Google+ Lord Byron, 1812 and All That! : "The Art of Style, Shopping, Brummell and Snuff...."

Friday, 25 February 2011

"The Art of Style, Shopping, Brummell and Snuff...."


"I would rather have a nod from an American, than a snuff-box from an Emperor"
Byron

In the light of yesterday's post titled "Brandy, Debts & Murder..", Friday's post is about one of Byron's debts...and the clue is in the title!!

In July 1813 as Byron was making tentative plans for a second Grand Tour, he went shopping... and it is fair to say that he "shopped until he dropped".

On of the first places he visited was "Love & Kelty Jewellers" in Bond Street.......


Image Courtesy of the British Museum
The British Museum

Anticipating that he would need "trinkets in exchange" as gifts to his hosts in return for their hospitality, his shopping list included the following:

"7 Gold Snuff Boxes" at 300 Guineas
"7 Snuff Boxes of Gold and Silver Gilt" at 200 Guineas
"A Gold & Enameld Musical Box with Figures Sett with Pearls &c" at 100 Guineas
"A Gold Watch" at 30 Guineas
"A Toothpick Case" at £3. 12s. 6d.
"A "Richly Chased" Toothpick Case" at 36 Guineas
"4 Gold Toothpicks" at 4 Guineas

By the time that he had finished his shopping spree, his bill at Love & Kelty, the Royal Appointment Jewellers amounted to nearly a thousand pounds...which would be added to his other debts....

History does not record if Byron took snuff, however, he made no secret of his enjoyment of a Cuban Cigar...
History does record that there was a Byron contemporary who was rather partial to snuff and snuff-boxes...

George "Beau" Brummell, Byron's equal in his shopping sprees and the amassing of stupendous debts.
He was also famed for his wit, elegance, insolence, expensive tastes and an addiction to snuff.

With his preference for the more expensive snuff, it was only to be expected that he would collect an impressive number of snuff-boxes for both practical and satorial use...



A Collection of Regency Snuff-Boxes
Image Courtesy of Christies

Brummell practised the art of opening his snuff-box with the snuff being taken from box to nostril using only his right hand.....and naturally of course with essential "Dandyism"... the attributes of understated elegance and nonchalance...

One wonders if Byron was able to emulate Brummell in his art of using snuff....

He certainly seemed to enjoy his summer 1813 shopping spree at Old Bond Street as he bought snuff-boxes as Imelda Marcos bought shoes and as his bill from Love & Kelty testifies..
Added to which were undoubtedly the envitable "groans" of Hoare's, his Banker...

He was also a prolific and witty "scribbler"....

"Napoleon's Snuff-Box"

"Lady, accept the box a hero wore,
In spite of all this elegance stuff;
Let not seven stanzas written by a bore,
Prevent your Ladyship from taking snuff"

1821

Byron had penned this poem in honour of Lady Holland who had received the gift of a snuff-box" from Napoleon and in reply to a poem by Lord Carlisle...

Carlisle had urged Lady Holland not to accept the gift and had dedicated a poem to her beginning with the line:

"Lady, reject the gift! 'tis tinged with gore!"

Incidentially, Carlisle's poem was eight stanzas long, not seven and numerics aside, Byron still considered him to be a "bore"
Lord Carlisle had also been Byron's Guardian during his minority....



Napoleon's snuff-box gifted to Lady Holland that raised fear in Lord Carlisle and wit in Lord Byron

Sadly, the joy of Byron's 1813 summer spending free was not to last.....
For his plans for a Second Grand Tour were to vanish as fast as Napoleon's plans for European domination.....
His debts would remain unpaid and he was to discover that he had been "swindled".....

What follows is a snippet of his letter of complaint to John Murray, his publisher written 194 years ago on this very day:

".....at present I would trouble you with a commission if you will be kind enough to undertake it. - - You perhaps know Mr. Love the Jeweller of old Bond Street. - - In 1813 - when in the intention of returning to Turkey - I purchased of him - and paid (argent comptant) about a dozen snuff boxes of more or less value - as presents for some of my Mussulman acquaintances. - These I have now with me. - The other day - having occasion to make an alteration in the lid of one (to place a portrait in it) it has turned out to be silver-gilt instead of Gold - for which last it was sold & paid for.....
I have of course recalled & preserved the box in statu quo. -....
if there is no remedy in law - there is at least the equitable one of making known his guilt - that it - his silver-gilt - and be damned with him....
Pray state the matter to him with due ferocity..."

Venice, February 25th. 1817

Sources Used:
Beau Brummell The Ultimate Dandy, Ian Kelly (Hodder & Stoughton, 2005)
Byron's Letters and Journals Vol 5 1816-1817, Ed: Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray, 1976)
Lord Byron Accounts Rendered, Doris Langley Moore (London: John Murray, 1974)


If you want to enjoy a further entertaining read about "all things snuff".....
Enjoy!















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