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Friday, July 31, 2015

Calling Out To Period Piece Menswear Enthusiasts

I once was forced to study John Keats and to be fair I had no idea what he was talking about. In his Ode To Melancholy below I felt that unless you had read every book on Ancient Greek and Roman culture as well as every writer and poet along the way since, it was very hard to keep up with what the dude was trying to say. These days it's a helluva lot easier to comprehend the man since google offers some great cheat notes and within twenty minutes you can become an authority on the subject matter at your next dinner party. "Oh no, you misinterpreted what he was trying to say, he was saying not to become forgetful of sadness, not to commit suicide but to overwhelm your soul with natural beauty..." and so on until the person you are speaking with falls asleep at the table.

However, to bring it all back to something very relevant, I found a potrait of John Keats and it is un-dated. Keats died in 1821 at the age of 25. The portrait appears to be of a man in his early twenties. The bow tie does not appear in it's current form until around about the 1850's. The cloth around Keats' neck is neither a cravatte (current form), nor a kerchief, it's not a bow tie and nor is it a long neck tie. So what exactly is it? If you can give me an exact name and point me to a website where I can get some historical information. Simply send me the answer through the website. The first that can supply me with valid information I will send a free bow tie to.

And, in the interim feel free to knock yourself out trying to solve the riddle below...

Ode To Melancholy
John Keats

No, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist
       Wolf's-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss'd
       By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;
               Make not your rosary of yew-berries,
       Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be
               Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
A partner in your sorrow's mysteries;
       For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
               And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.

But when the melancholy fit shall fall
       Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
       And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
       Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
               Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
       Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
               And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.

She dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die;
       And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
       Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
Ay, in the very temple of Delight
       Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
               Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
       Can burst Joy's grape against his palate fine;
His soul shalt taste the sadness of her might,


From: Timothy Roberts BA(Hons) MPHA
Researcher, Australian art heritage and decorative arts to 1945
Treasurer, Professional Historians Association (Qld)

Hello, in response to your callout regarding the neckwear of John Keats - I would argue that it is in face a neckcloth worn in a particularly loose cravat tie.
In the 1818 book ‘The art of tying the cravat, by H le Blanc, two tying styles similar to that in the picture are noted. The first is the ‘a la Colin’, which is described as follows:
“It is commenced like the Byron, Bergami and Talma; a mere knot is made, the ends left loose, and shirt collars turned down, as shown in the Cravate Jesuitique.
This style possesses the great advantage of preventing the wearer from entering any public place, and of causing him to be shewn (politely) to the door of any private house.”
The second tying style could be the ‘Talma’, which is described as:
“This style is worn in mourning only. It is placed on the neck in the same way as the Byron and the Bergami.”
Both tie styles have plenty of images on Google that show them, and an original copy of the book this is sourced from is digitised by the Bodelian Library.


I would personally lean towards the ‘Talma’ tie, as the painting is believed to be painted in the Poet’s last years – he died in 1821 and his sister dies three years earlier, the same year the book I have quoted was printed. The Byron tie is more elaborate but also in this looser style, and a portrait of Keats painted by Joseph Severn in 1819 (also in National Portrait Gallery, London) shows the poet wearing this tie, or possibly the cravat ‘a la Sentimentale’.
Speculation, of course, but worth a shot.

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