Lord Sandwich: I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox. John Wilkes: That will depend, my lord, upon whether I embrace your principles or your mistress.
The Gentleman Snarker is a type of Deadpan Snarker that can say ungentlemanly things as only a gentleman can. This should not be considered the exclusive domain of males, because the Ladies can be just as cunning, and just as well-bred/rich. This trope is about any upper-class person who is exceptionally witty.
They are always polite, except when it is appropriate to be impolite. At that moment, they can deliver their victim an insult as sharp and subtle as a rapier. They spend their time making witticisms, flirting and pulling pranks. This characteristic is well known among those with a Stiff Upper Lip and when done right can be quite awesome. Beware the Gentleman Snarker. If you want your pride punctured, they're the one to do it.
See also Servile Snarker - though due to Conservation of Competence, one is rarely in the employ of the other. A Gentleman Snarker may apply Sophisticated as Hell, often sparingly.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
Huey Laforet of Baccano! may be unfailingly polite and well-spoken, but he doesn't let that get in the way of mocking or trolling someone.
The titular character of Count Cainis very witty but ultimately self-centred and lazy.
From Eroica with Love presents Dorian Red Gloria, Earl of Gloria. A Gentleman Thief who plays cat-and-mouse with German Major "Iron" Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach, the asexual guy who declared that he would capture Dorian.
Fran, from Katekyo Hitman Reborn!, can piss off the whole Varia squad (or everyone) just by opening his mouth.
Films — Animation
Captain Amelia, a female version, from Treasure Planet owes her best lines to this trope.
Captain Amelia: Doctor. To muse and blabber about a treasure map, in front of this particular crew, demonstrates a level of ineptitude that borders on the imbecilic. And I mean that in a very caring way.
And later during the same conversation with Doctor Doppler:
Captain Amelia: Let me make this as...monosyllabic as possible. I don't much care for this crew you hired; they're... how did I describe them, Arrow? I said something rather good this morning before coffee.
Mr. Arrow: A ludicrous parcel of drivelling galoots, ma'am.
The French movie Ridicule (often referred to as "Wit" in English-speaking countries) suggests that before the Revolution, the entire French political system revolved around who could do this most effectively.
After the Revolution, most of the entire political systems in the whole world began to revolve around who can do this most effectively...
Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music. This characterization of the Captain is largely thanks to Christopher Plummer, who campaigned heavily for more plot development for his character. Apparently, he thought the original stage Captain was a milquetoast. He and costar Julie Andrews later said that they wanted to give the movie some strength and keep it from devolving into all sweetness and light. It worked — stage revivals largely follow the movie's script and not that of the original stage version.
Captain von Trapp: If the Nazis take over Austria, I have no doubt, Herr Zeller, that you would be the entire trumpet section.
Herr Zeller: You flatter me, Captain.
Captain von Trapp: Oh, how clumsy of me. I meant to accuse you.
Alfred Pennyworth is a master of this trope. Particularly evident in The Dark Knight.
Alfred: Will you be taking the Batpod, sir?
Bruce: (Rushing off to protect Coleman Reese) In broad daylight, Alfred? Not very subtle.
Alfred: The Lamborghini, then? (to self) Much more subtle.
Hobson in the film Arthur. So many snarky lines it is hard to pick one.
Hobson: Thrilling to meet you, Gloria.
Hobson: Yes... You obviously have a wonderful economy with words, Gloria. I look forward to your next syllable with great eagerness.
Elizabeth Bennet loves absurdities and making fun of silly people and their faults, and she very often exaggerates or twists her opinions to be witty. She's arch and very endearing, and always a lady.
Mr Darcy is very haughty and proud and he snarks a lot, but he rarely doesn't behave like a gentleman. However, sometimes he can come off as insulting. For example his sneering remark about Elizabeth's beauty (he calls her "tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt him") and his aloof behaviour make him very unpopular among Meryton folks.
Emma is very intelligent and some of her comments are quite smart ass. She especially likes friendly arguments with Mr Knightley who's her intellectual equal. She's also quite snarky with Mrs Weston who is her close friend and Parental Substitute. One of her witty remarks crosses the line, ans she deeply regrets that she insulted the lady who was on the receiving end of her sharp and unkind wit.
Mr Knightley snarks very nicely, and he always remains the perfect example of the witty British gentleman archetype.
SUNDAY: You mean Dr. Bull’s spectacles? ...Really, to call them disgusting, before the man himself.
"Look at my face!"
SUNDAY: I dare say it’s the sort of face that grows on one. In fact, it grows on you.
Discworld's Havelock Vetinari. The most magnificent Magnificent Bastard ever, he has a title, and if you actually read what he's saying carefully, he's unbelievably snarky. This has become a major point of fear for those forced to frequently tell him things he's not going to like:
Colon: [with genuine dread] Lord Vetinari won't stop at sarcasm. He might use — [swallowing] — irony. He's probably going to be satirical, even ...
His lines in the council of war in Jingo are quite possibly the best examples.
Vetinari occasionally says "Please don't let me detain you". Those to whom he says it usually consider exactly what that detention might involve, and then leave immediately.
Artemis from Artemis Fowl is a prominent example. "Shall I walk? Or will you beam me up?" Classic.
Artemis: [to Blunt] If you were me, then I'd be you, and if I were you, then I'd hide somewhere far away.
Sir John Babcock in Robert Anton Wilson'sHistorical Illuminatus Chronicles explains at one point to his Italian wife that the British young gentlemen's schools beat out all overt aggression from the boys, so that when grown up they'll make passive-aggressive insults masked as compliments instead of duelling to death like the Italian noblemen do. The main protagonist, Sigismundo Celine manages to be an excellent snarker himself, despite of his Neapolitan upbringing.
