"If I am occasionally a little overdressed, I make up for it by always being immensely overeducated."
Charming, witty and brilliant, but lazy and self-centered, the Upper Class Wit is the Upper-Class Twit
plus brains. He has no job and no real calling in life— he spends his time making witticisms, flirting and pulling pranks. He has Blue Blood
and just enough inherited money to support his idle lifestyle, though he's often deep in debt. On the off-chance he's gotten a job, he tends to be a Modern Major General
, or just too lazy to care.
The Upper Class Wit is an eternal bachelor, but takes great pleasure in seducing many women
. Despite all the energy he puts into flirting with girls, he is very likely to be Ambiguously Gay
. When portrayed sympathetically, he's a dashing rake
; when unsympathetically, he's a debauched degenerate
. Either way, they are typically The Hedonist
Common in Victorian works, or anything that revolves around upper-class Brits. Upper Class Wits are often but not always British. Continental versions, like Don Juan and Casanova
, tend to play up The Hedonist
aspect, while the British variant is more about gentlemanly leisure
The Rich Idiot with No Day Job
is pretending to be an Upper Class Wit or an Upper-Class Twit
, depending. Compare Gentleman Snarker
, which often overlaps. The Byronic Hero
is a Darker and Edgier
Upper Class Wit.
This seems to be a dying trope
, since it depends on a way of life that is mostly extinct.
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Anime and Manga
- Charles Xavier has shades of this in X-Men: First Class. He's from an extremely wealthy family, attends Oxford and possesses an absolutely brilliant mind— but he prefers to use his mind-reading abilities and genius knowledge of genetics to seduce women and seems more interested in drinking than helping mankind. Even when he starts the team, he still possesses a keen wit and sense of fun (which is not to say he is in any way flippant about his beliefs). Only towards the end, when his friendship with Erik is destroyed and he is left paralyzed, does he truly become the mentor and leader we would come to know and love.
- Dr. Seymour Love has access to seemingly unlimited amounts money in The Opening of Misty Beethoven. This is a parody of Pygmalion and My Fair Lady. At one point he takes "the conscience of the king" bit from Hamlet and turns it into a penis joke.
- Lord John Gray from the Outlander series has some of the trappings of one of these, but as he matures proves to be an Officer and a Gentleman. (And Straight Gay to boot.)
- Several of Saki's young "heroes" are this type (and some are Upper Class Twits).
- P. G. Wodehouse: Psmith, and Uncle Fred, also known as the Earl of Ickenham. And even Bertie Wooster has his moments.
- Philo Vance, the hero of S.S. Van Dine's detective stories, is a brilliant polymath who habitually acts like an indolent fop. He has been described as a polymathic Psmith.
- Byerly Vorrutyer from A Civil Campaign fits this trope to a tee. He's Vor-class, "is notoriously without visible means of support", makes sarcastic quips at everyone else's expense, and is very interested in what his newly male cousin looks like without clothes. Subverted in that he's actually a high ranking civilian Imp Sec agent, though he doesn't fit Rich Idiot with No Day Job exactly because his bratty and decadent personality is more then a pose.
- Ivan Vorpatril is another example of this trope, though he tends to act like an Upper-Class Twit to the degree that it was years before his cousin Miles Vorkosigan realized his first name wasn't "That Idiot."
- Lord Peter Wimsey from the eponymous series. Lord Peter keeps up a running stream of babble that makes the uneducated believe him to be an Upper-Class Twit, but which references disparate subjects from the classical canon to campanology.
- Oscar Wilde's Lord Henry in The Picture of Dorian Gray.
- Harry Potter: James Potter and Sirius Black are portrayed this way, at least before they join the Order.
- Jem Harthouse from Dickens' Hard Times, perhaps. He is portrayed as rather clever at times.
- Byron Hockner in Robert Brockway's Rx: A Tale of Electronegativity aspires toward this by attempting to relive the life of Lord Byron.
Live Action Television
- Chuck Bass from Gossip Girl. He does have a job, but keep in mind that he's an eighteen-year-old hotelier who spends more time drinking, having sex, and playing mind games with everyone he knows. His excuse? "I'm Chuck Bass."
- He's also not the eternal bachelor, but if he can't have Blair he seems determined to have every prostitute and easy girl in New York instead.
- Warrick Harrow, Mal's client in "Shindig", from Firefly. Despite only showing up in one episode, he managed to out-snark two Upper Class Twits and Badger. Note that Simon is upper-middle class, not upper class. Doctors work for a living, whereas the upper class do not.
- Actually, to assert that simply because Simon worked as a doctor, he cannot be considered a good subversion to this trope. The elder Tams, judging from how they treated River, seemed more the type of upperclass elitists who crave the prestige of having genius children, and not necessarily the money said successful children can bring to the family fortune. Simon himself genuinely liked being a doctor and had no qualms about emptying his bank in order to save his sister.
- Tyrion "The Imp" Lannister starts off this way in Game of Thrones. He explains in the first episode that he uses it as "armor" against the insults of others.
- M*A*S*H's Charles has very definite shades of this.
- Many incarnations of the titular character from Blackadder.
- Professor Elemental, who's home is his castle because his home is a castle, would be one of these. Takes a lot of wit to make up witty rhymes about tea, after all.
- Final Fantasy XII has Balthier, a lovely example of the trope. It turns out he's the son of the Empire's court scientist, and that he ran away from home to escape his mad father, the Emperor's reign, and nobility in general. To his credit, he prefers living as an adventurer and actually knows how to use a sword.
- Sterling from Archer.
- Walter "Doc" Hartford from Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers definitely came from money, judging from his extensive education (including charm school) and mannerisms. And while the other three Rangers indulge in sarcasm from time to time, Doc can probably license his as a deadly weapon.
- Lord Byron
- King Charles II of England
- John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester
- Oscar Wilde
- Truman Capote
- Stephen Fry often gets cast in this role in the public perception (he even admits to deliberately playing up to this image in public) when in fact he's spent time in prison, had to work his ass off to get into Cambridge from a sixth form collage rather than a public school, and claims to have a very strong work ethic due to a feeling not measuring up.
- In all likelihood, you. You're browsing TVtropes so you're obviously literary, educated and bored. Now plug your income into the Global Rich List calculator. Yep, Upper-Class Wit all right. Or not.