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Being a ‘beauty’ in the eighteenth century was certainly a boon, and thankfully there were plenty of men around to inform the ladies exactly what was required of them. One such list, covering the 30 ‘capital points’ of beauty, can be found in The Dictionary of Love (1787).

Some are familiar, suggesting the abiding popularity of a coral-tinted pout, clear skin and a pretty smile. Others might not be deemed quite so important to us today. Our author sets down the need for a ‘smooth forehead’ (this is in the Top 10), a plump chin, and rather than focusing on the size of a lady’s ‘two balls of snow’, he suggests that ideally they ought to be ‘deliciously distanced‘ (heave).

He does, at least, concede that every one may ‘make what alteration his own taste may suggest to him’. What a relief.

1. Youth.
2. Stature, neither too high nor too low.
3. Neither too fat nor too lean.
4. The symmetry and proportion of all parts.
5. Long hair, or prettily curled, fine and silky soft.
6. The skin smooth, delicate, and of a fine grain.
7. Lively white and red.
8. A smooth high forehead.
9. The temples not sunk in.
10. The eye-brows in arcade, like two lines.
11. The eyes blue, their orbits well-fashioned, and turned to sweetness.
12. The nose rather long than short.
13. The cheeks rounding away in softened profils, and dimpled.
14. An agreeable smile.
15. Two lips, pouting, of the coral hue.
16. A small mouth.
17. Teeth, pearly white, even and well set.
18. The chin rather round, plump, and ending with a dimple.
19. The ears small, and close to the head.
20. A neck of ivory.
21. A breast of alabaster.
22. Two balls of snow, firm, self-sustained, and deliciously distanced.
23. A white hand, plump and long.
24. Fingers tapering.
25. Nails of mother-o’-pearl, and oval-formed.
26. A sweet breath.
27. An agreeable voice.
28. A free, unaffected air and carriage.
29. The shape noble, easy, and disengaged.
30. A modest gait and deportment.

drouais portait lady

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10 thoughts on “How to be a Beauty, 1787

  1. This was both funny and charming in its Georgian-ness! From what I’ve read, though, about dental hygiene of the time, the “pearly white teeth, even and well set” may have been a bit of wishful thinking. And the mounds of snow “deliciously distanced” was the best! Thanks for posting, Emily!

    • The picture doesn’t really match the source for any other reason than similar time period &… I think she’s just lovely! E

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