Dandies And Dandies by Max Beerbohm

Story type: Essay

How very delightful Grego’s drawings are! For all their mad perspective and crude colour, they have indeed the sentiment of style, and they reveal, with surer delicacy than does any other record, the spirit of Mr. Brummell’s day. Grego guides me, as Virgil Dante, through all the mysteries of that other world. He shows me those stiff-necked, over-hatted, wasp-waisted gentlemen, drinking Burgundy in the Cafe des Milles Colonnes or riding through the village of Newmarket upon their fat cobs or gambling at Crockford’s. Grego’s Green Room of the Opera House always delights me. The formal way in which Mdlle. Mercandotti is standing upon one leg for the pleasure of Lord Fife and Mr. Ball Hughes; the grave regard directed by Lord Petersham towards that pretty little maid-a-mischief who is risking her rouge beneath the chandelier; the unbridled decorum of Mdlle. Hullin and the decorous debauchery of Prince Esterhazy in the distance, make altogether a quite enchanting picture. But, of the whole series, the most illuminative picture is certainly the Ball at Almack’s. In the foreground stand two little figures, beneath whom, on the nether margin, are inscribed those splendid words, Beau Brummell in Deep Conversation with the Duchess of Rutland. The Duchess is a girl in pink, with a great wedge-comb erect among her ringlets, the Beau tres degage, his head averse, his chin most supercilious upon his stock, one foot advanced, the gloved fingers of one hand caught lightly in his waistcoat; in fact, the very deuce of a pose.

In this, as in all known images of the Beau, we are struck by the utter simplicity of his attire. The ‘countless rings’ affected by D’Orsay, the many little golden chains, ‘every one of them slighter than a cobweb,’ that Disraeli loved to insinuate from one pocket to another of his vest, would have seemed vulgar to Mr. Brummell. For is it not to his fine scorn of accessories that we may trace that first aim of modern dandyism, the production of the supreme effect through means the least extravagant? In certain congruities of dark cloth, in the rigid perfection of his linen, in the symmetry of his glove with his hand, lay the secret of Mr. Brummell’s miracles. He was ever most economical, most scrupulous of means. Treatment was everything with him. Even foolish Grace and foolish Philip Wharton, in their book about the beaux and wits of this period, speak of his dressing-room as ‘a studio in which he daily composed that elaborate portrait of himself which was to be exhibited for a few hours in the clubrooms of the town.’ Mr. Brummell was, indeed, in the utmost sense of the word, an artist. No poet nor cook nor sculptor, ever bore that title more worthily than he.

And really, outside his art, Mr. Brummell had a personality of almost Balzacian insignificance. There have been dandies, like D’Orsay, who were nearly painters; painters, like Mr. Whistler, who wished to be dandies; dandies, like Disraeli, who afterwards followed some less arduous calling. I fancy Mr. Brummell was a dandy, nothing but a dandy, from his cradle to that fearful day when he lost his figure and had to flee the country, even to that distant day when he died, a broken exile, in the arms of two religieuses. At Eton, no boy was so successful as he in avoiding that strict alternative of study and athletics which we force upon our youth. He once terrified a master, named Parker, by asserting that he thought cricket ‘foolish.’ Another time, after listening to a reprimand from the headmaster, he twitted that learned man with the asymmetry of his neckcloth. Even in Oriel he could see little charm, and was glad to leave it, at the end of his first year, for a commission in the Tenth Hussars. Crack though the regiment was–indeed, all the commissions were granted by the Regent himself–young Mr. Brummell could not bear to see all his brother-officers in clothes exactly like his own; was quite as deeply annoyed as would be some god, suddenly entering a restaurant of many mirrors. One day, he rode upon parade in a pale blue tunic, with silver epaulettes. The Colonel, apologising for the narrow system which compelled him to so painful a duty, asked him to leave the parade. The Beau saluted, trotted back to quarters and, that afternoon, sent in his papers. Henceforth he lived freely as a fop, in his maturity, should.

