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He laughed. “Ah, I was used to tell him he would end up a Bond Street beau! Then, of course, he would make some opprobrious mention of tar, that being the only commodity to be used in my trade which he knew or, and it was a chance if either of us emerged from the argument without a black eye!”
Ned Goring, in Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer
I began this post based on the fact that I had to look up the word “opprobrious” while re-reading Bath Tangle recently. So let’s get that somewhat interesting word out of the way first:
1. conveying or expressing opprobrium
, as language or a speaker: opprobrious invectives. 2. outrageously disgraceful or shameful: opprobrious conduct.
Now, to the more interesting phrase in this quote from Chapter 7, “Bond Street beau.” According to A Regency Lexicon this denotes “A fashionable gentleman, as one might find on Bond Street in London.” In this passage, it is obviously used as a scornful taunt between to young men at university.
To place this term into perspective, it came about around the time of Beau Brummell
(1778-1840), the son of a London politician whose eccentric style was so much admired by the then Prince of Wales that it was copied by large numbers of young men of the era, giving rise to a new fashion style, “dandyism
.” He became such an iconic figure and arbiter of fashion that many years after his death, this song became popular on the London music hall scene:
THE BOND STREET BEAU.
In Bond Street in the regent’s time,
Beau Brummel would parade,
His dress and dignity sublime;
Threw others in the shade.
That exquisite and tailors pride,
No more walks to and fro,
But then his place is well supplied,
By me, ‘The Bond Street Beau.’
Chorus: I’m known as the Bond Street Beau
My dress is comme il faut,
The pet of the belles, the envy of swells,
By Jove, is the Bond Street Beau.
Whene’er I take my Walks abroad
How many girls I see,
They whisper he’s a duke or lord
A prince or else M.P.
Observe that manly Grecian bend
That linen white as snow,
To kiss my hand I condescend
Yes, I’m the Bond Street Beau.
I go to parties at the wes6t
Monotony it breaks
The perfect style in which I’m dressed
A great sensation makes.
When I go in the ladies glance
At me, they will, you know,
And all the darlings long to dance
With me the Bond Street Beau.
SPOKEN… ‘Ma dear, may I dance with that handsome fellow there? I don’t know his name but I’ve heard that:
My bow, my walk, my very smile
Are studies as you see,
To be correct in dress and style
You ought to copy me;
Then if you like my song tonight
Beau Brumell so reinforced the reputation of Savile Row tailors that even today, Savile Row is considered “THE” street for men of fashion and good taste to order their tailor-made suits! In fact, Henry Poole and Co., established in 1806, is still going strong. today (If you are interested in shopping there, their address is: 15 Savile Row, London W1S 3PJ, United Kingdom. Phone:+44 20 7734 5985)
Mr. Brummell’s reputation and influence is seen throughout many Regency era novels, particularly Georgette Heyer’s, and occasionally, Jane Austen’s. But his influence was not always seen as positive – many times the young men copying his style were spoken of derisively, often because, unlike Brummell, they often tried to out-Beau the Beau. They did things to excess – 12 capes over a driving coat, collar points so high that the wearer could not turn his head, and so on.
So, if you wish to speak opprobriously about a Tulip in a neck-brace, just call him a Bond Street Beau!