Aug 202013

If caricaturists loved ridiculing the macaroni in the Eighteenth Century it is nothing compared to the way their successors – in particular the Cruickshanks – pilloried his 19th Century counterpart, the dandy.

It all seems such a long way from the simple and stylish elegance of  Beau Brummel – these ludicrous dandified costumes with high collars, tight waists, bulging (false) calf muscles and so on. The implication in many of the cartoons was that the poor slavish follower of these fashions was starving in order to look fashionable, and then succumbed to any passing breath of wind.

Here are a few I like, courtesy as usual of the Lewis Walpole Library site.

First up, one called “The Dandy sick, o Tim” which the site describes as follows:

“A bedroom scene suggesting genteel poverty, poorly furnished but with a carpeted floor. An emaciated dandy wearing a woman’s beribboned cap, and a dressing-gown, with high collar, frilled shirt, and breeches, droops in a chair, attended by two friends and a visitor.

The last (left) bows, holding hat and rolled umbrella, and asks “How do? What’s matt.” The invalid: “Not Well — Ca-a-nt tell.” One friend, wearing a woman’s cap, scarf, and a dangling pin-cushion, with dandy’s dress, proffers a glass containing ‘Dandy Water’ from an effervescing bottle; he says: “Do my dear fello take this nice cordial & this pretty Gilt Pill, it will raise your delicate drooping spirits, & keep off the Hysterics, which you know distresses your tender frame so unmercifully.”

The other (right), who wears an apron with dandy costume, and has a medicine-bottle in a pocket, proffers the pill, supporting the shoulders of the patient. He says: “Aye my sweet fellu I will torment my own frame to death, but I will discover some new Pectoral, Balsamic envigorating tonic nervous & exhilerating Cordial for your exquisite and effeminate Constitution.”

All four have stick-like limbs and debased features. On the bed beside the patient lie two books: ‘Ovids Art of Love’ and ‘Ovids Metamoposis’. On the wall hang the dandy’s coat, top-boots, riding-switch, and (on a shelf) Wig box, spurs, and bell-shaped top-hat. On a bare table (left) are a pin-cushion, bottles, one of ‘Ruspinos Styptic.’ Under it is an open trunk heaped with articles of dress. On the ground (right) are chamber-pots and a huswife.

It first appeared in February 1819 and deals with the same theme as this one by Isaac Cruikshank which appeared three months earlier:

A dandy lies back fainting in a chair, his limbs held rigid, supported by three others while a fourth figure (on the left) draws the curtain, cutting off a view of the  stage where a singer is performing. The three supporters say in turn:

“I am so frighten’d I can hardly stand!”;

“Mind you don’t soil the Dear’s linnen,” and,

“I dread the consequence! That last Air of Signeur Nonballenas has thrown him in such raptures, we must call a Doctor  immediately!”

A bottle of ‘Eau de Colonge’ [sic] is held  to the patient’s nostril. The fourth turns to say: “I must draw the curtain or his screams will alarm the House—you have no fello-feeling my dear fellos, pray unlace the dear loves Stays, and lay him on the Couch.”

Mind you, if the dandy wasn’t being an effeminate wimp, he was portrayed as a dishonest rogue, as in this one entitled Dandy Pickpockets Diving:

It shows a couple pre-occupied as they look in a shop window. The taller dandy rifles through the man’s pockets and passes the stolen goods across to his accomplice, who is about to run off smart-ish.

I previously used this one by Cruikshank showing dandies getting dressed – I just love the idea of calf-muscle falsies!


From left to right: The seated figure exclaims “D__n it! I really believe I must take off my cravat or I shall never get my trowsers on”

To his right “Pon honour Tom you are a charming figure! You’ll captivate the girls to a nicety!!

The half dressed dandy, one calf pad in place, replies “Do you think so Charles? I shall look more the thing when I get my other calf on.”

The figure standing on the chair trying to tie his cravat with both hands, is saying “Dear me this is hardly stiff enough. I wish I had another sheet of fools cap“  to which the dandy looking at himself in the glass replies, (no doubt without a hint of double entendre!) “You’ll find some to spare in my breeches.”

To end with: The Hen-Pecked Dandy. The caption reads: “The Demon of Fashion Sir Fopling bewitches— The reason his Lady betrays—  For as she is resolved upon wearing the Breeches,  In revenge he has taken the Stays!”

Frankly I am amazed the era of the dandy lasted five minutes with Cruikshank around taking the p*ss the whole time!  No wonder that once the Regency era was over there was a backlash and we ended up with sombre Victorian austerity in men’s fashions!

  3 Responses to “All fine and Dandy”


    And what a rich ground they are for the Regency author!


    As in the origins of the nursery rhyme Yankee Doodle – stuck a feather in his cap and called him macaroni – as in a dandy/fancily dressed Italian.


    I thunked a thunk about this, and where my wandering thoughts took me was to wonder whether the more extreme dandies were frustrated transgendered males who were trying to be as female as they could? Much is made of them being effeminate, which would tend to suggest this, I thought. There are always tales of women dressing as men – many of them serving in the army or navy – but that can’t be taken so much as evidence of transgendered choices as wanting more choices than were generally the lot of women. Men [of the monied classes at least] COULD choose to be a bit gender-ambiguous.

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