Saturday, February 01, 2014

Paging Eustace Tilley

Did you ever wonder who the dandy on the cover of the New Yorker is? You know, that well-dressed gentleman looking at a butterfly through his monocle? His story is quite interesting!

For the first cover of the New Yorker, Rea Irvin drew the character. Over time, he even got his own name: Eustace Tilley. Corey Ford wrote a series of humorous articles for the New Yorker that spoofed corporate promotional writing. His stories were used to fill up empty pages that were not bought by advertisers to promote their products. Ford’s stories were illustrated with drawings that often featuring Eustace Tilley. In one such illustration, Tilley supervises the felling of “specially grown trees to make paper for The New Yorker.”

Irvin got inspiration for his Eustace Tilley magazine cover from an unlikely source: an 1834 drawing of Count Alfred Guillaume Gabriel D’Orsay. The drawing “man of Fashion in Early Victorian Period” was featured in the costume section of the Encyclop√¶dia Britannica.

Count D’Orsay (1801-1852) was a famous dandy and wit, known for his stunning good looks. He was admired for his charming manner and brilliant wit. At 6ft, he towered over his fellow men and posed a striking figure. He created his own flamboyant style that was imitated everywhere. His admirers included Lord Byron, Benjamin Disraeli, William Thackeray, Charles Dickens and even Thomas Carlyle.

D’Orsay was known as a “butterfly dandy”, which explains why Rea Irvin drew him looking at the butterfly on the cover.

As for Eustace Tilley, the New Yorker tried to update his image over the years. At times, Tilley morphed into a female Tilley, an African-American Tilley, and a punk Tilley. No matter what they do to him, Tilley is here to stay. Not bad for an octogenarian dandy!

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