence. We say uehesitatingly, on the authority of the Egyptian monuments, that that people were at war with a red-haired tribe called the Rebo, whom they bouncily thrashed. Now will not future historians, if they trust to similar evidence, say as unhesitatingly, on the authority of Chinese records, that that people were at war with a red-haired tribe called the English, whom they soundly thrashed?

We find another instance of that manner in which this peculiarity of individuals has appeared so striking to an Oriental nation as to induce them te make it the characteristic of the people, in the prophecy current among the Turks, that Costantinople shall one day be retaken by a yellow-haired nation, in which prophecy the general opinion is that the Russians are referred to.

But we can scarcely wonder at the delusion of the Chinese respecting the color of our hair, when we find that a eimilar idea (based probably on she same foundation as that of our selling our wives) used to prevail very generally among our well-informed neighbors across the Channel. I believe, however, that this impression has very much died away since a certain French traveller was candid enough to contradict it. "I spik," said he, "alvays do truth, and I vill say dat I have seen English which had not red hair."

If we turn to the ancient Romans we find that that people had as strong a penchant in favor of yellow or gulden hair as the above-named nations had a prejudice against red. Among them yellow hair was so much admired that their ladies were in the habit of making use of cosmetics to change the colar of their raven locks. The hue most esteemed was probably a very dark shade, and almost a brown, as the epithet (flavus) made use of by Horace to describe it is the same which he constantly to describe the color of the Tiber. Judging by what we know of the color of the Tiber, the epithet appears to be by no means complimentary, but the affections of the Romans for their river made them imagine it to be everything that was beautiful. In this respect they were the reverse of ourselves, who make a point of abusing the Thames, for the dirt we ourselves have put into it.

The predilection of the Romans has descended to the modern Italians, among whose women we find many beautiful varieties of the golden hue so much prized by the ancient connoisseurs among the
ancient, as among the modern Greeks, we find a similar penchant, and the ancient custom of employing ornaments of gold to heighten the effect of the darker-colored hair, as bronze is set off by or-molu, is preserved to the present day.

To the violent antipathy of the Spaniards I have already had occasion to allude. In our own country golden hair has always been admired, and in the middle ages a similar practice to that of the ancient Romans was in faahion among, our ladies. They were in the habit of dyeing their hair yellow, and thinning their eyebrows — the latter custom exactly the reverse of that so common in the East.

In the Lowlands of Scotland yellow hair is a still more general favorite, for we find that of almost all the popular songs a "yellow-haired laddie," or a "yellow-haired lassie," is the hero, or the heroine, as the case may be.

On the other hand, among some of the Highland clans, red hair is regarded with so much aversion as to he considered a positive deformity. I remember an amusing instance of this, though I do not at present recollect the authority. A certain nobleman paid a visit to an old Highlander, and was introduced by him to his family, consisting of six fine, stalwart sons. The nobleman, however, happened to be aware that there were seven, and inquired after the absent member. The old man sorrowfully gave him to understand that an afflictive dispensation of Providence had rendered the seventh unfit to be introduced in company.

"Ah, poor fellow," said the sympathizing visitor, "I see — some mental infirmity!"

"On the contrary," replied the father, "he is by far the cleverest of the family — there is nothing the matter with his mind."

"Oh, then, by all means let me see him!" said the nobleman, and, while the old man went in quest of the unpresentable youth, he prepared a kind word for the cripple, whom he expected to be produced. To his astonishment, however, the father returned, followed by a fine, tall, handsome young fellow, by far the mom preposessing of the family.

"Excuse me," stammered the nobleman; "but I — in fact — I — see nothing the matter with him."

"Nothing the matter with him!" mournfully exclaimed the afflicted parent; "nothing the matter with him! Look at his hair!"

The nobleman looked; sure enough his hair was red!

It is probable that this bitter aversion may have originated in some quarrel between the different clans, as we find that there are clans in which red hair preåpmderates.

Sir Walter Scott seems to have had a decided penchant for golden locks — at least I judge so from the number of his heroines to when he has given hair of that color, and from the fact of his invariably comfortably marrying them, while their dark-haired companions are frequently much less satisfactorily disposed of. His reason for this stems to be an idea that they are more gentle, less ambitious, and less apt to get into mischief. Thus the amiable, golden-haired, Brenna marries the interesting Mordaunt, while the dark-haired and high-souled Minna spills her affection upon a good-for-nothing pirate. Thus the gentle Rose Bradwardine marries the interesting Waverley, while poor Flora M'Ivor's gallant heart is wasted in chivalrous and unprofitable loyalty. I somewhat doubt the correctness of his theory, for I think the spirit of the old seakings not unfrequently descends with the inheritance of their golden hair.

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