To Cut A Dash


Recently we watched the 2011 BBC production of Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations,” in which the protagonist, Pip, who is newly risen from poverty by an anonymous benefactor, is told by an admiring peer how he “cuts a dash.”

And indeed he does. Played by actor Douglas Booth, Pip’s impression of energized elegance comes down to a certain set of qualities, all of which require the blessings of Providence.

In brief, to properly cut a dashing figure in society, you need to be:

• Young

• Handsome

• Tall

• Slender

• Rich, or fortified by credit

The 19th century novel was largely centered around the young man, often from the provinces, who goes to the metropolis in search of love and money. Often these characters adopt dandy airs — and machinations. Never are these characters:

• Old

• Ugly

• Short

• Fat

• Poor

Pip, Pip hooray. We should all be so lucky.

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4 Responses to “To Cut A Dash”

  1. Jeffzx9 Says:

    Don’t forget to paint a target on your back, unless you have the brains and/or social moxie to complete the package.

  2. Cané Says:

    Well, who wants to write about old, ugly, fat, impoverished midgets anyway?

  3. principe Says:

    The most important quality is attitude of mind. If you are fortunate to have a good, bespoke tailor all well and good. A gentleman of taste can still haunt the thrift shops of any medium-sized city and by his subsequent appearance and demeanor still get admiring glances and spoken comments. If a gentleman is stout (“A man of importance is a man of much belly” – Sicilian proverb) he can flaunt it with extravagent waistcoats. Remember Xavier Cugat?Above all, mes confreres, have fun!

  4. Steve Osborne Says:

    Now that you mentioned it, it’s true that the typical 19th century hero often came from the provinces.

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