Beau Nash, born in 1674 in Swansea in Wales. He served as an army officer and was then called to the bar but made little of either career. In 1704 he became Master of Ceremonies at the rising spa town of Bath, and he retained that position until his death in 1762. He is buried in an unmarked pauper's grave.
He was a "man who for more than fifty years presided over the pleasures of a polite kingdom." The pains he took in pursuing pleasure, and the solemnity he assumed in adjusting trifles, may one day claim the smile of posterity. He was the first who diffused a desire of society and an easiness of address among a whole people, who were formerly censured by foreigners for a reservedness of behaviour, and an awkward timidity in their first approaches. He first taught a familiar intercourse among strangers at Bath and Tunbridge Wells, which still subsists among them. The ease and open access first acquired there, our gentry brought back to the Metropolis, and thus the whole kingdom by degrees became more refined by lessons originally derived from him. Nash was an adventurer, whose manners, dress, and (not least) his assurance, gave him a vast influence over the society that resorted to the fashionable watering-places. His equipage was sumptuous, and he usually travelled to Tunbridge Wells in a post chariot and six greys, with outriders, footmen, French horns, and every other appendage of expensive parade. In order to support his extravagances, Nash had recourse to gaming. Where the wealthy and the idle assemble, there the sharper and the flatterer will certainly be found. As is still the case at Monaco, so during the last century at Tunbridge Wells, gambling was one of the chief attractions.
Nash became, about the year 1735, the first "King" or Arbiter Elegantiarum of Tunbridge Wells, an office which he had long sustained in the famous city and watering-place of Bath. The chief decree enforced by this despot of the beau monde, was that every visitor should live in public. The lodging houses were merely places of accommodation for eating and sleeping. The whole of the intermediate time of their temporary inhabitants was spent on the Walks, in the Assembly Rooms, in pleasurable excursions, or at chapel. Thus every hour of the day had its allotted occupation; the whole was regularly digested into system; and from the nobleman of the first rank to the meanest visitor, all were compelled to obey, and to yield to the established customs. Nash did indeed owe to the air of Tunbridge Wells his own recovery to health, but under his regime it was considered chiefly as a place of amusement, gaiety and society. Partly by the use of reason and sarcasm, and partly by assumption and impudence, Nash removed many of the obstacles to social enjoyment. He banished riding-boots and swords, he discouraged private gaming parties, he insisted upon early hours, and repressed flagrant immorality and vice. It should also be said, to his credit, that he was capable of generous and of charitable actions.
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