Class Distinction In The 18th Century

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Class distinction is a theme that is present during all time periods; it was a fundamental part of the structure of English society during the eighteenth century; "The key feature of eighteenth-century English society was that it was arranged as a status hierarchy" (Lehmberg, Meigs and Heyck). During this time, it was not the level of income that was seen as the deciding factor of a person 's position in society, but rather their social ranking; the upper ranks, which were known as the gentry, were families whose status was secured by their land ownership, the second rank were the middle-class (tradesmen) and the bottom of the social structure were the working class. These divides in the societal structure of the eighteenth century are clearly evident in the works of John Gay and Samuel Richardson.
According to Wallech, in eighteenth century England, a person 's social position was "associated [...] with a calculus of property, privilege, dress, education, honor, obligation, residence, occupation, friendship, beauty, strength, and wisdom. These features of status derived from an individual 's personal merit and estate". British authors at the time, such as Gay and Richardson, used all of the above measures of status when creating characters for their novels. The word class in the early eighteenth century was usually used to describe a sort of person or thing, and if one wanted to establish a real sense of where a person stood in society, a person would use the term "rank"
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