His debut in the town was brilliant and delightful. Tales of his elegance had won for him there a precedent fame. He was reputed rich. It was known that the Regent desired his acquaintance. And thus, Fortune speeding the wheels of his cabriolet and Fashion running to meet him with smiles and roses in St. James’s, he might well, had he been worldly or a weakling, have yielded his soul to the polite follies. But he passed them by. Once he was settled in his suite, he never really strayed from his toilet-table, save for a few brief hours. Thrice every day of the year did he dress, and three hours were the average of his every toilet, and other hours were spent in council with the cutter of his coats or with the custodian of his wardrobe. A single, devoted life! To Whites, to routs, to races, he went, it is true, not reluctantly. He was known to have played battledore and shuttlecock in a moonlit garden with Mr. Previte and some other gentlemen. His elopement with a young Countess from a ball at Lady Jersey’s was quite notorious. It was even whispered that he once, in the company of some friends, made as though he would wrench the knocker off the door of some shop. But these things he did, not, most certainly, for any exuberant love of life. Rather did he regard them as healthful exercise of the body and a charm against that dreaded corpulency which, in the end, caused his downfall. Some recreation from his work even the most strenuous artist must have; and Mr. Brummell naturally sought his in that exalted sphere whose modish elegance accorded best with his temperament, the sphere of le plus beau monde. General Bucknall used to growl, from the window of the Guards’ Club, that such a fellow was only fit to associate with tailors. But that was an old soldier’s fallacy. The proper associates of an artist are they who practise his own art rather than they who–however honourably–do but cater for its practice. For the rest, I am sure that Mr. Brummell was no lackey, as they have suggested. He wished merely to be seen by those who were best qualified to appreciate the splendour of his achievements. Shall not the painter show his work in galleries, the poet flit down Paternoster Row? Of rank, for its own sake, Mr. Brummell had no love. He patronised all his patrons. Even to the Regent his attitude was always that of a master in an art to one who is sincerely willing and anxious to learn from him.

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Indeed, English society is always ruled by a dandy, and the more absolutely ruled the greater that dandy be. For dandyism, the perfect flower of outward elegance, is the ideal it is always striving to realise in its own rather incoherent way. But there is no reason why dandyism should be confused, as it has been by nearly all writers, with mere social life. Its contact with social life is, indeed, but one of the accidents of an art. Its influence, like the scent of a flower, is diffused unconsciously. It has its own aims and laws, and knows none other. And the only person who ever fully acknowledged this truth in aesthetics is, of all persons most unlikely, the author of Sartor Resartus. That any one who dressed so very badly as did Thomas Carlyle should have tried to construct a philosophy of clothes has always seemed to me one of the most pathetic things in literature. He in the Temple of Vestments! Why sought he to intrude, another Clodius, upon those mysteries and light his pipe from those ardent censers? What were his hobnails that they should mar the pavement of that delicate Temple? Yet, for that he betrayed one secret rightly heard there, will I pardon his sacrilege. ‘A dandy,’ he cried through the mask of Teufelsdroeck, ‘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.’ Those are true words. They are, perhaps, the only true words in Sartor Resartus. And I speak with some authority. For I found the key to that empty book, long ago, in the lock of the author’s empty wardrobe. His hat, that is still preserved in Chelsea, formed an important clue.

But (behold!) as we repeat the true words of Teufelsdroeck, there comes Monsieur Barbey D’Aurevilly, that gentle moqueur, drawling, with a wave of his hand, ‘Les esprits qui ne voient pas les choses que par leur plus petit cote, ont imagine que le Dandysme etait surtout l’art de la mise, une heureuse et audacieuse dictature en fait de toilette et d’elegance exterieure. Tres-certainement c’est cela aussi, mais c’est bien d’avantage. Le Dandysme est toute une maniere d’etre et l’on n’est pas que par la cote materiellement visible. C’est une maniere d’etre entierement composee de nuances, comme il arrive toujours dans les societes tres-vieilles et tres-civilisees.’ It is a pleasure to argue with so suave a subtlist, and we say to him that this comprehensive definition does not please us. We say we think he errs.

