A Dead Horse Trope
which used to be common in adventure, mystery, and espionage fiction where the hero was an independently wealthy (or at least doesn't do much work for a living) "gentleman of leisure" whose adventures were initially motivated by a lust for adventure
and hatred of idleness
, even if the character ultimately acted for heroic/patriotic motives. It seems probable that the Rich Idiot with No Day Job
is an outgrowth of this character type.
May double as a Bold Explorer
. Has some overlap with the Adventurer Archaeologist
, Great White Hunter
and Egomaniac Hunter
Often ends up a Cool Old Guy
and insists on wearing an overblown Adventurer Outfit
. His Distaff Counterpart
is the Lady of Adventure
, and if he marries
one you can expect a Battle Couple
Practically all contemporary examples are deconstructions, in which the character turns out to be bigoted
, and an utter Jerkass
if not a full-blown Evil Colonialist
Bears little or no relation to the original meaning, which was what might now be called "venture capitalist" — someone "venturing" their own money on a business venture
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Anime & Manga
- Arsène Lupin III of Lupin III, gentleman thief. He's such a discerning burglar that he once broke into someone's house only to leave a note letting the owner know that he would return once the reproductions were replaced with something worth stealing. Probably a Shout-Out to the original Arsène Lupin, who did the exact same thing.
- Similarly, the Kaitou Kid of Magic Kaito returns each gem he steals, as he is looking for one in particular. He's also known to be quite charming and gentlemanly, even once cracking a safe for one of his enemies to save their trapped dog at no cost.
Films — Animation
- Charles Muntz from Up. Who later turns out to be the main villain.
Films — Live-Action
- James Bond is in this tradition but in a darker direction — there is a comment in either Casino Royale or From Russia with Love that he is done playing "Cowboys and Indians", which lampshades this type of character's outlook. Of course, his determination to get out of the spy business never sticks.
- Back to the Future seems to suggest that "Doc" Brown is a subversion. He was rich enough to own a huge mansion in 1955, but by 1985 he's a recluse living in a garage (the mansion burned down according to a newspaper article seen in the opening) and says he spent his entire family fortune to pay for his Time Travel experiments. By the second film, he's acquired a briefcase full of cash from different eras. Considering his objection to Marty using future knowledge to bet on sports, how he acquired this money is unexplained.
- George (Jane's boss) in Twenty Seven Dresses is actually a very well-done modern version of this character.
- O Brother, Where Art Thou?: At one point, Emmet describes himself and Delmar as adventurers. They are not, however, gentlemen. Just gentle men.
- The hero of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.
- In James Bond novels]] at least, the desire to quit playing Cowboys and Indians actually referred to his decision to quit having fun catching field agents and to start striking directly at SMERSH, the subsection of the KGB that enforced undying loyalty to the Soviet Union. This was right after the fear that SMERSH was after her drove Vesper to suicide in Casino Royale.
- Allan Quatermain in adaptations, although in the original H. Rider Haggard novels, his pals Sir Henry Curtis and Capn. John Good fit the trope much better than him.
- Rudolph Rassendyl in The Prisoner of Zenda
- The 39 Steps: Richard Hannay in some of John Buchan's novels. In others, he's a hard-working officer in the war and Intelligence doesn't have an easy time getting him away from active service. Which may be a subversion of this trope. Hannay's so annoyed about it.
- The unnamed protagonist of Rogue Male appears to be one of these. Apparently just for the fun of it, he tries to see if he could get into a position to assassinate a dictator (implied to be Hitler), but is captured and brutally tortured. His experiences afterward resemble a much darker version of Buchan's The Thirty-Nine Steps, until it turns out that he is an Unreliable Narrator with motives very different from any thirst for adventure. The dictator's regime murdered the hero's probably Jewish girlfriend, and he really was trying to kill him. The book ends with the hero preparing for another attempt.
- The Gentleman Thief Raffles from the short stories by Ernest William Hornung affects the style of an adventurer, but really relies on crime to support himself financially.
- The Jackal in The Day of the Jackal is supposed to be the Evil Counterpart of this kind of character.
- The Time Traveler in The Time Machine.
- Mr. Toad from The Wind in the Willows. Or so he'd describe himself. The rest of the world regards him as a Upper-Class Twit.
- While as noted, the Rich Idiot with No Day Job is more of a modern variation, and that character tends to be motivated by a quest for justice more so than adventure, the ur-example of that trope, The Scarlet Pimpernel, fits this trope as well.
