J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

“A Beard is sweet as any Rose, Because it’s put so near the Nose.”

Yesterday I quoted Hannah Mather Crocker about a shoemaker named Scott who wore an immensely unfashionable long beard in Boston starting in the 1760s. Crocker didn’t record his first name, but I found the given name William in a contemporaneous source.

In fact, that source is a poem attributed to William Scott himself.  The 3 Feb 1764 New Hampshire Gazette, published in Portsmouth by Daniel Fowle, included this unusual item:
Mr. Fowle,
Please to print the following Lines, as they shew the Poetical Genius of Mr. William Scott, a Shoemaker in Boston, wrote with his own Hand.

MEN love Women with Lips quite bare,
Who on their Chins have got no Hair:
Why Beard on Man, should they dispise,
Pray why not comely in their Eyes?
If God sees fit to plant it there,
It must be equal to the Fair.
The Ladies they may well suppose
A Beard is sweet as any Rose,
Because it’s put so near the Nose.
One Reason more why Beard is sweet,
Is it grows close by where we eat.
It must be so as it is plac’d,
All round the Mouth the Seat of Taste;
For who alive presumes to tell
That God offends both Taste and Smell.
Psalms one Hundred and thirty-third,
There you may find that precious Word,
Inspir’d King David has compar’d,
Unim to Ointment on a Beard.
Once Kings and Princes us’d to wear
Not only Part but all their Hair;
At which some gaze and curse and swear.
But if they dispise Things that are made,
They Slight the Maker, may be said.
God’s Works no one will ridicule,
But a conceited wicked Fool.
Seventeen Hundred sixty-three
These Lines were then compos’d by me,
Boston December twenty-third,
I wrote them all down Word for Word,
Which may be soon quite all forgot,
So may the Author William Scott.
These Lines I hope you will excuse,
As I get Bread by making Shoes.

Mr. Scott has his Picture drawn by Mr. [Joseph] Badger, under which is the following Lines, composed by himself.

IF Women’s Chins are made both smooth and Fair,
And on Man’s is fix’t a Beard of Hair,
Pray why the same should they not wear?
The portrait by Badger has not survived.

TOMORROW: Women respond to Scott’s poetic question.

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