Sir F. Chook, Inventor of Leopard Oil

Likeness captured upon a daguerrotype machine in Japan, July 1891


Wherein the Author reflects upon certain topical & personal issues of the Day.

The Fop and the Dandy, a Guest-Parable

Penned upon the 8th of December, 2008

It is my great pleasure to present a guest-post by my friend Melanthios; a story… well, I shall let his own words be all the introduction it needs, other than to say that I think he has reached the heart of the truth of things.

I am a Taoist Fop. It has come to my attention that this may well be a new branch of the ‘neo-Fop movement’ (if you will). As such, I thought I would write an introduction to the principles of Taoism, for gentleman of fashion. This is an introduction, and to follow will be parables detailing the three Virtues, concluded by a finale in which the student learns from the master, as is traditional.

This was inspired by Sir Frederick Chook, who in turn was first inspired by me at a salon. We seem to be muse to each other in this regard.

He flaunted the conventional and unconventional alike. A fop on a hill in Hyde Park, beneath a tree. Dressed in dark ruffles and long, dark hair that was blowing in the summer breeze, he sat in the shade on a gnarled root, smiling up into the branches with not a care in the world. Nor, it seemed, a thought.

It infuriated the Dandy. Already he dictated the fashion of the fashionable, and yet this slip of a creature, this…this damnable little beast from the bygone age of gauche…did not seem to care that he was offending the sensibilities of fashionable people. Taking care to be seen as he went up to the Fop on one of the paths criss-crossing the lawns, the Dandy had a sneer and a biting remark ready when the Fop looked up at him.

‘Good afternoon,’ the Fop said peacefully, opening his eyes. ‘Would you like to sit with me and enjoy it?’ As he shifted, the lace of his cuffs brushed over his hands; blue lace, really, how awful…

the Dandy tried not to notice how pale it made the Fop’s skin, or how glittering his eyes were against it. He didn’t expect a greeting, but recovered quickly, sneering.

‘A gentleman doesn’t waste his time getting dressed simply to roll about in the grass.’

‘Why not?’ The Fop’s question was not in the spirit of genuine naïveté, but seemed more…rhetoric. With an expansive gesture, the Fop leaned back again. ‘It’s a lovely afternoon, and a lovely spot to sit and enjoy it. The breeze blows the scent of the flowers, and the sun filters just enough through the leaves, and there were some rabbits investigating me from those hedges, not long ago. Nature adorns herself with orchids and birdsong and other beauties—why can I not?’

‘Because,’ the Dandy answered, ‘You’re doing it wrong.’

‘I suppose I am,’ the Fop conceded, leaning back against the tree and looking far less than abashed, as he closed his eyes again.

Now, this really wouldn’t do. the Dandy was used to objects of his scorn getting wounded, but agreeing with him? Not only agreeing, the Dandy corrected himself, since usually agreement meant conceding to how right he was. No, this boy was being terribly insolent. He snapped his cane against the path. The Fop opened his eyes again, and smiled.

‘You haven’t a brain in your head, have you?’ the Dandy snapped. The Fop only continued to smile.

‘I suppose I don’t,’ he said with the same infuriating peace.

‘Stop agreeing with me!’

This, at least, got a reaction; the Fop sat up and canted his head to one side, studying the Dandy for a moment, his lips pouted slightly in bemusement. ‘Your opinion is your own; who am I to say it is wrong or right?’ He spread his hands—his long, unfairly beautiful hands—and continued. ‘I am one person, you are one person. We may see things differently. You may have more brain than I. This is possible. You may see me as achieving beauty wrong. This is, also, possible.’

‘You make philosophy out of being spineless.’ The Dandy pointed his stick. ‘And don’t you dare “suppose”? I’m right, again!’

‘Are you asking after my philosophy, or merely stating your opinion?’

This gave the Dandy pause. To say he was merely stating his opinion would surely guarantee the Fop would nod and agree once more—something that was getting on the Dandy’s last nerve. Then again, to ask after it would be to signal that the Fop was worth his time—not something the Dandy wished to communicate with anyone who was watching.

In one fell swoop, this boy had robbed the Dandy of his power. Was power really so fragile?

‘Then what, pray, is your “philosophy”?, if not spinelessness?’

‘It is Eastern,’ the Fop answered, shifting position and standing, stretching. ‘The Tao, they call it. To achieve peace, one must be peaceful, and recognise the order of the universe. To go against the order is to invite unhappiness.’

‘You certainly go against the order of things.’

‘Do I?’ he asked, quietly. ‘Man must also find his place in the world, not attempt to shape the world’s will to his own. That will only result in sorrow for Man and World both.’ He put a hand against the tree, smiling to himself. ‘Of course, Tao is only a philosophy. One’s spirit must have a way to understand the workings, or attempt to.’

‘I still do not see how you follow the workings of the universe by being insolent and spineless.’

Thoughtful, the Fop put a finger to his lips. ‘When you told me I was doing beauty wrong, I agreed that you had such an opinion. I did not see the point in arguing over something that is essentially subjective. Water does not argue with a stone; when a stream comes upon a stone, it goes around. The water knows the stone will not move; so why waste energy trying to move it?’


‘Ah, I see. You think I should explain why I am the way I am, when accused of being wrong in my opinion.’ He shrugged. ‘I feel no need to debate opinions on such a lovely day.’ He began to take off his coat, hanging it absently on a branch as he vaulted into the tree.

the Dandy fell silent as he watched the Fop climb, slightly in shock. He mulled over the Fop’s words, and tried to understand how anyone could achieve peace by taking the path of least resistance. Looking up into the tree, where the Fop was now settling himself in a crook of limbs and branchs, the Dandy spoke again.

‘And how do you retain your self-respect, if you always bend to the will of others?’

‘I do not try to bend others to my will,’ the Fop answered. ‘It is not the same as bending oneself to the will of others. That is not the Way, either.’

The Dandy fell silent again. If one took the path of least resistance, yet did not bend his own will to others’ either, then what was left? One either had one’s will, or did not. Suppose, however, that what the Fop said was true: that there was some state of being that embodied both letting others have their will, and having one’s own. Well, that would require living in a vacuum, wouldn’t it?

‘Surely chaos is what you preach,’ the Dandy finally said to the Fop, looking back up into the tree. The Fop lay as a panther, head pillowed on his arms as he continued his peaceful contemplation of…nothing the Dandy could see.

‘Chaos? No, chaos only results when one goes against the will of the world.’ He smiled down at the Dandy. ‘Why do you say I preach chaos?’

‘One’s life is dictated by one’s reputation; one’s reputation is the will of others. One cannot live, therefore, without bending that will to one’s own desire.’

The Fop frowned slightly. ‘And if one is agreeable?’

‘One generally finds oneself the brunt of jokes.’

‘And if one then laughs at them?’

The Dandy stared, gaping, at the Fop. The Fop laughed softly, behind his hand.

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Commentary upon “The Fop and the Dandy, a Guest-Parable”

  1. Melanthios was heard to remark,

    Upon the 8th of December, 2008 at 5:58 pm,

    I am ‘all a-squee’ (as my friend, Marya, would say). I was grinning forever, and I still can’t believe you like the parable that much! I eagerly anticipate your response.

Further remarks are not permitted.