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Bob Ross

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WQ101: Beau Brummel and a quick response to a Prince's insult.

by Bob Ross » Sat May 06, 2006 5:46 pm

Last night I blazed through Beau Brummell by Ian Kelly
Free Press, 393 pages.

A charming little antidote to the world of one of my favorite authors -- Jane Austen. Many internet denizens would feel right at home in this raucous world. Social cruelty was an art form.

Brummell used his wit to amuse and defend himself. At an affair with the Prince of Wales, Mr. Kelly reports, "a comment of Brummell's so enraged the prince that he threw a glass of wine into Brummell's face.

"Brummell, sitting on his right, picked up his own glass and threw its contents into the face of the person on his right with the loud instruction, 'The Prince's Toast: pass it round!'"

Regards, Bob
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James Roscoe

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Re: WQ101: Beau Brummel and a quick response to a Prince's insult.

by James Roscoe » Sat May 06, 2006 6:52 pm

Bob,
I like to think I'm relatively familiar with English history and English literature, but what the heck did Beau Brummel do to deserve a nearly 400 page biography?
Cheers!
James
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Re: WQ101: Beau Brummel and a quick response to a Prince's insult.

by Bob Ross » Sat May 06, 2006 7:24 pm

I had that very question, James, and to a certain extent still do.

The simple answer is that Brummel was a nobody who rose to the top British high society with an Eton education, a commission in the Prince of Wales's regiment and a small fortune accumulated through his father's embezzlements. (His faher was a minor governmental official who was the son of a valet.)

Contemporaries valued him much higher than we do. Lord Byron wrote that the three greatest men of his age were himself, Napoleon and George Brummell.

From the Wall Street Journal review of the book which encouraged me to read it: "By the time he was 21, Brummell was worshiped and aped by every swell in London (not least the Prince of Wales, 16 years Brummell's senior). They copied how he walked, what he wore, what he ate, what he bought -- in short, how he lived. Celebrated in his day for his drolleries and grace, the Beau was as responsible as any single man for the transformation of English manners from the 18th-century's gruff bluster into the polished artifice for which the country would become renowned. And of course he had a huge influence on the way men dress -- an influence that long outlived him. Clothing historian James Laver wrote without exaggeration that Brummell "dictat[ed] the main lines of male fashion for the whole of Europe for the next hundred years.""

Brummell was a plain dresser -- wool coats, black boots and plain white linen. He appears to have changed the complex colorful dress of society by the force of his personality. And, the heart of the book is a fascinating description of a typical day in the life of a Regency dandy.

Kelly argues that Brummel was the first celebrity, but I liked the story of Brummel's life without the contemporary implications. Basically he ruled Regency high life, and the Prince of Wales in particular for 17 years.

A very quick and interesting read -- great beach reading for anyone interested in British history.

Regards, Bob
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Re: WQ101: Beau Brummel and a quick response to a Prince's insult.

by MichaelJ » Sat May 06, 2006 8:08 pm

And, he has the honor(?) of being part of a lyric to a Billy Joel.

"You could really be a Beau Brummel baby, if you just give it half a chance."

:D
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Re: WQ101: Beau Brummel and a quick response to a Prince's insult.

by James Roscoe » Sun May 07, 2006 12:09 pm

This is great. I will need to read that book. I teach ancient and medievel history, so I don't read much about the 19th century unless it's American. I need to expand my horizons. There is so little time and so many good books!
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Bob Henrick

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Re: WQ101: Beau Brummel and a quick response to a Prince's insult.

by Bob Henrick » Sun May 07, 2006 6:49 pm

"There is so little time and so many good books!" And James, to say nothing about wine. sometimes there is just too little time. Good to see you back James!
Bob Henrick
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Re: WQ101: Beau Brummel and a quick response to a Prince's insult.

by James Roscoe » Mon May 08, 2006 5:28 pm

Thanks for the love Bob.
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Re: WQ101: Beau Brummel and a quick response to a Prince's insult.

by Isaac » Tue May 09, 2006 1:10 am

"Brummell was a plain dresser -- wool coats, black boots and plain white linen."

How ironic, then, that he is famous for flashy dressing!

n. A dandy; a fop.

n : English dandy who was a fashion leader during the Regency (1778-1840)

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