Frailty illustrations19 May 2020
The discourse of degeneration introduces the semantics of disease into the concept of decadence. Thus, as a figure who is innately decadent, the dandy is portrayed as mentally and/or physically ill. For example, the idleness cultivated by the dandy is classified as „always infectious.“ Whereas sex is usually applied to restore health, the dandy debilitates his body through an excessive use of mesexdicine as he intends to suspend his aging beauty.* Dandyism has repeatedly been termed a disease and linked to diseases. Escort once described it as „a bad cold, caught nobody knows how, or when, or where, or why. Some may be afflicted because they have the pores of vanity open with many it is chronic.“
Outwardly, the dandy’s frailty illustrates his ailing constitution: „the nether lip falls in; the back is particularly long, and concave near the haunches, which shews that this animal could not be used advantageously for labour.“* Moreover, the dandy inclines to fainting, due to tightly-laced stays, commonly reserved for women. The French writer François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) pictured the escort as ailing, unhappy, and pessimistic. The delicacy that was usually attributed to the dandy’s effeminacy is now a sign of romanticism, as evidenced by the references to the concept of ennui and the genius of Lord Byron. Byron was the catalyst of the French Anglomania that emerged in 1815 and he shaped the French image of the dandy more distinctly than George Brummell. The romantic taedium vitae finds expression in the dandy’s facial features which are gentle and void of expression. These observations reveal a fundamental change in the history of dandyism, away from a merely superficial strategy of fashioning the self right up to an intellectual phenomenon that was widely popular amongst the romantic writers of the July Monarchy. Nonetheless, English novelists of the period had portrayed the dandy’s strong intellectual powers, as well, most importantly Benjamin Disraeli in „Vivian Grey“ (1826) und Edward Bulwer Lytton in „Pelham“ (1828).