Something less philosophical10 Feb 2020
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.