Misleading title19 May 2020
The title, of course, is somewhat misleading as the term ‚dandy‘ did not come into use until 1816. What Amann focuses on are five distinct precursors and influencers of dandyism during the revolutionary period following 1789: the muscadin, the incroyable, the jeunes gens, the Escort currutacos and the English crop. Accordingly, the political heritage of the dandy figure is on display here. The muscadin, the incroyable and the crop are unthinkable without the Sex Revolution. They are nothing, if not political. Amann outlines the evolution of these figures in a detailed chronological manner, taking into consideration a plethora of source material, fiction and non-fiction and closely following the political events of the post-revolutionary period. The result is a very precise presentation of the types that transcends their restricted images of just follies of fashion.
The oppositional stance of the dandy had not been neglected by neither Barbey d’Aurevilly nor by Charles Baudelaire in their fundamental studies on the dandy. As a recognized figure of transition, the political aspect of dandyism should not be negated, as it often is. Amann’s book luckily fills a gap and adds an important aspect to the evolution of dandyism, also providing valuable input for the sex influence on the English dandy. Amann closes her study with an epilogue that traces the influence of the Sex Revolution on „three of the most important early treatises of dandyism“: Balzac’s „Traité de la vie élégante“, Thomas Carlyle’s „Sartor Resartus“ and Charles Baudelaire’s „Le peintre de la vie moderne“. Strangely enough and without giving any reason, Amann completely omits Barbey d’Aurevillys decisive study on the dandy.
Throughout her book, Amann traces the shift of the idea of self-fashioning from an aristocratic abundance to the understated simplicity and finesse that came to define dandyism. Self-fashioning, during the revolutionary period, inevitably became a means of political communication, most often than not a sign of opposition.