Farewell To The Sophistocrat: Michael Mattis, 1964-2014


Michael Mattis, who has been a part of since its very beginning in 2004, died suddenly this weekend in his sleep. He was 49 years old.

He first met founder Christian Chensvold 20 years ago when he wrote a piece on dandies for his college literary magazine, and Chensvold contacted him in light of the mutual interest.

Tributes are currently going up on’s Facebook page, as well as Michael’s own. Our own Nick Willard had this to say when he heard the news:

Words fail to express my shock & sorrow.  We just exchanged e-mails this week, catching up with each other.  He shared how he was head over heels over his new woman & how much he loved her.  It seemed that he was at the dawn of the next stage of his life, not at the sunset.

Though he had little tolerance for foolishness, Michael was a raconteur and bon vivant by temperament who above all enjoyed meeting interesting people and swapping stories with them. He has written some of the most insightful pieces for, under the fitting column heading “The Sophistocrat,” which can be accessed in the menu column at right.

He’s captured above in a photo by Rose Callahan.

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Camille Paglia Likes Men (In Theory, That Is)


Camille Paglia has been our favorite lesbian cultural critic ever since her 1990 book “Sexual Personae,” which exhibited vigorous and often embarrassing insight into dandies, decadents and aesthetes. When it comes to her versus Rhonda Garelick, we certainly think Dr. Paglia has a trifle the preference.

It’s also fun to watch the renegade scholar vex and roil mainstream academic feminists.

To wit, yesterday Dr. Paglia posted an essay at crediting men not only with dandyism (OK, while not mentioned, it’s certainly implied), but with far less dandyish activities, such as refuse disposal, and inventing the dishwasher.

Men will also become socially useful to enlightened women once again, Paglia assures us, once  the apocalypse comes:

After the next inevitable apocalypse, men will be desperately needed again! Oh, sure, there will be the odd gun-toting Amazonian survivalist gal, who can rustle game out of the bush and feed her flock, but most women and children will be expecting men to scrounge for food and water and to defend the home turf. Indeed, men are absolutely indispensable right now, invisible as it is to most feminists, who seem blind to the infrastructure that makes their own work lives possible. It is overwhelmingly men who do the dirty, dangerous work of building roads, pouring concrete, laying bricks, tarring roofs, hanging electric wires, excavating natural gas and sewage lines, cutting and clearing trees, and bulldozing the landscape for housing developments. It is men who heft and weld the giant steel beams that frame our office buildings, and it is men who do the hair-raising work of insetting and sealing the finely tempered plate-glass windows of skyscrapers 50 stories tall.

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The First Biography On Francis de Miomandre

Francis de Miomandre - Pierre de BonneuilWe recently featured the artwork of Paris-based Pierre de Bonneuil. Now he follows up with a post of his own, on lesser-known French dandy Francis de Miomandre.

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C’est avec un immense plaisir que la France compte dans sa bibliothèque la première biographie consacrée à Francis de Miomandre. L’avant-propos occupe 3 pages merveilleuses par une écriture si légitime. En effet, Philippe de Miomandre honore son oncle et présente l’auteur de cet élégant ouvrage, Remi Rousselot. Ami et confrère des feuilles volantes, il donne en 2013 à partir de ses recherches une possibilité d’entrer dans le cabinet d’un dandy presque oublié.

Francis etait un homme de petite taille, l’oeil pétillant et toujours bien soigné. Il portait le monocle et fumait de longues cigarettes. Ses amis épistolaires étaient Gide, Suarès, Larbaud, Breton, Supervielle, Desnos, Milosz, Soupault, Claudel et beaucoup d’autres. Participant aux aventures littéraires de son siècle, il cultivait le paradoxe en considérant bien plus la variété de ses promenades avec son caméléon de compagnie. De Miomandre avait fondé dans sa jeunesse une société secrète nommée Peacocks. Plume féconde, il a une flopée d’ouvrages à son actif et quelques traductions dont ” Elégance des temps endormis ” du sulfureux Vicomte de Lascano-Tegui.

Il habita pendant un certain temps — rue La Bruyère — un appartement qui disposait de deux pièces. L’une lui servait à la fois de salon, de chambre à coucher et de studio; l’autre était un cabinet de toilettes. L’ensemble décoratif ressemblait étrangement aux esquisses d’Aubrey Beardsley — c’est à dire que tout était recouvert de dentelles et de voiles blancs dans lesquels se détachaient quelques objets résolument noirs.

Il se faisait inviter dans les cercles les plus réputés: au Jockey, à l’Union, à l’Epatant, à la Régence, au Fouquet’s, au Flore, où il croisait quelques dandys — Charles du Bos, Robert de Montesquiou, Boni de Castellane et le Prince de Sagan. Son dernier texte fut publié par les nouvelles littéraires, le 4 août 1960, soit un an, presque jour pour jour, après sa disparition. Son titre était prémonitoire: trop de silence. — PIERRE DE BONNEUIL

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Compare And Contrast: The New York “I Am Dandy” Group Photo


Much has been noted of the wide range of men and styles in Callahan & Adams’ “I Am Dandy.” But previously comparing and contrasting all the subjects required confusing page-flipping, or multiple browser windows leading to a frozen computer.

