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Gentleman Detective

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Subtrope of Great Detective. A sleuth who is known to belong to the higher strata of society - to have been raised in a privileged environment, and shows it, even if they have since rejected their background. Will tend to be some form of polymath, possibly autodidactic, at the least being very well-educated and well-read. Probably multilingual to boot, and often has notable eccentricities or unusual hobbies. Frequently a competent musician. Like the Great Detective, this was first instantiated in the form of Edgar Allan Poe's C. Auguste Dupin, and popularised by Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes.

The Other Wiki has a page on this trope. See also Mystery Fiction and Detective Fiction.

Surprisingly few of these ever cross paths with a Gentleman Thief.



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    Live Action Film 
  • Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) in Knives Out is an affectionate parody, and the subject of an in-universe New Yorker profile titled "The Last of the Gentlemen Sleuths". His exact background is unknown, though he does talk like a member of Southern aristocracy.

  • Edgar Allan Poe's C. Auguste Dupin came from a wealthy family, although he had been reduced to a more humble lifestyle. Holds the rank of Chevalier (Knight) in the Légion d'honneur. Likes hieroglyphs. Can spell ratiocination.
  • Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes is of aristocratic stock and education, but begins his story as a poor, single-minded criminologist - presumably, any family money there was would have gone to his older brother or another relative. His later fortune, social standing and range of intellectual interests are developed in the course of his detective work. It is the worldly, sociable middle-class professional Dr Watson who acts the Quintessential British Gentleman of the pair.
  • Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey is another archetype. Younger brother of a duke, he was educated at Eton and Oxford, he is notably eccentric, and collects 15th Century books as a hobby.
  • E.C. Bentley's Philip Trent (acknowledged by Dorothy L. Sayers as a model for Lord Peter)
  • The Lady's nephew Robert in Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret.
  • Dashiell Hammett's Nick Charles, despite being possibly the most recognizable example of this, is still only a borderline example, since he grew up a working-class private eye - the son of blue-collar Greek immigrants - before marrying the heiress to a logging empire.
  • Agatha Christie's Tommy Beresford, Colonel Race, and Hercule Poirot.
  • Leslie Charteris's Simon Templar, a.k.a. The Saint.
  • Michael Arlen's Gay Falcon.
  • Randall Garrett's Lord Darcy.
  • Ngaio Marsh's Roderick Alleyn.
  • Margery Allingham's Albert Campion.
  • S. S. Van Dine's Philo Vance
  • Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child's Agent Pendergast.
  • Nero Wolfe plays with this trope. He fits this trope to a tee on the surface: he lives a luxurious lifestyle in a classy Manhattan townhouse, has a reputation for being a gourmet, and only leaves his house rarely and under protest—notably, once for a show involving his favorite hobby, growing orchids. However, his assistant Archie Goodwin frequently notes that he needs to charge outrageously expensive fees to support his lifestyle, implying that he has no independent wealth outside of what he earns, and what hints we do get of his background suggest a life of poverty and struggle in Montenegro before finding success after emigrating to America, implying that he's closer to a Self-Made Man than an aristocrat.
  • Discworld:
    • In The Truth, William de Worde is a cross between this and Intrepid Reporter. He is estranged from his rich family though.
    • The Ankh-Morpork City Watch technically has a couple of these among its ranks, though they tend to be rather more grubby than most examples of this trope. And in the Watch it doesn't matter how gilded you are, Sam Vimes will see to it you're copper to the core.
      • Vimes himself is descended from "Stoneface" Vimes, commander of the Watch back in his day, and important enough to have a coat-of-arms, though it was rescinded when he executed Ankh-Morpork's last king. Vimes himself is now a fairly straight example, as he is both the richest man in the city since marrying Lady Sybil Ramkin, and his service to the city has had him raised up to the level of Duke and ambassador.
      • Angua may be a werewolf, but she's also the daughter of a baron. She had an elder brother who would have inherited the title, but he dies during the events of The Fifth Elephant, leaving her the presumed heir.
      • Captain Carrot, who basically everyone knows is actually the heir to the Ankh-Morpork throne. Good luck getting him to acknowledge that fact, though. His adopted dwarf father is also technically a "king", though among dwarfs this is less a noble title and more like "chief mining engineer".
      • Nobby Nobbs, believe it or not, though you'd be hard pressed to find someone who fits the molds of "gentleman" and also "detective" less. Feet of Clay reveals that he's the Earl of Ankh (not that any money or property remains), his lineage proven by a ring he inherited from his father. Vimes deduces that this was a scheme by the book's villain, and the ring was probably stolen...but Nobby has several other such heirlooms implying that it may be true after all.
      • Sally von Humpeding, like basically all Discworld vampires, has a full name and title that takes up several pages. She still prefers being a copper though.
  • Arsène Lupin is not only a Gentleman Thief, but also a detective from time to time. Including getting nominated as the head of the French police! He was almost pitted against Sherlock Holmes (until the Doyle estate complained), so he ended up crossing paths with a Mr/ Herlock Sholmes instead.
  • Ellery Queen was this is the early novels (being essentially an Expy of Philo Vance), with his late mother having been the daughter of a New York society family. However, as the series went on, his character developed and he lost most of his snobbishness (except on intellectual matters) and developed an interest in some decidedly blue collar pastimes such as boxing and baseball.

    Live-Action TV 

  • The Paul Temple detective series, broadcast on BBC radio between 1938 and 1968, features a gentleman detective who solves crimes too baffling even for Scotland Yard, assisted by his wife "Steve" and his manservant. Thought to be too anachronistic and old-fashioned when it ended in 1968, it has been periodically revived in updated one-off specials and short runs between 2006 - 2013.

    Video Games 
  • Professor Layton. The titular character is actually an archaeologist by trade, not a detective, but his "notable eccentricities or unusual hobbies" as mentioned in the intro are puzzles, meaning he gets into some mysteries. He also makes it a point to be a proper gentleman to everyone he meets.
  • As noted above, C. Auguste Dupin, who appears as your partner and friend in the PC mystery game series Dark Tales.
  • The Hildibrand questline of Final Fantasy XIV gives us two examples: Briardien, who plays this trope quite straight, and Hildibrand Manderville, who tries to be this (and thoroughly thinks he's successful) but is more like a chivalrous Clueless Detective.


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