The dandy’s wedding, or, The love and courtship of Peter Quince and Phoebe Clove09 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.