The Books of To-day and the Books of To-morrow, July 1904
The subject of Baldness has recently been ‘aired’ in the
The following letters will be found to throw additional light upon it:
SIR.—I see that some of your correspondents attribute baldness to
the habit of wearing hats, while another says that smoking is at the root
of the evil. In my opinion the true cause of baldness is simply Piety.
I cannot explain why this should be so, but the evidence simply puts doubt
out of question. There is the Biblical case of Elisha—he was bald. 1 The noblest of the Scandinavian gods was
Baldur. 2 I myself, if I may believe
my hairdresser, am growing thin on the top. Finally, while that worst of
creatures, the black sheep, is stated to have had wool to the extent of
three bags full, 3 the celebrated
Uncle Ned, the noblest example of the coloured gentleman in literature,
had none in the place where the wool ought to have grown. 4
And who ever heard of a villain in a melodrama being bald? Whereas the
good old man in the same play always has a head like an egg. Verb. sap. 5—Yours, &c.
The Hatch, Colney.HATTER. 6
Dear Sir.—Having to leave England made me lose my hair.—Yours indignantly,
Ss. ‘Lucania.’A. DOWIE. 7
Sir.—Everything tends to show that the pursuit of letters thins the hair. Many of our leading writers—exempli gratia Mr. Sims 8 and John Strange Winter 9—have been obliged to invent restorers to counteract the tendency. Mr. Hall Caine has a bald forehead. 10 The Editor of the Brixton Lynx was given up in despair by his barber years ago. When Miss Corelli 11 attacks the clergy or the critics, she goes for them bald-headed. When Mr. Barrie put “Little Mary” on the stage, he only had one Hare. 12—Yours,
Cell 314 Hanwell.ONE OF THE HAIR’S MANY FRIENDS.
Sir.—Inability to play the piano causes baldness. Up to the age of eighteen months I could not play my scales, with the result that my hair was extremely sparse. When I was two I could pick out ‘Pop goes the Weasel’ with one finger, and my thatch began to increase. Now that I am an expert on the instrument my hair weighs a hundred and forty-seven pounds, three ounces, and is still growing. I enclose a lock.—Yours,
1 Pzkwonkzkoff Terrace, Warsaw.PADEREWSKI. 13
Sir.—In my opinion it is the quite too horrid spirit of Imperialism which spells ruin to the scalp. Take the case of Julius Cæsar. And didn’t Alexander the Great die heirless? I believe so. Yours liberally,
Opposition Benches, Westminster.H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN. 14
Printed unsigned; entered by Wodehouse in Money Received for Literary Work.
In the Biblical book of Kings, the prophet Elisha is mocked for his baldness: “And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.”
In Norse mythology, Baldr (Baldur) was a god associated with light and beauty. Despite his name, Baldr was not bald: in the 13th-century Icelandic Prose Edda, he is described as being fair “both in hair and in body.”
A reference to a well-known nursery rhyme: “Baa baa black sheep, have you any wool? Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.”
‘Hatter’ is quoting from the first verse of “Old Uncle
Ned,” a song written and composed by American songwriter Stephen
Foster in 1848:
Dere was an old Nigga, dey call’d him uncle Ned—
He’s dead long ago, long ago!
He had no wool on de top ob his head—
De place whar de wool ought to grow.
An abbreviation of verbum sapienti sat est (Latin): literally, a word is sufficient to the wise; more generally, no further explanation is needed.
This is a reference to the phrase “as mad as a hatter.” Colney Hatch was a well-known lunatic asylum.
John Alexander Dowie (1847–1907) was a Scottish-born evangelist. In 1901 he founded the city of Zion, Illinois, and established his own church. The following year he declared himself to be Elijah the Restorer. In 1904, Dowie embarked on an “Around the World” preaching campaign. He arrived in London on 11 June but had trouble finding accommodation, apparently because of remarks he was reported to have made about the King, and, after a brief retreat to Boulogne, he sailed from Liverpool aboard the SS Lucania on 18 June.
George Robert Sims (1847–1922) was a prolific English journalist and writer.
