Beau Brummell and the Dandy Faith

If we are to engage in credible and intelligent mission we have to understand worldviews. Let’s examine the dandy mindset.

Beau Brummel (1778-1840) was an English dandy who was obsessed with beauty, fashion and the cult of self-worship. He would spend five hours on his ‘toilette’ every day; he was a fanatical bather and this set him apart from his contemporaries who often disguised their stench with pungent perfumes. He believed that his boots should be polished with champagne and he insisted upon cravat perfection. One speck of dust, one wrinkle and the neck adornment would be tossed aside and the sacrament of tying it would begin again. The floor of his dressing room was often littered ankle deep with yards of discarded fabric. "These are our failures," his exhausted valet would quip. As a committed dandy Beau exuded nonchalance, boredom and a cold impertinence; his eyes were often glazed with indifference.

Worldview Thinking

When humans make a god of beauty, there is always sacrifice to a cruel deity. Speaking of idols, Psalm 115 tells us that "those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them." The French poet Charles Baudelaire defined the dandy as one who elevates aesthetics (study of beauty) to a living religion. For Baudelaire, "the dandy must aspire to be sublime without interruption; he must live and sleep before a mirror." 

It is tragic how serving the god of beauty ruined Beau's life. By 1816 he had squandered his inheritance and had incurred large debts due to his gambling addiction and extravagant lifestyle. He was forced to flee to Calais and on one occasion his landlady had to hide him in a cupboard when the bailiffs arrived. Tragically he had contracted syphilis and as his illness grew, Beau would sometimes fantasise that he was hosting a grand party. He would announce in a loud voice the Prince of Wales, Lady Chumley and other distinguished aristocrats and, musing that he saw them appear as he called their names, he would greet them and banter with them. This fantasy could last for several hours and then he would fall into one of the empty chairs and burst into tears. In 1839, he was taken to the asylum of the Bon Saveur where he died on 30th March 1840.

Four Ways of Looking at the Story

Materialist faith: "We believe that it is better to serve the money god rather than the  beauty god. Beau should have invested his fortune in a factory and exploited his workers."

Relativist faith: "We believe that Beau was being 'true to himself'. Well done Beau!"

Dandy faith: "We believe that one should either be a work of art or wear a work of art. We will squander every penny we have on clothing and extravagant living."

Christian faith: "We believe that life is a gift from God. We can enjoy fashion and beautiful things without sacrificing to the dandy demons."

Questions

1) How did Beau Brummell sacrifice to his idol?

2) What is the element of truth in the dandy faith?

3) How does the dandy faith impact people today?

 

 

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