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George Bryan ("Beau") Brummell , is said to have been grandson of William Brummell (d. 1770), a confidential servant of Mr. Charles Monson, brother of the first Lord Monson. William Brummell occupied a house in Bury Street, where apartments were taken by Charles Jenkinson, first earl of Liverpool. The beau's father, also William Brummell, an intelligent boy, acted for some time as Mr. Jenkinson's amanuensis; was in 1763 appointed to a clerkship in the treasury, and during the whole administration from 1770 to 1782 was private secretary to Lord North, by whose favour he received several lucrative appointments. He further increased his means by his marriage with Miss Richardson, daughter of the keeper of the lottery office. The younger William Brummell died in 1794, leaving £65,000 to be divided equally among his three children, two sons and a daughter. George Bryan Brummell, the younger son, was born 7 June 1778, and baptised at Westminster. In 1790 he was sent to Eton, and while there developed the traits by which he became famous — social aplomb, readiness of repartee, and fastidious neatness in dress. He was very popular, and was known even then as ‘Buck Brummell.’ In 1794 he was entered at Oriel College, Oxford, but he had no inclination for study, and left the university the same year, about the time of his father's death.
Even while at Eton Brummell appears to have been noticed by the Prince of Wales, who on 17 May 1794 presented him to a cornetcy in his own regiment, the 10th hussars. On the marriage of the prince in 1795 Brummell was in personal attendance. He was promoted captain in 1796, and in 1798 retired from the service. He soon after came into his property of about £30,000, and arranged with great elegance his bachelor establishment at No. 4 Chesterfield Street, Mayfair. He had the art of making friends, and had not neglected his opportunities at Eton and Oxford. The friendship of the regent now gave him an assured position. He soon became acknowledged absolute monarch of the mode, having for subject in this domain even his friend the prince, who, it is said, on one occasion ‘began to blubber when told that Brummell did not like the cut of his coat’.
The prince frequently came to Chesterfield Street to see the beau dress, and ‘staid on to a dinner prolonged to orgie far into the night.’ Brummell was very popular with the Duke and Duchess of York, was a frequent visitor at Oatlands, and had acquaintance with all the leaders of society: Georgiana, duchess of Devonshire, Lady Hester Stanhope, Lord Byron, Duke of Bedford, Lord Alvanley, Moore. By no means a fop, Brummell was never extravagant in his dress, which was characterised rather by a studied moderation. He was ready enough with his tongue, and had a gift for quaint turns of expression, but the anecdotes told of him seem to indicate cool, impudent self-possession rather than wit. He wrote lively and graceful letters, and was able to find voice in sentimental verse for passing adorations. With the prince he at last had a quarrel, accounts of the cause of which vary; probably it was some more than ordinary license of a satiric tongue. It was a quarrel of equals. Brummell held his own in society until gambling losses forced him to flee the country.
On 16 May 1816 he retired to Calais, and there, with such poor means as could now be obtained, he recklessly renewed his old course of life. The Duke of Wellington and many of his old friends visited him when passing through the town. He received much assistance from England, but was soon in another coil of debt. In 1821 his former friend, now king, visited Calais on his way to Hanover, but no interview took place, and no help was proffered. On 10 September 1830 he was appointed British consul at Caen, a sinecure abolished by his own advice in 1832. His creditors now closed around him, and he was cast into prison (May 1835), where degradation and suffering seem to have broken his spirit. He was soon after released and supplied by his friends with a small income. In 1837 he began to show signs of imbecility; he held phantom receptions of the beauties and magnates of the old days. Soon all care of his person went, and from carelessness and disease his habits became so loathsome that an attendant could hardly be found for him. Admission was at last obtained for him into the asylum of the Bon Sauveur, Caen, where he died 30 March 1840.
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