Sims began his writing career with Fun magazine but later concentrated
on social issues, especially the plight of London’s poor. He is best
remembered for a single line from The Dagonet Ballads (1879):
“It is Christmas Day in the workhouse.”
Sims marketed a hair-restorer, Tatcho, supposedly of his own invention, but incurred ridicule when it failed to arrest his own advancing baldness. He was more successful as a legal reformer; his newspaper campaign on behalf of a Norwegian national, Adolf Beck, who had twice been imprisoned owing to mistaken identity, is credited as one of the main factors in the establishment, in 1907, of the court of criminal appeal, and secured for him a knighthood from the King of Sweden and Norway.
John Strange Winter was the pen-name of Henrietta Eliza Vaughan Stannard
(1856–1911), an English author of some sixty books. Mrs. Stannard was an
active social reformer and philanthropist, campaigning against cruelty
to children, in favour of animal rights, and against all forms of corporal
punishment, and funding a day nursery for working mothers in the East End
of London, among others.
Her favourite hobby was making toiletries for the hair and skin, and she turned this into a business, the income from which helped to support her family after her publishers went bankrupt around 1900; her toiletries won gold medals at exhibitions in London and Vienna.
Though almost forgotten today, Thomas Henry Hall Caine (1853–1931) was
one of the most popular and best-selling English authors of the late-Victorian
and Edwardian eras. His hair receded while he was still young and with
his pointed beard he bore a slight resemblance to the memorial bust of
William Shakespeare at Stratford-upon-Avon, a likeness he cultivated: if
people did not remark on it he was apt to point it out.
Wodehouse frequently lampooned Hall Caine; his “By the Way” columns for The Globe newspaper contain numerous disparaging references to Hall Caine, as do some of his early poems and other newspaper and magazine columns.
Marie Corelli (real name Mary Mackay) (1855–1924) was the author of a number of novels that achieved popular success while attracting ridicule from most literary critics. Having gained fame and financial independence, she turned to more contemporary themes; she vehemently disliked turn-of-the-century feminism and became an outspoken opponent of the suffragette movement, her views being forcibly expressed in her non-fiction works, The Modern Marriage Market (1898) and Free Opinions Freely Expressed (1905).
J. M. Barrie’s play “Little Mary” received its premiere at Wyndham’s Theatre, London, on 24 September 1903, with John Hare (1844–1921) in the rôle of Lord Carlton.
Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860–1941) was a Polish pianist and composer. During
the First World War, Paderewski became active in the cause of Polish independence
and in 1919 he became, briefly, Prime Minister of newly-independent Poland
and was a signatory to the Treaty of Versailles. He resigned in December
1919, becoming instead Polish ambassador to the League of Nations, from
which post he retired in 1922 and resumed his musical career.
In appearance Paderewski had a luxuriant and unruly head of hair, which—as his letter suggests—he did not have at his birth.
Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1836–1908) was leader of the Liberal Party
from February 1899 and Prime Minister from December 1905 until 4 April
1908, when he resigned on grounds of ill health; he died less than three
weeks later. Campbell (as he preferred to be known—he did not like
his “horrid long name”) disliked Imperialism in any form and
in 1901 he condemned the Unionist government’s treatment of Boer
non-combatants in the face of guerrilla tactics adopted by Britain’s
opponents in the war in South Africa: in response, 50 Liberal Imperialist
MPs staged a protest by leaving the chamber of the House of Commons as
he was speaking and refused to support a Liberal motion condemning the
use of ‘concentration camps.’
According to Suetonius (Lives of the Caesars, 121 AD), Julius Caesar was embarrassed by premature baldness, which he tried to hide by combing his hair over and forward.
Alexander the Great (356–323 BC) created an empire that, at his death, extended over most of the world as known to the ancient Greeks. At his death he had no legitimate heir; his only living son was by a concubine, not a wife, and his legitimate son, Alexander IV, was not born until after Alexander was dead. His would-be successors soon quarrelled among themselves and the empire disintegrated, its various components being absorbed into separate kingdoms and empires.