Sex nature and art10 Feb 2020
Yet for this condition his means, though considerable, if aided by a profession, were obviously inadequate. His fortune amounted only to independent escorts, though to this something must be added for the sale of his troop. His only resources thenceforth must be play, or an opulent marriage.
Sex nature and art had been favourable to him; his escorts, though not distinguished, was graceful, and his countenance, though not handsome, was intelligent. He possessed in a certain degree the general accomplishments, and exactly in the degree, which produce a flattering reception in society. He was a tolerable musician, he used his pencil with tolerable skill, and he wrote tolerable verses; more would have been worse than useless. He dressed admirably, and, as his cheval de battaile, he talked with a keenness of observation and a dexterity of language, scarcely less rare than wit, and still more exciting among the exhausted minds, and in the vapid phraseology, of fashion.
His person was well formed, and his dress was a matter of extreme study. But it is rather libellous on the memory of this man of taste to suppose, that he at all resembled in this important matter the strutting display which we have seen in later times, and which irresistibly strikes the beholder with surprise, that any man capable of seeing himself in the glass could exhibit so strong a temptation to laughter; while to the more knowing in the affairs of costume, it betrays instantly the secret that the exhibitor is simply a walking placard for a tailor struggling for employment, and supplying the performer on the occasion with a wardrobe for the purpose. Brummell’s dress was finished with perfect skill, but without the slightest attempt at exaggeration. Plain Hessian boots and pantaloons, or top boots and buckskins, which were then more the fashion than they are now; a blue coat, and a buff coloured waistcoat – for he somewhat leaned to Foxite politics for form’s-sake, however he despised all politics as unworthy of a man born to give the tone to fashion – was his morning dress. In the evening, he appeared in a blue coat and white waistcoat, black pantaloons closely fitting, and buttoning tight to the ankle, striped silk stockings, and opera hat. We may thus observe how much Brummell went before his age; for while he thus originated a dress which no modern refinement has yet exceeded, and which contained all that is de bon ton in modern equipment, he was living in the midst of a generation almost studiously barbarian – the Foxite imitators of the French republicans – where every man’s principle was measured by the closeness of his approach to savagery; and nothing but the War interposed to prevent the sans-culottism alike of the body and the mind.