(A Sketch in a Hair-dresser's Saloon.)

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Preposterous Headdresses and Feathered Ladies:
Hair, Wigs, Barbers, and Hairdressers

An Exhibit at the Lewis Walpole Library: May 8 - October 29, 2003


"HAIR-CUTTING, SINGEING, AND SHAMPOOING." (A Sketch in a Hair-dresser's Saloon.)

SCENE—A small but well-appointed Saloon, with the usual fittings. As the Scene opens, its only occupants are a Loquacious Assistant and a Customer with a more than ordinarily sympathetic manner.

The Loquacious Assistant. No, Sir, we're free to go the minute the clock strikes. We've no clearing up or anythink of that sort to do, not bein' required to pufform any duties of a menial nature, Sir. 'Ed a little more to the left, Sir....

"You 'ave been losin' your 'air!"

Sundays I gen'ally go up the river. I'm a Member of a Piskytorial Association. I don't do any fishin', to mention, but I jest carry a rod in my 'and. Railway Comp'ny takes anglers at reduced fares, you see, Sir.... No, Sir, don't stay 'ere all day long. Sometimes the Guv'nor sends me out to wait on parties at their own residences. Pleasant change, Sir? Ah, you're right there, Sir! There's one lady as lives in Prague Villas, Sir. I've been to do her 'air many a time. (He sighs sentimentally.) I did like waitin' on 'er, Sir. Sech a beautiful woman she is, too,—with 'er face so white, ah! 'AWKINS her name is, and her 'usban' a stockbroker. She was an actress once, Sir, but she give that up when she married. Told me she'd 'ad to work 'ard all her life to support her Ma, and she did think after she was married she was goin' to enjoy herself—but she 'adn't! Ah, she was a nice lady, Sir; she'd got her 'air in sech a tangle it took me three weeks to get it right! I showed her three noo ways of doin' up her 'air, and she says to me, "What a clever young man you are!" Her very words, Sir! Trim the ends of your moustache, Sir? Thankee, Sir. Yes, she was a charmin' woman. She 'ad three parrots in the room with 'er, swearin' orful. I enjoyed goin there, Sir; yes, Sir. Ain't been for ever sech a while now, Sir. I did think of callin' again and pertendin' I'd forgot a comb, Sir, but I done that once, and I'm afraid it wouldn't do twice, would it, Sir? Sixteen her number is—a sweet number, Sir! Limewash or brilliantine, Sir?... And I know 'er maid and her man, too; oh, she keeps a grand 'ouse, Sir! (Observing that the Sympathetic Customer is gradually growing red in the face and getting hysterical.) Towel too tight for you, Sir? Allow me; thank you, Sir. (Here two fresh Customers enter.) Ready for you in one moment, Gentlemen. The other Assistant is downstairs 'aving his tea, but he'll be up directly

[The two fresh Customers watch one another suspiciously, after the manner of Britons. The first, who is elderly, removes his hat and displays an abundance of strong grizzled hair, which he surveys complacently in a mirror. The second, a younger man, seems reluctant to uncover until absolutely obliged to do so.

The Grizzled Customer (to the Other Customer, as his natural self-satisfaction overcomes his reserve). 'Shtonishing how fast one's hair does grow. It's not three weeks since I had a close crop. Great nuisance, eh?

The Other Customer (with evident embarrassment). Er—eh, yes—quite so, I—I daresay.

[He takes up a back number of "Punch," and reads the advertisements with deep interest. Meanwhile, the Loquacious Assistant has bowed out the Sympathetic Customer, and touched a bell. A Saturnine Assistant appears, still masticating bread-and-butter. The Second Customer removes his hat, revealing a denuded crown, and thereby causing surprise and a distinct increase of complacency in the Grizzled Gentleman, who submits himself to the Loquacious Assistant. The Bald Customer sinks resignedly into the chair indicated by the Saturnine Operator, feeling apologetic and conscious that he is not affording a fair scope for that gentleman's professional talent. The other Assistant appears to take a reflected pride in his subject.

The Loq. Ass. (to the Grizzled Customer). Remarkable how some parties do keep their 'air, Sir! Now yours—(with a disparaging glance at the Bald Customer's image in the mirror)—yours grows quite remarkable strong. Do you use anythink for it now?

The Gr. C. Not I. Leave that to those who are not so well protected!

The Loq. Ass. I was on'y wondering if you'd been applying our Rosicrucian Stimulant, Sir, that's all. There's the gentleman next door to here—a chemist, he is—and if you'll believe me, he was gettin' as bald as a robin, and he'd only tried it a fortnight when his 'ed come out all over brustles!

