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The Starched Neckcloth
rucking up to the chin. Brummell hit Brummell hit upon the happy idea of starch. Why no one else had thought of it is a mystery, as starch had been in use since the time of Elizabeth. This is said to have been after his first quarrel with the Prince, and that he had been seeking for some method by which he could show superiority in appearance. He should have been satisfied with the result, as the first day he wore his new invention great excitement is said to have prevailed among
Brummell used a piece of white muslin, to which he gave a particular turn to make it fall into correct folds. If the first attempt did not show that the completion of the process would be satisfactory the muslin was thrown aside and another taken; indeed, on occasions many were spoiled. A friend, going to see him one morning, met his valet on the stairs with his arms piled with muddled cravats. "These are our failures," he said, showing them.
The method of perfecting the set of the cravat seems somewhat ludicrous. The collar, fixed to the shirt, was so broad that when standing up it hid Brummell's face and head. The neckcloth was a foot wide, and being placed round the collar the problem began. The first attack was made when the collar was turned down ; this being satisfactorily accomplished, the Beau, his chin raised to the ceiling, gently dropped his lower jaw, making a fold in the muslin, which with the edge of the discarded shirt was pressed into permanent shape. This process was repeated until crease after crease having been created, the cravat was the right size. If one crease went wrong, another was tried, and the whole process was repeated.
It is curious that among the many amusing retorts
Brummell made about clothes there are none upon the cravat, though once he poked fun at the Dandies who copied him to such an extent that their neckcloths were so stiff they could not turn their heads. Seated one night next but one to Lord Worcester, and staring straight in front of him, he asked: "Is Lord Worcester here ?" "Yes, sir," said the waiter.
"Then will you tell his lordship I shall be happy to drink a glass of wine with him."
After a pause Brummell asked: "Is his lordship ready?"
'Yes, sir," replied again the waiter.
"Then tell him that I drink his lordship's health," said Brummell, suiting the action to the word, but never turning his head.
The bon mots and persiflage of a wit are always open to the charges of impertinence, impudence, and unkindness, and writers have been lavish with them when mentioning Brummell. It is rather like taking a quotation without its context, for in his best days Brummell was rarely rude, though his words, apart from his manner, would sometimes give the appearance of rudeness. He was once walking with a young nobleman up St. James's Street, when he suddenly stopped, asking his companion what he called those things on his feet.
Why, shoes!" was the reply.
"Shoes! are they?" said Brummell, stooping doubtfully to examine them, "I thought they were slippers."
At that day the subject of blacking for boots was almost as important as that of snuff. Lord Petersham, who gave his name to the Petersham coat, loved experimenting, and made his own boot-polish, to say nothing of his own snuff. Indeed, his lordship must have missed his vocation, for Gronow tells of finding
The Beau's Persiflage
him in a room of which one side was lined with canisters of tea, Congou, Pekoe, Souchong, Bohea, Gunpowder, Russian, and many others; while on the other side of the room were beautiful jars, painted with names in gilt, all filled with snuff, there being so much of it that on the Earl's death it took three days to sell it by auction, when it realised £3,000.
Brummell one day complained wistfully that his blacking ruined him, as it was made of the finest champagne, a jest which many have taken seriously and exclaimed upon in horror. There is a story that a friend having died, Brummell, thinking of his highly polished boots, hurried to the valet, hoping to secure him. But when the man gave the information that: "The Colonel paid me £150 a year, and I should now require £200," the Beau made him a bow saying, "Well, if you will make it two hundred guineas I shall be happy to attend upon you!"
Brummell's elder brother William was a very handsome man, and one morning a clubman approaching Brummell, said: "Do you know your brother is in town? isn't he coming here?
"Yes, in a day or two," replied Brummell softly; "but I thought he had better walk the back streets till his new clothes came home."
When we remember that the Prince spent many thousands a year in dress, it is difficult to say what his friend's idea of fitness might be in this matter; but it could only have been raillery which made the Beau reply to a question of dress expense, asked him by an anxious mother who was just launching her son into the world, "Well, I think, that with a moderate degree of prudence and economy, it might be managed for £800 a year!"
Brummell's affectation of superiority is amusingly shown by his criticism upon an action during war. When