Sometimes insight is found in comic novels.
From Porterhouse Blue by Tom Sharpe:
"What gentlemen?" the lad had said. "A lot of rich bastards with nothing between their ears who just exploited you."
And Skullion put down his pint and said, "A gentleman stood for something. It wasn't what he was. It was what he knew he ought to be. And that's something you will never know." Not what they were, but what they ought to be, like some old battle standard that you followed because it was a symbol of the best. A ragged tattered piece of cloth that stood for something and gave you confidence and something to fight for.