Images of the Gentleman in Victorian Fiction
Keywords:gentleman, English gentleman, Victorian gentleman, gentry, gentility
AbstractThe term ‘gentleman’ has been used in English culture by an enormous number of people loading varied meanings to its concept. The idea of the ‘gentleman’ has attracted many historians, philosophers, religious figures and writers. Countless comments have been uttered and a large number of studies have been written about it and probably many more will be published in the future. Who were or are called gentlemen then or now? What qualities are necessary for a person to be a gentleman? How does a historian, a philosopher, a social scientist, a religious figure or a writer define the term gentleman? In which period of history being a gentleman was fashionable? The complex mixture of qualities expected in a gentleman such as his ‘birthright’, ‘education’, ‘wealth’, ‘income’, ‘vocation’, ‘civic responsibilities’ and ‘personal virtue’ have made it difficult to pinpoint exact definition. Although it has been hard for everybody to pinpoint an exact definition for the term because of its connotations with ‘masculinity’, ‘social class’, ‘manners’, ‘morality’ and ‘Englishness’ we have brought varied views of critics, writers and important figures to observe their point of views. We need to see the gentleman’s social position in the English gentry and his evolution from fifteenth century to nineteenth century. While the gentleman’s chivalric qualities used to play important roles as well as his social status and wealth in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the gentleman’s manners and morals gained more importance in the coming up centuriesThe purpose of this paper is to offer a clearer picture of the concept of the gentleman especially in the Victorian times.
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