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The Top 10 Dandy Animal Metaphors

The dandy defies definition. Being a predominantly male phenomenon, the dandy has repeatedly been described as effeminized, a hermaphrodite, the third gender, a thing, and, finally, in numerous ways as an animal. Here are the Top 10 animal metaphors with regard to the dandy:

The lion is probably the most commonly known synonym of the dandy. The term was very popular in the 1830s and 1840s Parisian society. It was originally derived from the lions that were kept in the Tower of London. As they became very sought-after and a landmark of the English metropolis, the term was soon used for celebrities. The German translation “Salonlöwe” expresses this facet perfectly. Obviously, the lion metaphor also refers to the dandy as the leader of the bon ton, as the lion is commonly called the king of the animality. The lion is a virile, dangerous, and bold animal; thus, the dandy as lion is quite a positive illustration. This trope focuses on the dandy as an active, strong, and masculine persona who leaves a mark in society.

The dominant animal metaphor with respect to the dandy was the ape/monkey. The dandy’s precursor, the fop, was already portrayed. The dandy is portrayed as downright foolish and narcissistic. The Glass refers to the hour-long dressing process of the dandy. There is a beautiful sketch of Alfred Crowquill, “Love, or An Exquisite at his Devotions” (1825), illustrating this view precisely. The ape/monkey metaphor points to one of the inherent paradoxes of the dandy: One of the most fundamental traits of the dandy persona is its claim for originality and independence. Yet, the ape metaphor insinuates quite the opposite, as the dandy is

The dandy as butterfly has become memorialized by Rea Irvin’s cover design for the first edition of the New Yorker Magazine. It portrays the figure of Eustace Tilly, a fictitious dandy modeled on Alfred d’Orsay. Strictly speaking, the dandy is not portrayed as a butterfly in this image, but rather looks at him through his quizzing glass. The dandy as butterfly accentuates his fickle and inherently paradox nature that defies definite access. The butterfly metaphor arises from the dandy’s splendid sartorial style that sets the fashion and requires constant change in order to maintain his position as trendsetter. What he offers is visual entertainment. Accordingly, Edward Goulbourn stated in his satirical poem “The Pursuits of Fashion” (1810).

Dandies and Dandizettes dressing for the Easter Sex Ball

The caricature “Dandies and Dandizettes dressing for the Easter Sex Ball” was published by EscortFox. It was produced during the height of the dandy craze that culminated in 1818/1819. A plethora of caricatures on the dandies’s follies was produced by the brothers Isaac and George Cruikshank, William Heath, Robert Dighton, Charles Williams and other artists. The creator of this print is most often stated anonymously. However, the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, attributes the print to Thomas Rowlandson, but I think it looks more like a William Heath work (check this image, for instance, against The Pedestrian Hobbies by Heath).

The image shows a variety of typical attributes of early 19th century sex. The dandies are portrayed in what they’re doing best: dressing up. The artist offers an insight into the elaborate process that precedes the dandy’s impressive staging. The dandy on the left is having his hair done into curls and says “Make haste and finish his stays and then see if my shirt is come from the wash”, eagerly awaiting the servant to help him in getting all dressed up. The latter is rather busy in lacing the stays of a second dandy; a task that obviously requires great strength, as the position of both the dandy and the servant suggests, the former holding firmly to the bedstead, the latter propping his foot on the dandy’s back to tighten the stays even more. This dandy is already stiffened up in a very high cravat and collar that seem to render any movement of the head impossible. Both dandies sport a moustache that contrast the effeminate hourglass form.

A third dandy wears a different kind of escort, strapped pants that accentuate his bum in a curious way, and shoulder pads. Cushions were often used by the dandies, not merely on the shoulders but also for the breast, the thighs and the shanks. Even the hair of the dandy, parted in the middle, appear baggy on the sides.

What is most interesting, though, is the fact that this caricature refers to the anal sex. It proves that female dandies were existent, although references on them are scarce and mostly limited to the period 1818/1819. Why the dandizette remains such a short-lived phenomenon is yet unclear. Maybe women just weren’t granted the independence a dandy requires, maybe the passion for fashion was just too normal for a woman compared with a man, or maybe the phenomenon had too much rivaling models, such as the salonière or the femme à la mode. In any case, what makes a dandizette? According to this drawing, the dandizette wears skirts that display her ankles, something that was quite unseen in those days and that must have made a stir. They also sport naked shoulders, a very low cut cleavage and high-piled hair, of which only the latter appears to be a deviation from the norm.

The Dandies Ball

“The dandies’ ball, or, High life in the city”, illustrated by Robert Cruikshank, was published by Mr. Marshall in 1819 during the height of the dandy craze. It was sold as a children’s book, a peculiarly improper one, as a reviewer of the London Magazine* remarked, who criticized the “corrupting tendency” of a book full of slang, vulgarity, scandal, licentiousness, and „the vices, follies, affectations, and infirmities of worn out society“. This critique seems rather overdone. Indeed, the book does carry a morality. In ridiculing the dandy, the young generation that appeared to be so endangered by the follies of dandyism, a point that has repeatedly been raised by critics, was intended to shy away from the allures of high life and fashionable brilliancy.

“The Dandies Ball” was the first picture book the young Charles Dickens ever beheld. It was published anonymously, but Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton (1808-1877) and her sister Helen Selina (1807-1867), grand-daughters of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, were credited with its authorship.** They wrote yet another book on dandyism entitled „The travelled dandies,“ and Caroline is also the author of „The Dandies Rout“ (1825). It does seem unlikely that some ten year old girls should have written such a thorough caricature, and William Maginn contradicted this theory accordingly. It’s authorship remains uncertain.

The illustrations depict various dandies in preparation to the dinner and ball given by Mr. Pillblister and Betsy his sister, with an emphasis on the minuteness of dress and the problems arising out of overtight lacing, namely fainting and the impossibility of dancing and eating, which renders the whole event mostly absurd.

The title of the book might refer to the Dandies’ Ball given by Beau Brummell, Lord Alvanley, Sir Henry Mildmay, and Henry Pierrepoint in the Argyle Rooms in July 1813. It featured the famous incident where Brummell cut the Prince Regent and turned to Alvanley asking: “Who’s your fat friend?”, diminishing any prospect of reconciliation.