39 Alexis de Tocqueville, The Old R´´gime and the French Revolution, trans. Stuart Gilbert (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Doubleday, 1955), pp. 88-89.Taking their cue from Thomas Carlyle's Sartor Resartus (1833-34), scholars of Regency and early-Victorian dandyism have focused on a supposed opposition between the dandyism of a declining aristocracy and the moral earnestness of a rising bourgeoisie. This historical model obscures the full complexity of relations between the nineteenthcentury British bourgeoisie and aristocracy, a complexity that can be illuminated by a closer examination of William Makepeace Thackeray's works. Thackeray's novels and sketches, which are surprisingly filled with middle-class dandies (such as Vanity Fair's George Osborne and Jos Sedley) and vigorous, hypermasculine aristocrats (such as Vanity Fair's Rawdon Crawley), reverse the Victorian literary stereotypes of effete aristocrats and manly bourgeoisie. Focusing particularly on Vanity Fair (1847- 48) and on Thackeray's sketch journalism, I seek to understand why Thackeray repeatedly depicts bourgeois men who are feminized both by their vanity and by their homosocial-even homoerotic-desire for more powerful aristocratic men. My essay places Thackeray's works within recent historiographical models that emphasize the fusion of, rather than the opposition between, the nineteenth-century British bourgeoisie and aristocracy. Protesting against this fusion in the name of bourgeois independence, Thackeray indicts the British middle classes for their obsession with aristocratic concepts of gentility, a phenomenon that he was the first to label "snobbism." For Thackeray, I argue, the comic trope of bourgeois male vanity becomes an especially powerful device for critiquing "snobbism." By calling upon the scandalous figure of the mirror-gazing man, Thackeray attempts to shock his middle-class readers into acknowledging the artificial and performative nature of their own class personae.
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