Yes, I’ve done a lot of reading on gentlemen, in hopes of some day writing historical romance novels, lol. Although my historical setting of choice would be the Regency era in England, because there are so many fascinating story lines available and it encompasses another of my historical fascinations, the Napoleonic wars, lending to endless gentlemen warriors returning home, heroines getting caught up in espionage to save England, or even poor heroines caught between dual loyalties with French and English blueblood ties. Of course, the height of the gentleman came after the Regency era, during the longggggggggggggg reign of Queen Victoria, where that moral code (and the British empire) reached its zenith. In America, that moral code took on a more egalitarian tinge, where every woman could expect and receive courteous treatment, as has been documented by such notables as DeTocqueville and even Charles Dickens during his trip to America. From the prescient DeToqueville, which I quoted in a December 29, 2012 piece, “On Self-Reliance, Feminism, and General Decline in American Culture”:
“There are people in Europe who, confounding together the different characteristics of the sexes, would make of man and woman beings not only equal but alike. They would give to both the same functions, impose on both the same duties, and grant to both the same rights; they would mix them in all things—their occupations, their pleasures, their business. It may readily be conceived, that by thus attempting to make one sex equal to the other, both are degraded; and from so preposterous a medley of the works of nature nothing could ever result but weak men and disorderly women” (Democracy In America, Vol 2, Book 3, Chapter XII)
Even, early women’s rights activist, Elizabeth Cady Stanton noted that all women and girls could travel throughout America “with perfect civility and safety” according to sociologist, Linda S. Lichter, in her 1998 book ,with the deceptively fluff title, “Simple Social Graces: Recapturing the Lost Art of Gracious Victorian Living”. Lichter writes that even a half century before Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s travels across America, educator and outspoken advocate for women’s education, Catherine Beecher, wrote in her book,“Letters to the People on Health and Happiness”:
“There are few that have so much occasion as myself to render a grateful acknowledgement of this most chivalrous virtue in my countrymen; for during the last period of my life I have crossed from West to East, or from East to West, not less than thirty times, and have traveled in all Free States and five of the Southern; in all this varied experience – alone. I have never once known a coarse or disrespectful word or act toward myself, or witnessed one toward any other woman.”
Yep, we’ve come a long way, Baby…… where even left-leaning NBC is reporting young (black) men indiscriminately knocking out unsuspecting women passers-by, as well as men – hey, that’s equal opportunity, right?