Othar: Why, I am OTHAR TRYGGVASSEN, Gentleman Adventurer!
Second Prisoner: Uh oh.
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.
He is typically (very) British and/or from the Victorian London era, not only because the mentioned kinds of fiction proliferated in that time, but also because the Victorian ideal of adventuring usually expected the funder, the expeditionary and the scientist to be the same person, who had usually to be a well-educated and even better-to-do eccentric in order to meet the three requirements.
May double as a Bold Explorer and have 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. Is a perfect adversary for the Gentleman Thief, unless of course he is the Gentleman Thief living a double life. Finally, it seems probable that the Rich Idiot with No Day Job is an outgrowth of this character type.
Some contemporary examples are deconstructions, in which the character turns out to be bigoted, cowardly, and an utter Jerkass if not a full-blown Evil Colonialist. Most others are (more-or-less-affectionate) parodies, playing up the eccentricities of the character, putting them in a world as absurd as they are, and/or having other characters comment on the foolishness of the character, though they rarely reach full Butt-Monkey status.
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
- 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. Obviously 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.
- Green Arrow started out this way. When he then lost his fortune, he suffered an identity crisis over whether he'd been superheroing out of a legitimate desire to do good, or just for fun. He thereafter became a much more passionate and socially-conscious do-gooder.
- Polly of Polly and the Pirates has a father who definitely falls under this category. He even makes his entrance in top hat and tails, being lowered on the ladder of a hot-air balloon.
- Richie Rich's butler Cadbury loves to reminisce about his escapades with his former employer Sir Ruddy Blighter, "adventurist and time-waster extraordinaire."
- Charles Fort and H.P. Lovecraft in Atomic Robo:
Fort: We were adventurers!
Robo: You guys don't look like adventurers.
Fort: Adventure was more a hobby. We're writers, really.
- The Infinite Loops: One of the MLP Loops has Rainbow Dash, during a Girl Genius loop, placed into the role of Rainbow Tryggvassen, Aviatrix Adventurer!, complete with introductory musical number.
- This might be the best way to describe Mahanon Lavellan's occupation in the Skyhold Academy Yearbook series. He's a private consultant for various law enforcement agencies all over Thedas, but his actual skills range from codebreaking to breaking and entering. He's very tight-lipped about the true nature of what he does, and he delights in turning up at the eponymous school without any prior warning.
- Charles Muntz from Up. Who later turns out to be the main villain.
- James Bond is in this tradition but in a darker direction — there is a comment in either Casino Royale (2006) 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.
- Forgery, after purchasing originals from collector's fairs and auctions?
- George (Jane's boss) in 27 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.
- Julien Advent, Victorian Adventurer from the Nightside. To the surprise of the main character, he's the real deal and genuine to boot, and one of the few people for whom Hardboiled Detective John Taylor would cry Manly Tears.
- 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 he 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 Thirty-Nine 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 80 Days.
- Lord John Roxton in Conan Doyle's The Lost World (1912).
- 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.
- 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 is a classic inter-war version, often seen as a bit of a thug and accidental deconstruction by later standards.
- Doctor Syn ("The Scarecrow") is an Oxford scholar who somehow turns out to be a peerless swordsman, horseman, navigator, and criminal gang leader.
- Wax and Wayne:
- Parodied with the Two Fisted Tale of "Allomancer Jak". Complete with trusty Terrisman sidekick and designated Damsel in Distress, who edits his lurid accounts of the savage Roughs with copious footnotes.
- Wax himself is not an example, but his insistence on dressing finely even when dragging in outlaws has given him a similar reputation. He dislikes the implication that he's doing it all as a hobby. He fights crime because someone has to. There are several implications that he and Jak have met—Wax mentions Jak by name once, and Jak references Wax's habit of replenishing his Allomancy with whiskey. They hate each other.
