Re: Definition of Gentleman in England #general


Celia Male <celiamale@...>
 

Steve Orlen asked about the word "gentleman" on his
now "Infamous Volinski Wedding Certificate" and
Michael Bernet defined the word for us in the context
of the British class system.

http://data.jewishgen.org/viewmate/ALL/viewmateview.asp?key=7487

If you study the censuses of England and Wales, there
are many indicators of social status. In this example
we see "Living on own means" [a very common
description]; gentleman; annuitant etc contrasted with
many "working class" occupations:

http://tinyurl.co.uk/b6rw

The enumerator must have decided what to enter into
the occupation slot after visiting the houses. In the
given example >from the 1881 census, I suspect that
"gentleman" implied that this man [of undefined past
occupation] was not very wealthy but obviously
reaonably well-off, ie and not a retired cowherd.
We even had a "Distressed Gentlefolks' Aid
Association" in the UK:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/8007

In the case of a wedding certificate, those involved
must have given the description to the registrar - ie
they wanted to clarify they were not "in trade" [God
forbid!] or manual workers. There is a sharp contrast
between the groom's father {Emanuel VOLINSKI/
VOLENSKI "deceased carpenter" and the bride's father
Mordecai - a gentleman. We do not know who wished to
stress this fact. I suspect it was brought up many
times in this marriage; my inner thoughts are
reinforced now I have read Steve's amusing [yet sad]
description of the groom Israel: "A cruel & formidable
intellectual ... He eventually moved to London where
he lived permanently & haunted the British Museum. He
opened an art gallery; he sired several illegitimate
offspring. In his later years he became a gentle
benevolent senior citizen & pleaded to be allowed to
come to America. But the family never forgave his
indiscretions & bluntly refused his appeals... he died
in 1936 at the age of 91."

Celia Male [U.K.]

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