See also:English-Latin documents) . In this sense it is the
See also:equivalent of the Fr. gentilhomme, " nobleman," which latter
See also:term has in
See also:Great Britain been long confined to the
See also:peerage (see
See also:NoBILITY); and the term " gentry " (" gentrice" from O . Fr. gentelise for gentelise) has much of the significance of the Fr. noblesse or the Ger . Adel . This was what was meant by the rebels under
See also:Ball in the 14th century when they repeated: " When
See also:Adam delved and
See also:Eve span, Who was then the
See also:gentleman ?"
See also:Selden (Titles of Honor, 1672), discussing the title " gentleman," speaks of " our English use of it " as " convertible with nobilis," and describes in connexion with it the forms of ennobling in various
See also:European countries .
See also:Harrison, writing a century earlier, says " gentlemen be those whom their
See also:race and
See also:blood, or at the least their virtues, do make
See also:noble and known." But for the
See also:complete gentleman the possession of a coat of arms was in his
See also:time considered necessary; and Harrison gives the following account of how gentlemen were made in
See also:day: . . gentlemen whose ancestors are not known to come in with William duke of
See also:Normandy (for of the Saxon races yet remaining we now make none accompt, much less of the
See also:British issue) dp take their beginning in England after this manner in our times . Who socver studieth the
See also:laws of the
See also:realm, who so abideth in the university, giving his mind to his
See also:book, or professeth physic and the liberal sciences, or beside his service in the
See also:room of a captain in the
See also:wars, or
See also:good counsel given at home, whereby his
See also:commonwealth is benefited, can live without
See also:manual labour, and thereto is able and will bear the
See also:charge and countenance of a gentleman, he shall for
See also:money have a coat and arms bestowed upon him by heralds (who in the
See also:charter of the same do of
See also:custom pretend an- , tiquity and service, and many gay things) and thereunto being made so good cheap be called
See also:master, which is the title that men give to esquires and gentlemen, and reputed for a gentleman ever after . Which is so much the less to be disallowed of, for that the
See also:prince doth lose nothing by it, the gentleman being so much subject to taxes and public payments as is the
See also:yeoman or husbandman, which he likewise doth bear the gladlier for the saving of his reputation .. Being called also to the wars (for with the
See also:government of the commonwealth he medleth little) what soever it cost him, he will both array and
See also:arm himself accordingly, and show the more manly courage, and all the tokens of the
See also:person which he representeth . No man hath hurt by it but himself, who peradventure will go in wider buskins than his legs will bear, or as our
See also:proverb saith, now and then bear a bigger
See also:sail than his
See also:boat is able to sustain." 1 In this way Shakespeare himself was turned, by the
See also:grant of his coat of arms, from a " vagabond " into a gentleman . The fundamental idea of " gentry," symbolized in this grant of coat-
See also:armour, had come to be that of the essential superiority of the fighting man; and, as Selden points out (p .
707), the fiction was usually maintained in the granting of arms " to an ennobled person though of the long Robe wherein he hath little use of them as they mean a
See also:shield." At the last the wearing of a sword on all occasions was the outward and visible sign of a " gentleman "; and the custom survives in the sword worn with "
See also:dress." This idea that a gentleman must have a coat of arms, and that no one is a " gentleman" without one is, however, of comparatively
See also:late growth, the outcome of the natural
See also:desire of the heralds to magnify their
See also:office and collect fees for registering coats; and the same is true of the conception of " gentlemen " as a
See also:separate class . That a distinct
See also:order of " gentry " existed in England very early has, indeed, been often assumed, and is supported by weighty authorities . Thus; the late
See also:Professor Freeman (Ency . Brit. xvii. p . 540 b, 9th ed.) said: " Early in the 11th century the order of ` gentlemen ' as a separate class seems to be forming as something new . By the time of the
See also:conquest of England the distinction seems to have been fully established." Stubbs (Const . Hist., ed . 1878, iii . 544, 548) takes the same view .
See also:George Sitwell, however, has conclusively proved that this opinion is based on a wrong conception of the conditions of
See also:medieval society, and that it is wholly opposed to the documentary evidence . The fundamental social cleavage in the
See also:middle ages was between the nobiles, i.e. the tenants in chivalry, whether earls, barons, knights, esquires or franklins, and the ignobiles, i.e. the villeins, citizens and burgesses;2 and between the most powerful noble and the humblest
See also:franklin there was, until the 15th century, no " separate class of gentlemen." Even so late as 1400 the word " gentleman " still only had the sense of generosus, and could not be used as a
See also:personal description denoting
See also:rank or quality, or as the title of a class . Yet after 1413 we find it increasingly so used; and the
See also:list of landowners in 1431, printed in Feudal
See also:Aids, contains, besides knights, esquires, yeomen and husbandmen (i.e.
See also:house-holders), a
See also:fair number who are classed as " gentieman." Sir George Sitwell gives'a lucid explanation of this development, the incidents of which are instructive and occasionally amusing .
