WS 2011/2012             exam translation (advanced)         (Staatsexamen Herbst 1995)                           text #2 

The notion of the gentleman as Hopkins and other Victorians understood it, as a cultural goal, has been in steady decline since at least the end of the First World War. Where Hopkins saw a unique value, we are more likely to see a danger - the damaging social exclusiveness of the gentlemanly ethic, its antidemocratic bias, its elevation of respectability and good form over energy and imagination, its perpetuation of the values of a leisured Úlite long after these had ceased to be relevant to the needs of British society.  

The English cult of gentility has been responsible in its time for many blighted lives and a great deal of snobbery, and we are in no danger of underestimating that fact today. The danger is rather that in remembering only the harmful legacy we forget the civilizing role the idea of the gentleman played in the genesis of Victorian Britain. This idea lay at the heart of the social and political accommodation between the aristocracy and the middle classes in the period and was a powerful implicit assumption behind many innovations: the growth of a professional class, the reforms of the Home and Indian Civil Services, the overhaul of the old public schools and the creation of the new, geared to the production of an administrative Úlite capable of serving an increasingly complex industrial society.

The Victorians themselves were much more uncertain than their grandfathers had been about what constituted a gentleman, and that uncertainty was an important part of the appeal which gentlemanly status held for outsiders hoping to attain it. The man of noble birth was a gentleman by right, as was the army officer, the member of Parliament. But between these and other time-honoured ranks, and those who aspired to the status, lay the universal assumption that the importance of gentlemanliness transcended rank because it was a moral and not just a social category. This made it open to redefinition in a way that the concept of the aristocrat was not, and if the issue became more problematic than ever before, it was because in a rapidly changing society more and more people were becoming wealthy enough to sense the attainability of a rank that had always, in theory, been open to penetration from below.

                     from: R. Gilmore, The Idea of the Gentleman in the Victorian Novel, London 1981

VIDEO: Some great "Jeeves & Wooster" links     CARTOONS: Lords & gentlemen
 X sound: Noel Coward,The Stately Homes of England.mp3   text: The Stately Homes of England
  X sound: Noel Coward,Mad Dogs and Englishmen.mp3   text:  Mad Dogs and Englishmen

Monty Python, Upperclass Twit: 

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