Not far into writing Liberty’s Fire, I realised that my male characters would have to have facial hair. There was just no getting round it. Pretty much the only clean-shaven men in Paris in 1871 were priests, and the sensible ones were either in hiding or trying to escape the city dressed as women. (I exaggerate just a little.)
I consulted my daughter. She made a face. Just don’t mention it, she said. Specially not when there’s kissing involved. There’s something about the word moustache.
I knew exactly what she meant, but I’d hoped it was a private prejudice. Are YA readers ready to embrace romantic heroes with facial hair?
Looking around my neighbourhood, I feel she can’t be entirely right. The beards have been moving in for a few years now. Around the same time as the London orbital came our way – something between the train and the tube, and an excellent thing for us transport-deprived South-East Londoners – an explosion of facial hair (and fixies) took place in and around the local bars and cafés. Young beards. In fact, I notice, intrigued, not unlike Communard beards.
|Photograph: Brock Elbank|
|Photograph: Brock Elbank|
Jules Vallès, journalist and author of the intensely vivid and highly autobiographical Commune novel, L'Insurgé (The Insurgent), as painted by fellow Communard Gustave Courbet:
Courbet himself (photographed by Nadar):
Journalist and politician Henri Rochefort…
And as painted by Manet…
…more than once…here he is again, this time escaping from New Caledonia (4,500 Communards were deported to the Pacific penal colony after the fall of the Commune):
Napoléon La Cécilia, who found refuge in London where he taught French at the Royal Naval School then in New Cross:
Jarosław Dąbrowski, Polish activist, who died on the barricades during the final Bloody Week of the Commune. His nom de guerre was Dombrowski, and was honoured in the name of an International Brigade battalion made up mostly of Polish miners during the Spanish Civil War.
Maxime du Camp, probably the Commune’s most vitriolic and effective critic and author of the 4-volume attack Les Convulsions de Paris, whose representations of women in the Commune endure to this day:
And finally, a man from a different kind of commune altogether, the transcendentalist Fruitlands, which was established by Louisa May Alcott's father in 1843. Joseph Palmer's interest in utopian politics, free speech and prison reform was sharpened by his own imprisonment after he fended off some men attempting to shave his beard in 1830, when beards were anything but fashionable. His gravestone in Massachussetts is apparently marked 'Persecuted for Wearing the Beard':