Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mankind's Quest for the Perfect Shave

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mankind's Quest for the Perfect Shave

Article excerpt

I HEARD about the momentous discovery of 300 unknown poems by Samuel Taylor Coleridge just as I was sorting through 40 years of forgotten family snapshots.

London's Sunday Times reported that the newfound manuscripts by the author of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" include six versions of "an elegy to his broken shaving pot." And here I am in a photo with my lathered face in the bathroom mirror, my shaving mug on the sink, my eyes peering down toward two sink-height boys in pajamas, who are shaving, too.

Now we know that Coleridge might have meant a good shave when he wrote that "the happiness of life is made up of minute fractions."

Mankind's quest for the perfect shave may be folly. But fractions of progress, believe me, are bliss.

Take the little-known ultimate shaving cream that I read was available at selected pharmacies such as the Waldorf-Astoria's in New York. I lightly mentioned this alleged wonder product during last year's holidays when asked for a gift suggestion by our daughter, who lathered up shortly after her older brothers in the snapshot. (Yes, tender hearts, I did give the children razors without blades).

Later I remembered that the one gift my father asked for - and one that I gave him Christmas after Christmas - was a cake of Williams shaving soap. This was after he let me paw thrillingly through his shaving kit, right at transition time from the straight razor - like that of Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street - to the old-fashioned safety razor folding into its ivory handle. "Be careful," he said.

My new shaving cream - it doesn't lather, it just lubricates the bristle - might have interested the perennial experimenter Benjamin Franklin. Long before Coleridge praised fractional happiness, Franklin said almost the same thing: "Human felicity is produc'd not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur every day."

And this wise Founding Father specifically cited shaving. "Thus, if you teach a poor young man to shave himself, and keep his razor in order, you may contribute more to the happiness of his life than in giving him a thousand guineas. …

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