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Beau Brummell [Illustrated] [Hardcover]

Ian Kelly
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

10 Oct 2005
Beau Brummell's life is a riveting story of unparalleled fame, fashion and admiration followed by a descent into poverty and madness. The man who put Saville Row on the map, who could win friends, political arguments or the favours of women with apparent effortlessness, and who was responsible for some of the wittiest put-downs in history, Brummell created the myth of the British gent typified by wit, style, sex, and the finest tailoring in the world. In this biography, Ian Kelly brings the clothes, fashions and people of Regency England vividly to life. Brummell's life is a mirror to his own age and also to our own. Part Andy Warhol, part David Beckham, part Oscar Wilde - Brummell became famous by virtue of his image at a time when the modern concept of 'celebrity' was first termed. This is the man with cause to be considered the father of the cult of personality - to be considered, indeed, as the first true 'celebrity'.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre; illustrated edition edition (10 Oct 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340836989
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340836989
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 15.5 x 5.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 439,239 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A finely written and beautifully illustrated book which does credit to the extraordinary life, times and legacy of its subject.' -- Frances Wilson, Literary Review

'A magnificent work, as both portrait...and as panorama of a golden age...A
treasure trove of lush details and grim realities.' -- Anthony Bourdain

'A magnificent, fantastic read: all the wonders of that incomparable age touched on with mastery.' -- Stephen Fry

'A splendid book...brings to life not just the man but also the time in which he lived.' -- Colin McDowell, The Sunday Times

'Lush, funny, exhaustively researched and beautifully written.' -- Herald

Hugely entertaining. . . The reader will want neither the book, not the intriguing life it recreates, to come to an end. -- Herald 8 October 2005

This is the only book you need to read if you want to know the whole truth about Brummell. -- Daily Telegraph, 15th October 2005

Book Description

In this fascinating new biography Ian Kelly reveals the man who changed the way we dress forever - and how his life reflects upon and has influenced our own 21st century culture. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
With this biography of Beau Brummell, Ian Kelly has achieved that rarest of things - a biography which is unputdownable. In Kelly's hands, the story of Beau Brummell - son of a civil servant in Lord North's regime, a boy of humble origins who made briefly made good before ending his days ravaged by syphilis in a French lunatic assylum - is more readable than any novel I've read in the last few months. The rise and fall of Beau Brummell is described with wit, charm and verve - in short, with all the trademarks of the Beau himself. Beyond this, Kelly has produced an in-depth description of one of the most fascinating ages in our history - the tail end of the 18th Century and the lavish excesses of the Regency period.

Parallels between Brummell and any one of our current celebrities, who are famous merely for dressing nicely and going to parties, are subtly drawn but inescapable. Of course, Brummell had more class in his fingernail than Paris Hilton, say, could even dream of achieving, and the style of dressing that he pioneered will surely outlive any of our modern starlets with their gigantic sunglasses and tiny chihauhaus. But for a cautionary lesson in the transitory nature of fame, our 21st Century It girls and boys could do worse than look to poor Beau Brummell.

Be that as it may, this book is a must read for anyone with even the slightest interest in fame, fashion or British social history. You won't be disappointed.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful 10 Feb 2006
By A Customer
Beau Brummell by Ian King should be required reading for any interested in the Regency or the ton. King shines a brilliant light on the period from the masculine perspective. His thorough and painstaking research illuminates the life and times of one of the most influential men of the period. It is a treasure trove of detail, and insight into not only Brummell, but also the men and women who surrounded him.
If you enjoy Georgette Heyer or indeed Regency romance, you will find this book fascinating.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mesmorising, distressing, superb 23 July 2012
I bought this book on impulse and left it long before reading. What a mistake! It truly is unputdownable. I have lost a weekend to it - but no regrets. The tale, the tragedy, the glamour, the conclusions will stay long with me. My only criticism is the grammar: Brummell would have had a fit... but I refuse to end on a negative note for this supreme study. If you are contemplating buying it do so, do so now, and set aside time to do nothing else but devour it from the moment it arrives.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'The' book on Brummell 18 Aug 2006
Brummell, as far as I can tell, didn't do a days work in his life, gambled his inheritence, borrowed from friends and fled to France when his debts caught him up. He lived the rest of his life on 'gifts' from friends and on credit, finally dying of syphilis in a French asylum.

