Precursor of dandyism10 Feb 2020
The earliest precursor of dandyism that Amann deals with, is the muscadin who first came into being in 1793 in Lyon and who evolved during the Terror regime. In the course of the crisis of the Lyonnais silk industry, unemployment and poverty reigned supreme. Originally, the word ‚muscadin’ designated an edible, Italian lozenge made with musk and used as a breath-freshener. The term first appeared in a literary work in 1745, in the novel „Tanastès, conte allégorique“ where the protagonist Muscadin is a role-playing courtier. In 1747, the comedy „La faculté vengée“ spots a physician named Muscadin who is nothing less than a petit-maître. Accordingly, the figure was associated with aristocratic pretensions. ‚Muscadin‘ was also a term for a diseased condition of the silkworm as the infected creatures looked somewhat like the candy mentioned above. On August 22, 1792 the „Journal de Lyon“ attacked the silk merchants, who were termed „grenadiers musqués,“ for firing on the crowds during uprisings. In a later edition (Feb 21, 1793), the journal suddenly praised the muscadins as their passion for luxury ensured the demand for silk made in Lyon. In more than this respect, the Lyonnais Jacobins differed from the Parisian Jacobins who invaded the city in October 1793 to defeat the counterrevolutionary city government.
In September 1793 the muscadin made his transfer to Paris. The term was popularized by Jacques René Hébert’s popular sansculotte newspaper „Père Duchesne“. Muscadins were identified as conspirators and opponents of the sansculottes. The discourse of the terror regime focused on ‚the people‘ as a homogenous mass. Accordingly, deviation was suspect. However, new forms of political discussion did emerge in clubs, cafés and the press. There was a plurality of voices and viewpoints, as the figure of the muscadin testaments. Ultimately, the muscadin came to signify the political enemy. But the figure was also used to deflect attention from other groups. Others depicted the muscadin as rather harmless or, at least, reformable.