Upper Class Wit
If I am occasionally a little overdressed, I make up for it by always being immensely overeducated.
—Algernon Moncrieff, The Importance of Being Earnest
Charming, witty and brilliant, but lazy and self-centered, the Upper Class Wit is the Upper Class Twit plus brains. He has no job and no real calling in life—he spends his time making witticisms, flirting and pulling pranks. He has Blue Blood and just enough inherited money to support his idle lifestyle, though he's often deep in debt. On the off-chance he's gotten a job, he tends to be a Modern Major-General, or just too lazy to care.
The Upper Class Wit is an eternal bachelor, but takes great pleasure in seducing many women. Despite all the energy he puts into flirting with girls, he is very likely to be Ambiguously Gay. When portrayed sympathetically, he's a dashing rake; when unsympathetically, he's a debauched degenerate. Either way, they are typically The Hedonist.
Common in Victorian works, or anything that revolves around upper-class Brits. Upper Class Wits are often but not always British. Continental versions, like Don Juan and Casanova, tend to play up The Hedonist aspect, while the British variant is more about gentlemanly leisure.
The Rich Idiot With No Day Job is pretending to be an Upper Class Wit or an Upper Class Twit, depending. Compare Gentleman Snarker, which often overlaps. The Byronic Hero is a Darker and Edgier Upper Class Wit.
This seems to be a dying trope, since it depends on a way of life that is mostly extinct.
- Charles Xavier has shades of this in X-Men: First Class. He's from an extremely wealthy family, attends Oxford and possesses an absolutely brilliant mind—but he prefers to use his mind-reading abilities and genius knowledge of genetics to seduce women and seems more interested in drinking than helping mankind. Even when he starts the team, he still possesses a keen wit and sense of fun (which is not to say he is in any way flippant about his beliefs). Only towards the end, when his friendship with Erik is destroyed and he is left paralyzed, does he truly become the mentor and leader we would come to know and love.
- Chuck Bass from Gossip Girl. He does have a job, but keep in mind that he's an eighteen-year-old hotelier who spends more time drinking, having sex, and playing mind games with everyone he knows. His excuse? "I'm Chuck Bass."
- He's also not the eternal bachelor, but if he can't have Blair he seems determined to have every prostitute and easy girl in New York instead.
- Warrick Harrow, Mal's client in "Shindig", from Firefly. Despite only showing up in one episode, he managed to out-snark two Upper Class Twits and Badger. Note that Simon is upper-middle class, not upper class. Doctors work for a living, whereas the upper class do not.
- Actually, to assert that simply because Simon worked as a doctor, he cannot be considered a good subversion to this trope. The elder Tams, judging from how they treated River, seemed more the type of upper-class elitists who crave the prestige of having genius children, and not necessarily the money said successful children can bring to the family fortune. Simon himself genuinely liked being a doctor and had no qualms about emptying his bank in order to save his sister.
- Tyrion "The Imp" Lannister starts off this way in Game of Thrones. He explains in the first episode that he uses it as "armor" against the insults of others.
- Higgins from My Fair Lady has a Big Fancy House, servants, and a two-story library; is a Brilliant but Lazy linguistics and speech training expert; and is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
- Lord John Gray from the Outlander series has some of the trappings of one of these, but as he matures proves to be an Officer and a Gentleman (and Invisible to Gaydar to boot).
- Several of Saki's young "heroes" are this type (and some are Upper Class Twits).
- P. G. Wodehouse: Psmith, and Uncle Fred, also known as the Earl of Ickenham.
- Philo Vance, the hero of S.S. Van Dine's detective stories, is a brilliant polymath who habitually acts like an indolent fop. He has been described as a polymathic Psmith.
- Byerly Vorrutyer from A Civil Campaign fits this trope to a tee. He's Vor-class, "is notoriously without visible means of support", makes sarcastic quips at everyone else's expense, and is very interested in what his newly male cousin looks like without clothes. Subverted in that he's actually a high ranking civilian Imp Sec agent, though he doesn't fit Rich Idiot With No Day Job exactly because his bratty and decadent personality is more then a pose.
- Ivan Vorpatril is another example of this trope, though he tends to act like an Upper Class Twit to the degree that it was years before his cousin Miles Vorkosigan realized his first name wasn't "That Idiot."
- Lord Peter Wimsey from the eponymous series. Lord Peter keeps up a running stream of babble that makes the uneducated believe him to be an Upper Class Twit, but which references disparate subjects from the classical canon to campanology.
- Oscar Wilde's Lord Henry in The Picture of Dorian Gray.
- Harry Potter: James Potter and Sirius Black are portrayed this way, at least before they join the Order.
- Jem Harthouse from Dickens' Hard Times, perhaps. He is portrayed as rather clever at times.
- Professor Elemental, whose home is his castle because his home is a castle, would be one of these. Takes a lot of wit to make up witty rhymes about tea, after all.
- Oscar Wilde wrote a lot of these characters, probably because he was one himself.
- Philip from Easy Virtue
- The Zeroth Law of Trope Examples applies here. Examples from William Shakespeare's works:
- Final Fantasy XII has Balthier, a lovely example of the trope. It turns out he's the son of the Empire's court scientist, and that he ran away from home to escape his mad father, the Emperor's reign, and nobility in general. To his credit, he prefers living as an adventurer and actually knows how to use a sword.
- Lord Byron
- King Charles II of England
- John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester
- Oscar Wilde
- Stephen Fry often gets cast in this role in the public perception (he even admits to deliberately playing up to this image in public) when in fact he's spent time in prison, had to work his ass off to get into Cambridge from a sixth form college rather than a public school, and claims to have a very strong work ethic due to a feeling not measuring up.
- In all likelihood, you. You're browsing All The Tropes so you're obviously literary, educated and bored. Now plug your income into the Global Rich List calculator. Yep, Upper Class Wit all right.