Byron is used to being the center of attention, the one talked about behind cupped hands and in whispered words of scandal. It’s rather his lot in life and one he’s quite grown accustomed to since deciding to stay in London for the season; however, things have changed since the evening he first saw Brummell across the room and found himself introduced to the Prince’s favorite new toy.
Brummell is the one the ladies whisper about behind their fans and sleeves, tittering with admiration and awe. It is not enough that he has captured the fancy of every man wishing to score favor with the Prince, dressing up as dandies in their trousers and presses fabrics and champagne boots. No, the ladies find him all together too interesting, fawning and curtsying until all Byron sees out of the corner of his eye anymore is the sweep of a skirt and the pale, powdered hint of décolletage.
Beau takes it in stride, of course. Takes it all as his due, given that he is the” next big thing to sweep all of London, to make England stand on her ear. Never mind that there is revolution across the channel or that the world is rising up all around them and throwing off monarchy the way Brummell himself has thrown off the trappings of the aristocracy – wigs and powder and paints, like a French whore stripping down.
Of course, all his passions are second to Brummell’s as well. The war in France, the uprisings everywhere all take a second seat to the news of what tailor has fashioned the latest camel colored trousers, which silversmith has hinged his newest snuff box. The world has come down to dressmaking and trinkets, and something rages in Byron at the thought that it is this way, something that comes out in knife sharp barbs that dig at Brummell in the parlors and tea rooms and parties where they pretend they’re changing the world, when really, they’re simply satisfied with the world’s new change of clothes.
He’s not sure why he sits back and watches, why he stands in Brummell’s shadow instead of shouting freedom from tyranny from the rooftops. Perhaps because his message still bites at the heels of the King and his pompous sons, perhaps because he still writes vicious words with ink stained fingers that Brummell likes to suck as he kneels before him, the master made servant, brought low by desires.
If he is honest, that is why he steps out of the lights and circles of parties and observes, letting people make what they will of the fleeting touches he presses to Brummell’s elbow, the looks they share over bets far too large for Beau’s pocketbook. There is laughter and promise in the air and he can put aside the need for change and revolution to indulge in this for a moment of time, to revel in the opulence of hedonism, to lie shivering with pleasure on sheets that feel like pure silk beneath his skin.
This is where Beau excels and where Byron, for all his money and prestige, fails. This is why in the courts and courtyards Byron is second best to Brummell, why he is not in favor, not the flavor of the moment. His name is still whispered in salacious rumors and his own tempting words, but his star is less bright than Beau’s and he sits in shadow, waiting and biding his time until Brummell’s light burns out, snuffed like a candle flame when the party’s over.