Table of Contents : Articles : Submissions : Contributors :Order : Links : Miscellania : Manifesto : Contact

Dandies, Dilettantes, & the Tyranny of Common Sense

by Richard Faulk

Dandy is a sadly abused word. Expressing sometimes admiration, often derision, one thing it almost never conveys is an informed speaker. Dandy, like the terms deconstruction, mannerism, or quirky single, is something academics call “overdetermined”— a word put to so many uses that it has become nearly meaningless. With each repetition of these buzzwords, it becomes less and less clear that we know what we are talking about.

So what do we mean when we say dandy? Everyone knows it has something to do with clothes, but after that it gets fuzzy. For Brummell it meant the thorough gentleman, exceptional only in the extraordinary perfection of his ordinariness. For d’Aurevilly and Baudelaire, the dandy was another face of the Romantic artist, for whom clothes were the outward display of an imperious soul. For aesthetes like Wilde and Saki, it embodied the triumph of taste over the banality of convention. For Beerbohm it was the perfection of self-control. We might repeat here what has famously been said of pornography: “I can’t tell you what it is, but I know it when I see it.”


Caption TK