Puffed and powdered, cocked and shaved
U 8.506-7: Charley Kavanagh used to come out on his high horse, cocked hat, puffed, powdered and shaved.
Sources suggest that a dandy might be described as “puffed, powdered, and shaved”, or “cocked, powdered, and shaved”, from at least the 1830s. The expression appears in several forms, and in some cases it is closely associated with Ireland.
Joyce’s variety of the expression conflates the variant with “cocked” (turned up or erect, like the brim of a “cocked hat”) and that with “puffed” (wearing a garment adorned with puffs; so also, inflated with one’s own importance).
“Puffed, powdered, and shaved” appears first, it seems, in the Freeman’s Journal of 13 July, 1838:
The variant with “cocked” is recorded, so far, several years earlier. In July 1834 the Prime Minister, Earl Grey stood down, one of the leading architects of the great Reform Act of 1832. The Age (of London) reports on a celebration held in Grey’s honour by the Whig Fox Club in London. The newspaper’s journalist ridicules Grey:
Closer to home in Dublin, the Satirist of 25 May, 1845 described the visit (then in process) of a high-ranking deputation from the Dublin Corporation to London to invite the Queen to visit Ireland and to receive a loyal address.2 The Satirist had little time for the deputation, heading its article:
According to the paper the reports widely circulated in the regular press are inadequate:
It continues to mock “the civic chief of the capital of the “jim of the say” [see The green gem of Ireland set in the silver sea], and the “lads of the village” with him, who:
The Town Clerk of Dublin, Mr. Ford, is said to have encouraged his fellow deputation members to smarten themselves up for their royal audience:
In the same year the Anglo-American carried an article by “Teddy Bryan” in which the expression gets another outing in Irish dress:3
The turn of phrase lasted throughout the nineteenth century, and is recorded outside the British Isles and Ireland – in Australia and America. Mary Anne Sadlier’s Elinor Preston knows it:4
And the Advocate of Melbourne, Victoria, encloses it in a context which would have appealed to Joyce:
So once again we find an expression that is to all intents and purposes forgotten today, but which Joyce’s readers will have recognised as forming part of a fading vocabulary of English foppery.
Joyce's Allusions >