The Figure of the Gentleman in 19th century Victorian England : The re-Fashioning of a Manhood Ideal

The Victorian Age is considered to be the Heyday of the gentlemanly ideal, both in society and in literature. Indeed, the Victorian period developed a quasi obsession with gentility and gentlemanliness. In the late 18th century, Edmund Burke already emphasized « the spirit of gentleman » and complained that « The age of chivalry [was] gone… and the glory of Europe [was] extinguished » (« Reflections on the Revolution in France », 1790). The next generation of novelists in the 19th century, Thackeray, Dickens and Trollope, were also all fascinated by its image, and impressed upon society their views on gentlemanliness (Berberich). The problem of the self-made or would-be gentleman -and the contradictions of the English class system- were some of the subjects they explored.