In other words, a thoroughly fascinating character who was largely responsible for the move away from 'fop' excesses in dress to dandy simplicity. The best book on any subject I have read for some time.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
I was telling a friend about reading this fascinating book on this fascinating person. He did not know who Beau Brummell was, and when he asked me, I found myself a bit stunned. Who was he, for a person living in Finland in the year 2006? What did he achieve, something that was lasting and meaningful? I stuttered something about his having been the leading arbiter of fashions in Regency London and a close friend of the Prince Regent, and that he had had massive influence on men's clothing and is the ultimate reason to why men still wear white shirts and why black is the colour of choice for men's evening-wear. I could see my friend wasn't satisfied.

After reading this book through I might have been able to answer more fully. Beau Brummell was a singular character who had great consequence in the highest circles of the British society in the Regency period without having a noble birth or high connections to recommend him. This he achieved, as far as I understand it, solely on the weight of his personality. To be sure, he had quite a lot of money, to begin with; but then, so had many others. His father was not a nobleman but a political careerist who amassed himself a fortune for his children to inherit; his grandfather was a valet. Brummell had received his education at Eton, which was certainly a help; it was also most providential that he came (as a younger son, too) into a part of his father's money as a young adult when he was just finding out what he wanted to do. He wanted to see, and to be seen.

In a way, Beau Brummell was in the beginning of his fame much like Jane Austen's Emma: handsome, clever, and rich.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A dandiacal masterpiece 28 Dec 2008
A great book and a fantastic read suitable for those who know nothing about George Bryan "Beau" Brummell, or for those who have an interest in the enthralling life of the ultimate dandy.

The book charts the whole life of the Beau whilst masterfully putting it into perspective with life and attitudes of the time. Brummell was born into money which was dubiously obtained by his hard working father and with this inheritance set about spending lavishly and redefining what it meant to be a gentleman (in the Regency meaning of the word). He re-wrote the book on dress emphasising quality of cut and fit and the use of subtle colour; which pretty much led to the modern suit.

The man also loved to gamble and his latter days were spent in exile then as consulate in Caen (a very natural progression for a syphilitic former dandy with serious debts to pay and just enough friends left in high places).

The book really illuminates the man who helped define how we dress today, and although he was called a dandy at the time, the name tends now to allure to someone with far less class, style and wit which Brummell possessed in ample amounts. My only slight issue with the book is the style is slightly laboured in some places and has a tendency to repeat certain passages, however, this does not significantly detract from a great read.

So, if you want to read about an early 18th century celebrity who dallied with the upper echelons of society, spend wildly, was renowned for his wit (which got him into trouble on more than one occasion) and dealt with it all with an assured self confidence and cool this is the book. A most British of dandies but one who knew far better than to take himself seriously.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Ian Kelly - Beau Brummel
Excellent value for a large hardback and a good read. A fascinating insight into the life, fashions and morals of the Regency period.
Published 7 months ago by Albert Publications
5.0 out of 5 stars Effortless Absorption of History
I'm sorry I didn't get to Ian Kelly's book on Brummel as soon as it came out - it immediately enhanced my lifelong enjoyment and appreciation of Georgette Heyer. Read more
Published on 19 Feb 2012 by JUDITH
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful Resource
This is a really eye opening view into the times of the Regency period. Although the book is about Beau Brummell, the insight into the way society worked, Brummell's place in it... Read more
Published on 10 July 2011 by Riven
5.0 out of 5 stars An Insight into Brummells World
The book is not only a biography of the life of a man who could be called the first celebratly, but is also filled with insights into the world he inhabited. Read more
Published on 3 May 2011 by Becky
4.0 out of 5 stars An utter original
This is a fantastic biography of a figure I was only vaguely aware of. You would think that Brummell would be a one-hit wonder from the cliched references to him that occur in... Read more
Published on 13 Feb 2011 by SAP
5.0 out of 5 stars Unsurpassable
Immensely readable

Ian Kelly has done what few biographers have the talent for, brought to life a notoriously idle snob and his period. Read more
Published on 22 Dec 2010 by Victor Atkins
4.0 out of 5 stars Leap of faith
Very interesting details about Brummell and Georgian/Regency London. Parallels with modern celebrity culture quite striking. Read more
Published on 8 Dec 2010 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Beloved Dandy
Crammed full of interesting information and detail of a London era unlike any other. This fascinating man's life is built up in context with London and the standards of the time... Read more
Published on 11 May 2010 by K. Wright
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally Absorbing!
I am only a quarter the way through but I can say already that this is one of the best biographies I have read. Read more
Published on 31 May 2009 by Mrs. J. L. Porter
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