Not that Monsieur’s analysis of the dandiacal mind is worthless by any means. Nor, when he declares that George Brummell was the supreme king of the dandies and fut le dandysme meme, can I but piously lay one hand upon the brim of my hat, the other upon my heart. But it is as an artist, and for his supremacy in the art of costume, and for all he did to gain the recognition of costume as in itself an art, and for that superb taste and subtle simplicity of mode whereby he was able to expel, at length, the Byzantine spirit of exuberance which had possessed St. James’s and wherefore he is justly called the Father of Modern Costume, that I do most deeply revere him. It is not a little strange that Monsieur D’Aurevilly, the biographer who, in many ways, does seem most perfectly to have understood Mr. Brummell, should belittle to a mere phase that which was indeed the very core of his existence. To analyse the temperament of a great artist and then to declare that his art was but a part–a little part–of his temperament, is a foolish proceeding. It is as though a man should say that he finds, on analysis, that gunpowder is composed of potassium chloride (let me say), nitrate and power of explosion. Dandyism is ever the outcome of a carefully cultivated temperament, not part of the temperament itself. That maniere d’etre, entierement composee de nuances, was not more, as the writer seems to have supposed, than attributory to Mr. Brummell’s art. Nor is it even peculiar to dandies. All delicate spirits, to whatever art they turn, even if they turn to no art, assume an oblique attitude towards life. Of all dandies, Mr. Brummell did most steadfastly maintain this attitude. Like the single-minded artist that he was, he turned full and square towards his art and looked life straight in the face out of the corners of his eyes.

It is not hard to see how, in the effort to give Mr. Brummell his due place in history, Monsieur D’Aurevilly came to grief. It is but strange that he should have fallen into a rather obvious trap. Surely he should have perceived that, so long as Civilisation compels her children to wear clothes, the thoughtless multitude will never acknowledge dandyism to be an art. If considerations of modesty or hygiene compelled every one to stain canvas or chip marble every morning, painting and sculpture would in like manner be despised. Now, as these considerations do compel every one to envelop himself in things made of cloth and linen, this common duty is confounded with that fair procedure, elaborate of many thoughts, in whose accord the fop accomplishes his toilet, each morning afresh, Aurora speeding on to gild his mirror. Not until nudity be popular will the art of costume be really acknowledged. Nor even then will it be approved. Communities are ever jealous (quite naturally) of the artist who works for his own pleasure, not for theirs–more jealous by far of him whose energy is spent only upon the glorification of himself alone. Carlyle speaks of dandyism as a survival of ‘the primeval superstition, self-worship.’ ‘La vanite,’ are almost the first words of Monsieur D’Aurevilly, ‘c’est un sentiment contre lequel tout le monde est impitoyable.’ Few remember that the dandy’s vanity is far different from the crude conceit of the merely handsome man. Dandyism is, after all, one of the decorative arts. A fine ground to work upon is its first postulate. And the dandy cares for his physical endowments only in so far as they are susceptible of fine results. They are just so much to him as to the decorative artist is inilluminate parchment, the form of a white vase or the surface of a wall where frescoes shall be.

