Wednesday 29 February 2012

The Great Seducers - The DANDY.

Jean duJardin as George Valentin, in 'The Artist.'
This week in this series of posts, we consider the dandy and his methods of seduction. This is a especially apt because "The Artist" has just won several Oscars, including those for best movie and best actor. The film tells the story of silent screen star George Valentin and is loosely based on the life of Rudolph Valentino, who was very much a dandy. So with this timely link, let's take a look at what makes a dandy.
Rudolph Valention - in his role as 'The Sheikh.'
Dandies exist to please themselves, love beauty and like to be different. They don’t like to conform and yet first glance, aren’t threatening, but have the potential to thrill. Dandies are bold enough to 'be themselves', and never try too hard to get attention and yet always seem to attract it. Ultimately, a successful dandy invites imitation, such as Beau Brummell, and his immaculate tailoring.

"The fit of his [Brummell] gloves was achieved by entrusting their cut to two firms- one for the fingers, the other for the thumbs"
Harriett Wilson's Memoirs.
Beau Brummell - he made a career out of being a dandy.
Physical appearance is very important to the dandy, with an almost effeminate attention to detail. Their unconventional dress isn’t necessarily in shocking, but as with Valentino in the 1920's who used to wear bracelets, has unusual touches.
In his most famous movie, The Sheikh, Valentino reversed gender roles. He wore eye make up and flowing robes, whilst the heroine wore trousers. He appears confusingly feminine but his behaviour is masculine, which cinema audiences of the day found hugely exciting. Valentino understood this and reflected it in his off-screen life, presenting an exotic, almost feminine image, but could sweep women off their feet with his masculinity. His hallmark, on and off screen, was to woo as a woman might: slowly, attentively and savouring each moment, and yet when the time was ripe, close in with thrilling boldness.
What Valentino managed on a huge scale was the mass seduction of women via the cinema screen. When he died at the tragically young age of 31 (from surgical complications) America saw an unprecedented out pouring of emotion. Some 100,000 people filed past his coffin, many of the mourners hysterical and crazed with grief.
The Sheikh - Valention in his most successful role.
Another fundamental characteristic of the dandy is their impudence.

"Dandies please women by displeasing themselves"
Barbey d'Aurevilly.

Something of this aloofness was reflected by the consummate dandy, Oscar Wilde. Whilst attending the first performance of one of his plays, the audience appealled for Wilde to appear on stage. He made them wait and wait, and when he eventually distained to agree, he explained the delay thus:

"It may be bad manners to appear here smoking, but it is far worse to disturb me when I am smoking."
Oscar Wilde.

Oscar Wilde.

And finally, dandies live for pleasure, rather than work. They love to surround themselves with beautiful things and eat wonderful food. By making everything an aesthetic choice, when they deign turn their attention on a woman, she doesn’t stand a chance!

Dandies love to accessorize! (With thanks for

Wednesday 22 February 2012

The Great Seducers (part 3) - The Ideal Lover

The first two parts of this series looked at the siren (who masters by manipulation) and the rake (adores but unable to commit). Today's post and our third type of seducer, is 'the ideal lover', who in theory should be less threatening to our composure, but in reality is every bit as dangerous.
The ideal lover feeds off people's dissatisfaction and in a world of disillusionment he or she is gifted in the illusion of devotion.

David Tennant in the title role of the BBC drama "Casanova."
The model for our ideal lover is Giacomo Casanova. Perhaps the most prolific seducer in history, few women were able to resist him. And his secret? The answer was to study the object of his desire, find out what was lacking from her life and then offer it.  So from bored wife to lonely spinster, Casanova took on the part of ideal lover by providing excitement for the wife, and company for the spinster. This takes time, patience, attention to detail and perhaps a denial of self-importance that not all people are capable of.

The qualities of an ideal lover (in terms of seductive powers) are:
- Being humble - adoring the object of his attention and yet seeming surprised when that attention is returned
-Anticipation - being in the right place at the right time, with the right comment on the tip of his tongue.
- Absorbed - to be interested in anything and everything to do with his lover
- A longing to be with his lover, as reflected by his reluctant leave taking.

A portrait of the real Casanova.
In the excerpts below, we learn of the importance of making the right sort of exit.

"The lady urges him on, 'Come my friend it's getting light. You don’t want anyone to find you here.' He gives a deep sigh, as if to say that the night has not been nearly long enough and that it is agony to leave." RIGHT WAY to leave

"When he jumps out of bed, scurries about the room, tightly fastens his trouser sash, rolls up the sleeves of his court cloak…and stuffs his belongings into the breast of his robe and then briskly secures the outer sash - one really begins to hate him."  WRONG WAY to leave.

The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon.

Who knows how Casanova's many conquests felt about his attentions, for just like the rake, he was besotted but never committed to one woman in the long term. He learnt how to use his personal attractiveness to get what he wanted by playing the part of 'the ideal lover'. But don’t be deceived - not only was Casanova skilled at getting what he wanted, he was almost the consummate master of making excuses and then leaving….

