The dandy as villain19 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.