Scurvy was known as the sailor's nightmare. J.H. Baron of The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) describes it as "a thousand-year-old stereotypical disease characterized by apathy, weakness, easy bruising with tiny or large skin hemorrhages, friable bleeding gums, and swollen legs." Used here as a metaphor, the word implies something of the most contemptible or cowardly nature.
Scurvy is caused by a deficiency in ascorbic acid. It is preventable and treatable with natural or synthesized vitamin C.
Jason Allen Mayberry, in his "Timeline of Scurvy," describes the different phases of the disease. In the first stage, sufferers endure flu-like symptoms and feel fatigued, with muscle and joint aches. Stage two scurvy produces hot, bleeding, itchy gums, loose teeth and actual joint pain. The third stage sees putrid gums, ulcers and consequently gangrene in the lower limbs and excrutiating pain. The fourth and final stage is one of high fevers, black-spotted flesh and hemorrhaging in the brain, causing death.
In November 2009, Britain's Daily Mail newspaper reported that scurvy was making a comeback in British children. According to the article, "newly released statistics show that the number of children admitted to hospital with scurvy soared by over 50 per cent in the past three years."
The quintessential English gentleman was much sought after indeed. In literature, the perfect English gentleman might be Jane Austen's Mr. Darcy: an upstanding citizen who acts with gallantry and sophistication, or out of a sense of duty.
Christine Berberich writes, in The Image of the English Gentleman in Twentieth-Century Literature (2007):
When we hear the term, we might think of Englishness; of class; of masculinity; of elegant fashions; of manners and morals. But we might also think of hypocrisy; of repression; of outdated behaviour befitting the characters of a Victorian novel, but which no longer holds any value in today’s society. These conflicting images make it difficult to pinpoint the term ‘gentleman’ in a definition.
Certainly, if one could define a true English gent, he would be a man who is trusted to do the right thing with grace. Why? Because it is expected of him. Berberich presents the perfect example of this in Mr. Walter D. Douglas, a passenger aboard the Titanic: as his wife pleaded with him to join her in the lifeboat, Mr. Douglas responded, "No … I must be a gentleman."
The role of the English gentleman may not easily be defined, but it is readily understood. Forbes writer Melik Kaylan explains it beautifully in Requiem for an English Gentleman.
Colin Firth played a fabulous Mr. Darcy in the 1995 BBC mini-series, Pride and Prejudice. Hugh Grant played a more modern English gentleman alongside Julia Roberts in Notting Hill (1999).