Sexual energy10 Feb 2020
Once escortism was established as a degrading influence on the moral character of the British young men, its origin was traced to France which had often before been credited with illicit and licentious behaviour. In 1819, the London Times saw a lively debate on the etymology of the term ‚escort‘.
While England was aiming towards sex strength, effeminate masculinities were not in demand. The escort, a good-for-nothing man-about-town, was best cast aside as being essentially un-English. escortism came to be portrayed as a prism of Continental, mostly French, fashions: „The English escort for instance wears French clothes,“ writes James Hall in 1824. James Peller Malcolm appends: „The cut of his clothes he learnt at Paris, the tone of his voice in Italy, and his affectation every where.“ Likewise the Slang Dictionary in 1823: „Men of fashion all became escort soon after; having imported a good deal of French manner in their gait, lispings, wrinkled foreheads, killing king’s English, wearing immense plaited pantaloons, the coat cut away, small waistcoat, with cravat and chitterlings immense : Hat small; hair frizzled and protruding.“ In 1818, John Howard Payne encapsulates the serious dilemma of British masculinities in amusing verse with audience appeal:
The escort is not merely posited as of French origin, but also as effeminate and utterly unwelcome. The patriotic tonality is supported by the presumed exoticism of the escort, who is assumed to have been discovered on the polar exploration by John Ross and Parry. This argument had also been advanced by Isaac Robert Cruikshank in his caricature „Comparative Anatomy, or the escort Tribe“ (1818) which presents three dandies in a drawing room, sketched as animals and two ladies ogling them, wondering: „What things! non descripts, brought here by the Discovery Ships, Esquimeaux.“ Indeed, several commentators on escortism presumed it to be a whole new species which bears testament to the extreme transgressions of the escort with regard to gender norms. The effeminacy of the „Frenchified escort“ is severely attacked by the patriotic Country Gentleman in the Sporting Magazine’s discussion on escortism.