The Life of Beau Nash (1762)

Goldsmith, Oliver
Captain Jesse, The Life of George Brummell, esq., commonly called Beau Brummell (Newyot: Scribner and Welford, 1886), vol. 1, p. 10-11 ("Beau Nash").


"To gain the friendship of the young nobility little more is requisite than much submission and very fine clothes; dress has a mechanical influence upon the mind..."

When a man knows his power over the fair sex, he generally commences their admirer for the rest of life. That triumph which he obtains over one, only makes him the slave of another, and thus he proceeds, conquering and conquered, to the closing of the scene. The army seemed the most likely profession in which to display this inclination for gallantry; he therefore purchased a pair of colours, commenced a professed admirer of the sex, and dressed to the very edge of his finances. But the life of a soldier is more pleasing to the spectator at a distance than to the person who makes the experiment, Mr Nash soon found that a red coat alone would never succeed, that the company of the fair sex is not to be procured without expense, and that his scanty commission could never procure him the proper reimbursements. He found too that the profession of arms required attendance and duty, and often encroached upon those hours he could have willed to dedicate to softer purposes. In short, he soon became disgusted with the life of a soldier, quitted the army, entered his name as a student in the Temple books, and here went to the very summit of second-rate luxury. Though very poor he was very fine; he spread the little gold he had, in the most ostentatious manner, and though the gilding was but thin, he laid it on as far as it would go. They who know the town, cannot be unacquainted with such a character as I describe, one, who, though he may have dined in private upon a banquet served cold from a cook's shop, shall dress at six for the side box, one of those, whose wants are only known to their laundress and tradesmen, and their fine clothes to half the nobility, who spend more in chair hire, than housekeeping; and prefer a bow from a Lord, to a dinner from a Commoner.

In this manner Mr Nash spent some years about town, till at last his genteel appearance, his constant civility, and still more, his assiduity, gained him the acquaintance of several persons qualified to lead the fashion both by birth and fortune. To gain the friendship of the young nobility little more is requisite than much submission and very fine clothes; dress has a mechanical influence upon the mind, and we naturally are awed into respect and esteem at the elegance of those, whom even our reason would teach us to contemn. He seemed early sensible of human weakness in this respect, he brought a person genteelly dressed to every assembly, he always made one of those who are called very good company, and assurance gave him an air of elegance and case.


Taken from Oliver Goldsmith, The Life of Richard Nash, Esq.; Late Master of the Ceremonies at Bath. the Second Edition. Printed for J. Newbery, in St Paul's Churchyard, W. Frederick, at Bath, and G. Faulkener, in Dublin, 1762, p. 9-11.