Thursday, March 18, 2010
Thursday, March 18, 2010
In his memoirs, George Elers devotes loving attention to his clothes:
“…among other fashionable parts of my clothing was a pair of leather unmentionables* that I had the greatest difficulty of getting into—a feat I accomplished not without assistance. Our servant, I recollect, fairly lifted me off the ground in the operation. And then the buttoning of them, and, when once buttoned, the difficulty of undoing!
After passing a sleepless night and encasing myself with the utmost difficulty, the chaise arrived at the door. I shall never forget the lashing on of the trunks and the piling up of the bandboxes, hatcases, etc., all belonging to the ladies, to astonish the country folks with the last London fashions ; and my poor, unfortunate little person wedged in between two (to me) large ladies in my tight leathers. Oh the misery I endured in a hot, broiling day in the month of June travelling seventy-two miles !
“I was taught to expect that I should see my name in the Gazette very shortly, when to my great joy one Saturday in the month of March I saw : 'George Elers, gent., to be Ensign without purchase in the 90th Regiment.' I was highly pleased, and read it over and over again—the first time I ever saw my name in print.
“No officer, with the exception of Colonel Aston, had such a kit. I had six regimental jackets, besides dress-coats, great-coat, shirts about twelve dozen, and everything in the same proportion. My lieutenancy was dated April 12, 1796. I waited upon my Colonel, who at that time was living at Nerot's Hotel, King Street, St. James's. I was aware, even in those days, of the effect of first impressions, and took great pains to be dressed well on my first appearance before him. His features and fine figure I knew perfectly by sight. I was dressed in black coat and waistcoat, white worsted pantaloons, and neat Hessian half-boots, with a crape hat-band. I was ushered into his dressing-room, where he was putting the last finish to his toilet. I told him who I was. He shook me by the hand, eyed me most critically from head to foot, said I turned out well, and finished by asking me the name of my tailor. I was ashamed to confess it was an obscure one by the name of Weston, then not known, but afterwards the celebrated artiste for the Prince of Wales.”
*By the mid-1700s, the word "breeches" was starting to be considered impolite in mixed company. They became "small-clothes," and later (as times grew more prudish still) "unmentionables" and "inexpressibles."
Memoirs of George Elers: Captain in the 12th Regiment of foot (1777-1842) to which are added correspondence and other papers, with genealogy and notes. Editors Sir George Granville Leveson-Gower, Augustus Debonnaire John Monson Monson (9th baron) PublisherD. Appleton and Co., 1903. You can dip into this delightful book at Internet Archive or Google Books.
Alas, no portraits of him. Above left is Ingres' Monsieur Riviere. Below right is Rowlandson's caricature of a Royal Navy Officer.