University of Mississippi

Becoming The Gentleman

The question of what it meant to be a gentleman haunted Britons throughout the long eighteenth centruy.  This period saw the gentleman emerge as the dominant persona of essayists, critics, and male conduct book writers as well as the ideal husband imagined by the authors of heroine-centered domestic fiction.  In Becoming the Gentleman, Jason D. Solinger explains why this masculine ideal became a cultural obsession.  What was at stake in the definition of the gentleman, he argues, was nothing less than a new kind of ruling-class male: a modern man whose knowledge of the world fit him for London parlors and imperial boardrooms.  Examining such authors as John Locke, Alexander Pope, Frances Burney, Jane Austen, and Sir Walter Scott, Solinger’s account will appeal to literary historians as well as to readers interested in the role nostalgia plays in forging the present.