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Written by Robbin
(5/27/2007 7:31 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, I hope someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but, penned by Cathy Allen
You seem to be making two arguments to relieve Darcy of ungentlemanly behavior. First, that a gentleman of JA’s age was not expected to have nicety of manners and that is only a modern expectation of the word. Second, that Darcy’s idea of how a gentleman should behave is correct. Neither of these arguments is right IMO. ;D
The person of whom I speak is a gentleman, and a stranger. (Chapter 13)
Colonel Fitzwilliam, who led the way, was about thirty, not handsome, but in person and address most truly the gentleman. (Chapter 30)
I agree with Line that “gentleman” referred to status but also referred to a man with excellent manners; JA used the word in both senses in P&P. The Chapter 13 quote on Mr. Collins refers to the first definition, gentleman by birth and the quote on Col Fitzwilliam from Chapter 30 refers to the second definition, gentleman by behavior. I also agree with you that Darcy did not realize he was being ungentlemanly during the proposal in Chapter 34 but that is part and parcel with his feelings of superiority, he is not thinking of how his words will affect Lizzy just that they are what he feels and he needs to say them. However, just because Darcy feels he is acting appropriately during the proposal does not mean he is according to the standards of his day. IMO Darcy’s sense of how to treat people is not a very good guide to gentlemanly behavior since he has been criticized for his ungentlemanlike behavior since he came on the scene in Chapter 3. If Darcy’s behavior was ungentlemanlike only in our modern sense of the word then how do you account for JA writing this idea into the novel in several places and having Lizzy make this accusation in Chapter 34?
It is clear in her novels that JA believed a gentleman behaved with gentility and it is certain to me JA is a reliable authority on the manners of her day. Starting with this bias I looked to A Dictionary of the English Language by Samuel Johnson. *The second edition text of Johnson’s is available on-line:
The definition of genteelness lists the qualities befitting a man of rank and the definition of gentleness equates gentlemanly conduct with elegance of behavior, softness of manners, sweetness of disposition; meekness; kindness; and benevolence. (See definitions below.) IMO these definitions agree with what is expected of gentlemen in JA’s novels and show there was indeed a nicety of manner expected from gentleman by society at large. I would now point out that Darcy’s proposal does not meet the definitions of conduct for a person of his class; I think Lizzy is all too correct in charging him with the offense. ;D
* I realize that the second edition was published a few years after JA’s passing in 1817 but if it is different than what I assert from the second edition in 1828, someone please point it out because I have not the first edition available to consult. (Thanks!) ;D
A Dictionary of the English Language, Second Edition By Samuel Johnson, John Walker, Robert S. Jameson (1828)
GENTEEL, Polite; elegant in behavior; civil; graceful in mien; elegantly dressed.
GENTILITY, Good extraction; dignity of birth; elegance of behavior; gracefulness of mien; nicety of taste; gentry; the class of persons well born.
GENTLEMAN, A man of birth; a man of extraction, though not noble; a man raised above the vulgar by his character or post. It is used of all who are honourable by birth, education, or profession.
GENTLEMANLIKE, GENTLEMANLY, Honourable; becoming a man of birth.
GENTLENESS, Dignity of birth; goodness of extraction; gentlemanly conduct; elegance of behavior; softness of manners; sweetness of disposition; meekness; kindness; benevolence.
LIBERAL, Not mean; not low in birth; becoming a gentleman; munificent; generous; bountial.
LIBERALIZE, to make liberal, generous, gentlemanly, open.
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