- Phileas Fogg from the Jules Verne classic Around the World in Eighty Days.
- Lord John Roxton in Conan Doyle's The Lost World.
- The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens.
- The Saint: Simon Templar, although most of the money he has was extracted from crooks he'd taken down.
- The Count of Monte Cristo.
- Prince Florizel of Bohemia in Robert Louis Stevenson's New Arabian Nights
- Agatha Christie had a fair number of these in her novels. Sometimes, they would be the hero, such as Colonel Race who appears in several books, but sometimes subverted, as with Lombard, an amoral gun-for-hire in And Then There Were None or whenever the traditional type turned out to be the murderer in the book.
- The Stainless Steel Rat once wrote a paper on this trope. He held that society moving past the stage where a man could be both a respected member of society (Gentleman) and totally apart from it (Adventurer) forced individuals to choose which they wanted to be, and stay with that choice for the rest of their lives. DiGriz himself chose to be outside of society, as a thief.
- Bilbo and later Frodo in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Neither of them had obvious means of support (Though it's implied that they did receive a substantial inheritance, Bilbo from his mother and Frodo from Bilbo), and they lived relatively well. Neither wanted adventure at first, but after some prodding found they had a talent and a taste for it. Contrast this to Frodo's companions Merry and Pippin, who were both heirs to working farm estates, and Sam, who was an actual handyman/laborer. We never find out much about Fatty Bolger's source of income.
- P. G. Wodehouse's Psmith takes on this role in the novel Psmith, Journalist.
- Arsène Lupin is one of the earliest examples of this trope, appearing in the early 20th century. He's turned to robbery, rather than African wilds, using a mix of subterfuge and audacity that leaves the police unable to apprehend him. But his taste is just as considerable as his skill. He's such a discerning burglar that he once broke into someone's house only to leave a note letting the owner know that he would return once the reproductions were replaced with something worth stealing.
- Bulldog Drummond
- The TV series of The Saint and The Persuaders! (both starring Roger Moore).
- Doctor Who
- The Doctor. The Third Doctor specifically evokes the trope. He doesn't worry about money, and although he worked as UNIT's scientific advisor for several years, he considered it a way to pass the time and save people instead of a job. The Eleventh Doctor implied that taking over Craig Owens' job while he lay ill was one of his first, if not the first, regular jobs in his 900 years.
- Captain Cook of "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy" is the evil underside of this trope. He talks big and has a great personal style, but he's a Dirty Coward who's always willing to let others die in his place and exploit his werewolf companion.
- Dixon Bainbridge of The Mighty Boosh.
- Lord John Roxton from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World.
- Higgins from Magnum, P.I., in his younger days. In fact, he seemed to fit an extraordinary amount of adventuring into a comparatively short time.... In point of fact his stories when compared to each other sometimes give the impression that he was on opposite sides of the world at the same time. Despite the slight implausibility of this, Higgins is very much a Retired Badass.
- Mr. Fuddle of Turkey Television was one of these in the same sense as Commander McBragg below.
- Being a game set in the style of pulp serials, White Wolf's Adventure! allows you to play as this as a type of Heroic build.
- Professor Layton spends his first game solving an inheritance issue (and lots and lots of puzzles) without any thought for reward or concern for expense. He certainly qualifies as a gentleman, although whether he's an adventurer depends on how dangerous you think matchstick puzzles are. Extremely, as it turns out. Aside from puzzles, he is a skilled fencer, and regularly makes his own way out of dangerous situations, such as using what's lying around to create a homemade glider and a machine gun.
- Modern example in On the Rainslick Precipice of Darkness: Tycho and Gabe. Although they certainly run a detective agency (Startling Developments!), they certainly don't seem to have too many clients. Indeed, the entire plot of episode one begins with them following a very large robot out of curiosity.
- The main character of Henry Hatsworth In The Puzzling Adventure, pictured above, is a Quintessential British Gentleman example.
- Final Fantasy VI: Setzer Gabbiani, although in reality this is all a smokescreen to cover up the fact that he is a nihilistic Death Seeker who blames himself for the death of his fiancee, and would rather catch bullets instead of ladies' handkerchiefs until he meets the party.
- The recurring Gentleman trainer class from the Pokémon games. They have a tendency to use Pokémon based on loyal pets, such as Growlithe.
- The boxer Dudley has become this in the Street Fighter series, as a contrast to the thuggish M.Bison (Japan)/Balrog (North America).
