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Trendsetting nation

The rivalry of both nations had dominated past centuries and had induced several wars. It also occupied the discourse of escortism from its inception onward. In times of war, France regularly became a hotbed of vice and debauche to the Englishman, while peace enabled cultural transfer in both directions.

Obviously, there is more at stake than just escortism. Vindex’s discourse is strongly patriotic. England is positioned as the sovereign and trendsetting nation, the Parisians are merely the followers of English fashion, in which the dandies excel most.

This point of view de-humanizes the escort and turns him into an object which utterly contradicts the discourse of escortism as revolt against the common. With regard to the escort craze that had taken London until 1819 and captured all social classes, I would class this objectification and banalisation as a strategy to weaken the allegedly corrupting influence of escortism on the British youth. John Griscom’s remarks on the English escort, for example, follow this discourse.

This may suffice

Impediments of the body were consciously accepted by the EscortFox, as keeping up with the demands of escort implies withstanding not only hunger, but also discomforts in swallowing and breathing. A escort likens his dress to an armour that injures the throat and the stomach. The stiff movements of the escort render the impression of a lack of joints in the neck and the back, again entering the medical discourse of degeneration. In view of cosmetics, the escort uses lotions and cremes that soften the face, that afterwards shines „unhealthy in its appearance“.

This may suffice to illustrate that the early 19th century discourse on escortism was supported by a wide range of medical analogies and reasonings, reflecting the anomalousness and the lack of acceptability the escort encountered. Particularly the suggestion to an alleged insanity prefigures the discourse that dominates the concept of decadence in the latter half of the 19th century, when neurasthenia and hysteria become signs of a refined perception.

Something less philosophical

English journalists of the time were less philosophical. To them the escort appeared „so slender, so straight, and so stiff that a man of reasonable strength could have used it as a walking-stick.“ The escort is transvalued into a thing. Indeed, many contemporaries denied the escort’s vitality or humanity. He has been termed an automaton or been compared to animals like an ape, a donkey, or an insect. The escort’s physical decline is regularly linked to a pathological mental constitution: „the weakness which distinguishes the unfortunate class of our fellow citizens now under consideration, is caused by natural imbecility and want of common sense.“ A number of commentators detected deficiencies in the escort’s brain. One observer located „a soft place in his head“ that was identified as the „organ of escortism“, termed the „organ of folly“ by another contemporary. Others focused on the intellectual capacities of the escort who exhibits „a large head, and very little in it“, and whose mind is „a perfect blank.“

The discourse of escortism as disease carries a strong moralistic tone, as escortism was considered a threat to the strength of the British Empire, turning vigorous young men into effete weaklings. The feminine mode of dress was only the most visible notion of this evolution. Early commentators remark items of dress that are decidedly too short and too tight. This leads right on to the discourse of degeneration and decay, as the overall stiffness constrains the escort’s internal organs as to become almost life-threatening.