Beau Brummell: The Ultimate Dandy

Ian Kelly / History / Non-Fiction

Book cover

UK Publisher

Hodder & Stoughton

US Publisher

Free Press

Date Published

June 29th, 2006

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’.


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

- Stephen Fry

Superlative . . . a thoughtful, absorbing and hugely diverting book.

- George Walden, Daily Mail

A wonderful melange of social history and biography. Vibrant, witty and fact-packed...something of a tour-de-force.

- Claire Harman, Sunday Telegraph

Kelly tells Brummell's tale chronologically and with empathy, in prose well worthy of his aesthetic subject: "Opalescent in its small perfection." But this book's greatest triumph is to bring Brummell's times to life. Kelly has a fine feel for the period and its paradoxes of repression and enlightenment, of discipline and dissipation, for its sounds and smells. He expresses elegantly the essence of Brummell's dandyism, and holds it as a mirror to our own times today. Beautifully formed and dressed, this is biography at its best.

- The Times

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

- Herald

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