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"The Grand Old Name Of Gentleman"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Tennyson observes the birthday of Arthur Hallam, the first since his death the previous year. The poet recalls his friend as having in fine harmony all the human virtues and goodnesses. He was in the broadest sense a gentleman. Society is full of men of base and ignoble natures who pretend to fineness of spirit and purity of heart; all of these frauds are able to pass as gentlemen, so that the name and meaning of "gentleman" have largely lost their integrity. Hal-lam, however, was one who deserved the term, one who ever exemplified it regardless of the cheapening to which others subjected it. He

Best seem'd the thing he was, and join'd
Each office of the social hour
To noble manners, as the flower
And native growth of noble mind.
. . .
And thus he bore without abuse
The grand old name of gentleman,
Defamed by every charlatan,
And soil'd with all ignoble use.