Dude, check it: The ‘bro’ code, circa 1809

Emily Brand
June 12
Emily Brand is a writer and historian living in Oxford, UK. Her latest book, 'Mr Darcy’s Guide to Courtship,' reveals the seduction techniques of the eighteenth century.

From left: Barney (Neil Patrick Harris), Robin (Cobie Smulders), Ted (Josh Radnor), Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) in the first season of “How I Met Your Mother.” (Ron P. Jaffe/ CBS)

The unruly antics of modern bros may raise a disapproving eyebrow. But, they are part of a long (if not illustrious) tradition.

Every era yields its own crop of swaggering young things determined to behave like un-gentlemen. The early 1800s were no exception.

Are you imagining Mr. Darcy? Stop.

This was an age when newspapers were peppered with advertisements for “runaway Husbands,” gin was consumed by the half-pint and prostitutes used the Sunday service as an opportunity to flash their legs at local men.

But what made a 19th-century bro a bro? Turns out,  there was a strict code – and it involved a lot of booze. Helpfully, English newspaper “Chester Courant” provided a foolproof guide to the perfect night out. Gents, if you fancy recreating the ‘glorious frolic’ of the bros of 1809, look no further. It might seem somewhat familiar…

Rule 1: Impress your friends by drinking too much, loudly singing rude songs and telling obscene jokes.


‘The Army and Navy Forever’, 1794

Rule 2: Impress the ladies by ogling and then debauching them (and then their friends, obviously) at the earliest opportunity.

playagonnaplau
‘Leap Year, or Love in Plenty’, 1800

Rule 3: Find a public place in which you can cause maximum mischief. Ideal scenario: go to a brothel, jump around, kick the waiters, break glasses and snuff out the candles.


‘The Harmonic Society’, 1811

Rule 4: As day breaks, ‘heroically’ march around the streets hurling abuse at passers-by and pushing over old ladies.

Capture

Rule 5: Round off the evening by knocking back a few more drinks before hailing a cab and promptly passing out in it.

themorningafter
‘Two Bloods of Humour’, 1772

“You must very often drink very much; and when you have drank very much, you must appear very great; that is, you must swear a very good round hand, and sing a very good bawdy song. You must be expert and ready in giving an ingenious toast or sentiment; by ingenious, I mean, that it must be smart and witty; by smart and witty, I mean, that it must be smutty and fulsome…

You must be a buck; that is, you must be impious in your morals, wanton in your debaucheries, and horrid in your imprecations: in every thing that has the least alliance with obscenity and lewdness, or in short with any kind of wickedness, you must be learned; in every thing else, you may be as ignorant as you please. A Blood is just such another empty-headed fellow. – Whenever you go to church, (as you may now and then, when you have no where else to go) you must try every means to let the congregation see that it is not devotion, but curiosity, that brings you there: Never look at the parson, but at all the fine girls; and to make yourself the more remarkable, pull on your glass, and stare at them.

You must know, or pretend to know, all the young ladies in town; and should you discover any one, two, or three of them to have conceived an affection for you, you must endeavour to debauch them all; and if you are so happy as to succeed, you must then forsake and expose them, by way of gratitude for their kindnesses.

You must often go to the playhouses, and there always distinguish yourself as highly as possible in assuming every freakish air and saucy attitude; and when the profoundest attention is required for the hearing of any fine and pathetic speech, you must be suddenly seized with a loud fit of coughing, clap like a hero at what you should not, and hiss at what you understand not.

You must go to taverns and coffee-houses, and jelly-houses and bawdy-houses, where you must commit every kind of tumult and disorder, such as jumping about the rooms, and putting out the candles, spilling the liquors, breaking the glasses, kicking the waiters &c &c.

You must frequent places of fashionable resort, where you must keep It up all night and morning, in drinking, swearing and singing; and when fair noon-day makes her approach, you must heroically sally forth into the streets, reel about like a rake of the first magnitude, insult all you meet, knock down an old woman or two, break a few windows, stagger to another tavern, where you must get a fresh quantity of the right old sort, and finish your glorious frolic in being carried home triumphantly in a chair, senseless, speechless, and motionless.”

- From the Chester Courant, Sept. 26, 1809

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