What Constitutes an 18th Century Gentleman?

What Constitutes an 18th Century Gentleman?

PLEASE NOTE: Even though I had fun with this post, I really do appreciate men who act like gentlemen. And I do thank them when they hold a door for me or show any other acts of kindness. I will even hold a door for them if it means shutting the door in their face is the only other option. In the meantime, you ladies and gentlemen enjoy. 🙂

GeriWalton.com is a very interesting website that contains a ton of research information for the 18th and 19th centuries. An ideal place to visit if you write or read Regency romance and/or JAFF.

Ms. Walton had an article concerning what would indicate that a Georgian man was a gentleman. It seems that the essayist/writer/moralist Dr. Samuel Johnson was convinced that a man was a gentleman if born into the peerage or gentry. However, Richard Steele, the founder of the Tatler, asserted that it was a man’s behavior and not his circumstances that determined whether he was a gentleman or not. Thus, we find that his beliefs are what we see accepted today.

As a consequence, another 18th century writer made a list of 35 points that would determine gentlemanly behavior. I’m going to list only a few along with a link to Ms. Walton’s website if you wish to peruse the entire group of actions a man would take—or not take—to call himself a ‘gentleman.’

  1. Carve the meat well at the dinner table and you honor the table and your guests. My father was a General Surgeon. He was quite good at carving. 🙂
  2. Don’t spit, scratch, or blow your nose at the dinner table. That point really needs no explanation.
  3. Write legibly with proper grammar in the style of how you would speak with a friend. Charles Bingley might never be considered a gentleman if this is a prerequisite.
  4. Spell words correctly and leave no cause for being laughed at. Poor Bingley. Would he even fit this condition if no one could read his writing?
  5. Avoid becoming a man of pleasure or a rake. Temperance and moderation are marks of a gentleman. There might have been quite a few ‘gentlemen’ who would have laughed at this one.
  6. Keep a secret because if you tattle, you will be in trouble all the time. Well, that lets out gossip. Good thing Mrs. Bennet, Lady Lucas, and Mrs. Philips aren’t gentlemen. 🙂
  7. Do not whisper in company. Too bad, young man, if you want to whisper sweet nothings in your lady’s ear in public.
  8. If you are weary of a conversation, do not behave in an inexcusable manner such as cutting your nails or writing a letter because you are bored. Hehehehehehehehehehe!
  9. Don’t spit on the carpet. It is suggested that you spit in your handkerchief. Hahahahahahaha!

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. 🙂 There are, of course, 26 more rules, that if adhered to, would make a man more mannerly, thoughtful of others, temperate, and moral. And he would be considered the consummate gentleman of his day.

For more of this list and lots of other historical information concerning the 18th and 19th centuries in England and France, go to GeriWalton.com

14 Responses to What Constitutes an 18th Century Gentleman?

  1. The post itself was so fun down to all your reactions 🙂 but also a great find of the site you mentioned. Thanks for sharing!@

  2. I was going to mention Mr. Darcy and his letter writing in company but see that Summer Hanford beat me to it. Snicker Poor Bingley and his notorious handwriting will always be a hindrance for him. Why his father, a businessman, didn’t correct that is unknown. He would know the importance of good, or at least legible, handwriting. This was such an interesting post. Thanks for sharing.

    • My pleasure, J.W. I find that as I grow older, my handwriting is not as neat. Possibly because I’m on the computer and do very little actual writing by hand. My mother had beautiful handwriting, and I think it was because of all the ‘push-pull’ and spiral writing exercises she did in school. I had only one actual writing class and that was in college. Unfortunately, the teacher, although nice, had taught early elementary school, and when she starting talking about ‘riding the pony’ when describing how to hold the pen, I think she lost the attention of the entire class.of college students. Maybe Bingley had a problem like that when he went to University. 🙂

  3. Oh dear. My spelling is terrible and I always spit on the carpet (only one of those things is true!). Didn’t Mr. Darcy write a letter while in company? Then, he would, wouldn’t he? 🙂

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