Monday, July 25, 2011

The Dislike of Red Hair in 19th Century England

The following quotes about red hair come from an article about hair dye that was published in 1866. The article was simply titled ‘Hair Dyeing’ and appeared in a publication called ‘The Spectator.’

This first quote talks of how the English vilified red hair;
"[T]he English horror of light hair in women was almost comical in its intensity, so deep as to affect literature and penetrate the opinions of the uncultivated mass. One shade of red, that false auburn which is red in the sun and brown under artificial light, was tolerated, chiefly, we imagine, because fashionable opinion is formed under chandeliers; but the true auburn, which has a golden flash in it under the sun and a red flash only by candle light, the auburn which the Italian painters loved three centuries ago, and Millais can paint now when he will let his imagination work as well as his eyes, was utterly condemned, all the more viciously perhaps because that is the shade in which hair is found most voluminous and silky."
"As to the different shades of red, the language was ransacked to find terms of abhorrence which should be sufficiently expressive, and while the costermonger asked somebody "to put out that 'ere bonnet, it must be burning by now," the peer summed up his dislike in the emphatic word "Carrots!" So deep was the disgust for this shade that it extended even to men's heads. Nobody ever suggested that men with fair hair could not be handsome, or denied that the highest Norman type, the tall, fair-haired, steel-eyed, light-complexioned man, was the ideal type of all, but everybody professed to abominate red. Hundreds of schoolboys have had their lives rendered miserable by a shade too much of the hated colour[.]”
I think this final quote is my favourite, though;
"Part of the objection to red hair no doubt arose from the ugly complexion, and freckles, and turned up nose by which it is often accompanied, but the aversion was felt and expressed even in cases where red hair was only the natural complement of very regular beauty."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Red-Headed Minister

Whilst searching Google Books I came across this short article in a monthly magazine tilted ‘The Guardian’ (published 1855).
The Phrenological Journal, in an article on temperament, says: "We have never seen or heard of a red-headed minister, or, rather, of a minister possessed of a pure sanguine temperament." We do not know whether the Journal is correct or not on this point; but it is stated that several years ago a minister being presented to the parish church of Crieff, in Scotland, the parishioners objected to receiving him, and when the case was tried before the Presbytery, it was found that their only objection to him was that his hair was red. The objection was insuperable.

Was Mary Queen of Scots a Redhead?

I recently came across this in a periodical called ‘Notes and Queries: A Medium of Intercommunication for Literary Men, General Readers, Etc.’ It appears on page 251 of the 1882 July-December issue and concerns the hair colour of Mary Queen of Scots.
“The colour of the hair of Mary Queen of Scots has often been a disputed point, so many of her pictures having hair of quite different tones of colour; for this reason I looked with much interest at a miniature lent by the Queen some few years ago to one of the loan exhibitions of old masters at Burlington House. This was a square miniature on ivory, half length, and from the date and general appearance may have been the one sent by Mary to Elizabeth before the death of her husband Francis II., as there was one sent about that time, and after his death Mary would have been represented in her "white mourning." The age of this portrait seemed to agree with the date; the dress was pink velvet or satin with pearl ornaments; the hair was very fair, and more decidedly red than I have seen in any other picture - in fact, the same colour as in the early portraits of Elizabeth - and the colour of the whole very fresh.”
Another commenter then posits on the following page;
“I have a miniature of her in a gold setting (French) of her period, which represents her with blue eyes and red hair. I believe it is known that she wore wigs of different colours, for most of her portraits give her dark brown hair. We may, perhaps, conclude from this that her hair was really red, and, of course, her eyes blue, as few persons would choose red hair, but might prefer to appear with it dark.”

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


This blog is about red hair. I've set it up with the aim of gathering together all the interesting bits of information about red hair I've come across. Over time I'll add to it any new information I collect. No doubt I'll sometimes stray into territory that isn't strictly red hair related, but hopefully it'll be related enough that things don't wander too far from the main focus.

Thanks for visiting.