- Possibly due to the exploits of Wax and Jak, "gentleman adventurer" clubs have become popular among the rich and powerful. Wax notes that they don't actually do any adventuring, instead hanging around in townhouses smoking and talking.
Wax: At least that fop Jak actually left his rusting house.
- Sherlock Holmes doesn't travel as much as many of the other examples on this page, but he is implied to come from the gentry (as his family are said to be country squires), he is an expert at Good Old Fisticuffs, is often a Sharp-Dressed Man, is impeccably courteous to women even despite his general dislike of them, is a Gentleman Snarker and a Gentleman and a Scholar, and one of the reasons he works as a consulting detective is to avoid Rich Boredom, which to him is a Fate Worse than Death.
- Although not so rich, at least at the street of his career. In A Study in Scarlet, he takes in Watson as a housemate because he cannot afford the rent on 221B Baker Street on his own.
- Rivers of London has this as being part of Nightingale's backstory. Between the wars he was out adventuring in the British Empire, India, and Far East, discovering all sorts of magical strife and acting as a one man trouble shooting squad. Then WW2 and Ettersberg happened.
- Elizabeth Moon's Vatta's War series has Ransome's Rangers, a group of very wealthy men who are specifically looking to be Gentlemen Adventurers. They are extremely stylish, fancy in dress, full of bold and flowery statements, but also prove themselves brave in battle. The fact that they are rich enough to fund the weapons and materials that are needed to carry out the war doesn't hurt either...
- Biggles ended up as one of these in the inter-war period, albeit not entirely of his own free will; many of of his adventures from this period started out with him working a relatively mundane airfreight charter and minding his own business before being dragged into the Mystery of the Week by circumstances out of his control. On at least one occasion he was hired by a more conventional example of the trope to fly his expedition out to some remote location, and then had to bail him out when everything went wrong.
- Our Miss Brooks: Safari O'Toole, in the episode of the same name. He is Mrs. Davis' faithful pen pal, and is noted for his travels through the wilds of Darkest Africa. He's also a fake.
- 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.
- The BBC's gentleman-novelist-turned-detective Paul Temple was probably the last gasp of this character in the 1950's as a contemporary icon.
- Dick Barton, Special Agent would also qualify as an uppercrust gentleman adventurer.
- 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.
- In Rocket Age many of the characters you meet fall neatly into this category, being the ones with the disposable income to afford travelling across the solar system. Some even walk around totting sword canes, or become traditional big game hunters.
- 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: Lady Lara Croft, Countess of Abbingdon
- North Vandernot, Major Gunn and Edmund Dashalot in BeTrapped!.
- Othar Tryggvassen, Gentleman Adventurer! of Girl Genius. On the flip side, he's also a Well-Intentioned Extremist Anti-Villain who intends to deal with the whole "sparks issue" in a rather pointed and non-discriminatory fashion. For those not familiar with the series, that means himself included. Himself last.
- Othar's twitter reveals that he's more than willing to make an exception to "himself last" in situations involving cloning, time travel or alternate universes. He's out to get the most dangerous sparks first, after all, and he's the most dangerous spark he knows.
- Nerf This has this as a core concept.
- Jade's grandfather from Homestuck appears to have been this. His Alternate Universe self can be considered this trope in training.
- In Widdershins, Henry Barber, famous member of the Royal Society of Hunters, is the fourth son of the Baron. He decided in his youth that his life would be better spent hunting magical artifacts and supernatural oddities than enduring high society.
- Naturally, Col. Horace Gentleman of The Venture Bros. ("RAF, MI5, et cetera... 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 has 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 a GODDAMN Polar Bear. He won.
- 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 World War II and The 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 B-52s 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 (1997), he's taken on deep-sea exploration and photography as his hobby.
- Sir Ranulph Fiennes.
- Joseph Conrad. Sailed the seas and didn't even learn English until age 20 and changed the face of English literature. He was even literally referred to as a "gentleman adventurer" by William McFee in a forward to Conrad Argosy.