A Dandy Hero
|Two portraits of Beau Brummell. |
I think the sculpture gives a better
impression of his elegance.
For a man famous only for being well-dressed, whimsically charming, and rude, Brummell’s fame is remarkably durable. But he was responsible for one thing that has lasted to this day: the men’s suit. "If people turn to look at you on the street, you are not well dressed” goes one of his memorable sayings. He made it fashionable, indeed essential, for a gentleman to dress plainly. When he decreed that a gentleman’s evening clothes be black, relieved only by a starched linen neckcloth, he basically invented the “top hat, white tie and tails” of Fred Astaire. Brummell emphasized good cut and fresh linen, cleanliness and good grooming. Who could argue with that?
|Not a good look|
Though it could be argued that the change would have happened anyway, after Brummell the gorgeous silks, embroidery and bright colors worn by rich men in previous eras never returned to fashion. Sometimes I feel a twinge of regret. Then I remember the “Swinging ‘60s,” which saw a brief revival of a more exuberant dandyism. Do you remember the Kinks’ song “Dedicated Follower of Fashion”? “His clothes are loud, but never square,” it went. I think of Austin Powers, shudder, and thank heaven for dark Armani suits.
The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton is set in 1820, a few years after Brummell’s exile. Tarquin Compton has achieved his ambition of replacing him as London’s best dressed man and arbiter of fashion. But any man of substance (and Tarquin is one, despite the exquisite exterior) needs something else to occupy him. First he needs to be brought down to earth. This is achieved by a blow of the head, the theft of most of his clothes (how apt), and temporary amnesia. To complete his humbling, he encounters Celia Seaton, a disgraced governess who was once the victim of his sharp tongue. Celia discovers that “Terence Fish,” as she maliciously dubs him, is a very different man from the snooty dandy. He’s kind, he’s thoughtful, he’s sexy. And he knows how to catch fish. The trouble really starts when Tarquin recovers his memory and has to reconcile his old persona with the new.
|….but I prefer to think he looked more like this.|
|Tarquin may have been dressed like this …|
Do you like a well-dressed man as a hero, or do you prefer one who doesn’t care about his appearance? And what does a hero have to do to redeem himself once he’s hurt the heroine? All four of these books, plus a copy of THE AMOROUS EDUCATION OF CELIA SEATON will go to one commenter.