it takes three generations to make a gentleman

Although apparently not expressed in this form before quot. 1823, the three-generation concept was current in the Renaissance period: e.g. 1598 J. KEPERS tr. A. Romei’s Courtier’s Academy 187 He may bee called absolutely noble, who shall have lost the memory of his ignobilitie..during the reuolution of three generations; 1625 F. MARKHAM Five Decades of Honour ii. Three perfit descents, do euer so conclude a perfit Gentleman of Blood.

1823 J. F. COOPER Pioneers I. xviii. You will find it no easy matter to make a gentleman of him. The old proverb says, that ‘it takes three generations to make a gentleman’.

1915 W. S. MAUGHAM Of Human Bondage xxvii. He remembered his uncle’s saying that it took three generations to make a gentleman: it was a companion proverb to the silk purse and the sow’s ear.

1940 ‘M. INNES’ Comedy of Terrors i. It has always been possible to make a gentleman in three generations; nowadays..the thing is done in two.

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