Thursday, August 5, 2010

But Then There's No Fool like a Young Macaroni, Either

Thursday, August 5, 2010
Susan reporting:

If we had the old beau on Monday, then today it seems only fair to poke fun at the younger macaronis of the 1770s, too.


Many young Englishmen traveling to Italy on their Grand Tour returned sporting outlandish foreign fashions, much to the horror of the fathers who'd paid for the trips. As tourists always do, they also returned with a smattering of Italian words and phrases to impress the rubes back home. Maccherone was a trendy Italian word for a doltish, boorish fool, and these gentlemen were quick to describe things that didn't measure up in London as "very maccherone" -- so quick, and so often, that their critics began using the same term to describe them: the macaronis.


They were ripe for ridicule in the prints of the day. The young fellow, left, delicately gnawing his fingernail, has rouged cheeks and painted brows. His sword sports so many ribbons that it's likely just for show, not manly combat, and his wig is so hugely oversized that there's no hope of him actually wearing his cocked hat on his head, reducing it instead to an accessory to be tucked beneath the arm. I especially like the title of this print: "How D'ye Like Me?". From the 18th c. comments below, I'm afraid the answer to that question must have been: not very much.

"And if I should live till you are a man, what a cruel blow would it be to me, to hear that like most of the young men of the present time, you passed yours in frivolous dissipation, losing your time...at the Macaronies or Almacks."
       ––Letter by Earl of Chesterfield to his godson, 1789

"There is indeed a kind of animal, neither male nor female, a thing of the neuter gender, lately started up amongst us. It is a called a Macaroni."
       –– Oxford Magazine, 1770

"Maccaronies [are]our spindle-snaked, Gentry, who make the grand Tour but to bring home the vices of our Neighbours, and return, if possible, greater Coxcombs than they were before Embarkation."
      ––The Public Ledger, 1772

"Yankee Doodle came to town, riding on a pony,
Stuck a feather in his hat, and called it macaroni."
       –– Yankee Doodle, traditional song, associated with American Revolution, 1770s


Above left: The Macaronie: How D'ye Like Me? by Carrington Bowles, 1772
For more about how macaroni were portrayed in 18th c. prints, see this entry on one of my favorite historical blogs, 18th-century American Woman.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Finally an explanation for the macaroni-line in Yankee Doodle, thank you. As a non-English speaker I was completely befuddled by the sudden appearance of pasta in the song.

Richard Foster said...

I recall a school project where we pasted macaroni on construction paper tricorns, so apparently my English-speaking teacher didn't know any better either. Good update.

Undine said...

It's reasurring to think that "Metrosexual" is hardly a new phenomenon.

Felicity Flower said...

Wow, wonder what the ladies thought of these guys? Could be a battle of who had the biggest hair.

Rowenna said...

Eighteenth-century pretty boys--too funny! And if they dressed like affected pipsqueaks, can you imagine how they acted? Of course, those criticising probably conveniently forgot about their own youthful follies, including those of the sartorial nature--some of the earlier eighteenth-century fashions are just as ludicrous! Giant pockets come to mind...

Susan Holloway Scott said...

I have to admit that my education regarding "Yankee Doodle" was equally lacking - when I was a kid (well, honestly, until a year or so ago!), I was pretty sure it referred to pasta, too. *g*

When I look at these hilarious caricatures of macaronis, I just imagine them twenty-five or thirty years later, when they've settled down into respectable pillars of society, and how they'll be sputtering indignantly over the tight pantaloons and high neckcloths that their sons will be wearing, following that trend-setter Beau Brummel. The more things change....

Finegan Antiques said...

They definitely had the "shock factor" going for them not unlike the punkers or the goths of today.

Donna

 
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