But now a handy-dandy photo has been taken that allows easy side-by-side comparison of over a dozen of the book’s beaux and their various sartorial idioms.

Photographer Jane Kratochvil snapped the shot Monday night at the opening reception for a weeklong exhibition of Callahan’s portraits at the National Arts Club. Bestowing’s imprimatur on the event were founder Christian Chensvold and columnist Robert Sachelli, who, following in the train tracks of his idol, Lucius Beebe, chugged up on Amtrak from Washington to attend. The gala marked the most dazzling gathering of dandies in the history of New York City since Jimmy Walker dined alone.

The following is a guide to the subjects and their signature styles. Starting from the left:

Dandy Wellington, fresh from signing an endorsement deal with Miracle-Gro.

Christian Chensvold, foregoing his usual pickled-herring expression and once again channeling all his dandyism into his choice of hosiery.

Thomas Crowley, in velvet and slippers, already dressed for the after-party chez lui.

Andrew Yamato, who didn’t have time to change after a business meeting.

Domenico Spano, forgoing his usual assortment of checks for pale solids and pencil stripes, paired with a bold bowtie.

A particularly demure Rose Callahan, the 21st-century Madame Récamier, graciously presiding over her salon of dandies.

Dr. Andre Churchwell, in a copy of one of Grant’s suits in “Suspicion;” he, Rose and Chenners secretly agreed to show teeth.

A positively elegant Peter McGough looking like Edward VIII as he sat down to deliver “the woman I love” speech.

Mr. B., the Gentleman Rhymer, who provided the evening’s entertainment, here executing a perfect photobomb.

Natty Adams, still wearing Sunday’s 5 o’clock shadow.

A scholarly-looking Robert Bryan, professor of style.

Tonsorial artist Michael W. Haar, wondering why Natty didn’t stop in for a shave.

Our own Robert Sacheli, who, standing too close to the assemblage, was told by the photographer to get in closer, and with the vanity characteristic of all dandies, happily obliged, even though he’s not in the book.

An understated G. Bruce Boyer, dressed in a tweed sportcoat and cashmere cardigan with one button fastened, wondering how he got mixed up with these loonies.

The instantly recognizable Mr. Burton.

And there you have it.

Now if you’re like us (and if you are, god help you), the photo no doubt brings to mind Tissot’s “Le Cercle de la rue Royale,” which hangs in the Musée d’Orsay. On the far right, Proustian dandy Charles Haas can be seen executing the perfect paintingbomb.


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Beau Jest: The Joke’s On Brummell

copy-of-beau-bonhams.jpgEveryone knows the jests and bon mots of Beau Brummell’s as recounted by Captain Jesse. The “do you call that thing a coat?” line, and the “who’s your fat friend?” one, and the several others. Personally, my feeling has always been that you probably had to have been there, since the wit strikes one as being not so much clever as nasty. Perhaps context really is everything.

Reading Harriet Wilson’s memoirs, I was delighted to see that my reactions were confirmed. Wilson, a shrewd dame de compagnie, notes that Brummell’s position in society was “enough to make many seek it who cared not for it; and many more wished to be well with him, through fear, for all knew him to be cold, heartless, and satirical.” She was perfectly aware that  “his maxims on dress were excellent… but his affected manners and little absurdities amused for the moment,” and that’s about all. In short, Brummell was, in Harriet’s eyes, rather boorish and boring.

And Harriet knew everyone. She was herself a rather good judge of people, lively and bright, although totally lacking in any formal education. The most famous English courtesan during the high Regency period, her charms were recognized by Lord Byron and the Duke of Wellington, among a multitude of others. As Lesley Blanch, editor of the memoirs notes, “She liked variety, and had, on her own admission, le diable au corps – brisk appetites.”

But what’s interesting in regard to Brummell is that Harriet recounts a wonderful little joke at his expense that you won’t find anywhere else. It’s so subtle, so unlike Brummell’s humor, which tended to be brutal and rather gross, that you wonder whether he even knew he’d been gotten.

One day a friend and patron of hers, Lord Robert Manners, who, as Harriet slyly notes, “Spoke but little yet he possessed a certain degree of quaint, odd humour,” was approached by Brummell.

“Those leathers are not bad; who made them?” asked George Brummell one day of His Lordship. “Why, the breeches maker,” said Bob Manners, speaking very low.

I suppose it’s the “speaking very low” that caps it. I would have loved to have seen Brummell’s reaction. I’m sure he laughed louder than anyone. — G. BRUCE BOYER

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The Apartment: Chenners On 1A Kensington Palace For RL

NPG x15116; Lord Snowdon by Roger George Clark

Prince William’s new digs at Kensington Palace, Apartment 1A, were last inhabited by Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon. On assignment for Ralph Lauren Magazine, founder Christian Chensvold looks at their turbulent marriage.

Snowdon is pictured above in a portrait by Roger George Clark that hangs in the National Gallery.

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