As we know, in the eighteenth century France was the arbiter of fashion for many different aspects of European life. Almost everything that originated in Paris spread across neighbouring countries with the speed of light – the latest outfits, ideas, way of life, amusements, philosophical theories, dances, catchwords and even the bizarre affectation of rolling your ‘R’s in conversation. Thus an habitué of Paris salons seemed extraordinarily appealing as a man of culture who could be affable, brilliantly witty, something of a philosopher and a libertine, too, but undoubtedly a gallant gentleman.
The final touch in the image of this irresistible favourite of high society was his devotion to music for the flute: since every dandy was expected to understand flute music it had a ready audience, even if many were unable to play the instrument. The exceptionally elegant and delicate sound of the flute was a synonym for the agreeable evenings with an intimate circle of friends that had featured in Parisian life since the flowering of rococo style, and the chamber music-making that accompanied it. This was the instrument of choice in the musical pursuits of inveterate music lovers, social lions and even monarchs: Frederick the Great of Prussia liked to play the flute, just as his grandfather Frederick I had played to harpsichord accompaniment by his spouse. This fashion for the flute was reflected in literature of the early 19th century – in Sheridan’s ‘The School for Scandal’, Griboyedov’s ‘Woe from Wit’ and Dickens’ ‘David Copperfield’.