2008, a Year Made for Dandies
Happy New Year? You bet!
I meant to keep in touch more, but I get so wrapped up in the holidays that sometimes I forget my responsibilities. We try to celebrate Christmas around here with all the pagan trimmings, and this year I had to spend hours cleaning up my basement just to locate the ornaments for the crucial Christmas tree… which, of course, has nothing to do with Christ, but lots to do with green—evergreen, in fact. We put a lot of lights and balls and figures on the tree. I like to think of them as minor lares and penates, descendants of the old household gods kept on the hearth in the Roman household.
Here are a few of my favorite ornaments. The cold-blooded creatures:
The gherkin, or dill pickle, and the sock monkey:
Mammy from Gone With the Wind:
Not to mention the wise old owl, the Hindu marching band, the Joseph Kosuth silver balls, the glow-in-the-dark Colonel Sanders, and the Pomeranian dog, to name but a few. What better sort of thing is there to collect? My friend Robert Hawkins, over in London, has a swell tree, too. Here's a look at his.
Well, today the tree is coming down. As much as I hate to see it go, I hate permanent Christmas decorations even more. They're like tape left on windows months after a hurricane has passed. No, we're on to a new year now, and I have a feeling this is going to be a memorable one. There's a sort of 1967 buzz in my ears. Maybe I left the amplifier on. But maybe, just maybe, this year will see a cultural revolution, or at least a volution. I've got a feeling 2008 is going to be just dandy.
So in the spirit of catching up, I've been meaning to mention a great man for some time now, and this new year seems like an appropriate occasion.
I wish I could remember who turned me to Lord Whimsy. Please remind me, forgotten sir. Perhaps it was my itinerant snapshooter colleague the Sartorialist. Apologies for my absence of mind. It's the wine, perhaps. At any rate, Lord Breaulove Swells Whimsy, as he calls himself (I doubt that a mother thought all that up), is the author of a very amusing and inspiring volume titled The Affected Provincial's Companion, Volume One (Bloomsbury, 2006), and the belletrist behind the blog (god, I hate that term, let's find another one) titled "The Affected Provincial's Almanack: A Journal of Aesthetic Particulars and Speculative Living." I try to check in there a few times a week, as if it were a sort of ethereal pub.
Here's a photo of Whimsy from his Almanac:
The novelette-sized Companion is a delightful collection of essays, homilies, poems, and social studies illustrated by Whimsy's own hand—which generally and genially exhorts the reader toward the veneration of endangered virtues and values. For one thing, the author is a gifted proponent of personality, and a well-armed enemy of the herd instinct so prevalent in our society. He is a self-confessed dandy, a connoisseur of trifles and niceties, and, it goes without saying, a gentleman and a scholar (in fact, a scholar of gentlemanliness). Tucked within a setting of bibelots and bagatelles here are numerous gems of wit-born wisdom.
"Once, sissies were mistaken for gentlemen; alas, now gentlemen are mistaken for sissies."
"A man's beard, that marvel of mandibular topiary and primeval source of virile powers, is the equivalent of an elk's antlers or a lion's mane—for it marks its owner as having completed his days a milk-lapping whelp, and heralds his becoming an adult male of the species."
"As opposed to ages past, the bon vivant of today can be known for doing something, but should be much more well known for being someone. The self is the bon vivant's main canvas and medium of choice."
Anyway, this is a must for the library, and a handy companion for the traveler. It will get you coast to coast by air more than once, as anything said well bears repeating. As for the blogue of Lord Whimsy (doesn't that look better?), it is a delightful source of knowledge that one is unlikely to find collected elsewhere. As someone who has spent a small fortune (by today's standards) on gardening, I have been particularly inspired by the horticultural notes he posts regularly. Actually, he's a big fauna fan too, and his postings give us a sort of underground Discovery Channel. Views of his "angel's trumpet" fill me with nostalgia for the daturas left behind when I abandoned ship vis-à-vis "the Hamptons." And I have mixed feelings about moving the country house from hardiness zone 7a to 5b. Whimsy got me all excited about a tree, the Franklinia alatamaha, which seems unlikely to grow in my new environs, but it seems like a dare. Anyway, Whimsy is an heroic, exemplary gardener, indoors and out. Here's a picture of his bog garden in winter.
One might take Whimsy (who would seem to be named Victor Allen Crawford III, he who holds the Lord's copyrights) for a retro personality, but that would be simplistic. This is a man who is not loathe to praise the works of mid-century modern designers like Tommy Parzinger and Finn Juhl or demonstrate an exquisite eye for mid-century ceramics. He explains his relationship to the past very nicely in a discussion of "trad" on the amusing website Kempt. Is Whimsy a Provincial? Well, he seems to live in New Jersey, near the City of Brotherly Love, which is where he appears to maintain a bastion of civilization against the assaults of vulgarities local, national, and international. I say wherever a fellow like this locates himself, that is a capital.
Another charming aspect of this author is that he belies in spectacular fashion the tired notion that to have style one most be homosexual. Whimsy is more living proof that you don't have to be gay to be a marginalized aesthete.
Anyway, I've just come back from vacation and all this typing has tired me. I have to run over to the private sale at Paul Smith. Why don't you switch over to the Affected Provincial's Almanack now and browse there for a while, while I get up the energy to prepare a new post on another, darker form of Dandyism-on-the-Rise.