'Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot's character' wrote Jane Austen in "Persuasion". Yet, as John Woodforde demonstrates, it is not only the fictional who throughout history have concerned themselves with the trappings of vanity. This book looks at the history of vanity from Roman times to the present day in all its aspects: dress and disguise of the body and the use of false calves, cod-pieces and stays; cosmetics, including the practice of using white lead and belladonna juice, though poisonous, to enhance facial features during the Middle Ages; attitudes towards speech and conduct, such as that of Lord Chesterfield, who in 1853 felt it necessary to warn his son against 'illiberal and so ill-bred' laughter; false teeth and teeth transplants; wigs, wig-making and hair fashions. The book also considers the necessary trades which arose to serve the ever-growing demands of the vain, from wig-box makers to cosmetic manufacturers. Amply illustrated with contemporary paintings, photographs and engravings, this book will intrigue the social historian and general reader alike.
John Woodforde has worked for the Evening Standard, the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Telegraph. His previous books include The Strange Story of False Teeth, The Story of the Bicycle and Furnishing a Country Cottage.