b l o g



Carlo Maria Franzero expressed the following (vaguely correct) opinion in Beau Brummell: His Life and Times:

'What is Dandyism? It is most difficult to define. For Dandyism is something both ephemeral and eternal; and even in the shabby epoch in which we live, without a single shred left of an inclination, not to say a concern, for elegance in the true sense, Dandyism survives; it survives, happily, in the approach to life, in the manner of living of a few men who will hand the torch to other men, from epoch to epoch—for the spirit of Petronius Arbiter is as immortal and inextinguishable as the spirit of Plato and Leonardo.

'What, then, is Dandyism? It is something both human and intellectual. It is compounded of vanity, a base sentiment indeed, and of ambition, which is the strongest impulse to greatness. But ambition can be fulfilled only by action, and action is seldom elegant. And pride can go hand-in-hand with selfishness and unkindness. Vanity is neither selfish nor unkind; indeed, she thrives on good manners and kindness. The vain is seldom fatuous. A vain man is a flower that expects to be watered by the dew of admiration. Such is the Dandy.

'It is not enough to be dressed to perfection to be a Dandy. One may be a Dandy in a creased suit. Indeed, incredible as it may seem, the Dandies once had a fancy for torn clothes: to invent new originality some Dandies had the impertinence, and certainly the bad taste, to walk about in clothes that were torn before wearing them; the absurd operation being performed with a piece of pointed glass.

'Probably the origin of Dandyism was French. But the word Dandyism has no equivalent in any other language; and we must take it, therefore, that Dandyism is a truly English interpretation of a philosophy of life. Only England has provided a genuine Dandy—George Brummell—all other countries have only had a crop of imitators, often second-rate.

. . . . . . . .

'Dandyism is a complete theory of life . . . made up entirely of shades, of things that are utterly unessential, such as the things and ways that compose a very civilised society. . . . The rules of Dandyism are the science of manners and attitudes, a science which thrives in the garden of frivolity and imagination: and frivolities are the only things that really matter in life.'

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Erik Kennedy expressed the following (personal) opinion in an unpublished draft of A Portrait of the Alcoholic as a Young Poet:

'The dandy is an elusive, smug, tolerably good-looking shit in close-fitting, proper clothes. What he says is just as important as how he looks—he ought to be able to insult all but present company. He ought to be logical. He ought to reek of something unusual: mystery, larceny, obscure study, gin, etc. He ought to be old-fashioned in the best ways, even a bit shabby.

'It may be a shame, but the dandy must be thin. He probably requires an umbrella.

'Most of all, the dandy's intellectual credentials must be absolutely above scrutiny from 'those who matter': no-one can think he's not clever, or else he isn't. (Not that he cares.) (Luckily, those who matter become fewer and fewer as the days between leaving school and finding an early grave disappear.)

'If such a judgement does get back to the dandy, he will send a polite note to his feeble-minded appraiser: "Dear Bunny, I fear my glitter was a bit dim the other night. Forgive me. I thought reserve exactly appropriate for your guests, so recently wealthy, laurelled, and suddenly aware of class. To tell the truth, Bunny, I didn't feel well. I knew something was coming on, but I'm silly, you know, and I came anyway, for you! Sorry. I always feel ill when I'm bored. Do let me know in advance when your next Christopher Hitchens book discussion and fisting party is, so I can attend in top form. Yours, Dicky."

'In other words, the dandy should be a good fellow.'

Erik Kennedy
Erik Kennedy


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