Romantic Circles Gallery
The English Ladies Dandy Toy
Dorothy George describes this print as follows:
A good-looking young woman, looking down and to the r., holds by two strings a jointed puppet (a pantin, a toy for ladies in vogue in the mid-eighteenth century . . . ) in the form of a dandy: in one hand is an umbrella . . . in the other a bell-shaped top-hat; it wears top-boots and breeches. She sits by an open sash-window, through which flowers are seen, wearing a becoming evening-dress, with long gloves and feathers in her hair. On a table is a book: "Quite the Dandy set to Music.” (846)
Courtesy of The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University. Copyright, 2009.
Marks DescriptionIn addition to the caption, The English Ladies Dandy Toy, the bottom of the print reads, on the left, "I. R. Cruikshank del. et fecit." and, on the right, "Pubd Decr 9th 1818 by T Tegg 111 Cheapside."
Printing ContextThe English Ladies Dandy Toy originally appeared as an inexpensive print, perhaps as part of a series on dandies. It was also bound in Caricature Magazine, vol. 5 (n.d.).
Associated TextsAs Dorothy George notes, “[t]he dandy, of all ranks, is the chief subject of satire in 1818” (822). Robert Cruikshank contributed many prints to this trend; most relevant to this print are A Dandy Cock in Stays—Or A New Thing for the Ladies; The Hen-Pecked Dandy; Comparative Anatomy of the Dandy Tribe; The Dandy Lion an Exotic, and The Dandy Dressing at Home (all 1818).
An earlier political caricature by George Cruikshank, A Dutch Toy!!!—Or, A Pretty Play-Thing for a Young Princess!!!—Huzza” (1814) also depicts a male lover as a puppet: “Princess Charlotte sits enthroned under a canopy, holding up a jointed puppet (a pantin) representing the Prince of Orange in military dress. She pulls the string that passes vertically through head and body so that arms and legs are extended” (George 409). Both in imagery and subject matter, The English Ladies Dandy Toy resembles another print in this gallery, Winding Up to a Pitch the Automaton Scaramouch (1821).
SubjectIn this 1818 print caricature by Isaac Robert Cruikshank, a woman holds a puppet styled as a dandy. Cruikshank’s print betrays the same preoccupations with mimetic doubling, mechanic manipulation, and gender anxiety that contemporary discourse on automata produced in abundance.
ThemeThe dandy aesthetic, modeled and popularized by Beau Brummell in London beginning around 1800, became one of the reigning masculine aesthetics of the period as well as a key target of satire for nineteenth-century England and France. Adopted most famously by Lord Byron, George IV, Charles Baudelaire, and Oscar Wilde, as well as by countless British and French aesthetes, the style also became shorthand for the Romantic poet, even after Romanticism’s historical moment. For Brummell, the dandy style was defined by a meticulous attention to appearance, frequent bathing, close-cut jackets and riding trousers, as well as an urbane, witty, openly sexual, cultured, poetic, and ironic personality (Kelly; Godfrey). In its most extreme manifestations, satirized in this and other dandy prints, “calf implants in stockings were not uncommon, corseting for men was encouraged, as well as cravats so tight and so stiffly starched that men could not see their feet” (Kelly, caption to fig. 62).
SignificanceThe dandy was and still is associated with Romantic poetry, Regency style, the cult of celebrity, and the figure of the public aesthete. On the opposite end of the spectrum from the figure of John Bull, the dandy also countered and even threatened British masculinity with elitism, sensuality, and sexuality. Satiric prints made much of the dandy’s effeminate appearance and manner, in some cases depicting them corseted and even full-breasted (Kelley).
In this print Cruikshank does not emphasize the dandy’s appearance or dress as he does in others, but the symbolic resonances of a tiny puppet-dandy in the hands of a large woman make the satire obvious. Though the dandy was often associated with aggressive sexuality and womanizing, in this print Cruikshank reverses the dynamic, emasculating the man by rendering him an amusing toy for an upper-class woman’s (sexual) enjoyment. However, the fact that the dandy is a toy also indicates that the woman herself is infantilized.
As in Winding Up to a Pitch the Automaton Scaramouch (1821), the dandy toy is clearly a puppet and not an automaton—its passivity is emphasized by its limp body and closed eyes. However, the title of the book in the print, Quite the Dandy Set to Music, suggests if not illustrates a different kind of toy, a clockwork musical doll, perhaps even a dancing doll. Similarly, the woman—with stiff limbs, heavy rouge, and glassy-eyes staring vacantly out of the frame—resembles a doll even more than the dandy puppet she holds. In the context of this gallery, we might see resemblances to famous automata, such as Pierre Jacquet-Droz’s life-size “Female Musician” (1774), who played the harpsichord, moved her eyes across the music, and heaved her breasts in emotion (Riskin 631-32). Cruikshank’s print betrays the same preoccupations with mimetic doubling, mechanic manipulation, and gender anxiety that contemporary discourse on automata produced in abundance.
BibliographyBryant, Mark and Simon Heneage. “Cruikshank, Isaac Robert (1789-1856).” Dictionary of British Cartoonists and Caricaturists: 1730-1980. Aldershot: Scolar P, 1994. Print.
George, Mary Dorothy. “13067: THE ENGLISH LADIES DANDY TOY.” Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum. Vol. 9. 1811-1819. London: The British Museum Board of Trustees, 1949. 846. Print.
Godfrey, Sima. “The Dandy as Ironic Figure.” SubStance 11.3.36 (1982): 21-33. Print.
Kelly, Ian. Beau Brummell: The Ultimate Man of Style. New York: Free P, 2006. Print.
Riskin, Jessica. “The Defecating Duck, or, the Ambiguous Origins of Artificial Life.” Critical Inquiry 29.4 (2003): 599-633. Print.
Long TitleThe English Ladies Dandy Toy
9 December 1818