- Herbert Dashwood from Fallout 3.
- Borderlands 2 has Sir Hammerlock, who claims to be exploring the planet to add entries to his ever-expanding almanac of Pandoran flora and fauna. Pandora still manages to occasionally frustrate him to the point of Sophisticated as Hell, though, and unlike the classic example of the trope, his adventures do catch up to him from time to time: he's got the necessary Artificial Limbs to prove it. His ex-boyfriend Taggart, however, is more of a Great White Hunter who fights the local creatures with his bare fists... ~for all the good it did him against a badass stalker.
- In Dragon Age II, even after reclaiming their noble status and becoming the Champion of Kirkwall, Hawke actively goes out of his/her way to shun any kind of position of authority they are offered.
- Tomb Raider: Lara Croft
- North Vandernot, Major Gunn and Edmund Dashalot in Be Trapped.
- Naturally, Col. Horace Gentleman of The Venture Bros. ("RAF, MI5, etcetera... retired") who is, admittedly, a takeoff on Quatermain and Bond, with elements of racism and pederasty by way of William S. Burroughs.
- Commander McBragg from Tennessee Tuxedo And His Tales. Or so he claims...
- AQUAMAN on Batman: The Brave and the Bold easily falls under this. Although he takes his kingly duties seriously, AQUAMAN actively looks for various adventures, and spends all his time not adventuring by boisterously recounting his various exploits to whoever happens to be standing next to him — complete with Hardy Boys-esque titles.
- The Wild Thornberrys's Sir Nigel Archibald Thornberry, who maintains a gentlemanly disposition even when interacting with vicious jungle animals. In fact, he was knighted by the Queen of England just before leaving to film his nature program, "Nigel Thornberry's Wild World".
- Truth in Television: Theodore Roosevelt.
- Charles Darwin, who Jumped at the Call. And promptly was seasick for the rest of the next few years. When he got back to England, he never left again, and busied himself with experiments in his garden and documenting the sex lives of barnacles, among other things.
- Sir Edmund Hillary.
- George Mallory, who probably summed up this trope with his reply to the question of why he wanted to summit Mount Everest:
"Because it's there."
- The late Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld, Prince of the Netherlands, was part this and part Lovable Rogue. Though the "Gentleman" part is disputed.
- George Gordon, Lord Byron: Poet, Aristocrat, Infamous Jerkass womanizer, and by virtue of this trope... a national hero in a country that absolutely had nothing to do with his own. Mercilessly deconstructed: Byron actually had none of the training necessary to be even mildly effective as a soldier or military commander, and his romanticized idea of heroic warfare was met with the far harsher realities: he died of septicemia without ever taking the field. One could argue that his celebrity status led to Acquired Situational Narcissism, and he thought he would be great at warfare by virtue of being great at everything else, but things ended differently than they did in his poems.
- The Grand Tour was the 18th to early 19th Century equivalent of a gap year for the upper class, and it was more or less about a Gentleman (or woman) going Adventuring for some time before settling down.
- Sean Flynn, son of movie actor Errol Flynn, took photos of the Vietnam War for Time Magazine, Going for the Big Scoop. He disappeared (and was apparently killed) while traveling by motorcycle in Cambodia some time around 1970. Flynn wasn't in Vietnam because he needed the money, and, according to Michael Herr in "Dispatches," none of the press corp respected him until they actually saw the photos he was taking. He occasionally left Vietnam to star in motion pictures, then returned to get shot at some more.
- BRIAN BLESSED: When he isn't shouting in films or shouting on the television, he's trying to climb up Mount Everest. He's also boxed with the Dalai Lama.
- In an interview on CSPAN's Q and A, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat described William F. Buckley Jr. as one of these after describing his experience of skinny-dipping with the (at that point, very old) Buckley after he (and other young National Review interns) had eaten a fancy meal on his boat.
- Before he got into politics, Barry Goldwater was one of the first people to boat recreationally through the Grand Canyon(he rowed himself all the way to Lake Mead) flew relief missions in over 165 different kinds of aircraft all over the world(including over Mt. Everest) in the Second World War and Korean War, gave free flights home for returning veterans of both wars, pressured the Pentagon to support desegregation and the creation of an Air Force Academy, and still flew B52s as a two-star general in the Air Force Reserve while a sitting Senator.
- James Cameron: for a given definition of "Gentleman," at least. Ever since Titanic he's taken on deep-sea exploration and photography as his hobby.
- Sir Ranulph Fiennes.