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Four - Manners

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 February 2024

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

Rules of Behaviour

From the very outset, dandies were at the forefront of fashion. Yet, their fashion encompassed not merely a style of dress, but a clear behavioural model which supposed that one's entire life was lived according to a certain code. Gradually, these norms turned into an element of social etiquette; a criterion which showed whether or not a man was a true dandy. The perfect dandy's manner was an exercise in ability to instantly and seamlessly change and adapt. Certain dryness with an element of affectation, haughtiness combined with deference: all this was to be exhibited with effortlessness and grace, yet in reality, the behavioural code was based on firm principles. For the true dandy, life was mercilessly governed by a complex system of norms. These could perhaps be reduced to three principal laws: ‘Do not show surprise’, ‘Whilst maintaining an indifferent attitude, act in an unexpected manner’, and ‘In society stay as long as you need to make an impression; and as soon as you have made it – depart.’

Let us examine these principles in more detail.

(1) The first rule, ‘nil admirari’, (let nothing astonish you) decrees that a dandy must, above all, maintain his composure. This norm prompted Baudelaire to compare dandies with the Stoics, and to see in dandyism something like a form of religion. The principle in fact derives from the ancient maxim ‘nil mirari’ (‘do not be surprised at anything’) or, in its fuller form, ‘nil admirari’ (‘never show admiration’). A classical variant of this principle is to be found in the poetry of Horace:

‘Nil admirari prope res et una, Numici,

Solaque quae posit facere et servare beatum.’

(‘Not to admire, is of all means the best,

The only means, to make and keep us blest.’)

According to Babichev and Borovsky,

The maxim ‘nil admirari’ dictates that calm should be kept at all costs. Both schools of thought that defined Horace's worldview – Epicureanism and Stoicism – saw imperturbable emotional calm as the highest good. One should not seek superficial goods such as riches or awards: thus claimed many ancient philosophers, notably Pythagoras, Democritus, Epicurus, the Stoic Zeno.

Antique minds saw astonishment as linked to admiration. The willingness to experience and to express surprise and admiration supposes openness to all of life's pleasures and temptations, and, consequently, a lack of self-sufficiency.

Type
Chapter
Information
Fashioning the Dandy
Style and Manners
, pp. 65 - 112
Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2023

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