Dickens, the Dandy, and the Savage: A Victorian View of the Romantic

  • Juliet McMaster
  • Rowland McMaster


Born between the battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo, Charles Dickens grew up during the regency (1811–20) and reign (1820–30) of George IV (“the Magnificent”, as a recent biographer labels himl), a period that saw the sartorial revolution of Beau Brummell and the flowering of English romanticism. Though Carlyle was to become, as much as anyone could, Dickens’s mentor, Carlyle’s gloomy but penetrating comments on “The Dandiacal Sect”2 as a major phenomenon of the times had little effect on Dickens’s dress and manner. In an age of masculine elegance, he amused his contemporaries with the extent to which he pursued “coats and trousers, a blaze of velvet and satin waistcoats, golden chains and tie-pins and rings”.3 Like Ainsworth, Disraeli, and Bulwer-Lytton, Dickens was, in Carlyle’s definition, “a Clothes-wearing Man”4 and “dressed à la D’Orsay rather than well”.5 That, however, did not keep him from making the Regency dandy or belle a recurrent symbol in his works of heartless superficiality and unearned social eminence. And where such a figure appears prominently, it usually gets its full significance by ironic allusion either to the romantic poem that seems to have made most impression on Dickens: Wordsworth’s Immortality Ode: or more generally, to the Wordsworthian and romantic idea of primitivism and the healing, edifying sanctity of nature.


Dismal Swamp Major Phenomenon Prince Regent Golden Chain Romantic Satire 
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Copyright information

© Juliet and Rowland McMaster 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juliet McMaster
  • Rowland McMaster

There are no affiliations available

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