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Consider the words of Count D’Orsay, spoken on the eve of some duel, ‘We are not fairly matched. If I were to wound him in the face it would not matter; but if he were to wound me, ce serait vraiment dommage!’ There we have a pure example of a dandy’s peculiar vanity–‘It would be a real pity!’ They say that D’Orsay killed his man–no matter whom–in this duel. He never should have gone out. Beau Brummell never risked his dandyhood in these mean encounters. But D’Orsay was a wayward, excessive creature, too fond of life and other follies to achieve real greatness. The power of his predecessor, the Father of Modern Costume, is over us yet. All that is left of D’Orsay’s art is a waistcoat and a handful of rings–vain relics of no more value for us than the fiddle of Paganini or the mask of Menischus! I think that in Carolo’s painting of him, we can see the strength, that was the weakness, of le jeune Cupidon. His fingers are closed upon his cane as upon a sword. There is mockery in the inconstant eyes. And the lips, so used to close upon the wine-cup, in laughter so often parted, they do not seem immobile, even now. Sad that one so prodigally endowed as he was, with the three essentials of a dandy–physical distinction, a sense of beauty and wealth or, if you prefer the term, credit–should not have done greater things. Much of his costume was merely showy or eccentric, without the rotund unity of the perfect fop’s. It had been well had he lacked that dash and spontaneous gallantry that make him cut, it may be, a more attractive figure than Beau Brummell. The youth of St. James’s gave him a wonderful welcome. The flight of Mr. Brummell had left them as sheep without a shepherd. They had even cried out against the inscrutable decrees of fashion and curtailed the height of their stocks. And (lo!) here, ambling down the Mall with tasselled cane, laughing in the window at Whites or in Fop’s Alley posturing, here, with the devil in his eyes and all the graces at his elbow, was D’Orsay, the prince paramount who should dominate London and should guard life from monotony by the daring of his whims. He accepted so many engagements that he often dressed very quickly both in the morning and at nightfall. His brilliant genius would sometimes enable him to appear faultless, but at other times not even his fine figure could quite dispel the shadow of a toilet too hastily conceived. Before long he took that fatal step, his marriage with Lady Harriet Gardiner. The marriage, as we all know, was not a happy one, though the wedding was very pretty. It ruined the life of Lady Harriet and of her mother, the Blessington. It won the poor Count further still further from his art and sent him spinning here, there, and everywhere. He was continually at Cleveden, or Belvoir, or Welbeck, laughing gaily as he brought down our English partridges, or at Crockford’s, smiling as he swept up our English guineas from the board. Holker declares that, excepting Mr. Turner, he was the finest equestrian in London and describes how the mob would gather every morning round his door to see him descend, insolent from his toilet, and mount and ride away. Indeed, he surpassed us all in all the exercises of the body. He even essayed preeminence in the arts (as if his own art were insufficient to his vitality!) and was for ever penning impenuous verses for circulation among his friends. There was no great harm in this, perhaps. Even the handwriting of Mr. Brummell was not unknown in the albums. But D’Orsay’s painting of portraits is inexcusable. The aesthetic vision of a dandy should be bounded by his own mirror. A few crayon sketches of himself–dilectissimae imagines–are as much as he should ever do. That D’Orsay’s portraits, even his much-approved portrait of the Duke of Wellington, are quite amateurish, is no excuse. It is the process of painting which is repellent; to force from little tubes of lead a glutinous flamboyance and to defile, with the hair of a camel therein steeped, taut canvas, is hardly the diversion for a gentleman; and to have done all this for a man who was admittedly a field-marshal….

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I have often thought that this selfish concentration, which is a part of dandyism, is also a symbol of that einsamkeit felt in greater or less degree by the practitioners of every art. But, curiously enough, the very unity of his mind with the ground he works on exposes the dandy to the influence of the world. In one way dandyism is the least selfish of all the arts. Musicians are seen and, except for a price, not heard. Only for a price may you read what poets have written. All painters are not so generous as Mr. Watts. But the dandy presents himself to the nation whenever he sallies from his front door. Princes and peasants alike may gaze upon his masterpieces. Now, any art which is pursued directly under the eye of the public is always far more amenable to fashion than is an art with which the public is but vicariously concerned. Those standards to which artists have gradually accustomed it the public will not see lightly set at naught. Very rigid, for example, are the traditions of the theatre. If my brother were to declaim his lines at the Haymarket in the florotund manner of Macready, what a row there would be in the gallery! It is only by the impalpable process of evolution that change comes to the theatre. Likewise in the sphere of costume no swift rebellion can succeed, as was exemplified by the Princes effort to revive knee-breeches. Had his Royal Highness elected, in his wisdom, to wear tight trousers strapped under his boots, ‘smalls’ might, in their turn, have reappeared, and at length–who knows?–knee-breeches. It is only by the trifling addition or elimination, modification or extension, made by this or that dandy and copied by the rest, that the mode proceeds. The young dandy will find certain laws to which he must conform. If he outrage them he will be hooted by the urchins of the street, not unjustly, for he will have outraged the slowly constructed laws of artists who have preceded him. Let him reflect that fashion is no bondage imposed by alien hands, but the last wisdom of his own kind, and that true dandyism is the result of an artistic temperament working upon a fine body within the wide limits of fashion. Through this habit of conformity, which it inculcates, the army has given us nearly all our finest dandies, from Alcibiades to Colonel Br*b*z*n de nos jours. Even Mr. Brummell, though he defied his Colonel, must have owed some of his success to the military spirit. Any parent intending his son to be a dandy will do well to send him first into the army, there to learn humility, as did his archetype, Apollo, in the house of Admetus. A sojourn at one of the Public Schools is also to be commended. The University it were well to avoid.

