16TH JULY 1916 AGE 30


What or who is a gentleman? It was a question that much preoccupied earlier generations. To the American president Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), a gentleman's qualities were best summarised by Psalm 15:

He that walketh uprightly and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.
He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour,
In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.
He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.

The Victorian author Samuel Smiles (1812-1904), in his immensely popular book 'Self-Help: with illustrations of character and conduct' (1859), devoted a whole chapter to the definition of the true gentleman. To Smiles his qualities did not depend on fashion or manners but on moral worth, not on personal possessions but on personal qualities. Smiles agreed with Jefferson that a gentleman was one "that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart."

Gentlemen were always assumed to have acquired their 'superior' manners and general demeanour from generations of 'good' breeding, something those born to a more lowly station in life could therefore never emulate. But Smiles was adamant:

Riches and rank have no necessary connection with genuine gentlemanly qualities. The poor man may be a true gentleman, - in spirit and in daily life. He may be honest, truthful, upright, polite, temperate, courageous, self-respecting, and self-helping, - that is, be a true gentleman'.
Self-Help Chapter XIII.28

Such a man would be 'one of nature's gentlemen', someone who although he'd had none of the gentleman's advantages of birth had all his qualities: honesty, integrity, good manners etc. Mrs Dinah Mulock Craik's 'John Halifax, Gentleman', published in 1856, was one such person. Halifax, an orphan, made his way in life through honesty, initiative and hard work. The Scotsman's review described him as 'one of nature's own nobility'. Halifax says of himself, 'If there was one point I was anxious over in my youth, it was to keep up through life a name like the Chevalier Bayard - how folk would smile to hear of a tradesman emulating Bayard - 'Sans peur et sans reproche!' (Without fear and without blame).

Frederick Henry Edwards is difficult to find in the census record, only appearing in 1891 as a six-year-old scholar living with his grandparents in Garston, Liverpool, where his grandfather was a dock labourer.