The immediate cause was the
See also:statute r
See also:Henry V. cap. v. of 1413, which laid down that in all
See also:original writs of
See also:action, personal appeals and indictments, in which
See also:process of
See also:outlawry lies, the "
See also:estate degree or mystery " of the
See also:defendant must be stated, as well as his
See also:present or former domicile . Now the Black
See also:Death (1349) had put the traditional social organization out of
See also:gear . Before that the younger sons of the nobiles had received their
See also:share of the
See also:farm stock, bought or hired
See also:land, and settled down as agriculturists in their native villages . Under the new conditions 1 Description of England, bk. ii. ch. v. p . 128 . Henry
See also:Peacham, in his Com pleat Gentleman (1634), takes this
See also:matter more seriously . "Neither must we
See also:honour or esteem," he writes, " those ennobled, or made gentle in blood, who by mechanic and
See also:base means have raked up a mass of
See also:wealth . . . or have
See also:purchased an
See also:ill coat (of arms) at a good
See also:rate; no more than a player upon the stage, for wearing a
See also:cast suit: since nobility hangeth not upon the
See also:airy esteem of vulgar opinion, but is indeed of itself essential and absolute " (Reprint, p . 3) . Elsewhere (p . 161) he deplores the abuse of
See also:heraldry, which had even in his day produced " all the
See also:world over such a medley of coats " that, but for the commendable activity of the earls marshals, he feared that yeomen would soon be " as rare in England as they are in France." See also an amusing instance from the time of Henry VIII., given in " The Gentility of
See also:Barker," by Oswald Barron, in the Ancestor, vol. ii . (
See also:July 1902) .
2 Even this
See also:classification would seem to need modifying, For certain of the great patrician families of the cities were certainly nobiles . 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
See also:system, had no definite status; but they were generosi, men of
See also: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
See also:chose, therefore, to be described as " gentlemen." On the character of these earliest "gentlemen" the records throw a lurid
See also:light . According to Sir George Sitwell (p . 76), " the premier gentleman of England, as the matter now stands, is ` Robert Ercleswyke of Stafford, gentilman,' " who had served among the men-at-arms of Lord Talbot at
See also:Agincourt (ib. note) . He is typical of his class . " Fortunately—for the gentle reader will no doubt be anxious to follow in his footsteps—some particulars of his
See also:life may be gleaned from the public records . He was charged at the
See also:Staffordshire Assizes with housebreaking, wounding with
See also:intent to kill, and procuring the
See also:murder of one
See also:Thomas Page, who was cut to pieces while on his knees begging for his life." If any earlier claimant to the title of " gentleman " be discovered, Sir George Sitwell predicts that it will be within the same
See also:year (1414) and in connexion with some similar disreputable proceedings.' From these unpromising beginnings the separate order of " gentlemen " was very slowly evolved . The first "gentleman" commemorated on an existing
See also:monument was John Daundelyon of
See also:Margate (d. c . 1445); the first gentleman to enter the House of
See also:Commons, hitherto composed mainly of " valets," was " William
See also:Weston, gentylman "; but even in the latter
See also:half of the 15th century the order was not clearly established . As to the connexion 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 but the badge assumed by gentlemen to distinguish them in
See also: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 order, and that the badge of this distinction was the heralds' recognition of the right to bear arms .
It is unfortunate that this view, which is quite unhistorical and contradicted by the present practice of many undoubtedly " gentle " families of long descent, has of late years been given a wide currency in popular manuals of heraldry . In this narrow sense, however, the word " gentleman " has long since become obsolete . The idea of " gentry " in the
See also:continental sense of noblesse is
See also:extinct in England, and is likely to remain so, in spite of the efforts of certain enthusiasts to revive it (see A . C .
See also:Davies, Armorial Families,
See also:Edinburgh, 1895) . That it once existed has been sufficiently shown; but the whole spirit and tendency of English constitutional and social development tended to its early destruction . The
See also:comparative good order of England was not favourable to the continuance of a class,
See also:developed during the
See also:foreign and
See also:civil wars of the 14th and 15th centuries, for whom fighting was the
See also:sole honour-able occupation . The younger sons of noble families became apprentices in the cities, and there
See also:grew up a new aristocracy of
See also:trade . Merchants are still " citizens " to William Harrison; but he adds " they often
See also:change estate with gentlemen, as gentle-men do with them, by a mutual conversion of the one into the other." A frontier
See also:line between classes so indefinite could not be maintained, especially as in England there was never a " nobiliary prefix " to
See also:stamp a person as a gentleman by his 1 The designation " gentilman " is, indeed, found some two centuries earlier . In the Inquisitio maneriorum Ecclesiae S .
See also:Pauli Londin, of A.D . 1222 (W .
