The Beaux and the Dandies


We all owe much to our tailors in one sense, many of us in more senses than one. How shall society repay its tailor?-Punch, 1845.


HE Beau has been with us through all the ages, for the quality which makes the beau is first selfconsciousness and then vanity, the vanity which seeks its expression in clothes. Literature gives us stories from East and West, North and South, of individuals who have bestowed such extreme care upon their appearance that they are marked out from their nation or tribe as people of especial note. Such during their day make more stir than the men of intellect or force, for that which pleases the eye has the most vivid effect upon the imagination. There are, besides, so many men of brains, so many who can rule or organise, and but few who, being content to let their reputation rest solely upon their outside show, have also the power to make that show of such a quality that it stamps a deep impression upon others.

Naturally there are beaux of various degrees. There is the real beau, he who is first and last a beau and nothing but a beau; he whose intellect is given chiefly to clothes; who is, by accident, by circumstance, or by choice, freed from any profession or occupation, who

can do but one thing well, and has secured the chance of doing that thing.

Of such an one Carlyle says in his chapter in Sartor Resartus upon "The Dandiacal Body" that he is "a clothes-wearing Man, a Man whose trade, office and existence consists in the wearing of Clothes. Every faculty of his soul, spirit, purse and person is heroically consecrated to this one object, the wearing of Clothes wisely and well; so that as others dress to live he lives to dress. The all-importance of Clothes, which a German professor, of unequalled learning and acumen, writes his enormous Volume to demonstrate, has sprung up in the intellect of the Dandy without effort, like an instinct of genius; he is inspired with Cloth, a Poet of Cloth. What Teufelsdröckh would call a Divine Idea of Cloth is born with him, and this, like other such ideas, will express itself outwardly, or wring his heart asunder with unutterable throes."

It will be noticed that Carlyle uses the word Dandy rather than Beau, but in the eighty years or so which have elapsed since his famous book upon clothes was written, these words have come to designate somewhat different ideas. Carlyle's Dandy is the ideal Beau, whom only two or three men have approached in practice. The most notable was George Bryan Brummell, he whose devotion to appearance was such that it is impossible to conceive of him doing any work in the world dissociated from it. He was the living example of the debated philosophical theory that Appearance is Reality, and it was only when his intellect gave way that he lost his pre-eminence over other men in this respect. Of all beaux, Brummell was the chief; certainly not in England nor in Europe has there been another to equal him.

It is more than probable that many, on reading this,

A Born Artist

will say it is well that it should be so that neither England nor any other country wants or ever will want such a man again. This judgment, justifiable only from short-sightedness, is an extreme one. It is certain that there are many people whom we think we can do without, the criminal and evil-doer, for instance. If we go farther, and wish to wipe Brummell from our history, we might also dispense with a great multitude of people in every generation-people who live solely for their own pleasure, to which they minister chiefly by their clothes, striving to outdo each other in dress and social matters. Indeed the idlers who make no mark upon their day can better be spared than that extreme idler who, by his very thoroughness, did society a great service in reforming its taste and laying down hygienic laws which had been too long ignored.


The Dandy, as we read him now, is a fine gentleman with a great regard for his appearance, but he may have other strong qualities and powers. He may be a poet, a politician, a merchant, a lord, an artist—indeed, he may be anything, with an added desire to be noteworthy in appearance. Such an one will copy eagerly the newest fashion, or will set a new fashion himself; and if he be rash enough to do the latter, he must stand or fall by it. That is to say, that if his novelty be acclaimed by his comrades, if they copy it and talk of it, then has he gone a step higher in the peculiar rank of Dandy. On the other hand, if he be simply stared at but not imitated, if people laugh at and talk of him, but ignore his new design, in so far as imitation goes, then he is but a freak, a poor foolish Dandy, of whom people speak with tolerant or contemptuous pity. And herein lies the real difference between the Beau and the Dandy. The Beau is a born artist in clothes, the whole subject of dress comes naturally to him, his clothes are

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