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The Collector of refuse hair

The Collector of refuse hair.jpg The flax wheelThumbnailsThe DivinerThe flax wheelThumbnailsThe Diviner

To what strange shifts and expedients are many driven by the hard pressures of life to earn the means of barely supporting existence ! Any one, who is acquainted with the lower phases of London life, is well aware that thousands scrape together a living out of the dust-heaps in Pad-dington. Some in rags, some in bones, some in street manure, some in scraps of tin and iron, find support for themselves and their families. Man is not responsible for his natural powers, nor is it any disgrace to be so deficient in intellect as to be obliged to follow a mean employment. No toil debases man save that which injures his moral character. Our picture presents to our notice one of the meanest of Chinese callings ; and in the refuse hair-gatherer, our artist has not failed to give you a specimen of humanity in one of its lowest forms. But even such a case as this is not without its interest. From the maker of wigs, false beards, and moustache, and from the worker in ornamental hair generally, such a calling may justly attract observation. Without the aid of the poor hair-gatherer, how should that fashionable young man, who, Absolom like, prides himself upon his hair, and yet unlike Absolom has but little of his own to boast of, appear in proper guise before his compeers in society ? How, again, shall the coy maiden find, unless by the same help, those magnificent "butter-flies' wings " * of glossy hair, which ornament the back of her head? But I have unwittingly anticipated : by this time the reader surmises the functions of our friend going his wearisome rounds with his light wicker-basket. He is either buying or begging all the refuse combings of the women's long black hair, which others, skilful in their art, make up into tails, either to supply a need which unfortunately may have arisen, or to increase the proportions of that which nature had too sparely bestowed. As you pass down a Chinese street, you will occasionally see a shop where were sold long switchy horse-tails ; such, at least, they long ap-peared to the writer of these sketches ; inquiry at last dissipated the delusion ; appearances answered to their proverbial deceitfulness, and these long-switch tails were formed of the refuse combings collected by our persevering friend, and hung in the shop ready to be braided into the usual queue worn by the men.

Pictures of the Chinese,
Drawn by Themselves
Described by Rev R H Cobbold, MA
Published in 1860
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