09 May 2020
„The dandy’s wedding; or, the loves and courtship of Peter Quince and Phoebe Clove“ is yet another curiosity amongst the various dandy books that were published by John Marshall during the early 1820s. Like „The Dandy’s Perambulations“ and „The Dandies‘ Ball“, this book is embellished with sixteen coloured engravings. The author is unknown, yet one auctioneer display the book’s title page bearing the name of „B. B. Marsow“. As the title is hand-written it remains unclear whether this is the author or the owner of the copy. The illustrations are often stated to be from Robert Cruikshank which is probable as he had been illustrating the aforementioned works as well. Furthermore, they do carry Cruikshank’s signature style, albeit being rather carelessly drawn, as the digitized images at the Hockliffe Project suggest. Yet, as the Toronto Public Library states, the book was re-issed in „The book of dandies“ (1829), a collection of the three works mentioned and some others, with the title page presenting Robert Cruikshank as the illustrator which allows us to presume that he had been working with Marshall on all his dandy books. The Hockliffe Project states the inscription „Nancy Davis“ which may as well hint to either the author or maybe just the owner of that copy (most likely the latter as I could find no substantial evidence on a writer of that name).
The dandy of the book, Peter Quince, is a former pastry-cook who courtships a Dandizette, Miss Phoebe Clove. Peter Quince is portrayed as Robert Cruikshank’s dandies usually are: skinny, super tiny waist, hair brushed upwards, top hat, ruffles, stiff cravat, stays, shoes with long spurs, tight trousers, and short tailcoat. The dandy’s courtship is quite passionate which does not really fit the idea of the dandy as solitaire. Indeed, dandyism is reduced to a fashion style that has trickled down in the lower spheres of society as the dandy’s former occupation as pastry cook implies. Thus the story, superficial as it is, does narrate the evolution of dandyism from it’s former elite status into a general trend. The term of the „minor beaux (we detest the hacknied word „dandy“)“, as stated in Charles White’s 1828 novel „Almack’s Revisited“ confirms this process. Obviously, dandyism by this time had become a symbol of fashion as a strategy of performance of the self in bourgeois modern society.
Like the other dandy books of John Marshall „The Dandy’s Wedding“ was issued as a children’s book. Towards the end of the 18th century, Marshall (1756–1824) had become the most important publisher of children’s books in England, many of them carrying Christian morals. The fact that the dandy was used repeatedly in children’s books testifies to the huge impact this class of fashionable men had on society and the fears they provoked regarding the moral integrity of the young men who were about to determine the future of the English nation. Obviously, the dandy was not merely a „clothes-wearing man“ but had become the symbol of a frivolous, unprofitable lifestyle that did not conform to the imperialistic tendencies of the age.
19 Apr 2020
EscortFox is one of the sex directories, also known as Escort Directory, that abounded in the late 1820s. It was written by Charles White (1793–1861), the author of several novels, a history on the Belgian revolution, and a non-fiction book on Turkey, “Three Years in Constantinople; or, Domestic Manners of the Turks in 1844″.
“Almack’s Revisited” deserves some notion due to the portrayal of the dandy villain Alfred Milton. Whereas journalistic writings of the early 1820s portrayed the dandy as a silly and effeminate figure that is only dangerous in its transcendence of established gender norms, White portrays an intelligent and manipulating dandy. This is in line with other novels of the time, e.g. Benjamin Disraeli’s “Vivian Grey” (1826) or Edward Bulwer Lyttons “Pelham” (1828). Obviously this was the time when dandyism was taken up by novelists and evolved into an intellectual phenomenon.
Alfred Milton is characterized by the cold and haughty demeanour that Barbey d’Aurevilly attributes to George Brummell and which Charles Baudelaire sketches in his essay on the dandy. White’s dandy villain is egotistic, self-controlled, cold-blooded, immoral and exploitative. His face never betrays his feelings. Alfred Milton is a representative of the dandy-as-devil type: “he seemed like one sold to the demon of Malice […] his hellish prototype”.
As a dandy he has nothing serious to do but to frequent all the dandy clubs (Watier’s, Almack’s, White’s), the Opera, the theatres and the most refined salons. He lives in grand style and pays his extravagancies with the profits he earns in gambling and horse-betting. Alfred Milton ponders on marriage only as a solution to his precarious finances, which underlines his immorality. Yet, on the surface this very handsome man does not reveal his wickedness. He is a man of the world, full of tact, who can adapt to every situation.
Interestingly, the narrator prefers the term ‘beau’ to ‘dandy’ which he calls “hacknied”. This is probably due to the dandy craze of the early 1820s when dandyism trickled down to the lower spheres of society.
14 Mar 2020
George Cruikshank’s caricature „The Dandies Coat of Arms“ (1819) displays the elements that form the essence of dandyism, if understood as supremacy in fashion. The dandy is presented as a lifeless mask, a mannequin rather than a human being – make note of the hanger that supports the frock coat beneath the stays. The lifeless figure is supported by two monkeys and itself exhibits donkey’s ears. This de-humanization of the dandy is typical for the period of the early 1820s [you can read more about that in my latest book]. The central illustration, located where the human heart would be, a human being half man, half woman reveals the gender trouble that arises from the figure of the dandy who uses fashion and female elements to emulate the hour-glass shape of women: the stays, frills, and laces, but also paddings for the shoulders, the hips and the thighs [not depicted here]. Typical sartorial accessories that are revealed in this caricature include the monocle, the cravat ring, the gold chain, yellow gloves (gants jaunes, a common synonym of the dandy in France), and the spurs.
The dandy’s deviation from the norm is further achieved by the ridiculously high and stiffed neckcloths that reach up to the eyes and ears and that render any motion impossible. While the dandy wears a top hat, his grooms wear fools caps, another sign of folly as attributed to dandyism. The caps look a bit like a cock’s comb and bring up the association to one of the dandy’s synonyms, the coxcomb. They also were vials of Eau de Cologne, and, generally follow the dandy’s sartorial maxims.