On this day in 1840 a man who had been the toast of high society at the beginning of the century, died penniless and insane in Caen. His name was George Bryan Brummell, better known as Beau Brummell, and when it came to wearing clothes well, he was aces and skill! When it came to many other things in his life, George Bryan was a bit of a dick, a git and a twat, but we’ll try not to hold that against him.
Brummell was born in 1778 to a relatively humble family. Relatively because the boy did get to go to Eton and then Oriel College at Oxford, but he wasn’t an aristocrat and his grandfather had been something as tacky as a grocer or something. His father got to be the private secretary of Lord North, because the grandparents had let out rooms to the la-di-das and by virtue of not nicking from them had earned themselves a few favours. Papa Brummell then made even better by marrying up. By the time George was out of university (which he was after a year as he found it all a little too dull), his father had died (in 1794) and left him somewhere between £20,000 and £30,000 which was the equivalent of roughly £2 million in today’s money. Brummell bought himself a commission into the 10th Dragoons, a troop of fops, fools, in other words the great and the good of Britain, including the Prince Regent himself and started his career as a dandy.
It was while he was a captain in the Dragoons that he came to the attention of Prinny. He had a reputation as a wit and a sharp dresser and the Prince Regent liked that sort of thing more than anything except pies. George the lesser (Brummell) didn’t stay in the army for long once he’d got to be bessie mates with George the greater (Prinny). He wasn’t much one for either fighting or venturing north, so when the Dragoon was about to be stationed in Manchester and it looked like war was about to break out (the Napoleonic ones), Brummell resigned his commission and set about becoming the most admired ponce in Christendom.
The thing with our George is that his whole life revolved around clothes. He was good with words, he could have been a writer; he wasn’t a bad artist and could have painted a few half decent canvases. But no. George found literature too boring and painting too foolish. Instead he put on clothes, went out and about so people could see him in clothes, hobnobbed with the aristocracy and did rather a lot of gambling. As such, is he worth even bothering with? Well, not really, but he did bring about some great changes in male fashions.
Everyone knows that Beau (cos he was all beautiful, innit) was dandy, but most people probably think that means he was all powder and bright colours and stockings and shit. He wasn’t. In fact, George was responsible for getting men out of their satins and trimmings and make-up and into more sober colours and trousers! While he wore breeches during the day, in the evening the man was all about a nice narrow trouser. He wore only dark blues, buffs and whites, his clothes were “simple” and elegantly cut and his biggest foppery was his mental cravat. The cravat – in white – was foot wide and stiff. It had to be gradually folded over and the chin brought forward bit by bit, in order to be worn. To accommodate this he also wore shirts with collars that would make Harry Hill‘s look conservative. And la! That’s what the dashing beau did for men’s fashion.
He managed to remain a man of fashion and influence until 1816 and then it all went a bit tits up. George spent all his money on
clothes, snuff boxes and gambling and the gambling did for him. He was okay for a while, his friends were happy to help him out, but then he fell out with the other George and he was basically fucked. Quick overview of the falling out. No one knows for sure what caused the argument, but we do know that not long afterwards, and before our own George had to leave the country, there was one last meeting between Prince and Beau. They were both promenading with friends and both determined to cut the other dead. The Prince did this by being terribly friendly to the Beau’s mate and ignoring the Beau. The Beau took all this with sang froid and then as they walked away, said to his mate, in a very loud voice, “So, who’s your fat friend?” Result! Fact is, the Beau was a fool, but a fool with a certain panache .
To escape debtor’s prison, which was beckoning quite insistently, he buggered off to Calais. He lived there for a number of years, getting subs off mates and spending it on clothes, snuff boxes and fancy wines. As his luck worsened he moved to Caen where he got a position at the British Consulate. He was such a dick that he managed to lose that job by writing to the Prime Minister and telling him that the Consulate in Caen was surplus to requirements. He long outlived his usefulness and by the age of 61 he was loco in the coco (having imaginary dinner parties with former friends who weren’t there) and a slovenly mess. He got moved to the poor house and died friendless, penniless and pointless in 1840.
Writing even this much about him is almost certainly a waste of good words, but, ah, but. The man did look fine in his finery and he did diss the Prince Regent to his fat old face, so, you know, he wasn’t all bad!
Today is the birthday of Slowhand guitarist and durr-brained racist, Eric Clapton.
Eric Clapton a racist? Some of you might be thinking. Yes, it is true and there is plenty of evidence for it. Exhibit One, his words to the crowd of a Birmingham gig in 1976. Please note he was off his face at the time
“I used to be into dope, now I’m into racism. It’s much heavier, man. Fucking wogs, man. Fucking Saudis taking over London. Bastard wogs. Britain is becoming overcrowded and Enoch will stop it and send them all back. The black wogs and coons and Arabs and fucking Jamaicans and fucking (indecipherable) don’t belong here, we don’t want them here. This is England, this is a white country, we don’t want any black wogs and coons living here. We need to make clear to them they are not welcome. England is for white people, man. We are a white country. I don’t want fucking wogs living next to me with their standards. This is Great Britain, a white country, what is happening to us, for fuck’s sake? We need to vote for Enoch Powell, he’s a great man, speaking truth. Vote for Enoch, he’s our man, he’s on our side, he’ll look after us. I want all of you here to vote for Enoch, support him, he’s on our side. Enoch for Prime Minister! Throw the wogs out! Keep Britain white!”
Ah, but he was drunk! You might say. But then when interviewed about it a couple of months later, he said this:
“I thought it was quite funny actually. I don’t know much about politics. I don’t even know if it would be good or bad for him to get in. I don’t even know who the Prime Minister is now. I just don’t know what came over me that night. It must have been something that happened in the day but it came out in this garbled thing… I thought the whole thing was like Monty Python. There’s this rock group playing on-stage and the singer starts talking about politics. It’s so stupid. Those people who paid their money sittin’ listening to this madman dribbling on and the band meanwhile getting fidgety thinking ‘oh dear’.”
In 2004 he gave another interview where he maintained that Enoch Powell was right and then in his autobiography from 2007, he wrote:
“I had never really understood or been directly affected by racial conflict… when I listened to music, I was disinterested in where the players came from or what colour their skin was. Interesting, then, that 10 years later, I would be labelled a racist… Since then, I have learnt to keep my opinions to myself. Of course, it might also have had something to do with the fact that Pattie had just been leered at by a member of the Saudi royal family.”
To be fair to Clapton, he has also said that there is no way he could be racist as it would make no sense, which is true, but at the same time, he does appear to be a little bit of a bigoted prick. At no point, as far as I’ve been able to maintain, has he said “I was a dick back then and never, ever should have said what I did. I am sorry.” So, I guess we’re all supposed to think that he loves his fellow-man whatever their race or religion because he’s Eric Clapton and has made his fortune off of copying black musicians.
He also supports the Countryside Alliance (cuntryside alliance) and wants the ban on fox-hunting lifted.
Oh and yeah, he’s made some music and stuff.
Anyway! Dear Eric, I am not going to wish you a happy birthday because you mostly disgust me. I will however say, don’t think of it as being another year older, think of it as being another year closer to meeting up with your mate Enoch Powell. You tosser.