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Thread: Long hair in classic novels

  1. #1
    Member barnet_fair's Avatar
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    Default Long hair in classic novels

    As I've started to grow my hair, I have felt more and more of a connection with women throughout history. I've always loved to read classic novels (especially those written in the Edwardian era), but now I find myself noticing details I didn't notice before, where the author comments on ladies' hair. Even small details can be very evocative, especially given how rare it would be for a lady's hair to be seen loose outside her home.

    Let's share long hair moments in classic novels that bring us joy!

    I'll start in a post below. If there's a way to hide spoilers using BB code in this forum, please let me know as I can't find one! I imagine most of the quotations about hair will not be crucial plot points, but perhaps we can find creative ways to hide plot spoilers if necessary. Perhaps using white text...

    P.S. This thread is inspired by:
    A very long hair collection of models, photographers, film, articles, art
    Long hair in paintings and things of old...
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  2. #2
    Member barnet_fair's Avatar
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    Default Re: Long hair in classic novels

    I've just finished reading Sons and Lovers (1913) by D.H. Lawrence. Lawrence was clearly very affected by the beauty of long hair he saw, and I imagine he mainly drew on his experiences with two women he loved, his sister, and his mother.

    As a working-class man, Lawrence also enjoyed some familiarity with the women at the factory where he worked, but as you'll see below, it was still quite an occasion when a woman would let her hair down:
    Once there was mention of Connie’s red hair.

    “Fanny’s is better, to my fancy,” said Emma.

    “You needn’t try to make a fool of me,” said Fanny, flushing deeply.

    “No, but she has, Paul; she’s got beautiful hair.”

    “It’s a treat of a colour,” said he. “That coldish colour like earth, and yet shiny. It’s like bog-water.”

    “Goodness me!” exclaimed one girl, laughing.

    “How I do but get criticised,” said Fanny.

    “But you should see it down, Paul,” cried Emma earnestly. “It’s simply beautiful. Put it down for him, Fanny, if he wants something to paint.”

    Fanny would not, and yet she wanted to.

    “Then I’ll take it down myself,” said the lad.

    “Well, you can if you like,” said Fanny.

    And he carefully took the pins out of the knot, and the rush of hair, of uniform dark brown, slid over the humped back.

    “What a lovely lot!” he exclaimed.

    The girls watched. There was silence. The youth shook the hair loose from the coil.

    “It’s splendid!” he said, smelling its perfume. “I’ll bet it’s worth pounds.”

    “I’ll leave it you when I die, Paul,” said Fanny, half joking.

    “You look just like anybody else, sitting drying their hair,” said one of the girls to the long-legged hunchback.

    This reminds me of some of the threads on this forum about auburn or "calico" hair:
    The sun came through the chinks of the vine-leaves and made beautiful patterns, like a lace scarf, falling on her and on him. Some of the leaves were clean yellow, like yellow flat flowers.

    “Now sit still,” he had cried. “Now your hair, I don’t know what it is like! It’s as bright as copper and gold, as red as burnt copper, and it has gold threads where the sun shines on it. Fancy their saying it’s brown. Your mother calls it mouse-colour.”

    And this is why I don't wear necklaces!
    Miriam stood painfully pulling over her head a rosary he had given her. It caught in the fine mesh of her hair.
    Annie and her sleep plaits:
    Annie, with a rope of hair hanging down her back, remained sitting on a low stool before the fire, her elbows on her knees, gloomily.
    ...
    Annie, her blouse unfastened, her long ropes of hair twisted into a plait, went up to bed, bidding him a very curt good-night.
    Has this happened to any of you?
    He, leaping after her, seized the comb from her back hair. She turned, threw the cigarette at him. He picked it up, put it in his mouth, and sat down.

    “Nuisance!” she cried. “Give me my comb!”

    She was afraid that her hair, specially done for him, would come down. She stood with her hands to her head. He hid the comb between his knees.
    I wonder what kind of bun Clara is wearing?
    Clara wore a blouse of fine silk chiffon, with narrow black-and-white stripes; her hair was done simply, coiled on top of her head. She looked rather stately and reserved.
    A tender moment, plaiting his mother's hair:
    He sat down by the bed, miserably. She had a way of curling and lying on her side, like a child. The grey and brown hair was loose over her ear.

    “Doesn’t it tickle you?” he said, gently putting it back.

    “It does,” she replied.

    His face was near hers. Her blue eyes smiled straight into his, like a girl’s—warm, laughing with tender love. It made him pant with terror, agony, and love.

    “You want your hair doing in a plait,” he said. “Lie still.”

    And going behind her, he carefully loosened her hair, brushed it out. It was like fine long silk of brown and grey. Her head was snuggled between her shoulders.
    ...
    Paul put the long thin plait of grey hair over her shoulder and kissed her.
    ...
    Only the hair as it arched so beautifully from her temples was mixed with silver, and the two simple plaits that lay on her shoulders were filigree of silver and brown.

    ETA: I have the Penguin Popular Classics edition of this novel, but these quotes were copied from the Project Gutenberg text at https://www.gutenberg.org/files/217/217-h/217-h.htm.
    Last edited by barnet_fair; October 20th, 2019 at 08:05 AM. Reason: add Gutenberg link to novel text
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  3. #3
    ^ YLVA, not YIVA! Ylva's Avatar
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    Default Re: Long hair in classic novels

    What a cool idea for a thread! Sadly, I don't read such literature much, but I might start describing my virgin hair like this:

    “That coldish colour like earth, and yet shiny. It’s like bog-water.”
    Ósnjallr maðr hyggsk munu ey lifa, ef hann við víg varask;
    en elli gefr hánum engi frið, þótt hánum geirar gefi.
    TBL by Yule 2020 | Classic by Yule 2020 | No-trimming 2020, first half


  4. #4
    Member Entangled's Avatar
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    Default Re: Long hair in classic novels

    The phrase “tempestuous chignon” has stuck with me from a translation of Leroux’s Le Fantôme de L’opéra.

    Never laugh at live dragons.

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