It’s Movember and we love a good literary moustache. So much so, we’ve put together
a collection of our all-time favourites! From the Walrus to the Mexican, and
the Handlebar to the Horseshoe, it seems there is no end to the amount
of creative facial topiary in the literary world… Something tells me Shakespeare set a trend.
‘There has been nothing as good since’ said Ernest Hemingway
about Mark Twain’s legendary book Huckleberry Finn. But, he could just as well have been talking
about Twain’s famous moustache.
Mark Twain wasn’t
without opinion when it came to facial hair, directing the following vitriol
towards the beard: ‘it performs no useful function; it is a nuisance and
a discomfort; all nations hate it; all nations persecute it with the razor’.
Must have been why he plumped for this rather impressive looking moustache. And
with matching eyebrows too.
Read our Bedside, Bathtub & Armchair guide to Mark Twain. It reveals all sorts of fantastic facts about this intriguing writer… did you know that he started smoking at 7 and often smoked 40 cigars a day? Nope, me neither. Pretty impressive shocking.
‘Being kissed by a man who didn’t wax his moustache was like
eating an egg without salt’. We couldn't agree more Rudyard Kipling.
This 'tash is so impressive that we've opted for a side portrait shot so you can really see the full depth of this impressive literary bush. Look out for our new book on Rudyard Kipling and Japan – no other leading English literary figure of his day spent so long in that country or wrote so fully about it.
George Orwell said, in his famous
6 Rules for Writing, ‘Never use a long word where a short one will do’. It
would seem he had the same approach to moustaches. I’m calling this one… modest yet confident.
George Orwell also wrote an essay in the
Evening Standard in 1946 about his rules for drinking tea. Whilst not related
in any way to moustaches, I still think it deserves a special mention. Orwell employed the essay as a tool to entertain, illuminate and provoke readers as well as help him fashion his distinctive 'literary' voice. George Orwell the Essayist by Peter Marks gives these compelling pieces the critical attention they merit.
What can we say about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s moustache? It’s a wonder he had any time to
write considering the hours he must have put in taming and trimming this
sublime example of facial topiary. I
know what you must be thinking, ‘I WISH I could get my hands on some of his
moustache trimmings’. Well, I’m afraid the opportunity has been and passed,
with one moustache & ACD fan purchasing his moustache trimmings. They came neatly packaged
up in the original envelope they were kept in for so many years
with the following inscription: ‘My beloved moustache hairs’. I'm sure the new
owner feels the same.
Is it a moustache or a beard? Are there side-burns in there? We can't quite figure it out. And that's what makes Walt Whitman's contributions to facial topiary so impressive.
In Whitman’s Queer Children,
Catherine Davies looks at 'the anxious relationship between the homosexual and
his American home' in the work of four gay
twentieth-century poets – Hart Crane, Allen Ginsberg, James
Merrill and John Ashbery. Dwelling on the nurturing adaptable heritage of Walt Whitman, she considers
Whitman’s renegotiation of the dialectic between the public and the private as
a context for the project of the homosexual epic.
Nietzsche sports the unique looking walrus-handlebar moustache. Otherwise known as the moustache that
launched a thousand philosophical arguments (and its own facebook page).
Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche posits the Übermensch as
a goal that humanity can set for itself. Did he set this goal for his own
facial hair? There is one thing we can be sure of – he set the philosophical
world alight with this revolutionary 'tash.
Still a bit confused? Nietzsche: A Guide for the Perplexed will tell you everything you need to know.
It's fair to say that EAP employed his moustache in a rather gothic manner. An article in Scribner’s Magazine in 1878 reveals that 'He wore a dark mustache, scrupulously kept, but not
entirely concealing a slightly contracted expression of the mouth and an
occasional twitching of the upper lip, resembling a sneer. This sneer, indeed,
was easily excited — a motion of the lip, scarcely perceptible, and yet
intensely expressive. There was in it nothing of ill-nature, but much of
sarcasm … '
An inescapable black pit, an innocent buried alive, and the deranged
hallucinations of a murderer all haunt Tales of Mystery and Imagination – a collection of Edgar Allan
Poe's most celebrated chilling stories.
All hail Ernest Hemingway's contribution to the moustache world! We know that he loved hunting in Africa, bullfighting in Spain, deep-sea fishing in Florida and this is the
perfect moustache to match. Hemingway married four times, often falling for one woman
while still married to another. With this dashing moustache I think we can see why he was so irresistible to women.
Gabriel García Márquez once characterised common European perceptions
of Latin America as ‘a man with a moustache and a guitar and a revolver’. He
might have kept the moustache, but he certainly broke other pre-existing
stereotypes by putting Latin American writing on the literary map.
If a moustache could ever be described as ‘friendly’ then
this is certainly it. You can find out more about this compelling man by reading
our biography by Gerald Martin and literary guide to Love in the Time of
Cholera by Tom Fahy.
Born in Vienna in 1881, Stefan Zweig was one of the most respected authors of his time. And not just for his epic looking moustache. The Economist hailed him as a 'Secret Superstar' and the New Yorker called him an 'Escape Artist' earlier this year.
Foreseeing Nazi Germany's domination of Europe, Zweig and
his wife left Austria in 1933. Despairing at Europe's future and feeling
increasingly isolated, they committed suicide together in 1942. As Zweig's
correspondence all but ceased with the outbreak of World War II, little is
known about his final years. Stefan and Lotte Zweig's South American Letters,
edited by Darién
J. Davis and Oliver Marshall, reproduces personal
letters written by the couple during this time and creates a fascinating picture
of the last years of this famed author, cast adrift by the rise of Nazism and
Some critics have commented that Joseph Conrad was known for
his pessimistic writing style and stark presentation of the human condition. I don’t
think he helped matters with this harsh looking moustache. There is one thing that the critics certainly agree
upon – Heart of Darkness is a landmark text of 20th century literature
that continues to resonate to this day. We certainly love it. One of our latest
books, Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ and Contemporary Thought by Nidesh Lawtoo brings this book into philosophical dialogue and includes
the first publication in English of Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe's essay, 'The
Horror of the West', described by J. Hillis Miller as 'a major essay on
Conrad's novel, one of the best ever written'.
That's it for our literary moustache round up! Of course we couldn't include everyone – Dostoevsky, James Joyce, Herman Melville, William Faulkner, Gustave Flaubert… the list could go on and on. It would also be impossible to choose a favourite. But we want to hear from you - who would get your vote for the most impressive literary moustache? Who can't you believe that we have left out? Is there any obscure Russian writer with a more impressive offering than Nietzsche (probably)? Let us know so we can add it to our literary moustache hall of fame.
In the meantime, good luck to anyone still plugging away at their Movember efforts. The crowd above would be very proud.