In "Safe", Simon feels his father is too worried about the family's social status and not worried enough about River's wellbeing.
Simon: "I'm sorry, Dad. I would never have tried to save River's life if I had known there was a dinner party at risk."
In "Objects in Space", he's held hostage by Jubal Early who's trying to capture River for the bounty on her head. Even though he knows Simon is biding his time and waiting for a chance to try and turn the tables on him, Jubal is still astonished by Simon's laid back attitude to being held at gun point while a mentally unhinged bounty hunter takes over the ship. ("Doesn't anybody care that I'm holding a gun to this boy's head?!")
Simon: "I can't keep track of her when she's not incorporeally possessing a spaceship, don't look at me."
Simon: "Well, my sister's a ship. We had a complicated childhood."
In "Shindig", much of the episode occurs during a high society party where wit and snark abound.
A distinguished old man comes to Kaylee's aid when she is being mocked by an Alpha Bitch for the store-bought dress that she wore:
Distinguished Old Man: Why, Banning Miller! What a vision you are in your fine dress. It must have taken a dozen slaves a dozen days just to get you into that getup. 'Course, your daddy tells me it takes the space of a schoolboy's wink to get you out of it again.
His Lordship Sir Warrick Harrow has great fun bringing his hated peer, Atherton, down a peg or two:
Sir Warrick Harrow: Now, you're going to have to rely on your winning personality to get women. God help you.
Frasier and Niles Crane are the masters of this trope. In fact, the more viciously snarky they are, the politer and more refined their language becomes.
Higgins often did this to Magnum in Magnum, P.I.. He can't do it as well as some.
Bernard Thatch of the White House Visitor's Office in The West Wing:
Bernard: [The painting] was on loan from the Musee d'Orsay to the National Gallery. The President, on a visit to the gallery, and possessing even less taste in fine art than you have in accessories, announced that he liked the painting. The French government offered it as a gift to the White House. I suppose in retribution for EuroDisney. So here it hangs, like a gym sock on a shower rod. C.J.: You're a snob. Bernard: Yes.
Mr. Morden on is something of a villainous version of this.
Mr. Bester is an even better example.
Major Charles Emerson Winchester III of Mash. A distinguished member of the American Proud Elite who has sarcasm for everybody.
Robert Gilliaume in Soap and Benson.
Ianto Jones from Torchwood develops into something of this in later series.
In the Horatio Hornblower mini-series, his Lordship Major Edrington is a Gentleman Snarker par excellence, which contributes greatly to his fan popularity. He's always cool and he always utters snide remarks while smirking. He also makes sure everybody knows he's better than them, yet he remains a perfect British aristocrat and gentleman.
Edrington:[watching Horatio try in vain to get on a horse] I can see why you chose the Navy.
Raylan Givens in Justified. Boyd Crowder is no slouch either.
The iconic cleric of Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, Jozan, has this trope down to a fine art. He doesn't preach or sermonize at people whose behavior he disapproves of so much as he snarks at them. At one point he Stealth Insults an entire town so well that they actually have to collectively pause to decide whether he was cheering them on or rebuking them.
Anna and Claire of Boston Marriage are rare female examples, and written by David Mamet no less.
In The Moon Is Blue, the Idle Rich David Slater talks like this, though he freely admits that much of his behavior is not worthy of a gentleman.
John Dickinson of 1776. He's a refined, well-dressed landowner who wins a snark-off with Benjamin Franklin thusly:
Franklin: But to call me [an Englishman] without those rights is like calling an ox a bull—he's thankful for the honor, but he'd much rather have restored what's rightfully his. Dickinson: When did you first notice they were missing, sir?
Red vs. Blue has Delta, an AI which is supposed to be the pure embodiment of logic, and who typically has a very blandly friendly and overly formal and polite personality. He's also the Bond Creature to a very, very snarky soldier. The end result personality mix is rather entertaining, especially when the two Vitriolic Best Buds are snarking at each other.
The Swan Princess has Lord Rogers, Prince Derek's good but sarcastic advisor. For example, after an epic foot-in-mouth scene from Prince Derek:
Lord Rogers: You could write a book. How to Offend Women in Five Syllables or Less.
Field Marshal Mannerheim. He could intimidate Hitler himself, possibly partly because of his Death Glare.
This was once almost a necessary part of being a high class person and thus political insults of the past were just as common but at least more interesting.
Oscar Wilde is almost entirely known for his sharp witticisms. Ironically, he is often claimed to have said "sarcasm is the lowest form of humor". If he had ever said that (he didn't), he would almost certainly have been saying it sarcastically. Here is one of his quotes:
"A true gentleman is one who is never unintentionally rude."
Several American Presidents, especially Abraham Lincoln. An excellent example: Lincoln thought that his General McClellan was reluctant to engage the enemy, and once sent him a note asking that, if McClellan wasn't using the army, perhaps Lincoln could borrow it for a couple of months?
Tomás Rivera Schatz, President of the Senate of Puerto Rico, once said of another senator: "She reminds me of Mary Magdalene."
The boisterous British House of Commons, which Robin Williams once called "[The US] Congress with a two-drink minimum", has featured many gentleman snarkersnote Technically not many MPs come from the gentry these days, but the kinds of insults they exchange have to fit this tropes to keep things orderly. in the past (some mentioned above) and more than a few today. Just watch the live feed for a while when they are discussing a contentious issue and there are sure to be at least a couple of them on opposite sides having at each other.