Up until his untimely death some weeks before this review was written, Horsley's was a curiously unenviable life of seething excess, consumed by relentless decadence and velvet adorned decay. And yet he still somehow managed to defy the odds in writing this book of exceptional clarity & wit, before his offbeat ways finally stole the very beat from his heart. In other words, despite living the extraordinarily unstructured life of a 'die hard' waster in a bespoke bowler hat, he nonetheless wrote this truly engaging, most disciplined book - which rarely fails to be wickedly funny. Methinks "Dandy in The Underworld" is one day destined to be a cult classic, or at least it should be so for future generations of unashamedly well educated dropouts. Here's why...
Horsley was a one of a kind: a most privileged oddball who lived in a grand Georgian house in the seediest part of london, whose door bore the stern instruction for all passers by that "There are no prosti...'s at this address" and yet beyond that door's polished brass plate lived one of the greatest & most dedicated philanderers who ever lived. And by his standards that would be a very great compliment indeed, as you'll soon find on reading this most underrated autobiography.
Here you'll find what it is like to live the life of an uncommonly brazen addict who, unlike most, enjoyed "a certain spiritual charm that comes from having money in the bank". In many ways, Horsley was a 21st century hybrid of Bolan, Borroughs & Wilde. For his decadent ways, he made no excuses: "it is better to be hated for what you are, than loved for what you are not." Such sentiment may well make many people wince with contempt, as he was by no means a moral person in the conventional sense of the word, and certainly did not write this book as a means of becoming born again; published as it was, some two years before his all too predictably fateful yet untimely demise. Nonetheless, on reading this book, I have every belief that his was a life of wasted near genius, dedicated most successfully towards defying convention, in the mould of a 'dandy'.
Many will not like this book, as it will often elicit disgust when it doesn't entertain. That it has some negative reviews doesn't surprise me at all. It is indeed disgusting in some ways, and that in itself should prove unacceptable to those of tamer intellect and disposition. There is also a certain smugness about Horsley's unashamed candour which does (& will) irritate many. But for me, I am left in no doubt that Horsley would have been a great (albeit unconventional) success in life - if only he were a more prodigious writer before he left this planet. I'm not saying he would have been a captain of industry, being such an unwitting slave to his wayward passions, but he certainly could have written many a great book, if only he had better focused his efforts in that way. For he certainly had storytelling talent, and that's not just because the story of his life couldn't have been anything but interesting. Horsley's writing is also generously seasoned with priceless quips, e.g., "altruism is the art of doing unselfish things for selfish reasons" or, "I wanted to be working class. The trouble was apart from serving as a diligent caretaker of my own beauty, I didn't work."
If the extraordinary life of a witty, depraved, early 21st century dandy is of any interest to you, then buy this book you must.
"Life for me was a great big canvas, and I was going to throw all the paint on it [that] I could."