Subject: aristocratic gentleman
Setting: Edwardian era, England late 19th-early 20thc
Evolution: ... > 1909 Edwardian English gentleman
Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)
"The wonders of the modern world, which had only sprang [SIC] into being in the 1880s and 1890’s [SIC] brought the first rewards of modern industrialization and mass-produced abundance. Socially, the Edwardian era was the period during which the British class system was at its most rigid, although paradoxically, changes in social thought, particularly the rising interest in socialism, attention to the plight of the poor and the status of women, expressed in, for example, the issue of women’s suffrage, together with increased economic opportunities as a result of rapid industrialisation, created an environment in which there could be more social mobility and people would become more liberal. This change would be hastened in the aftermath of the first World War. The upper classes embraced leisure sports, which led to rapid developments in fashion, as more mobile and flexible clothing styles were needed."
* Pakenham 1985 p20-22
"The most frequent charge levelled against the Edwardian Empire was a Victorian one, first coined by James Mill: it was a vast system of outdoor relief for the younger sons of the aristocracy. Though the New Imperialists openly admitted that they were looking for markets for 'those superfluous articles -- our boys' as well as for British goods, few of the Englishmen who appear in this book would fit strictly into this category. Aristocrats, even younger sons, seldom bothered with Chamberlain's 'tropical estates' except as soldiers or to shoot game. Lord Salisbury's daughter, Lady Maud Cecil, saw the Empire as a very middle-class affair. 'Of course the best class of English don't come out to the colonies and those that do are apt to be bounders.' And Raymond Asquith, the cleverest of young Edwardians, saw the whole thing as rather vulgar. 'The day of the clever cad is at hand,' he wrote to John Buchan just after the Boer War. 'I have always felt it would come to this if we once let ourselves in for an empire. ... A gentleman may make a large fortune but only a cad can look after it.' Even India in his view did not deserve a Curzon as Viceroy (a view which many Indians and Anglo-Indians would come to agree!) 'It is scandalous the way we lavish the flower of our race on this dull provicial empire of ours.'
"Regardless of this urban disdain, most Edwardian Englishmen in the tropical Empire saw themselves as 'gentlemen,' and did their best to exclude those who were not. Out under the tropical sun, as Leonard Woolf -- the most critical observer of imperial mores -- noted, the English usually became rather grander in manner than they were at home. In the East, with its caste-conscious hierarchies of servants, the rituals of upper-class Edwardian life became accentuated, and were to remain frozen long after they had begun to melt away in England itself; Anglo-Indians really did change for dinner in the jungle. It was in Africa that Lady Maud Cecil 's verdict often proved nearer the truth. East Africa especially soon became a notorious magnet for 'bounders', who arrived in droves, noted Bishop Tucker of Uganda regretfully, as soon as the Uganda Railway was opened. West Africa could be used to solve the problem of the family black sheep permanently. 'Dear Uncle Harry may talk lugubriously of the burden of Empire,' says the hero of Saki's novel, The Unbearable Bassington, bitterly just before he is dispatched to the Gold Coast, 'but he evidently recognises its uses as a refuse container.' He is dead from fever within a few weeks.
"But the Empire also supplied a field for more admirable kinds of aristocratic export: a sense of service or chivalry. What was the White Man's Burden as defined by Kipling in 1897 but a new version of noblesse oblige which was finding itself increasingly without a home in industrial England? Many of the famous Edwardian proconsuls described their early adventures in terms which read like pages from Malory or Walter Scott. Frederick Lugard, a child of Anglo-Indian missionaries, left the Indian Army in despair after an unrequited love affair and went off to Africa to fight the Arab slave-traders -- 'I can think of no juster cause in which a soldier may draw his sword.' Frank Swettenham, son of a highly eccentric Scottish attorney, and Hugh Clifford, who did come from a very old and aristocratic Catholic west-country family, charged about the Malay jungles like King Arthur's knights -- mounted on rafts or elephants rather than horses -- rescuing maidens, freeing slaves, toppling tyrants.
"The result was very nearly always the same: a further extension of the British Empire and the installation of a different kind of tyrant -- the British Resident or High Commissioner. Which leads one to another definition of the word 'bounder' once given by Lord Curzon to a puzzled foreign enquirer. 'A bounder, Madam, is one who succeeds in life by leaps and bounds.' Many Edwardians in the tropics were bounders in this sense, like the Victorian empire-builders before them. The expansionist urge on the frontiers was often as strong as ever, and would burst out against dramatically after the First World War."
* Dressing Downton 2015 p28
"From the late Victorian period onwards, gentlemen on a country estate -- and only on the estate -- wore a tweed wool suit with calf-length beeches [SIC] called 'plus fours.' Worn for daytime activities, plus fours, so-called because they were four inches longer than traditional knickers, were espcially popular for hunting and other sporting activities such as cycling or walking. The choice for going into town, visiting neighbors or attending business meetings was a slightly more formal suit with long pants."
* de la Haye/Mendes 2021 p40-41
"Gentlemen of means and style, though not at the mercy of passing fashions, were nevertheless obliged to keep extensive wardrobes to clothe themselves appropriately at all times. No truly revolutionary departures took place in men's dress between 1900 and 1913 but clothing gradually grew less formal and the lounge suit became dominant. Minute shifts -- an extra button, slightly narrower lapels or a new collar shape -- created comment and gave satisfaction. Few were brave enough to break the many early twentieth-century sartorial rules, which incorporated a store of nineteenth-century edicts. Clothes indicated social status. At Derby Day in England in 1912, the 'notables' won praise for their black morning coats and top hats -- the correct fashion for an important social function in the presence of royalty -- whereas the 'ordinary' crowd came in for criticism on account of their lounge suits in greys and browns."
* Baudot 1999 p58-59
"Originally aimed at the working classes, ready-to-wear garments soon attracted all sections of the bourgeoisie. The new god of the modern age was speed and everything now had to be done as fast as possible, including buying clothes.
"The nineteenth and twentieth centuries continued to reaffirm the essential masculine principle of discretion. Restraint, fitting behaviour, giving women precedence and knowning when to keep quiet remained the best ways for gentlemen to distinguish themselves."
* Laver 2020 p211
"For men the accepted wear for all formal occasions was still the top hat and the frock coat, but the lounge suit worn with a homburg hat (a name derived from the German spa, much visited by the prince of Wales) was increasingly to be seen, even in the West End of London. Straw hats were extremely popular and were sometimes worn even with riding breeches; trousers tended to be rather short and very narrow, and young men were beginning to wear them with permanent turn-ups and with a sharp crease in front, which had become possible since the mid-1890s with the invention of the trouser-press. Collars of white starched linen were extremely high and sometimes went right round the throat. This was an echo, as it were, of the boned necks of female attire."