The Gr. C. Brussels, what? Sprouts, eh?

The Loq. Ass. Hee-hee! no, Sir, brustles like on a brush. But you can afford to 'ave your laugh, Sir!

The Sat. Ass. (to the Bald Customer, with withering deference). Much off, Sir?

The B.C. (weakly thinking to propitiate by making light of his infirmity). Well, there isn't much on, is there?

The S.A. (taking a mean advantage). Well, Sir, it wouldn't be a very long job numberin' all the 'airs on your 'ed, cert'nly! (Severely, as one reproaching him for carelessness.) You 'ave been losin' your 'air! Puts me in mind of what the poet says in 'Amlet. "Oh, what a fallin' off!" if you'll excuse me, Sir!

The B.C. (with a sensitive squirm). Oh, don't apologise—I'm used to it, you know!

The S.A. Ah, Sir, they do say the wind's tempered to the shorn lamb so as he can't see 'imself as other's see 'im. But what you ought to 'ave is a little toopy. Make 'em so as you couldn't tell it from natural 'air nowadays!

[The Bald Customer feebly declines this meretricious adornment.

The Loq. Ass. (to his subject). Know Mr. PARIS PATTERTON of the Proscenium Theatre, Sir? 'E's 'ad to call in our Guv'nor, Sir. 'Is 'air's comin, off, Sir, dreadful, Sir. The Guv'nor's been tryin' a noo wash on his 'ed.

The Gr. C. Ha, poor beggar! Wash doing it any good?

The Loq. Ass. (demurely). That I can't tell you, Sir; but it 'as a very agreeable perfùme.

The S.A. I think I've taken off about as much as you can spare, Sir!

The Gr. C. (with a note of triumph). Look here, you know, there's a lot more to come off here—won't be missed, eh?

The Loq. Ass. No, Sir, you've an uncommon thick 'ed—of 'air, I mean, of course!

The S.A. If you'll take my advice, you'll 'ave yours singed, Sir.

The B.C. (dejectedly). Why, think it's any use?

The S.A. No doubt of that, Sir. Look at the way they singe a 'orse's legs. [The Bald Customer yields, convinced by this argument.

The Gr. C. No singeing or any nonsense of that sort for me, mind!

[They are shampooed simultaneously.

The B.C. (piteously, from his basin). Th—that's c-cold enough, thanks!


The Gr. C. (aggressively from his). Here, colder than that—as cold as you can make it—I don't care!

The B.C. (drying his face meekly on a towel). A—a hand-brush, please, not the machine!

The S.A. No, Sir, machine-brush would about sweep all the 'air off your 'ed, Sir!

The Gr. C. Machinery for me—and your hardest brush, do you hear?

The Loq. Ass.
The S.A.
{ (together, to their respective patients. { Shall I put anything on your 'ed, Sir?
Like anything on your 'air, Sir?

The B.C. (hopelessly). Oh, I don't know that it's much good!

The S.A. Well, you may as well keep what little you 'ave got, Sir. Like to try our 'Irsutine Lotion, capital thing, Sir. Known it answer in the most desprit cases. Keep it in 'alf-crown or three-and-sixpenny sizes. Can I 'ave the pleasure of puttin' you up a three-and-sixpenny one, Sir? (The Bald Customer musters up moral courage to decline, at which the Assistant appears disgusted with him.) No, Sir? Much obliged, Sir. Let me see—(with a touch of sarcasm)—you part your 'air a one side, I think, Sir? Brush your 'at, Sir? Thankee, Sir. Pay at the counter, if you please. Shop—there!

The Loq. Ass. Think your 'air's as you like it now, Sir? Like to look at yourself in a 'and-glass, Sir? Thank you, Sir.

[The Bald Customer puts on his hat with relief, and instantly recovers his self-respect sufficiently to cast a defiant glare upon his rival, and walk out with dignity. The Grizzled Customer after prolonged self-inspection, follows. The two Assistants are left alone.

The Loq. Ass. Pretty proud of his 'air, that party, eh? Notice how I tumbled to him?

The S.A. (with superiority). I heard you, o' course, but, as I'm always tellin' you, you don't do it delicate enough! When you've been in the profession as long as I have, and seen as much of human nature, you'll begin to understand how important it is to 'ave tact. Now you never 'eard me stoop to flattery nor yet over-familiarity—and yet you can see for yourself I manage without 'urting nobody's feelings—however bald! That's tact, that is!


Mysteries of a Hairdresser's Shop, The (Mysterien eines Frisiersalons, Die)
I want to be a hair dresser


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