Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-mwx4w Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-16T06:04:25.125Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Five - The Body

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 February 2024

Olga Vainshtein
Affiliation:
Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow
Get access

Summary

The Dandy's Body

True dandyism is the result of an artistic temperament working upon a fine body within the wide limits of fashion.

Sir Max Beerbohm

In his 1821 essay ‘On the Look of a Gentleman’, the English essayist and critic William Hazlitt offers a fascinating description of the true gentleman:

Ease, grace, dignity have been given as the exponents and expressive symbols of this look; but I would rather say, that a habitual self-possession determines the appearance of a gentleman. He should have the complete command, not only over his countenance, but over his limbs and motions. In other words, he should discover in his air and manner a voluntary power over his whole body, which with every inflection of it, should be under the control of his will. It must be evident that he looks and does as he likes, without any restraint, confusion, or awkwardness. He is, in fact, master of his person, as the professor of any art or science is of a particular instrument; he directs it to what use he pleases and intends. Wherever this power and facility appear, we recognize the look and deportment of the gentleman, – that is, of a person who by his habits and situation in life, and in his ordinary intercourse with society, has had little else to do than to study those movements, and that carriage of the body, which were accompanied with most satisfaction to himself, and were calculated to excite the approbation of the beholder.

This description fully works for the corporeality of a dandy. Of huge value both from a cultural and an anthropological perspective, Hazlitt's canon describes the nineteenthcentury ideal: a gentleman able to use and control his body as one would a precise and sophisticated instrument. At ease and free, he is adept at showcasing his body to pleasing effect. Following this somewhat general introduction, Hazlitt proceeds to go into more detail:

Ease, it might be observed, is not enough; dignity is too much. There must be a certain retenu, a conscious decorum, added to the first, – and a certain ‘familiarity of regard, quenching the austere countenance of control,’ in the other, to answer to our conception of this character.

From these aphoristic descriptions, we may deduce how Hazlitt perceived the distinction between a dandy and a gentleman. For him, the dandy was ‘the fine gentleman’, one who exhibits particular elegance.

Type
Chapter
Information
Fashioning the Dandy
Style and Manners
, pp. 113 - 144
Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2023

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×