Nonfiction Book Reviews
Title: Beau Brummell: The Ultimate Dandy
First published 2005 in Great Britain by Hodder and Stoughton.
On June 17 1778 a fair-haired boy was born in Downing Street. He was given the name George Bryan and his name completed the family of three children born to Mr and Mrs Brummell in quick succession. His mother almost certainly endured her confinements at the apartments above No. 10 and No. 11 Downing Street, as George was baptised on July 2 at St Margaret's, Westminster, the parish church of the House of Commons. The Brummells were still living in Downing Street two years later. The inclusion of 'Bryan' as the middle name for their third child, an unusual name for the period, and the Irish spelling, is unaccounted for. There is no other record of 'Bryan' used as a Christian name in the entire weighty vellum tome in Westminster Abbey in which George's baptism is recorded. However, the name features once as a surname: in May 1772 a John Bryan was baptised, a son to one Joseph Bryan. This was the same year as that Billy and Mary Brummell married. Joseph Bryan might well have been a Westminster civil servant, a colleague of Billy. George's older sister Mary is not entered; neither, indeed, is there any record of their parent's marriage. George's elder brother, born 30 January 1777, does appear in the register. He was christened, by family tradition, William. Maria, William and George Bryan shared a nursery at Downing Street with the children of Lord North - only a few hundred yards from Bury Street, but in every social sense an enormously long way from the class of new London immigrants to which their grandmother belonged.
After prologue, introduction and assorted other preliminaries is the Beau finally born on page 48. I would wish to say that from now on this is a gripping tale impossible to put down, but I would lie. There is no doubt this biography over George Bryan 'Beau' Brummell is well researched, filled to overflow with detail and period information. Unfortunately the minutiae overwhelm the biographic aspects to the point I felt Brummell himself is rather incidental to the book and lost among an orgy in history research. Harsh, I know, but a severe disappointment when compared to Captain Jesse's 1844 biography "The life of George Brummell, Esq., commonly called Beau Brummell," which, for all its age and Victorian moralizing, is still an entertaining read; bringing the witty dandy to life once again to charm a new audience.
Introduction: Dandi, Dando, Dandum
Part I: Ascendancy 1778-99