See also:Hale, Domesday of St Paul's,
See also:Soc., 1858, p . 8o) occurs the entry: Adam gentilma dim caret, p' iii. d . This is probably the earliest record of the "
See also:grand old name of gentleman "; but Adam, who held half an acre at a
See also:rent of three pence—less by half than that held by "
See also:Ralph the bondsman" (Rad' le bunde) in the same list—was certainly not a" gentleman." Gentilman " here was a
See also:nickname, perhaps suggested by Adam's name, and thus in some sort anticipating the wit of the famous
See also:couplet repeated by John Ball's rebels.surname, as in France or Germany ? The process was hastened, moreover, by the corruption of the Heralds'
See also:College and by the ease with which coats of arms could be assumed without a
See also:shadow of claim; which tended to bring the " science of armory " into contempt . The word " gentleman " as an
See also:index of rank had already become of doubtful value before the great
See also:political and social changes of the 19th century gave to it a wider and essentially higher significance . The change is well illustrated in the
See also:definitions given in the successive
See also:editions of the
See also:Encyclopaedia Britannica . In the 5th edition (1815) " a gentleman is one, who without any title, bears a coat of arms, or whose ancestors have been freemen." In the 7th edition (1845) it still implies a definite social status: " All above the rank of yeomen." In the 8th edition (1856) this is still its " most ex-tended sense "; " in a more limited sense " it is defined in the same words as those quoted above from the 5th edition; but the writer adds, " By courtesy this title is generally accorded to all persons above the rank of
See also:common tradesmen when their
See also:manners are indicative of a certain amount of refinement and intelligence." The Reform
See also:Bill of 1832 has done its
See also:work; the " middle classes " have come into their own; and the word " gentleman " has come in common use to signify not a distinction of blood, but a distinction of position,
See also:education and manners . 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
See also: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." The word " gentle," originally implying a certain social status, had very early come to be associated with the standard of manners expected from that status . Thus by a sort of punning process the " gentleman " becomes a " gentle-man."
See also:Chaucer in the Meliboeus (c . 1386) says: " Certes he sholde not be called a gentil man, that .
. . ne dooth his
See also:diligence and bisynesse, to kepen his good name "; and in the Wife of Bath's
See also:Tale: " Loke who that is most vertuous alway Prive and apert, and most entendeth ay To do the gentil dedes that he can And take him for the gretest gentilman," and in the
See also:Romance of the
See also:Rose (c . 1400) we find " he is gentil bycause he doth as longeth to a gentilman." This use develops through the centuries, until in 1714 we have
See also:Steele, in the Tatler (No . 207), laying down that " the appellation of Gentle-man is never to be affixed to a man's circumstances, but to his Behaviour in them," a
See also:limitation over-narrow even for the present day . In this connexion, too, may be quoted the old
See also:story, told by some—very improbably—of
See also:James II., of the monarch who replied to a
See also:lady petitioning him to make her son a gentleman, "I could make him a nobleman, but
See also:God Almighty could not make him a gentleman." Selden, however, in referring to similar stories " that no Charter can make a Gentleman, which is cited as out of the mouth of some great Princes that have said it," adds that " they without question understood Gentleman for Generosus in the antient sense, or as if it came from Gentilis in that sense, as Gentilis denotes one of a noble
See also:Family, or indeed for a Gentleman by birth." For " no creation could make a man of another blood than he is." The word " gentleman," used in the wide sense with which birth and circumstances have nothing to do, is necessarily incapable of strict definition . For "to behave like a gentleman " may mean little or much, according to the person by whom the phrase is used; " to spend money like a gentleman " may even be no great praise; but " to conduct a business like a gentleman " implies a standard at least as high as that involved 2 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 of " at " (so de la
See also:Pole for Atte
See also:Poole, cf. such names as Attwood, Attwater) . In English this " of " was in the 15th century dropped; e.g. the
See also:grandson of Johannes de Stoke (John of Stoke) in a 14th-century document becomes John Stoke . In
See also:modern times, under the influence of romanticism, the prefix " de " has been in some cases " revived " under a misconception, e.g . " de Trafford," " de Hoghton." Very rarely it is correctly retained as derived from a foreign place-name, e.g. de
See also:Grey . in the phrase " noblesse oblige." In this sense of a person of culture, character and good manners the word " gentleman " has supplied a
See also:gap in more than one foleign language . The
See also:evolution of this meaning of " gentleman " reflects very accurately that of English society; and there are not wanting signs that the process of evolution, in the one as in the other, is not complete . The indefinableness of the word mirrors the indefinite character of " society " in England; and the use by " the masses " of " gentleman " as a mere synonym for " man " has spread pari passu with the growth of democracy . It is a protest against implied inferiority, and is cherished as the modern French bourgeois cherishes his right of duelling with swords, under the ancien regime a
See also:prerogative of the noblesse .
Nor is there much
See also:justification for the denunciation by purists of the " vulgarization " and " abuse " of the " grand old name of gentleman." Its• strict meaning has now fallen completely obsolete . Its current meaning varies with every class of society that uses it . But it always implies some sort of excellency of manners or morals .
GENTLE (through the Fr. gentil, from Lat. gentilis,...
FRIEDRICH VON GENTZ (1764-1832)
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