In 1844, at the height of his fame, Count Alfred d’Orsay found himself lampooned in print. Writing under the pen name A Man of Fashion, popular novelist John Mills published “D’Horsay: Or the Follies of the Day.” The whiff of scandal that ensued did little to obviate d’Orsay’s demand in society, perhaps because it failed to address the Count’s apparent seducing of wife, husband and daughter in the Blessington family.
However, the book was immediately suppressed for its attacks on prominent men of the day, who are depicted engaging in various acts of questionable morality.
“D’Horsay” is as tiresome and dated as one would expect, but we have excerpted a few descriptive passages for their historical value, as they show how the second-greatest dandy of all time was viewed in the diabolical monocle of a contemporary satirist.
Some descriptions are of the character D’Horsay, while others are of his sycophantic imitators. The great dandy caricaturist George Cruikshank supplied the drawing at left.
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D’Horsay, or the Follies of the Day
by A Man of Fashion (John Mills), 1844
In the lower room of this house of counterfeit show, sat, or rather lounged, a leader of the votaries of pleasure. The Marquis D’Horsay was, indeed, “the glass of fashion, and the mold of form.”
From the color and tie of the kerchief which adorned his neck to the spurs ornamenting the heels of his patent boots, he was the original for countless copyists, particularly and collectively.
Even the brow which the ducal coronet occasionally pressed was proud to wear the hat imitated from the model, which every aspiring Tittlebat Titmouse of the age strove to copy in his gossamer. The hue and cut of his many faultless coats, the turn of his closely-fitting inexpressibles, the shade of his gloves, the knot of his scarf, were studied by the motley multitude with greater interest and avidity than objects more profitable and worthy of their regard, perchance, could possibly hope to obtain. Nor did the beard that flourished luxuriantly upon the delicate and nicely chiseled features of the Marquis escape the universal imitation.
Those who could not cultivate their scanty crops into the desirable arrangement had recourse to art and stratagem to supply the natural deficiency. Atkinson and Rowland revelled in the attempts. From the extreme east to the far west ends of London, lights and shadows of the Marquis were plentiful as daisies in merry May. Wristbands, both false and real, were turned over cuffs of every dye and texture, and, in short, from the most essential article of the modish lion’s dress to the most trifling, not an item was left confined to its pristine state of originality. (more…)