There is something attractive in the character of a gentleman when you apply the word emphatically, and yet in that sense of the term which is more easy to feel than to define. The secret of the matter I believe to be this – we feel the gentlemanly character present to us; whenever under all the circumstances of social intercourse, the trivial not less than the important, through the whole detail of his manners and deportment, and with the ease of a habit, a person shows respect to others in such a way, as at the same time implies in his own feelings an habitual and assured anticipation of reciprocal respect from them to himself.
In short, the gentlemanly character arises out of the feeling of equality acting, as a habit, yet flexible to the varieties of rank, and modified without being disturbed or superceded by them.
Notwithstanding the aforementioned, Shakespeare discovered a most intimate knowledge of human nature. He shows you a gentleman worn out with sickness and so weak that he faints. He saw his son given up to debauchery; he was anxious and vexed to think of the anarchy that would ensue at his death, and his anger animates him so much that he throws aside his distemper.
Their tragic scenes were meant to affect us indeed, and in union with the activity both of our understanding and imagination – time makes more converts than reason.
For whilst a gentleman of our days is one who has money enough to do what every fool would do if he could afford it: that is, consume without producing it remains only to expound that the sphere of observation determines the extent of the mind.
James Boswell 1763 Thomas Paine 1776 Mary Wollstonecraft 1796
Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1815-17 George Bernard Shaw 1908