Of course, the dandy, like any other artist, has moments when his own period, palling, inclines him to antique modes. A fellow-student once told me that, after a long vacation spent in touch with modern life, he had hammered at the little gate of Merton and felt of a sudden his hat assume plumes and an expansive curl, the impress of a ruff about his neck, the dangle of a cloak and a sword. I, too, have my Eliza-bethan, my Caroline moments. I have gone to bed Georgian and awoken Early Victorian. Even savagery has charmed me. And at such times I have often wished I could find in my wardrobe suitable costumes. But these modish regrets are sterile, after all, and comprimend. What boots it to defy the conventions of our time? The dandy is the ‘child of his age,’ and his best work must be produced in accord with the ages natural influence. The true dandy must always love contemporary costume. In this age, as in all precedent ages, it is only the tasteless who cavil, being impotent to win from it fair results. How futile their voices are! The costume of the nineteenth century, as shadowed for us first by Mr. Brummell, so quiet, so reasonable, and, I say emphatically, so beautiful; free from folly or affectation, yet susceptible to exquisite ordering; plastic, austere, economical, may not be ignored. I spoke of the doom of swift rebellions, but I doubt even if any soever gradual evolution will lead us astray from the general precepts of Mr. Brummell’s code. At every step in the progress of democracy those precepts will be strengthened. Every day their fashion is more secure, corroborate. They are acknowledged by the world. The barbarous costumes that in bygone days were designed by class-hatred, or hatred of race, are dying, very surely dying. The costermonger with his pearl-emblazoned coat has been driven even from that Variety Stage, whereon he sought a desperate sanctuary. The clinquant corslet of the Swiss girl just survives at bals costumes. I am told that the kilt is now confined entirely to certain of the soldiery and to a small cult of Scotch Archaicists. I have seen men flock from the boulevards of one capital and from the avenues of another to be clad in Conduit Street. Even into Oxford, that curious little city, where nothing is ever born nor anything ever quite dies, the force of the movement has penetrated, insomuch that tasselled cap and gown of degree are rarely seen in the streets or colleges. In a place which was until recent times scarcely less remote, Japan, the white and scarlet gardens are trod by men who are shod in boots like our own, who walk–rather strangely still–in close-cut cloth of little colour, and stop each other from time to time, laughing to show how that they too can furl an umbrella after the manner of real Europeans.

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It is very nice, this universal acquiescence in the dress we have designed, but, if we reflect, not wonderful. There are three apparent reasons, and one of them is aesthetic. So to clothe the body that its fineness be revealed and its meanness veiled has been the aesthetic aim of all costume, but before our time the mean had never been struck. The ancient Romans went too far. Muffled in the ponderous folds of a toga, Adonis might pass for Punchinello, Punchinello for Adonis. The ancient Britons, on the other hand, did not go far enough. And so it had been in all ages down to that bright morning when Mr. Brummell, at his mirror, conceived the notion of trousers and simple coats. Clad according to his convention, the limbs of the weakling escape contempt, and the athlete is unobtrusive, and all is well. But there is also a social reason for the triumph of our costume–the reason of economy. That austerity, which has rejected from its toilet silk and velvet and all but a few jewels, has made more ample the wardrobes of Dives, and sent forth Irus nicely dressed among his fellows. And lastly there is a reason of psychology, most potent of all, perhaps. Is not the costume of today, with its subtlety and sombre restraint, its quiet congruities of black and white and grey, supremely apt a medium for the expression of modern emotion and modern thought? That aptness, even alone, would explain its triumph. Let us be glad that we have so easy, yet so delicate, a mode of expression.

