2013 28/02

Is the “English Gentleman” dead?

A friend was visiting Barcelona a while back. We met for breakfast and put the world to rights as we always do. He suggested he might like to write something for my blog. I had no idea what to expect. This is what he wrote.

Is the “English Gentleman” dead?

The English Gentleman book cover

The English Gentleman: The Rise and Fall of an Ideal by Philip Mason

Ask a Barcelona barman or a Tottenham policeman and the answer is probably, “Yes.”

However it is interesting for me to notice that the concept is never translated. Whether in a Russian or Japanese conversation the words are always English. Was it a peculiar concept? Did people want to find it in Englishmen they met? In my travels, particularly to more isolated communities – like the peoples of Eastern Europe before the Wall came down – I think that they did.

Perhaps, with the advent of cheap travel, the hooligans now travel with the gentlemen or perhaps the gentlemen no longer exist!

In the 18th and early 19th century the English elite were fairly dissolute and were thought by many to be showing a bad example. Dr Thomas Arnold, the headmaster of Rugby school from 1828 to 1842, is credited with devising and encouraging the concept of the gentleman. It is a suit of many styles, fashioned to individual taste, but always of the same cloth. The gentleman was an enigma but you recognised him when you met him. Essentially he did things because he knew that they were right, not because they brought him personal advantage. Read the rest of this article…

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