"The cultivation of the pleasures of the sense was ever my principal aim in life. Knowing that I was personally calculated to please the fair sex, I always strove to make myself agreeable."

With thanks to

Wednesday 15 February 2012

The Great Seducers - The RAKE.

"The Rake burns with a desire that enflames the woman his is seducing."
In the second of this series of posts, our next class of seducer is that dangerous figure much beloved by historical romance writers, the rake. One of the reasons a rake is such a great fun to write about is that he is a master of seductive language and his unrestrained pursuit was enough to stir many a woman's suppressed longings.  In the past, when women often lead deeply repressed and controlled lives, the rake offered excitement and pleasure. Marriage was a duty rather than romance, so what could have been more alluring than a man who lived only for her…if only for a short time?

Hollywood film star, Errol Flynn, had a repuation as a rake.
Rakes did not offer mild excitement, but something rare and thrilling, something worth taking a risk for. Added to that, that the resistance of his prey is only a vehicle for the rake's creativity and he becomes almost irresistible, for even his dangerous reputation adds allure as his quarry wonders if she will be the woman to tame him.
Lord Byron - another famous rake.
One such rake was the notorious Fronsac, Duke de Richelieu, (his grand-uncle became Cardinal Richelieu, featured in The Three Muskateers.)As a 15 year old, he charmed the ladies at the court of an elderly Louis XIV. After overstepping the mark with a duchess, an irate King sent the young Fronsac to cool his heels in the Bastille. Years later he used his dangerous reputation as a seducer and heartbreaker to draw women to him.
One such woman was the young Mademoiselle de Valois, who one day was walking in a Paris park with her chaperone. De Valois' father guarded her obsessively and employed a sour, unimpeachable woman as her constant companion to deterr undesirable admirers. On the walk a young man caught her eye with one smouldering look. This man was, her guardian told her, the now infamous Duke de Richelieu.
Days later, in a different park Richelieu passed de Valois again, but this time disguised as a beggar. However his smouldering intensity could not be hidden from de Valois. He represented excitement in her drab routinue, and that of all the beautiful ladies, he had chosen her to pursue added an extra piquancy to her sheltered life.
Richelieu smuggled notes to her, which expressed his uncontrollable infatuation, and she responded. The Duke, eager to spend a night with de Valois, even dressed as her maid to gain entry to her bedchamber. She begged him to leave, but his personal attraction overcame her resistance, she forgot all reason and gave in. to desire. 
The most rakish of all - The Earl of Rochester.
"If I believed in sorcery I should think that the Duke possessed some supernatural secret, for I have never known a woman to oppose the very least resistance to him."
The Duchess d'Orleans ( Mademoiselle de Valois' mother.)

When de Valois' father increased security around his daughter, Richelieu only took this as a challenge. Under an assumed name  he bought the adjoining house and cut a hole through the wall into his neighbour's kitchen cupboard. The trysts between Richelieu and de Valois continued…until he grew bored with her and moved on....
Elizabeth Mallet - one of the Earl of Rochester's many conquests.
Richelieu's exploits  with women were notorious and yet he even turned this to advantage. What Richelieu knew was that intense desire has a distracting effect on women. A woman is often suspicious and can sense insincerity, but when the rake is inflamed for her and will brave danger and breech any barriers to get to her, she is more inclined to overlook his other shortcomings. So long as he seemed the slave to her charms, the woman would not think of the aftermath.

"What a man! What a man! He is astonishing! How often you could be happy with him if he were only faithful."
Madame Renaud.
Johnny Depp as notorious rake, Lord Rochester, in the filim, The Libertine.
So, if you were going to caste a movie featuring a rake, who would make the perfect leading man?
Do leave a comment and share your thoughts!

NEXT WEEK: The Ideal Lover.

CONGRATULATIONS TO DARLENE! (Winner of last week's blog hop giveaway.)

Monday 6 February 2012

The Great Seducers - The Siren

At the heart of romance lies a game of attraction - which some people play better than others. And the most successful at getting their heart's desire, are those people gifted in the art of seduction. 
Throughout history seducers have been central to some of the greatest love stories, and my next few blog posts will consider famous seducers from history and ponder their talents.

There are 9 types of seducers:

- Siren              Alight with a sexual energy that transcends beauty.
- Rake              Adores the opposite sex and his desire is infectious.
- Ideal Lover   A sensitivity  applied to romance
-Dandy             Plays with his own image to create allure
-Natural           Spontaneous and open.
-Coquette        Desire to be admired and yet distances herself.
-Charmers       Knows how to please
-Charismatic   Possess an unusual self confidence that attracts people
-Star                Seemingly unobtainable and enveloped in mystery.

Arguably the most famous siren of all time was the Eygptian queen, Cleopatra.