Yes! costume, dandiacal or not, is in the highest degree expressive, nor is there any type it may not express. It enables us to classify any ‘professional man’ at a glance, be he lawyer, leech or what not. Still more swift and obvious is its revelation of the work and the soul of those who dress, whether naturally or for effect, without reference to convention. The bowler of Mr. Jerome K. Jerome is a perfect preface to all his works. The silk hat of Mr. Whistler is a real nocturne, his linen a symphony en blanc majeur. To have seen Mr. Hall Caine is to have read his soul. His flowing, formless cloak is as one of his own novels, twenty-five editions latent in the folds of it. Melodrama crouches upon the brim of his sombrero. His tie is a Publisher’s Announcement. His boots are Copyright. In his hand he holds the staff of The Family Herald.

But the dandy, in no wise violating the laws of fashion, can make more subtle symbols of his personality. More subtle these symbols are for the very reason that they are effected within the restrictions which are essential to an art. Chastened of all flamboyance, they are from most men occult, obvious, it may be, only to other artists or even only to him they symbolise. Nor will the dandy express merely a crude idea of his personality, as does, for example, Mr. Hall Caine, dressing himself always and exactly after one pattern. Every day as his mood has changed since his last toilet, he will vary the colour, texture, form of his costume. Fashion does not rob him of free will. It leaves him liberty of all expression. Every day there is not one accessory, from the butterfly that alights above his shirt front to the jewels planted in his linen, that will not symbolise the mood that is in him or the occasion of the coming day.

On this, the psychological side of foppery, I know not one so expert as him whom, not greatly caring for contemporary names, I will call Mr. Le V. No hero-worshipper am I, but I cannot write without enthusiasm of his simple life. He has not spurred his mind to the quest of shadows nor vexed his soul in the worship of any gods. No woman has wounded his heart, though he has gazed gallantly into the eyes of many women, intent, I fancy, upon his own miniature there. Nor is the incomparable set of his trousers spoilt by the perching of any dear little child upon his knee. And so, now that he is stricken with seventy years, he knows none of the bitterness of eld, for his toilet-table is an imperishable altar, his wardrobe a quiet nursery and very constant harem. Mr. Le V. has many disciples, young men who look to him for guidance in all that concerns costume, and each morning come, themselves tentatively clad, to watch the perfect procedure of his toilet and learn invaluable lessons. I myself, a lie-a-bed, often steal out, foregoing the best hours of the day abed, that I may attend that levee. The rooms of the Master are in St. James’s Street, and perhaps it were well that I should give some little record of them and of the manner of their use. In the first room the Master sleeps. He is called by one of his valets, at seven o’clock, to the second room, where he bathes, is shampooed, is manicured and, at length, is enveloped in a dressing-gown of white wool. In the third room is his breakfast upon a little table and his letters and some newspapers. Leisurely he sips his chocolate, leisurely learns all that need be known. With a cigarette he allows his temper, as informed by the news and the weather and what not, to develop itself for the day. At length, his mood suggests, imperceptibly, what colour, what form of clothes he shall wear. He rings for his valet–‘I will wear such and such a coat, such and such a tie; my trousers shall be of this or that tone; this or that jewel shall be radiant in the folds of my tie.’ It is generally near noon that he reaches the fourth room, the dressing-room. The uninitiate can hardly realise how impressive is the ceremonial there enacted. As I write, I can see, in memory, the whole scene–the room, severely simple, with its lemon walls and deep wardrobes of white wood, the young fops, philomathestatoi ton neaniskon, ranged upon a long bench, rapt in wonder, and, in the middle, now sitting, now standing, negligently, before a long mirror, with a valet at either elbow, Mr. Le V., our cynosure. There is no haste, no faltering, when once the scheme of the day’s toilet has been set. It is a calm toilet. A flower does not grow more calmly.

