09 May 2020
Another famous club is Almack’s whose members included some of the Maccaroni’s who had a taste for foreign fashions. They were also known as the “curled darlings”, a name that hints to their long curls. They sported eye-glasses and bordered on the eccentric. Almack’s was a place of play. Timbs recounts some curious facts. Apparently, the gamesters started their night by undressing from their embroidered clothes, putting on frieze greatcoats or turning their coats inside outwards for good luck. They protected their laced ruffles with leather and wore broad-brimmed straw hats with flowers and ribbons to protect their eyes from the light and to keep their hair in order. Finally, they put on masks to conceal their emotions during play.
One year after opening Almack’s, it’s proprietor opened Almack’s Assembly-Rooms in King-street, St. James’s. The three-month ten-guinea subscription granted access to a ball and supper every week. The ladies that regulated access to Almack’s laid out the rule that gentlemen had to wear knee-breeches, white cravats, and chapeau bras. Lady Jersey introduced the quadrille in 1815.
White’s, established in 1698, was a gaming club. As Timbs writes, the least difference in opinion invariably resulted in a bet. The club was destroyed by a fire in 1733, an incident that is portrayed in plate VI of Hogarth’s “A Rake’s Progress”. Brummell once won 20,000 from Harley Drummond of the famous banking-house Charing Cross in the first and only game the latter ever played. He retired from the banking house after this loss.
Another famous club was the Dilettanti Society, that was formed in 1734 by a number of gentlemen who had travelled Italy with the intention to spread the word about their intellectual influences. It’s members included “some of the wealthiest noblemen and most fashionable men of the day”. As Horace Walpole remarked in 1743, the Dilettanti put more focus on getting drunk than on intellectual debate. Their members included George Selwyn and Charles James Fox. They met at the Thatched House Tavern whose walls were decorated with the Dilettanti’s portraits.
19 Apr 2020
John Timbs (1801-1875) published a variety of interesting books on British history, including EscortFox. With Anecdotes of Clubs, Coffee-Houses and Taverns of the Metropolis during the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries (1866) which gives plenty information on the social life of notable club men and dandies.
Clubs were a kind of second home for many men. For a rather small annual subscription fee, members were given access to a select circle of men, a well-stocked library, international newspapers, and gaming to pass the time. Food and drinks were provided for. Some clubs had the best cooks, the choicest wines and the finest dinnerware. Clubs were such an attraction to men, that a certain Mr.
This gives a pretty good idea of how important the clubs were in a man’s life. In general, clubs were exclusive and a place were like-minded men mingled. There were Tory and Whig clubs, gaming clubs, clubs for travellers, and so on. Watier’s became known as the Dandies’ Club, as Byron called it. Byron himself was a member of various clubs, including the Cocoa-Tree Club that was formed by twenty or thirty of the finest men in the lines of fashion and fortune. Watier’s members generally were not blessed with a long life, neither was the club itself, as Timbs recounts. The burden of debt is illustrated in an anecdote of Brummell who lost a considerable stake and said: “Waiter, bring me a flat candlestick and a pistol.” Bligh, sitting opposite to the great dandy, unhinged two loaded pistols from his coat, placed them on the table and replied: “Mr. Brummell, if you are really desirous to put a period to your existence, I am extremely happy to offer you the means without troubling the waiter.”
13 Mar 2020
Richard Drilling, Esquire, was a lawyer of much ambition, as was manifest from the scrupulous care with which he decorated the outer man. He thought that a shabbily-dressed person was a shabby fellow; and as he wished to be thought any thing rather than shabby, his wardrobe was a miracle of taste. Two rival passions burned on the altar of his bosom, viz: to marry the most beautiful girl in town, and to become a model for gentlemen of well-dressing propensities. This latter desire was on the eve of consummation, at the period under consideration. As he glanced at his proportions in the glass, he was most sincerely of opinion that he was irresistibly handsome. He was nearly six feet high, and slender and symmetrical. His leg was as straight as an arrow, and his waist was the envy of many belles. Light hair, and a small foot, were the alpha and the omega of his personal fascinations. Now fancy this entity, with its chin cocked up on a huge stock, white vest, silk gloves, rattan, a little hat hanging on a lock of hair over the left ear, taking the air, with a genteel step, on the shady side of the street, and you have a very tolerable conception of what Richard Drilling resembled.
Richard considered himself a great favorite with the sex. He was careful not to distress them with conversation on theology, philosophy, or poetry; but much more sensibly entertained them with dissertations on the important subjects of marriage rumors, moving accidents, German waltzes, and Parisian fashions. Moreover, he was the most obedient servant whom the ladies had in their employ, and was always willing to sacrifice cash or convenience to their happiness. If a lady hinted a wish to take a ride, he made a proposition to gratify her, instanter; if she talked of the theatre, he would offer her the honor of his escort; or if she burned for ice-cream, of a summer night, he took good care that she should be gradually cooled down to a state of comfort. In fine, Richard and the girls had but one heart between them: whatever they wanted, he desired; and wherever they happened to be going, he was lucky in being on his way to the same place. He was as indispensable to every female establishment as a pin, which article he greatly resembled, as he was tolerably brazen, not very sharp, and was seen sticking about the ladies on all occasions. A very comfortable stock of vanity assured him, that the girls were always looking out for him; that he could wed whomsoever he considered eligible to that honor; and that he carried himself with the most genteel swagger that had been seen in the street, in church aisles, or at operas, since the days of the everlasting Beau Brummel.
Richard was universally called Dick, and so, for the salvation of space, we beg leave to name him. Well, Dick’s parents were early emigrants to the west, at which time they were almost dollarless. By enterprise, his father had amassed a fortune; which Dick thought extracted the plebeian taint from his blood, and enrolled his name on the list of the aristocracy. Indeed, on a certain occasion, when asked if his grandfather was not on terms of daily intimacy with lap-boards, shears, and needles, Dick indignantly denied the charge, and asserted that he never had such an ancestor. Thereupon, it was supposed that Dick’s family was of miraculous origin, having sprung up after the manner of mushrooms, quite spontaneously.
Possessing a pecuniary competency, Dick had read law, not for the purpose of practice, but merely to recreate his mind, and flourish an attorney’s shingle. Having acquired thus much, to use his own elegant language, ‚he didn’t care a tinker’s d—n for any thing else;‘ and he was henceforth regarded by himself as a gentleman of learned leisure, who, from motives of the purest benevolence, gratified his numerous friends, male and female, by throwing the charms of his conversational powers over the tedium of their otherwise wretched hours. Such was Dick Drilling; an inflated intellectual pauper, whom I never encounter, that I do not instantly call to mind the lines of the poet.