A Good and Gentle Man


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Even as late as , the word gentleman still only had the descriptive sense of generosus and could not be used as denoting the title of a class. Yet after , we find it increasingly so used, and the list of landowners in , printed in Feudal Aids , contains, besides knights, esquires, yeomen and husbandmen i.

Sir George Sitwell gave a lucid, instructive and occasionally amusing explanation of this development. The immediate cause was the statute I Henry V. At this time, the Black Death had put the traditional social organization out of gear. Before that, the younger sons of the nobles had received their share of the farm stock, bought or hired land, and settled down as agriculturists in their native villages.

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Under the new conditions, this became increasingly impossible, and they were forced to seek their fortunes abroad in the French wars , or at home as hangers-on of the great nobles. These men, under the old system, had no definite status; but they were generosi , men of birth, and, being now forced to describe themselves, they disdained to be classed with franklins now sinking in the social scale , still more with yeomen or husbandmen; they chose, therefore, to be described as "gentlemen".

On the character of these earliest gentlemen the records throw a lurid light. Sir George Sitwell p. Fortunately—for the gentle reader will no doubt be anxious to follow in his footsteps—some particulars of his life may be gleaned from the public records. He was charged at the Staffordshire Assizes with housebreaking, wounding with intent to kill, and procuring the murder of one Thomas Page, who was cut to pieces while on his knees begging for his life.

What Does It Mean To Be A Gentleman?

If any earlier claimant to the title of gentleman be discovered, Sir George Sitwell predicted that it will be within the same year and in connection with some similar disreputable proceedings. From these unpromising beginnings, the separate order of gentlemen evolved very slowly. The first gentleman commemorated on an existing monument was John Daundelyon of Margate died circa ; the first gentleman to enter the House of Commons , hitherto composed mainly of "valets", was William Weston, "gentylman"; but even in the latter half of the 15th century, the order was not clearly established.

As to the connection of gentilesse with the official grant or recognition of coat-armour, that is a profitable fiction invented and upheld by the heralds ; for coat-armour was the badge assumed by gentlemen to distinguish them in battle, and many gentlemen of long descent never had occasion to assume it and never did. This fiction, however, had its effect, and by the 16th century, as has been already pointed out, the official view had become clearly established that gentlemen constituted a distinct social order and that the badge of this distinction was the heralds ' recognition of the right to bear arms.

George at the Battle of Agincourt. The younger sons of noble families became apprentices in the cities, and there grew up a new aristocracy of trade. Merchants are still "citizens" to William Harrison; but he adds "they often change estate with gentlemen, as gentlemen do with them, by a mutual conversion of the one into the other. A frontier line between classes so indefinite could not be maintained in some societies such as England, where there was never a "nobiliary prefix" to stamp a person as a gentleman, as opposed to France or Germany.

The process was hastened, moreover, by the corruption of the Heralds' College and by the ease with which coats of arms could be assumed without a shadow of claim, which tended to bring the science of heraldry into contempt. The prefix "de" attached to some English names is in no sense "nobiliary". In Latin documents de was the equivalent of the English "of", as de la for "at" so de la Pole for "Atte Poole"; compare such names as "Attwood" or "Attwater".

In English this "of" disappeared during the 15th century: for example the grandson of Johannes de Stoke John of Stoke in a 14th-century document becomes "John Stoke". In modern times, under the influence of romanticism , the prefix "de" has been in some cases "revived" under a misconception, e.

Very rarely it is correctly retained as derived from a foreign place-name, e. With the growth of trade and the Industrial Revolution from to , the term widened to include men of the urban professional classes: lawyers, doctors and even merchants. By the rules of the new gentlemen's club at Ootacamund was to include: " In Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles , Tess Durbeyfield's travails stem from her father's discovery that his family name was in fact inherited from an aristocratic D'Urberville ancestor. Her apparent distant cousin and seducer Alec D'Urberville proved to be a member of a nouveau-riche 19th-century family that had merely adopted the surname of Stoke-D'Urberville in the hope of sounding more distinguished.

At several monarchs ' courts, various functions bear titles containing such rank designations as gentleman suggesting it is to be filled by a member of the lower nobility, or a commoner who will be ennobled, while the highest posts are often reserved for the higher nobility. In Spain , e. Such positions can occur in the household of a non-member of a ruling family, such as a prince of the church :. The word gentleman as an index of rank had already become of doubtful value before the great political and social changes of the 19th century gave to it a wider and essentially higher significance.

