Posted by Betsy on June 19, 1997 at 00:02:57:
In reply to Re: "Gentleman" posted by jj on June 18, 1997 at 22:49:30
] ] Exactly what is a gentleman, anyway?
As far as I know, (and I probably don't know much), "gentleman" was sort of a rank somewhat akin to "noble" or "royal," but clearly a little lower. The amount of money and power within that class varied greatly as it did for merchants, the nobility, and farmers.
Gentlemen could not enter the church without taking orders. I am not sure of the quality or rigor of the educational requirements to do so, but I believe there was some University time required.
As for professions, my undertstanding is that they could have a profession (such as the military, the law, or the church) as long as it did not require them to get their hands dirty. For example, a gentleman could be a solicitor (lawyer) but would not be a barrister (the lawyer who actually approached the bar and argued cases) because being a barrister meant he actually performed work. The distinction is, I think, lost on most of us today. Also, they could be a doctor, but not an apothecary or a surgeon because the latter two required him to do work for his keep. I'm not sure if that makes sense or not but that's as much as I understand.
If someone out there knows that I'm way out in left field, let me know...I'd welcome any corrections.