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Any of us, any day, may see the gracious figure of Mr. Le V., as he saunters down the slope of St. James’s. Long may the sun irradiate the surface of his tilted hat! It is comfortable to know that, though he die to-morrow the world will not lack a most elaborate record of his foppery. All his life he has kept or, rather, the current valets have kept for him, a Journal de Toilette. Of this there are now fifty volumes, each covering the space of a year. Yes, fifty springs have filled his button-hole with their violets; the snow of fifty winters has been less white than his linen; his boots have outshone fifty sequences of summer suns, and the colours of all those autumns have faded in the dry light of his apparel. The first page of each volume of the Journal de Toilette bears the signature of Mr. Le V. and of his two valets. Of the other pages each is given up, as in other diaries, to one day of the year. In ruled spaces are recorded there the cut and texture of the suit, the colour of the tie, the form of jewellery that was worn on the day the page records. No detail is omitted and a separate space is set aside for ‘Remarks.’ I remember that I once asked Mr. Le V., half in jest, what he should wear on the Judgment Day. Seriously, and (I fancied) with a note of pathos in his voice, he said to me, ‘Young man, you ask me to lay bare my soul to you. If I had been a saint I should certainly wear a light suit, with a white waistcoat and a flower, but I am no saint, sir, no saint…. I shall probably wear black trousers or trousers of some very dark blue, and a frock-coat, tightly buttoned.’ Poor old Mr. Le V.! I think he need not fear. If there be a heaven for the soul, there must be other heavens also, where the intellect and the body shall be consummate. In both these heavens Mr. Le V. will have his hierarchy. Of a life like his there can be no conclusion, really. Did not even Matthew Arnold admit that conduct of a cane is three-fourths of life?

Certainly Mr. Le V. is a great artist, and his supremacy is in the tact with which he suits his toilet to his temperament. But the marvellous affinity of a dandy’s mood to his daily toilet is not merely that it finds therein its perfect echo nor that it may even be, in reflex, thereby accentuated or made less poignant. For some years I had felt convinced that in a perfect dandy this affinity must reach a point, when the costume itself, planned with the finest sensibility, would change with the emotional changes of its wearer, automatically. But I felt that here was one of those boundaries, where the fields of art align with the fields of science, and I hardly dared to venture further. Moreover, the theory was not easy to verify. I knew that, except in some great emotional crisis, the costume could not palpably change its aspect. Here was an impasse; for the perfect dandy–the Brummell, the Mr. Le V.–cannot afford to indulge in any great emotion outside his art; like Balzac, he has not time. The gods were good to me, however. One morning near the end of last July, they decreed that I should pass through Half Moon Street and meet there a friend who should ask me to go with him to his club and watch for the results of the racing at Goodwood. This club includes hardly any member who is not a devotee of the Turf, so that, when we entered it, the cloak-room displayed long rows of unburdened pegs–save where one hat shone. None but that illustrious dandy, Lord X., wears quite so broad a brim as this hat had. I said that Lord X. must be in the club.

‘I conceive he is too nervous to be on the course,’ my friend replied. ‘They say he has plunged up to the hilt on to-day’s running.’

His lordship was indeed there, fingering feverishly the sinuous ribands of the tape-machine. I sat at a little distance, watching him. Two results straggled forth within an hour, and, at the second of these, I saw with wonder Lord X.’s linen actually flush for a moment and then turn deadly pale. I looked again and saw that his boots had lost their lustre. Drawing nearer, I found that grey hairs had begun to show themselves in his raven coat. It was very painful and yet, to me, very gratifying. In the cloak-room, when I went for my own hat and cane, there was the hat with the broad brim, and (lo!) over its iron-blue surface little furrows had been ploughed by Despair.

Rouen, 1896.

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