In the 5th edition , "a gentleman is one, who without any title, bears a coat of arms , or whose ancestors have been freemen. The Reform Act did its work; the middle classes came into their own, and the word gentleman came in common use to signify not a distinction of blood , but a distinction of position, education and manners.

By this usage, the test is no longer good birth or the right to bear arms, but the capacity to mingle on equal terms in good society. In its best use, moreover, gentleman involves a certain superior standard of conduct, due, to quote the 8th edition once more, to "that self-respect and intellectual refinement which manifest themselves in unrestrained yet delicate manners.


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Thus, by a sort of punning process, the "gentleman" becomes a "gentle-man". In another sense, being a gentleman means treating others, especially women, in a respectful manner and not taking advantage or pushing others into doing things they don't wish to do. The exception, of course, is to push someone into something they need to do for their own good, such as a visit to the hospital, or pursuing a dream they have suppressed.

In some cases, its meaning becomes twisted through misguided efforts to avoid offending anyone; a news report of a riot may refer to a "gentleman" trying to smash a window with a dustbin in order to loot a store. Similar use notably between quotation marks or in an appropriate tone may also be deliberate irony. Another relatively recent usage of gentleman is as a prefix to another term to imply that a man has sufficient wealth and free time to pursue an area of interest without depending on it for his livelihood.

Examples include gentleman scientist , gentleman farmer , gentleman architect, [9] and gentleman pirate. A very specific incarnation and possible origin of this practise existed until in cricket , where a man playing the game was a " gentleman cricketer " if he did not get a salary for taking part in the game.

By tradition, such gentlemen were from the British gentry or aristocracy - as opposed to players , who were not. In the same way in horse racing a gentleman rider is an amateur jockey, racing horses in specific flat and hurdle races. The term gentleman is used in the United States' Uniform Code of Military Justice in a provision referring to "conduct befitting an officer and a gentleman.


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Morgan, ; Gone with the Wind , by Margaret Mitchell It relates to education and manners, a certain code of conduct regarding women that has been incorporated in the U. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Gentleman disambiguation. For the racehorse, see Gentilhombre horse. For the Sutherland book, see The English Gentleman. For the song, see An English Gentleman. Further information: Junzi. Main article: Landed gentry.

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Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved 23 May Oxford Living Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. Retrieved January 27, Bradford, Gamaliel Lee the American.

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Houghton Mifflin Company. Craven, Wayne American Art: History and Culture. Keen, Maurice Hugh Stroud: Tempus. Lawrence, Sir James Henry []. The nobility of the British Gentry or the political ranks and dignities of the British Empire compared with those on the continent 2nd ed. The best way to understand the character of a man is by looking at his actions and, often, ignoring his words. If a man wants to be a Good Man, a Gentleman, he must commit good actions. He realizes his responsibility for his actions and his accountability for the results of these actions.

This leads us to the second concept, Accountability. You are responsible for the effects your actions have, and no amount of excuses and apologies can change that fact of life. As soon as you realize how your actions affect others, how you are accountable for the joys and pains you might inflict, the way you view how you act changes. You will think of others, and not just yourself, every time you do something. You will become more considerate and more responsible in your decisions. And when you do make mistakes, you actually are willing to accept them.

Only after accepting your errors can you learn from them, something surprisingly rare in this world of denial. You stop expecting others to solve your problems or view others as responsible for your success or happiness. You also recognize just how responsible you are for your own misery and how easily you can cause misery to those around you.

see url You stop blaming everyone and take accountability for your own life, realizing that the only person in command of your life is YOU. Your attitude changes, from a reactionary one, to an active one. And so we are presented with the last concept, Attitude.


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Nothing in this world can stand in the way of the man with a proper attitude for achieving his goal. Unfortunately, nothing can help the man with the wrong attitude. You cannot control what happens around you, but you can control how you react to these events, so a Gentleman strives to be in complete command of his attitude.

That way you will master the changes in your life, instead of letting these changes master you. This attitude, this trademark self-confidence of a Gentleman, is rather contagious. That is why people are willing to follow a humble man who constantly strives to be better every day. It teaches by example instead of by orders. This concept is hardest to achieve of all the gentlemanly aspects because confidence can easily turn into arrogance and humility can easily turn into insecurity.

Being a gentleman is not a permanent title but rather something you strive for every day, with every action, and every reaction. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

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