Today we will be looking at 1820s-1840s aristocratic beauty tips. Previous posts on this blog have included how to court and marry, how to party, how an aristocratic family should operate, and how to stay (fashionably) healthy.
So if you’re ready to find out how to get a complexion like Lord Byron’s or an ass like Lady Caroline Lamb’s or some sweet curls like the Duchess of Devonshire’s, then boy are you in luck! Actually, I don’t discuss any of those people in this post, but you get the general idea.
The silver fork novels were full of beauty tips for both men and women. Since so many aristocratic goals revolved around securing a wealthy and distinguished spouse or asserting your social prowess, it was always a good idea to stay on top of aesthetic trends and look one’s best.
- “in spite of her red hair, and in spite of her insipidity . . . Jane the non-entity, is the heroine of my remarkable event” (Women As They Are 2:97).
- “’But what I think worse of than all . . . is his having red hair; I do so hate red hair’” (High Life 1:142).
- “the Honourable John squinted, and the Honourable Julia had red hair; and our lady-mother was as heartily ashamed of them both, as if they had been palmed upon her from the workhouse” (Cecil 2-3).
- “Of all physical defects, red hair is one of the least remediable. The blackest of wigs only renders the disfigurement more glaring. Apply what pigment you will to the eyebrows, the lashes remain a burning accusation. Nay, were even the eyelashes put in mourning, there is a peculiarity of complexion induced by the coating of the epidermis, as ineffaceable as the blackness of the Ethiopian or the spots of the leopard” (Cecil 9).
- “’That is an advantage which we blondes possess. We retain the appearance of youth long after it has left us’” (The Three Eras of Woman’s Life 1:155).
- “the former advocate of straight hair now expended a portion of his infant income in the purchase of Macassar, and began to cultivate his curls” (Vivian Grey 1:9-10).
- “a barber of Tavistock-street celebrity was summoned upon the special occasion ,and James’s lank hair, under his care, was taught to curl gracefully à la Brutus” (Sayings and Doings, Second Series, Vol. I 62).
- “those ringlets give her the look of a water-spaniel . . . All people with heads like poodles’ backs hold long hair in aversion” (Tales of Fashion and Reality 20).
- “’you will lose all your fine hair, by keeping it so constantly covered with that frightful close cap’” (Domestic Scenes 1:25-26).
Features of Beauty
- “Never had I seen so sweet a face, so graceful a figure! – Falling shoulders, trimly waist, a profusion of chestnut curls, falling from the smallest head I had ever seen” (Cecil 21).
- “according to my English creed, that in woman, four-and-twenty is the meridian of beauty” (Cecil 212).
- “Nothing in any European country is more uncommon than an arm really beautiful both in hue and shape” (Godolphin 1:159).
- “I know not whether my female readers are aware of the high place we men accord to delicately formed hands and feet, among the indispensable requisites to beauty . . . no other charms can compensate for the want of them” (The Confessions of an Elderly Gentleman 251-252).
- “’there is something so poetical in a pale cheek; how can you believe a man to be in a consumption for you, and you behold a pair of bursting red cheeks, giving him the look of an apoplectic Cupid’” (Tales of Fashion and Reality 21).
- “Their plainness, however, would have been less striking, but for that hard, pale, parboiled town look, that stamp of fashion, with which late hours and hot rooms generally endow the female face” (Granby 1:105).
- “Why, sir, for instance, do you wear that tuft to your chin . . . ? A chin-tuft is a cheap enjoyment certainly, and the twiddling it about, as I see you do constantly, so as to show your lower teeth, a harmless amusement to fill up your vacuous hours . . . Lord Hugo has a tuft to his chin, certainly, his countenance grins with a perfect vacuity behind it, and his whiskers curl crisply round one of the handsomest and stupidest countenances in the world” (Sketches and Travels in London 209).
- “’Really that man’s squint is ominous in the extreme. I never see him, but I think how natural was the superstition of evil eyes’” (Finesse 1:191).
- “’English-looking! that is an epithet which . . . is the last, the very last insult . . . to offer a woman. What think you they keep French abigails [maids] for, employ French milliners, adopt French morals . . . if it is to be called English-looking at last! ‘Go to and mend thy manners’’” (Cheveley 23).
- “They jetty locks I admired were, I was informed, the properties of the ladies they adorned, only because they had bought them; the pearly teeth I praised, were chefs d’oeuvre from some fashionable dentist; the dark eye-brows that struck my fancy, owed, I was told, their rich black to the newly invented die [sic]; and even the red lips, emulating the hue of coral, had been tinged, as my informant stated, by a chemical preparation” (Victims of Society 48).
- “he had tried, in order to give himself a waist, every girth, stay, and waistband then invented. Like most fat men, he would have his clothes made too tight, and took care they should be of the most brilliant colours and youthful cut” (Vanity Fair 29).
- “It is a mistake to suppose that daylight is less favourable to beauty than candlelight. The latter may mystify defects, or age, but the young, the fresh, the fair, never look so young, so fresh, so fair, as under the influence of a moderate sun” (The Davenels 1:211).
- “A morning dishabille, that trial to female beauty, and a morning sun, which so few even of the fairest can bear, brightly beaming on her countenance” (The Two Friends 1:104).