Last of the Dandies: The Scandalous Life and Escapades of Count D'Orsay by Nick Foulkes - review by Jonathan Keates

Jonathan Keates

Dedicated Follower of Fashion

Last of the Dandies: The Scandalous Life and Escapades of Count D'Orsay

By

Little, Brown 467pp £20 order from our bookshop
 

EVERYE RA FEATURES certain people who achieve celebrity for doing nothing at all. At the present time anyone who reads the papers - or glances, however surreptitiously, at Hello! - could name at least a dozen such figures. We have only to think of ~ It Girls, clothes-horse actresses at gala ~ premieres, or a certain Brit whose recent fame in America was based entirely on his mysteriously acquired ~ status as a must-have at smart Manhattan soirees, to realise how rich our own age is in these high-profile non-achievers. Being famous for being famous, as the late Zsa-Zsa Gabor understood, is more profitable and fun than having to cultivate a specific talent in order to-attract attention.

Alfred Count d'Orsay, brilliantly realised for us in Nick Foulkes's Last of the Dandies, was the archetype of the do-nothing celebrity. Simply through his good looks and fine feathers, he became one of the most talked-about and sought-after D'Orsay: a characters in the Europe of his day, an icon and signifier for an entire epoch. Like Jane Austen's Ernma ('clever, handsome, rich'), he 'seemed to unite all the blessings of existence', and nobody who met him came away unimpressed. Dickens gave d'orsay's surname to

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