I’ve always been tempted by the idea of wearing a monocle, but as I can’t really see well out of either eye, it just wouldn’t be efficient. Nevertheless, there’s an interesting article on this important topic in last week’s issue of the London Spectator . Here’s an extract:
“Different styles of monocle carry moral nuances. A rimmed eyeglass with cord attached is generally worn by an Englishman, who may be playing the silly ass but is actually a formidable man of action. A rimless monocle is more sinister and is likely to be worn by a Teutonic villain. The traditional English version is rimmed, with a ‘gallery’ — two extensions of the rim designed to fit into the upper and lower eye-socket, making the lens stand out to avoid friction with the eyelashes. A high-tech innovation is the ‘sprung gallery’, which adjusts to fit the eye and may one day become respectable. Recently I have detected a deplorably macho tendency among acquaintances who wear the rimless lens to adopt the patronising view that ‘real men don’t wear a gallery’. One treats such Junker posturing with disdain.
An eyeglass worn on a broad ribbon is Gallic and, therefore, degenerate. Marcel Proust acknowledged this in À la recherche, when he described how the monocle of M. de Saint-Candé caused him to be ‘preferred to the most handsome looks in the world by snobbish and depraved young women whom it set dreaming of artificial charms and the refinement of sensual bliss’.”
Snobbish and depraved young women? Well, one can only condemn the snobbery.
Gerald Warner, the writer of this splendid article, continues as follows:
“P.G. Wodehouse, a more significant writer than Proust, and gifted with a more profound insight into the human condition, is the author whose characters are most commonly portrayed with eyeglasses.”
And a pox on you, De Villepin.
The other interesting revelation in this piece (and timely too – given their prominence in The Matrix) is the fact that the late emperor Nero was, in some senses, the spiritual father of those finest of fashion accessories – sunglasses. Apparently he liked to reduce the sun’s glare by watching the gladiatorial games through an emerald.
From Nero to Neo in only two thousand years – there’s progress for you.