“Love is the natural occupation of men of leisure.”
In honor of the summer season and its inherent excess, - as well as taking cue from the protagonist of “La Grande Bellezza” – I’m presenting Charles Baudelaire’s definition of the quintessential
pleasure-seeking, intellectual socialite, i.e. the dandy.
If I speak of love in the context of dandyism, the reason is that love is the natural occupation of men of leisure. But the dandy does not consider love as a special aim in life. If I have mentioned money,the reason is that money is indispensable to those who make an exclusive cult of their passions, but the dandy does not aspire to wealth as an object in itself; an open bank credit could suit him just as well; he leaves that squalid passion to vulgar mortals.
Contrary to what a lot of thoughtless people seem to believe, dandyism is not even an excessive delight in clothes and material elegance. For the perfect dandy, these things are no more than the symbol of the aristocratic superiority of his mind.Thus, in his eyes, enamored as he is above all of distinction, perfection in dress consists in absolute simplicity, which is, indeed, the best way of being distinguished. What then can this passion be, which has crystallized into a doctrine, and has formed a number of outstanding devotees, this unwritten code that has molded so proud a brotherhood?
It is, above all, the burning desire to create a personal form of originality, within the external limits of social conventions. It is a kind of cult of the ego which can still survive the pursuit of that form of happiness to be found in others, in woman for example; which can even survive what are called illusions. It is the pleasure of causing surprise in others, and the proud satisfaction of never showing any oneself. A dandy may be blasé, he may even suffer pain, but in the latter case he will keep smiling, like the Spartan under the bite of the fox.