Vulgar Genteel

"Larry O'Toole, contractor. A showily dressed man of the style known as 'vulgar genteel,' had a sharp eye and a ready tongue. Had read the newspaper reports of the case, but they made no impression on him. Should be governed by the evidence. Knew no reason why he should not be an impartial juror." (389)

Twain, Mark. The Gilded Age. New York: Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., 2002 [1873].



What on earth does 'vulgar genteel' look like??? I want it.

Google obviously has the answer, providing a definition of sorts printed in the Eugene Register-Guard in 1869.

A fun link for learning how to avoid vulgar-genteel verbal mistakes (1829) can be found here.

And a speech given by Theodore Parker on "The True and False Ideas of a Gentleman" (1852) can be found through the New York Times archive here.

Lots of worry on the part of these writers! The false/true gentleman seems at once immediately and easily recognizable and insidiously difficult to recognize, so much that he apparently needs identifying in these sorts of speeches and texts. The Vulgar-genteel man is two-faced, his manners like clothing he puts on and takes off, or gas that can be turned on or off (say these sources). Always a genuine, good country man gone bad in the big city. So nineteenth-century!

Not a lot of clothing or visual description. Project Gutenberg even has an illustrated example--many jurors drawn, but not the one we want.

I am looking forward to reading The Fall of Public Man by Richard Sennett again soon (on the bookshelf), I will definitely keep this Twain passage (and these pieces) in mind when I do so...I would definitely suggest you pick it up as well!

Anyone have any other sources for the vulgar-genteel? Has this been written about before?