A siren learns how to take control by embodying the male fantasy. In male dominated society, this is one of the few ways a woman had of exerting influence. In Cleopatra's case, although she was a queen, to gain his protection she needed to manipulate one of the most powerful men in the world, Caesar. Not only that but Caesar had had numerous mistresses in the past, whom he quickly grew bored of, to return to what really motivated him - politics and warfare.
So how was Cleopatra different?

To start with she was daring, which appealed to the soldier in Caesar. She was smuggled into his chamber in a carpet, with only one man to protect her.
"Cleopatra was in the prime of life. She had a delightful voice which cound not fail to cast a spell over all who heard it....Caesar was spellbound as soon as he set eyes on her and she opened her mouth to speak."
Dio Cassius, Roman writer.

She seduced the Roman leader by speaking of reviving the glory of Alexander the Great and how together, they could rule the world like gods. She dressed as the goddess Isis, and surrounded Caesar by decadent opulence and yet when he felt secure with her attention she would turn cold or angry, such that just as if fighting a battle, he had to find a strategm to win her over.

But more than that, when Caesar was murdered in 44 BC, Cleopatra used her power and personal charm to seduce the new ruler, Mark Antony.
"The charm of [Cleopatra's] presence was irresistible, and there was an attraction in her person and talk, together with a perculiar force of character, which pervaded her every word and action, and laid all who associated with it hereunder its spell."

Did you notice how, in the above quote, she is not described beautiful - but the force of her character, her energy and actions are the source of her attractiveness. In Mark Antony's case, he wanted to possess this intriguing woman in order to prove how powerful he was - something Cleopatra used to her own advantage.

So what makes a siren? Not necessarily physical beauty. Again, Cleopatra's allure seems to have been in the theatre she created around herself, how her make up and costume changed each day to keep people entranced. She kept her admirer's guessing, never let them feel on safe ground but always working to please her. What she realised was that by using sheer physical presence, her admirers could not grow bored and neither would they see who she really was.

"We're dazzled by the feminine adornment, by the surface,
All gold and jewels: so little of what we observe, is the girl herself.
Can the object of our passion be found?
They eye's deceived by love's smart camouflage."
Some called Cleopatra a whore, for doing what she did, others called it political cunning. I suspect she was merely trying to survive in very dangerous times. What do you think? Was Cleopatra to be applauded for beating men at their own game, or vilified for loose morals? Was she right or wrong to use the talents at her disposal?
Do comment, I'd love to know your thoughts.

(NEXT WEEK: The Rake.)
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Then leave your email address in the comments below;
The winner will be notified on February 15th.

Wednesday 1 February 2012

"Deeds Not Words."

With the American primaries constantly in the headlines, even here in the UK,  it made me think about the importance of democracy and voting, and so this week's blog post is the controversial story of Emily Davison, and her fight to win the votes for women.

In Britain a hundred years ago most men thought women couldn’t understand how Parliament worked and therefore they were not allowed to vote. So in 1897 Millicent Fawcett started a peaceful campaign for 'Votes For Women'. In 1903 a more militant organisation, known as the 'Suffragettes' was created by Emmeline Pankhurst.

The Suffragettes were savvy about getting attention, which eventually ended in tragedy for Emily Davison.
In Edwardian Britain, Emily Davison was a woman ahead of her time; she defied convention in a male dominated society and graduated from London University, and then went on to study at Oxford, where she gained a first class honours degree. But Emily was angered by inequalities she saw around her and was determined to do something about it.
Emily Davison - circa 1913
To get publicity for the cause of women's suffrage, Emily ran onto the race track during the 1913 Epsom Derby, and threw herself at the king's horse, Anmer. Tragically, she was trampled and died of her injuries.
The fateful moment Emily brings down the king's horse.
The Suffragette's claimed Emily as the first martyr to their cause and later Emmeline Pankhurst wrote that Emily had decided only the loss of life would:
"...put an end to the intolerable torture of women."

In tribute to Emily's belief in votes for women, her gravestone was inscribed:
"Deeds Not Words."
Emily's coffin escorted by Suffragettes.
In reality Emily Davison's death so horrified the politicians that they argued if an educated woman such as Emily, could act to irrationally, what bedlam would British society be plunged into if less educated women were allowed the vote?
The Cat and Mouse Act - brought in to deal with Suffragette's on hunger strike.
However, not everyone agreed Emily intended to kill herself and some argued that Emily's death was actually an accident. The royal jockey, Herbert Jones made it known that he didn’t think Emily meant to harm herself. He was haunted by the look of surprise seconds before the collision. His theory was that because of the deceptive undulations of the race track, Emily assumed all the horses had passed and merely intended to run onto the track to protest and draw attention, but a dip hid a bunch of stragglers, including his mount - with fatal consequences.

The question of whether Emily meant to kill herself was recently raised again when in 1986 some personal papers kept by the Davison's family solicitor came to light. Amongst Emily's personal effects was a return rail ticket from Epsom to Victoria, which would suggest she intended to go home that night…
"Deeds Not Words."

Do you always use your vote?
Is voting important to you?