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To be a beau was the sole ambition of the young

gentlemen of those times, and they had absolutely no


further aim in life than to enjoy themselves in every
known and unknown way. They were frivolous,
heartless, vicious, vain, believed themselves to be men
of wit, were scandalmongers, insolent and proud.
These stately peacocks did nothing privately, all was
display, a ceaseless search for the public eye where
they should be watched, admired and envied. They
studied all their movements, postures and poses. The
bows they made to each other; the ceremonious way
they offered and took their snuff; their flirtations with
the belles which took place in rooms, in the street,
from their carriages, at balls and masques these
countless frivolities were the full and only content of
their utterly useless lives.
Wonderfully dainty these pretty men looked in their
brightly coloured clothes, their carefully combed
periwigs halfway down their backs, their rich silk or
satin waistcoats embroidered with gold or silver lace,
their velvet breeches and coloured stockings. Their
dainty, scented handkerchiefs hanging with studied
negligence from their pockets, their rose-coloured
gloves, the carefully disposed patches on their faces,
their meticulously folded neckcloths, their mincing
steps as they walked all earned them the title of the
beaux.
They practised intrigue to a high degree, composed
lampoons, epigrams and libels; they had successive
mistresses, betraying each one in turn, and were ribald
and coquettish. They wrote missives of love on scented
paper tied with pretty ribbons, they cared nothing at all
for politics, the welfare of the country, or any other
society but their own. They drank tea, went to the
theatre, attended cock fights, played at hazard with
dice or cards or both. It was the general habit of a
beau to remain in bed until midday, having spent the
night drinking, gambling and wenching. At noon
precisely they would receive visitors, sitting up in bed
in fine cambric nightshirts elaborately trimmed with
lace, their coiffeurs or valets carefully combing the
long periwigs covering their pillows. They would then
rise, wash in water specially distilled by quacks who
guaranteed that it would make them beautiful, put
tiny patches on cheek and chin, rub essence of orange
or jasmine on their eyebrows, soak their handkerchiefs
in rose-water and spend an hour or two meticulously
arranging their neckcloths before a mirror. After eating
a dainty dinner, they would sally forth in a sedan chair
to one of their many haunts, for they never went on
foot if they could avoid doing so.
The first rendezvous of any beau was his favourite
coffee house, crowded always with men of all degree;
there he took snuff, read the gazettes, the circulating
ballads and broadsheets, discussed scandal,
exchanged wit and repartee, and drank coffee or
chocolate. He then sauntered out to the next assignment
in some house, salon, bedchamber, or in the Mall,
Hyde Park or St James's Park.