The concept of gentility in the Victorian novel
In my examination of the Concept of Gentility in the Victorian Novel, I do not claim to give an exhaustive literary critique of the novelists' books from the viewpoint of 'Gentility'. This study, however, is no less concerned with Victoriar authors' personal involvement in the concept of gentility than with the gentility of the characters portrayed in their books. In considering Victorian novelists' delineation of the 'Gentleman' in their novels, I have taken into full consideration each novelist's family background, his education, his social, economic, or even his religious status. One of the fruitful vantage points of understanding the idea of the gentleman in the English novel - and especially in the Victorian novel - is, in fact, the conflict between the seemingly easy escape from the class of one's birth and the endless rebuffs as one made this attempt. English writers, again the Victorians in particular, can easily be said to have shared in a specific gentility-consciousness, the key to which is the sense of intransigence in the terms of the opposition between the inner personal and subjective and the outer public and objective. A novelist, for instance, might declare himself the enemy of snobs, and yet be a real snob himself. In any case, my objective, behind juxtaposing Victorian authors' own characters with some of the characters found in their books is to throw ample light on the class identity of the 'genteel' people portrayed, and hence to reach a fuller understanding of the novelists' own quest for genteel status. I also aim in this study to show the writers' own understanding of 'Gentility', and 'the various attempts they made at reconciling leisure and industry, blood and money, gentility or respectability and vulgarity, humanitarianism and individualism, and even Anglicanism and Dissent. This task is accomplished through a depiction of the most relevant events and relationships that bear upon the Concept of Gentility - portrayed in the novelists' books.